SEO, PPC for Home Builders - An 8-Step Plan

Every industry is slightly different, and even within industries the best approach to digital marketing that results in maximum returns will be slightly different.

This 8-step digital marketing plan for home builders will walk you through where to start and what to focus on in order to maximize your marketing dollars.

Step 1: Know yourself

Who are you? Simple question, but it can be complex to answer and I've found most people don't understand, truly, what sets them apart or why their customers buy from them.

The first step in developing a digital marketing plan is to first start by hashing out just who you are as a company, what values do you have, what makes you different from the competition?

Step 2: Know your customer

Who is your customer? Don't say 20 – 60 year-olds who have $200k – $500k to spend. You need to truly understand your customer and ask questions like:

  • What is their typical age?
  • Are they married?
  • Do they have kids?
  • What is their typical gender? Does the woman do most of the shopping or the man- or are they heavily involved together? At what point in the process does the significant other (if there is one) get involved?
  • Where do they want to live, specifically? Do they search builders by city or do they just want a type of neighborhood (urban, suburban, rural, school quality, proximity to work, etc)?
  • What is their buying process like? How many other builders do they research? Who are the other builders they're researching?
  • Why do they make the decisions they make? Why did they choose you? Why did they not choose you (this can be eye-opening)?
  • What did they think about your website and other marketing materials? Is there any information they wanted specifically that the website didn't answer for them? Is there any information on the site they just don't care about?
  • Are they even searching online or do they do all their research offline? Perhaps they start online and then move offline, or vice versa – this multi-channel shopping is now extremely commonplace.

A brief side note on steps 1 & 2

I can't stress the importance of these first two steps. Not only is this absolutely vital to being able to position yourself, your marketing materials, your sales process, etc, but most of your competition is not doing this. Instead, they aimlessly add, remove, and edit designs, copy, and everything else they can think  That means if you do even a decent job at this, you'll be light-years ahead of your competition in being able to position yourself in a way that resonates with your target customer.

The more questions you ask and the more time you spend on this phase, the more you'll understand how your customer buys and how you can best position yourself, your website, your marketing materials, etc.

As an example, let's say you're a home builder specializing in high-end custom homes.

You have a new website built for a couple grand, which means there's no room in the budget to really get to interview your customers, do any sort of usability testing, have copy professionally written, or include custom graphics or photography.

Instead, you send your web design firm images that you took on your cell phone and copy that your office admin wrote. The images are ok, but not great. You don't see anything wrong with the copy but it lacks focus and direction; it doesn't speak to the customers pain points or address their questions or concerns as well as it could.

Now a prospective customer lands on your website. It's the woman doing the initial shopping, she's in her mid to late 40s, she's married with a family of 3 kids. The kids are ages 7 – 15. She's in the market for a home in the $1 – 1.5 million range; exactly what you offer. She's incredibly detail-oriented and she wants to know that your homes not only meet a minimum quality threshold, but that your past customers are still ecstatic. She also wants to know that your design team is top-notch and her and her husband want features like entertainment and mud rooms for the kids.

But none of the copy speaks to this specific person. The image galleries are loaded with images that were mostly taken on a cell phone; no thought was put into load time, they were uploaded raw, take an eternity to load, and are just stuffed into a single photo gallery with no thought put into making the gallery easy to navigate with layout and categorization.

There's a blog on the site but it's filled with generic home maintenance advice, nothing she doesn't already know or can't find elsewhere.

As I discuss in this post on Why Design Matters, every part of the customer interaction with your business influences how they view you as a company. That includes your website and the overall feeling this person has when she leaves is one of not being impressed and a vague sense of frustration at not being able to find much of the information she was looking for. That's is not how you want to start the customer relationship.

Step 3: Measurement

You can't possibly know if your efforts are having an effect unless you measure the results.

  • Do you know how many phone calls your website is driving each month?
  • How about contact form submissions?
  • Are you tracking bounce rates and time on site?
  • Have you identified underperforming pages?
  • Where do you currently rank for all your target keywords?
  • Are people reading your blog posts actually converting or is your blog a complete waste of space?

You need to identify which metrics to measure, how to measure them, and start measuring so you know what's going on. Otherwise you'll be driving blind in the next steps.

Step 4: Pay Per Click (PPC) Advertising

Note that which of these following steps you start with will largely be determined by the work done in steps 1 & 2. For the $1 – 1.5 million builder in the example above, the first place to start may be on-site conversion rate optimization, especially if the website isn't very good.

On the other hand, if you're a mid-range builder and your website is doing a decent job at converting, but you really need more traffic and more visibility, PPC and SEO might be the first places to start.

Pay Per Click advertising is a quick and easy way to not only start generating traffic and leads, but it allows you to test ad copy, keywords, and landing pages to get a true handle on what your prospects are searching for online so you can give it to them.

A lot of companies have something against PPC, perhaps because you have to pay for each click to your website and those clicks can sometimes be expensive. Don't be afraid of PPC – it's a fantastic channel for driving leads, brand awareness, and just about the greatest keyword research and content testing tool on Earth. Plus, a competent firm can get a good program up and running within a month, whereas SEO can take time to see results.

Step 5: Local Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

For a home builder, SEO is going to have a heavy focus on local optimization. Note that this requires different knowledge and skills from national. If you do a search for "home builder Cincinnati," for example, you'll see local maps results (those that include an address and phone number). Optimizing for those local results is a slightly different process than anything else so it's important to make sure you understand local SEO or hire a firm that does.

It's important to note that SEO is challenging and can take time to see generate a return, especially since Google rolled out their recent changes. Don't get me wrong, it's still incredibly effective, but it's definitely not easy. The big benefit of SEO is, over the long-term, it can generate significantly greater ROI than PPC.

Step 6: On-site conversion rate optimization (CRO)

Conversion rate optimization is unbelievably powerful, but so few people actually do it. It's a shame too because, as a Wordstream study suggests, across industries, the top 25% are converting at more than double the average, and the top 10% are converting at nearly 5 times the average.

That means you could be generating 2x – 5x as many leads as your competition for the same cost – and for a home builder, trust me, this isn't all that tough.

Step 7: Lead nurturing

Next, I'd seriously consider setting up a lead nurturing campaign to go out to new leads. Nothing major, perhaps a 5 – 10 email series that provides your customers with useful information in their search for a home builder and also clarifies your positioning, benefits, etc. But first, make sure you do steps 1 & 2 so you know whether they would even respond to or be interested in something like this.

Step 8: Social media

If you're going to pay a firm to post random nonsense for you on your Facebook page or Twitter account twice a week, don't do social media, it will be a complete waste of time.

On the other hand if your research suggests your customers are active on Facebook or Twitter, and you understand that social is more about brand awareness than direct lead generation, and you're rocking all the above steps, and you hire a firm that takes the time to truly understand your customer and share content that is relevant to them, then this should be your next step.

It's also important to note that social media should be at least a small component of an SEO, PPC, or CRO strategy. You don't have to have a Facebook page to allow people to share your content on Facebook. Adding share buttons to your content in a way that makes sense can make it easy for people to spread the word about you.

John Crenshaw
John Crenshaw
UFO company founder. 15+ years experience in performance marketing.
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