Posts Tagged ‘HTML’

We cannot Optimize that site

Unbelievable!

I got a call yesterday from a guy who wanted to learn more about our SEO services. Actually, first a lead landed in my inbox from one of our websites. I think it was bostonlogic.com. So, I responded to the lead via email. The lead had written that they were interested in optimizing their website www.harrymoore.com. So, I wrote back. Then he called me to discuss his site.

I felt like I was a mechanic telling someone that their car had been totaled or maybe like a cop telling the victim of a robbery that they shouldn’t expect to see their possessions again any time soon. All I had to do was look at the site for about 15 seconds and I knew that there was nothing we could do.

First of all, the site is built by Advanced Access. The readers of this SEO blog have read my post about them. That post met refutation from someone in their marketing dept and there was a sting of about 7 comments and responses that followed. They told me that their sites could be SEOed and yes, some of them were based on old technology, but they help lots of agents…etc, etc.

ANY SEO worth half their IQ would know that this site was built improperly if you want to achieve organic ranking. Let’s look at why. The problems with this site spell out an education in how not to build a website:

1 page website
This site is, in fact, only one page! Click around Harry’s site. You’ll notice that the pages have names like:

/Nav.aspx/Page=%2fPageManager%2fDefault.aspx%2fPageID%3d2020443

Now, Nav.aspx is the file name and the rest is a database query. That query is actually telling the system that powers this real estate site what page to put into the iframe on the right side of the page, which makes up the majority of the page.  (more on iframes in a moment)  So, as you navigate around the site, you’re just reloading the Nav.aspx page again and again with a different bunch of content in the iframe.  A 1 page website will NEVER rank well in the search engines.

The “pages” of this site (I use that term loosely) are actually just 2 iframes each. There’s an iframe on the left, which contains the nav and an iframe on the right, containing the body

I-Frames =  No SEO help
Iframes are universally regarded as poor SEO. Sure, they get used all the time. They are not without purpose, in some situations. Google uses them to build some of their applications, even, but this is not the right place to use an iframe and here’s why. When spidering a site and considering it for search engine ranking, the search engines ignore the content that’s inside any iframe. It may as well not exist on your site at all.  Most folks would say that iframes just don’t help whatsoever. They’re certainly not the right way to construct AN ENTIRE SITE!!!

So, a 1 page site made up of iframed content…well that’s the ballgame. But let’s proceed with this analysis assuming that this weren’t the case. Maybe there’s some imaginary real estate website out there that’s similar to this one, but without the iframes and actually made up of more than 1 page.

Nav made of images
The navigation is made up of a number of images on this site.  When possible, you want your nav to be made up of HTML text. If you’re implementing some design that requires a font that is not an html font, then you want to make image files with names that are the same as what the images say. You also want to use alt text to tell the search engine spiders what the images say. The file names for the these images on this site are all similar to this: 1165984.jpg.  Oh, and there’s no alt text.

Being Constructive
Before I get carried away with more ranting about the snake oil that the people at advanced access will sell you, I want to be constructive. I want to give our readers a few tips on how to avoid getting yourself into an SEO hole.

Know what you’re buying. Realize that you can’t achieve good ranking for $50/month. A $15,000 car is never going to do 150 MPH either. Don’t believe the salesman when he tells you that it will.

If the company that sells you a website doesn’t offer organic SEO services for thousands of dollars, don’t buy your website from them. I’m not saying that you have to have a huge budget. Follow this logic: If a company sells sites and then takes on expensive SEO contracts and optimizes sites for superior placements for marquis terms using the technology that those sites are built on, then at least you know that the technology CAN support good SEO. You might even try calling the company and asking them to show you some sites that rank for marquis terms (and not just the agent’s name) and then make sure your site is built on the same software platform.

Lastly, remember that if you want to achieve good placement, you’re going to need an seo expert on your side. Ask your real estate seo consultant to look at the site that you’re going to be investing in and have them give their opinion of whether or not the system running the site is suited for SEO in the future. Most honest SEOs will do this for free in the hopes that they’ll get your business later on. We sure will.

Have a great holiday weekend.

Redesigning your blog? Keep SEO in mind

Thinking about a new look for your blog? Or maybe you are just starting out and are looking for some tips on how to get started. Well, here are some steps to keep in mind, from a marketing perspective, as you undergo your blog redesign.

First, I hope you are using your blog because you want to reach a broader audience and want to make a greater impact, establishing or reinforcing your online presence (depending on whether this is your first go at it or you’ve been around the block a couple of times). Your blog, like your website, is about marketing yourself or your business, ultimately, a means by which to grow your business (aka. lead generation). It should be easy to navigate, consistent with your line of business or area of expertise, and informative. With that in mind, you should not be redesigning your blog because you feel that your design just isn’t quite as fun or fancy as some others out there. Second, you want to make sure that while your design looks clean and professional, your content and layout are what will get you the most bang for your buck.

However, before you even get started you want to organize the following; (1) establish clear, definitive goals and determine what desired actions convert visitors into leads (Do you plan on using your blog to capture leads? etc.), (2) make sure to keep the HTML coding clean (if you are not familiar with these practices I advise that you consult a professional, (3) don’t forget your users and site usability, (4) remember that a blog redesign is a project and should be managed as such, (5) set up a realistic schedule and manage expectations (Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your WordPress blog won’t be either).

Once you get into the nitty-gritty of things you will want to make sure that you don’t lose what you have during your design process.  There are pieces of your website that exist now and are good for SEO, and those should be protected. I can’t stress enough – don’t lose what you have. With SEO less is not more – the content you have the better off you are. With a proper plan and layout you can keep track of what you have and what you can do without.

…which brings me to my next point…

Any site redesign is a great time to assess what you have. What is worth keeping? It’s everyone’s favorite “A” word (no, not that) – Audit. Assess what may need to be updated, was it 5 or maybe 8 years ago that some of that content was created?…right…follow what I’m saying.

Most likely you already have great content – whole-lot-a posts. On and off page SEO are crucial as part of your blog’s SEO. As a refresher, on page SEO includes your post URLs which you can easily manipulate with plug-ins like the WordPress “all in one SEO pack” or any “permalink” plug-in for that matter. Next are the page title (or Meta Title), page headers (your H1s, 2s and 3s) and of course your content, all of which should incorporate the use of your keywords. Now, depending on the kind of plug-in that you are using you may be able to update post and page descriptions as well, which we know is equally important. Off page SEO, which is huge, includes inbound links and to some extent internal linking. Make sure this is all working properly, and none of these steps get sacrificed. Typically when working with platforms like WordPress these transitions run more smoothly.

And, finally…don’t forget to test. Testing is an important part of any redesign and a crucial step that is often overlooked. Try testing in different environments to make sure that styling and functionality is consistent.

As always if you have any questions please let us know.

Happy blogging!

PS: How do you like our new look?

Lead Generation, Quantity vs. Quality, Maybe

This is an ongoing debate among real estate brokers and agents.

Here’s the situation, you’re marketing your real estate website online, you’re investing in SEO, maybe you’re working with PPC, maybe your office site is getting hundreds of visitors every day. The question is this: When do you ask the user to sign up? How do you acquire the most leads and, more importantly, customers? Which is your priority, quantity or quality? Let’s explore:

When a buyer is looking for a new home, they’re going to be looking for information. Most often, they’re going to want to search for real estate that’s on the market. Maybe they want market data or some other kind of information beyond simply listing search results. At any rate, they want to visit a site and get some information. Knowledge is power and they want to feel empowered.

Now, there are some horrible website vendors out there who sell websites that require the user to sign up to access just about every part of the site other than the home page. You make the user sign up to search, to get a report, to get a home valuation, to do just about anything. These sites will kill your prospects of achieving good search engine placement. Remember, the search engines will not fill out forms. They will not hit the submit button. In short, they won’t know about the majority of your content. If you want to optimize your site for SEO purposes, make sure the search engine robots can get to the information using regular HTML hyperlinks.

Now, when we build sites, we usually put the sign up in one of a few places:

  1. Sign up before the user can see search results. Yes, most visitors to your site will want to use the property search. So, it makes some sense to have them sign up in order to search or to see the results of their search. There are two major objections to this method
    1. Plenty of other sites don’t make the user sign up to see their search results and lots of users don’t want to sign up for anything. They prefer to remain anonymous. So, you risk loosing the possibility of converting this user into a lead and sending them to your competitors’ sites.
    2. If you make a user sign up just to browse, they’re somewhat likely to give you fake contact information. This is a risk. Our experience shows that when a site forces a sign up earlier in the search process, then they see more fake leads who are tossing bogus information into the sign up form just to get to the good stuff. Now, you may be willing, as many folks are, to sift through these fakers in order to get to find the real leads. There’s nothing wrong with this tactic.
  2. Allow the user to browse and only ask them to sign up to use advanced features
    If your site is built well, then it should provide the user with many different interactive features. This might include the opportunity to register for an account, save favorite listings, save searches, sign up for nightly listing updates by email, schedule a showing, inquire about a listing, etc. Lots of sites allow the user to browse the search results without registering. In other words, the user doesn’t convert into a lead until they’re ready. The argument in favor of this strategy is that the user who inquires or requests a showing is a better lead. The argument against is that you’ll see fewer leads.  Indeed, when someone requests a showing or more information or signs up for nightly email listing updates then they are indeed a more qualified lead. That said, there are lots of folks who don’t want to sign up until they’re ready to buy and using strategy #1 above may turn these folks away.
  3. Hybrid approaches to lead gathering

    1. You can give away some information and require the user to sign in for more. Lots of sites don’t give away property addresses, for example, until the user has signed in.
    2. Another approach is to allow the user to use the site for a while – say giving them access to 2 searches or 4 listing details pages – before requiring them to sign up. This is sort of like tempting the user. You show them that there’s a lot of inventory and features for them to use and entice them to sign up in order to stay inside the promised land.
    3. One of our favorites is to show the user the search results, but to then use something called a Lightbox in order to ask them to sign up. That’s when the screen goes dark/opaque and the user is presented with a sign up box.  They can still see that search results are behind the sign up and they’re more compelled to sign up to see what’s just beyond. Again, some users may just click the back button and go back to the search engines to find another site where they don’t have to sign up at all.

Customers come to us all of the time and ask about the best ways to implement lead acquisition within their site. It’s not a simple question to answer. If you have a lot of agents to satisfy, we recommend going for quantity. Make the user sign up early in the search process. If you have a lot of traffic and you want to get the best quality leads farther down the search road, then ask them to sign up later in the process.

Overall, your site must be engaging and the user needs to want to stick around and come back again. If you’re not designing for a superior user experience, then you’re just not going to get the leads that you need out of your real estate website.

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