By now, most builders have a website and do email. Many are participating in some level of social media such as LinkedIn or Facebook. Some are even blogging. But believe me, the effects of the Internet are not over and the need to learn and grow with this incredible new medium is only beginning.
I want to talk briefly about SEO (search engine optimization). What is it? Search engine optimization, according to Wikipedia is: the process of improving the volume or quality of traffic to a web site from search engines via “natural” (“organic” or “algorithmic”) search results. In short, SEO is optimizing your website to get more traffic from search engines. I won’t attempt to make you SEO experts in this article. My goal is to simply help you understand the subject so you can ask the right questions when you hire someone else to help you with your SEO.
There are basically three ways customers can find your website: direct traffic visit, referring site visit, and search engine visit.
Direct Traffic Visit
Direct traffic website visits are when the customer keys in your website address (URL) into the browser. This is by far the best form of website visit and technically requires no SEO, but let’s address it briefly. For instance, my website for the month of March received 40.62% direct traffic, 37.5% referring sites traffic and 21.88% search engine traffic. That means nearly 41% of all my visits were from people who either have me bookmarked or who learned of my website from my marketing efforts.
That’s the key to direct traffic visits: market your website everywhere. I recommend that every marketing endeavor should have your website address on it. If I was you, I would put it on my hats, trucks, advertisements (print, radio, online, television), pens, agreements, signs, displays, nametags, brochures, billboards, mugs, shirts, all free gifts and anything else you use for marketing. The more you direct traffic to your site the better. The more you market your web address, the more you will see your direct traffic increase so spread the word.
Referring Site Visit
A referring site visit means the visitor to your website came from another site. An example would be when a customer goes online and Google’s (that’s Google as a verb) ‘new homes Pittsburgh’ into the search box, it’s very possible and likely that one of the top results will be a web portal like newhomesource.com or move.com or even realtor.com. When a customer goes to a portal like the three mentioned above they are looking for a home. If you are participating with that portal – in other words you have your homes listed on say, newhomesource.com – then you may come up in the customer’s search parameters. If your company comes up and they customer clicks through to your website, the portal has done it’s job and you just got a referring site visit.
Another possibility is that you recently sent out a press release about your company’s new model home opening. If you sent that release to nhdbuzz.com or prweb.com and included some ‘anchor text’ in it, the customer could have linked to your anchor text and gone directly to your site. For example: My company offers many builders consulting services. In that sentence, the word company is what is known as anchor text. If you click on it you will be directed immediately to my website. That would be a referring site link as well. Inserting anchor text into online communication like social network conversations and online PR is a simple method of SEO.
Search Engine Traffic
The last way to direct traffic to your website is using search engines. It is this form that dictates the need for SEO. According to Net Applications, search engine market share at the time of this article looks like this:
Google – 81.39%
Yahoo – 9.93%
MSN – 2.92%
Microsoft Live Search – 2.08
AOL – 1.83
Ask – .99%
Other – .12%
That tells me one thing: Google is the search engine you need to pay attention to, then Yahoo. Without going into a bunch of techie-talk you will neither understand nor be able to act on, let’s just skim the surface of the subject.
I believe there are two topics you should be aware of. The first is pay per click advertising (PPC). PPC is the Internet advertising process that allows you to buy access to certain keywords (we will talk in length about keywords next month) and pay when someone clicks on your ad. In Google these ads are called Sponsored Links. In Yahoo they are called Sponsor Results. These ads are simply a way to purchase your way to the top page of a search engine.
For instance, let’s say you want the keyword green builder. That’s a pretty hot topic right now so it’s likely that many people and businesses are competing for that term – 128,000,000 to be exact. Considering that there are only 10 organic spots and 12 PPC spots on the front page of Google, well… you can see your immediate dilemma. Here’s a little-known secret tip concerning PPC keywords: the better the keyword/keyword phrase, the cheaper it is. Now, where else in life can you get that? I’ll address that in detail next month.
The second type of search result is the ‘organic’ search result. Organic search results are often referred to as Free. The truth is that you do not pay to get them, but trust me they are not free. With 128,000,000 competing sites trying to get the keyword green builder, you can believe money is on the table. The key to organic searches is SEO. There are many factors to a successful SEO campaign. Here are a few with brief definitions:
1. PPC – Although PPC was addressed earlier as a guaranteed means of getting to the top of a search engine, it is also a very helpful tool to narrow and discover powerful keywords that will also help you in your organic search results.
2. Keyword Research – Keywords are the lifeblood of an organic search. I will dedicate the entire column next month to keywords and keyword phrases. In short, keywords are the words and phrases you or a customer key into the search field of a search engine like Google or Yahoo when you are looking for something online. For this discussion we will address three places keywords are used:
a. Meta tag title tag* – this is the brief description you see at the top of every webpage.
b. Meta tag description – this description is not always visible to the user, but if your website comes up in a Google or Yahoo search, the meta tag description is the brief description you see.
c. Keywords – Within the body of your page programming is a meta tag called the keyword. This, along with the two previously mentioned is where the keywords you have chosen can be found.
*If you are in any website and you go to ‘View’ – Page Source, a window will open up. This is where you can see these items.
3. Content Loaded Copy – When you write website copy, you will need to make sure that the copy uses the keywords enough times and in proper fashion to allow the search engine crawlers to consider your site relevant. For instance, if the keyword search is ‘green builder’ and your home page never mentions the term, you will not be considered relevant and therefore will not be included in the search results.
4. Social Media Marketing (SMM) – Social media marketing is the processes involved with maximizing social media (LinkedIn, FaceBook, Squidoo, Flikr, etc.) to improve your Internet presence and therefore improve your relevance on search engines.
5. Link Building – Search engines like it when you are connected with other sites. That doesn’t mean if you put tons of links on your site to other sites that it will help you. The real issue is having other websites that are linked to you. This is also accomplished using online PR and web directory submissions.
There are many things we could review and discuss concerning SEO. This is simply a brief synopsis to hopefully help you become more knowledgeable and therefore more powerful as you explore the Internet and it’s effect on your business.