The Builder Designs Blog

Home Builder Website News & Tips

5 Website Mistakes Builders Are Making

Categories: Home Builder Industry, Home Builder SEO, Inbound Marketing, Internet Marketing for Home Builders, Responsive Design, Website Design | Posted: April 23, 2015 | By: Abby Hill

Having built over 300 websites for homebuilders across the country since 2006, we know a thing or two about what’s working and what isn’t. A website is an investment–a good one is going to cost thousands of dollars, but more importantly, a website is supposed to be a digital representation of your business and the people who run it.

If you’re looking to cut corners, the website is not the place to make sacrifices. We’re not talking about whether or not to put a second kitchen in the basement or installing surround sound in the home theatre. This is foundation-level stuff–you don’t cut costs by neglecting to install insulation. It’s time to value websites as investments in the way homebuyers value your homes as investments.

Here is our list of the top 5 mistakes we’re still seeing builders make with their websites.

 

1. Not Mobile FriendlyA website displayed on several devices to show a responsive design.

As you may have heard, April 21st marked the apocalypse for websites without a responsive design. If your website isn’t designed to be viewed on a phone or tablet, it’s about to fall in the Google search rankings even if your SEO is top notch. Worse than that, though, is that the majority of homebuyers who are accessing your site are going to have a tough time using it. Be prepared to see more bounces and less time on site in your analytics. Most homebuyers these days are doing their home search on a mobile phone, and ain’t nobody got time for a website that doesn’t work.

 
2. No SEO

If the quality of your website is equatable to a home with or without insulation, then think of not having SEO as a home without an address. In a community with no street names, in a small town that no one has ever heard of. Oh, and you’re not around to give people directions. Just Gary Google, and he knows absolutely nothing about the house, the location, or even the fact that you exist. Good luck.

2015 is so much different than 1995. These days, SEO is as vital as the http:// at the beginning of any web address. Being online is nothing new. It’s a game now, and you have to have SEO to play. Without it, you might as well get off the track because people are starting to lap you.

It’s simple, really. You don’t have SEO, there’s no way to show up in an online search. And online search is where builders all over the country are gaining a majority of their business these days.

 

Low quality photos will make buyers think your homes are low quality as well3. Poor Photos 

We could write a separate post on the 5 mistakes builders are making with their photos. Companies that sell $60 pairs of shoes understand the influence professional photography has on buyer impression. Why is it that some builders believe they can sell a $250K house using photos they took on their iPhone?

You should be hiring a professional photographer with lighting equipment to shoot all of the homes you wish to display on your website. We have seen builders with professional photography get six times more web traffic from online ads than builders with low-quality photos.

Photos aren’t just meant to inform–they’re meant to sell. You should be able to sell someone a home before they ever set foot inside it by the quality of your photos. To put it bluntly, being cheap about your website photos will give homebuyers the impression that you’re cheap when it comes to building their home too.

 

4. Not Updating Photos With The SeasonYou should take new photos of your listing if it still hasn't sold come Spring time

Winter brings a bit of a lull in home sales, but that doesn’t mean builders stop putting homes on the market. If you list a home in December, you’re likely going to have to photograph it with dead grass, snow on the driveway, naked trees, and gloomy gray skies. This is just what you have to do, but when April comes and that home is still on the market, send a photographer out to reshoot the exterior. Having blue skies, blooming flowers, and vibrant green grass will give homebuyers a positive impression of the home and its location.

On the flip side, when it’s April and you have homes listed with wintry landscapes, all that says to the homebuyer is that this house has been on the market for a while now and nobody wants it.

 

Your website should have an inbound marketing strategy designed for lead generation

5. No Marketing Strategy

This is one that continues to dumbfound us, considering that we know several builders who are successfully marketing themselves online without the use of any print advertising. You can pay for a fairly robust online marketing campaign…for a year….for around the price you’d pay for a handful of newspaper ads.

Even SEO has gotten competitive to the point where showing up in organic search is just the icing on the cake that is your online marketing strategy. More than 90% of all homebuyers are using the Internet at some point in their home search. Your website allows you to collect and manage more leads, online marketing allows you to pay less to have more people find out about your business…and you know at least 90% of your target demographic is going to be online seeking out homebuilder websites anyway.

Online marketing is something to capitalize on. At this point, you can safely abandon ship with your expensive print pieces and reallocate that budget into marketing your website. Still, we see many builders making the mistake of thinking online marketing is an unnecessary expense.

Inbound Marketing for Builders: Where To Start

Categories: Home Builder SEO, Inbound Marketing, Internet Marketing for Home Builders | Posted: April 16, 2015 | By: Abby Hill

More and more homebuilders across the country are beginning to see the benefits of an inbound marketing solution. Inbound marketing promotes the website, boosts SEO, drives leads, and creates tons of brand awareness in your local area.

Our favorite part? You can have a solid inbound marketing program that would allow you to put all your traditional marketing to bed for under $50K a year.

No, that wasn’t a typo. The average builder doesn’t need to spend more than $50K/year on marketing materials if they’re using a completely digital program. For $50K you can reach thousands of homebuyers in your area, promote your product 24 hours/day, 7 days/week, 365 days/year, and get actual data to understand how it all worked out in the end.

You can have a solid inbound marketing program that would allow you to put all your traditional marketing to bed for under $50K a year.

We can see the wheels turning in your head. So what you’re saying is, I can pay for an entire year of marketing by selling one or two homes through an online ad in the course of a year? Yeah, that’s exactly what we’re saying. And with several thousand people visiting your site every month and learning about your product, how could you not sell one or two homes that way? How could you not sell twenty homes that way?

The reason we haven’t yet seen every builder in the country jumping on the inbound marketing bandwagon is that, as an industry, we’re about a decade behind the curve when it comes to stuff like this. Move over to any other industry and ask if they use inbound marketing. You’ll likely hear something like “Well…duh.”

Many builders who have been around for several decades have gotten by on word of mouth, have gotten comfortable with print advertising, or have been able to save money by doing everything themselves. As we move into a less personal, more technology-savvy era of homebuyers, these types of practices will work less and less. If you have the time and resources to build more homes in response to a higher demand for your product, you are a prime candidate for some inbound marketing.

Compared to traditional advertising, inbound marketing can sound too good to be true. We get that. We love when our clients ask us where to start marketing their website, because we know that once they spend a few months seeing what internet marketing can do for their business, they’ll replace a lot of their traditional ads with digital ones and end up saving a ton of money.

When starting out, you should look at two options: Google Adwords and Facebook. Eventually, you should get to where you’re doing both of these things and more, but to get your feet wet, start with one of the two.

 

Google Adwords IconGoogle Adwords

Pros: Google Adwords show up on page 1 of search results, where the intent to buy a home is high. Adwords generate high quality traffic and tend to result in leads more often than Facebook or any other type of ad. Adwords also offers retargeting opportunities on partner sites that allow you to display images of your homes to people who have visited your site and left, reminding them to come back.

Cons: These visitors come with a hefty price tag. Because the users coming to the site from adwords are already searching for new homes in your area, they are worth more to you and therefore you’re going to pay more to get them. Be prepared when all is said and done to be spending around $1K per month on these types of ads.

 
imgresFacebook Ads

Pros: Facebook ads multiply your ROI. They simultaneously create brand awareness, site traffic, shareable content, and even leads for a relatively low cost. Since Facebook ads are photo-driven and allow people to like, share, and comment, the social reach of a Facebook ad far surpasses a Google ad. People tend to text or email links to your site more often when you are running Facebook ads. You can have a solid Facebook ad campaign for around $500/month.

Cons: Site visits and leads tend to be of a lower quality overall than Google Adwords, although the net you’re casting is very wide and has the opportunity to result in some high quality visits for half the price. You also cannot have an ad running on Facebook without connecting it to a business page, which could present a problem if you don’t want to maintain a business page.

 

 

Still not sure? Consider this.

Using Google Adwords is like buying a booth at a convention for homebuyers. Expensive, but you’re showing up in a place where you know serious buyers are already hanging out. Facebook ads is like printing off a pretty stack of flyers and putting them on all the cars in the city where the convention is located. It will be hit and miss, but when it’s a hit it’ll pay off right away.

 

Drawing of a lightbulb

Tip: To begin online marketing, decide what you’re willing to spend monthly and think about if you want to go into it driving leads from the get-go, or if you want to first take time to build some brand awareness for a lower cost. Whatever you decide, give it six months. After six months, start exploring more marketing opportunities or replace your current efforts with something else and see how that goes.

 

Check out the inbound marketing solution we’ve designed for builders, or email me your questions at abby@builderdesigns.com.

 

 

Mobile-Friendly Websites & Why They’re #1 On Your SEO To-Do List

Categories: Home Builder SEO, Responsive Design, Website Design | Posted: April 7, 2015 | By: Builder Designs

A website displayed on several devices to show a responsive design.

What you need to know: Responsive Design = Web design that adjusts itself to fit screens both big and small

As of April 21st 2015, if you don’t have a mobile-friendly website, that needs to be at the top of your wish list for the immediate future.

This is arguably one of the hardest-hitting algorithm updates Google has made in years aside from its emphasis on local SEO. Basically, what Google has done to the search results is put caution tape on websites that aren’t mobile-friendly and put badges of honor on those that are. It’s basically Google’s way of saying, “If you’re not maintaining your site and making it easy to use, we’re not going to send people to your site anymore.”

The homebuilding industry tends to be several years behind in online trends; in rare cases, several decades. This is one area where it won’t fly to continue in the cycle of what’s been working for the last ten or even five years. Because with more than half of all homebuyers conducting their home searches from their cell phones, the bottom line is that non-responsive websites are going to die on the vine. No one is going to click on your site if there is a warning from Google saying it won’t work on their phone, especially when your competitor’s site is right there with a mobile-friendly label.

Stock image of girl with laptop and cell phone.

Here’s what a non-responsive website looks like to someone who’s on a phone or tablet: Imagine you have a catalog in front of you for a product you’re really interested in buying. Only when you go to look at a page, the entire page is blocked except for a tiny square, and you have to move that square around the page to view little bits of it at a time until you get an idea in your mind of what the whole thing must look like. How long would it take you to get frustrated and throw the catalog across the room?

The good news is that upgrading to a responsive website opens you up to a ton of other new features that likely aren’t able to be installed on an outdated website. Having a responsive design is also an upgrade from having a separate mobile site when it comes to your SEO. Instead of maintaining two different sites and dividing traffic between two different sites, you get all of the SEO juice feeding into one site, which will likely bump you up higher in search results.
Drawing of a lightbulb

Want to do a quick test to see if your site has a responsive design? Go to www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly and type in your website link.

April 21st: Is Your Website Ready?

Categories: Home Builder SEO, Internet Marketing for Home Builders, Responsive Design, Website Design | Posted: March 27, 2015 | By: Anna Chandler

The deadline is coming for mobile-friendliness. On April 21st, Google’s newest mobile-friendly algorithm is officially rolling out -though may take a few days or weeks to finish its changes. This change, bigger than Panda or Penguin, is bound to shake up SERPs. It may be the biggest SEO change we’ve seen in years. Is your website ready?

Google's Mobile-Friendly Deadline is April 21st

We’ve discussed before what the mobile-friendly tag is and why it matters. So if that ranking factor already exists, what is changing? Right now Google is only using the tag to help user behavior: “click on this, it’s a good site”. Mobile traffic is half of total website traffic and growing so of course Google wants to make sure people have an easy time surfing and buying from their phone. Ergo, this algorithm change steps from promoting websites that are mobile-friendly to punishing websites that aren’t.

Google says there will be a “significant impact” on mobile search results. Rankings are absolutely going to change. Fortunately, Google is pretty clear on what sites will thrive in the new ecosystem:

Google’s mobile-friendly label is page-by-page. Its possible to have a mobile-friendly tag on some sections of your website and not others. We saw that ourselves; Ideal Homes had a 100% score on their home page but their blog came back with a warning. This is an important time to consider user behavior. Is every page mobile-friendly? Is your realtor login or community search easy to use? And if there are pages that aren’t, do they have to be – like a complex interactive floor plan designed for desktop use and printing – or is this something you can change with your web designer?

Google’s mobile-friendly label is in real time. This is a big plus. Unlike coming back from a Panda hit, (notoriously difficult to recover from) Google is constantly willing to re-test the mobile layout of your site. That means any tweaks now will reap big dividends come April 21st.

You are either mobile-friendly or not. You get the label or you don’t. There’s no “90% okay” option. Google told us that while there are “over 200 different factors” at play -the big ones being font size, button spacing, viewpoint, and readability- it’s ultimately a yes or no answer.

You can test your website now. If you already have the mobile-friendly tag, don’t sweat it. You’re in good shape and will likely see page rankings improved after April 21st. To explore specific pages, use the official Mobile-Friendly Test. Or dig deep in your mobile usability report from Google Webmaster Tools. In fact, if you’re not seeing a mobile-friendly tag you, your web designer, and your SEO team need to dive into that report as soon as possible.

Now is the time to act. It’s not going to be impossible to crawl out of a hit come April, but why let your website take a nosedive when we know exactly what’s happening? And design changes can take awhile – especially if you need a whole new website. And how would you know that?

Red flag: If your website isn’t mobile-friendly. No mobile site, not responsive, this needs to be your company’s #1 concern.

Warning: If your website has a mobile version. It may survive April but Google is pushing really hard for responsive to be required – the new default of the web. A responsive redesign needs to be a portion of your budget this year.

Green light: If your website is responsive. Assuming it already has a mobile-friendly tag to (and it should), you’re going to be helped and not hurt by this rollout. April may be a great month for you! That competitor with an antique website holding on to a higher search rank in one community due to sheer inertia? Things are going to shake up.

Although even with a mobile-friendly tag for your home page it’s worth it to look into your usability report. There may be pages buried deep that need work. This is a unique opportunity in internet marketing: we know exactly what to do to make your website start ranking better, and we know what’s about to be rewarded and what’s about to be punished. So again – is your website ready?

Just Launched: Main Street Homes

Categories: Home Builder Spotlight, Website Design | Posted: March 17, 2015 | By: Anna Chandler

Main Street Homes just launched their new website with Builder Designs! Three-time “Builder of the Year”, Main Street Homes is a premier home builder in Chesterfield County and Richmond VA with over 30 floor plans as well as completed new homes for sale.

MSH website designed by Builder Designs

Their new design was the biggest change we created for this builder, moving to a responsive layout and making the communities, homes, and floor plans a little more interactive than before. Easy to navigate, you can either see all communities and homes that Main Street offers or explore within a particular county (including Chesterfield, Dinwiddie, Hanover, Henrico, New Kent, and Powhatan) if you already have a destination in mind. The floor plan collection is even further searchable, by community or model series in case you want to view only two-story or first-floor master layouts. Or find a furnished model home to schedule a tour!

We also built a “Why Main Street” section so that they can easily detail their financing options, Energy Star rating, and personal story. Learn more about their Design Studio or browse a photo gallery to explore their homes from your laptop! There are easily accessible forms to contact Main Street with a question or warranty concern, or participate in their “refer a friend” reward program.

Main Street Homes paid close attention to the layout and features of the website, just as they do their houses – “Homes with Quality and Style” is not just a slogan to this builder. They focus on affordable luxuries, elegant functional design, and specific home owner needs in their award-winning home designs in convenient neighborhoods with excellent amenities.

Founded by Vernon McClure in 1996, Main Street Homes has grown to be Richmond’s largest locally owned new home builder and the 2009, 2011, and 2013 Richmond Builder of the Year. They’ve also been a consistent winner at the HBAR Parade of Homes – since 2000 MSH has won over 100 Parade of Homes awards! Their 3,700 square foot Design Studio, opened in 2008, is now ranked among the top 6 in the nation and has been named the Best in Richmond in 2008 and 2009. And since they started asking – checking on homeowner satisfaction and ways to improve – over 90% of buyers said they would refer Main Street to a friend.

As a top builder in Richmond we know their website needs to be top-notch too. Alongside a carefully organized on-page optimization SEO program we are proud to offer them an inbound marketing campaign with Facebook ads and landing pages designed for easy client contact and follow up.

Let Main Street Homes know what you think about their website – or explore our complete portfolio for more examples of responsive home builder website design.

Content With Your Content?

Categories: Home Builder SEO, Internet Marketing for Home Builders | Posted: March 12, 2015 | By: Anna Chandler

Content Audit for Home BuildersYou need to care as much about the quality of your website’s information as you care if it exists – if the house’s description meets current standards as much as if the house is on your website to sell. Why? Because content is king. Content determines how well you’ll rank. Google’s big algorithm updates of the last few years – like Penguin, Panda, and Hummingbird – have been largely focused on punishing websites with poor content and rewarding websites with good content.

That’s because Google cares about user experience, and they know that people are spending more and more time online looking up more and more information – 18.8 billion searches were conducted in January alone. We’ve discussed before what Google considers high quality content and their “magic number”: under 250 words, and a page can be dinged as shallow. But just quoting the rule can provoke more questions than it answers: “So what do we write about?” “Really, every page?” So let’s dig deeper into our top recommendations on content marketing for home builders. It really can make a difference.

Rule #1: The following recommendations are written from an SEO perspective – copy that’ll boost your website. But all of that is ultimately from a home buyer’s perspective. We’re not trying to game the system. We’re trying to provide users all they need to tip from browsing to buying. So let’s keep in mind our golden rule: write for the buyer, not for search engines.

Home Builder Content Review

Priority 1: Review the home page. At minimum, your home page needs to include your company name, what type of homes you build – be they luxury custom homes, or townhomes and villas – and where. For the “where” you want to at least list your main cities and state(s), but a comprehensive list (including popular communities!) is even better. This crucial step ensures that search engines know to how to rank you and what for. It also tells browsers you build where they are looking. Think about the beginning research stage of a home buyer: they are still evaluating multiple companies. If they click on your website and immediately know you build where they are looking, they’re likely to dig deeper into the site and start evaluating homes or floor plans. If they aren’t sure, they’re much more likely to hit the back button and go elsewhere. And that’s a lost sale. This may sound incredibly basic, but it is a missed opportunity on hundreds of websites.

As well as a comprehensive list, this is your selling page. Explain to buyers why they should choose you over one of your builder competitors (or a re-sale). What makes you stand out? Is it your years in service, comprehensive warranty, energy efficiency?

This copy may end up being less than 250 words: that’s okay. There’s a lot else happening on the home page and you do have to consider design. But if not the minimum length, do check the data.

Priority 2: Review the main pages. These would be all the core pages of the website, like those that can be found in your header menu. Make a list of all pages and their current word count to prioritize, and then dig in deeper to what content they offer. Is there original copy per page? Does it explain what you do, and where? Does it showcase your specialities and reflect on you well, free of typos and other errors? Have several people at the company proof it. Even better: grab a friend or relative who isn’t as familiar with your company and ask them to read through and respond. (Bonus level: change the company name in a Word document to get an unbiased reaction.) What level of quality do they perceive? Do they understand the context of the page? Would it persuade them to buy a house from that company? As you’re already familiar with the ins and outs of your company, this gives you a nice look into a prospective buyer’s mindset.

Keep in mind: this isn’t a “write and forget”. If something changes about the company, like a new build on your lot program or better Energy Star rating, then the website deserves to be updated too.

“But really, every page?”: There are some pages you can leave short. Users want to immediately access your forms or photo galleries, after all, not wade through a few paragraphs. Here there are other considerations: Does your contact form offer a phone number and turn-around time? Does your warranty form provide an emergency line and documentation to download? Keep in mind, if properly optimized your photo pages will have tons of text even without visible copy. That all said, if the text fits naturally, go for it.

Priority 3: Review the community pages. These are traffic-heavy pages (you can get an exact user count through analytics) and extremely important to buyers in their research stage. You absolutely want 250 words or more for a community’s description. That’s just a few paragraph, and this is your buyers new home – where they’ll spend their time and their lives. They want to know about highway access, local attractions, school districts, and the general feel of the community. For help, contact your realtors and ask what sells buyers on the area. As nice filler, a testimony quote from one of your previous buyers could help sell the location (and you).

“But really, every page?”: There may be pages within a community that aren’t copy-friendly, like an interactive plat map. And that’s okay as long as the rest of the website is doing well. If it’s impossible to add copy in multiple locations, talk to your website designer about your CMS.

Priority 4: Review the available homes and floor plan pages. As less transitory, the floor plan pages would take priority here. Helpful information could include the basic stats (number of beds, baths, and garages) as well as standard features (granite countertops, stainless steel appliances) and possible upgrades (like customizable walls or a patio). Home buyers often contact their builder with a home in mind: they’ve made that mental purchase on the website. So the more detail you include, the easier it is to get that phone call.

“But really, every page?“: It could be that your homes sell to fast to write much for them, or that they pull from a data feed where copy is difficult to control (like an MLS listing updated by realtors). Again, if the website is healthy, that’ll wash out. But do keep in mind that the more you can provide the better.

Priority 5: Review the extraneous pages. Some pages on your website don’t need updating frequently, like a Terms and Conditions page or Privacy Policy link in the footer. It’s good maintenance to review these once a year and make sure they are still up to date and sufficiently long, but likely don’t require further attention than that.

This complete audit of the website’s content is a big project – but can pay rich dividends: better search engine rankings, increased traffic, longer time on site, and more sales. And after a full diagnosis further updates will only be needed as the company changes or as new communities are opened. Completing this review ensures that your website meets Google’s highest standards and is what a buyer wants when researching.

Good content ranks well. The other half of the marketing strategy? New content – which is often best met by blogging. Interested in a blogging audit for home buyers? Let us know for next week!

New Speed Tag in Google Results

Categories: Home Builder SEO, Internet Marketing for Home Builders, Responsive Design | Posted: March 5, 2015 | By: Anna Chandler

Green button that says GOIn November of 2014 we started seeing mobile-friendly tags on search results as Google began testing updates to their algorithm. By January they were omnipresent and directly affecting your SEO, non-responsive sites hit with error reports. More difficult to record but absolutely present were drops or jumps in traffic vis a vi your competitors as a mobile-friendly tag (or lack thereof) changed user behavior before they ever got to your website.

That’s all because Google is predicting this year mobile traffic overtakes desktop traffic. We know by analytics data that home buyers are surfing your website and considering a house purchase on a pretty even split between desktop, tablet, and mobile devices. Without a mobile-friendly site it’s near-impossible to get a buyer on your website or keep them there for long. Lower traffic rates, higher bounce rate, shorter time on site – the lack of a mobile-friendly tag can be a total SEO killer.

There are now rumors about a speed tag that would also affect your website. Google is just testing this out, so it’s not on everyone’s device and we don’t yet know if it’ll be part of their final algorithm. But we saw this same testing before the mobile-friendly tag, so it’s worth researching.

This new tag is a glaring red button warning users that your website is slow. (And people hate to wait.) How long “slow” is Google hasn’t told us, but we do know from user testing that even milliseconds can affect user retention. While Google has factored in speed since 2010, this is the first time they’ve played with throwing it in a search result. This, and their mobile-friendly tag, signals that Google is taking mobile performance very seriously. Home builders would be wise to do the same before this tag is fully rolled out.

Imagine a home buyer pulling up these two results on their phone…

Mocked-up example of a Slow tag on a search result

Which website would you visit?

With the mobile-friendly tag out and speed tag likely on its way, a responsive website overhaul is more important than ever. If you’re considering what best to do for your SEO in 2015 and haven’t redesigned the site in a while – that right there is your answer. And if you do have a new site, it’s still worth your time to put it through Google’s free Mobile Friendly Testing Tool and Page Speed Test to make sure it’ll dominate search results and bring in those home buyers you need.

Lastly, if you’re looking for responsive design ideas, check out the portfolio.

The Dark Social Phenomenon: Facebook Marketing is More Vital Than We Thought

Categories: Home Builder SEO, Inbound Marketing, Internet Marketing for Home Builders, Social Media | Posted: February 26, 2015 | By: Abby Hill

Dark Social Header Image

If Facebook marketing isn’t working for you, you’re doing it wrong. If you’re posting every day and nobody is engaging with your content and your website social traffic hasn’t increased dramatically, the problem is likely that you’re:

a) Not posting the right content/message
b) Not investing in paid ads
c) a & b

The key to unlocking the infinite value of social media for your business relies heavily on two things: Good content and making sure people see your good content. For a homebuilder, this largely means photos of your houses.

If you give people something to share that’s worth sharing, they’re going to share it. If it’s not happening directly on Facebook, there’s another way you can check the success of your social media presence: measuring traffic coming from what’s known as “dark social.”
WHAT IS DARK SOCIAL?

Alexis C. Madrigal, a senior editor at the Atlantic, originally coined the term Dark Social to explain social sharing that occurs outside of what Web analytics can measure.

Analytics can’t track referrals from secure sites (anything with https) or off-page links, so:

  • Email
  • Texting
  • Instant messaging

But we know these referrals are happening. We know because we do it ourselves and because Google Analytics does track these users–you just have to do a little bit of hacking to uncover them.

When we unpack all of the direct referral traffic to see which page the user entered the site on, we can tell how many came from dark social shares. Here’s how:

A first-time visitor to the site would not know the URL of any page but the homepage, so we know they didn’t just type it in their browser directly. They clicked on a link in an email or text or instant message that couldn’t be tracked, so analytics lumped these visits in with direct traffic even though they’re social shares.
UNCOVERING DARK SOCIAL

Do we know which social sites contribute to each of these shares? No. But we can see a correlation between active social media marketing and the occurrence of dark social shares.

We ran a test with one of our biggest marketing clients to see the effect that social media advertising has had on their dark social referrals. We compared a 3-month period in 2014 when they were not marketing on Facebook to a 3-month period in 2015 when they have been running ads and posting twice a day. Here’s what we found:
* In 2014 Facebook traffic accounted for 1% of all site traffic. During this time, 28% of their direct traffic was coming from dark social.
* In 2015, Facebook traffic accounted for 13% of all site traffic. During this time, 48% of their direct traffic was coming from dark social.

 

Dark Social Stats
THE TAKEAWAY

If you’re not investing in social marketing, you’re missing a huge audience–not just the traffic from Facebook, but the traffic that results from people finding you on Facebook and sharing your links with their friends. Facebook referrals can sometimes account for up to 20-25% of total site traffic. Ask your analytics account holder how much Facebook traffic you’re getting and decide if there’s room for more investment in social marketing.

See additional stats on the prevalence of Dark Social

Read Alexis C. Madrigal’s latest research on the connection between Dark Social and Facebook.

Just Launched: Nathan Carlisle Homes

Categories: Home Builder Spotlight, Website Design | Posted: February 25, 2015 | By: Jennifer Bradshaw

Nathan Carlisle Homes just launched its new website by Builder Designs! Specializing in beautiful, energy-efficient homes for active adults in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, Nathan Carlisle’s website provides the essential information for interested buyers of their luxury senior homes.

Nathan Carlisle Homes on Builder Designs

Community pages on the new website feature special video and photo sections in order to effectively show off the amenities each community offers. On select communities, an “Area Info” tab appears, which reveals more detailed information about community amenities and nearby points of interest. Home buyers can learn all they need before even moving! Providing users interesting and pertinent information is one of the best ways to boost time-on-site and trigger the next sales call, which Nathan Carlisle knows well.

That’s also why they provide an exhaustive detail pages for every available home, that include features like a mortgage calculator, e-mailing the home to a family member, or a quick contact form that puts you right in touch with Nathan Carlisle about the specific home.

Along with their focus on luxury senior living, the new “Building Green” page features an interactive home to explain the ways a Nathan Carlisle home is exceptionally energy-efficient. The home on this page has numbered pins representing different energy-efficient pieces of the home. Clicking on the pin make a nifty pop-up to appear that explains what the piece is and how it works to keep Nathan Carlisle homes energy efficient.

A division of Winchester Carlisle Companies, Nathan Carlisle is a private builder that focuses on building active adult neighborhoods. Homes by Nathan Carlisle are Energy Star certified, saving residents money and allowing them to live more comfortably in an environmentally friendly home. Currently, Nathan Carlisle offers homes in Savannah and McKinney within the Isabella Village at Savannah and the Retreat at Craig Ranch communities.

Of note, we designed not only Nathan Carlisle but their sister site Dunhill Homes where they specialize in new homes in the Dallas and Fort Worth Texas area. To see more websites like Nathan Carlisle and Dunhill Homes, please stop by our portfolio or view all web design clients.

Just Launched: Tuskes Homes

Categories: Home Builder Spotlight, Website Design | Posted: February 23, 2015 | By: Jennifer Bradshaw

Tuskes Homes just launched its new website with Builder Designs! Family owned in the heart of the Lehigh Valley for more than 50 years, Tuskes Homes focuses on building quality homes that are perfect for everyday living as well as entertaining.

Tuskes Homes website on Builder Designs

With over 50 years of experience, Tuskes Homes believes that the word “home” encompasses more than just walls and doors—it’s your place of refuge and your retreat. Setting high standards for themselves, Tuskes Homes can help make your dream home a reality. And the new Tuskes website illustrates their capabilities and achievements. Right on the home page, watch the “We Live Here Too” video slideshow and in just seconds get a real feel of the lifestyle a Tuskes Homes can provide.

Are you looking for a quick move-in home? The detail pages for available homes provides a place to explore photos of the home and read a detailed features list and description of the home, or grab a quick snapshot of basic information. Right from the page, calculate your new mortgage and start estimating, e-mail the page to a friend or loved one, and download a complete PDF of all the house’s information.

Or are you interested in a custom home? Learn more about the custom building process by Tuskes Homes with a convenient step-by-step process. This builder is proud to offer custom homes for the Lehigh Valley market with a build on your lot program that lets buyers get the perfect Tuskes home wherever they are.

But Tuskes Homes isn’t just your home builder. They’re your neighbor. Communities and homes by Tuskes are designed to make your life easier, more comfortable, and more enjoyable. The “Tuskes Touch” means that your wishes and desires are paid close attention to and their commitment to quality and customer satisfaction is easy to see inside any Tuskes Home. As one family wrote, “Tuskes Homes gave us the ability to customize our home just the way we wanted through a simple and easy process.”

We wanted to make their website as custom, beautiful, and easy-to-stay-in as their homes are. Builder Designs got to work recreating what worked on our previous website design for them while combining new technologies and a responsive design. Beyond mobile compatibility their unique video slideshow is the most visually significant change in the upgrade, but we were also able to apply some new SEO techniques that should improve website traffic and time on site. The ability to share direct links to individual homes, communities, or floor plans with any buyer on any advice was very important to Tuskes’ marketing team, and we made sure the new website is easily shared and explored. For SEO and user-friendliness, we also worked with Tuskes Homes to make buyer focus baked into the site. Custom buyers can learn more about the build on your lot program, while those looking for an immediate home can just the perfect house or community right away.

If you like the look of the Tuskes website and want to see more examples of a Builder Designs website, please check out our full portfolio or view individual client success stories to watch a total website design and internet marketing transformation.

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