SEO for real estate
According to a 2020 survey conducted by the National Association of Realtors, millennials make up the largest share of home buyers in the U.S., which is surprising news to many. For years, millennials have had a reputation for holding out on buying a home, opting instead to live in their parents’ home or rent. But now, the tide seems to be turning and realtors need to prepare for the needs of this digitally savvy generation.
With digital real estate marketplaces like Zillow and Redfin gaining traction, there is no doubt that more and more real estate decisions are moving online. But having a website and posting on social media is not enough on its own. You need to ensure your listings are getting seen at the top of search engine results when people start their online search. And to do that, you need a solid search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. Let’s dive into what SEO is and how you can leverage SEO for your real estate business.
Read on to learn:
- What is real estate SEO
- What are the benefits of implementing a real estate SEO program
- Real estate SEO as a lead generation engine
- Real estate SEO tips: 17 steps checklist
- What is the ROI of real estate SEO?
SEO for real estate is a way to optimize your online content to attract people through organic search results, as opposed to paid online advertising, like Google Ads. Content that you can optimize for search engines include content on your website, social media platforms, and mobile apps. In the early days of SEO, optimizing your content meant putting a great focus on keywords and links as the main way to rank. Now, however, creating an all-around good user experience that helps meet your user’s needs is the most important.
Keep in mind that SEO is a long-term strategy and you should not expect to see results overnight. Instead, you can look at real estate SEO as a way to implement your business goals, now and in the future. Many companies pour their SEO efforts into ranking on Google and there is no surprise there with Google dominating 88.83% of the US search market share in April 2021, according to Statscounter GlobalStats. But keep in mind that Google is not the only search engine worth optimizing for. Microsoft Bing and Yahoo are both well-known search engines with 5.47% and 3% market share, respectively. Although these other search engines boast less traffic than Google, the advantage is that there is less competition, meaning you have a greater chance at ranking on Bing and Yahoo.
As more and more realtors invest in SEO, being visible online is critical to the success of a real estate business. Here are just a few reasons why you need to start building your SEO program.
Increase traffic and revenue
The main benefit of a strong SEO strategy that includes quality content is that it can improve your incoming traffic. Not only does it increase your traffic, but if you are publishing relevant content and keywords, you are also attracting more of the right audience with greater chances of becoming clients. With the right conversion points in place, you can turn this traffic into new revenue.
Boost brand awareness
In addition, quality SEO content establishes your business as a go-to source of knowledge, which builds trust with your audience. Each time someone reads your content and gains value from it, they are interacting positively with your brand, thereby increasing brand awareness. And better brand awareness further increases the conversion rate.
Improve brand protection
Another added benefit that might not be as obvious is that SEO also offers a form of brand protection, as you can better control how your brand is represented online. An example of how SEO can protect your brand is if you are participating in an affiliate program. These programs are a tried-and-true way to increase revenue, however, you should be careful not to let affiliates dominate traffic to your brand keywords, as you have little control over how affiliates are representing your brand.
A good real estate SEO program does not stand alone but rather is an integrated part of your marketing and sales funnel. SEO, therefore, creates new points of entry for new leads to enter the funnel by guiding users directly to conversion points on your website. The types of conversion points you can use include contact forms, newsletters, and local data driven market research that helps you understand the needs of your potential clients.
As with any lead generation strategy, tailoring your content to fit the needs of specific target audiences will improve your success. For example, users looking to purchase or lease properties have different wants and needs from users looking to sell their properties. To attract both of these important target audiences, be sure to tailor your SEO program to cater to buyers and sellers.
It is a jungle of information out there, so to help get you started on building your SEO strategy, here are actionable must-know tips for SEO success.
1. Analyze your SEO competitors
Even if you know your industry competitors well, your SEO competitors can vary from keyword to keyword, so you will need to run a competitor analysis to find out who you are competing with for search engine rankings. Once you know who your competitors are, analyze what works for them and what does not. For example, what kind of content are they publishing? How do they structure their pages and their websites? Study and learn from their wins and mistakes, and you have a good starting point off which to build your own strategy.
2. Do your keyword research
To rank at the top of search engines, you need to find out what keywords your potential clients are typing in when they start their housing search. You then need to investigate which of these keywords are reachable, depending on how much search volume and competition there are for each keyword. You can use an enterprise SEO platform like Siteimprove SEO, to uncover the top keywords your competitors are ranking for. You can also use it to find out what keywords you are already ranking for, which are great low-hanging fruits for you to start with.
3. Look for long-tail keywords opportunities
A successful SEO keyword does not always mean one that has a high search volume or popularity. A long-tail keyword is a keyword or phrase that is very specific and usually does not have a lot of search volume. Although long-tail keywords are more niche, they are also much less competitive, so if you find a keyword that is very relevant to your audience, you can more easily dominate rankings.
4. Create good quality content with your clients in mind
As mentioned earlier, the main goal of SEO should be to help visitors to your website find what they need. In SEO, content is king, meaning that good quality content should be your top priority. For each web page, you should target a researched keyword, but avoid stuffing the content with this keyword. Instead, your focus should be writing content that your potential clients will find useful, while the keyword helps you stay on topic. The most valuable content will answer their search query and provide insight and information they cannot find elsewhere.
5. Perform a full technical audit of your site
To start a successful real estate SEO program, you should first have a good overview of how technically optimized your website is. These are elements on your website that you should look for:
- Response codes 404, 401, 410, 503, 505
- Website structure, orphan pages, and internal linking
- Canonical and hreflang tags issues
- Duplicate URLs and duplicate content issues
- XML sitemaps and robots.txt file setup
- Web security (SSL certification)
- Negative SEO (harmful backlinks pointing to your website)
6. Prioritize solving crawling and indexing issues
Once you have audited your website for the appropriate technical elements, you should focus on fixing the issues that influence crawling and indexing. You can have the best content in the world but if it is not getting crawled and indexed by search engines, it has no SEO value. The types of issues that can affect crawlability include broken links, outdated URLs, a missing or inaccurate sitemap, page duplicates, and slow load speed.
7. Have a local approach
Make sure that people know how to get in touch with you and where to find you. To do this, claim your Google My Business listing and optimize it for search to appear in the right locations. Be sure to list your services and add relevant posts. Wherever possible, localize your website’s content and include your name, address, and phone details where it makes sense.
8. Use real estate agents schema markup
Schema markup, also known as structured data, is code you can add to your website’s HTML to help search engines more accurately read the information on your website and, in turn, help potential clients find the information they are looking for. There are two types of schema markup that have been created specifically for real estate businesses, RealEstateListing and RealEstateAgent schema. Using the real estate listing schema, for example, you can hand-feed relevant information to search engines, so it is clear to both search engines and your potential clients when the listing was published, where it is located, price of the home or lease, and length of the lease. Use the schema markup well and you might even be able to snag a featured snippet in the search results.
9. Get local backlinks to your real estate website
Just as in the non-digital world, word-of-mouth referrals can offer the best business. A backlink is a link from another website to your own. A local backlink is therefore a link from a local online source, such as a business directory, a local newspaper website, or blog. Local backlinks send signals to search engines that help validate your local authority, as well as help drive referral traffic with relevant leads to your website.
10. Monitor your keywords rankings
To keep track of your goals and report on your performance, it is key to monitor the evolution of your keywords. Staying on top of any changes to a keyword’s search volume or ranking enables you to make any tweaks or course changes in your strategy. Monitoring also ensure you keep an overview of which pages have low rankings and need further optimization.
11. Define KPIs for your real estate SEO program
To measure the success of your real estate SEO program, you need to set clear goals and KPIs that are relevant to your business needs. Different KPIs you could potentially track include:
- Increased Google rankings on key terms for your realtor business
- Increased Google impressions
- Increased Google traffic
- Increased interactions with your Google My Business profile
- Improved click-through rate (CTR)
- Improved conversion rate
- Improved time on page
- Increased number of pages viewed per user session
- Reduced bounce rate
- Soft conversions, i.e., newsletter subscriptions or demo video views
12. Get insights on your users with a web analytics tool
To improve your real estate website, you need to gather and analyze data on how your clients and potential clients behave on your website. Some web analytic tools, like Siteimprove, allow you to gather data on how your users behave on your site and what the typical user journey is. You can set specific goals and events related to actions on your website that allow you to segment your users, so you can target different groups more effectively with the relevant content and information. You can also consider using heatmaps on your key pages that would allow you to understand how your users are interacting with your real estate listings pages.
13. Have a well-functioning internal search engine
When a user is on your website, many of them prefer to search for keywords, locations, and addresses directly in your internal search bar. A poor experience with your internal search engine could jeopardize your conversion rate, so do make sure that your internal search bar shows the right pages without any broken links or redirected pages. An added benefit to having an internal search engine is that you gain insights into what your potential clients are looking for. This knowledge can help you improve the content and optimize the user journey.
14. Test and iterate to improve your conversion rate
Finding the right recipe for success can take some experimenting to see what clicks. To improve the user experience and conversion rate on your website, consider testing different versions of your page. Analyze what combination of elements on your website work to convert and eliminate any elements that do not work. Keep in mind, the goal is always to improve how visitors interact with your website, as this will help you rank better and convert visitors into clients.
15. Optimize your real estate website for mobile search
More and more people are searching from their mobile devices, so much so that many websites are automatically switched to mobile indexing first which means that Google only crawls the websites with mobile bots. These mobile bots treat your website the same as a mobile device, therefore, it is vital that your website is optimized for mobile users. If the mobile bots cannot easily get around your website, your rankings will suffer. Ways to improve the mobile experience on your website include improving page speed, ensuring your website’s design adapts well to smaller tablet and phone screen sizes, and ensuring any pop-ups you might be using on your site do not interfere on mobile.
16. Improve your EAT factors
Your Expertise Trust and Authority (EAT) factors are highly important for users looking for trusted sources of information. Search engines are putting increasing value on your EAT factors, so much so that if your website lacks these factors, you can lose your ranking and traffic. Fortunately, you can optimize your website to boost these factors. For example, make sure that relevant pages, such as your About page, contact pages, and homepage are on point with up to date information and content that positions you as a trustworthy, local authority in your field. If you have accreditations or have won awards, be sure to include this information too.
17. Make sure that your website is ADA compliant
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires businesses to provide equal access and services to people with disabilities. In your real estate office or home office in which you conduct your business with clients, this would mean removing barriers to access such as installing ramps or widening doors. The same requirements apply to your real estate website. To avoid litigation and loss of business, you should therefore ensure your website is ADA-compliant by checking your website for accessibility issues, such as non-compatibility with assistive technology used by people with disabilities. Consider using a tool such as Siteimprove’s automated accessibility checker to get an estimate of your website’s ADA compliance.
A study by Outbrain revealed that organic search drives 300% more traffic than social media. Moreover, a poll conducted on Twitter by Search Engine Journal showed 49% of marketers reported that organic search brings the highest ROI out of any digital marketing channel. The stats show that SEO works to increase traffic and, in turn, profits, but keep in mind that SEO is a long-term game that can take months to show significant results. Although you will not get instant return on investment as you might with paid ads, with consistency and time, you can reach some of the millions of visitors logging in every day.