“How do I stay on Page 1?” “How do I get there?”
That’s a question I hear quite often – which is good. It’s a question we should all be asking, because with 9 out of 10 homebuyers starting their buying process online your internet presence is a major factor in their decision making. Possibly the factor. Users only pay attention to page 1, and even on page 1 an enormous percentage of click-throughs are earned by the first three results. So that splashy #1 SERP? Absolutely vital to your business’ future.
Along with the on-page and off-page factors, there’s a division in SEO that has to do with the content of the site and the architecture of the site. The architecture is the skeleton built by your web design team. How you flesh out the site with good content is under your control, and so my immediate response to tackling SEO questions is to make a plan of changes you can take today, for free, with really visible results.
Those SEO changes are all about fresh and relevant content, but may also include a review of your marketing strategy or building a strong Local presence. We may also chat about blogging, social media, photos, and video. I like this content work because it’s something you and I can do together through the Builder Designs CMS today.
But I also want to step back and talk about the site architecture. SEO articles tend to skip over it, assuming you already have a solid site and now want to review meta tags or get into image optimization. But a strong website is key to internet marketing – especially for home builders, where our incoming market is so web-focused – and we need to make sure your website is ready for 2014.
Technology is important. The speed at which a site loads, the ease of usability, the eye for functionality and design, and easy contact information will all effect your SEO. Check out this Contently article example: “By cleaning HTML code, H1 headers, server errors, url structures, and how code loaded to their pages, they were able to boost natural search results to one client’s site by 1000 percent in 18 months.” If your site is out of date, hard to use, not built for mobile, or just a little stale looking – that is the number #1 thing to fix. We have a number of clients (check out the Ideal Homes case study for a great example) who are getting a redesign because, while their site still looks great and functions well, the new responsive standards are shaking things up and they want to jump to cutting-edge.
Response is the new web. Google has officially declared that responsive design is their recommended standard for websites. We’ve talked about responsive before: it’s a fluid CSS that adapts itself to any screen size, whether mobile, tablet, laptop, or TV screen. Because there is now one set of site files (rather than one for a full site and one for a mobile) you’re no longer competing against yourself for SEO. We have seen some very good SEO results for our clients switching from mobile to responsive.
Avoid danger factors. Some site architecture will actually hurt your rankings, like keyword-stuffing words hidden by colors or design, slow speed, cloaked pages, or just bad code. Some of these are clearly malicious plans, but others can be done accidentally on a site (like a free WordPress template) just not designed to handle the specifications the home builder industry needs. This is something that your design team should work with you to check over on a previous site and illustrate their improvements on a new site.
There are a lot of moving factors with SEO (Google says they take over 10,000 factors into consideration), everything from high-level social media marketing to the basics of meta tags. But without a solid site to back it up you’re never going to earn the SERPs you need. It’d be like building a gorgeous multi-million dollar custom home on quicksand.
For the first step in improving SEO, you need to look at your website.