The National Association of Realtor’s suggests that over 90% of buyers start their Real Estate search online.
That makes your SEO and marketing strategy a top priority. Nearly all user enquiries come through organic search and not paid advertising in Google and other similar advertising platforms.
Simply put, higher rankings can translate into higher sales. But, the Real Estate market can be a complicated industry to promote online.
Real Estate SEO and Marketing is more complex than other forms online marketing for a number of reasons.
Real Estate websites tend to be large and complex due to the high level of functionality and searchability required to meet the needs of your site visitors.
If you are thinking of hiring an SEO Service for your online real estate venture, make sure you find a service that has a track record in online real estate marketing and SEO.
This brief SEO and Marketing Guide for real estate agents and professionals is designed to get you thinking about the most important SEO tasks. I will also show you how to implement them for yourself or hire an SEO Service that understands the online Real Estate market.
UNDERTAKE DETAILED KEYWORD RESEARCH
Keyword competition in real estate is extremely high. Everyone is competing for a similar set of keyword combinations. Phrases such as, “Homes for sale” and generic words like the name of the city or town make ranking on the first page in Google Search Engine Results notoriously difficult.
Your most important keyword research should be for long-tail terms. Because competition is so high for the biggest target keywords in the industry, doing your homework and developing a solid long-tail keyword strategy will help your website rank better in Google Search Engine Results.
As an individual real estate agent or small firm, the truth is, you may never be able to break into the top ten for, “La Quinta Homes for Sale” because you are competing with large main brokerage sites and other key real estate websites like Homes.com, Zillow, Trulia, and Realtor.com.
However, if you can successfully target some of the longer-tail keywords which have lower competition but a high conversion rate, you can create a website that brings in an increasing number of sales over time.
KEEP YOUR URL’S CLEAN
Once you have your keywords mapped out it’s time to start applying them. If you work in multiple locations, decide on your url structure before you build your site.
This is crucial. Your URL structure and its keywords will have an accumulative effect over time that either boosts your search position or creates Google-esque confusion.
Confusion looks like this: /idaho-homes, /seattle-houses, etc.
Examples of good URL architecture would be:
- /budget-houses-for sale-idaho
Whatever structure you decide upon, stick to it. The clearer and more systematic your URL structure, the easier it will be for Google to determine which pages matter most and what they ought to be ranking for.
Sub Domain Issues
Estate Agents who cover multiple cities require an even more complex SEO and Marketing strategy to accommodate the wide range of variables such as keywords, location, price range and home and building specifications.
I suggest that 99% of your backlink strategies and page rank authority should focus on your main domain with links out to the sub domain. Property Estate Agents also have the additional complexity of Multi listing scripts (MLS) and IDX services.
This sometimes requires the use of Sub Domains. But, Avoid excessive use of sub-domains. Where directories are treated as part of the main site, sub-domains act as their own entity.
This means that any backlinks built to the individual sub-domains will not be attributed to the main site, splitting overall link value and limiting the ranking power of the main site.
MAINTAIN NATURAL LINK STRUCTURES
Make it easy for people to navigate your site. This may seem like a simply idea, but it takes time and thought. For me, it usually means a lead pencil and some scrap paper.
Put yourself in the shoes of an investor or potential buyer. Also understand that Google favours clear and natural internal link structures, menus and navigation. If you sell by region, have a regional menu.
Selling by price? Have a pricing menu. Make sure that the menus appear in the same position, in the same order, on every page.
Bread crumbs are also helpful on complicated web sites. breadcrumbs help people to visualise where they are in the labyrinth of your real estate listings.
Your site’s structure and navigation are crucial for three reasons and are fundamental for good SEO:
- Indexing – helping search engines find all your pages.
- Only if a page is indexed by a search engine (such as Google) can it appear on that engine’s results pages.
- Usability – helping users find what they want quickly (with as few clicks as possible)
- Link power – distributing it to all your pages.
Link power comes from other sites linking to yours. And for all but the least competitive of keywords, it is the most important factor in deciding where a page appears on search engine results pages (SERPs).
As discussed below, link power is crucial and your pages can’t have enough of it (especially the most important pages on your site).
One site that does this really well and is worthy of mention is Andrew Fortunes’, Great Colorado Homes. Great Colorado Homes has an intuitive and clean URL structure that makes site navigation a breeze.
The menu structure is minimal but it contains everything that someone searching for a property would want to see. The only thing missing that would increase the sites authority and user trust is a clearly marked about page and some tasty bread crumbs.
Never-the-less, the site is a pleasure to browse, even though I am 8,281 miles away from ever buying a home in Colorado.
DEVELOP SYSTEMATIC BACKLINK PROFILES
What is a Backlink Profile? It is the deliberate effort to create connections between one site and another as well as connections between pages on your site.
I have shown how this is done in detail elsewhere. Here, I will just cover the main ideas.
Your overall goal is to inform Google about which pages are the most important. You do that by creating link opportunities to that page – your “money page” more than your other pages.
In Real Estate, since your MLS change so often, you want a more permanent page – your Property or Region page to rank the best. That page will have a link to the evergreen MLS or IDX page or sub-domain.
Both kinds of back link strategies (internal and external) are important for your SEO.
Internal Link Profiles
Some pages are more important than others.
One of the ways you tell Google about it is by creating a clear link pattern internally or on-site. For your Real Estate website, it might look something like this. The key issue here is to create an ever-growing pattern of internal backlinks which over time increase the page rank for your most important pages. Each page is linked in a single direction.
External Link Profiles
These Backlinks originate from Social Media, High Profile websites that are somehow related to your market and other Content Marketing outlets such as Press Release sites.
The idea is to generate traffic by putting links to your articles which then build authority to your most important pages via carefully placed links in the article.
And so, an External Backlink Profile might look something like this. The key is to be methodical, deliberate in your choice of links and careful to maintain them in good “link neighbourhoods”. Avoid Spammy sites at all costs.
WRITE CLIENT FRIENDLY CONTENT
Creating high quality, hyper-local content. After you have performed thorough keyword research and decided on some great keywords, develop content that targets those keywords. Some things to keep in mind:
1. Try to target each keyword on a single page. For example, if you are targeting both buyers and sellers, create one page for buyers, and another for sellers. This helps search engines better understand the focus of your content.
2. Be consistent. Consistent content creation keeps your website fresh and relevant, encouraging the search engines to crawl your site more often while also fostering your community.
If you don’t have time to write your own content, hire freelance writers to take some of the work off your plate. Some of them may even have a real estate background.
I would also suggest looking for someone locally because they will be more familiar with the housing stock and real estate market in your area. Be picky.
3. Use tools that add value to your site. People looking for real estate are often considering a mortgage. Perhaps you can point them to a suitable lender.
Better yet, consider adding a free mortgage calculator widget so that people don’t need to leave your site. When thinking through your pages design and content, think about useful tools and not just about the sales pitch.
4. Write about things people care about. Some people will bemoan the fact that real estate agents have no imagination and simply put up posts showing the newest house on the market.
But is this a lack of imagination or wisdom? While it may be helpful to write about other aspects of your community, you are in the real estate game. People don’t come to your site looking for bus timetables or school carnivals.
They come looking for property. Put yourself in the mind of potential buyers and sellers. What are they looking for? What questions might they be asking?
So, I advocate staying close to your target audience
and staying on track with your subject. That said, mixing it up occasionally will not hurt your SEO.
Here are some suggestions on occasional pieces you could do:
- History of local architecture
- Rich, famous or infamous local characters buying homes
- New industry that might provide jobs to the area
- Home, yard and landscaping related products or news
- Local community events worth going to or worth mentioning
- New neighbourhoods, complexes, or communities being built
- Programs or home-buying assistance grants available in your area
USE SIMPLE, HIGH QUALITY IMAGES
Real Estate depends heavily on images. Make your images:
- High Quality
- Uniform in size
- Uniform in position
- Quick to load
- Complete with descriptions, alt tags, dimensions and titles
And avoid redundant images. Make it easy for your site visitors to find images by putting them in the same place on every page.
MONITOR YOUR SITE SPEED
Google has made it pretty plain that it counts site speed in its ranking factors. You want your site to load in under 3 seconds. After that, people begin to shut down and move on to another site. Real Estate websites rely on heavy resources.
Take a look at all the trinkets on your site and eliminate any that do not work toward a comfortable user experience and a call to action.
Keep your website clean and simple. Having snow fall on your page does not lead to sales but to an increasing number of irritating distractions.
Minimise the moving parts of your site. Auto Slide-shows are irritating and slow down your site. If I want to see the next picture, provide me with a simple “Next” button. One popular free service for managing and modifying page speed issues is Pingdom.
LEVERAGE YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA
Not all social media are created equal. In my experience Facebook is pretty much useless for most forms of communication in real estate. Twitter, Pinterest and Google plus are all good for business, as is Linkedin.
But you need to consider how to use them. For example, I have worked on Real Estate sites that sell to celebrities. So, articles on who is buying what, along with images of their flashy mansions, works well on the above sites – even Facebook.
People are interested in what Leonardo DiCaprio had for breakfast and also where he lives and how many swimming pools he has over looking a Californian golf course.
Twitter is good for mentioning trivia like the biggest sale of the month, biggest house of the month, current housing market news, etc. This is valuable information for investors, many of whom hang around Twitter.
Pinterest allows you to showcase stunning images of houses you are selling and is not only good for traffic, but also for possible sales. Google Places business page is also an asset.
It allows you to share your content on a clean, visually appealing way. it can also bring in a tonne of traffic and some valuable back links. Go to Google.com and type in “Luxury Desert Homes”. Look at that pretty thing on the right. Nice, eh? and all free!
OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER
A solid SEO strategy takes time to develop. Along the way you, or your SEO Service need to be monitoring and asking these additional questions:
- Which MLS IDX service is the most search-friendly?
- How is Google indexing and listing your content?
- What content do you need to write to will attract your target clients?
- How are you selecting your keywords – and why?
Real estate marketing online is a delicate business and patience is needed.
If you are hoping to keep your SEO and online Marketing in house, I suggest a Web Marketing Consultation that can provide ad hoc help when you need it and additional training to help you keep your marketing team ahead of the game.
Better to avoid the mistakes that others are making rather than fork out the cost of fixing what can become major online problems and penalties down the track.
If time, talent and opportunity are not available to you, I suggest you work with an SEO Service willing to enter in to short term contracts.
Avoid long term commitments to SEO Services that do not provide easy means of communication.
If you don’t feel you have the time or the expertise to create and implement a thorough SEO strategy, you may want to invest in hiring an experienced and trustworthy SEO to help guide you and implement the work.
SEO can definitely be an incredibly worthwhile investment, just be sure to avoid the common SEO traps and scams out there.