Five Tips to Building a More Effective Web Site
Just because a friend or relative has some technical know-how does not mean he’s qualified to create an effective Web site that can produce leads and bring prospects and buyers to your community.
The site may show some attractive photographs and floor plans, but that does not guarantee that it will generate the traffic you want and need.
Essentially, your Web site should not be a budget item that requires justification every month; it should be a referral source that increases your revenue.
The following are five tips that overcome the most common reasons why Web sites fail to achieve their desired results. All of these reasons and challenges are avoidable, so my best advice for you is to choose your Web designer and developer carefully.
Design Your Site to Be Search-Engine Friendly
How much traffic your Web site will get from search engines and referring sites depends upon how friendly your site is to those search engines.
As with early Web site development, specific techniques must be applied on every page of the Web site — such as title tags and other metadata — to give search engines needed content. But the techniques are no longer sufficient.
Today’s search engines are programmed to look for and judge content in terms of its relevance to the keywords searched. Having relevant, well-written content and proper internal and external links on your Web site will contribute to search engines ranking your site higher and sending you traffic.
Using search engine techniques, social media optimization and Internet advertising the right way will put your site firmly on the information superhighway.
Make Your Site Easy to Navigate
Can visitors to your site find what they are looking for easily and quickly? How many clicks does it take them to find it?
Making it intuitive for someone to “know” where to find a specific piece of information takes strategic thought and planning when developing a site. Having everything on your site within three or four clicks for any visitor is even more challenging.
"We're in the real estate business, so we understand lots. We can tell choice lots from dog lots,” says Michael Penn, president of Penn Homes in Shreveport, La., who speaks nationally on Internet marketing.
Much like lots in subdivisions, an item’s location on a Web site, primarily the home page, determines its value and importance.
“Top navigation and the left side bar are prime real estate spots on your home page — but you don’t want too many things there, maybe five or so items," Penn says.
To honestly evaluate your site’s navigability, think like a fifth-grader or a grandparent on a scavenger hunt and search through your site for specific pieces of information. Then give others in your company who have no Web development experience the same marching orders.
Finally, listen to their feedback. Frustrated Web visitors do not turn into sales; they become lost opportunities and lost revenue.
Keep Content Fresh and Presentation Professional
Search engines rate and index Web sites with fresh content higher. But displaying fresh content is only one piece of the puzzle.
The Internet also is a visually stimulating media. Google may not be able to determine how relevant a graphic is to your Web site, but your visitors can. Here is where you should not overreach.
The look and feel of your Web site has to represent your company image in a professional way. Your leads, prospects and buyers will judge how well your company builds homes, at least partially, on how you represent your brand online.
Your Web site's “coolness” factor can go a long way, but at what point does a cool and interactive site become interruptive?
Use flash and video appropriately. Place the right images in the right locations to support the content. Write updatable text — and skip the sound.
When developing a Web site, it is critical to achieve the right balance between movement, content, your company brand and the ability of visitors to navigate your site and find what they are looking for quickly.
Include a Proper Call-to-Action
Now that the site is set up to be search-engine friendly, looks good and is easy to navigate, you need to give your visitors a reason to contact you — and, just as importantly, you need a way to follow up.
According to Internet sales expert Meredith Oliver, president and founder of Meredith Communications, a strong call-to-action with a Web-only promo will increase registrations.
“Continuing to use a call-to-action throughout e-mail follow-up will get people to move from the desk chair to the sales center,” she says.
Oliver says builders should have a well-defined, step-by-step workflow to follow-up on Web site leads.
“The key is to be very fast. Internet leads start to get cold in two hours or less,” she says. “If you get a phone number, call quickly.”
When contacting these leads, Oliver also urges builders and their sales teams to personalize their responses to particular questions and communities.
“You can increase your response rate up to as much as 75% by personalizing your responses,” Oliver says. “We recommend having a dedicated online sales person; however, if you are a small company determining the person responsible for that step in the process will help you convert leads more effectively."
Track and Analyze Your Traffic
After you’ve made all the adjustments necessary, you still have to determine if your Web site is working effectively.
Set up tracking tools on your Web site so that you know exactly where your traffic is coming from and what information they are reading on your site. But keep in mind that simply getting a report of what the traffic was last month or looking at the click-throughs from your advertisers is not enough.
Analyze this information regularly to tweak your site, strategies and ad placement. Staying on top of your Web site’s effectiveness, and adjusting it accordingly, will help keep you competitive. Trend the key metrics monthly and watch what effect any changes you make have on actual traffic so you can make better business decisions.
Mitch Levinson, MBA, MIRM, is managing partner with mRELEVANCE, an Internet marketing, public relations and social media agency focused on meeting builder and developer needs in a changing marketplace. For more information, visit www.mRELEVANCE.com.
Tax Credit Web Site Looks at Opportunity of a Lifetime
Builders and other industry professionals can help spur home sales by referring prospective first-time home buyers to www.federalhousingtaxcredit.com. The NAHB Web site provides detailed information on the $8,000 federal tax credit for first-time home buyers included in the economic stimulus legislation signed into law by President Obama.
Consumers can use the Web site to find information on the tax credit – including a detailed question and answer section. It also includes information about other housing-related and small business measures in the legislation and a number of home-buying resources for consumers.
“The new tax credit provides a great opportunity for first-time home buyers,” said NAHB Chairman Joe Robson. “Combined with today’s near record low interest rates, the large selection of homes on the market and very competitive pricing, the tax credit should provide the extra incentive needed to get prospective buyers who have been sitting on the fence into the market.”
Industry professionals are encouraged to highlight the tax credit Web site when marketing to their potential first-time home buyer market.
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