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Are Nofollow Links a Google Ranking Factor?

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Are Nofollow Links a Google Ranking Factor?

“Nofollow” isn’t just a funny-sounding term SEO professionals use to sound more mysterious. Nofollow is an HTML attribute that’s been around for 14 years.

At its most basic, nofollow is a hyperlink attribute that tells Google to not pass PageRank so Google doesn’t even crawl nofollowed links.

You can control the nofollowing of any links on your site (whether those are to external sites or internal pages) with the simple addition of the nofollow attribute.

There are also nofollowed links that are out of your control – when another site links to you, but has marked it up as a nofollowed link.

But is there any connection between nofollowed links and rankings?

It turns out there is a lot of confusion on this topic. Let’s get to the bottom of it all.

The Claim: Nofollow Links Are A Ranking Factor

Do nofollow links offer any value?

Nofollow links are not just a glorified attribute. It was a way to show search engines to ignore spammy or low-quality links.

Think of nofollow links as armor to protect your site from shady tactics.

It looks like this in your source code:

<a href=”http://www.example.com/” rel=”nofollow”>Anchor Text</a>

But do nofollow links really impact rankings?

The Evidence For Nofollow Links As A Ranking Factor

Google introduced the nofollow link attribute in 2005 to help website owners fight off spam. Google required that sites add the nofollow link attribute if you were exchanging links.

If you didn’t and you got caught, Google could penalize you for link schemes.

That’s when nofollow links were introduced. Nofollow tag tells search engines to ignore the destination URL.

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While Google can take manual action on you for not using nofollowing links, does it help your rankings?

In September 2019, Google’s Gary Illyes confirmed these directives serve as “hints.”

Google’s Danny Sullivan chimed in to support Illyes’s comments related to nofollow links.

These statements are supported in the nofollow announcement post by Google, which stated:

“When nofollow was introduced, Google would not count any link marked this way as a signal to use within our search algorithms. This has now changed. All the link attributes — sponsored, UGC, and nofollow — are treated as hints about which links to consider or exclude within Search.

We’ll use these hints — along with other signals — as a way to better understand how to appropriately analyze and use links within our systems.”

More recently on September 10, 2019, Google introduced two new attributes to support the nofollow link: sponsored links and UGC links.

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These attributes were created to help Google understand the intent behind the link.

Sponsored links (rel=”sponsored”) are used for promotional, advertising, or sponsored links.

UGC links (rel=”ugc”) are used for users who generate their own content that was not endorsed from an advertising perspective.

Can nofollow links hurt your site?

In a Google Search Central YouTube video on September 9, 2013, Matt Cutts shared that nofollow links do not hurt your site.

Cutts stated:

“No, typically nofollow links cannot hurt your site. So, upfront, very quick answer.”

Can I use nofollow tag to control indexing?

No.

Simply adding the nofollow tag attribute to a link does not mean Google will not index or crawl your site.

The best way to preserve your crawl budget is with other methods like using the noindex attribute or disallowing from the robots.txt files.

Nofollow Links As A Ranking Signal: Our Rating

While links with a nofollow tag are no longer ignored, they do not pass ranking signals.

While it’s interesting to see that nofollow links do not directly impact your rankings, it’s clear to see the little hints it serves to Google and search engines.

If you read between the lines, these “hints” we are serving to Google means you can tell Google to nofollow a link, but the ultimate decision lies with Google in “some” cases.

In the end, in most cases, your rankings will not be affected.


Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal

All screenshots taken by author, September 2021

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The Only Shopify SEO Checklist You Need To Rank Your Site

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The Only Shopify SEO Checklist You Need To Rank Your Site


When it comes to driving motivated traffic to your Shopify store, no other digital marketing strategy is as affordable or impactful as SEO.

For e-commerce retailers, taking the time to ensure your web pages are properly optimized can help increase your organic traffic, meaning more potential customers browsing your products.

Unlike Google Ads or social media advertising, SEO strategies can drive site traffic to your Shopify website long after your ad budget runs out.

For this reason, leveraging SEO is one of the best digital investments a Shopify site owner can make.

What Is Shopify SEO?

Shopify SEO is the process of optimizing a Shopify website to perform better in search engine results.

Although SEO can be applied to any website, Shopify SEO is focused on helping e-commerce retailers who utilize the Shopify CMS to earn more keyword rankings and organic traffic.

Common SEO Challenges For E-Commerce Websites

In general, e-commerce websites are more likely to face certain challenges that can negatively impact search engine performance.

  • Thin Content: Google loves in-depth, long-form content. Because product pages tend toward thin content, it can be difficult to boost their rankings in search.
  • Duplicate Content: With multiple product pages that are so similar or auto-generated, many e-commerce websites face duplicate content issues.
  • Poor Site Architecture: Google likes to see an optimized site structure that users can easily navigate. With so many pages on their website, e-commerce retailers can easily suffer from poor site architecture signals.
  • Not Utilizing Schema: Products schema helps Google crawlers understand your products and promote them accordingly. Not utilizing schema is a huge mistake for Shopify retailers.

To make sure that your website doesn’t suffer from these common setbacks faced by e-commerce sites, the Shopify SEO checklist below is a great place to start.

Automated SEO Features In Shopify

The Shopify platform does have some SEO features built-in that ease some of the SEO workload on-site owners.

These features include:

  • Auto-generated “rel-canonical” tags: this feature helps avoid duplicate content penalties!
  • Auto-generated robots.txt and sitemap.xml files.
  • Automatic SSL certificates: Google prefers to rank secure pages with HTTPS protocols.
  • Auto-generated page titles that include the store’s name.

However, SEO is a vast and multidisciplinary field.

Counting on the Shopify platform alone to do the work of SEO for you is not going to produce the best results.

19 Must-Do Tasks On Your Shopify SEO Checklist

Remember that SEO is not a one-and-done process and will require work both when you initially set up your store and throughout the lifetime of your website.

The checklist below is organized by the type of optimization, but it can be easily completed “in order.”

Some of these steps are a one-time optimization, but the majority will need to be repeated whenever you add new products or pages to your online store.

General SEO

1. Invest In A Custom Domain

It’s generally better to invest in a custom domain and drop the “myshopify” from your URLs.

Why? Because the URL path is visible to users at the top of the SERP result. Custom domains look more professional and more enticing to users, and higher CTRs lead to better SEO performance.

Screenshot from Google Search, January 2022

You can buy custom domains from Shopify or any third-party domain provider.

Then, add your custom domain in the Settings > Domains menu of your Shopify account.

2. Choose A Fast And Responsive Theme

With last year’s page experience update, fast page speed and load times are non-negotiable if you want to rank well in Google.

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Although flashier themes might be tempting, it is better to choose a theme that is optimized for speed and performance.

Your theme also needs to perform well on mobile devices, as Google will index the mobile versions of your web pages.

Screenshot of a shopify theme and speed reportScreenshot from Shopify, January 2022

You can get a sense of how fast your current Shopify store is in comparison to others in your dashboard or via your PageSpeed Insights report. If your scores are low, it’s likely impacting your ability to rank in top positions.

Consider another, more SEO-friendly theme.

Here is a list of some of the fastest themes on Shopify.

3. Setup Your Analytics Tools

Your Shopify Analytics dashboard will give you an overview of your e-commerce metrics.

However, you need to set up additional tools to better understand where your website traffic comes from and how users behave once arriving at your website from search.

Google Analytics and Google Search Console are must-haves for any site owner, and they are completely free to users.

After you create your accounts, here are some other key steps you’ll want to take:

4. Get Helpful Shopify SEO Apps

There are all sorts of Shopify SEO apps that can help ensure you are meeting SEO best practices across your web pages. Some of my favorites include:

  • Plug In SEO: Similar to Yoast SEO for WordPress and ensures best practices.
  • SEO Pro: Great for schema and more advanced optimizations.
  • Smart SEO: Very affordable option for lots of SEO value.

On-Page SEO

5. Do Your Keyword Research

Before you start optimizing your content, you need to identify which keywords have strong relevance to your products and will bring qualified traffic to your website.

There are hundreds to thousands of ways users might be searching for products like yours. A keyword tool allows you to discover what users are searching for.

Example of Keyword research for a shopify website using a keyword toolScreenshot from SearchAtlas, January 2022

Some of those keywords will be easier to rank for than others, and a part of your SEO work is identifying which keywords present the best opportunities for your store.

The most important keyword metrics to pay attention to are:

  • Search Volume: You want your keyword targets to get a reasonable number of searches per month, otherwise you’re optimizing for no one.
  • CPC: Higher CPCs represent stronger conversion potential. Higher CPCs are more common with commercial and transactional keywords.
  • Keyword Difficulty: Higher scores will mean the keywords are more difficult to rank for. Make sure you choose keyword targets where you can realistically rank on page 1.

Ideally, each web page in your Shopify store will be targeting a different keyword or keyword cluster.

For your product and category pages, optimize for keywords that show more transactional intent, as those users are more inclined to make a purchase.

For your blog posts, optimize for informational queries to capture searchers near the top of the funnel.

6. Optimize Your URLs

There are some URL best practices that are essential to improving your rankings in Google.

  • Keep it short and sweet.
  • Include your target keyword.
  • Avoid unnecessary words like and/or/the/etc..

You can easily edit the URL paths in the Search Engine Listing Preview at the bottom of any page in the Shopify CMS.

Screenshot of Search engine preview in Shopify Screenshot from Shopify, January 2022

7. Optimize Your Page Titles And Meta Descriptions

While you’re editing your Search Engine Listing, make sure you also optimize the other meta tags visible in your SERP result: the title tag and meta description.

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You’ll want to follow best practices here as well by including your keywords and meeting SEO best practices, especially length – no more than 60 characters for your title tag and no more than 160 for your meta description.

Example of adding keyword into the page title in a shopify websiteScreenshot from Shopify, January 2022

Google looks to these pieces of metadata to understand what your content is about and when to promote it.

And because the meta description may also be visible as a search snippet (although not always), it can influence whether searchers click on your result.

Google is smart enough to understand the terms and phrases that have a semantic relationship to your primary keyword, so there is no need to stuff these on-page elements with the same keyword over and over again.

Your meta tags should read naturally and adequately describe the content on the page.

8. Use A Content Optimization Tool For Your Product Descriptions

Thin content on product pages can be a serious hindrance for e-commerce websites.

Make sure you take the time to craft original, descriptive product descriptions that include relevant keywords, synonyms, and related terms.

Optimized product description in ShopifyScreenshot from Shopify, January 2022
Screenshot of an content optimizer toolScreenshot from the SEO Content Assistant, January 2022

A content optimizer tool can help you identify which related keywords have the most SEO power and show strong relevance signals to your products.

Do your best to include them in a natural way to elevate the ranking potential of your product pages.

9. Optimize Your Alt Text

Your Shopify website likely has lots of images that showcase your products.

But remember, Google cannot see your images. It’s important you communicate to Google what those images are through descriptive file names and keyword-rich alt text.

Example of how to optimize alt text in ShopifyScreenshot from Shopify, January 2022

This also makes your Shopify website more accessible to users with visual impairments.

10. Create Blog Content To Target Long-Tail Queries

To capture users who are near the top of the sales funnel, create high-quality blog content that is optimized for relevant long-tail queries.

list of Blogs in shopify websiteScreenshot from Shopify, January 2022

By answering the questions users are asking about products like yours, you can build brand awareness and expertise.

It’s also a great way to increase the total number of keywords that your Shopify store ranks for.

Technical SEO

11. Create An SEO-Friendly Navigation Menu

Navigation menus help your users easily move throughout your online store. Not only will a SEO-friendly navigation menu look better to Google crawlers, but it will also create a better user experience.

Navigation Menu in ShopifyScreenshot from Shopify, January 2022

A few SEO tips for navigation:

  • Prioritize clear and easy navigation.
  • Take the time to make sure that your products are well organized into collections.
  • Keep your navigation consistent across the page.
  • Use the nav to help users easily contact you or your support team.

12. Leverage Internal Links

Your internal links accomplish a few things.

They keep users moving throughout your website, they help search engine crawlers understand your site architecture, and they distribute your PageRank across more of your site.

The majority of your Shopify website’s PageRank will be on your homepage, which is why the links you include in your nav menu should be strategic.

Navigation Menu of Shopify WebsiteScreenshot from macaronqueen.com, January 2022

Avoid sending link equity to items that are out-of-stock, seasonal, or are unlikely to rank well in search results due to thin or unoptimized content.

Instead, push PageRank toward pages that you want to elevate in search, like your primary category and collection pages.

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13. Add The Products Schema

There are a few different ways to add structured data to your Shopify website, and which is best for you will be determined by how comfortable you are editing your website’s code. To add schema manually, go to Themes > Action > Edit Code.

You can use a schema generator tool to generate your markup and input all of the required properties.

Shopify users should consider using the following Product Schemas when applicable:

  • Aggregate rating.
  • Brand.
  • Category.
  • Color.
  • Dimensions.
  • Model.
  • Material.
  • Special offers.
  • Image.

If working in your HTML editor isn’t your jam, plenty of Shopify plugins have Products schema features and make the process simple.

14. Add Product Reviews

Positive reviews on your products can push users toward a click or purchase.

Download the Product Reviews app in the Shopify store to start leveraging product reviews. This app sends structured data information to Google so those yellow stars appear with your SERP result.

example of shoe's from Allbirds shopify store with product reviewsScreenshot from Google, January 2022

They can be game-changing in improving CTRs and generating more clicks to your store.

Off-Page SEO

15. Build Links To Your Shopify Site

You will also need to build off-site signals in order for Google to trust your online store and rank it in search results.

This is arguably the most difficult part of SEO because you don’t have control over whether a website chooses to link to yours.

However, there are some easy ways to start earning links:

  • Create high-quality content like blog posts and ask other site owners to link to it.
  • Get featured in gift guides or product roundups.
  • Guest blog on relevant sites.

16. Invest In Public Relations

Public relations and organic outreach are at the heart of link building and one of the best ways to earn high-quality links from authoritative websites.

If you don’t yet have the time or resources to do PR outreach, sign up for Help-A-Reporter Out (HARO). You’ll get daily emails from journalists and publishers looking to hear from experts or feature certain products.

Shopify Website Maintenance

17. Regularly Audit Your Website

Over time, your website will change. This occurs as you add or delete pages on your website, as your pages accrue backlinks, or as the landscape of search changes.

A regular website audit can help you determine which of your pages are performing the best in search and which are underperforming.

The insights provided from a website audit can help you identify key content, page experience, or authority issues that you need to prioritize and resolve.

18. Repair Broken Links

As you change up your product offering or items go out of stock, you will likely unpublish or delete pages of your Shopify Website.

If that page was linked to anywhere else on your website, you will create a “broken link.”

Google does not like to rank websites with excessive broken links, as it looks as if the website is not active and being properly taken care of.

Once a quarter, it’s a good idea to run a site crawler across the entirety of your website to identify broken links and repair them.

19. Study The Data And Iterate

As more users visit your online store, your analytics tools will provide you with loads of data about how they are behaving on your website, how they got there in the first place, and more.

Make sure to draw insights from that data to iterate on your keyword targeting, page content, internal linking, meta tags, and more.

Conclusion

Remember, SEO has a wonderful way of lowering customer-acquisition costs in the long term.

Learning the basics of Shopify SEO and taking the necessary steps can be all the difference in outranking and outperforming your competitors.

Follow the checklist above, and you’ll most likely see Google reward you with more keyword rankings and more site traffic.

More resources:


Featured Image: Kaspars Grinvalds/Shutterstock





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Google Gives Sites More Indexing Control With New Robots Tag

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Google Gives Sites More Indexing Control With New Robots Tag


A new robots tag, called indexifembedded, lets websites give Google more direction over which content to index in search results.

With this tag you can tell Google to only index content on a page if it’s embedded through iframes and similar HTML tags.

The indexifembedded tag overrides the noindex tag.

That means you can use noindex to keep a whole URL out of search results, and apply the indexifembedded tag to make a specific piece of content indexable when it’s embedded on another webpage.

Google says it created this tag to fix an issue affecting media publishers:

“… while they may want their content indexed when it’s embedded on third-party pages, they don’t necessarily want their media pages indexed on their own.”

When To Use The Indexifembedded Tag

This new robots tag is not something that applies to a lot of publishers, as it’s intended for content that has a separate URL for embedding purposes.

For example, a publisher of a podcast may have webpages dedicated to each podcast episode, which each have their own URLs.

Then there would be URLs pointing directly to the media, which other sites can use to embed the podcast on one of their pages.

Such a URL might be used when inserting a podcast episode as a source of reference, like I recently did in an article about Googlebot crawling.

The podcast creator may not want the media URLs indexed in search results. Previously, the only way to keep them out of Google Search was with a noindex tag.

However, the noindex tag prevents embedding the content in other pages during indexing. So if the publisher wanted to allow embeddeding they were forced to have the media URL indexed as well.

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Now, with the indexifembedded tag, publishers have more control over what gets indexed.

The indexifembedded tag can be used with the noindex tag, and will override it when the URL with noindex is embedded into another page through an iframe or similar HTML tag.

Google offers the following example:

“For example, if podcast.host.example/playpage?podcast=12345 has both the noindex and indexifembedded tag, it means Google can embed the content hosted on that page in recipe.site.example/my-recipes.html during indexing.”

How To Use The Indexifembedded Tag

There are two ways to use this new robots tag.

To enable your content to be indexed only when it’s embedded on other pages, add the indexifembedded tag in combination with the noindex tag.

See an example of what the code would look like in the image below:

Screenshot from: developers.google.com/search/blog/, January 2022.

Alternatively, you can specify the tag in the HTTP header.

Refer to the image below for an example of how that would look.

google indexifembedded tagScreenshot from: developers.google.com/search/blog/, January 2022.

Currently, only Google supports the indexifembedded tag.

Source: Google Search Central Blog


Featured Image: IgorGolovniov/Shutterstock 





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How Construction Companies Rank In Search

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How Construction Companies Rank In Search


SEO in the homebuilding industry requires a mix of local, on-page, off-page, and technical organic search skills to maximize your ranking potential.

The right balance of these skills and tactics for your organization depends on your:

  • Targeting (regional vs. national).
  • Business type (custom vs. tract builders).
  • Availability of resources to get the work done.
  • And growth goals.

While the above factors will help you personalize and tailor your SEO strategy to your unique needs, you need a solid foundation to build from (see what I did there?).

Here are four areas marketers in the homebuilding space should be well aware of to help your residential construction company succeed in search.

1. Required On-Site Content Areas For Homebuilders

Your site is going to have sections devoted to prospects and customers.

Here are five areas your site needs to invest the most in for SEO success:

Floorplan Or Home Plan Pages

The most popular sections of builders’ sites are typically their floorplan pages.

Most of your website investment should go into making these pages full of imagery, specification, localized pricing/features, virtual walkthroughs, FAQs, and video-based content featuring the home designer or architect.

These pages should also be optimized for mobile devices as they may not be able to easily see detailed imagery as well as you could on a desktop or tablet.

Community Or Sales Office Pages

For homebuilders, your community or sales office location pages are your gateways to showing up in local search.

These pages should have a community name, address, and phone number information.

Additionally, for tract builders, each community page should contain information about what it’s like living in the area and a gallery of your homes (with rich localized text descriptions).

Even better if you can include a map with nearby attractions, restaurants, grocery stores, and watering holes.

For custom or on your lot builders, these location pages should also have localized information about:

  • The build process.
  • Any permits needed.
  • Video testimonials from happy customers from that area.
  • A gallery of homes built in the area.
  • Frequently asked questions (with FAQ schema implemented on the page).

Featured Product Pages

Builders work with a variety of vendors and contractors throughout the build process.

These vendors make an impact on your buyer’s decision because there is an association of the quality of the vendors’ material with the buyer’s perception of the brand.

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Homebuilders that have clear product information on their website can use this to their advantage in helping ensure that the buyer feels confident because they are using premium products.

These pages help both from an SEO and a sales process perspective.

Building Process

For custom homebuilders, buyers need to understand the lengthy, multi-phase process of homebuilding.

You should consider creating a timeline infographic, guide, videos, or a series of articles that describe this.

Most of this content is usually documented internally but builders who can make this public-facing (even if it’s somewhat abbreviated) will help educate and qualify buyers during the sales process.

Blog Content

Homebuilders are going to struggle from an SEO perspective without some section of their website devoted to fresh, educational content for the home buyer.

For tract or spec builders, this content should focus on the financing and selection process of the existing home.

For custom home builders, this needs to speak to a broader range of topics could include:

  • Finding land.
  • Preparing your land.
  • Financing.
  • Working with the builder.
  • Inspecting the home before moving in.
  • And much more.

2. SERP Features For Homebuilders

The high involvement and long home purchase process create several opportunities for showing up for several SERP features.

Local Pack

Homebuilders’ first steps in improving their local SEO presence should involve optimizing and verifying their Google Business Profile(s).

This should be done at the local office or branch level, and you will need to build out a profile for each (sales office or community) location.

After optimizing your GBP, you should now focus on generating 5-star reviews through a review-building program, which will further help you rise in the local SERPs.

Knowledge Pack

Each of your communities (for tract builders) or sales offices (for on-your-lot builders) can show up with an individualized knowledge pack.

The knowledge pack is chock full of location information (supplied by your Google Business Profile), user-generated Q&As, reviews (from Google and 3rd party), associated social profiles, and more.

Image Pack

The highly visual nature of new homes creates opportunities for builders to show up in image packs.

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Image packs typically contain images from the builder’s website as well as reshared images from home building aggregators, YouTube, and local publications.

Along with high-quality photography, homebuilders need to invest in content distribution and PR strategy to disseminate their visual creative assets across channels.

People Also Ask

There are dozens of commonly asked questions that your team members have answered for prospects and customers about the home buying and building process.

If you have a help desk, a lot of this information can be mined from there.

In any case, your website can show up frequently within the People Also Ask (PAA) SERP feature using FAQs on your site.

Further, by implementing FAQ schema, you provide a signal to search engines and are giving your site the best shot at gaining the PAA SERP feature.

FAQ schema is relatively easy to implement depending on your CMS.

3. Off-Page SEO Opportunities

Homebuilders typically have a lot of low-hanging link building opportunities given they are well connected with vendors, partners, and organizations in the community.

Here are two off-page opportunities to invest in.

Link Building

Homebuilders have relationships with suppliers, trade partners, vendors, contractors, realtors, customers, media, and people though out the community.

The volume of these relationships scales even more broadly when looking at national or regional homebuilders who are found in multiple locations.

Marketers for homebuilders should create a list in their CRM of potential link building opportunities and ensure there is a process to gaining a backlink from every website you have a relationship with.

Review Building

Generating positive reviews on third-party sites or Google is one of the most impactful off-page SEO opportunities for your team.

As you complete projects with buyers, you should have an automated system for outreach to encourage (happy or high Net Promoter Score) customers to leave reviews on Google, Houzz, New Home Source, and other sites that aggregate builder reviews.

If you are using your CRM to its fullest extent, you should be keeping track of the customers that left you 5-star reviews so that you can work with them in the future to build out case studies, rely on them for customer reference calls or potentially sell to them again in the future.

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Along with an automated review request system, you should incentivize your sales team to encourage review building, as well.

Online reviews are worth their weight in gold, and you should be rewarding your sales team (with cash) if they are ones that pushed the customer to leave their online review.

Many review sites prohibit incentivizing your customers to leave reviews, but there are several creative ways to make it easy for them.

4. Common SEO Mistakes To Avoid

The list of common SEO mistakes is long. Here are two that builders should avoid:

Hidden Content

Larger homebuilders have more sophisticated CMS functionality that allows for more personalization and localization of content.

Though this can be useful from a UX perspective, you need to balance this with Google’s ability to crawl your site.

If you are hiding specific content from users in certain locations and if Google doesn’t have any means to crawl this hidden content, then you risk not having that content indexed in Google.

Content Deprecation Issues

The other major mistake that is more common with Tract builders is the excessive amount of content that needs to be deprecated and redirected when all the homes in a community are sold out.

New communities have the propensity to generate inbound links, to new communities, from local news and other sources when they are announced to the public.

301 redirection to a relevant category or city page will give you the best opportunity at retaining link equity built up at the URL.

Alternately, you can update the page and let the visitor know the community is sold out but that they should look at the provided list of nearby communities.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are a variety of skill sets and resources that homebuilders need to stand out in local and organic search.

As the competition in this space continues to grow, builders who have a strong local and national SEO presence, a system for generating 5-star reviews across local channels – and most importantly, a raving fan base of happy customers – are going to see the greatest success in the SERPs.

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