The Builder Designs Blog

Home Builder Website News & Tips

Improve Your Google Ranking With Page Speed

Categories: Home Builder SEO | Posted: October 2, 2015 | By: Abby Hill

Page Speed Insights tool

We’ve been running some tests recently to understand what affects Google ranking today. Page speed is one of the things we have found to have a direct impact on where your site ranks. You can actually check the speed of any page on any website using Google’s own PageSpeed Insights tool. Keep in mind that not even Google has a perfect score when it comes to page speed, nor do top-ranking sites like Amazon and Facebook. If your site isn’t in the green when it comes to page speed, it doesn’t mean that your website is dysfunctional–it just means there’s room for improvement!

It’s possible that improving page speed can improve your ranking by at least one or two positions, which can be a big deal when that position moves you from page 2 to page 1. Our test client saw a ranking improvement just a few days after we made some updates to the home page that allowed it to load faster. By removing a mortgage calculator and an interactive Google map from the home page, we were able to significantly improve how fast the home page loaded. Now, a mortgage calculator and an interactive map are two very common and useful things to have on a home builder website–this doesn’t mean you can’t use them. Just don’t use items like this on pages you want to rank, like the home page and inventory pages.

When you run PageSpeed Insights, you’ll see some suggestions for improving the HTML and CSS. A lot of this can actually be accomplished by using Google’s own Angular Javascript on the site. Angular is basically a way to consolidate lengthy HTML and CSS scripts. It also allows your entire website to download all at once and be stored in a cache instead of being downloaded page by page. This makes the entire browsing experience much faster for the user.

If you’re interested in learning more about improving site speed or would like us to run an audit on your site, contact our support team at

Holistic SEO

Categories: Home Builder SEO | Posted: September 24, 2015 | By: Abby Hill

Businesswoman reaching for growth


We’re taking a more holistic approach to SEO these days, meaning we’re using SEO as a lens through which to view things like your website content, online marketing, and overall brand messaging. While there are still things like keyword research, meta data, and link building that can be defined as SEO, all of the aforementioned efforts can also have a big impact on where your site ranks. That’s why we have SEO teaming up with design, programming, and marketing in every step of the process.

Let’s unpack this holistic approach a little. The reason why it doesn’t work so well anymore to be doing SEO in a technical silo is that ranking signals have multiplied and morphed in huge ways this year. The biggest shift we’re seeing is much more weight being put on user behavior. So things like how long someone spent on your site, how many people filled out a form on your site, pages people keep visiting and linking to vs. pages that get hardly any views, how many people immediately hit the “back” button to the search results after they click your site link, etc.

Sometimes, if the search volume is significant enough, you might see a really basic-looking site ranking above much newer, fancier sites. Why? Because if a site, despite being basic, is the one that users are clicking on and staying on time after time after time, Google is going to give the people what they want. Because that’s going to help Google continue to be everyone’s favorite search engine.

Now, when it comes to a home search, basic/old sites aren’t going to cut it unless the home builder is really well-known and revered in the area. Unlike searching for the answer to a question, a user won’t be satisfied with a poorly designed website in their search for a new home. Here’s where holistic SEO thinking comes in. Instead of just thinking about how to get more link clicks to rank better, holistic SEO says we need to think about these clicks as people. Do clicks or even rankings really matter if a person gets to your website and doesn’t find what they’re looking for? No. Those people already clicked over to your competitor’s site and filled out their lead form because the photos sold them.

A holistic SEO approach is concerned with leads, sales, and brand perception more so than clicks and rankings. Why? Because the efforts that convert leads will eventually result in more clicks and better rankings. Holistic SEO puts people first instead of Google. If Google’s already doing that, why shouldn’t we?

You might be wondering how you can call web design and online marketing aspects of SEO, or vis versa. Have you ever been to a website that looked really cool, but you couldn’t figure out how to get to certain pages of information? Did the website leave you feeling confused and frustrated? Did you seek out a different site to help solve your problem? That’s an example of good aesthetic design with a bad user experience. SEO cares about user experience because clicking back to the search results after spending very little time on the site is a negative ranking signal. Google can tell when people are dissatisfied/frustrated and will rank your site accordingly.

In online marketing, have you ever paid for ads that brought tons of traffic to your site, but didn’t result in any new leads? Holistic marketing from an SEO perspective doesn’t just focus on clicks vs. ad spend; instead, that traffic is analyzed for quality control. When ads target the right people, they’ll come to the site and behave a certain way. Leads will come. When ads are set up and left to run without analyzing the user behavior, you might just be paying for tons of 10-second clicks to your site.

If you’re currently spending money on online advertising, check on your efforts with these simple tips for understanding what to look at in Google Analytics.

What to Look for in Google Analytics

Categories: Home Builder SEO | Posted: September 18, 2015 | By: Abby Hill

Google Analytics is a fantastic tool for understanding how your website is performing and checking up on the traffic coming into the site. With so much information at your fingertips, it can be paralyzing trying to figure out where to start. We’ve come up with three simple things you can check each time you log into Google Analytics that should give you the level of insight you need to check up on your website and marketing efforts.


1. Audience Overview

how to analyze homebulder websites

The Audience Overview is the default view when you log into analytics. Here you can get a snapshot view of the overall performance of everyone who has visited the site. You’ll want to look at the bounce rate, time on site, and page views to understand if you’re getting quality traffic and your website is appealing to the user. Additionally, take a look at your new vs. returning visitors section. Since most users won’t fill out your lead form on the first visit, it’s important to get people coming back to the site through online marketing efforts. Some users need to come back to the site at least three times before they’re ready to make an appointment with you.


2. Acquisition Overview

acquisition overview google analytics

On the left hand side of the screen, you should be able to navigate down to Acquisition > Overview where you can get a snapshot of what Audience Overview told you, just broken out by traffic source. This will be helpful to diagnose which sources are quality and which are not. Likely you will want to look at Referral and Social if you’re doing any sort of online marketing. Each of these list items contains a link to unpack the sources in that category, including bounce rate, time on site, and pages viewed. If Bounce Rate is 100% and time on site is 00:00, you know for sure that’s spam traffic. Keep in mind that metrics for advertisements should be looked at differently than overall site metrics. A bounce rate between 40-60% is decent for ad traffic, and traffic from ads tend to have lower page views and lower time on site.


3. Search Queries

queries in google analytics

Under the Acquisition header, navigate to Search Engine Optimization > Queries to find which keywords are bringing people to your site. To protect our client’s privacy, we’ve left out the keyword column, which exists to the left of “Impressions.”

Impressions tells you how many times your site showed up as a search result for a given keyword during the timeframe you’ve selected (the default is the past 30 days). The clicks column tells you how many people clicked your link, but keep in mind that 0 clicks on a high ranking keyword could just be an indicator that people are clicking adwords results more than organic search results. Don’t pay too much attention to the Average Position column–because search results fluctuate and depend on many different factors (your mobile search ranking can vary by up to 6 positions depending on how good someone’s Internet connection is), this isn’t always a good reflection of how you’re faring in the SERPs. The best way to check up on your ranking (besides your custom ranking report from Builder Designs) is to open up an “incognito window” in Google Chrome and do a search for the keyword you want to check on.


If you’d like to go deeper into your analytics, a call with an SEO consultant is probably best. A lot of data is subject to interpretation, and there are lots of secondary dimensions that may provide even more insight into a particular thread of data. Our SEO team is always happy to help diagnose issues with your website, SEO, or marketing and can be reached by email at or


How Traffic and Engagement Affects Your Google Ranking

Categories: Home Builder SEO, Inbound Marketing, Internet Marketing for Home Builders | Posted: September 10, 2015 | By: Builder Designs

seo - search engine optimization


We’ve been saying for a while now that the SEO game has changed. Keywords still allow you to rank, but they no longer determine where you rank. With over 1 billion websites on the Internet for Google to crawl and analyze for relevant keywords, it’s no wonder they’re starting to move away from a keyword-based ranking model.

Today, evidence shows that Google is using more of a user-based approach to ranking websites. This means that a site or even a page that has low traffic and low user engagement will eventually stop being considered in the rankings and will move its way down into the Internet landfill.

The SEO experts at Moz recently undertook a ranking correlation study to illustrate the effect that traffic and engagement metrics have on your Google ranking. The results show that instead of using static features like title tags, copy, and meta description to determine where a site ranks, Google instead analyzes the way users interact with individual websites. “Put simply, the more traffic a site received, the higher it tended to rank” (

Based on this correlation, it’s clear that your best chance for success is to have an engaging, user-friendly website with a strong inbound marketing strategy designed to drive consistent, high-quality traffic. At first glance, it may seem like organic traffic is now costing you money, but that’s not quite the case. In reality, every business should be marketing themselves online–it’s cheaper than traditional advertising, completely trackable, and amplifies leads and sales.

The fact that online advertising could now indirectly boost your search rankings by driving more traffic to your site is icing on the cake. Amplifying your online presence is now an essential part of succeeding online–the last thing you want is to invest in a quality website only to have it sink into the website landfill because competition is just too dense.

Managing Social Media Feedback

Categories: Inbound Marketing, Internet Marketing for Home Builders, Social Media | Posted: August 28, 2015 | By: Builder Designs

stock image of iphone


No brand is safe from getting negative comments and reviews on Facebook. While it’s tempting to delete customer rants on one of your posts or ads, doing so can create even more trouble for you when your reviewer notices their comment has been deleted and gets even angrier. Here are some best practices for dealing with comments when they arise:

Acknowledge everyone.

Whether someone leaves a nice comment, a negative comment, several sentences, or two words, you should acknowledge them in some way–either by “liking” their post or replying to it. Since these people are taking the time to share their thoughts with you, the expectation is that you’ll somehow let them know they’ve been seen and heard.

It’s okay to delete spam.

This applies to people who share links to other websites on your page or who use foul language that you don’t want to expose your other fans to.

In some cases, you may experience the kind of spam that requires a little bit of damage control. It’s perfectly acceptable and even recommended to acknowledge particularly damaging posts with a simple explanation and reassurance that the page is being monitored to keep fans from being exposed to offensive content.

It's important to address negative posts that happen on Facebook.

Be nice even when people are mean.

This may seem like preaching to the choir, but it can be very tempting to want to put someone in their place when they make a negative comment out of ignorance or say something to put you on the defensive.

When this happens, the best thing to do is to respond with the same kindness and concern that you would if they had been nicer in their approach. The last thing you’d want is for other homebuyers to read the heated exchange between you and one of your dissatisfied homeowners and have that turn them off to working with you.

View every negative comment and review as an opportunity.

Especially since reviews cannot be deleted on Facebook, it’s important to see opportunity in them when they occur. Every homebuyer worries about what can go wrong when they’re building a new home or choosing a builder, so being able to see your helpful replies on negative reviews will actually give homebuyers reassurance that if issues do arise, you will be willing to work to resolve them.

Always provide contact info on negative feedback.

Show that you’re willing to resolve issues by providing an easy way for reviewers/commenters to get in touch with you. Hopefully if they were willing to expend the effort to post their negative review, they’ll also be willing to go in and delete it or give positive feedback once the issue has been resolved.

In fact, don’t hesitate to encourage them to revisit their review once you’ve ensured their satisfaction.

How to Track ROI on Social Media

Categories: Inbound Marketing, Internet Marketing for Home Builders, Social Media | Posted: August 20, 2015 | By: Builder Designs

stock image with phone


Determining your ROI for maintaining a social account can be difficult to wrap your arms around. While it’s possible to track dollar-value ROI through connecting sales back to social lead referrals, relying completely on this to understand what social is doing for you causes you to miss the bigger picture.

The truth is, you can’t clearly state an ROI for things like brand awareness, customer loyalty, and brand goodwill, but all of these things contribute in some way to your overall success, much like a goal in soccer is the result of every player who touched the ball prior to it going into the goal. Understanding that these things do have value even though you can’t assign a dollar value to them will help you view your social media efforts more holistically.


Brand Awareness:

  • When someone begins their new home search by searching for your company because they’ve been following you on social media and have been eyeing your home designs for a long time.
  • When someone does a new home search and your link ranks #5, but you get clicked on because the user recognizes your brand and not the others.
  • When lots of people are searching for your company, you’ll start ranking higher for ALL your keywords.


Customer Loyalty:

  • When someone who bought a house from you sees one of your ads and comments how much they loved working with you, and that review gets seen by thousands of people.
  • When someone has a complaint that you quickly address via social media and they become more likely to say nice things about you to other people.


Brand Goodwill:

  • When people associate your company with quality and customer care based on what they see from you on social media, they’re more likely to recommend you to friends & family.
  • When you use social media to talk about your community outreach and people learn good things about you they wouldn’t have spent time reading on your website.

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

How To Track ROI

Yes, we said earlier it’s hard to determine an exact ROI for these social efforts, but you can get a good idea if you’re moving the needle in the right direction by checking these things in your Google Analytics:

Bounce Rate:
If your bounce rate on social traffic is less than 60%, it means you’re at least targeting the right people with your page and ads. The ongoing boost in good traffic will benefit you in the search results over time.

Time on Site:
The more time someone spends on your site, the more usable it looks to Google. If you’re able to consistently drive a high volume of social traffic that spends upwards of 3-4 minutes on the site, you may also see your ranking position improve.

Page Views:
If your social referral traffic is only looking at one or two pages when they come to your site, it means they’re likely not that interested in your content unless you’re purposely driving them to a specific landing page and asking them to convert.

Looking at these three performance indicators will help you understand if you’re targeting the right people on social media. Simply getting thousands of visits to the site from people who would never be interested in buying from you defeats the whole purpose, and at that point you can pretty much guarantee you’re not getting any kind of return on your investment. If that’s where you are, don’t scrap your social budget–hire the right social media expert to assist you with your ads or in crafting your overall presence. As Facebook rises to compete with Google for the best online marketing platform, you definitely won’t be sorry you stuck it out with a social strategy.

Google Rolls Out New Search Updates

Categories: Internet Marketing for Home Builders | Posted: August 12, 2015 | By: Builder Designs


Google has made some major updates this week. Last Friday evening, the map results on local searches changed from this:

Builder Designs discusses strategies for getting your map listing to rank higher.

To this:

New Google SERPs


Now Google prompts users to view “more home builders” beneath the map results, which makes Google seem even more intuitive about the results in the map listings. Upon clicking through to see more builders, the user is taken to a map that shows the location of home builders in the area as well as a list with links on the left.

Google results


This is arguably more user friendly than the limited amount of blue links that show up on page 1. Our guess is that over time, homebuyers will adapt to using the map list of results instead of the organic search rankings because it allows them to see more results they can quickly and seamlessly scroll through.

We’ve been saying for awhile now that SEO is so much more than ranking #1 on Google’s home page, and these updates prove that Google is moving toward a more user-focused system that will make it impossible to rank based on technical keyword tweaks. More than ever, it’s important to have an SEO strategy that focuses on helping homebuyers find what they’re looking for rather than simply pleasing Google.

Something else worth noting is that on mobile searches, Google is filling the description beneath your link with content from your website that most closely matches the user’s search term. This means that your on-page copy is more important than ever.

Full disclosure, we optimize the image title of our logo at the bottom of every site we complete (as most web companies do). Google is now so determined to prove a page is optimized for a user’s search phrase on mobile that it’s even looking at image title tags for keywords. Clients, take note. We have said for a long time that your home page copy should, at minimum, include who you are, what you do, and where you do it. If you are optimized for “new homes in city” on your home page and have not put that you are a “home builder” in your page copy, something like this is going to happen:

Home Builder SEO


Home Builder SEO 2

*This is the same website, showing Google’s changes to the page description depending on the user’s search term. 

The good news is this is a VERY simple fix. Just update your home page copy to read “we’re proud to be a home builder in [city]” or “we’re a [city] home builder that values ____ .” As always, if you need additional advice about your SEO or inbound marketing, give us a shout!

Content Strategy for Homebuilders

Categories: Home Builder SEO | Posted: August 7, 2015 | By: Builder Designs

Computer on desk

There are so many things you can do for content strategy on the Internet–videos, infographics, blog posts, e-books, the list goes on and on. We can’t possibly do it all. In order to be successful, we need a strategy for what kind of content we’re going to create and where we’re going to share it online. Instead of creating content for ranking, we need to think of content in terms of what’s going to have the most impact for our customers and for our bottom line.

This is a very different approach than early content strategy, which basically told us that we need to create content for the purpose of ranking well. As with every other SEO trend, as content started to flood the Internet, Google had to take a step back from content and focus more on the quality, usability, and intent of the content instead of just the fact that it exists. Now, you won’t see your website climbing in the rankings just because you’re posting text on your blog every week.

Because it won’t benefit your bottom line as a homebuilder to promote your blog, we recommend taking a different approach to content strategy in 2015. Since your bottom line is getting someone to buy or build a home with you, your content should be designed for people who are looking to buy or build a home. As this is a very specific type of content, it doesn’t do well to design an ongoing blog around it, so don’t. Instead, you can create content that lives on your website and is always easy to access and share.
Here are some things to keep in mind as you work on the strategy and creation of quality, usable content.


1. You are an authority on buying and building a home.

Working with a variety of homebuyers in a variety of situations, you’re a qualified expert on the homebuying process. You know the kinds of questions homebuyers will ask before they ask them. Don’t just think in terms of a list that describes the overall process. Really dig into parts of the process that homebuyers will be researching, like how mortgages work, how inspections work, and common troubleshooting they might experience in selling their home.

This type of content will show up in a search result for a person who is in the market for a new home, which puts you at a better advantage to receive qualified leads on your website.

2. Quality matters more than quantity.

It’s better to have one or two outstanding pieces of content than many pieces of boring, half-baked content. Whatever you decide to create, make it thorough, organized, visually appealing, and above all useful.

3. Be a resource for people who are looking to buy a home in your area.

Choose topics that relate directly to people looking for a new home in your area. Think of what homebuyers are searching for–the best school districts, low crime areas, etc. Your content doesn’t have to be written–it can be an interactive map that plots schools, their districts, and their ratings. Or a neighborhood mapper that ranks areas on scenery, location, schools, tax rate, and crime.

When your content becomes the #1 place homebuyers go to answer a certain question, you gain even more qualified site traffic and brand goodwill, which can go a long way toward building a solid reputation on the local level.

4. Create content that benefits you to advertise.

As a homebuilder, it doesn’t benefit you to pay to drive traffic to a blog post on back-to-school shopping or home decorating tips. Even if you had a great blog post on either of these topics and it brought a ton of visitors to your site, they probably wouldn’t be the kind of visitors who would buy from you.

Don’t lose sight of the fact that the only person you really need to visit your site is someone who’s looking for a home.
As you go about revising your content strategy, consider what you can contribute to the overall process and what you need someone else to contribute. If you don’t have time or budget to devote to a good content strategy, wait until you do instead of slapping something together with the limited resources you have. Quality is always better than quantity when it comes to your website and search rankings.

Writing Good Blog Content in 2015

Categories: Home Builder SEO | Posted: July 31, 2015 | By: Builder Designs

Simply writing content for the sake of having blog posts is not a good strategy in 2015

If you’ve been writing a blog because more blog posts = better SEO, you should stop now or implement a strategy.

These days, your content needs to be designed for the user experience, not for Google. Google now cares about quality and what people think of your blog in the same way that homebuyers care more about how well your homes are built than how many homes you’re building each year.

Here are some quick tips for building a better blog strategy in 2015:


Try to meet a need your audience has.

Instead of posting all the time about your homes, floor plans, and communities, try writing some blog posts about frequently asked questions homebuyers have, or something they might be interested in knowing, like home gardening tips or ideas for renovating your outdoor living space.


Make your content easy for people to find.

Do a little research into topics people are searching for. Make it easy for your blog post to show up in a search result by titling it the way people search. Instead of calling your blog post “The Beauty of Outdoor Patios” try something more search-friendly, like “Outdoor Patio Ideas” or “Cost to Build an Outdoor Patio.”

Tip: Stay away from titling your blog post “How To…” We’ve heard this title is so overused, Google tries to steer users away from them.

When you write a blog post, share it on Facebook and pay $5-$10 to boost it so more people will see it.


Design your post for user experience.

Nobody wants to read a long block of text with no pictures. To keep people on your blog post longer, try breaking up the text into small paragraphs with pictures in between.


Understand the actual benefits of blogging and why you’re doing it.

If you’re wanting to rank better in Google search results, there are many other things you could be doing that will have a bigger impact on your ranking than maintaining a blog. Understand that blogging can be good for driving traffic to your site (if it’s easy to find, increasing brand awareness, and building links to your site (when people want to share your blog posts elsewhere).

However, a blog is not a revenue-generator. Someone who is looking for outdoor patio ideas isn’t going to read your blog and then decide to buy a house from you. Similarly, when you write about a floor plan or piece of inventory, know that when a homebuyer is searching for new homes, you would rather have your actual inventory page or floor plans page show up than a blog post. If your SEO is done well, your company blog will not be ranking better than a page of your website.

We recommend you weigh the actual benefits of maintaining a blog and your expectations for the results. If you want links, brand awareness, and traffic, and you have the resources to devote time or money into implementing a blogging strategy, then a blog sounds like the right effort for you. If you’re blogging with the hopes of ranking better on Google and no one is actually viewing your blog posts, you might want to focus your efforts and resources into another avenue that will help you achieve a better ranking.

How Web Design Impacts SEO

Categories: Home Builder SEO, Responsive Design, Website Design | Posted: July 24, 2015 | By: Abby Hill

Find out the latest in SEO from Builder Designs

For those of you who don’t know, we went to the Moz SEO conference last week. Or rather, I went to the Moz SEO conference last week, but what I learned there impacts our entire team here at Builder Designs, so I say we all went to this conference in a way.

Here’s what I took away above all else: your website design has a direct effect on your SEO. Not many people are talking about this, because it’s not even something that Google is promoting, but Google is noticing how people interact with your site.

When you think about Google’s mission, it makes a lot of sense. Google is all about the user. If the user cannot find what he or she wants on Google, then Google has done a bad job. Google will not deliver a website in a search result that hardly anyone goes to and no one seems to like using.

In fact, Google so desperately relies on websites to satisfy users’ search queries that it will even deliver small websites with weak SEO if they turn out to be the one site that users are seeking out to answer their search query.

In the homebuilding industry, we know there’s not necessarily one site that users will flock to in order to find their new home. Homebuilder sites are a weird hybrid of e-commerce and information. You can’t actually buy a home on a homebuilder’s website, but you visit a homebuilder’s website because you want to buy a home. This actually makes implementing an SEO strategy incredibly difficult. It’s why so many builders find it hard to succeed online when a generic SEO company is in charge of their SEO.

So are homebuilder websites outside of this design-SEO relationship? Definitely not. The relation between design and SEO is predicated on some simple stats in your analytics: Do users get to your site and immediately click back to the search results? Or are they spending time on the site, viewing multiple pages, maybe even filling out a form?

Google does pay attention to this. If Google sees that hardly anyone ever comes to your site and those that do don’t seem too interested in what’s on the site, Google is going to look at your keywords and make a note to not have you show up in those search results.

In a way, it’s a lot like selling a home. You get ready for an open house, you’ve landscaped the yard, put some signage up around town, and put a fresh coat of paint on the outside of the house. It’s looking stunning. People are interested. They’re lining up outside the door.

But the inside? Complete ruin. The carpet is stained, the blinds are broken, there’s mold on the ceiling, and the kitchen cabinets are hanging off the hinges. The second these excited homebuyers walk through the door, they turn around and leave. Not too surprising. SEO and design work the same way.

You can spend a lot of money on great SEO–citation building, link building, keyword research, analysis–but if your website isn’t enticing to the user and isn’t intuitive to the way they search for a home, then none of it really matters. It used to be that keywords were the one key to your success, but those days have been gone since Google introduced quality scores. Today, you need good SEO to bring people to your site and good design to keep them there, sending quality scores to Google that feed back into your SEO.

In talking to other SEO professionals at the conference, I learned something incredibly valuable: not many SEO strategists have much to do with web designers. They’re either at a huge company that’s maintaining the websites of one or two major corporations, or they’re at two separate companies. Imagine that. Imagine how hard it would be if your SEO strategist could see that parts of your website were bringing down the SEO, and they couldn’t affect change because they’re not involved with your web developer.

It made us at Builder Designs see the potential for a successful future we can offer our clients. We have the unique ability to analyze the design and functionality of our sites in addition to their on-site and off-site SEO. Needless to say, we’re inspired, and we’re excited to be working on new ways that we can merge our design and SEO efforts to deliver a better product than we ever have. If we built your website and you’d like to be considered for future design testing, drop me a line at

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