Getting a high rank in Google and the other search engines is probably the most desired goal of real estate agencies. It can also be extremely competitive and difficult, especially for a new agency, to achieve those goals. Let’s start with the main factors for ranking and Real Estate SEO (search engine optimization):
- Website longevity and domain existence
If your website has been around for years and the domain name contains relevant keywords to you business, you already have a huge advantage over any newcomers.
Google loves links to other high ranking websites and chances are that if your website has been around for a long period of time, you most likely have some high quality links to powerful websites such as chambers of commerce, news and magazines, colleges and maybe even government resources. The days of “reciprocal linking” when you would build up a list of links exchanged with other local businesses, etc. are no longer considered viable. As a matter of fact, Google considers these “low quality” links and may even penalize rather boost your rankings. Footer links are also now considered to be of lower quality than before due to misuse by people.
- Website popularity
This would seem to be a bit of a Catch 22 because everyone wants their website to be popular, thus ensuring a higher ranking. Unfortunately, over the years Google (though they will deny it) often give better ranking to those sites that have more visitors due to paid advertising (ie. Google AdWords, etc.) and other websites they are associated. It’s the web equivalent of “who you know”, which influences your social status.
- Content is king
Remember those words because they mean everything. Without good quality, relevant content you are dead in the water and easily passed over by your competition. Websites with good content (meaning text, images and videos) stand a much better chance in the rankings than a plain site that’s rarely, if ever updated. Don’t just rely on your IDX system to update listings. Not good enough.
Many Realtors and real estate agencies are victims of some of the items above. Search engine optimization (SEO) that may have worked well back in 1996 is now obsolete. Though fortunately, some of the basics have remained, namely the rules that dictate good quality content. Ok, so what do I do now? I have a real estate website and my competitors are way ahead of me.
- Competitive analysis
If you don’t know what that is, you had better learn. Before you can compete and improve your rank, you need to know what your competition is doing. Who are they linked with? Are they paying for web advertising such as Google AdWords, Facebook ads, etc. Do they have a blog? How fresh is their content? What keywords are they using? Are you starting to see a pattern here?
- Leverage long tail keywords
Trying to rank for something like “Vermont real estate” is almost impossible due to the huge amount of competition all attempting the same thing. Better to research some keywords and try to create content based on less competitive keywords such as towns or regions within a state. Create a niche for your business and build from there.
- Is your website responsively designed?
These days there is not much need for a separate mobile website. Due to responsive design technology, your website can be built to automatically re-arrange it’s layout based on the computer, mobile device or tablet that is being used to view your website. Make it easy for your visitors.
- Use videos on your website
Studies show that real estate agencies that use video on their websites get much more exposure than those that do not. YouTube is owned by Google and videos uploaded there do come up in a Google search. Think about that for a moment and wait for that “aha” moment to sink in.
- Get social
If you’re not taking part in Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. than you’re probably losing out. The other big one is Google +. You can guess why, even though most people don’t understand or like Google + very much. But somebody like its – Google! So get yourself a Google + account. Now that you have all of these social media tools, use them. Simply having them is NOT enough. You should be posting daily and I don’t mean just real estate listings. Unless someone is actively looking to buy a home, posting numerous listings to Facebook every day will simply bore your visitors. Engage them with tips, how-to articles, contests, polls or whatever. Which brings us to the next point…
- Blogs have not gone out of style because of Facebook
Most people make the mistake of thinking that Facebook replaces a website blog. In some cases that may be true but in most cases, a blog is the engine for driving topics to Facebook, Twitter, etc. A blog is a great place to regularly create great content and social media is your method of broadcasting. If the blog is part of your website, that’s even better because it shows Google that you are providing fresh, relevant content that others may like to link to. This brings us full circle to website popularity on a budget.
- Paid advertising
I have done enough studies to see that websites who regularly pay for Google AdWords often surpass other, more well established, websites in the rankings. Like anything else in this world, “free” is only going to get you so far. Money talks and Google is listening. Of you do not have the time to invest in all of the previous suggestions then paying for ads is probably better than doing nothing at all.