Building Your Home On The Web
by Kay and Ralph Hudson
As an advertising medium, the Web is too easy, too inexpensive and too effective to ignore. Regardless of your advertising budget or how many homes you are currently building, a Web site can help you sell more homes!
For just a few dollars a day you can have a Web site that consistently produces new opportunities for you month after month.
An inexpensive, brochure-style Web site that simply introduces your company and homes and allows prospective buyers to contact you directly from the site will often out-produce the more elaborate Web sites with lots of bells and whistles.
3 Easy Steps to Building Your Home on the Web
STEP ONE - Shop the competition
Spend a little time looking at other builders' Web sites. This will tell you who your online competition is and show you what theyre doing with their sites.
Some of the things you will want to pay special attention to are:
How long do the
graphics take to load?
Take notes. For future reference be sure to include the URLs of sites that you like. Take your time and get a feel for a good presentation vs. a poor presentation.
STEP TWO - Plan your strategy
In planning your Web site, answer these questions:
What specifically do I expect my Web site to accomplish?
What will visitors need and expect from my site?
do I want the visitor to respond while at my site?
Give visitors incentives, e.g., "ask for our floor plan package", and opportunities to contact you. Only when they have contacted you can you begin a dialog that may result in a sale.
The contact choices are: to e-mail, to phone, fax or write a letter or to stop by your office. Give them the option to do all of the above by including an e-mail form, a phone number, a fax number and a location address.
Give them reasons to contact you -- suggest they ask for information about financing, more floor plans, available inventory, information on schools or area recreational opportunities. If the information on your site tells the visitor everything they want to know, they have less reason to contact you and you may miss an opportunity to begin a dialog.
Putting an 'Information Request' e-mail form on your site makes it convenient for the visitor to contact you. On this form you can ask for contact information about the visitor such as their addresses (postal and e-mail) and their phone number. But take care to not ask for too much. The Internet is still unfamiliar territory to many and some visitors will be reluctant to tell a lot about themselves. The time to qualify your leads is in your telephone or e-mail follow-up.
STEP THREE - It's Time for Action!
Even if you know your way around computers and the Internet, chances are that this project can be outsourced less expensively than if you try to do it yourself. The reason is same as why most people dont try to build a home themselves lack of time, experience and the 'learning curve'!
The best place to find a Web site designer is on the Internet. Go back to those sites that you found appealing and scroll to the very bottom of the home page. Quite often you will find the name of the site's designer. Usually there will be a link to their e-mail or their own Web site. If theres nothing to indicate who the designer is, call or e-mail the builder, tell them how much you like their Web site and ask who did it. It won't matter if they are not local.
Although site promotion is the subject for a separate discussion, it is important to know that sites must incorporate promotional considerations at the design stage if they are to be effective. Here are some of those considerations and other design tips: (Even if these suggestions don't mean much to you right now, hold on to them and discuss them with your site developer).
It doesnt take the latest technology to have an effective site. Most of the people online today are using two or three-year-old computers that cannot handle much of the cutting-edge technology. Design your site so that it can be seen by older technology and youll reach more of the market.
People go to your Web site for specific information not to be entertained. Too much information or too many pages puts you at risk of losing visitors before they contact you. Getting around your site should be quick and easy.
A large part of your Web site traffic should be able to find you through search engines. How well your site is positioned in search engines is to a great extent, a design factor. Make sure your site designer has a handle on making your site search engine friendly.
Include relevant (who, what, where) information in the opening text on your home page. If that information is only in a graphic image, it won't help you position well in the search engines because search engines can't read text it's a graphic image.
Some people will want to print out your pages for future reading and reference. If you plan to use a dark background on your site, don't use white font color...it can't be seen on the white copy paper. A silver color will look white online but print out black.
If you plan to use special design techniques, understand they may negatively impact your ranking with search engines.
Keep the file size of the graphics on your site small. Internet users are impatient and wont stick around while large graphic images load. Graphic image files should be no more than 30 to 40 kilobytes. A small "thumbnail" photo with a link to a larger photo is often a good choice. The visitor can then decide for themselves if they want to wait for the larger image.
If youre planning to use floor plans, photos and drawings, use a professional graphic designer to prepare them for the Web. Simple scanning won't present your work well.
Use good quality photographs. As you probably noticed when looking at other builder sites, there are a lot of poor photos of homes. Some of that can be blamed on the scanning, but often its the photo itself.
Some Web site developers, such as American Builders Network, offer turnkey services that include the maintenance and promotional functions that are so critical in making a site successful. In the process of finding the right person or firm, be sure to ask about the scope of their ongoing services and fees.
Unlike many commercial Web sites that require constant updating to attract return visits, your site has different goals and should not demand heavy maintenance. You should not be as concerned with visitors returning frequently because people typically only buy a home every 5 to 7 years. It is important that your site developer understand that. Routine maintenance for a builders site should include occasional changes in photos, floor plans, prices and perhaps inventory of available homes.
Once you have selected the company or individual to build your site, discuss your goals and ideas with them and then let them get started even if the details are not worked out. Unlike the homes you build, changes to a Web site are easy. The developer can put the site at an "unpublished" URL so that you can see the progress and make changes as the site is being built.
Well, thats it ... three easy steps to getting your Web site up and going. Start today and in just a few weeks youll be getting leads.
Builders Network, Inc.