What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of implementing a strategy or optimize a website in order to increase the free or organic traffic from search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Search engines show results for each of the myriad of searches that occur each day. Webmasters use SEO in an attempt to get their web pages listed higher in specific search results listings in order to drive more traffic to their website.
What is Real Estate SEO?
Real estate SEO is the application of search engine optimization techniques to real estate websites. For our purposes, we will focus on websites owned by real estate agents or agencies. While the broad SEO principles absolutely apply to real estate search engine optimization, there are also specific strategies we recommend to improve search traffic for real estate websites.
The Challenges of Real Estate SEO
The digital real estate landscape is dominated by big brands like Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com. Without a well designed SEO strategy followed by consistent execution, it’s very difficult for an individual real estate agent to start beating the big brands with regards to localized search traffic. With that said, because the challenge is great, few realtors are willing to put the time and effort into doing real estate SEO right. This means the opportunity is there for dedicated individuals looking to build a long-term asset with sustainable and consistent search traffic that leads to real leads and real business.
Organic vs. Paid Traffic
Search engine optimization (SEO) is one of those terms thrown around constantly by countless people. Everybody wants it, few understand it. Probably 9 out of 10 of our clients will ask us about SEO in some capacity during our time of working with them.
It’s important to understand what organic search traffic means. It refers to traffic you receive from a search engine that you don’t pay for. Instead, your site and information showed up to users in the search results, they clicked on it, and visited your site. Pretty good, right? Free traffic.
Paid traffic can also be effective, but as the name implies, you’re paying for it. Examples of this might be Facebook ads or Google Adwords.
The beauty of organic search traffic is that it’s fairly reliable once you achieve certain positions in the search engine results (assuming you maintain your site to Google’s liking). Obtaining and maintaining such a position in Google’s search results is a valuable thing. It’s why SEO is such a large part of online marketing.
What Doesn’t Work
Due to the competitive nature of search results, success requires doing many things right. Relying on a single aspect of an SEO strategy likely won’t yield the results you’re looking for. Here are some examples:
- IDX Integration with no other SEO strategy and execution – Many real estate professionals look to IDX integration as a SEO panacea. While we’re big fans of IDX integration for a number of reasons, simply adding indexable listings to your site is not likely to result in a flood of search traffic automatically.
- Simple on-page optimization without a back link strategy – While optimizing your content is important, it’s truly just the bare minimum for an SEO strategy. Optimizing your content is easy using our WordPress systems, but it’s just the beginning. Without a back link strategy and other SEO execution, on-page optimization won’t be enough.
- Average content – If you’re creating blog posts or landing pages that target specific keywords as part of an SEO strategy, the content has to be nothing less than excellent. Only the best content will rank for competitive keywords. A good test to execute on your content is to ask yourself the question: Could a freelance writer who lives in another part of the country and who has no intimate knowledge of my market be able to produce the same level of quality and depth on this piece of content? If the answer is yes, then you should improve the quality.
A Comprehensive Real Estate SEO Plan
An effective real estate SEO plan is multi-faceted. Some aspects of it are more important than others, but if your goal is truly to generate large amounts of search traffic, executing on each aspect well is key.
- Build your domain authority – One of the most important metrics of doing well in search rankings is your domain authority. You might have a perfectly optimized piece of content that matches up extremely well with a specific keyword, but if Google doesn’t value your entire website or your actual domain, you’re not likely to get traffic to that piece of content. Simply put, high authority domains plus well optimized and targeted content leads to search engine success. How do you build domain authority? The main way is by high quality backlinks to your website from other well established, quality websites. These links can be to your root domain and sub pages within your site. You want natural links that accumulate consistently over time.
- Local content & local links – Our goal is more than just search engine traffic. Rather we want search engine traffic that will lead to real estate leads. As such, we want local search engine traffic. By building high quality local content and getting other businesses and websites home to your locale to link to your site, you can build authority for your website specific to your locale. By establishing a highly respected website with deep, local content, you can start to compete successfully with the big brand real estate websites that are not specific to your city or town.
- Long-tail keywords & content – As you build content on your website, targeting specific long-tail keywords can be an effective way to drive long-tail search traffic. Use tools such as Google’s keyword tool to find long-tail keywords to build content around.
- Build other content distribution channels – One of the take-aways from recent Google algorithm changes is that Google prefers websites that don’t get 100% of their traffic from search. Google wants websites that people are genuinely interested in, not just websites that are good at manipulating search algorithms. The theory is that if a website is generating buzz via social media or other channels, then it must be a quality website. As such, one of your goals should be to build other distribution channels via places like Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook or email newsletters in order to generate non-search traffic to your website. Not only will this bring in additional traffic, but it should help drive more search traffic over time as Google take notice of this “buzz.”
- IDX integration – Back to integration IDX… as you build domain authority, you will definitely want to add IDX integration. Indexed listings are a good thing… if you have a domain and website that Google values. Moreover, IDX is a fantastic feature for your users and can be instrumental in lead generation.
- Consistent, fresh content – One of the other minor SEO factors is consistency of new content. When Google realizes that your site generates regular, fresh content, it will begin to crawl your webpage more. This is one of those smaller, but still important SEO aspects that often gets overlooked. Don’t generate filler content for your website, but work hard to keep a regular schedule of new content for your users.
- Build quality resources – In addition to more dynamic, blog-like content, consider building some high quality, long form resources for your readers. Perhaps a guide for moving to your city or a guide to buying an investment property. High quality resources help create high ranking subpages on your site as other websites link to your resources. This helps build domain authority, provides a quality service to your visitors and customers and helps bring in new traffic to your site.
- Be in it for the long haul – Most importantly, approach SEO as a multi-year process. Most of your competitors will quit this process before the benefits really kick in because it takes a while to see the results. If you’re able to build a website that in a few years is automatically generating high quality leads on a regular basis while you sleep, would you do it? Of course you would. Well, take that approach. Execute on this above list while focusing on quality and consistency.
SEO in 2017 and Beyond
Gone are the days where you can throw up a website and execute a few simple, cheap tricks to game the search engines into sending you traffic. Today, quality is rewarded and not much else.
Sure, traditional on-page optimization such as page titles, H1 tags, keyword mentions and sitemaps is still helpful. But these items are really just standard elements of every website today. They are assumed. They don’t do much else.
Note: Google is rapidly moving the idea of having a mobile responsive website into the “standard” or “assumed” category of SEO meaning a mobile responsive website won’t earn you a favorable placement in search engines, but not having it will hurt you and negatively impact your SEO goals. In other words, if you don’t have a mobile responsive site, it’s time for a refresh!
So how can you make progress in search engines in 2017? Quality content and well-targeted keywords. It’s really that simple.
How do you find the right keywords?
There are a number of SEO tools (most cost money) available to assist you in finding the right keywords. Based on your business and your market, you can likely put together a preliminary list of keywords you think might be worth pursuing. Third-party tools can then help you take that list and prioritize the best ones to pursue.
These tools will look at the competition level (how hard will it be to beat other sites to get to the top of the rankings?) and the search volume (how many people are searching for this keyword each month?) of each keyword.
While keyword research is a very in-depth process, here are a few tips to get started yourself for free:
- Google Instant Search Suggestions – You can find new keyword ideas by going to google.com and begin typing out a keyword. Google will give you suggestions based on what you’ve already typed.
- Google Adwords Keyword Planner – You can login to an Adwords account and use Google’s Keyword Planner tool. By typing in keywords, it will give you related keyword ideas and provide search volume data.
- SEMRush.com – The majority of SEMRush’s features are for paid accounts, but you can get some data even without an account. SEMRush is great for looking at your competitor’s websites and seeing the keywords for which they’re ranking in Google. Like the other options, this is another way to build your potential keyword list.
To sum up, your time is invested well if you’re doing great keyword research and building the best content possible for those keywords. The highest quality content that targets the right keywords will always win.