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    What’s Hummingbird and Why Homebuilders Should Care

    Hummingbird BuilderAh, Google – always changing.

    Its most recent algorithm change (called Hummingbird) is the next step in Google’s move toward semantic search — a change that should help it better understand what users are searching for. Rather than just indexing pages and scanning sites for relevant keywords, Google’s latest tweaks will allow it to better infer context and intent.

    The result? Superior, highly-accurate search results.

    Google will now consider the following:

    • Who searchers are connected to (with a bias toward members of Google+, Google’s version of Facebook)
    • Searchers’ geographical location
    • The type of device being used to search

    What Does This Mean for Homebuilders?

    With Hummingbird, it just became even more important to have quality content on your site — content that’s easy for everyone to understand — including search engines.

    First, Fix the Foundation

    Hummingbird & Homebuilders: First, Focus on the Foundation of Your Website & Take Care of Your SEODespite the changes, one thing remains the same. Quality content is still king. But in order for that content to serve you well on the search engines, you’ll have to do some basic keyword optimization.

    Tidy Up Your SEO

    The best content won’t do you any good if no one sees it, and that means impressing the search engines first in order to get maximum homebuyer eyeballs on it.

    Don’t be tempted to neglect the SEO elements on your website. Making sure your SEO is in order is no different than putting the final touches on a model before you invite visitors to take the tour. You want to make the right impression.

    Here’s How:

    1. Still have Flash content on your site? Google’s gotten a lot better at analyzing Flash, but most mobile and tablet users still can’t view it. Convert it to HTML 5 to solve this problem.
    2. Take a look at your page titles. They tell Google what each page is about. Make sure you include relevant keywords near the beginning of each title and keep it under 70 characters, including spaces.
    3. Double-check meta descriptions for each page. Homebuyers see these when they search, so take advantage of this space to tell them why they should click to see more. Many descriptions are either too long (more than 156 total characters, including spaces,) too short, or missing altogether. Make sure to use relevant keywords at the beginning of your description and create a unique description for each web page.
    4. Also double-check H1 headers. Like page titles, these short yet sweet headings tell Google what you’re talking about on each page. Use unique, relevant headers with strong keywords to get the best results.
    5. Unique, relevant content should answer homebuyers’ questions and make them want to learn more. Incorporating keywords is the best way to ensure that Google ranks these pages well and places them higher in the search results so homebuyers will see them.

    Now, Take a Look at Your Interior

    Hummingbird & Homebuilders: Does the Interior Content of Your Website Draw Homebuyers In?Now that you’ve tidied up the foundation, let’s look at ways to draw visitors to your website.

    If You Build It, They Will Come

    Publish genuinely helpful content to your website on a regular basis. In addition to posting timely content about your communities and floor plans, consider making a list of the top 100 questions homebuyers ask. Pick two questions to answer each week — preferably with rich, dynamic content, and you’ll have valuable, highly-relevant content for a year.

    Google wants to be an answer engine. So if you can help answer relevant questions, Google will reward you.

    Upgrade to a Multimedia Presence

    Today’s web surfers are very visual. Include high-quality images on each page that homebuyers can find using Google’s Image Search.

    Make sure to include proper alt-attributes with your images so Google can read them. For more information on alt-attributes and why they’re important, check out Google’s guide: Using ALT attributes smartly.

    Add a video (with a transcript), PowerPoint presentation, infographic or other multimedia components for even better results. Incorporating 3D Virtual Tours and 3D Interior Images can also help.

    Be a Good Host

    Remember, Google also ranks your site based on how it loads and how easy it is to use.

    Google-friendly websites contain the three C’s:

    • Clean code, that validates. Think of this step as making sure your site passes inspection. Just like with a house inspection, this step double checks that your site was built using best practices and did not skip any steps.
    • Clear navigation: Make sure homebuyers don’t have to go through more than 3 or 4 menus or levels to find the information they’re looking for.
    • Cross-browser and cross-device compatibility. Look at your website using different browsers and devices, including mobile phones and tablets, to make sure it displays correctly for all users.

    Improve Your Curb Appeal

    Be Social

    Hummingbird & Homebuilders: Improve Your Website's Curb Appeal by Repurposing Content and Sharing it on Social MediaGoogle favors content that’s been posted on social networks, so the more you share and build online relationships, the better your rankings will be.

    Don’t feel like you have to start posting and sharing on all of the social networks at once. Just pick one or two where you’re likely to connect with your target audience and branch out from there.

    Here are just a few of the social networks you might consider:

    • Facebook
    • Twitter
    • Pinterest
    • Instagram
    • YouTube
    • Google+
    • LinkedIn
    • SlideShare
    • Vine (video-sharing app)

    Repurpose Your Best Content

    We’ve all done it. We create content for one purpose and then forget about it.

    Why not get more mileage out of your content by finding other ways to use it? Google will reward you, and you won’t have to reinvent the wheel. 3D images and animation are especially versatile.

    Additional Opportunities For Your 3D Images and Animation:

    Getting Ready for Future Updates and Renovations

    Set Up Your Analytics and Testing

    Hummingbird & Homebuilders: Be Ready For Future Website Updates and RenovationsInstall analytics on your site so you can continually test your content, structure and design. If you need more traffic in order to conduct an accurate test, consider launching a pay-per-click (PPC) campaign on Google.

    Using Google’s PPC tools will help you research keyword ideas and determine which words homebuyers are using in their searches.

    Take Care of Your Design

    Since Google considers your website design when it calculates your rankings, you’ll want to continually tweak it as part of your SEO efforts. Mobile users have already begun to dictate design requirements, and elements like parallax scrolling may soon become commonplace.

    Once homebuyers adopt new devices and technology like Google Glass wearable computers and Smart Watches, you can expect to spend more time on periodic site redesigns.

    To help manage this process, develop a testing methodology that helps you spot pages on the site that you can improve. Focus on your users and ease of navigation for the best results.

    Want to Learn More?

    For more tips on how to improve your site architecture and user experience, check out moz.com’s guide to keyword targeting and on-page optimization.

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