Google+ Reviews: Earning Buyer Trust

Categories: SEO News, Social Media
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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!

Country Classics: Foxbrook Community Coming Soon

Categories: Homebuilder
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This post was written by: Anna Chandler

Country Classics is excited to announce that their newest community, Country Classics at Foxbrook, will be coming soon.  This single family home neighborhood will be a grand and delightful addition to the Montgomery Township in New Jersey.  At the moment, Country Classics is building their VIP list; there will be limited opportunities to make this move as only 20 homesites will be available upon first opening.  Reservations are expected to take place in the Spring of 2013, so don’t hesitate to visit their site for information regarding this new development.

This “family of homebuilders” originally comes from the Hillsborough area, and they are extremely proud of their roots.  In their endeavor to build superior homes in the neighborhoods they love, the people at Country Classics have committed themselves to and been recognized for their excellence in customer service.  Since 1988, they have welcomed more than 1,000 families to exquisitely designed, multi-service communities in Hillsborough and Whitehouse Station, New Jersey as well as Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania.  This year they have been honored with 7 awards at the Community Builders and Remodelers Association of New Jersey’s 2012 Awards of Excellence.  Country Hills at Hillsborough won, among others, Best Merchandised Model Home over $750,000, Community of the Year – Best Single Family Home Community 20 Homes or More, as well as the Grand Award of Best Community of the Year.

Country Classics seeks to create lasting relationships with home buyers throughout their lives by offering communities featuring single-family homes, condominiums, townhomes, and others specifically designed for active adults.    Country Classics at Belle Mead in Hillsborough Township, New Jersey, features single-family homes from the high $700,000s.  You’ll find single-family homes from the low $600,000s at the award winning Country Classics at Hillsborough.  Also in New Jersey, Country Classics Legacy at Readington (in Readington Township) is waiting for those 54 years of age or older, offering maintenance-free living in their condos priced from the low $200,000s.  Another active adult community for those 46 and up is Country Classics at Morgan Hill in Williams Township, in picturesque Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania.  These townhomes range in price, starting in the lower $300,000s.  Last, but not least, the very popular Country Classics at Morgan Hill community has it all: condos, townhomes, and single-family homes from the low $200,000s.

This stellar homebuilder belongs to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), the New Jersey Builders Association, the Pennsylvania Builders Association, and the Community Builders & Remodelers Association of New Jersey.  Country Classics also proudly works with such reputable home construction, renovation, and associated appliance companies as Sherwin-Williams, Honeywell, Maytag, Lennox, Whirlpool and more.

It’s absolutely no wonder how Country Classics has redefined the standards in homebuilding.  They have you, the home buyer, in mind.  Give them a call to schedule a tour of their beautiful model homes – you’ll be glad you did!

Kansas City’s Briarcliff Communities

Categories: Homebuilder
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This post was written by: Anna Chandler

Kansas City’s Briarcliff residential living communities have been rated “Number One!”  Stunning Kansas City skylines are in view from everywhere within the neighborhood, so you can be assured of a quick and easy commute into town for work or a well-deserved night out.  If you want something even closer by, visit any one of the local shops and restaurants at Briarcliff Village within mere minutes of your front door.  Briarcliff West invites you into its picturesque neighborhood directly connected to your community amenities.  Briarcliff Hills boasts its beautiful single family homes with added perks, such as no city property taxes (since it’s technically just beyond the Platte County line), no Missouri E-tax, and excellent Park Hill Schools all the while maintaining its convenience to the Village and downtown Kansas City.

Their neighborhoods are top-notch, but that’s not all the Briarcliff Development Company does!  Briarcliff was established by Charles Garney back in 1994 with the aim to create, build, and sustain high-quality residences, beautiful office space, and boutique retail” in Kansas City.  In addition to its excellent single-family home community services (such as paved walking and biking trails throughout, lovely landscaping and more), Briarcliff invites you to consider their condos, apartment complexes, and stunning villas.  Small business owners might consider leasing a space from which to work in the Briarcliff retail or office spaces.

All in all, Briarcliff seeks to provide nothing but the best in customer service to its tenants and homebuyers and quality living experiences for those who call Briarcliff communities home.  They invite you to contact them anytime for additional information or to inquire about their properties.

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