Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of enhancing your website’s organic rankings in search engines such as Google and Bing. When it comes to engaging with real estate prospects, SEO is becoming more important than ever.
According to a 2017 study by the National Association of Realtors, 51% of buyers found their home online. While another report shows that 95% of home buyers use real estate websites to gather information, a 2012 study showed that buyers will use a search engine 11 times on average before taking any action on a real estate website.
Over 90% of real estate firms have websites. If your website is not optimized for search engines, you risk not being seen during any of those crucial 11 searches.
On the other hand, with a solid SEO strategy, your website could be at the top of Google’s results for all of those 11 searches.
Real estate is a crowded field. Make sure you don’t get left behind with these tips:
Google has confirmed that website content is one of the top three factors used to rank your website in organic search. In order to stay competitive with the large number of realtor websites on the internet, your website needs to offer valuable content.
When landing on any of your website’s pages, your copy should fully inform users what each respective page is trying to convey. For example, your home page’s text should inform users that you are a real estate vendor. Similarly, if you have a property listings page, your page copy should inform visitors that they can find your property listings on this page.
If someone visits your website and is confused, they are likely to leave your website and never return.
You will also want to write your page copy to be aligned with keywords. If you sell townhomes in Chicago for example, the keyword phrase “Townhomes in Chicago” should appear in your page copy naturally – if you place keywords in your page copy too many times/in an unnatural way, you could get penalized from Google.
Write your web page copy such that people enjoy reading it while also utilizing your keywords.
Real Estate Content Marketing
More likely than not, there are keywords your competitors’ websites rank for that you don’t, but should! After all, you both operate in the same industry.
By analyzing your competition and researching the keywords they rank for, you can launch new content on your website aligned to those keywords and start earning those ranks.
Updating your website with new content regularly is an effective tactic in gaining search engine exposure and more keyword rankings. Blogs, case studies, research articles, even infographics and video will enhance your website’s SEO authority.
That said, you need to make sure you are producing quality content. Google tends to ignore low-value content such as recycled stock photos, short 250 word blogs, and videos that receive no engagement.
Use currently high-ranking content as a benchmark for what you need to beat. If you want your website to rank for “Chicago Real Estate Trends” and see that the top three organic results for this keyword phrase in Google are 1000+ word articles with unique images, your content must include all of the information found in these articles, in addition to relevant topics not included in those top-ranking results.
It is likely that you will end up with a very long piece of content by following this strategy, but offering users more value than your competitors’ content is how you win at SEO.
An internal link is a link from one of your website’s pages to another. For example, if you have a property listing page with links to individual property pages, those would be ‘internal links.’ Internal links can be used to enhance your web pages’ keyword association.
Let’s say you have a page on your website featuring condo listings in New York City – “Condos in New York City” would be a good keyword to associate with this page.
Now let’s say you write a blog for your website and the text “Condos in New York City” appears in the body of the blog. You can use that text to link to your condo listings page and strengthen the association between the keyword and that page.
Web page text that has a link embedded in it is known as ‘anchor text.’ For example, when I link to our home page with a keyword-focused anchor text, Digital Marketing Agency, I just placed an internal link from this post to our home page using “Digital Marketing Agency” as anchor text, thus enhancing the keyword association between the keyword phrase, “Digital Marketing Agency” and SoMe Connect’s home page.
Strategically using internal links and keyword-focused anchor text can be an effective way to enhance your organic keyword rankings.
A title tag is the text which appears at the top of your page listing in Google’s organic results:
SoMe Connect’s title tag is the purple text above the green URL.
Since the Google bots use title tags as an organic ranking factor, you will want to make sure your target keyword is included in your page title tags.
Google cuts off title tags that go beyond 600 pixels (usually around 70 characters), so keep your title tags within this range.
Also avoid using the same title tag on multiple web pages. Unique web pages need a unique title tag/keyword focus. Recycling title tags can limit the number of keywords your pages rank for – you don’t want to miss any opportunities to enhance your pages’ keyword rankings!
A meta description is the text which appears beneath your title tags in Google’s organic results:
SoMe Connect’s meta description can be seen beneath the purple title tag and green URL.
While the Google bots do not use meta descriptions as a ranking factor, writing compelling calls to action in your meta descriptions can impact on your click through rate.
Much like title tags, Google will cut off meta descriptions that are too long. This threshold was recently increased from 160 characters to 320 characters, so make sure you don’t exceed that limit.
Also similar to title tags, unique web pages need a unique meta description. Using duplicate meta descriptions can limit the opportunity you have to entice people who find your pages through organic search to click through to your website.
Imagery is (and should be) heavily used on real estate websites – how else will people get an idea on whether or not they would like to visit your property?
Even though Google bots can’t read images and/or text embedded in images the same way they can read page copy, the bots can read the image file name.
Instead of uploading an image file titled “367573037-img.jpg,” renaming it to “chicago-condo.jpg” or “new-york-real-estate.jpg” can strengthen your page’s keyword association.
Additionally, Google bots can read image ‘alternate text.’ Alternate text, or alt text, is an HTML attribute that helps search engine bots understand the contents of an image. When you a focus keyword in your image alt text, not only do you strengthen your web page’s keyword association, you also increase the chances of your image ranking in Google images.
The URL your pages use can also influence your keyword rankings.
If you are trying to sell multiple properties in multiple locations, make sure your URLs are tailored to those keyword variations. For example, yourdomain.com/chicago-townhomes would be a great URL for townhome listings in Chicago.
You want to make sure your URLs are also as short as they can be. Yourdomain.com/chicago/chicago-townhomes-for-sale is unnecessarily long and redundant since “Chicago” appears twice in the URL.
Also be sure to use hyphens instead of underscores in your URLs. When it comes to URLs, search engine bots read hyphens as spaces. The URL yourdomain.com/chicago-townhomes is read as “Chicago Townhomes” by a Google bot. However, yourdomain.com/chicago_townhomes is read as “Chicagotownhomes” by a Google bot.
Off-Page SEO for Real Estate
As you can see from above, there are several SEO tactics you can deploy on your website, whether it be content, internal links, title tags, etc…
There are also several tactics you can leverage on other websites. I previously mentioned that Google has confirmed website content is among the top three most important organic ranking factors – the number and quality of links coming to your website is also among the top three organic ranking factors.
Since real estate is so specific to geographic locations, building business profiles on local directories can help Google more closely associate your website with the cities your properties are listed in.
Building out these profiles as thoroughly as possible is key to getting the most value out of them – avoid the temptation to simply place a link in your business profile and offer no further information.
Also avoid recycling company descriptions for the bio/summary of your business profile. Writing unique company descriptions, with your target keywords, for each listing will go a long way in enhancing your organic search presence.
A simple search for local business directories and real estate directories will generate several opportunities for local business profiles. Avoid building profiles on every business directory you can find – keep it focused on your location and industry.
Also avoid purchasing business listings – Google has been cracking down on those who buy links for their website, and you don’t want to be the victim of a dreaded Google penalty which can take months to recover from! If you decide to pay for a directory listing, be sure that it is on a directory highly relevant to your niche, and don’t do it too often.
Some directory websites offer reciprocal link exchanges as payment for a profile/link. Essentially, a reciprocal link exchange would be a directory linking to your website in exchange for you linking to theirs. Exercise caution here, you don’t want the Google bots thinking your website is just a collection of links to other websites.
Several websites offer the opportunity for guest posting. Essentially, you would write an article and let another website publish it in exchange for linking back to your website through an author bio.
Guest posting is an effective tactic to build more links from higher quality websites. While building links on local directories is an important tactic and should be utilized in a real estate digital marketing campaign, links earned through guest posting tend to come from higher authority websites. The stronger the link, the more SEO results you can expect.
Much like local listing websites, the more tailored to your niche the guest posting website is, the better. Find a blog or online publication that frequently posts about topics in real estate and offer to contribute to it. You may need to brainstorm a left field topic isn’t covered often in the real estate industry, but this approach will increase your chances of securing a guest post.
Google My Business
Google My Business profiles can improve local rankings. By filling these out with as much information as possible and ensuring your business categories are accurate, you can send a stronger signal to Google to show your website when someone searches for “Real Estate in (insert your location here).”
More importantly though, the number of positive reviews you receive on your Google My Business profile can really make a difference when it comes to your website’s visibility and traffic.
Reaching out to your clients and partners to leave positive reviews on your Google My Business profile can make the difference between whether or not you show up on Google’s first or second page.
These on-page and off-page SEO tactics can drive excellent results and help you reach qualified leads through your website. However, if your website doesn’t function properly, no matter how masterfully you execute these strategies, it will all be for nothing.
You can publish thousands of pages worth of high value content and build thousands of quality links. If your website takes too long to load, crashes often, is written with sloppy code, etc… you’ll never see significant SEO improvements.
Recently, Google started introducing mobile-first indexing to reward websites that are optimized well for mobile users with stronger keyword ranking positions. What’s more, studies have shown that 58% of buyers find their homes on a mobile device.
Ensuring your website is mobile-friendly is not only important for search engine purposes, but also for consumer engagement. Mobile-friendliness has been increasing in importance for digital marketing, and we’re likely to see this trend accelerate over time.
Whether or not “HTTP” or “HTTPS” precedes your website domain may seem like the difference of just one letter, but it really dictates whether or not your website is secured. If you don’t have an HTTPS website, users browsers will notify them that they don’t have a secured connection to the website they’re visiting.
Beyond the user experience component of secured websites, we typically see that HTTPS websites tend to outrank HTTP websites.
Much like HTTPS and Mobile Responsiveness, your website’s loading speed plays into both user experience and Google’s algorithm. Studies have shown that 40% of users will leave your website if it does not load in 3 seconds or less.
Furthermore, website loading speed is an organic ranking factor. It is common to see websites that load quickly outranking websites that load slowly.
Unique, Static URLs
When you type “www.yourdomain.com” and “yourdomain.com” into your browser, do these two URLs exist on their own, or does one automatically redirect to the other? How about “yourdomain.com/properties” and “yourdomain.com/properties/” (note the trailing slash at the end of the second example).
If more than one version of your web pages’ URLs exists, you could get hit with a Google penalty. The Google bots can read www.yourdomain.com and yourdomain.com as two unique URLs with the same page content. Ensuring you have one unique static URL for each of your web pages is crucial to avoiding duplicate content penalties.
Structured data, or schema markup, is code you can place on your website to help search engine bots find information about your business, such as your company name, address, phone number, etc…
We typically see websites with structured data in place outranking websites without it.
An XML sitemap is essentially a table of contents for search engine bots. It helps them read and index your website’s content.
You can check to see if you have an XML sitemap in place by typing yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml or yourdomain.com/sitemap_index.xml into your browser. Either you will be able to view your website’s XML sitemap, or you will be brought to a 404 error. Having an XML sitemap in place is a highly recommended SEO best practice.
Similar to an XML sitemap, a robots.txt file helps search engine bots index your website. More specifically, you can tell search engine bots that you don’t want specific pages crawled. Be careful though, you don’t want important pages being blocked in your robots.txt file.
For example, if your property listings page’s URL is yourdomain.com/listings and you see “Disallow: /listings” in your robots.txt file, search engine bots wont crawl your property listings page and it will never rank for any keywords.
You can check your robots.txt file by typing yourdomain.com/robots.txt into your browser. If your recieve a 404 error, it is likely that you don’t have a robots.txt file created. Along with an XML sitemap, having a robots.txt file in place is a highly recommended SEO best practice.
Real Estate SEO
By leveraging these SEO tactics and ensuring your website is properly built, you can reach a larger audience and sell more properties. However, executing these tactics properly is best done by industry professionals. Discover how SoMe Connect’s SEO services can generate more leads for you. Contact us today!