Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of increasing the number of visitors to your website by making sure your site ranks high on the list of results returned by a search engine. These results are called organic search results, as opposed to paid search results which appear on the list of search results when you advertise with search engines such as Google (these are clearly marked with the “Ad” logo next to the link). SEO is a part of search engine marketing (SEM). You need SEO for any website but if you are a real estate agent, I show you here specific things you can do to help your real estate website SEO.
Local real estate website SEO
As a real estate agent you are a local business and generally should promote your services to local prospects and customers. Your website will have much content that identifies you as a local business such as your listings, neighborhood pages, etc.
The first thing you want to do to optimize your website for local search on Google is to create and verify a Google My Business account (below), since Google wants to share information that is local and verified.
Article to read: “A Comprehensive Guide to Local SEO in 2018” by HubSpot.
Set up a Google My Business account
Google My Business is a free Google service. If you previously used Google+ pages or Google Places for Business, Google has automatically upgraded your account to Google My Business. It provides your business with a public identity and presence with a listing on Google. All the information you put in Google My Business can appear in a Google search, Google Maps and Google+. Optimize your profile by providing your work times, directions to your office and any other information.
Set up Google Search Console
Google Search console (previously Google Webmaster Tools) is a Google service for webmasters (or website owners). See my article “Get Google to index your website quickly” to set up Google Search Console.
Set up Google Analytics
Google Analytics is another Google free product that gives Google a head up on your SEO. See my article “Get Google to index your website quickly” to set up Google Analytics.
Get a fast, mobile-friendly website
Google has announced that it will start rolling out mobile-first indexing. Mobile-first indexing means that, if available, Google will use the mobile version of your web pages for indexing and ranking, to better help users find what they’re looking for. This makes sense because most web users now use mobile devices (tablets and smartphones) to access the web. Google has also stated that having fast-loading content is still helpful for those looking at ways to perform better for mobile and desktop users.
As is usually the case, Google makes suggestions of what is best for your website. Their ‘suggestions’ usually make their way into their ranking algorithms. Google never states something like “if you do this or that your site will absolutely rank better,” because their algorithms consider many different factors to rank a website high in search results and they don’t want people getting caught up in just one factor alone.
Install a SEO plugin
A SEO plugin is a very useful tool to consider in your real estate website SEO strategy. They don’t call themselves SEO plugins for nothing. At the very least, they help you go through checklists when writing your website’s pages and posts. We use the Yoast SEO plugin but there are other important SEO plugins. I particularly like the way Yoast analyses the content I write to help me write SEO-friendly text, titles, snippets and metadata.
Have an XML sitemap
XML (Extensible Markup Language) is a markup language that search engines understand well. Your website needs an XML sitemap that can be submitted to Google, Bing and other search engines to help them understand the structure of your website better. You don’t need to learn XML to do this. If you installed the Yoast SEO plugin in your WordPress website, you can create a XML sitemap with the push of a button.
Check your website for SEO issues with Screaminfrog
Screaming SEO Spider is a desktop website crawler and auditor program for PC, Mac or Linux which checks your websites’ links, images, CSS, script and apps like a search engine to evaluate your onsite real estate website SEO. You download the program to your computer and use it from there. There is a paid version but the free version performs a lot of the features you need. It will find things you need to fix such as broken links, errors and redirects, duplicate pages, as well as analyze page titles and metadata.
Create evergreen content
What is evergreen content? It is content that is good and useful today, tomorrow and forever (or at least for a long time). Don’t write a post about a tornado watch or storm damage in your area – I have seen this in agent’s websites. First, it will be old news very, very soon. Second, nobody goes to a real estate website for that kind of information anyway. Third, if you are posting links like that on social media, people that ‘like’ your Facebook page or ‘follow’ you on Twitter may choose to stop if your content is irrelevant to real estate.
You should blog about subjects useful to people who are interested in buying and selling real estate. Think about all the information you give your buyers and sellers when you deal with them for days and weeks. There’s a lot of stuff you can write about.
Blog on a regular basis
Try to write blog posts or articles on a regular basis, for example once a week or twice a month. Don’t write two articles this week and then nothing for two months. If you are no good at writing content for your business website, or are too busy to write, then hire somebody online that will write the content for you. Provide them with an outline of the content and tell them what you want. There are copywriters out there all over the place.
Don’t write junk just to fill in space or to keep up with your editorial calendar. Your visitors and clients (and search engines too!) will appreciate useful, well-written articles. Quality is absolutely much better than quantity.
Don’t write short or thin content
Having just said that quality is absolutely much better than quantity, how long should your content be? It has been demonstrated that longer articles rank better in the search engines.
Depending on which expert you consult you will get different minimum number of words an article should contain. Generally you can be safe to decide that you’ll write your articles with a minimum of 300-500 words.
Article to read: “How long should a blog post be for SEO?”
Choose a keyword for your pages and posts
You need to pick a keyword or long tail keyword (keywords or key phrases that are more specific – and usually longer, with three or more words) that is central to the page or post. If you use the Yoast SEO plugin it will help you do this.
Write unique titles for your pages and posts
Much has been written about how to write good titles for your pages and posts. Generally, in your real estate website SEO strategy, shorter is better.
For example, “A drop in homes for sale inventory in the month of May is causing problems for buyers who need to buy before the beginning of the school year” is too long (28 words). “Drop in May home inventory: problem for buyers” is much preferred (8 words). Your SEO plugin will also help you with titles.
Always include the keyword in the title. In the example above, the keyword would probably be “home inventory.”
Keyword should appear in the first 100-150 words
When the idea of SEO was in its infancy, people did “keyword stuffing” (unnaturally putting keywords everywhere in content) which search engines once used as a signal for ranking web pages. This no longer works. In fact, search engines such as Google can penalize your article (or website!) by giving it a low ranking in search results. Purely focusing on keywords is outdated.
Write a meta description
The meta description is a summary manually added to your page or post, up to 320 characters long. It appears as an HTML tag and tells the search engines what the page or post is about. In general, search engines show the meta description in the snippet when the searched word or phrase is in the meta description.
Article to read: “How to use Yoast SEO to write an awesome meta description.”
Add a categories and tags to your posts
The structure of your website has a significant impact on user experience but also helps in SEO. Both categories and tags help people and search engines understand the structure of your website.
Categories are major divisions of your content. Useful categories for a real estate website are: ‘Buyers,’ ‘Sellers,’ ‘Renters,’ ‘Investment,’ ‘Market statistics,’ ‘Tip of the week.’ ‘Real estate’ would not be a good category because almost everything you write would fall in it.
Tags describe your post in more detail. Useful tags for a real estate website are: ‘Building codes,’ ‘Buy a house,’ ‘Existing-home sales,’ ‘Foreclosures,’ ‘Home prices,’ ‘Housing inventory,’ ‘Market statistics,’ ‘Insulation,’ ‘Mortgage rates,’ ‘New homes,’ ‘Pending home sales,’ ‘Rentals,’ and ‘School districts.’
Article to read: “What is the difference between tags and categories?”
Use outbound links
Studies have shown that outbound linking (just as I am linking in this article) to authoritative sites has a positive effect on SEO.
Do internal linking
Internal linking happens when you introduce a link in the text of your article that links to another post or page in your website. Google gathers information on websites by following links, internal and external, using a Google bot (a robotic program). It’s crucial for your real estate website SEO to evaluate and improve your internal linking strategy on a regular basis. Through the right internal links you make sure Google understands the importance and value of pages and the relationship between pages.
Don’t allow spam comments
Of course, if you don’t allow visitors to post comments on your website you don’t have to worry about spam comments. If you do allow visitors to post comments on your website, then you have to control what or who gets posted.
One of the devastating effects of comment spam is its effect on search engine rankings and trust. If your site is infested with spam blog comments (unrelated to the post and containing links to Viagra sites or – worse – porn sites) it will lower your website’s trust and authority with visitors and with search engines.
At Agents Press we set up client websites with Akismet, a plugin written by Automattic, the company that owns WordPress. It checks comments and contact form submissions against a global database of spam to prevent the website from publishing malicious content.
In addition to that and at a very minimum, our sites are set up so that when a comment appears, an administrator must always approve the comment before it is published and any visitor can see it.
Use a SEO-friendly URL structure for your pages and posts
In WordPress, if you go to Settings, then Permalinks, you can set the URL structure for your pages and posts. At Agents Press, we set them to “Post name.”
As a general rule, people should be able to guess the title of the page or post just by reading the URL. However, drop the stop words because search engines do not consider extremely common words in order to speed up search results.
For the example article title used above, “Drop in May home inventory: problem for buyers” you could use the following URL structure (use hyphens or underscores to separate words):
However, it’s long and has stop words. You can shorten it by eliminating them:
Article to read: “How to Create SEO Friendly URLs”.
Optimize your photos and images
Always remember that search engine bots are blind programs. They rely on the ALT attribute and the file name to figure out your picture or photo. There are two important things you can do to help search engine bots find and rank your images and photos better.
First, name your image files descriptively and in plain language. If the file is a photo of you, real estate agent Mary Anderson from Silver Spring Maryland, don’t name the file “fullsize56.jpg.” Name the file something more descriptive, such as “real-estate-agent-Mary-Anderson-Silver-Spring-Maryland.jpg.
Second, use the image ALT tag. ALT attributes are the text alternative to images when a browser can’t properly render them. They’re also used for web accessibility. In the example, the ALT attribute could be “Real estate agent Mary Anderson from Silver Spring Maryland standing in front of brokerage office.”
Article to read: “Image SEO: Optimizing images for search engines.”
Use social media sharing buttons
You want to display social media share buttons (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) on blog posts and on certain pages of your real estate website. If you write interesting, relevant content you could benefit your SEO in an important way.
Social media connections share and re-share your article or post. The propagation of your content (and website) widens, sometimes rapidly. This is what most people think about when they say something has gone “viral.”
Don’t overdo it by displaying social share buttons on every page of your website. It diminishes their impact. Few people if any are going to share your website’s contact page or your terms of service page.
Write your own page of services
As real estate agent you don’t sell products; you sell services. You may think that everybody knows what a real estate agent does, but you would be surprised! It is not the case with younger generations in particular.
Spend some time writing in detail about the services you provide. It will help your potential clients and prospects decide why they should hire you. It will also help in ranking your site. You can write in detail about your services in your ‘About’ page. I prefer to have a separate Services page.
Use PPC (pay-per-click) to get traffic more quickly
If you want to increase the number of leads that come from your website, then you should definitely implement all the above SEO common sense tips. The same applies if you are just getting started with a new website. However, this will take some time.
If you want faster and more results you need to spend some money on pay-per-click (PPC) marketing. One of the greatest advantages of PPC marketing is what it offers you, the advertiser. You have the opportunity to put your ad in front of motivated people who are ready to hire your services (to buy a home, sell a home) at the precise moment they are ready to hire a real estate agent. There is no other advertising medium that can do this. This is what makes PPC marketing so effective and such an amazingly powerful way to grow your business.
To get started, read this article at Forbes: “No Pay, No Gain: Four Key Benefits Of PPC Marketing.”
Conduct keyword research
You should be doing pay-per-click (PPC) if you want to generate traffic and leads right away. If your marketing includes pay-per-click (PPC), then you need to do keyword research. People use keyword research to find and research actual search terms that people enter into search engines. Knowing about these actual search terms can help you with your content strategy, or marketing strategy overall.
Of course, there’s a whole science around keyword research and you can hire companies to do this for you, but get started by reading “How to Do Keyword Research for SEO: A Beginner’s Guide” by HubSpot.