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10 Most Common Homebuilder Web Site Mistakes & How to Avoid Them!

March 4, 2009

Written by Meredith Oliver

If you are past or current client of Meredith Communications, don’t worry I’m not about to name any names in the following post (except one where I have permission), BUT I am going to tell you the honest truth about the 10 most common Web site mistakes I’ve seen out there and more importantly how to avoid them!

As a web marketing consultant, I review a lot of web sites and I always try to find one positive aspect of every site as well as make recommendations to improve it. Most DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Marketers aren’t trained in the specialty science of Web marketing and I recognize most are doing their best trying to figure it out. The good news is you can learn from other’s mistakes and improve your own Web effectiveness with a few small changes. So here we go….drumroll please (I feel a bit like David Letterman)….the Top 10 Most Common Web Site Mistakes:

10. Failing to pay attention to the Web site domain name (and more importantly what it spells…).

I reviewed a Web site for an individual by the name of C. A. Jones (I have his permission to tell this story). When I pulled up his Web site (no longer online, thank goodness) the domain name was www.cajones.com. He had actually registered and been using “cajones” as his domain name. Yikes! I also recently saw someone who was using their last name plus an abbreviation for “associates” that was shortened to “ass.” Oh no! It read “smithass.com”

Not only do you want to make sure your domain name doesn’t spell anything funny or weird, its also important to consider incorporating key words into your domain if possible to enhance your search engine optimization. The search engines tend to rank Web sites with keyword rich domains higher than non-keyword rich domains (although that can change at any second). This isn’t a deal breaker for the search engines but if you can find an available domain name that is keyword rich grab it!

9. The Web site design has a dark background and reversed out text.

We see a lot of custom homebuilder Web sites with black backgrounds and white or gold text. A dark background does give the site a more elegant, upscale feel, however it also makes the site very hard to read. It also makes it difficult to emphasize text with bold, underline or italics. Try using the darker colors in the masthead and navigation and lighter background colors behind the copy. Ultimately your goal is to keep Web visitors on the site as long as possible. Readability has a lot to do with achieving longer visit sessions.

8.  The Web site reflects the marketer’s personality, not the customers.

Repeat after me, it’s not about me…it’s not about me…it’s not about me! Yes, you are spending precious marketing dollars on your Web site but the site is not for you or about you. It’s for your customers! Do you know who is your target audience? Where do they shop, eat and work? What are their needs, wants, hobbies and lifestyle preferences? Go back through your last few sales and build a profile of your target customer. Once you have a clear picture in mind, review your Web site graphics and copy and tailor it to appeal to the target audience. Remember, it doesn’t matter if you like the Web site design (unless you are an exact match to the target audience), it only matters if your customers like it!

7.  The copy is too passive and lacks a strong call to action.

Are you asking visitors on every page to take the next step? Retail Web sites do this naturally but sites that don’t sell a physical product online tend to be too passive. Next steps include registering for more information, calling a dedicated number, initiating live chat or click to call or visiting a physical offline store.

6. Visitors request more information by clicking on an email link instead of a filling out a registration form.

Go to your Contact Us page. Do you have a short, easy-to-use contact form for visitors to complete? We highly recommend you use a form versus an email link for several reasons. First, a form standardizes requests with common data fields which allows the requests to be seamlessly fed into a database for follow-up. This is very important! When visitors click on an email address to request more information, that email goes into an email inbox instead of a database which runs the risk of getting lost and/or forgotten. Second, spammers can pick up your email address from the Web page and send you mountains of email you don’t want or need. Finally, if the email address is specific to a person at your company, what happens when they leave? There will be a lot of folks who have an invalid email address for your company. Some companies try to remedy this by using generic email addresses like “info@” or “sales@” but those hurt your email delivery rates. The best practice is to use a short registration form with minimal required fields.

5.  The Web site does not give a price and/or price range for the homes, home sites or available inventory.

The dot com customer expects to get all the information they need and want from your Web site. If that expectation is unmet, most online shoppers will leave the Web site frustrated and won’t come back. It is erroneous to think that you can tease online shoppers with just enough information to make them want to call you or email you for more! Consider that the peak time for online shopping is 1:00 p.m. during week days. People shop online at work! It’s not a convenient time to call you. Also, keep in mind that your Web site is your best qualifying tool. You don’t want it to produce tons of leads who can’t buy your houses! You want the site to produce A+ Web site leads that CAN buy your houses. The only way for online shoppers to pre-qualify themselves is to list either a base price or price range for every home site, available home and floor plan.

4. The Web site can’t be edited in-house.

This is a mistake that will cost you dearly in the long run. If you plan to use the Web site for more than a year, it is wise to invest the extra dollars up front to build the site with a back-end Content Management System (CMS). You will thank me for it! With a CMS, you can easily edit, delete or add content to your site in real time at no cost to you! Not only does a CMS save you time and money, it allows you to truly customize and personalize your Web site which gives your visitors a better experience and reason to visit frequently. There are free, open-source CMS tools available on the Web as well as custom CMS tools that are industry specific. Check out the Meredith Communication’s CMS built specifically for homebuilders. We’ll be happy to give you a demonstration and let you see the power of it first hand!

3. The Web site design was designed by professionals but the photography was shot by the sales agent.

Amateur digital camera’s have come a long way and take great pictures. But, that doesn’t mean the person behind the lens is a professional photographer! I’ve seen model home photos with garbage in the front yard, windows open, poor lighting and so much more. You’ve spent thousands of dollars building and merchandising your model home(s). Go the next step and get a professional photographer to light and shoot the home as it deserves. Your Web site is your online model and it must WOW customers with gorgeous photography that makes them want to call, click or come-by now!

2. The Web site does not have analytic tracking installed or the reports are not reviewed regularly.

How do you know if your site is working for you or against you? You can guess, you can ask your kids OR you can install and regularly review Web site tracking reports. Web site analytics reveal vital information about the performance of a web site from the number of unique visitors to the navigation path most commonly followed. Google Analytics is a free Web site tracking tool that for most small and medium size companies is more than adequate to provide the data you need. This is an easy fix. Call you Webmaster and ask him/her to open a Google Analytics account for you and install the code on your Web site. Within 24 hours, you will be able to log in to your account and see exactly what is happening on your site.

And, the #1 Most Common Web Site Mistake Builders Make is…

…Failure to follow-up on eLeads that come in from the Web site!

Now that you’ve spent time and money building a WOW Web site, you must take the time to think through how the eLeads will be managed and converted into eSales. Develop a workflow process that allows you to respond FAST and in a very personal, customized way. Be sure to call if you get a phone number and always leave a message. Don’t be afraid to follow up more than once, it fact, follow up several times over the course of the next few months. The beauty of Web marketing is that it is permission based, so you it’s okay to touch base several times as long as you are offering helpful, value added information.

Hope this helps you refine your Web presence or maybe even realize you need a new Web site! Web projects take time so don’t wait and procrastinate. Start now so you can reap the rewards sooner rather than later!

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