Summer Reading Round-Up

Categories: SEO Basics, SEO News
Tags: ,

This post was written by: Anna Chandler

What’s new in the world of internet marketing for home builders? There’s plenty happening on the web – and here at Builder Designs. Once again we’ve been too busy to blog here, but there’s always something happening at BD. So come back for more soon, and in the mean time, here’s another article round up!

The Year of the Author

As a home builder you know how important trust is. And just as you want to establish a good relationship with your buyer, trust is a big part of search engines’ algorithms. Google rates older sites higher, for instance, and rate down sites that have really shallow content. Now there’s a whole new way to establish trust, which is authorship. Read more for what, why, and how to establish authorship and how it could benefit your SEO.

Perfect Google+

What goes in a good Google+ page? Google+ is Google’s way of establishing their own social media brand, offering a “virtual storefront” for people before they click through to a website, and of offering useful (location based) information to mobile users. They are working hard to establish it as a necessary part of your internet marketing plan and so we really recommend jumping in now. But claiming a listing is just a start: you also want to optimize it properly. Get the details and see live examples from some of our home builder clients, including Ideal Homes, Royal Oak Homes, and Stone Bridge Homes.

Google My Business: Connecting Home Builders and Home Buyers

Google My Business is Google’s answer to the confusion surrounding Google+ and Google Local. Now there’s a one-stop dashboard to log in, optimize your page, and track how successful it’s doing. There’s in-depth insights and report and, of course, an app for it. All of the same optimization rules apply; it’s now just a lot easier.

Why Citations Matter

Citation building is a very important but, let’s be honest, kind of boring part of Local SEO. What is, why does it matter, and what’s the best way to go about it? Get all the details and our insiders guide to citation creation for home builders. Don’t miss out on the other related Local SEO posts too; we’re going through the four-step process one by one.

 

Recent Article Round-Up

Categories: SEO News
Tags: , ,

This post was written by: Anna Chandler

Been awhile since a post on home builder SEO, huh? Long story short: we are going to do a massive redesign of all of our Builder Cloud sites, including this one, to better reflect the responsive design we’re creating now. I put new articles on hold slightly for that change (because let’s admit it, this site really needs a facelift). But we’re so blessed with new clients that we haven’t had the time to redo ours – so back to Builder SEO blogging it is!

In the meantime, here is a round-up of recent SEO and internet marketing articles I wrote for the main Builder Designs blog:

10 Ways to Perfect Your Internet Marketing

A marketing channel is a powerful tool. Easy and efficient, link building produces incredible results. But before you start, you’ll want to make sure your overall internet marketing plan is solid. Here are 10 things to check on and revise for the new year.

Why Link Building Matters

Going more in-depth about link building, this article explains the why’s and how’s – and why link building is not a dead art form for SEO, unless you’re engaging in some scammy black hat stuff. I give examples to some good link building sites like Top Ten Builders.com and Custom Builders.com in the Builder Cloud.

Improve Your SEO with a NAP 

Local SEO is the new big thing in search engine optimization, because of the proliferation of mobile search and the “7 pack” SERP results displacing the old organic stack. This article discusses the four steps to start improving your Local SEO: a NAP check, optimizing your Google Local result, citation building, and lastly obtaining online reviews. We’ll be talking a lot more about Local SEO here.

The Two Steps to Ranking Better

Content in king. The cheapest, easiest, and most immediate way to improve your SERP (today and permanently) is to add relevant and fresh content. This article explains why and how, and goes into some of the details of blogging as the best method for fresh content.

The #1 Step to #1 SERP on Google: Site Design

As much as we talk about everything from Adwords to image optimization, it’s really the basics you need set in stone before any internet marketing is going to make a significant dent. And the most basic element of your online presence? Your website. Read why your website is so important and what you need today for the best possible results (hint: it’s responsive design.)

See What’s Being Said: Google Alerts and your Internet Marketing

We all know how important it is to manage your online presence (and keep track of your competitors), but the speed and size of the internet makes staying on top of things every minute pretty difficult – if not impossible. The solution? Google Alerts. Read the why’s and how’s here of the perfect way to manage your online marketing: set an Alert, sit back, and watch the information pour in.

What article or topic would you like to see next?

Google+ Reviews: Earning Buyer Trust

Categories: SEO News, Social Media
Tags: , , ,

This post was written by: Anna Chandler

If you have a Google+ profile (and you should), there’s a brand new feature rolling out from Google: a reviews tab. This handy inbox brings you all the reviews left on your Google+ page and makes it easy to publicly reply, whether thanking someone for a five star rating or responding kindly to the challenges of a negative review. Learn what your home buyers are thinking of you and what potential buyers will see when they’re first searching.

So it’s a nice little feature – makes it easier to handle the page – but why care about online reviews?

Because that’s where most people do their shopping. 9 out of 10 homebuyers start their new home search online. That’s why internet marketing – and SEO – are so crucial to your success as a home builder. No matter how gorgeous your model homes are (and we’re sure they’re very lovely), if the website’s terrible they won’t do you any good.  You have to get people to visit you first.

And one of the major ways home buyers determine their builder of choice is through genuine reviews. This is the big insight that launched the “social media is now super important” Google algorithm updates. Consumers are smart. They know how to “read” an add and see what’s really being marketed. With so many choices out there, it’s not always who has the biggest flashiest add at the Super Bowl but what their friends recommend. The more real people are reviewing you online as a good home builder, the more potential buyers will trust you.

There are a lot of places those reviews can reside: your website as testimonials, a video of new and gushing buyers, your Facebook page, quotes in print media, and more. But Google+ is a good place to have them.

Why? If you have a Google+ account, that page shows up as part of your search results. (Note: results variable, and often tied to whether you’re doing a local search.) And while Google says they don’t weigh Google+ unfairly in their algorithms… we’re little dubious at the claim. So people searching “internet marketing for home builders” find Builder Designs in search results and with it, our Google+ page. Now let’s say you’re still seeking our your web design company. Do you want to pick the person with ten positive reviews and heartfelt replies to each – or someone with no reviews, someone you don’t know anything about, someone no one is talking about?

Now, you might be wondering how to get those reviews. And honestly, a lot of the time it’s by just asking. People like to talk about things they care about, and if you mention a Google+ listing, would they be so kind as to review, you’ll get a lot of natural interest. There’s also the possibility of drawings, though we want to keep winners randomly selected – you don’t want to give the idea that you’re in any way paying for reviews. Note that your Google+ account does need to be verified before the reviews are up and running.

Like always, if you need help setting up our managing a social media account, just let us know. And enjoy all those stars.

Google Authorship: Make Yourself an Expert

Categories: SEO News
Tags: , ,

This post was written by: Anna Chandler

Google wants experts. A new focus for Google, authorship identifies the authors on sites (like on a blog post) and then show those results in a google search. If you’re looking up home builder news, for instance, you might spot NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe’s photo and name – and then click right to the link, because you trust him as a credible source.

And that’s the power of this new SEO feature. You want to be recognized as a trustworthy homebuilder: someone who offers the highest in quality and customer service, and someone who knows every facet of the industry (from building to buying) like the back of your hand. If your name and photo show up on solid news article after solid news article, that’s going to be huge for your internet marketing. Not only do you pop up on a bunch of searches (talking about new homes in Kansas City, for instance), but home buyers quickly know your name and the name of your company as someone they trust.

Google is still working on their “authority boost” program, so this is the perfect time to start; there’s not a lot of competition yet. To do so, you’ll first need a Google+ profile with your name, photo, and basic information. (While you’re at it, set up a Google+ profile for your homebuilder website.)

Once you have have a Google+ profile, validate your authorship. This is possible in a number of ways: through your email, if you have an email tied to the domain, or by adding in a special link on the blog posts. If we’re the website designer and you want help with this step, just let us know.

Then what? Now you have authorship, how do you make it show up? Start writing. It’s as simple as that: start blogging (which is going to help your SEO in itself) and share those articles around. The more people link to you and read your posts as credible information, the more you’re known as a good author.

You can already see these authorship results while googling. They’re primarily big names, like writers for Wired, but Google is work on establishing niche experts so that all areas of interest are covered. As a homebuilder, you definitely qualify. This could be a big move for your SEO, and since you should be blogging anyway, we highly recommend it. If you have more questions about verifying authorship or getting attention to your articles, just reach out. We’d be happy to help.

How does social media help your SEO?

Categories: SEO Basics, Social Media
Tags: , , , , , ,

This post was written by: Anna Chandler

We all hear that social media campaigns are important, but not always why. And updating the Facebook page or scrolling through your twitter feed can drop way, way down to the bottom of your to-do list if the importance isn’t readily obvious.

How does a social media presence help your home buyers find you? Well, we want to preface this by saying that – while it’s important and you should definitely hop on board – social media marketing for home builders is a little different than your standard shop. You might see an add for shoes on Facebook and splurge; you’re probably not going to do the same for a new house. Some of the traditional ad campaigns don’t apply to you. But in terms of your online presence, customer contact, and assistance to your SEO, a good social media presence is a goldmine.

Social media accounts help your SEO with…

Increasing the referral traffic. We track the traffic to your site and its origin, so we can see how your paid directory listings, adword campaigns, and organic search traffic is doing. We can see how many of these referrals come from your social media accounts. That way you know what’s doing well, what to invest in, and what to copy strategies over to. People spend an huge chunk of their day hanging out on Pinterest and watching videos on Youtube, and they do follow those links back to the original website. We know, we’ve seen it. You don’t want to miss out on them.

Reducing the bounce rate. The bounce rate is how many people click to a page and then jump right off, instead of exploring further. All sites will have a bounce rate, and having a high one isn’t always a bad sign (adword campaigns will inflate the bounce rate artificially, for instance). But we of course want to keep that number as low as we can, with an enticing site design, targeted keywords to guide appropriate traffic, and so on. Users jumping from your latest tweet or post already know they like something about you, already know they’re interested – that’s a low risk of bounce rate, high chance of success.

Making people happy. The penultimate Google update made social media signals a lot more important. Search algorithms weigh “people links” higher than paid links and so the more people are discussing you, talking to you, and hearing back, the better off you’ll be. (And the better off your interested buyers will be, of course.) As the linked article refers to, “Businesses successfully connecting with customers via social media channels will build more loyalty, positive ratings and reviews, natural backlinks and these websites are more likely to have higher conversion rates”.

So there are hard numbers to look at your social media campaigns assistance to your SEO efforts. But like all SEO, it’s not the algorithm we’re ultimately reaching for – it’s your buyers. And the more easily they can talk to you – see a picture of their frame going up on Pinterest, get a question answered on Twitter, take a virtual walkthrough on Youtube, get a picture and announcement on their closing day on Facebook – the more they’ll know, like, and trust you. We already know that’s where you excel. Let us help you move it online.

Blogging for Homebuilders: Your SEO Style Guide

Categories: SEO Basics
Tags: , , ,

This post was written by: Anna Chandler

blogging, internet marketing for home builders, home builder SEO, Builder DesignsBlogging is absolutely integral to your SEO effort, but we frequently see it become overlooked on our homebuilder websites. It’s easy to understand why: you’re busy finding new home buyers and building new homes; with the added task of keeping the website up to date the blog on it might be seen as onerous and unnecessary work.

But we want to stress it is not unnecessary. Blogging offers fresh and relevant content to your potential buyers and to search engines. And for the latter, the more good content they get they more important they think you are, and the higher they think you should be ranked for your keywords. It’s an easy win for internet marketing.

But we know that blogging can be a lot of work. There’s the writing, the details to keep track of, confusion over what best practices entail. We do offer blogging as an additional service, but if you’re wanting to keep it in-house and make it easier to maintain every week we recommend setting up an SEO Style Guide.

This Style Guide provides your on-team bloggers a handy resource to identify what you want to be found for and how best to make that happen. That way you’re meeting your goals every week and don’t have to scramble to remember the details. A successful SEO Style Guide will include:

A list of your keywords. You don’t want to be writing artificially or stuffing them in, but it will be easy to work in new homes in Olathe when writing about your new homes, after all. These are natural phrases that advertise what you do and what you want to be found by searchers for. If you have questions about your keywords just contact us.

Wordcount. There’s no magical Google-provided number, but we do know that too little content isn’t helpful and too much content off-putting for readers. Somewhere around 300-500 is the most commonly cited range.

Formatting preferences. Links should open in a new tab, photos should be alt tagged, link back to the community you’re discussing, define authorship: this is your “blogging MLA”. No matter who is writing, the formatting will be kept uniform and easy to remember.

Blogging schedule. We recommend blogging at least semi-weekly, though once a week is much preferred. You might want to roll out posts on a certain day of week so your readers can anticipate properly. If you have a list of topics, this is even better. Maybe in December you’ll be discussing your brand new community, there’s a sale and a model home opening upcoming in January, and February will need some filler content. Stave off writer’s block and provide a clear sense of direction.

Putting aside twenty minutes to throw your blogging guide together will save a lot of time and effort in the future. Trust us, we did so ourselves!

How do I use best use images for SEO?

Categories: SEO Basics
Tags: , , ,

This post was written by: Anna Chandler

internet marketing and SEO for homebuyersWe’re talking about alt tags this week for two reasons: images are very important to your homebuyers, and Google is blind. Proper title and alt tags are the way to make both happy, but we find they’re frequently ignored by our home builders. That’s a huge advantage to your SEO you’re missing on – although we know it’s easy to forget (one reason we have titles and alt tags for images built right into your content management system).

Home buyers love images. More and more research is being conducted online. Many buyers show up at your model home and Design Center not to look around, but to buy – they’ve already found the home or plan they want from your website. And while a lot of that is based on the available data (number of bedrooms, a downloaded brochure) we can’t ignore the immense value photos have in attracting and winning over buyers. Your photos could be the aspect that sells the home. That’s why we recommend professional photography, offer our photoshopping aid, and have pictures displayed prominently over your website.

Google is blind. But the thing is, while buyers can see images, Google can’t. Search engines can’t “read” an image or video, so they have no idea what content is on your page. If you had nothing but pictures on a photo gallery page, it might think there was no content there. Obviously that isn’t going to be good for your SEO.

And the solution: Titles and alt-tags. Those tell the search engine what it’s looking at, so it can:

  • Pull up those images in a search
  • Index the content on that page
  • Perceive your site as higher-ranking

The title is the filename, basically. Creating a relevant title  is useful to you and viewers: homebuilderSEO.jpg clearly identifies the photo while IMG22130.jpg could just as well be an apple as a polar bear. Google can work with that title in identifying the content, while in your CMS’s image library you’ll know what the photo name is for later use.

Don’t forget the alt attribute, which describes the content. Google recommends alt text for two reasons:

  • The description provides search engines with all the information it needs to determine subject matter. Google then uses that to provide the right image for a user’s query.
  • Alt tags are ADA compliant. People who can’t see the images and use a screen reader – or who just have low-bandwith connections – will be provided the photo’s information via the alt text.

And you do want this to be pretty specific. “123 Main Street” is better than “Home”. So the worst image for SEO results would be:

<img src=”IMG22130.jpg” alt=”/”>

And the best would be:

<img src=”HomebuilderSEOGuide.jpg” alt=”Infographic on Homebuilder SEO”>

But do avoid keyword stuffing like:

<img src=”123 Main Street” alt=”new home homes homebuilder custom homes buy homes”>

It’s unclear for the actual user, and may cause your site to be perceived as spam.

Don’t worry if all the HTML is a little confusing; our unique CMS takes care of it for you. We just want to think about those titles and alt tags before we start. More questions on optimizing images for your website? Give us a call.

Hummingbird for Homebuilders

Categories: online marketing, SEO News
Tags: , , ,

This post was written by: Anna Chandler

Google HummingbirdGoogle recently announced their newest search algorithm update called Hummingbird, and we’ve had several homebuilders ask if the changes are going to affect their SEO. It’s the most significant update since 2001, after all. (That’s twelve years, which in internet time is practically an eon.) Surely some things shifted around, yeah?

Well, no. When Google announced Hummingbird, they also mentioned that they’d already been using it – for a few months. So if you didn’t notice anything then you definitely won’t now. If you did happen notice anything different about your results please of course feel welcome to contact us for all our research and details, but for the most part Hummingbird hasn’t been a big shake up. If you’re already doing what you’re supposed to be doing, just keep doing that.

So what is special about Hummingbird? The most significant and publicly discussed aspect so far has been conversational search. Let’s say a buyer was searching for a custom home (and definitely not a resale) in Texas. With the old search functionality you’d have to type in “custom homebuilders + Austin – resale” which is a mouthful. It’s clunky, mathematical, complex. And we say mouthful on purpose. Because that’s even harder to type on a teeny mobile keyboard and ridiculous to say; a lot of searches are done by voice while out and about nowadays. (We’ll talk about mobile searching and what you need to know for your SEO soon.)

Google is now focusing more on your statement as a whole; letting you search easily with normal sentences like “custom homebuilders in Austin” and comparing one part of the sentence to another, so that you see custom builders in Austin and not custom builders plus some facts about Austin. This is especially great if you’re using the voice search on the phone. Cooking and your hands are messy? Just ask “compare olive oil and butter” and you’ll see something amazing. More intuitive searches, better results.

What does that all mean for your homebuilder website? Your site, for people’s on-the-go search results, absolutely needs to be mobile friendly – whether that’s with a mobile site or using responsive design (more on that soon too). You can also consider your content as searchable by standard strings. But that’s something – writing for your user, not for Google – that you should already be doing. It just makes it a lot easier. Rather than fretting about where you rank for a particular query, you’re free to consider how you best answer and respond to the questions your buyers have.

It’s our suspicion that Hummingbird also updated a lot of the algorithms while they were at it. Google’s been building their formulas for 15 years now, so there was probably some cruft; while clearly nothing now has massively changed the update, if it was to “clean house”, could mean some other changes coming soon. And if so? We’ll keep you updated.

Builder SEO is Back!

Categories: General News

This post was written by: Anna Chandler

It’s been awhile huh? We’ve been so busy building great SEO results for our clients we abandoned our own blog! But we all know how important fresh and relevant content is to a website, both for your users and for superior SEO results. So welcome back.

We’ll be posting regularly now about all kinds of new things in the SEO world like responsive design and Hummingbird, plus notes on how to continue your good efforts (content, content, content) or how to try out something new like an SEM adwords campaign.

Have any particular questions? Want us to weigh on on a topic? We’d love to hear from you.

Apps that Boost Your Business

Categories: Marketing
Tags: , ,

This post was written by: Anna Chandler

With the improvements in technology in recent years, it’s no surprise that 90% of homebuyers begin their search online (and 52% of them end up buying a home they found online!). You probably have heard about apps like Trulia and Zillow, which let buyers search for homes in a specific geographic area, number of bedrooms, price range, and a number of other qualifiers. Besides applications that help buyers find a home, there are apps out there that can help you develop your business.

TurboViewer allows you to upload CAD files directly to your device and access them any time you like. No need to use bulky paper plans when you have this easy to use and lightning fast app! You can pan, zoom, and rotate through 3D and 2D CAD plans on your device, as well as email copies of everything to your clients and co-workers.

Home Builder Pro Calcs boasts calculator functions for pricing and construction processes like electrical engineering, flooring, framing, walls, roofing, ceilings, and heating and cooling. There’s even a map estimator tool that can help you determine fence length, yard size, and more. In total, this app has well over 200 different calculators, all of which are categorized simply. Along with pricing estimates, you can use this app to help estimate the number of hours it will take to complete portions of a building project. This app is indispensable for builders looking for a tool to help them construct homes more efficiently and with exactness. Over 230 customers have rated this app and give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Keep your business running smoothly wit the Toodledo to-do list app. This application has been called “user friendly” by its reviewers and allows you to create, prioritize, and rearrange organized lists of items to fulfill. Due dates, a security passcode, timers, pop-up alarms, and additional details set this app apart from the rest. A simple user interface makes Toodledo a must-have for custom homebuilders looking to keep track of multiple projects and tasks in one place.

In addition to Toodledo, Pronto Forms can help you organize tasks that have forms associated with them. Identify sites where you’ll need to use a form by address, GPS location, and type of inspection. This app is top-notch for helping you track work order forms and keep much of the paperwork associated with building a home in order.

It’s easy to coordinate changes clients need with My Measures & Dimensions PRO. This app is perfect for those tweaks customers may want after each walk-through. Simply take a snapshot and add text, arrows, and other reminders to the photo for easy-to-remember fixes. Save paper and messy sketchbooks for another time, this app will help you look professional and organized.

There are so many apps out there that can help you grow your business, but we think these ones are some of the most useful. Leave us a comment with your favorite builder apps!

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