When you are building a house, you have to create a solid foundation. Otherwise, you are setting yourself up for big problems down the road. Marketing is the same way. If you fail to build the foundation correctly, you are looking at time-consuming, costly, and unexpected issues in the future. This article is the first in a four-part series on the building blocks for digital marketing. If you are a homebuilder thinking about dipping your toes into digital marketing, these articles will give you a roadmap to get started.
YOUR WEBSITE & ONSITE SEO
The cornerstone to any digital marketing program for homebuilders is the website. Your website is most likely the first interaction your potential buyer will have with your company. Essentially, it is your showroom. What does your showroom look like? Is it outdated? Are there pages that don’t work? Is the information accurate (phone number, address, hours of operation)? Like it or not, your website makes the first impression. Your first priority should be a website that is a true representation of your company.
Any reputable digital agency can give you an audit of your existing website (sometimes for free) to show you broken links, incorrect company information, slow download times, design flaws, and outdated formats. Sometimes these fixes are pretty simple. Other times, they can be a little more complex. Whatever the case, when you are driving potential customers to your website, you want them to have the best experience possible.
If you don’t have a website, this should be your first priority. Here is a good article for anyone looking for a new website or building one for the first time:
Another benefit of running a website audit is you can see if your website’s backend structure is built correctly. This backend structure is known as Onsite Search Engine Optimization (or Onsite SEO). Onsite SEO is the wording used to describe your website to search engines. If built correctly, the search engines will increase your SEO value and hopefully increase your ranking in search engine results. The first two elements of Onsite SEO are the Title Tag and Meta-Description.
A Title Tag is the top-line description of your website pages to Google. When Google crawls your website, your Title Tag will inform Google about the contents. The Title Tag should be around seven words, with a geographical term, and your company name. Good Example of a Title Tag:
New Home Builder / Saginaw MI / New Construction / Johnson Homes
Your Meta-Description is the information on the backend of the website that provides a more in-depth description of your website and typically shows up in your search engine results (SERP). These descriptions should be around 20 words. Here is an example of a good Meta-Description:
Johnson Homes is a custom home builder with twenty years of experience in the Saginaw, Midland, and the Bay City area.
This visual from Exposure Ninja shows how title tags and meta descriptions appear in search engine results (SERP).
Similar to your website pages, your images also need Onsite SEO. Each image is set up in a file to be downloaded. These file names should contain relevant keywords. So, instead of having an image with a file named newhome31.jpg, change the name to new-construction-saginaw.jpg.
You also have the opportunity to label these images on the backend to help SEO value. These labels are known as alternative text or alt-tags. When Google crawls an image, it cannot comprehend what it is. That is the purpose of alt-tags. This will help search engines identify and apply SEO value to the image. Typically, these descriptions are between 10 – 12 words and use relevant keywords while describing the image. An example of Alt-Text:
New construction home in the Burberry Community, Bay City Michigan
YOUR WEBSITE AND USER EXPERIENCE
Page Load Times
Google recommends websites load in less than two seconds. The majority of people will leave a website if it takes longer than 5 seconds to load. Faster download times = Increased SEO value. There are three main culprits causing slow download times and a website audit should point these out:
- Images are Not Optimized for Downloading – As mentioned earlier, images are extremely important to your SEO. But, images pose another problem. Slow download times. Homebuilders are notorious for having slow loading websites and web pages. The primary reason is the large number of images used on their websites. Images are typically larger files and therefore take longer to load. The higher the resolution, the more it slows down your website. Most graphic designers will have a program that will optimize your images for website loading.
- Video Content – Similar to #1, video content (this includes GIFs) will slow down your potential users’ experience. In the last 5 years, the average web page size has almost doubled. This is mainly due to the increased use of video. A skilled marketing agency will have multiple options for optimizing your video content. Most likely, these options will include changing the type of file your video is on, moving your videos to YouTube and linking directly to them from your website, or moving your videos to a separate server (known as a CDN) and synchronizing the download with the rest of your website.
- Broken Links (or Dead Links) – Earlier I mentioned a website audit will reveal broken links. Broken links are exactly that. A link to a page or image on your website that doesn’t work. This will hurt your SEO value since it will take Google longer to crawl these broken pages. Broken links will also damage your user experience, as potential customers will leave these pages, and sometimes your website when they can’t get the information they need.
Call To Action Buttons (a.k.a CTA’s)
CTA’s are the buttons on your website such as Request a Quote, Contact Us, Subscribe, or Free Trial. CTA’s are the perfect way to continue the conversation with your potential customers. Unfortunately, some websites either don’t have them or have them randomly placed on the website. If you look at the Power Marketing website you will notice two CTA’s on the top half (above the fold): Get a Quick Quote and Download Now. The Download Now CTA takes you to a form to receive our annual marketing tips white paper.
Although CTA’s appear simple, there are different elements to consider when creating one. The three most important elements are placement, color, and verbiage.
For homebuilders, Power Marketing has found our clients have the most success with the CTA’s on the top right-hand section of the website. This is based on the Gutenberg Rule. The Gutenberg Rule studied the website viewing patterns of the Western world. The study revealed most visitors view a website in a Z-pattern. (See Diagram from WPMUDEV)
The eyes are naturally drawn to the upper-right corner of a website. This logic is the reason behind CTA’s being placed here. Also, keep in mind, almost half of homebuilder’s website traffic will come from mobile devices. By keeping CTA’s on the top right, this will make it easier for visitors to convert from smartphones or tablets. Also, keep in mind, your phone number is considered a CTA and should have a similar placement. The phone number should be set up to dial directly from all devices without typing in the number.
The words you use on a CTA can also influence your conversion rates. This may require some A/B testing. Whatever the case, you have to design the CTA by thinking about your potential customer. For example, I worked with a home builder with great SEO value and a lot of qualified traffic to the website. But, his conversions had dropped after he updated his website. When we reviewed his new design, the CTA read “Talk to Sales”. I don’t know of many people who want to talk to a salesperson or feel like they are being sold. We revised the text to “Learn More” and the conversions picked up.
Similar to the verbiage on your CTA, the color can affect conversions. This may also require some A/B testing. Red, Green, and Yellow/Orange are the most used colors. Red gives a sense of urgency and stands out from the website. Green is perfect if you are pushing the environmental element of your product. Yellow/Orange are good for conveying warmth and comfort. Yellow/Orange may be good ideas for log cabin builders or vacation home builders near the beach or lake.
Next Month, Part Two: I Have Content on my Website, Now What?