Ryan Clark has been my marketing and branding consultant for a while now, and we regularly discuss social media and link building for real estate. He’s always in the know about the latest SEO and online marketing, and I’ve been asking him for a year to let me do this short interview for GeekEstate.

Ryan’s team is focused on working with big brands and companies in very difficult markets, and my market in Hawaii is one of the toughest.

[Tony:]  Tell us about your SEO philosophy briefly.

[Ryan:] I’d first like to thank you and the people at GeekEstate for allowing me on here. It’s a privilege and I hope to offer some fresh ideas for 2011.

Real estate agents usually just want links anywhere, but my marketing philosophy is to build valuable relationships online which will build the foundations of a very strong brand that will keep you around for the long term. Over the years I’ve realized just how important online relationships are, just as in real life. Relationships lead to the highest quality, most relevant links and drive laser targeted social media followers into your network.

[Tony:] Ok question 1 – After all these years we are still focused on building links.  How is that changing these days?

[Ryan:] Links are still the most important factor for SEO, and real estate keywords are always competitive. When you’re competing for the golden keywords you’re going to need more than article marketing and directories.

Going into 2011, having high quality links is going to be more important than ever!  Google is going to be looking at links very differently in 2011. How do I know this? You could say I socially stalk certain known Google employees, especially those in the spam departments. One of those employees has recently stated the following;

“Some really dramatic changes to how we use links are on the way. (Sorry I can’t say anything more specific. This is a really sensitive area.)”

Google has failed to fight the over targeted optimization problem. There is simply just too much spam! We have been telling clients not to build anchor text specific links, especially if they’re getting a good amount of content marketing and guest blogging. Over optimized anchor text looks very unnatural and in the long run, is most likely going to get you into trouble.

We’ve been able to achieve positive movement in the SERPs while ignoring exact match anchor text links, focusing on natural link building. We recommend utilizing the following:

  • Get your office listed on Foursquare.com, Yelp.com and Gowalla.com and get some links.
  • Link bait that targets the local market ie “25 Places To Find Deals In $insertcityhere”.
  • Local, ultra high blog commenting. We’re talking 300-1000 word replies. Get involved for the branding, not the link.
  • Ignore the no/dofollow issue and only focus on quality, related sites.
  • Sponsor local events or get involved with local charities…emphasis on getting involved in your community.
  • Building legit and quality social media profiles so your are quality.
  • Stick to high quality content sites like Suite101, Associated Content, InfoBarrel and others for any content marketing.
  • Guest blogging on local or market related blogs

The old saying that quality over quantity has never been more true.

[Tony:] You keep telling me to build my Facebook business page. I still don’t get exactly what it’s doing for my business.  How do I use Facebook to actually get business from it?

[Ryan:] People are spending endless hours on Twitter and Facebook.  While your profiles are time consuming to manage, they are becoming crucial. A Facebook Page is basically a 2.0 newsletter and can be an insanely valuable marketing tool. I’ll only talk about the big two here, but there are hundreds of interesting social media networks and apps for real estate. These sites are also your gateway to targeting local followers, but also for building key relationships that lead to link opportunities your competition won’t be able to touch!  Both Google and Bing are now counting social participation into their algorithms.

[Tony:] So how does Facebook help my SEO?

[Ryan:] First of all, it’s not just SEO.  Your company Facebook page is the best marketing tool next to the search engines. A lot of agents scoff at the idea of spending money on building up a FB following, but if they don’t, the competition will. Agents are not interested because they’re not generating leads, but if you give it time, those followers will turn into leads. You may not get the phone calls right away, but down the road when that follower needs an agent, they’re going to remember you for being such an awesome “Facebooker”.

Once you have people liking your page, you can constantly keep your brand/name locked in their brains as they see your content in their stream. You can hit their inbox through the Fan Page which makes for a killer marketing resource…just don’t spam or over do it.

[Tony:] Ok let’s talk about Twitter.  I confess that I don’t get the appeal of Twitter and I never know what to Tweet. What should I be doing there?

[Ryan:] I get a lot of moans and groans about Twitter from real estate agents. In a lot of industries it can be a HUGE waste of time. But when it comes to networking in a local market, it is a powerful weapon, and the local market is what a real estate agent should be all about. Make use of Twitter’s search tool to find local users, and utilize a GUI such as Hoot Suite to monitor your city/area for the most active users. I advise agents to get listed in directories such as WeFollow and Twibs because they allow others to find you as well (plus you get a link).

Besides allowing you to spew words to locals at 140 characters per message, having your Twitter account listed on other Twitter apps can get your content indexed within minutes on Google and Bing. To top it all off, a lot of those sites also provide followed links to your Twitter profile, and your homepage. These are non anchor text specific links that help build your brand.

[Tony:] I think I have like 9 followers in Twitter, seriously.

[Ryan:] It takes time but there are ways of attracting a more follows quicker than most. If you want droves of followers, run a local contest. We recently helped an agent run a contest from his Facebook Page that required users to post something to their wall, and the result was astounding. The contest prize was a night out for couples that included a romantic dinner topped off with a night over in a local luxury hotel. This is great for two reasons. The agent had over 2500 new followers to his Facebook Page, and those trickled into his Twitter profile as well for over 150 local followers. We were also pleased to see the contest get picked up on a couple of local blogs which netted him some great links.

Don’t just Tweet and post about your listings or business related items. Mix in 50% fun in order to not only keep the followers interest, but attract new people to your flock. This will further your branding and lock in those people who’ll need you down the road or refer you to their friends.

[Tony:] I’ve been blogging for 10 years now, does it even matter anymore? Do people read real estate blogs and do they even help my SEO these days?

[Ryan:] For an agent, your blog is very important. It lets your readers get a sense of who you are, it lets you share news and media, nets invaluable links and siphons people into your social media accounts. A lot of agents we start to work with usually have a very boring blog that nobody is going to read. Tony, your blog is great.  You could easily be Oahu’s best known food critic if  you ever decided to change professions.

[Tony:] Well, food is more interesting than real estate.

[Ryan:] The most valuable use of a blog for agents that we’ve seen through research and data, is targeting long tail keywords. Use your blog to target that long tail and funnel that reader to your listing. Some topic suggestions I’ll throw out are;

  • Luxury listing blog posts with unique pictures and video that you took (if possible)..everyone loves luxury!
  • Write about local businesses and do interviews with local business owners such as interior designers, landscapers or anything in the home owner vertical.
  • Topics like, “5 Homes under $price in $cityname”, “3 Great Neighborhoods In $city With The Best Schools”, etc.
  • Use your blog to embed your Youtube videos, Flickr pictures and other social content.
  • Write on topics that let you beef up your internal linking to pages that might not be getting enough link love.
  • It never hurts to mix business with pleasure and entertain as well as inform. Connecting with your community through your blog will do wonders for your business. I challenge you to do a blog post every day for a month and look back on the results. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

[Tony:] Thanks Ryan for your insights.  I have to go find something interesting to Tweet and blog about now.

Connect With Ryan Clark: http://www.linkbuildr.com