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Getting Started with Search Engine Optimization

The housing industry is taking the Internet by storm; do you have a website set up for your company? If not, you might want to check out SUPPLY.com’s 30-minute Small Business Website Guide before going any further. If you do already have a company website, and you take the time to keep it well-maintained and up to date, then the next step is to make sure that your site is reaching as many customers as possible. After all, you could have the most well-designed, intuitive website on the market, but if nobody ever sees it, that high quality is wasted. Search engine optimization (SEO) helps your site to stand out from its competitors and rank higher in search results (meaning more visitors to your site).

“Search engines like Google are often the first place customers go…”

The basics? Search engines like Google are often the first place customers go these days to hire a home building or home repair professional, and a higher ranking of your site on a results page means a greater likelihood of you grabbing a customer’s attention (and their business). When they create a results page based on a series of search terms, Google considers a number of factors to determine which sites get the coveted top spots; a successful website is one built with these factors in mind.

Optimizing Your Site

When you’re working in a competitive environment like the housing industry, you need to think strategically about your online presence in order to get the attention of the customer first. A strong SEO strategy can be the key difference when it comes to outshining your competitors; there are just a few rules you need to follow. Below, we’ve gone ahead and listed some of the more major questions to consider when focusing on SEO, as well as examples of some sites that really excel in these areas.

How helpful is your site?

When we talk about a site being helpful, we’re talking about the quality of the experience customers have when visiting your site. Is your site easy to navigate? Does it contain content that is accurate and informative? If you operate an e-commerce site, are your products easily visible and your checkout process quick and simple? Google wants to offer its users the highest-quality experiences they can find, and these are the questions you need to ask yourself when measuring the quality of your own site. Simply put, you need to understand the needs of your specific type of customer, and then make sure that these needs are clearly met on your site.

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As an example, we typed the phrase “how to buy a toilet” into Google, and one of the first results was a toilet buying guide from Consumer Reports (pictured above). In this instance, Consumer Reports predicted that a certain search term would be popular among their readers, and responded by creating an informative document that answers any and all questions a reader may have on the subject. This way, readers stay on the site, causing the page’s popularity to grow and its search engine ranking to remain high. Take note of the sophisticated design of the page as well; when it comes to keeping customers on your site, an attractive, professional look can never hurt.

Is your content relevant?

As a PRO, your website might just be as simple as a list of the services you provide and a page with your contact information. If this simplicity fits in well with your business model, keep at it. On the other hand, if you want to offer your customers a little bit more via your website, like in the form of a company blog that you update regularly, then you need to make sure that the content you create can withstand the test of time.

Articles that focus on fundamental aspects or issues found within the housing industry, for example, are bound to stay relevant to a wide audience longer than articles focusing on current trends or news. When creating content for your site, ask yourself if the content contains unique information, and whether it will remain useful to customers for years to come. If so, you’ve struck SEO gold. And if you’re looking for a real-world example of relevant content, you can find no better one than SUPPLY.com’s own guide on how to measure a toilet rough in. This article is almost four years old and as simple as they come, but it still generates thousands of views because it focuses on a problem that many homeowners continue to encounter to this day.

Figure out what problems your customers are asking, and answer them before your competitors do, and search engines will take notice.

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Check out SUPPLY.com's guide for setting up a company blog!

Is your site responsive?

Remember that your customers are likely viewing your website on a variety of devices, all of which come in an equal variety of sizes, and likely very few of which match the size of your own. Laptops, tablets, smartphones; if your site is created to fit the parameters of only one and not the others, then you are facing some major readability issues that search engines will not thank you for. If you can, try to make sure that your site incorporates responsive web design techniques in order to adapt to any screen size. For an example of a professionally designed, responsive website, check out Starbucks utilizes desktop, laptop, and mobile sites below.

If you use sites like WordPress, Squarespace, or Weebly to create your own website, they offer tons of responsive options so you can look as professional as a company like Starbucks. On the other hand, if you’re building your website from scratch and you’re a little newer to the concept of responsive design, take a look at this guide from 2 Create a Website for some easy tips to get you started.

Are you active on social media?

You’ve probably heard time and again how social media is the next big frontier for business marketing. Sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and in the case of the housing industry, Houzz, are quick and easy ways for you to reach new audiences and interact with your current customers on a personal level. But how does your social media presence affect your ranking in a search engine results page?

The main idea revolves around making your site as visible as possible across social media channels. By posting relevant, informative, and shareable content (like a recent blog post you have written or a current promotion you are running) that links back to your company website, you can potentially boost your customer traffic. Also, engaging one-on-one with your customers on social media and customer review websites is an effective way to make your company more approachable and customer-friendly, and by extension, invite more traffic into your site.

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Take a look at SUPPLY.com's recent article on interacting with your customers online.

Search engines like Google incorporate site traffic into the process they use to determine the rankings of each results page (the idea being that search engines offer users the more popular options first). If your site traffic increases, so do your chances of getting a higher spot in the search results. We went ahead and tested this theory by searching for “interior design advice” on Google. One of the top results was an article published by Carla Aston, an interior designer with a relatively small business. But her high ranking was understandable once we realized how active her company is on social media. Just navigate over to their Facebook page for an example of the type of social media involvement that comes hand-in-hand with great SEO.

Here we’ve given an overview of the more important areas you should focus on when dealing with SEO, but for a more comprehensive list that dives into the things search engines are (and are not) looking for in a good website, check out this article on the basics of SEO from Search Engine Watch.

Analyzing Your Website’s Traffic

Exploring the techniques mentioned above is a great start for anyone hoping to boost their SEO. The next step is understanding just how much the work you do affects your search engine performance, and for that, there are a few online tools that we think you’ll want to check out.

Google Analytics, for example, is a free service offered by Google that allows users to explore and draw conclusions from the traffic on their site. How does it work? It’s pretty simple. You just sign up for an account, link to your website, and Analytics will open the door to an entire world of back-end data that you can take advantage of.

Available features include the ability to track where on the Internet your customers are before they come to your site, what pages they view the most, and how long they spend on each page. You can also keep an eye on the terms that customers are searching for once they arrive at your site (assuming your site comes with a search bar). Plus, if you have any active online marketing campaigns that appear in several places across the Internet, Google Analytics helps you to keep track of those as well. If you want to dig a little deeper into the ways this tool can benefit your business, this post from Kissmetrics Blog explains the major Google Analytics features every site should enable.

“Google Analytics provides you with easily readable data that reveal your customers’ interests…”

From an SEO standpoint, the most important feature that Google Analytics provides is the Search Console report. This report, which you can access at any time, fills you in on how your site is performing on Google results pages when certain search terms are submitted. Based on this information, you can determine which pages on your site are the most popular, and which ones you probably need to tweak in order to attract more viewers. The Search Console report can be especially useful if you have a company blog attached to your site, as it will give you some idea of which topics are popular among your readers.

In short, Google Analytics provides you with easily readable data that reveal your customers’ interests; you can use this information to shape your website into its full potential. At SUPPLY.com, we use sites like Analytics to ensure that the content we produce is attractive and relevant to our customers, and that our site is easy to navigate. If you think that your website could benefit from the tools available on Google Analytics, watch the beginner’s tutorial from Powered By Search below to get started.

Additional Resources

Search engine optimization is a powerful online marketing strategy that is only going to become more important as customers continue to search online for the answers to their housing problems. We have given you an overview of some of the basic principles of SEO, as well as a tool that you can use to keep an eye on your website’s performance. If you’re interested in exploring some of these concepts further before trying them out with your own company website, there are a number of free resources available online.

If you want to get back to basics of why SEO is important, then Moz’s comprehensive Beginner’s Guide to SEO is a great place to start. And once you have mastered the basics, it’s good to remember that SEO is a discipline that evolves with the times; check out the Six SEO Rules for 2016 from the American Marketing Association if you want to get a taste of the most recent trends.

Even the largest companies with the highest marketing budgets have to work on their SEO techniques every day, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t master the concept in an hour. Your level of involvement in search engine optimization will depend on the industry you work in and how you choose to relate to your customers. Explore the options we have highlighted in this article and find the techniques that work best for you.

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