Real estate is changing in many ways and the manner in which potential homebuyers and sellers are researching and addressing their real estate needs is being shaped by the web. Real estate agents need to be ever aware of these trends and how to setup their organizations best to succeed. In this article, we are going to take a look at some of the most important factors that have the ability to dramatically improve your web and search engine visibility.
Ensure your website is user friendly
Everything starts with your website. With the abundance of tools and platforms available today, whether you need to get your first site online or refresh your existing site, the process is easier than ever. Platforms like Squarespace provide easy-to-use templates that allow you to plug your content in and launch within a day. If hiring a 3rd party developer to build your site for you, ensure they create a content management system (CMS) for you so that you are able to quickly update your site with new listings, photos, videos, blog content and more. Having to go back and forth with a freelancer to get a lot of these items updated only holds back your SEO (search engine optimization) efforts as search engines reward sites who update their content often.
Site usability is a critical factor to ensuring search engine placement. A few things to keep in mind in terms of site usability: Make sure your website is easy to read and navigate throughout. Every page should be labeled with proper headlines and content to match. Ensure that every link or button within your site leads to the correct page and not an undesignated (404) page. Broken links are a sign to Google that parts of your site are broken, thus increasing the potential for penalties in search engine rankings. Ensure all contact forms are functioning properly and your contact phone and address are prominently displayed. Finally, make certain your site’s usability is consistent across multiple sized screens and devices, especially mobile phones. Mobile is becoming evermore important and search engines are putting more weight on how your site is viewed by mobile users.
Getting your website right before launching is critical. You should have others in your office, or even friends and family, do your site testing with you. The more eyeballs you have on the site prior to launch, the better shot you’ll have at ensuring no problems exist once it goes live. Luckily, several tools exist that can help detect errors, including Google’s Search Console. Be sure to use all the people and tools at your disposal to ensure a successful, bug-free launch.
Content and Title Tags
Title tags are critical for search engines to better understand the purpose of your site’s individual pages. Each page on your website should have its own title tag to match its on-page content and title tags should never be duplicated for multiple pages on your site.
Keyword research is at the core of your site’s title tags. Several tools exist for keyword research including Google’s Keyword Planner, but on a basic level, think to yourself about what people who you want to visit your site might search in Google. These should be your sites title tags for each corresponding page, along with info like your city and your company name. Best practice is to keep title tags below 70 characters.
Examples of Good Title Tags:
- [Your City] Real Estate Agents | XYZ Realty
- Homes for Sale in [Your City] | XYZ Realty
- [Your City, State] Realtors | XYZ Realty
Examples of Bad Title Tags:
- XYZ Realty – voted #1 in real estate solutions in all of [Your City]
- Full-service real estate solutions, find your dream home in [Your City]– XYZ Realty
- Real estate, homes for sale, buying, selling, residential, [Your City, State]
Equally important is to have keywords within your site’s content to match your title tag. If search engines see title tags that do not match your site’s on-page content, they may see it as trying to game the system, thus incurring potential penalties.
While there isn’t a minimum or maximum amount of content any one page should contain, your aim should be to make any single page within your site to be as helpful and meaningful as possible to anyone who might land on it. Include keyword-focused headlines, rich body text, photos with keyword-driven filenames, videos, graphics and more. Be sure to use linking within your text to other helpful pages on your site that can provide additional information on any given topic. And remember, while scattering relevant keywords throughout your site is critical, try not to overdo it. As a best practice, you should use your identified target keywords at a rate of around 1-3% of any page’s overall word count.
Optimize your Google Local Page
Do you have Google business page that is verified with Google? This process involves the company sending a postcard in the mail to your company’s location that will allow you to verify your address via phone. If you don’t yet have a Google business account, start here. You’ll first need to build out your profile. Include all relevant company information including, company history, your address, hours of operation, photos, and website links.
Once verified, Google will now see your business as more credible, thus improving your chances of ranking higher in local search results. After you have your page setup and verified, focus your efforts on business reviews from your clients. Positive business reviews are one of the most important factors to improving your local results. Simply send your clients a personalized email with the steps below:
To leave a review for [My Real Estate Company]:
- On your computer, open Google Maps and make sure you’re signed in.
- Search for “[My Real Estate Company]“and click on the pin.
- On the card that appears below the search box, click Write a review (at the bottom).
- In the window that appears, click the stars to score. If you want, you can also write a review.
Local results will continue to become more and more important as time goes on, so be sure to setup this initial infrastructure early to ensure long-term success.
Link building to your website
One of the most critical factors in SEO is the amount of “follow” links pointing at your site from other 3rd party websites. Think of links as “votes” for your site, the more you get from other websites, the higher you are pushed up search engine rankings. Links will vary from site to site in terms of the weight they carry to search engines. As an example, a single link from the New York Times Real Estate Section may be worth the same as hundreds of smaller site links that no one has heard of. In short, not all links are created equal.
Link building can take many forms including, blog articles you’ve written for your site or published on industry related 3rd party sites, sponsorships, press releases picked up by local news outlets, online business directory links, mentions in online articles (as in a quote from a team member), photos / videos with company attribution, and more.
A good place to start is to build company profiles on the largest business directories. Using a service like Moz Local will allow you to submit to several of the leading directories at once, all for one small fee. Be sure to make certain your company name, address, phone number and website are consistent on all profiles as search engines will see consistency across the web as a sign of a vibrant, credible business, thus increasing the potential for improved rankings. You can also look to niche directories to help get you started as well.
Your biggest link building wins will typically reside in content on larger, industry-related websites. These can take the form of blog articles that can be submitted to certain websites in your industry or even services like HARO, which connects industry experts with reporters looking to write stories based on those expert’s opinions. You can even signup for their mailing list and have reporter inquiries sent directly to your inbox. Just be sure to answer the calls for help quickly, as the early expert often takes the link.
Building a successful link building strategy along with proper implementation takes effort. Websites look to you as an industry expert who can add considerable insight to help improve the experience of their site’s users. Providing your insights and making connections with these websites early will keep your name on speed dial as the need comes up time and time again in the future, thus increasing your PR exposure and search engine optimization efforts.
Improving search results for real estate agents can take considerable time and effort. Ensuring your website is user friendly, enriching your site with keyword-centered content, verifying your business via Google, and beginning to build meaningful links to your website are critical starting points for long-term success. Putting in the extra effort early and being ever mindful of opportunities going forward are the ingredients that will help push your agency to the top of search engine rankings.