The Builder Designs Blog

Home Builder Website News & Tips

What You Need to Know About Mobile-Friendly in 2016

Categories: Responsive Design | Posted: February 5, 2016 | By: Abby Hill

Illustration of smartphone devices

Mobile-first, responsive design, AMPs–there are a lot of buzz words for mobile-friendly web circulating right now. Whether you haven’t redesigned your site in a few years or you just launched a new site in 2015, you’ll want to brush up on the latest two trends in the mobile world.

Mobile-First

This is a buzz word being used to describe both a lifestyle and the web design process that caters to that lifestyle. Google’s data has shown a rise in mobile usage over the past few years, and now it’s becoming apparent that a significant portion of Internet users are accessing the web on mobile devices exclusively, meaning some users will never see the desktop version of your site.

As a result, Google is placing emphasis on your mobile site’s user experience. Google’s own senior VP of search has been studying his own natural reactions to the mobile web by utilizing it exclusively for over a year. If that doesn’t tell you something about what to anticipate from Google search rankings, I’m not sure what does.

The original concept of responsive design arose out of the need to have a web design function on as many browsers and devices as possible. This meant that we took a standard website design and just scaled it back, removing content and features as the device got smaller.

However, the problem this presents is that a lot of times the amazing design elements and technology that make a desktop site sparkle often do not scale down well to a mobile site. The mobile site in this instance is more of a pared-down version of the desktop site that doesn’t take into consideration every nuance of the mobile user’s experience.

An even bigger problem with desktop-first design is that mobile phones and tablets have much slower download speeds. When we design for desktop first, we’re asking the mobile site to load all the content from desktop and hide what’s not needed. This is why you usually see a basic responsive site loading slower on mobile than desktop.

The mobile-first design process solves these issues by beginning with the mobile site design and enhancing the content for the desktop version. The result is that there are more design considerations given to the mobile user, such as less text and large icons that are easy to thumb-tap. By only asking the mobile site to load the most minimal content, we’re able to provide lightning fast access to every page of the site.

AMPs

AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Page and is an effort spearheaded by Google to provide an even faster user experience on mobile for certain types of content. AMPs have been designed to only work on webpages whose purpose is to be read, not interacted with.

Right now, the only sites that are utilizing AMPs are news-related. WordPress is developing plugins that will allow blog users to create AMPs with ease. Google has already announced that it will favor AMPs in certain search results. If you are writing blog content to rank for a specific keyword, using AMPs could help your content rank higher (note that using AMP on your blog will not cause your entire website to rank higher).

There’s no need to consider AMP pages for your main website content, at least right now. AMPs have big limitations in design and functionality and are only useful in situations where the text content is really all that matters. On a builder site, your photos and branding play a large enough role that you’d be better served by a mobile-first design than converting your pages to AMPs. However, this is a brand new effort by Google and only time will tell if the use of AMPs will spread to other types of web content.

If you have questions about mobile-first, AMPs, or would like to know more about how Builder Designs is doing mobile in 2016, email abby@builderdesigns.com.

Is Content Really King?

Categories: Home Builder SEO | Posted: January 29, 2016 | By: Abby Hill

hands typing

 

We’ve received lots of questions this week from builders returning from IBS on the concept of website content, and it’s important to set something straight from an SEO perspective: Content is not the most important piece of your SEO. The user is.

That being said, content is one of the more important pieces of your site as it relates to the user. The same can be said of the design/layout of your site on both desktop and mobile. Anything you do in an effort to improve your SEO should be done with the end user in mind. These days, SEO and the user go hand in hand.

So thinking about your website content, it does not matter how many words are on the page as long as it answers the user’s search query. It does not matter how many pages are on your site as long as the user spends time on all of the pages. It does not matter if the page contains photos, videos, interactive floor plans, copy, or all of the above as long as the user understands the purpose of the page and finds it useful during their home search.

We can see why people argue that content is king, because it does play a huge role in your SEO success. A huge one. However, it is incorrect to say that you can manipulate SEO ranking just by adding more content, more pages. The truth is that sometimes when you take away pages that users are not visiting or are quickly exiting out of, your SEO will improve. The “SEO value” of your website content is 100% dependent on the value of your content to the user.

Now that we’ve established that, let’s talk about how you can actually improve the content on your website in a way that will benefit your SEO.

Probably the simplest and easiest thing to start with is to assess your photos. We all know these are the crown jewels of homebuilder websites. This is what every homebuyer is looking for and expects to see. There’s no reason you shouldn’t have some sort of visual on every single page.

Homebuyers gravitate toward homes with lots of natural light. Photograph your homes during the day to showcase this. DO NOT rely on artificial lighting.

Homebuyers gravitate toward homes with lots of natural light. Photograph your homes during the day to showcase this. DO NOT rely on artificial lighting.

When you’re looking at your site’s photos, try to do so from an outside perspective. Or ask friends and family for their honest opinions. Once again, simply having a piece of content (like a photo) is not enough–it has to be good content. So look at the number of photos–is it enough? Look at the size of the photo–is it too small? Look at the quality–is it crisp and clear when you view it at maximum size? Look at the composition of the photo–does it look like something people fantasize about on Pinterest or does it look like you shot it on your iPhone after work as the sun was setting?

Invest in your website photography, and invest in it often. Users will spend more time on your site, and as a result your site will start to appear more in search.

Something advanced you can do to improve your website content is to hire an SEO specialist to conduct a full-site content audit. This goes beyond looking at surface-level pieces like photos and keywords to really dig deep into your search data and find areas for improvement.

An SEO specialist can figure out which pages of the site are showing up in search but failing to get clicks or much time on site. Those pages can be isolated and analyzed to determine if they have the right information for the search results they are appearing in. Essentially, your SEO specialist can look at each page of the site and tell you how the content should be improved so that your whole website performs better in search. No guessing about keywords, word count, or number of pages. Just cold, hard data.

If you’re underperforming in search and you feel your site content might be to blame, you can request a site audit from our SEO specialists at Builder Designs by emailing abby@builderdesigns.com.

Brand’s Influence on SEO and Leads

Categories: Home Builder SEO | Posted: January 22, 2016 | By: Abby Hill

Man looking up at stars

 

Homebuilders wanting to increase leads in 2016 will be wise to focus on brand development. For builders, brand awareness is not just about name recognition, but overall company/product perception. Believe it or not, the way you’re perceived on social media can over time have an influence in where your site ranks in a Google search.

The top four social media sites builders are using today are Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Houzz. While you can certainly develop your brand on all of these channels, Facebook is going to deliver the most and best traffic to your site, so it’s the only one we recommend focusing on. Also, Facebook is the only social channel where you can get reviews from homebuyers, engage with prospects, and advertise your inventory simultaneously–plus, it now integrates with Instagram, which is the most up-and-coming social channel for builders.

Building your brand on Facebook is about getting local homebuyers to prefer your brand. Whether this is through promoting better photography/model home staging than your competitor or through building a reputation of a hands-on builder who cares, the aim is to make homebuyers aware of what makes you better than other builders in the area.

When homebuyers prefer your brand, these things start to happen that benefit your SEO and increase your online leads:

1. You’ll get more clicks in search results, which will yield higher search rankings over time.

How this works: If you’re already ranking in the top 10-15 results for a local new home or home builder search, it’s likely that homebuyers will recognize your name in the results from seeing you on Facebook. The positive association they have with your Facebook presence will likely cause them to click on your link even though it may be the last result on page 1. Google pays attention to the click-through rate of all results in search–the more clicks you get, the higher Google will rank you.

2. You’ll get more return visits to the site, which will lead to Google being biased toward your brand in search.

How this works: It’s a well-known fact in the SEO industry that part of Google’s algorithm includes brand biasing–meaning Google is able to associate the amount of people purposely navigating to a website through search, bookmark, or direct visit with the keywords that website is trying to rank for. When Google understands a brand is well-liked, it promotes that brand in the search results. By sending homebuyers back to your website through Facebook promotion, you’ll increase your chances of being bookmarked or searched for directly.

3. You’ll build a captive audience for marketing and increase likelihood of conversions.

How this works: Page likes are essentially an opt-in marketing list of local homeowners or homebuyers who are interested in your product. By engaging with users on Facebook daily and posting interesting content, you’ll increase your following and have more people see your marketing promotions. Additionally, when you promote what is cool, unique, and desirable about your company, you’re increasing your opportunities to grab leads by getting people to prefer your homes over your competitor’s.

4. You’ll improve people’s perception of the quality and value of your product, which will result in more leads.

How this works: It’s no secret that brands have a huge influence on buyer behavior. When making a purchase, we want the best, and we associate the best with what is the most popular and well-known. This goes back to brand recognition somewhat, but more than that, if homebuyers are seeing your name come up frequently on Facebook and they see homebuyers who have worked with you commenting nice things on your posts, or other users saying they’re wowed by how beautiful your new model home is, they’re going to perceive your brand as high quality. Similar to how we gravitate toward a particular make of car because of what’s behind the name, you have the opportunity to influence the way homebuyers perceive your name by how you promote yourself on Facebook. When your homes become something people aspire to attain, you’ll see it reflected in the amount of leads you’re getting.

 

If you’re ready to invest some of your marketing dollars in promoting your brand on Facebook, check out our top Facebook strategy posts:

How to Get the Most Out of Facebook in 2016

What the New Facebook Messenger Icon Means to Your Business

Tips for Building a Better Facebook Presence

What is a mobile-first website?

Categories: Website Design | Posted: January 15, 2016 | By: Abby Hill

mobile phone

Lately we’ve been working on a concept for a mobile-first website design with some of our clients to create a new and improved mobile experience for homebuyers in 2016. We want to explain what a mobile-first design is, how it’s different than a responsive design, and why you’ll want to get one this year.

First, let’s take a second and remember Google’s big push for mobile-responsive websites in early 2015. At the time, responsive design was the clear choice for upgrading your website, which likely either did not adjust on mobile devices or had a separate website that would display for mobile users. The cool thing about responsive design was that it used your whole site and just rearranged it for different screen sizes. This allowed Google to see mobile and desktop visits to your domain as a whole instead of counting them separately, which likely helped your SEO.

Very quickly after Google’s big announcement that it was going to reward mobile-friendly sites, we find out that when Google is crawling your site in its mobile form, the crawlers are only looking at the data of how people are using the site. We then started to see the bigger picture that Google doesn’t just want a website to show up on a mobile device, Google wants a website to function in a way that really makes sense for the mobile user.

Not every desktop design collapses into a perfect mobile version, especially on homebuilder sites which have the unique distinction of being something between a portfolio site and an e-commerce site. For instance, on desktop it makes sense to put the most actionable links in the main navigation–links like Contact Us, Available Homes, and Floor Plans. However, on a basic responsive design the top navigation is collapsed into what’s called a “hamburger menu” in the right corner. On many builder sites, mobile users end up seeing the slideshow and a big block of text beneath.

mobile version of Builder Designs

Our website collapsed into its mobile version. Note the hamburger menu in the top right.

 

What if instead the design for mobile was drastically altered so that the home page copy became condensed and new buttons appeared on-screen that provided the ability to quickly navigate to communities, homes, and plans? The mobile user’s needs and expectations are much different than the desktop user’s. Mobile users need to be able to navigate to your most important content in less clicks. They need the ability to swipe through your photo galleries rather than tap the screen to view the next photo. They need more screen real estate devoted to images than text. They need buttons to be larger so that they don’t accidentally click the wrong result.

There’s no doubt providing a more seamless experience for homebuyers on mobile will improve your SEO, but that’s not why you need a mobile-first site. Oftentimes your homebuyers are accessing your mobile site in line at the grocery store or at a coffee shop on their lunch break. They will spend a fraction of the time on your site that a desktop user does. You need to provide them a way to access as much content and information in that limited time as possible, and making your site easier to navigate on mobile will take care of that. You’ll miss countless leads when mobile users are unable to access your communities, homes, and plans in a timely manner. With the twofold benefit of earning a higher Google ranking and making it easier for homebuyers to take action on your mobile site, it’s well worth the investment in a separate website design for mobile users.

If you’re interested in a mobile-first design for your existing site or want to learn more about how you can incorporate mobile-first into your new website project, let us know!

How to Get the Most Out of Facebook in 2016

Categories: Internet Marketing for Home Builders | Posted: January 5, 2016 | By: Abby Hill

Local-SEO
Many builders are now using Facebook to advertise their communities, homes, and plans, but fail to see the increase in leads they’re looking for. As a result, they scale back on the Facebook budget, post less and less, and ultimately miss out on what is arguably the most valuable online asset for the business beyond the website.

The secret to unlocking Facebook as a lead-generating tool lies within a holistic strategy developed carefully day by day over a period of at least six months. For some this sounds too laborious and uncertain, but for those who invest in Facebook and stick with it, the rewards will multiply.

Here are some of the key strategies for getting the most out of Facebook in 2016.

 

1. Be attentive and engaging.

Simply put, Facebook will not work for a builder that is unable to devote resources to maintaining the page at least during business hours throughout the week. Facebook users understand the signs of a business that is only on Facebook as a means to an end. If they notice it’s been a few days since your last post, they won’t bother leaving you a comment, message, or review (unless they want to publicly complain about you, in which case you REALLY don’t want to leave their post unanswered for days).

Facebook is a tool for creating and maintaining client relationships. Your presence on Facebook will speak volumes about your business, and for many people it will be their first impression of your brand. As you use Facebook to maintain relationships with previous clients, you can expect to see some of them become “brand promoters” who will share your posts, leave positive reviews in the comments of your ads, and even refer friends to your company by tagging them on your inventory posts.

 

2. Build a Brand

This is probably the biggest piece of the Facebook puzzle and sadly most builders are missing it. Every post, comment reply, photo, and message is part of the larger picture that is your brand reputation and your brand promise. When someone leaves you a bad review in April and you don’t respond until July (or ever), all that says to your client and everyone who views your page is that you don’t have good customer service.

We actually came across an example where a builder received several negative reviews on their Facebook page. Months after the reviews were posted, two separate homebuyers came along who were interested in the builder and were doing 100% of their research online since they were moving from another state. The homebuyers commented on the negative reviews asking questions about the reviewer’s experience, if it ever got resolved. These reviewers actually commented back and engaged the prospects in a discussion about the builder right there on the builder’s Facebook page. The builder never responded to any of these comments to become part of the conversation.

Speaking of negative reviews…

 

3. Reply to EVERY review, especially negative ones.

Show clients that you value their feedback by replying to their reviews, either with a sincere thank-you or an invitation to contact you directly to resolve their issues. By showing responsiveness to reviews, other clients will be encouraged to throw in their own experiences, which is extremely valuable to the success of your Facebook page.

Negative reviews are wonderful opportunities to publicly display evidence of your level of customer service. By showing genuine concern for negative reviewers and willingness to resolve their issues, you’re showing all of your prospects how you deal with common issues that inevitably arise during the homebuilding process. Imagine what a relief it would be to a prospect who is worried about all that could go wrong with an expensive build project for their first new home to see that no matter what issues arise, you’re happy to fix them quickly without leaving your homebuyers hanging out to dry.

 

4. Earn the Facebook Messenger Icon

In order to get the Facebook messenger icon that shows prospects how quickly you reply to messages, you have to reply to every message your page receives within the same day someone messages you. If you’ve never seen someone message you on Facebook, it’s a sure sign you’re not being engaging enough. Try posting at least once a day Monday-Friday, boosting posts so that more people see them, and then “liking” and replying to comments on your posts throughout the day.

If you’re already doing these things and still not getting messages, try posting more fun/personal photos of your team and what it’s like to build homes. Invest more in boosted posts and ads. Eventually, people will get the impression that you’re available on social media and will feel more comfortable contacting you there.

We have seen many instances of homebuyers engaging builders via their Facebook pages all the way through to setting appointments. This is where Facebook really starts becoming a lead-generating tool.

 
A holistic strategy will be the key to unlocking Facebook as a lead-generating tool in 2016. Don’t simply set up shop on Facebook because it’s “the place to be”–really have a strategy behind what you’re doing and be attentive to the page daily. Imagine two coffee shops that open on the same busy street–do you go into the one that is empty and appears to be unstaffed most days of the week, or do you visit the one where you can always find a smiling face to talk to no matter when you show up? This is the difference between an active and inactive builder’s Facebook page. Don’t just phone it in–if you need help, hire someone who knows how to do it right!

What The New Facebook Messenger Icon Means to Your Business in 2016

Categories: Internet Marketing for Home Builders | Posted: December 18, 2015 | By: Builder Designs

person typing on a phone

Last week, we touched briefly on the new Facebook messenger icon and how it gives the impression that your business is responsive and accessible. This is really something you’re going to want to pay attention to in 2016, so we’d like to spend a little time unpacking this feature and its potential value to homebuilders moving forward.

Facebook response icon

Changing Customer Service Culture

This icon is already drastically changing the way people view customer service. As more and more businesses have hired social media teams to manage their accounts full time, customers have begun to view social media as a faster, more accessible way to get in touch with a business.

When you think about brand reputation being a huge part of social media, this makes sense. A receptionist or call center is far less interested in your feedback than a social media team is. Customers have come to realize that when they complain about something on a business’ Facebook page, for instance, that they are far more likely to be responded to and taken care of in a timely manner than they would filling out a form on the company website.

Today’s consumer values control over the B2C relationship. Messaging a business on Facebook allows them to get fast answers to their questions without giving any personal information up-front or facing the awkwardness of a phone call. We already know millennials have been raised on the fast and impersonal being their preferred method of communication, so it’s safe to assume that Facebook messenger could grow into the preferred method of contacting homebuilders in the very near future.

Setting Appointments Through Facebook

Part of what makes us believe this is where homebuyer inquiries are heading is that we are already seeing this happen with some of our builders on Facebook. And it’s incredibly interesting. Take a look:

Case #1:

Prospect (11:15 pm):  Hello I was wondering if you had any finished homes done with the Sherwood plan I am very interested in it but was wondering if there was a finished house I could look at it or any pictures you may have of it.

Builder replies (11:25 pm). An appointment is scheduled within 24 hours.

Case #2:

Prospect (8:44 pm): We would like to set up a time to go over questions we have. There’s a few floor plans we like but have never built before, so we’d like to learn about the process, what steps we would need to take, etc. Thanks

Builder (8:45 pm) replies and asks for number. Prospect replies with phone number (8:45 pm).

Case #3:

Prospect (1:18 pm): Hi! We are interested in having a home built in [Community A] and saw a special you were running in June of $5000 in free upgrades and something else in closing. Do you know if/when their might be another special like that? Or any specials.

Builder replies (3:14 pm). An exchange follows and an appointment is set within 24 hours.

Case #4:

Prospect (5:58 am): I’m interested in getting more information on building a home. Do you only build in new subdivisions or can you purchase a private lot? We are looking to build a home that has several acres of land.

Builder replies (8:27 am). Client sets appointment for the same afternoon.

 

We’ve noticed that prospects on Facebook are typically looking to make an appointment quickly, and many do so within the same day of messaging the builder. Unlike some website leads which can be in the early research phase, these prospects for the most part are already in the buying phase.

 

How To Capitalize on Facebook Messenger

In order to earn the icon that attracts homebuyers to message your page, you have to have a 100% response rate to messages and wait no more than 24 hours to reply. This means that you should be responding to messages even when you’re being solicited. The faster you reply, the more enticing your page will look to homebuyers. For instance, a page that has the badge “typically replies within minutes” gets more leads than a page whose badge says “typically replies within a day.”

Don’t wait until Facebook messenger becomes the preferred method of contact to begin utilizing this strategy. Make no mistake, Facebook for business is about to make huge strides in 2016. Recently, Facebook quietly launched its new local business search platform designed to help users find local businesses with the best reviews and ratings. In mid 2015, Google began deprecating a lot of their products that helped local businesses market themselves, and we see this as Facebook’s move to step in and fill a void. It’s no secret that Facebook is working to position itself as a type of search engine, and we feel this is definitely one of those opportunities builders will want to capitalize on as early as possible.

So work toward becoming a highly rated local business by posting and checking Facebook daily, encouraging homebuyers to message you, and inviting current homeowners to give you a review. Don’t be surprised if by the end of 2016 Facebook has become the new go-to platform for local search.

Tips For Building a Better Facebook Presence

Categories: Social Media | Posted: December 11, 2015 | By: Abby Hill

Holding an iPhone

So many businesses have a Facebook page today that the average consumer now expects to find a Facebook page for every company they do business with. Many homebuyers use Facebook as a way to check out their local builders before deciding to pursue an appointment. In order to stay relevant, you’ll need to make maintaining a Facebook presence a top priority in 2016. Here are some tips for how to build a Facebook presence that endears you to homebuyers:

 

1. Respond quickly.

Whether you are replying to a comment, addressing a review, or answering a private message, make sure your responses are timely. An ideal response rate is anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours. Waiting a few hours is understandable if a user comments in the middle of the night or well outside of business hours, but generally speaking if you are taking even 24 hours to address a post on your page, you’ll give the impression that you’re distant/unavailable. Remember, homebuyers are looking to connect with you on social media and form a relationship. If you ignore their attempts to reach out to you, you run the risk of alienating them.

Pro Tip: Facebook rewards quick responses by promoting your response time on your page. Users will be able to immediately understand how accessible you are by looking for this icon. 

 

Facebook reviews example

2. Enable and reply to reviews.

 
Reviews are a huge asset to your business page, and businesses that disable their review section always look like they’ve got something to hide. Instead of turning off reviews when disgruntled customers start leaving you negative feedback, take the opportunity to reply to their comment and see if there’s anything you can do to smooth things over. Not only will this give you the chance to repair a broken relationship, it will also show anyone else who checks out your reviews that you’re a company that cares about its clients. It’s always helpful for others to see how you handle business when things go south, but try to encourage negative reviewers to contact you privately to hash out the details of your exchange. You don’t want to make your clients feel like they have to air their dirty laundry on your Facebook page in order to get your attention.

Pro Tip: Usually when a business addresses a negative review, the comments stop. However, when the business fails to show up it can lead to other disgruntled clients coming out of the woodwork to share their stories. We have also seen interested homebuyers commenting on negative reviews to get more feedback about a builder. Don’t be afraid to step in and be part of these conversations–just be sure to respond kindly and with confidence!

 

Facebook message lead example3. Check your messages throughout the day.

Active Facebook pages give the impression that someone in customer service is available 24/7. Expect that at some point, trade contractors, homebuyers, or realtors are going to reach out to you via Facebook message because they perceive this to be the quickest way to get your attention. If you fail to notice and respond to their message within an hour or two, they’ll think you’re ignoring them intentionally. We’ve seen some clients miss actual leads because they neglected to check their Facebook messages. We have also seen clients engage leads through Facebook messenger all the way through to securing the appointment.

Pro Tip: Homebuyers who message you on Facebook are likely looking to move quickly. Don’t miss these easy appointments! Make sure you’re set up for page message notifications so you’ll get an email the second someone messages you on Facebook.

 

O'Neal Builders on Facebook

4. Humanize your profile.

The best, most engaging content comes from the people behind the page, not Houzz or Zillow. Don’t forget that homebuyers “like” your page because they want to get to know YOU! Share a silly photo of your team or a photo album of the new home you’re working on. Share the ups AND the downs of working in the homebuilding industry. Not only will this promote good will toward your brand, you’ll likely receive more likes, comments, and shares on this content, which means even more people will see it.

Pro Tip: This is the type of post that usually attracts your current homeowners who are happy to share their warm thoughts about your company and their home in the comments.

 

 

 

 

Homebuilder Websites in 2016

Categories: Home Builder Industry | Posted: December 4, 2015 | By: Builder Designs

Millennial generation of homebuyers

With all the changes in online technology that happened in 2015, it’s more important than ever to anticipate the future of homebuilder web. As the millennial generation is beginning to comprise the majority of first-time and move-up homebuyers, it’s necessary to rethink the way you’re presenting your company online in order to stay relevant. Here is a list of the most vital things to consider in 2016 when it comes to your website and online marketing:

1) Your website MUST look and feel high-end.

Unlike previous generations, millennials are bombarded with infinite choices. As a result, the demand for high quality is greater than it has ever been. An outdated website and low-quality photos are not going to cut it in 2016. If your site doesn’t wow them, surely one of your competitors’ sites will.

2) You need the ability to give homebuyers information NOW.

With so much technology at their fingertips, millennials have come to expect instant gratification and will have no patience for submitting a contact form. The greatest asset to a homebuilder website in 2016 will be an Online Sales Counselor (OSC). With a call-to-action on every page, homebuyers should have instant access to your OSC through tap-to-call, tap-to-text, or online chat. If you can’t give them instant information on homes for sale, they’ll find someone who can.

3) Your website MUST be quick to navigate.

Millennials are notorious for their short attention spans. With so many home builder sites competing for their attention in any given area, if your website has outdated navigation or slow load time, there’s no question they will quickly move on to the next site. This is especially true on mobile devices–today, more and more builders are opting for a separate mobile design to create a better, faster user experience on mobile. It will not be enough to simply be “responsive” in the near future.

4) You HAVE to be engaging on social media.

Now that so many brands are willing to maintain social media profiles and engage with their customers, millennials have come to expect to be able to interact online with the companies they do business with. No doubt that they will be looking for you on channels like Facebook and Instagram. If they can’t find you, their perception of your brand’s quality will instantly diminish.

5) You NEED to get personal.

Millenials are champions of their own individuality. As a result, they desire a personalized experience at every turn. In order to stand out from your competition, you have to be more considerate of their needs, desires, and personalities than your competition. This means updating the copy of your website to speak directly to the homebuyer, featuring homeowner stories with photos or video instead of bland testimonials, and promoting any and all customization opportunities you offer.

Additionally, you need to be available daily on social media responding to comments and reviews, answering messages, and “liking” positive interactions with your page. If you don’t have the time to do this, hire someone who does. These channels will often be the first touchpoints between your brand and an interested homebuyer. If you leave them hanging out to dry, they will move on to someone who cares about them more.

 

This generation of homebuyer will define the future of the homebuilding industry. Pay attention to how much this demographic values a hands-on experience and authenticity. None of these strategies can be faked or half-baked. Those who take the time and investment to go all-in on a new online strategy in 2016 will dominate the homebuilding industry in years to come.

Why It Pays to Have Support

Categories: BD News | Posted: November 19, 2015 | By: Builder Designs

Builder Designs is a web development and SEO company for home builders

There is a clear difference between paying $50 each month to host your website on GoDaddy and paying several hundred dollars each month to host your website with an independent service provider (like Builder Designs), and it’s not just in the cost. While basic hosting sites like GoDaddy offer a place to park your website for the foreseeable future, they do not offer the added value of a dedicated team that is looking out for your best interests. And when you’re investing thousands in a website that represents your business, this difference is everything.

Web support is like insurance for your website. More than likely, you paid around the same price for your website as many people pay for a car. Just like a car, your website is threatened by outside factors, and just like a car, your website needs some level of insurance. The Internet is full of human and robot hackers looking for an easy way into your site. In some cases, we have seen hackers replace the logos on home builder sites with porn imagery, replace the copy on the home page, or sprinkle links to nefarious websites throughout other pages on the site.

When this happens, you have two options: comb the site for other hacks and repair everything the hacker broke, or restore the site to its former glory from a backup. The latter option will not be available to you on a basic hosting site, which is one reason it pays to have the added security of an independent service provider.

Recently, we encountered a hack that occurred on a client’s old site sometime before we went live with their new site. One of the more sophisticated hacks we’ve seen, this hacker redirected our client’s home page to a website that proclaims to sell cheap sunglasses. As a result, a Google search for the company turned up this:

Hack Example

Without support from their former web developer while we were building their new site, this hack went unnoticed until our SEO team caught the indexing issue in the days following the launch of their new site. We combed the site code to find the hacker’s hidden insertion and got rid of the links. Unfortunately, the hack didn’t stop there.

This type of hack, in which all or part of a website is redirected to a spam website, also comes with other consequences that affect SEO. The link to our client’s site was shared across other spam sites, making it look as though our client had engaged in bad link building tactics. A significant factor in a site’s ability to rank lies within the quantity and quality of links pointing to the site. Many websites have been penalized by Google for being associated with spam sites. When this happens, the issue must be taken up directly with Google in the form of disavowing each link individually.

At Builder Designs, we take website insurance very seriously. In addition to backing up all of our sites each hour of the day, we monitor our sites for outages, performance, and resource usage. The second a website goes down for any reason, our support team is immediately notified. We update each site’s server ongoing with the latest security and performance fixes. This is what separates our level of service from a $50-per-month basic hosting site.

Not all hosting is created equal, and attempts to save money on website hosting can cost you in the long run, especially after hacks that damage or delete the content of your website. Hacks that go unnoticed for even 24 hours can damage your business’s reputation in lasting ways. Don’t forget that your website is both an asset and a marketing tool–value it as an investment by ensuring it is monitored and cared for 24/7.

Online Marketing for Home Builders: Using Traditional Techniques on Modern Channels

Categories: Internet Marketing for Home Builders | Posted: November 13, 2015 | By: Builder Designs

Computer with charts

Many builders are still relying on a Google search ranking to drive business to their website. However, now that Google is changing how they rank sites in the search results, it’s becoming harder to rank well in a competitive market, especially for a smaller local builder.

Inbound marketing is helping to bridge the gap between search traffic and leads by creating more visibility for your website and brand online. As your website grows in popularity, you may also be able to achieve a coveted spot on page 1 of Google. This is because Google is now using user behavior as a major factor in where a site ranks. While there are over 200 ranking signals that Google is using to create search results, it’s no question that popular websites tend to rank highly often despite other weak spots in SEO.

A Change in Attitude

At first, the news that in order to be successful in SEO, you’ll need to pay for online ads sounds like it creates more problems than it solves, but actually the opposite is true. Relying only on organic search traffic to drive customers to your business online is missing the bigger picture. In fact, as a new home builder, a homebuyer’s search is the latest point of discovery you want to be pursuing.

New homes and custom homes are aspirational. They’re something that home buyers dream about and plan for long before they commit to a Google search. Instead of hoping that when a homebuyer is ready to buy a new home they somehow discover you during that process, get in front of them while they’re still dreaming about owning a new home so that they start dreaming about owning one of your homes.

This is where online marketing presents an opportunity. Visual ads appear in front of your target audience where they spend time every day: on Facebook, on Pinterest, on other websites they visit in the form of banner ads. Every type of traditional marketing that happens offline can also happen online for a much lower cost and with the ability to track the results. By replacing some of your offline marketing with smart digital marketing, you can save money, extend your reach, and benefit your website’s SEO all at once.

 

Merging Traditional & Digital

In marketing your business, you typically have four tactics to employ: direct marketing, advertising, sales promotion, and publicity. We’ll show you which online channels you can use to accomplish each of these.

 

1) Direct Marketing

Offline: snail mail
Online: email, hyper targeted ads, Facebook posts

This is one tactic you can easily go fully digital on. Whether you bought a mailing list or used an opt-in list from a Parade of Homes or open house, your direct mail audience is limited and the cost to reach them is extremely high. Plus, you only reach them once by sending them something in the mail and have no way of understanding the ROI or even the level of engagement from doing so.

With Facebook ads, you can deliver photos of your homes and links to your site directly to just about any audience you can think of. Facebook has partnered with several major data aggregators to allow advertisers the ability to target people in a local area of a certain income level, job industry, household size, and more. Recently, we’ve even been given the ability to target first-time homebuyers with ads.
This is actually a demographic we’ve seen a lot of success with on Facebook, so if you have product under $200K you should definitely be allocating budget for direct marketing on this channel.

We have a client that uses a landing page just for first-time homebuyers that has examples of their floor plans in a certain price range. We create ads on Facebook targeting first-time homebuyers and send them to this page, and sometimes we also post this link to the Facebook page as well to drive additional traffic from there.

They’ve never run this ad for more than $200 in a given month. For $200, you can buy postage to send about 465 pieces of direct mail. Obviously you still have to pay for the design of the mailer, the cost of printing 465 mailers, and envelopes if you’re using those. You’d never know how many people threw the mailers away without looking at them or how many contacted you as a result of seeing the mailer unless you asked everyone that called or emailed if they had seen your mailer.

For $200, a visual ad we ran on Facebook reached 24,771 people in the metro area where our client builds. 1500 of those people visited our client’s website, which was a huge popularity signal to Google. Several of the website visitors contacted the client within 30 days and set up an appointment.

No one in this room can say with any level of certainty how successful their direct mail campaign was. This is an easy area where you can reallocate budget to run successful ads online that can actually be tracked.

 

2) Advertising

Offline: radio, print, television, billboard
Online: Google Adwords, banner ads, Facebook ads, Zillow, Trulia, MLS, etc
In certain markets, many builders still have success advertising on billboards and print ads. However, no one can quantify that success other than to say there is a correlation between the increase in appointments and the advertising effort.

You can quantify the success of an online ad by using landing pages or by looking at referral traffic in Google Analytics to understand how many visitors came to your site through an ad. Unlike billboards and print ads, you can also determine whether the right people are seeing your ads based on how well they engage with your site or how many of them decide to contact you.

Online advertising also allows you to apply additional layers to your marketing to increase your success rate. With the use of retargeting ads, you can essentially release ads that follow a user around the Internet once they’ve visited your site, reminding them to return to the site and continue their home search. You can even tell the ads to only be delivered to people who did not fill out a contact form on their first visit to really hone in your targeting.

 

3) Sales Promotion

Offline: radio, print, television, direct mail in a shorter time period
Online: Facebook ads in tandem with landing pages

When you’re trying to move inventory, a sales promotion can generate a lot of buzz and help you meet your goals. Facebook ads are an asset in this case because you can reach thousands of people for a couple hundred dollars. Because of the time sensitivity with sales promotions, it’s a good idea to send visitors to a landing page on your site with a contact form so that they can act immediately while they’re still interested.

Landing pages are known for increasing conversions on ads. And, because you know that the only way users can get to the landing page is through the link you share, it helps in tracking the success of your ads.

If you regularly get several thousand monthly visitors, this is a good time to use Facebook’s custom audience tool to deliver ads directly to Facebook users who have visited your site in the last 30 days. Chances are many of them did not convert on their first visit and may be incentivized by your promotion.

 

4) Publicity

Offline: signage, flyers, vehicle wraps, swag at open houses
Online: social media

Social media is a great platform for doing publicity with multiple layers. Where signage, vehicle wraps, and pens with the company logo do a lot to build awareness of the company, they don’t do anything to communicate what the company is actually about and what it’s like to work with you.

Facebook and Twitter are the two most popular platforms for doing social media as a home builder, although Instagram is building momentum as well. Having a daily presence on social media allows you to connect with potential clients in ways you can’t in an offline strategy. For instance, if you’re doing community work or sponsoring a local event, you can broadcast this on social media and start conversations around it.

A photo album showing your team building a home on a show like Extreme Makeover Home Edition along with your personal story about the experience does a lot more for your company’s image than sending a printed newsletter with the same information. The difference is that sharing this information on social media invites people to engage with you by sharing comments or asking questions which you can in turn respond to by “liking” or commenting back.

The same goes for simple updates that you would traditionally send in a newsletter, e-blast, or print article. If you are working on plans for a new development or floor plan, create hype around it by posting on social media asking people to help you come up with a name. Every time someone comments on the post, their friends will see that activity in the newsfeed, which extends your organic reach even further for no cost.

 

 

Choosing the right social media channel for your marketing is important. Don’t waste your advertising dollars or time on a channel where you’re not reaching and engaging your target audience. Many people mistakenly promote the idea that it’s best to be on everything, but this isn’t true.

Twitter, for instance, is a channel many homebuilders use with no real idea of what it’s doing for them. As a channel mainly devoted to rapid-fire ideas and conversations around pop culture and news stories, it’s not a channel suited for marketing new homes. In order to be relevant on Twitter, users must post multiple times throughout the day and participate in hashtag topic conversations. We rarely see Twitter bring even ten users to a home builder website in a given month, even for clients who are posting daily.

Instagram is becoming a channel to watch for builders, especially now that it supports promoted posts. However, you will not be able to link to your website in your posts, so this channel may not generate much web traffic. Also consider that the majority of Instagram users are the millennial generation, so unless your clientele includes first-time homebuyers, you might not want to use this channel. Since Instagram is completely photo-driven, users expect to be impressed by the quality of photos you post, so we recommend only sharing professional quality images on this channel.

Facebook seems to be the channel that every home builder can find success on, since it supports photos, reviews, comments, sharing, and lengthier posts than Twitter. Facebook’s advertising platform is also second-to-none when it comes to targeting, and it’s easy to promote your page’s posts to reach more people. Plus, people of all income levels and generations are using Facebook, so you’re sure to reach your target demographic.

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