3 Steps to Better Rankings and More Traffic
It’s no secret that when it comes to SEO, a lot of real estate websites are in bad shape. If you are a broker or a service provider, there’s a great deal of potential in your online presence. For the vast majority of people – 90% according to a survey conducted by the National Association of Realtors – the search for real estate begins online, and as such, if you can tailor your site to your customers search patterns, you can dominate the search engine results and generate high quality, relevant traffic for your site. Whether you’ve already got a website or if you want to create one, following these three steps will help you get a leg up on the competition.
Step 1: Research – What Keywords Do Your Customers Use?
The first step is critical, and fortunately, it’s also relatively simple. What words do search engine users enter, when they’re looking for real estate in your area? Most likely it’ll be a combination of the geographic area and words like “real estate” or “realty.” The appropriate keywords will depend on the services you offer. Essentially you’re looking for the most searched phrase relevant to your business. There are a number of tools that will hep you find this information, keying in “orange county real estate” with Google’s Insights for Search reveals that “orange county property” is searched more frequently than “orange county homes” or “orange county realty.” Depending on the competition surrounding a particular keyword you might be better off picking a phrase lower on the list. Depending on your area there might not be enough information regarding search queries, but you can use your analytics data from your website. Sometimes the Google AdWords keyword tool has better suggestions or more complete data. But once you know what your focus is, what phrase or keywords you would like to optimize for, it’s time to get to work.
Step 2: Optimization – Tailoring Your Site
Optimizing in this case means tailoring your site to your chosen search queries. If you haven’t got your own domain name yet or if you starting from scratch you can book the search query as your domain name, if it’s not already taken. This can give your site an extra relevancy boost. Although it’s not as aesthetically pleasing, booking a domain name with hyphens, like www.thousand-islands-real-estate.com will have the desired effect as well.
In most cases your home page will be the focus of the high traffic keywords you picked, so it’s important that the keywords appear in the title, and early. That being said, it’s important that the titles make sense, if it’s just a jumble of keywords it won’t be clicked as often, you need to write something catchy that will win the click when your title competes with others on the SERP page. Sticking with the Orange County example, you could use a title like “Orange County’s Largest Property Website.” The title is coherent, the relevant keywords appear first, and it’s clear what the site offers.
Similarly the meta description for your home page should contain the keywords as well. Depending on the user’s query, Google and other search engines will display the meta description, or content from the page. So it’s important to have relevant keywords in both. Don’t worry about the density of the keywords, just focus on writing a coherent text.
Side note: You can tailor different pages to different search queries, for instance, “orange county” together with “homes” isn’t searched as often as with “property” but you can write a sub-page targeted for this search phrase as well. Don’t forget to use URLs with the search terms as well, this URL is written for someone looking for waterfront real estate in the Thousand Islands: www.thousand-islands-real-estate.com/waterfront-island-property.
The most common mistake, or the least used potential is the internal linking of one’s own site. The words you use to set links for the navigation of your site can also a deciding factor in your ranking for certain search terms. For instance, the link to your home page is often something like “home.” It would be better to use something like “Orange County Property (Home Page)” or if you have your logo as an image linking to the home page, then use an appropriate alt-tag. The former link might not be the prettiest in your design, but it’s important to remember that only the first link counts, so you could put this at the very top of your page and still have a navigation bar in your design – again, it’s important that the text for the first link as it appears in the source code is the one that counts.
Step 3: Socializing – Optimize Existing Links, Get More Links
For those who already have a site, you hopefully already have a number of other websites linking to yours optimizing existing links can be effective. Contact the original publishers, probably friends or business connections, and ask them to change the text with which they link to your site. You should keep track of who is linking to you but you can use Yahoo! Site Explorer if you want to find out (or double check). It’s important to note that you don’t do this en masse, and get penalized for manipulation, but it stands to reason that content changes and the links do as well. It’s likely you’ll only be able to change a few anyways, but pick the good ones and ensure that the wording is beneficial, not just “click here.” It’s important to mention that variation is also important – if all your links have the exact same text in appears somewhat suspect.
Side note: In step 2 I mentioned the benefits of hyphenated domain names matching search phrases, the implicit benefit is anyone linking to your site with the URL is also linking to you with the desired text anyways!
You can pay money or find free directories to list your site, but I would only dig into my wallet if the directory was well indexed and a major hub with lots of traffic. You might have heard that commenting on blogs is also beneficial, it can be, but links in the comment section are almost always no-follow, which means they lose their SEO-benefit – some argue to what degree this is true but the fact is posting comments on blogs is not a strategy that will have a great effect. Rather see it as an opportunity to take part in a discussion and make users aware of your site. Link building these days is inherently social – not in the twitter and facebook sense – rather, having meaningful dialogue with other like-minded individuals who are also looking to improve their websites. This strategy is likely to take you farther, and be more rewarding. If you’re a frequent visitor to a site and regularly post comments you’re more likely to be successful when you ask for a link as opposed to cold e-mailing. In the same way regularly posting and sharing on forums is also a great way to build a reputation and get links on good pages. Similarly, writing guest posts on other blogs or writing articles for other information hubs will establish you as an authority and get you good links. The key is finding out what other websites play a major role in your industry and establishing yourself there. Finding like-minded people will bring the largest benefit, you can also check the link-profile of other successful sites, already ranking well for the real estate terms in question.
The first two steps are relatively easy, there’s a lot you can learn with regards to site architecture, crawlability, etc. but as long as your site is well structured and easy to navigate, the deciding factors will be the optimization, the orientation of your site and its content towards a few, specific key phrases, and finally building a strong link profile. Depending on your region or niche you might be one of the few search-savvy operators on the market, and you’ll be able to capitalize and turn that traffic into business.
Feel free to contact Adam Vradenburg with any questions or comments.