Search engines are smart, but they’re not independent. You still need to guide them to your site and show them around. That’s the basic concept behind SEO. If you’ve been on the Internet any time in the past decade, you’ve probably heard this buzzword. Is it overused? Yes. Is it important? Absolutely. That’s why we’re bringing you a series on the ins and outs of SEO for real estate professionals. We’ll cover everything from the basic concepts and terms to how to structure your page and analyze your progress. This is part 1, an introduction to SEO for real estate professionals.
What is SEO?
To understand how Search Engine Optimization works, imagine the World Wide Web as, well, a really big web. Search engines run the web. They all have automated robots, often called “crawlers” or “spiders” (really fits with the web analogy, right?), that crawl and index the web. Their findings are stored, and used whenever someone makes a search query on that search engine. SEO is the process of affecting your page’s search ranking by optimizing your content and structure so it’s easier for the bots to interpret and index your information. The goal is to show up as close to the #1 spot as possible for searches related to your service, product, etc.
What do search engines value?
If you read an article about SEO from someone who doesn’t really understand it, the only advice you’ll get is “Use keywords!” But search engines are much smarter than that. When search engines first became popular around 2000, keywords were the only major focus. The result of this was keyword-stuffed pages that were ranking highly in search, even if they weren’t providing the answers that the user was looking for. Now, search engines depend on algorithms to determine how useful the web page will be for solving a user’s request. To see all of the different factors that contribute to these algorithms, we recommend checking out Moz’s study on Search Engine Ranking Factors.
Above all, the biggest factor that contributes to search engine rankings is popularity. And all the keywords in the world won’t make your web page popular if your content isn’t helpful and interesting. Effective SEO is built around the concept of designing your page for users in a way that still allows search engines to figure out what value your website has. Moz uses a great analogy when describing the importance of great web content for SEO. They compare Internet marketing to the old “Tree falls in a forest” adage that goes, “If no one is around to hear the tree fall, did the sound really exist?” In the SEO world, the saying goes, “If you create great content, but no one shares it, does it really exist?”
Terms to know
Spiders or Crawlers – Search engine bots that scan the Internet and collect information about websites. Google calls theirs “Googlebots”. Much friendlier than spiders, right? According to Google, they look like this, and they are your friend.
Crawling and Indexing – The journey the Googlebot or other crawler takes through the Internet to scour websites and categorize them according to their content. The index of the Internet functions much like the index of a book, it’s a reference used to find exactly what you’re looking for.
Algorithms – A complex mathematical equation of over 200 different factors that determines how useful a web page will be for a user’s request. These determine which sites come up for which search queries, and how highly they rank.
Why do you need it?
90% of all home buyers, and 96% of home buyers under the age of 44, use the Internet during their home search. Between 2008 and 2012, real estate-related searches on Google grew 253%. And when people search online, they’re likely to select the top result the search engine provides. In fact, 53% of all organic searches click the first link. That means if you specialize in waterfront condos in Naples, Florida, you want to be at the top when someone searches “waterfront condo in Naples, Florida”. Even though that’s your specialty, if your site isn’t properly structured and your content isn’t carefully crafted, you may not be ranking highly in search.
By following the steps we’ll give you in this series, you’ll be one step closer to higher rankings, more traffic, and more leads. In Part 2 of this series, we’ll break down keyword research and writing like your customer searches. Subscribe to our blog by entering your e-mail address on the side bar or top bar on this page so you won’t miss out!