Real estate SEO is always a hot topic. Whether you just want to outrank your local competitors and peers, or you’re trying to show up in search results above giants like Zillow, effective SEO strategies are something you want to be familiar with.
If you’d rather watch/listen than read – Here’s a webinar about real estate SEO I recently hosted.
What is SEO and why is it important?
What do you do when you want to learn (or find) something? You Google it. That’s right – the Internet search engine giant has become so popular over the years that its very name became a verb synonymous with searching for information online. The first known usage of “google” as a verb happened nearly 20 years ago by Google co-founder Larry Page himself.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is extremely important for anyone who wants to generate business online. This includes real estate agents looking to reach potential clients. The simplest definition of SEO I can come up with is this: The effort to improve your website’s search engine ranking. For example, as a luxury real estate agent in Miami, you’d like your website to rank #1 when someone searches Google for “Miami luxury real estate agent” right? So how do you make that happen? That’s where SEO comes into play.
Before we dive in
This post is meant to give you the information you need to know when it comes to real estate SEO. I’ll try not to get crazy technical, keeping in mind that you’re a real estate agent, not an SEO expert. My goal is to give you a better understanding of what matters, and some actionable ideas on how to improve your search engine rankings.
You’ve probably seen hundreds of e-mails, blog posts, classes, webinars, and products focused on SEO over the years, and for good reason. Ranking high on search engines like Google can make a huge impact on your business. But, it can be an incredibly confusing and intricate topic. You could study it full-time and never find all the answers. Many people spend tons of time and money doing everything they can to reach the #1 spot on Google for a specific search term but never attain it (for many different reasons). Sometimes they do accomplish it, only to drop a short time later, or realize they they’d neglected other important aspects of their business. If there’s one thing we know about search engine algorithms, it’s that they’re always changing.
Many people have sought to take advantage of the mystery and importance of SEO by telling real estate agents that for a certain amount of money, they can get you ranked at the top of Google search results. If anyone ever tells you this, run! SEO scams are everywhere these days. Hopefully you’ve never fallen into that kind of money pit. If you have, you know how frustrating it can be, and you may have a bad taste in your mouth as soon as you hear terms like SEO, page rank, Google ranking, etc. However, you can’t ignore the topic all together.
IMPORTANT: Remember not to lose sight of the big picture. What is your end goal? You want to close more deals. To do that, you need more leads. To get them, you need people to find your website. SEO is just one way to make that happen. Don’t neglect the rest of your marketing!
What are the most important SEO factors for real estate agents?
Obviously Google isn’t going to publicize exactly how their search algorithms work. It would make it potentially possible for people to game the system (it’s happened before, and people are still trying). There are some things we know that positively (or negatively) affect your search rankings. There are actually hundreds. Many marketers and companies are dedicated to researching, experimenting, and testing to see what these factors are and attempting to figure out which are the most important. There is lots of good information out there from places like https://www.searchenginejournal.com, www.backlinko.com/blog, www.moz.com and more. And even Google gives us some information. For this post, we’ll limit ourselves to four factors we know are extremely important and that you can directly control.
- Website mobile friendliness
- Local focus
1. Website mobile-friendliness
Real estate SEO tactic number one: Start with a mobile-friendly foundation! With mobile Internet usage surpassing desktop (and only continuing to go up), having a mobile-friendly website is no longer an option. Honestly, it’s old news, and if you’re still not mobile-friendly, you’re behind the game (if you aren’t sure, use Google’s mobile-friendly test). Back in April of 2015, Google implemented an algorithm change that placed more importance on mobile friendliness in mobile search result rankings. Of course, that’s not the only reason to make sure your website is mobile friendly. Providing a good user experience on mobile is crucial to keeping people on your website and actually capturing leads. What does it mean to provide a good user experience? Answer these questions: Is it easy to read, even on a phone? Is it easy to navigate (large enough buttons, menus, etc.)? Does it use features like “click-to-call” links that allow a user to tap the phone number to call it? What good is a high search engine ranking if someone clicks through to your site only to find it confusing and hard to navigate? They’ll bounce immediately, and you’ve just lost an opportunity to capture a lead.
Real estate SEO tactic number two: Develop fresh, quality, targeted content! You’ve probably heard the saying “Content is king.” In many ways, it’s true. It’s not the only thing that matters, but it’s often the most important. When it comes to SEO, the content of your website is the main thing search engines look at when they crawl, index, and eventually serve up search results. Let’s look at four aspects of content on your website and how they can affect your SEO.
- Quality – Most importantly – Does your website content answer your potential clients’ questions? Imagine someone searches for “first-time homebuyer programs in Florida” and HOORAY your site shows up in the search results! They click through to the page on your website about the topic. When they get there, will they find current, accurate, helpful, understandable information about the available programs they’re looking for? Is there an easy way to contact you or ask a question? The key thing to remember here is that just ranking high in a search result and getting a website visit doesn’t actually do you any good if the content isn’t good enough to keep someone on the page, and drive them to take action (call you, e-mail you, etc.). The more unique and detailed your content, the better.
- Keywords – What do you want to rank for? If you’re thinking “real estate agent” you might want to be more specific. What do you specialize in? What makes you different from other agents in your area? What kind of things are your target audience searching for? If you need help finding the answer to that last one, use Google’s keyword planner tool (you’ll need to create an account, but it’s free). You can get great insight on how many Google searches are being done for whatever keyword you’re curious about (you can even restrict it to a certain location). It’s a good idea to focus on some long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords are search phrases that are a little longer and more specific. Instead of “real estate agent” think “Miami luxury real estate listings” or “waterfront homes for sale in Miami Beach” or “how much are closing costs in Florida for buyer?” The more specific you can get, the more likely you are to rank higher, plus the more targeted the traffic to your page will be. Outranking behemoths like Zillow and Trulia is going to be nearly impossible for big, high-volume searches like “Miami real estate”. The more content you can have that targets long-tail keywords/searches, the better. Blogging is an awesome way to accomplish this (more on blogging in a minute…).
- Freshness – Have you ever driven through a fast-food joint right before closing time? If so, you’ve probably experienced the misery of stale, lukewarm food that’s been sitting around for hours. Fresher = better. This is also true when it comes to your website content! Google recognizes the freshness of website content when it returns search results, and more recently updated content can often get a boost because of it. Think about the potential importance of content freshness specifically in the real estate/mortgage industries. You probably have pages on your website about loan programs, homebuyer programs, mortgage regulations, rates, a popular new neighborhood, etc. When was the last time you updated those pages? Are they still accurate? Can you add some more detail to them? Can you go more in depth or add some more value? Add newer photos? Do it!
- Blogging – Blogging is an important part of effective marketing. It can help your SEO, drive more traffic to your site, position you as the local trustworthy expert, keep you top of mind with your contacts and prospects, and can even help you capture new leads. That being said, lots of real estate agents and mortgage pros have a hard time making it happen. It’s understandable. You’re usually pretty busy. Maybe you don’t know what to write about (here’s 50 free real estate blog ideas). Blogging is a great way to show up in more search results for those long-tail keywords we just talked about. A regularly updated blog also keeps your site fresh, as Google sees consistent updates to your site. Of course, just posting a blog and crossing your fingers isn’t enough. Remember, SEO is just one piece of the puzzle. Make sure to share your new blog post on all your social media channels and e-mail it to your contacts.
3. Local focus
Real estate SEO tactic number three: Have a strong local focus! Did you know that Google takes geographic location into account when delivering search results? That’s a great thing for local businesses. But there are a few things you need to do to make sure you have all your bases covered when it comes to local search.
- Create local content – As we discussed earlier about keywords, if you want to rank for certain terms, you need to have content about it on your site.
- Create saved search pages to display available listings in certain areas, and be specific! For example, create a page titled “Waterfront houses for sale in Coral Gables, FL”. Display the corresponding listings there, and if possible, school information, local community info and attractions, and more. Don’t forget lead capture!
- Write blog posts about local events, businesses, food, attractions, developments, and more. Make your blog a reliable, helpful source of information about your community. Be sure to share your blog posts on social media!
- Create a “relocation guide” page on your site with information that would be helpful to someone moving to your area.
- Create your “Google My Business” listing – This is a great way to show up with your full business info in local Google search results. When you claim your business listing, you can show up in results that look like this:
It gives you a great way to collect and display reviews, link to your website, phone number, directions to your office, hours, photos, and more. Be sure to add photos to your listing! Google My Business listings with images get 35% more clicks to their site.
Real estate SEO tactic number four: Get lots of quality backlinks! What’s a backlink, you ask? Simple. A link on someone else’s website that points back to yours. Think of this as a popularity contest. Backlinks are votes. When other reputable sites link to yours, Google sees this as validation that your site must have something good enough to tell others about. In the past, people tried to take advantage of this in sketchy ways by creating tons of fake sites with tons of links back to their real site. It didn’t take Google long to squash those kinds of practices though. So how do you get legitimate backlinks? Some will happen naturally (if your content is good enough). But more likely, you’ll need to do a little work.
- Write a blog post about your favorite local restaurant, event, attraction, business (anything with a website, really). Reach out and tell them you featured them in a blog post, give them the link, and ask if they’ll link to the post from their website. You can also ask them to share it on their social media channels, although Google says social media links don’t actually “count” as official backlinks that affect your SEO. Still, it can provide more traffic to your site!
- Sponsor a local event. Most events have a webpage where they acknowledge sponsors and will link back to your site.
- Guest blog for someone else’s site. Maybe a mortgage professional or another local business owner. At the beginning or end of your post, provide a link back to your site. It’s a win-win situation. They get quality content for their site without having to do the work, and you get the extra exposure and the SEO juice of another backlink!
- Write something for a local (or national) news publication. This is similar to the guest blog, but even better usually. Reputable news publications will have sites that may carry a little more weight than a local small business. Plus, you get even more credibility as an expert on a specific topic. Make sure they’ll let you provide a short bio with a link back to your website that accompanies the content you provide them.
- Ultimately, SEO is a means to an end. You should do what you can to rank better with search engines, but a #1 ranking isn’t your ultimate goal. You want more traffic to your website, more leads, more clients, and more revenue. SEO is just one weapon in your marketing arsenal to make that happen.
- Better rankings don’t happen overnight. All the things we talked about in this post are good ways to positively affect your SEO, but don’t expect immediate results. SEO is really about the long game. It takes some time and some effort to climb the rankings. Don’t give up!
- Don’t lose sight of the big picture! The absolute best thing you can do for your business is to provide your clients superior service. Be so helpful, enthusiastic, and positive that your clients just can’t help but tell their friends and family about you.
Ready to improve your real estate marketing?
If you’re interested in improving your real estate or mortgage marketing, check out Pipeline ROI. We offer a complete inbound marketing platform that makes it easier for you to execute effective marketing so you can focus on what you’re best at. It includes a beautiful mobile-responsive website, an automated SEO tool called GhostWriter that keeps your content fresh and unique, social media marketing tools, lead-generating IDX, squeeze pages, e-mail marketing, lead management, and more. The mortgage platform also includes a secure online loan app, eSigning/doc delivery, and more. Request a real estate demo here or get a mortgage demo here.