This week on The Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast, Jimmy Schaefer of Real Reach Marketing Group joins Greg and Kevin to discuss which SEO basics to focus on to boost digital marketing efforts.
SEO is critical to any home builder's digital marketing plan, yet many builders are not making it a priority. There are different reasons for this. Jimmy says, “…they get lazy and they get distracted and they focus on something else and they let that go to the wayside, and then they're all of a sudden, you know, the market changes. Like now, and they're like, oh no. We stopped marketing because we didn't need to, and then they start scrambling back together and like, we need to do this again. We need to get back to basics and then they start it back up.”
Home builders need to evaluate their SEO strategies to determine what simple steps could be improved. Jimmy explains, “A lot of them are not doing some of the basics. So, like internal linking, which is a huge factor in SEO, and accessibility which is gonna be huge coming up. I think Google's really gonna start dropping people's websites that aren't accessible, and I don't think a lot of builders have that in their sites yet. I think they're really missing that key. They need to start making sure their websites are accessible.”
Listen to this week’s episode to learn more about SEO fundamentals and how they can improve digital marketing.
About the Guest:
Jimmy Schaefer, founder, and president of RealReach Marketing Group has spent his career providing digital marketing solutions and strategies to New Home Builders and Developers. Jimmy is a certified Online Marketing Professional and Google Ads Certified Partner as well as a licensed Drone Pilot and videographer. He also holds a Certified New Homes Sales Professional designation with the NAHB.
As a speaker at the South East Builders Conference and the International Builder Show, Jimmy shares his knowledge of digital marketing strategies, SEO, and video marketing with builders and sales associates. Jimmy is the past Chair and Life Director of Florida Sales and Marketing Council and a past President and Life Director of the Tampa Bay Builders Sales and Marketing Council. He is also a past member of the Tampa Bay Builders Association Board of Directors and recipient of the Associate of the Year by the TBBA.
Greg Bray: [00:00:00] Hello everybody, and welcome to today's episode of The Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast. I'm Greg Bray with Blue Tangerine,
Kevin Weitzel: and I'm Kevin Weitzel with OutHouse.
Greg Bray: and we are excited today to welcome to the show, Jimmy Shaefer. Jimmy is the Founder and President of RealReach Marketing Group. Welcome, Jimmy. Thanks for joining us.
Jimmy Schaefer: Thanks, Greg. I appreciate it. Great to be here.
Greg Bray: Well, Jimmy, as we start off, we just wanna get to know you a little bit. So, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Jimmy Schaefer: All right. Well, I live in Tampa, Florida. I have a marketing company called RealReach Marketing, uh, specializing in the home [00:01:00] builder/developer vertical, and we do websites, SEO, pay-per-click, so forth.
Kevin Weitzel: That's too much business there, Jimmy. I need some independent, personal juicy scoop about Jimmy Shaefer. Tell us about why you're ridiculously in shape or some personal tidbit that we'll only learn, our listeners will only learn on our podcast.
Jimmy Schaefer: All right. Well, in my 10 years of college, I used to tend bar and I was a show tender before show tenders were known. I used to blow fire and throw bottles and flip things around and it was a good time. That's why it took me 10 years to get through college.
Kevin Weitzel: That's cool.
Greg Bray: So, throwing fire. Okay. That sounds pretty cool. That's for sure. Well, how did you go from throwing fire to getting into home builder marketing? Tell us a little bit about that journey.
Jimmy Schaefer: The last bar I was in was in a place called Ybor City. You may have heard of in Tampa, and it was kind of a seedy place. We used to get five deep at the bar[00:02:00] and one of the patrons was mad at me, and I guess I wasn't serving them fast enough and they threw a glass at me and it smashed beside my head. I decided it was time to get outta the bar business and get a real job.
Greg Bray: And real job is selling new homes or did, was there something about that that pulled you in?
Jimmy Schaefer: Actually, guess it was 92, it wasn't selling new homes. It was a broker that started putting new homes in a book. It was a spiral-bound book and they printed it monthly and we would take it out and give it to realtors to try to get realtors to sell new homes because at the time realtors didn't sell new homes. They just did the resales, and they had a book. The MLS was a book if you remember. So, it had the resale book and the new home book, and that's how we started in the new homes part.
Kevin Weitzel: And to our millennial listening audience, books are things that are like the things you read on your phone, but have paper in them. Sorry, go ahead.
Jimmy Schaefer: And right about that time, Al Gore invented the internet. So, so [00:03:00] they're like, hey, let's put this on the internet, and we're like, okay, nobody knows what the internet is. We started putting computers in realtors' offices because they didn't have them at the time and we'd have to download plug-in, boo-doo-doo, through landline.
Again, the millennials who don't know what that is, and it would update that way. That eventually became homebuilder.com, which you may remember. Which became move.com. Which then became what else? Realtor.com, and then eventually, the sales team, which was me, got sold to BDX. So, I worked for BDX before I started my own business.
Greg Bray: No, Jimmy, that's a lot of history in just a few sentences, and just for the record, we love our millennial listeners.
Kevin Weitzel: We do. It was a lighthearted joke. It was just a joke.
Greg Bray: But Jimmy, I mean, that's going back to the beginnings of real internet marketing and selling homes online, and the idea that people are actually searching online, looking for homes was brand new at that point. I remember those days, unfortunately, I'm that old too.[00:04:00] So, what made you decide then to get into your own marketing agency?
Jimmy Schaefer: Well, how do I put this? I didn't love the culture change from the big corporate move.com to smaller private BDX. So, I got a little frustrated there. I stayed there for a year and said, I'm gonna do this on my own. That was about 10 years ago.
Greg Bray: Well, just give us a little bit more detail about what RealReach Marketing does and kind of who you've been working with.
Jimmy Schaefer: We do web design and search engine optimization. We do a lot of SEO, Google Ads, social media, and we do a lot of video as well. Which is not as you know, hand in hand with SEO and YouTube. Builders are getting to do more and more of that as well as my other clients. I do do a lot of other verticals besides builders.
Greg Bray: Gotcha. Gotcha. Well, you've been talking about SEO at SEBC, and so because of that presentation, I thought it would be great for us to dive in on that particular topic a little bit, obviously, there's other things I'm sure we could talk about [00:05:00] for a long time, but I thought we'd focus there.
So, let's dive in a bit and just give us kind of your feel on where SEO kind of fits within the overall digital marketing strategy for a builder. Is it the side thing? Is it the thing? Kind of, where should that be on the priority list?
Jimmy Schaefer: Well, I think where it should be and where it is are different for a lot of builders. I feel it should be very important. I mean, there's only a few spots underneath the paid ads. Right? So, if you're searching for new homes in Tampa, you're gonna have the paid ads at the top, which they should obviously try to be in, and then the map listings, which SEO is gonna help you be on the map, and then there's eight listings underneath that, that are organic, which are gonna have a better click-through and better audience anyway. So, I think they really need to, I mean, and some builders do really high SEO and it's rare because some of the larger builders don't, and then if you do a search, you see some of these smaller guys that are really good at SEO and they'll show up before the bigger builders.
Kevin Weitzel: So, I have a [00:06:00] question on the whole SEO thing, and we're gonna hear the eye rolls of all the listeners in the marketing side of things, but this is a question that I've heard from countless home building owners, principles of home building. I've already spent the money on this SEO. Why do we have to spend more? Why do you have to spend more?
Jimmy Schaefer: You have to keep up with it. So, Google's gonna look for, they want to return to the user the most relevant answer to what they're searching for. Right? So, your site needs to be up to date and updated constantly, and then Google sees when you make changes. I constantly have to do SEO.
Greg Bray: Kevin, I would add to that, it's a competitive environment out there. Right? Your competitor may not have been doing it and they start tomorrow and all of a sudden you've gotta defend yourself against their efforts too. So, it's a constant. Nobody wants to have to just keep spending money to spend money forever, right? And that's where some of this understanding of why it's so important is critical and why we wanted to talk about it, even more, to help with that.
Jimmy, when you think about SEO for [00:07:00] builders, you mentioned this idea that there's only eight spots there on that front page, so to speak. Although sometimes the pages are different on what you look at today and tomorrow and everything else. Google's always changing things, but how critical is a first-page listing today? Do you suddenly get tons of business just because you get on that front page or is it, you know, just one of these goals that we want to check off for an ego type of situation?
Jimmy Schaefer: Well, let me ask you this, Greg. When's the last time you went to page two in Google?
Greg Bray: Oh, you pulled that out, did you? What's the famous thing? The best place to hide a dead body is on page two in Google.
Jimmy Schaefer: Yes.
Greg Bray: Fair enough. Fair enough.
Jimmy Schaefer: I think, I think it's very important.
Greg Bray: So, tell us then, these builders that you say are not giving it as much importance as you feel they should, where is the disconnect in all of that? Why do these executives that Kevin's talking about, why are they not quite comfortable [00:08:00] totally embracing SEO as a critical activity?
Jimmy Schaefer: I was talking to one of my clients just yesterday and he said that they get lazy and they get distracted and they focus on something else and they let that go to the wayside, and then they're all of a sudden, you know, the market changes. Like now, and they're like, oh no. We stopped marketing because we didn't need to, and then they start scrambling back together and like, we need to do this again. We need to get back to basics and then they start it back up.
Kevin Weitzel: Does the intangible factor play any role in the nonimportance, if you will, or of the strategy of a home builder of having SEO being top of mind? You know, cause when you buy a new website, boom. It's a flashy new website. The owners can see it. When you buy renderings, boom. You can see these brand-new beautiful drawings on your website. Is that it's so intangible that people don't feel the value?
Jimmy Schaefer: I think that's part of it as well as there may be a lot of people in this industry that are not sincere, and they may have gotten ripped off in the past with someone that's saying [00:09:00] they're doing SEO for them and they don't see anything happening. I try to provide my clients with actual stats of keywords and where they are, so they can actually see that that keyword is climbing to the top. Which I think is helpful when they can visualize that okay, we were here and now we're here, and it actually makes sense to them.
Greg Bray: I think you're right, Jimmy, on that bad actors, and we say in that industry, I think you're referring to SEO providers, right?
Jimmy Schaefer: Yes.
Greg Bray: A lot of people making crazy promises. For $10 a month, we'll get you ranked for whatever. You know, and you get these folks that are just trying to take money on a recurring basis and do as little work as possible for that money. It does give people a bad taste too, you know, if they've been burned before. For sure. So, I mean, that kind of leads into another idea then. How do we avoid getting burned as a buyer of SEO services? How do we pick a partner well? What are some of the suggestions you have for vetting an SEO provider?
Jimmy Schaefer: I would say that the biggest is reviews and [00:10:00] find someone that you trust and get some referrals. Talk to those people and make sure that they did a good job for them.
Greg Bray: This is Greg from Blue Tangerine, and I just wanted to tell you how excited we are about our upcoming event, The Home Builder Digital Marketing Summit. It's coming up September 21st and 22nd in Phoenix, Arizona. Now, this is an event that you do not want to miss. We're gonna be talking about websites, SEO, analytics reports, how to use social media influencers more, how to improve your online reviews, how to really do everything you need to do to start selling homes online.
Again, The Home Builder Digital Marketing Summit on September 21st and 22nd in Phoenix, Arizona. Go to buildermarketingsummit.com. Click register. Please be sure to join us at The Home Builder Digital Marketing Summit.
Are there any specific deliverables? You mentioned you provide keyword reports. Are there other types of deliverables that you think a provider should be ready and willing to offer that [00:11:00] can help show that they're serious about what they're doing?
Jimmy Schaefer: Oh, absolutely. I mean, there should be strategy in place. A plan, first of all. This is what we're gonna do every month. You know, we're gonna do this many blogs. We're gonna speed up your website from this to this. All those factors that you can actually deliver on and show that they're changing. So, we did these five things and made this keyword move from here to here.
Kevin Weitzel: What are some key mistakes that you see some of your competitors, maybe some are more of those questionable companies doing?
Jimmy Schaefer: Probably. I don't really see too much. I just hear of a lot of people saying, oh, that I've been doing this for a year and they haven't done anything. So, it's hard for me to have visibility into what somebody else is saying they're doing.
Kevin Weitzel: Let me rephrase it then. How about what mistakes do you see home builders making in their SEO strategies?
Jimmy Schaefer: A lot of them are not doing some of the basics. So, like internal linking, which is a huge factor in SEO, and accessibility which is gonna be huge coming [00:12:00] up. I think Google's really gonna start dropping people's websites that aren't accessible, and I don't think a lot of builders have that in their sites yet. I think they're really missing that key. They need to start making sure their websites are accessible.
Greg Bray: Do you think Jimmy, that it's possible for a builder to have SEO services in-house and still do a good job, or is this becoming so detailed and so specific that you just absolutely have to have an outside expert to help?
Jimmy Schaefer: I would say it would depend on the size of a builder. I would think a large national company would have someone good enough trained in SEO that can keep up with it and knows how to do it correctly. They could do it, but I don't think it makes sense for the mid to smaller builders to have someone in-house.
Greg Bray: So, if somebody does have somebody in-house or is trying to do things on their own, what are some of those tips that you've been sharing recently, and like you did at SEBC, that are ways to improve SEO.
Jimmy Schaefer: First of all, you need to focus on user experience. That's the biggest factor. Of the 10 hacks, that's number [00:13:00] one is user experience, mobile first user experience not desktop user experience. Back in the day, we used to build the website, make it look good on a big screen, or on a laptop, and then secondary, you'd go look at it on the mobile device and go, okay. It looks okay. You know, and that's not the way you do it anymore. Now, you build it for the small screen and make sure that's the best user experience, and then you look at it on the bigger screen and say, okay, we need to do this. We need to do some custom CSS to make it look better on the bigger screen.
Greg Bray: Mobile first experience. When you say that I think some people go well, but why does Google care about experience? How is that SEO? Shouldn't I be messing with keywords. Can you tell us a little bit more about why that user experience is at the top of your list?
Jimmy Schaefer: Sure. So, Google, again, wants to return to the person searching the most current up to date, and best experience that they can on that website. So, that's why Google goes to every website, crawls it, looks at the user [00:14:00] experience, makes sure that the elements are not too close cause you need to click and touch on those buttons and not hit two buttons with your finger. Speed. Google wants to make sure that your site comes up fast. The core web values now is all about user experience and speed and usability.
Greg Bray: And of course with builders, one of their challenges is we love our big, beautiful pictures. Don't we? We have these giant photographs and if we're just looking at them on the desktop we could really be slowing down that mobile experience if we haven't paid attention to some of that as well.
Jimmy Schaefer: Very true.
Greg Bray: So, that was one of your first ones. What's a, what's another top tip Jimmy that's on your list?
Jimmy Schaefer: The next one, I think I've already mentioned this, but I think it's worth mentioning again, is the ADA compliance. I have some tools that if the builder doesn't know if their site's ADA compliant they can send it to me. I'll run it through a system and tell them what needs to be fixed. Google's gonna crawl that site and make sure that if someone's on there and they're impaired, just like you have to make sure [00:15:00] that they have a ramp to get up the stairs for somebody in a wheelchair. Same thing with the website is that if someone's impaired you need to have tools on there. Maybe they have epilepsy and they need to turn off the movement of the website, or they're blind and they need a reader that tells them what these elements are. You need to make sure that you have those in there.
Greg Bray: Yeah, and if anybody's interested in learning more about that, we've done a couple other episodes related to ADA compliance on the website. So, check out some of those, including some of the legal issues that can come beyond the SEO benefits.
Jimmy Schaefer: Yes.
Greg Bray: That's a great reminder. For sure.
Kevin Weitzel: I mean, even just simple tricks of the trade. When I first met Jimmy and this has gotta be a good five or six years ago, he had basically said, if you're putting videos on your website and you're not doing subtitles because the subtitles are searchable. So, he goes, why not subtitle them? Number one, it makes it ADA compliant, but then also it makes it also much more searchable. You have any other tips like that?
Jimmy Schaefer: Well, that's a good one.
Kevin Weitzel: It was yours. You're the one that gave it to me. I, it's, that was not Kevinism. That was just regurgitated stuff that you had fed me.[00:16:00]
Jimmy Schaefer: The video is a great point though because a lot of people have blogs that they may have written a couple years ago. They probably ranked really well back in the day and now they're dropping down. So, why not take the content that you've already made, make a video out of it, make it a script, and then put that video on top? You know, freshen it up. YouTube's the second largest search engine. So, having something on a video from YouTube on your website is going to help your SEO as well.
Greg Bray: So, Jimmy, any, any last, like the one more tip you wanted to make sure you got to?
Jimmy Schaefer: Google My Business is probably gonna be the other important part that you wanna make sure that you're keeping that up to date. You're putting specials on there. All your services are on there, and you can post. I mean, that's Google's answer to social media is Google My Business. That's getting more and more importance and getting you show up on the map listing.
Greg Bray: Great point. Great point. Well, Jimmy, are there any particular key marketing trends that you've been watching or looking for, [00:17:00] especially in the home builder space, that you think people should be paying attention to?
Jimmy Schaefer: There's some new technology. Now that Apple allows you to opt-out of the cookies, that retargeting and remarketing. There's some really, I don't wanna call it creepy, but some new technology where they don't need the cookies. There's a program, 70% of the people that come to your website, you can't track, right? They're unknown. So, this particular company and their software detects the IP address and mails them a postcard to their home address. So, it's a postcard remarketing. Things like that are coming down the pipeline are great tools to keep up on.
Greg Bray: It is a little creepy though, you're right when things just show up unexpected. For sure. But what are places, Jimmy, that you go to find, you know, new ideas and stay current and learn?
Jimmy Schaefer: I'm in a couple groups on Facebook that are paid SEO membership groups and I learn so much from them, things that they're doing that work that I can implement. That's the best value that I've gotten is those kind of groups.
Greg Bray: Well, [00:18:00] Jimmy, as we kind of wrap up, we appreciate your time today. Do you have any last words of advice for our audience?
Jimmy Schaefer: Yeah, if you take one thing from here again, I would go back to the accessibility and speed, those two factors. The accessibility's easy to fix. There's some plugins that you can get that are pretty quick to fix it. That don't cost that much. The speed's a little tricky sometimes, but if they need some help, I'm sure one of us can give them a hand showing them how to speed up their website.
Greg Bray: Everybody wants it fast. They want their answers now. That's for sure. Alright, well, Jimmy, if somebody wants to reach out and connect with you, what's the best way for them to get in touch?
Jimmy Schaefer: Realreachmarketing.com or I'm on all the social at Jimmy Shafer. LinkedIn, Jimmy Schaffer. Yeah, shoot me a text, DM me, I'll get back to you.
Greg Bray: Awesome. Well, thanks again for sharing with us today, and thank you everybody for listening to The Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast. I'm Greg Bray with Blue Tangerine.
Kevin Weitzel: I'm Kevin Weitzel with OutHouse. Thank you.