When I came to the Richmond American Homes marketing department, there was a lot of buzz about SEO and social media. The national homebuilder wanted to increase traffic to the website and, of course, build user trust and rapport. But, although the company had started a task force for SEO and was in the process of hiring an agency to handle social media, the team wasn’t quite sure where to start.
That’s where I came in.
A Lot of Cooks in the Blogging Kitchen
Richmond American Homes has been building homes across the nation for dozens of years. The company, marketing department included, is well established and bursting with resources. The upside to this was that opportunities for collaboration abounded. The downside was that there were a whole lot of cooks in the do-we-build-a-blog kitchen. So, before we could even start a blog, a lot of opinions and concerns needed to be heard and then addressed.
The writers were concerned about having enough time to write and edit articles, especially during busy campaign weeks.
The legal team was concerned about language and promises. They wanted to make sure that nimble content (like blogs and social media) didn’t make any promises RAH couldn’t keep.
The management team was concerned about blog comments and social media reviews. How would they control the press? What if someone said something negative or inappropriate? In fact, with this contingent of the team, the word “blog” invoked a certain level of discomfort.
Making Everyone Feel Heard
After identifying the concerns and needs of each group, it was time to start strategizing. And it was important that each group felt it had been heard, which meant addressing their concerns in a strategic brief.
For the writers, this meant a workflow plan that gave each team ample time to review the articles while still maintaining a regular publishing schedule. It also meant creating a content repository: articles written and approved before the blog even launched, ready to be published during a busy week when approval hiccups or large campaign launches caused delays. Finally, it meant plans for repurposing existing content—content that had been published in print or exclusive newsletters and had already been approved by the appropriate legal and management team members.
For the legal team, the workflow also clearly outlined its role in the approval process before articles could be published.
For the management team, the strategy focused on creating a more comfortable terminology (calling the blog a “resource center” or “article center” rather than a “blog”), a plan to launch without comments and a very clear outline of the goals and benefits of a blog (for both SEO and building rapport) and how we would achieve them.
Connecting to the Larger Goals
With the primary goals of the company in mind—increased SEO value (and therefore traffic) and building a rapport with users that drove them to seriously consider RAH products—our strategy focused on SEO and content value. It identified content that our target audiences were searching for and would find useful. It also identified a target ratio for our blog topics, assigning more value to (and thus more articles on) the Local Homebuying and For Buyers topics, but also addressing secondary audiences (just less frequently) within the topical categories Homeowner Resources, For Sellers, Home Loans, and Insurance.
At the end of the day, quality was the most important objective: delivering the information users wanted in the same words they were using to search.
Its first month out the gate, the blog, How to Buy a Home, saw just over 1,000 unique visitors. Three months later, that number had nearly doubled. And heat maps indicate blog visitors are engaging with the content: clicking call-to-action links, digging deeper into the blog itself (by clicking on featured posts or going to the second page of posts) and, most importantly, navigating back to the main Richmond American Homes website to search for homes and neighborhoods.
And that is how we measure success.
With a long sales funnel (no one clicks a “buy your house now!” button), engagement has been the key. And, so far, the effort has paid off. Still, as all successful content marketers know, our work is always evolving. What other strategies and tactics have you employed to increase traffic and content value within the context of a blog aimed at a national audience?