Home Builder SEO: 10 Steps to Take in 2013

Have you noticed a change in your search engine rankings recently? Last month Google, which has a 67% market share of search traffic, announced the rollout of the most recent round of Penguin updates. These updates are designed to improve the quality of web search results by penalizing black hat SEO practices (which your SEO expert could be using).

As a home builder, why should these changes be on your radar?

According the Home Buyer Conversion Report published by the Bokka Group in January 2013, 66.9% of recent home buyers surveyed indicated that search engine results were very influential when researching home builders on the web. This means that builders that do not prioritize SEO, or rely on cheap SEO service providers that do not follow Google best practices, could be missing out on a substantial piece of the market.

So what can home builders do to reach an untapped market of home shoppers on the web through SEO?

In this video posted last month, Matt Cutts of Google announced the Penguin 2.0 updates (which rolled out on May 22nd), and outlined what businesses can do to maintain a healthy search engine ranking:

Although a successful SEO strategy does involve several components, it begins with fresh, frequent, high quality content that is optimized for both readers and search engines. As Matt Cutts says in the above video:

If you’re doing high quality content whenever you’re doing SEO [Penguin 2.0] shouldn’t be a big surprise. You shouldn’t have to worry about a lot of different changes… People who were link spamming or doing various other types of black hat spam would be less likely to show up by the end of summer. – Matt Cutts, Google

Does your current SEO strategy rely on spam driven short cuts or a long-term commitment to compelling content? Here are 10 steps that you can take today to make sure your SEO strategy has a solid foundation:

1. Review Your Current SEO Practices

Whether you manage your SEO strategy in-house or through a third party, it’s important to understand what tactics are currently being used and the potential risks involved. Is your SEO team using spammy backlinks, spun content, or other high-risk tools to achieve short-term gain? These are likely to create ”here today, gone tomorrow” rankings (and your marketing investment may be wasted).

 2. Refresh Your Keywords

Keywords, like housing markets, are subject to trends. If you originally compiled your keyword list 2 years ago, it may be time to review what buyers are searching for now. For example, if your website content was last optimized a few years ago, it might still include keywords relating to foreclosures and other terms that are less relevant for buyers today.

3. Analyze Your Competition

How well do you rank in search engines compared to your competitors? What keywords do they use, what sites link to them, and are they using questionable SEO practices? Understanding the online presence of your competition can provide insights about which specific steps you can take to outrank them, and if the Penguin 2.0 update puts their ranking at risk (and creates new opportunities for you).

4. Optimize Your Existing Content

Does the existing content on your website and blog follow SEO best practices? Are your social media profiles, photos, and videos optimized for search? You can often improve your search engine ranking with simple adjustments to your current content.

5. Develop Buyer Personas

One common mistake that builders make in their content marketing is using “one size fits all” messaging that’s too general. This leads to a lower readership and lower social engagement, and that can negatively impact search engine ranking. Develop buyer personas for specific segments of your audience: first time buyers, move-up buyers, Realtors, homeowners. Then develop content that solves their most common problems (financing, selling an existing home, etc). Content that feels personalized is more likely to be read, tweeted, repinned and shared. Content that is popular with users is more likely to rank well in search engines.

6. Create Sales Funnel Driven SEO Goals

Being ranked at the top of Google does not guarantee more sales – it’s simply an introduction to your company and your product. Set clearly defined S.M.A.R.T. goals for your SEO. For example, “Our goal for our SEO program is to generate 100 web leads, 30 appointments, and 10 sales in next 3 months.” (Your numbers will vary.)

7. Develop a 90-Day Content Calendar

There are few things that will kill a content strategy faster than the tedious process of coming up with new topics to write about every week. Using your keywords, competitive analysis, buyer profiles, and SEO goals, develop a 90-day content calendar that serves as a roadmap for your content. This should include all forms of digital content: blogs, social media, video, PR, and photo sharing.

8. Blog, Blog, and Blog Some More

A home builder blog is still one of the easiest, least expensive, and most effective ways to create fresh quality content for home buyers and search engines. A blog that is optimized with keywords can attract home buyers to your website, and compelling content encourages buyer engagement. No time? Hire a professional, industry-specific blog writing team to plan, write, publish and measure your content marketing strategy.

9. Hire a Qualified SEO Content Strategist

Whether you hire an in-house Marketing Director and writer with industry-specific knowledge of digital content strategy and SEO or outsource it, this investment will pay huge dividends in lowering your cost-per-lead. This is asset-based marketing that produces new leads for weeks, months, and even years after your original investment, and that means a better ROI for you.

10. Develop Ongoing Measurement Tools

Finally, create a process for measuring the success of your SEO. This includes ranking, but it also includes how much traffic your SEO is generating, the quality of that traffic (based on bounce rate, time on sites, page views and opt-in), and conversion to appointment and sale. We typically recommend weekly monitoring for the first 90 days and monthly monitoring thereafter.

Now it’s your turn. Have you noticed a change in your SEO rankings since the Penguin 2.0 rollout? What SEO strategies are you using that are successful? Tell us in the comments below.


Dawn Sadler

Dawn Sadler is the Founder and CEO of Builder Target. She is also a speaker, author, and content strategist.

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