Maintaining your site
This is a long letter, so you do not need to read the whole thing at once, but please read it through completely.
We started hosting web sites about 5 years ago or so. Through the years I have learned more and have updated and moved our hosting services several times and to several different servers to offer more features and flexibility.
Web site interface
Our current system offers one of the most powerful yet simple interfaces I have ever come across. Many of you know me personally and know that I am foremost a home designer and recently a builder. Things have been slow for the past few years so I have dedicated much of my time to further developing our web site services.
I am very excited about several new systems we just completed, and still other systems yet to be developed to make your web site more powerful and useful to your prospects and customers and to enhance your company image and services.
Our recent systems include a home listing system and a house plan system where you can add plans of your own not related to our plan service.
These systems are tailored more for the developer with spec homes, condo projects or developments. I have had a number of conversations with custom home builders looking for a site with more custom relevant systems.
While I believe our plan service is next to none, I have already designed the schematics for a plan center system similar to our existing one where custom builders can have their own plan design team upload plans.
Our plan center is the one main feature many of you use to communicate with us, your customers and sub-contractors. I use it myself to send out plans to my sub-contractors and to offer updated plans to my customers throughout the design phase. A very powerful tool for custom and production builders. If you are not using this system, you might consider it. If you want to add your subs, please send us their names and email addresses.
Our new plan center will also offer fax capabilities for subs that do not have email accounts. Another feature will allow builders to create groups of subs for common requests to a common list of subs.
Another system we have started is the Task Manager. This system begins by giving a list of selections your customer needs to pick out for their house. When the selections are complete, the system will switch to a punch list and finally become a call back warranty system, all with just a click of a button.
I currently use a similar system on my own web site for my customers, but this system will send out auto emails to remind your customers of a due date. The system also will have a comprehensive note system to record the correspondence between the builder, suppliers and customer. One source to help guide your customers and will convince them that you are a builder with systems that today's prospective home buyers are looking for.
Maintaining your web site
All this being said, I have also become very busy with several building projects that have consumed much of my time. My goal is to continue to gain more, and enough web site clients so I can hire someone to help design web sites as well as help with support.
Because I know so many builders and others in the construction industry, I have learned that maintaining a web site is the last thing they want to work on and improve. Everyone of us know a web site is necessary, at the very least because we know our competition have one, and we know people are expecting it today.
The truth is, if you do not have someone available to help with your web site, it most likely will become stagnant and just exist. I would guess that 99 percent of all web sites built end up stagnant. We all feel the need to own one, but then drop the ball. Yet it is one the most inexpensive forms or advertising we could ever leverage to benefit our company's.
The construction industry is typically locally operated. This means it does not use the same rules a product sales site might use. We need to have our web site on our business cards, documentation, signs and on the tips of our lips. I personally market my sites on Google and Yahoo and gain a lot of activity. But it is not proving to be a best form of promoting my company in the current economy.
I am considering offering the setup of marketing campaigns for a fee and then handing it over to the site owners to maintain. I do offer an affordable marketing service, but for those of you that want to do this yourself, I can help set it up and show you how to operate a campaign yourself.
Search Engine Optimization
But there is another way to improve the number of site visitors. This is called SEO (Search Engine Optimization). There are sponsored listings and organic listings on the main search engines like Google and Yahoo and others. Most SEO company's will charge you 5000.00 and up to help you improve your ranking. Many will promise that your site will make it to the first page in 2 to 6 months. This is true, they can improve your placement in time.
However, you can do this yourself. Spending sometime searching and researching articles on this subject will help you improve your site ranking. I will give you a brief overview of what is needed.
This is kind of a no brainier because our sites are all about our company and services. But there is an important area where you need to be very careful in how you write your content.
Because the construction industry is localized, you can use this to benefit your ranking. If someone is looking for a product they want mailed to them, they do not care where in the US it is coming from. So they might enter something like "carpet cleaners". Anyone selling carpet cleaners has a far greater hurdle to get over to get their sites to show up because they are competing with every other company selling carpet cleaners in the world.
That means when you add content to your site it might read...
...we are a custom home builder in holland michigan. We have homes for sale in holland michigan and are a custom house contractor in the greater holland area...
You do not want to place this information at the top of your page, but you might include some lines of it that read better to a visitor.
Break your page up, simple at the top with an image or two and a few sentences that explain what you offer. Then be a bit redundant and say things about your services below the top several different ways, including a number of phases you think people will type in to find you. Like "custom home builder holland mi".
Search engines will then index your site as having very relevant content. But be careful, search engines, can also tell if you are being to redundant in your content. Do not just list a number of search phases. Make sure that what you enter on this page is relevant to that page. Use the opportunity to create pages with more relevant content making the complete site have a theme but unique on each page.
Our new system offers the ability to add keywords and description meta tags. The powerful search engines like Google, Yahoo and MSN no longer look at meta tags because people have abused this system. However, there are many search engines that do still look at this. However, it is very important that the keywords and description use the same words that is in the page content. Failure to pay attention to this will hurt your ranking. Even Google and others will compare this information even if it does not use it and index your site behind. You either do not use meta tags or use them wisely.
The description meta tag is often used as the description that shows up on the search engine listings. If it does not exist, the first sentence of your site page will be listed.
Copy / Paste
Search for sites like yours using common and relevant keyword phases. Open the ones at the top and figure out what they are doing. You can even copy and paste their content into your site, but be careful, make sure to make enough changes or search engines will figure this out and set you back.
The best thing is to find the theme, the things they are doing that places them at the top.
Linking other relevant sites to your site is one of the most powerful ways to increase your ranking. What it does is tells the search engines that you not only have 6 pages of content, but 100 pages of content. They know there is a network of information that can help the visitor. Again, be careful of who you want to link to and who is linked to you. A non-relevant site linked to yours will lower you site ranking.
There are other things as well but these are the most important, a good place to start.
Other things to think about
I cannot possibly write the content of your site pages, this is your job and needs to be taken seriously with a proactive approach. Tell yourself or someone working for you to set aside an hour a week. Work on one page at a time and make notes for other pages when you think of them. Stay focused. Read it through when you're done, and read it again. Show someone else and have them read it out loud to you. Hearing what we write can help correct our language. Write like you would talk to someone in person.
Currently I have a number of sites to build. If you are one of these people, please get in touch with me with the information I need to put your site together. I have stopped advertising until I have everyone setup and running. I am running into a few issues with the new system, but I will get these sorted out.
To everyone else who have trusted me through the years or recently joined, thank you very much. While I have had help with several employees in the past when building was stronger, I am on my own until this grows. Anyone else wishing to add a comment that would help me promote this business further, I would be very grateful. I will also add your comment and web address to my site to promote your company.