Great questions and you are absolutely on the right path and thinking.
Let’s dive into your questions:
1.What are the best practices to get the community pages ranking high?
Best practices in real estate SEO for higher ranking community pages center around user experience and keywords, in that order.
User experience is “giving the people what they want”. Giving them the right amount of information that they are looking for, preferably with a mix of media (text, images, video).
Keywords are trickier because this is where SEO focus has been since it’s inception, and most markets are saturated and hard to compete against.
General best practices are to ensure that the keyword you are looking to rank for is in prominent places (page title, page headers, image alt text, and sprinkled throughout your page copy). Be careful to avoid keyword stuffing.
Let’s take your Holland community page as an example, I ran a couple of quick tests, and it is consistently showing up on the second page of the SERPs. There are some big guns that are taking up the first page of results, but they’re still should be a little room to move here.
Look at this page as you would if you were looking to buy a home in Holland MI. Does it answer the typical questions your clients ask you? Can you demonstrate your real estate expertise here? (“buying in Holland MI”, “Holland MI vacation homes”).
You could also add photos or even videos in your community description (keeping people on your page a little longer can help). The benefit is that you could rank higher for those keywords, bringing the overall value of your community page up.
Where you will win is creating the best possible user experience that you can. Look at your competitor websites, and offer more relevant information that is in line with what buyers are looking for.
Keeping your page content fresh and updated is important, and plays into search engine preferences favourably. Our SEO team can lead you in the right direction on some higher-level steps to increase your ranking beyond best practices.
On a side note, you could also add a CTA to your pages to increase this page’s conversion.
2.Is there a good way to use the blog to connect to any of these pages that would help with the rankings?
Blogs are wonderful creatures and are sadly underused (or used improperly) in real estate.
Our clients that are active bloggers tend to do very well with site traffic. They cover interesting topics that provide a holistic approach to the services that they offer.
They often cover hot topics (festivals, events, local area news, architectural styles) that bring more eyeballs to their site than their listings typically would.
Blogs are first and foremost, a way to develop a relationship with your leads. They do not have to be real estate-focused but should tackle your market.
To use your blogs as a tool to help in community page rankings, talk about something related to the community you are targeting, and link back to your community page. This becomes a double-edged sword in your arsenal as you are ranking for the blog AND giving some love to your community page.
A great example of a blog this (which has been picked up by Google as a featured snippet, above everything else):
The important thing is to blog often (twice a month is a good place to start), BE INTERESTING, and link back to relevant pages on your website.
3.Are people having more success with leads by having the IDX snippet at the top, or the Community snippet at the top?
Your template was designed with user experience in mind, so it’s default layout with the community snippet first yields the best results, generally speaking.
However, it will never be the same result in every market. You could try A/B testing a couple of community pages using alternating layouts, and see which page has a longer dwell time (how much time your visitors are spending on the page). If you change the layout to test, make sure that you mark the dwell time before you make the changes to give you a benchmark.
Your Google Analytics account is really the key to seeing what works for your website.
Our SEO team can also help you analyze this through an SEO audit to give you more clues into the best formula for your market. Things like setting up your pages to earn the spot in Google coveted Featured Snippet spot can be just what you need.