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Of all the sources driving people to your website, perhaps none are more important than online search engines.

Don’t get us wrong, it’s still essential to have a robust paid search and digital advertising strategy in place to compete in a competitive homebuilding market. But if you overlook the importance of search engine optimization (SEO) in 2019, you risk missing out on a huge number of potential customers.

Why is this traffic so essential to your bottom line? Aside from our own anecdotal experience, it simply comes down to the fact that organic traffic is just that — organic. What that means is that you didn’t have to compel a person to click through to your website with a paid placement or some form of interruption marketing. Instead, your website showed up in front of them as one of the best places for them to find what they’re looking for — at least, that’s what Google and Bing think.

With that in mind, here are five things you need to keep in mind when updating your website in the year ahead.

Page Speed is Essential

A slow website will frustrate users, but it’ll also face ranking penalties in organic search results. Although Google noted in a blog post last year that page speed ranking would only affect the slowest of the slow website out there, it’s also made it clear that performance and speed are among their top priorities through programs such as the AMP Project (AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages).

If you’re not interested in optimizing your site for SEO, however, then do it for your users. How much does it matter to them? A recent study from the BBC found that for every additional second it takes for a page to load, 10 percent of users leave.

Want to see how your website stacks up right now? Try out Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool for a breakdown of where your site excels and where it could be faster.

Security is More Important Than Ever

Giving users a safer, more secure browsing experience is another priority for Google in 2019.

Back in 2014, Google published a blog post indicating that websites with encrypted connections (denoted by “https://” in your address bar) would receive a slight rankings boost in search results. In 2018, however, it got a lot more serious about giving users peace of mind by announcing that its Chrome browser would begin alerting users when a site wasn’t hosted over a secure connection.

While it’s anyone’s guess as to how much higher a secure website could rank above an insecure one, Google has made it clear — both in paid search and in its leading browser — that they’re serious about protecting consumers. Regardless, we think it’s safe to assume that having an SSL-encrypted site is no longer a “nice thing to have” and is an absolute necessity in 2019.

Bing Still Matters

Contrary to popular opinion, Bing is not something you can afford to ignore. Though Microsoft’s search engine lags behind Google in regard to market share, it is the clear-cut alternative for the time being. This is in large part due to the fact that it’s the default search engine for new Windows PCs, but it’s also because Bing powers the results for searches conducted on Yahoo! as well as AOL and is the paid-search-provider for the fledgling privacy-focused search engine DuckDuckGo.

Regardless of what your own personal thoughts about Bing are, and even if the search engine represents only a small fraction of the total search market, it’s important to remember that billions of searches are conducted with Bing every month.

The good news? It doesn’t require a massive investment of time or resources on your side to keep your SEO strategy in line with Bing at the same time as Google, so don’t worry about it costing you a lot of money to reach that smaller audience.

Google My Business and Bing Places for Business Listings Will Improve Your Visibility

One of the best ways to improve your rankings — and even enhance your paid advertising — is to claim and flesh out your Google My Business and Bing Places for Business listings.

These listings can be filled with additional details about your communities and homes and are prominently displayed alongside search results on Google and Bing. While they’re more likely to show up for geographically relevant users, they are regularly displayed for search queries when it makes sense contextually.

Better yet, you can use your listings to improve your paid search placements with additional details such as directions and a tappable phone number. In other words, there’s no reason not to be using these.

Nothing Beats Good Content

Ultimately, we’ve come to a point where both Google and Bing are generally advanced enough to discern between “good” content and content that’s just designed to generate search engine traffic.

Always remember that search engines are here for one thing: to help people find what they’re looking for. So, whether you’re blogging or putting together content for your website’s various pages, don’t focus on how each word or link is going to improve your ranking. Instead, think about how the pages or posts you’re developing would help users (i.e., real people) get the answers they’re in search of.

Try as you might, you simply can’t design your website to “trick” search engines into sending you more traffic. The rule is simple in 2019: Quality wins.

Not sure how to define the “quality” of the content on your site? It’s subjective to be sure, but if you’re worried about whether or not you’re on the right track, just ask yourself this one question: “Does this help people find exactly what they’re looking for?”

Need help with your SEO strategy in 2019? Let’s have a conversation.

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