Over the years, we’ve had a great deal of success with real estate SEO and paid search projects. We understand that there are plenty of realtors and real estate agency marketing managers who work hard to compete with both local competitors and national brands like Trulia, Realtor, and Zillow for search engine rankings. We thought that it would be beneficial to outline the playbook that’s worked well for us, and update it on a regular basis to reflect any major changes to search engine algorithms that would affect real estate websites.
1. Take The Time To Research Keyword Variations
A great way to explore new keyword ideas is to add them to Google Adword’s Keyword Planner – a free tool that lets you understand metrics for specific keywords. Use their Multiply Keywords feature to get search volume data on multiple keyword variations.
What do you think gets more traffic: “lansing real estate” or “lansing homes for sale”? According to the Google keyword tool, “lansing real estate” gets a about 720 monthly visits while “lansing homes for sale” gets 260.
The stats from Keyword Planner won’t be 100% accurate, but you can gain an overall picture of what target keywords should drive the most traffic to your site, and how tough it will be to rank well for those keywords.
It’s also a great idea to set up Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools for your website if you haven’t already done so. In Webmaster Tools, navigate to the search query section to view top queries that your website is currently showing up for in Google search results, as well as the pages that are ranking for those queries.
Use filters to weed out branded queries, as your main concern should be getting visitors who don’t know about you yet. Select “With Change” to see how your average position, impressions and clicks have changed since the previous period. You can also link Google Analytics with Webmaster Tools to access most Webmaster Tools data right in the Google Analytics interface.
Collecting as much keyword information as you can will be extremely useful for making website on site changes.
2. Focus On Your Website First and Foremost
Armed with keyword data, you can go page by page through your website and make appropriate changes to the Page Title (Title Tag), Meta Descriptions, headers and body copy of each page. This is where you can incorporate target keywords that you want to rank for. If you take a look at the Coldwell Banker Hubbell Briarwood website, we identified that “lansing real estate” was an important target keyword and an ideal keyword target to incorporate in the page title, meta description, headers and body copy of the home page.
It should be noted that pages can be over-optimized for keywords, so it is best to write page titles and meta descriptions that are appealing to both search engines and users. Moz has some great general best practice resources for on page SEO and it would be good to follow their advice closely. Page Titles: http://moz.com/learn/seo/title-tag Meta Descriptions: http://moz.com/learn/seo/meta-description
When doing a Google search for “[your city] real estate”, you most likely see mega real estate websites like Trulia, Yahoo and Zillow dominating much of the first page.
Yes, Google typically favors large websites and ignores the little guys, but take a lesson from what those sites do correctly. More than likely, their core on-site elements mentioned earlier contain high traffic, location specific keywords.
You should also create individual and specific pages catering to very specific communities. Do people search based on township, city, community, or development – or a combination of all of those? Create individual pages full of detailed information on each area you cover. It may be a pain, but making changes to page URLs across your website to include target keywords can also go a long way. For example, yourwebsite.com/city-homes-for-sale instead of yourwebsite.com/homes.
3. Take Control of Your Google Plus Page
Any company that operates locally should understand the importance of having a G+ page for their business location. It verifies to Google that they have a physical location that is situated in the area that you cater to. It also gives you another way to tell Google what your website is all about in your description and categories.
You can and should link your G+ page to your website, which is easiest to do using Webmaster Tools.
4. Encourage Your Clients To Review You
Google respects websites that receive online reviews. It proves to them that the business is fairly popular, and assuming they aren’t all terrible, that someone searching for a real estate service would be happy with what they offer.
If you email your clients on a regular basis, or frequently meet with them, ask them politely to write a review for your business. Provide a link to your Google Plus page, and give them simple instructions for writing a review. Never ever ask someone or pay someone to write a fake review for you!
Google can easily identify bad reviews, and will drop you from search results if they catch you. Getting happy reviews from happy REAL clients gets you kudos from both search engines and users, and it should be a point of focus in your lead generation process.
5. Submit Your Website To Directories
Getting your website in as many directories as possible will gradually help improve your search engine rankings. You can find real estate directories to submit your website to through sources like Directory Critic, Dmoz’s directory of real estate directories, and whatever you can get for free with using Whitespark.
Be sure to explore local, regional and state directory options as well. Sometimes just doing a simple search in Google can yield some good results. Local SEO Checklist also provides a nice collection of guides, tools and resources for local SEO. Here are all mentioned resources:
6. Utilize Your Personal Network and Local Resources
Because location is the base of every one of your target keywords, a link from your local chamber of commerce, library, university, book club, etc. are often the most valuable links you can get. Sponsoring a local non-profit or organization can also be a nice way to support a good cause while getting a great backlink.
If you have close connections with other businesses, politely ask them to include a link to your website from their links page. You could also ask them if you could contribute a real estate or community related blog post for their blog and include a link to your website in the post.
7. Make Use of Your Blog
For me, the best part about doing real estate SEO work is the plethora of topics to write about. Quality articles about home renovations, local real estate market conditions and community spotlights can be of interest to your community.
Use tools like Uber Suggest for coming up with topic ideas that are relevant to your website and your target audience.
For example: plug in “lansing michigan home” into Uber Suggest and it shows that there are people interested in learning about home prices, home health care, and new home construction information in the Lansing, MI area. Try variations like “lansing michigan property”, “what lansing”, “where lansing”, etc. You can also use some of these ideas to…
8. Build Up Resources For Your Community
What is your local area known for? What information can you provide that’s useful and relevant to your local community?
If you know that your local community is known for their wineries, create a custom Google Map charting out all the wineries in your area and add it to your website. Reach out to all wineries to see if they would be willing to link to the map you created.
Other ideas can include a calendar of events, a video on tourist information, a list of local recycling centers, and information on upcoming job fairs. Getting creative and providing useful information for your local community can help build your website’s link profile, and ultimately help your website earn better search engine rankings.
It Ain’t Easy
It takes a great deal of time and effort to make a solid effort for getting better search engine rankings for your real estate website.
We cater to the real estate industry, have extensive experience in all the topics mentioned above, and make use of additional paid tools like Majestic SEO, Whitespark and Keyword Snatcher. Feel free to reach out to us if you’re interested in learning more about the services that we provide.