It goes without saying that potential home buyers take to the Internet to search for homes, but just to make it official, REALTOR.org reports a staggering 92% of home seekers utilize the Internet in some capacity and 50% use mobile websites or applications in their efforts. You can view the highlights here.
Real estate agents want to get found online, but many find Real Estate SEO to be esoteric or an exercise in frustration, so I wanted to avail a post that covers the basics, without getting bogged down in technical details (those will come later).
Let's put aside the arcane speak for a moment, and at the risk of over simplicity, consider the over-arching goal of search engines. It is to provide relevant, targeted search results for users. When someone searches for something, they are seeking information. The search engine attempts to match the searcher with repositories of the information their users seek. Since the search engines want to provide a positive user experience, they will evaluate the credibility of the site that is spewing out information.Is the site credible? If so, it is ranked high.
There are many metrics they will use to gauge the credibility of a site, and gone are the days from yesteryear where you can simply stuff keywords on a page and guarantee that you appear at the top of search results. The biggest metric is fresh, updated, and unique content, and I know this from experience.
For the better part of a decade, I sold real estate and other leads and had half a dozen or so websites that showed up on the front page of Google for pre-foreclosure leads, mortgage leads, and other keywords. I rarely had to make cold calls, because people would find me. What is remarkable about that is that I made no attempt to do any SEO. That's right, I did not try to optimize my websites for Google, yet my pages appeared at the forefront of search results. Why?
There are two audiences to write for. One is a Google robot that crawls the web. The other, human beings to engage, inform, and converse with, and for a long time I ignored the former and wrote for human beings. By writing prolifically and often, Google notices that.
SEO gurus will tell you that when generating content, you should branch out a little and mention keywords that are related to your main keyword. So, for example, since it's October, maybe you are searching for Halloween costumes. People searching for this very broad, competitive term may also be searching for "scary Halloween costumes", "Halloween costumes for kids", "Ideas for Halloween costumes", "best Halloween costumes", etc etc.
But if you have a passion for Halloween costumes and have a business selling costumes, these related phrases will be mentioned naturally. Naturally is the operative term. You wouldn't necessarily have to forensically analyze content, keyword count, etc, because these terms would appear organically.
This is a lead in to what your real estate website is about.
Many real estate professionals have taken the easy route by putting up a generic website, a prefab and uninspiring website furnished by their brokerage firm or some third-party company that makes every site look the same, merely changing a few things. This cookie-cutter sites are nearly impossible to be indexed by the search engines, much less to be viewed as a credible site with all of the duplicate content. Again, Google loves fresh, unique content. If you want to be found, you have to set yourself apart and have more than an expensive business card.
This requires a concerted approach to write about local schools, hang-out places, neighborhoods, attractions, the local yogurt shop. New developments sprouting up, changes in the rental market and so forth. It's been said that all politics are local. To that I would say all search is local. The search engines eat up locally specific information, and this need not be an arduous task, and I want to part with this thought.
SEO should be fun, to the extent that you are communicating with the visitor and establishing yourself as a local real estate expert. It's the start of a conversation that leads to relationships and profits. If you view SEO as being a technical task to get found online, get some Ibuprofen. If you have a paradigm shift and view content as informing/engaging, you will succeed. I guarantee it.
In the next posts, I'll try to tackle some of the nitty gritty details, putting a little structure to your real estate content.