With 92% of home buyers using the internet in some way in their home search process search engine optimization (SEO) is more important than ever. Think of this as your inbound sales process. If you build and structure your site appropriately, the search engines like Google will reward you by sending prospects your way.
A recent study by Search Engine Watch released some very interesting numbers about small businesses and their use of SEO.
- Less than half of small business owners in the U.S. consider search engine traffic to be an important source of new business opportunities.
- Last year 36 percent of small businesses didn’t see search as significant, and 14 percent were unsure.
- This year those numbers increased to 39 percent who didn’t see search as significant and 16 percent who were unsure.
They note that small business owners don’t necessarily understand or have the time to learn about the Internet and SEO.
Let’s fix that. I’ll admit, I didn’t always have a full grasp of SEO tactics, so don’t feel bad if you don’t either. Take just a few minutes to read this and you’ll understand just how powerful a little elbow grease with some low hanging fruit can be! I’ll provide additional reading in each section if you want to take a deeper dive.
Moz.com defines SEO (search engine optimization) as a marketing discipline focused on growing visibility in organic (non-paid) search engine results. SEO encompasses both the technical and creative elements required to improve rankings, drive traffic, and increase awareness in search engines. There are many aspects to SEO, from the words on your page to the way other sites link to you on the web.
The three main pieces of a search result are the webpage title, description, and URL.
When coming up with your title and description think about how it’s going to display in search results, but also think about what your prospects are searching for. In the search above I typed in “Minneapolis Home Builders”. If you look at the title in blue above you’ll see that each of these have “Minneapolis” and “Homes” in their titles. Each of them also has “builder” in their description. Having these keywords that your prospects are searching for in your title and description will help you rank higher for those keywords.
Let’s take a look at a few more things you can do to start ranking higher in search results.
Content is king. A search engine’s job is to connect people with content relevant to their search. Search engines like to see fresh content being published on your site. A blog is a great place to start, but if you don’t have one, ensure you have good content on your existing pages and that you’re very intentional with the keywords you’re using. If you’re a home builder, think about new home listings, building lots and floor plans. Make sure you put in a good description and pay special attention to the keywords you’re using. Be sure to leave listings up after their sold. Your website should allow you to keep them around but not be “for sale”. Maybe a “recently sold” section.
The easier a URL is to read for humans, the better it is for search engines. Today more than ever before, accessibility is important. Which of the following is easier for you to know where it’s taking you?
In the second example, a user would have no idea where that URL will take them. With the first example, it is easy to infer that the URL will take them to a home listing with a street address of 521 Harvest Rd, Ames, IA. If your website is using URLs similar to the second example, seriously consider a revamp of your website’s URL structure. If you’re using WordPress, you can update this under the Settings menu, and then Permalinks. Take a look at their options and which are the good ones.
Every bit of traffic that comes from a search engine starts with a user entering a keyword. Keywords are a big part of how your pages get found. If your website doesn’t contain what your prospects are searching for, your site isn’t going to show up. Say a search for “home construction” gets 13,000 searches a month and “new homes” gets 62,000 searches a month. That’s a big difference! You probably want your text to reference the latter in order to maximize the amount of people your website will be shown to.
If you want to learn step by step how to use the Google Keyword Planner to research what keywords you should be using, head on over to this article at serps.com.
In April of 2015, Google rolled out updates to their search ranking algorithms boosting the ranking of mobile-friendly pages on mobile search results. What this means is when a user searches on a mobile device, mobile friendly sites will take priority in the results. The latest data from Realtor.com shows that 50% of buyers use a mobile website or application in their home search. Additionally, Google announced that more searches are happening on mobile devices than on desktop computers. The sooner your site is mobile optimized, the better.
Social Media Engagement
Kissmetrics sums up social media and SEO pretty well:
“While social shares may or may not affect a webpage’s position in search listings, your social profiles definitely influence the content of your search results. In fact, social media profiles are often amongst the top results in search listings for brand names. When I searched “General Electric” in Google, the company’s Instagram and Pinterest profiles appeared as the 5th and 6th listings, respectively, and Twitter was the 8th result. Also, while some may consider Google+ a non-essential social channel, marketers shouldn’t discount the fact that a company’s Google+ profile is one of the first things a searcher will see (and potentially click on). As such, it pays to have a profile with up-to-date info and engaging content.”
“Nowadays, people don’t just go to Google and Bing to look stuff up; they also use social media channels to find what they’re looking for. if someone wants to check out your company, they’re likely to open Twitter and Facebook and do a quick search to see what kind of presence you have on each channel.”
Local SEO a big one for home builders. Have you ever done a search for, say, “plumbers in [your city]”? You’ll notice on Google that in addition to paid and organic search results you also get a map with local plumbers listed. This is called a map pack. Up until August of 2015, Google displayed seven plumbers before requiring you to click “More plumbers”. Now it’s just three! Google did this to make results consistent across desktop and mobile search.
It is very important for your website to list your city and state wherever possible. Your site’s title tag, headlines, the content on your home page, and the contact page are all important areas to target. An embedded map on your contact page is also an essential part of a Local SEO strategy.
Additionally, you’ll want to make sure your NAP (name, address, phone number) information is listed anywhere your company has a profile. This includes sites like Angie’s List, Yelp, Facebook, and Twitter.
One last recommendation for Local SEO is to get happy customers to give you reviews on your Google+ page. Google displays reviews now instead of address and phone number in the map pack. Be sure to get this review shortly after their home is complete, when your customer is happiest!
That wraps us up. There is far more to SEO techniques, and it’s an ever-changing landscape. If you take it upon yourself to do some research be sure you are reading articles no more than one year old. If you try to use techniques that were popular before then, like paying to have your link placed on a directly listing website, you could very well be penalized by Google. When this happens, it can be quite difficult to get your previous ranking back.