Becoming a real estate agent can be one of the greatest ways to reward oneself. Real estate agents are their own bosses. They answer only to themselves, which means anyone who becomes a real estate agent essentially runs a private business.
That’s important to understand. Business owners must always be aware of their competition. In the real estate agent industry, competition is fierce. Real estate agents are, to quote the cliché, a dime a dozen.
How can real estate agents like you, separate themselves from their competition? SEO, or search engine optimization, is a great way to get noticed ahead of your peers.
Real Estate SEO: The Statistics
Real Estate SEO statistics point to a single, simple, fact. People looking to purchase their homes go to the internet first. Back in the day, they used to look for homes for sale in the local newspaper, asked their friends or contact a real estate agent via the yellow pages. If you don’t know what the yellow pages are, don’t worry! Consider the yellow pages a hard copy version of Google Search.
The yellow pages are in the past, which is where your real estate company will be if you don’t start doing SEO. The fact is that most people on the hunt for a home won’t see your website unless you’re great at SEO. The Internet is where it’s at. Check out specifics on where home buyers discovered the residences they purchased:
- Internet – 50%
- Real Estate Agent – 28%
- Yard Sign / Open House Sign – 7%
- Friend, Relative, or Neighbor – 7%
- Home Builder or Their Agent – 5%
- Directly from Sellers / Knew the Seller – 3%
- Print Newspaper Ad – 1%
Notice how only 1% found their home by searching in the local newspaper? It means that real estate agents must be aware of how SEO works. They must also know how to use SEO to drive potential home buyers to their website instead of to their competitors’ sites.
86% of potential home buyers consider real estate websites the most important tool to find a home.
All real estate agents want to create the most effective website that they can. One of the measures of an effective real estate agent site is how often visitors leave their information. One way real estate agents can generate more leads through their websites is to employ search engine optimization.
Let’s talk about time and expectations management before getting into SEO best practices, real estate/SEO statistics, and how to optimize your site.
Manage Your Time & Expectations
Search Engine Optimization is the process of getting traffic from free, organic, editorial, or natural search results from search engines. SEO can provide lead generation for real estate agents because it promotes traffic to the real estate agents’ sites.
The more visitors a real estate agent gets, the more likely some of those visitors will turn into home buyers or sellers. As you might expect, it can cost a lot of money, time, and hard work to generate leads via SEO.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do SEO. In fact, SEO is a great way for your money, time and hard work to pay off! All real estate agents must do is manage their time and expectations.
1. SEO takes time
You could end up spending a ton of time just to get your specific real estate agent business higher on Google, or any search engines’ rankings. Could your time be spent better doing something else? Maybe. It depends on what you must do.
The key is organization. Know that you must search for houses to list, call clients, and build your sphere of influence. Also know that you must spend time on your website and SEO. Set up an SEO/online marketing schedule. Spend 1 to 2 hours a day on all your online marketing, including SEO. Know for a fact that you will definitely spend those 1 or 2 hours a da on SEO and online marketing.
Then, schedule around your online marketing.
2. There’s no guarantee SEO produces quality leads…unless done correctly
The only way to guarantee success is to do something correctly. That’s it. There are no magic bullets in real estate, or in anything, really. You must spend time on optimizing your website. Manage your expectations by understanding that the fruits of your labor are in the future. Educate yourself about SEO and real estate. Take your time. Eventually, most leads you produce via your efforts will be quality leads.
Once you become an expert with your keywords, almost every lead you generate will be a quality lead!
3. A higher ranking doesn’t mean you’ll get calls and/or emails…and that’s okay
Talk about managing expectations. Don’t expect a higher ranking to automatically produce calls or emails. That’s all right. You must get a high-ranking first. You’ll know, through Google’s optimization tools, which keywords lead to hits on your site.
Get the hits first. The calls and emails will come. More importantly, as you already know from the statistics section in this article, you’ll realize that almost everyone starts their real estate agent search online. The higher you rank, the better your chances of getting calls and/or emails.
You’ll want to write a blog, use video and post great photos. Those are the things that lead to calls and emails once you’ve ranked. We will talk about those things later on in this article.
SEO for Real Estate Best Practices
Every real estate agent should have a website.
According to the National Association of REALTORS® 2014 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, 92 percent of home buyers used the Internet in some way during their home search process. You may want to know more about sellers but being in touch with buyers can lead to referrals down the road.
It’s important to ensure that you employ the best SEO practices possible to immediately connect with potential clients as they do their searches. Information about SEO best practices is always evolving, so here are a few tips we learned from a recent conference to help you employ the latest.
- Create a Great Homepage
Your homepage is like your online business card. Your homepage is your chance to get those searchers to convert into leads. Whether you are targeting home sellers or home buyers you must make sure that your homepage is not only optimized for search engines, but also for searches. What do we mean with this? You’ll do nothing with a fully optimized page if the navigation is super confusing for searchers or if there aren’t any call to actions in sight. Remember, searchers need to get told what to do next and what to read next when they land on your homepage.
There are great ideas out there on how to create a great homepage, but the most common theme is that less is more. Think about what the searchers are looking for (keywords) and what are you providing those searchers to help them solve the reason why they searched (keywords) for in the first place?
When it comes to a seller’s market, you know they will most likely be looking around to see how much their home and the homes on their neighborhood are worth. If this is the case, one of our real estate seller landing pages would work perfectly. They are clean, simple and to the point. They will offer those searchers exactly what they are looking for (a report on their home’s worth and the homes in their neighborhood) and they will provide exactly what you need to get them as a client – their contact info, a lead.
If you’re on a buyer’s market, then what you need is an awesome homepage that shows the houses you have for sale along with a great search filter for those buyers who know exactly what they are looking for.
When it comes to homepages, remember to think about the users and how your homepage can be relevant for what they searched for.
- Create Great Content
Home buyers and sellers are always looking for ideas on how to best stage their home, prepare their homes for sale or how to navigate the often-confusing process. Providing that information consistently and often on your website via a blog is a great way to capture them.
You probably get hundreds of questions from clients or potential clients all the time about real estate. These are good clues as to what is on prospective clients’ minds and what they are likely searching for. Be there, online, to answer those questions and turn each one into a detailed blog post.
- Keywords are Key
Keywords are especially important here. You can use the Google AdWords Keyword Planner to search for phrases that match your blog posts’ content and optimize it by selecting similar phrases to use throughout your post.
“Rich Answers” is a great way to have effective keywords, too. If someone has a specific question that you are answering, provide a direct answer. Your answer doesn’t have to necessarily be at the top of your post.
The more ways that you can spin an answer throughout your article, the better, as you’ll be targeting a variety of different searches that people searching on the web are conducting. The goal is to match their search keywords with words in your posts and provide valuable and relevant information for what they are looking based on their search terms.
- Make It Mobile and Fast
Most people these days do searches through their smartphones, so it’s important to make sure your website is optimized for them and for tablets. You can work with your web developer to make your website responsive so that your information is laid out nicely on these mobile devices.
Also, people these days want information fast. Make sure your website is not having any loading issues that might affect both your SEO (yes, the speed in which your site loads can affect your rankings) and user experience.
Use Google’s PageSpeed Insights to check how your pages are loading and if there are any improvements that can be done to bump up your website’s speed.
- Improve Your Listings
Google Business, Yelp and several other directories are at your disposal for you to display your information in case people are using these sites to search for real estate professionals.
They also help you rank higher because they are tried-and-true platforms that search engines already like. Keeping it up to date is important. Your name, address, phone and website information, for example, should be consistent across all platforms so that you improve your SEO efforts. List as much information as you can and provide images of homes you’ve sold.
You can also ask clients to leave reviews for you. Reviews are especially helpful to strengthen your directory listing and to provide more unbiased information to those conducting searches.
- Be Social
We all know social media is super important to connect with your current and potential clientele. And it’s important for SEO, too. It’s a wonderful opportunity to link back to your website and to your blog posts so you can improve your presence on the web.
Having a social media plan that helps you consistently post and provides useful and interesting content will help you stay organized and on schedule.
These are just a few of the basic steps you need to ensure that you rank higher online. By keeping your information current, providing consistent content and having a robust presence across all available platforms, you can increase your chances of attracting more home sellers and buyers without a lot of cost.
SEO Shady Practices to Avoid
Before getting to common real estate SEO questions and answers, it’s important to know what could get real estate agents in trouble with Google. Do not do the following
1. Place non-relevant keywords into meta-tags
Google looks down on non-relevant keywords that are just there to boost rankings.
2. Hidden keywords
A hidden keyword could be something like white text on a white background. Google will most definitely penalize anybody who does this.
3. Link farms
Link farms’ jobs are to share links. If Google sees you doing this, they will lower your page’s ranking, or even ban you from the search rankings.
4. Private Blog Network (PBN) participation
Google does not appreciate people who specifically create blogs to link other blogs together.
Now that we’ve gone through what not to do, let’s answer relevant questions about real estate agents and SEO.
What does SEO mean in real estate?
In real estate, SEO is optimizing your website to improve its rankings for local searches. You don’t care about potential sellers or buyers looking for homes outside of your area. You do care that your site shows up first on Google when people are searching for a home in your area.
You must still find a way to get them to consider you instead of someone else. Don’t forget that! Winning the SEO contest, though, is the first step towards signing them as a client.
Remember, 50% of all home buyers start their search online. This means your website must be optimized better than your competitors’ sites.
How do real estate websites rank?
Search engines use algorithms to determine whether or not a website ranks on the results page. In addition to specific search engine algorithms, other things factor into the rankings.
Google has multiple algorithms to determine website rank. Although other factors are taken into account, Google recommends using best practices to improve website rankings.
Some of these are basic and should be implemented to all websites despite the industry. When it comes to real estate, we recommend you take into account local SEO best practices, as more than likely Google will use local factors to rank real estate websites.
How do I do SEO for real estate? How do I optimize my real estate website?
55% of searchers click one of the first three links that shows up on Google. This means you must optimize your site so that home buyers and sellers find you and not your competitors. Check out 5 ways to ensure you get the clicks that leads to listings.
1. Optimize Content for Effective SEO Keywords and SEO Best Practices
Search engine optimization is built around keywords. Some keywords are more effective than others. The important thing to understand is that keywords require two considerations, search intent and search volume.
Search intent is the “why” of keywords. Why are they searching? Search volume measures the effectiveness of the keyword. If you keep those two things in mind, you will find the optimal keywords, and long-tail keywords for you real estate agent site.
Don’t worry if you don’t know what keywords to use. There are plenty of free tools to use that will help you raise your SEO ranking.
2. Go Mobile. Be Mobile Friendly. Get Fast. Get Secure
Most of us live on our phones. We check email, see what’s going on the world, and browse the Internet. We do all those things constantly, every day, all day.
When creating your website, keep this in mind. Because most people will view your site on their phones, you must ensure your images, landing pages, videos, and anything else on your site loads fast. You’ve got 3 seconds or less before potential customers hit the back button. Your site must be fast.
Your site must also be secure. The last thing you need is to provide a potential client a virus that crashes their smartphone’s operating system. Make sure you have an SSL certificate installed in your website. Many hosting providers already include this in their hosting packages.
3. Have Confidence and Start a Real Estate Blog
Almost every real estate agent in the United States has a website. Some have blogs. Many do not. The reason? Blogs require more work than simply optimizing your site. It requires an understanding of content marketing.
Real estate agents should consider starting a blog. Placing a blog directly on your site shows confidence. It also presents you as an expert. Write relevant content and in a style that makes the reader feel as if you’re speaking directly to them. Not convinced?
Check out these statistics from Blue Corona:
- A blog on your site increases the chances of ranking on search engines by 434%
- 70% of home buyers prefer online content as opposed to paid advertising
Don’t just stick to writing your blog. Make sure to add vlogs, or video blogs, with testimonials from happy customers. Blogs are a huge part of search engine optimization.
4. Real Estate’s About Visual. Get Great with Videos, VR, and Photos
Make sure you’ve only got the sharpest, best photos of properties for sale on your site. Ensure your listings sell by using virtual staging. Check out stats, again from Blue Corona, that back up the advice:
- 50% of buyers wish to see potential purchases virtually staged
- On average, homes with clear, colorful photos sell 44% above the list price
The higher your ranking, the more hits you get. The more hits you get, the more homes you sell and the more listings you get. Use virtual staging and crisp photos to not only make more money on sales, but to also increase your rankings on search engines.
5. Make Home Buying Easy
Buying a home is difficult. Different buyers find different parts of the home buying process to be more difficult than others. Check out a few more interesting statistics from our friends at Blue Corona:
- 17% prospective home buyers state that understanding the home buying process is difficult
- Finding the right property is the most difficult step for 52% of potential buyers
- 24% of home buyers find the paperwork surrounding purchasing a home to be the most difficult aspect
Luckily, making it easy on home buyers can also lead to a higher ranking. For example, since 24% of home buyers find the paperwork surrounding purchasing a home intimidating, why not write a blog about home buying paperwork?
Because 17% don’t understand the home buying process at all, it makes sense to write a blog detailing the home buying process. Go step-by-step. Don’t leave anything out. Not only will you educate potential clients, you will also raise your website ranking on Google.
Almost as important? It leads to quicker turnover, which impresses home sellers to list with you.
Don’t Go SEO Loco, Go SEO Local
Real estate agents are local. Although at times they can sell a home outside of their area, the most successful real estate agents are local agents. With that in mind, let’s go over the 3 things agents must do to become SEO local kings.
1. What Motivates Buyers? Schools and Amenities
Home buyers are not just looking for a house; they’re looking for a lifestyle and certain environment. They have families to raise, activities to do and places to relax. Keep this in mind when developing long-tail keyword phrases to rank for. This is the content that will matter the most to your target audience and how they will find you as they search online.
Ricardo Martinez is the founder of Perconvly, an e-commerce consulting company that specializes in SEO and Facebook marketing. He suggests long-tail keywords such as “best middle school neighborhoods,” “best public schools in (insert city)” and “best high schools in (insert city).”
By doing this, real estate professionals’ segment other purchase intents while building an emotional connection with home buyers.
Ryan Shaw, who runs the blog Real Estate Witch, feels the same way. In Florida, where he is based, home buyers run queries such as “golf retirement communities Florida,” “active retirement communities Florida” or “horse properties Pine Ridge Florida.”
To expound on this idea, think about neighborhoods in the same way. This may often be what motivates buyers first and foremost. Some ideas:
- Safe neighborhoods
- Best neighborhoods
- New construction communities
General queries like “real estate (insert city)” are much harder to rank for, so get specific with what you think buyers really want.
2. Select the Best Local Keywords
We discussed keyword optimization from 1000 feet above. Now, let’s look at it from 10 feet above. Since you’re a local agent, you must choose local SEO keywords and keyword phrases.
What’s the difference between a local keyword and a basic keyword? Remember search intent and search volume? The why for local includes the city, or, in some cases, the word local. So, instead of using a keyword like “Atlanta real estate agent” use a keyword like “Buckhead real estate agent”. Not only will paring it down to Buckhead make it a more efficient keyword, it will also rank faster on Google than if you use Atlanta.
If you think that changing the keyword from Atlanta to Buckhead will affect search volume, you are correct. Atlanta has more searches than Buckhead on an hourly basis for sure. Even though that’s true, Buckhead is the better keyword because there is more value to each search.
Houses sell for more money in Buckhead than they do anywhere else in Atlanta. Any person searching for a home in Buckhead is likely to want to buy right away.
Make Sure Your Google My Business Page is Current and Looks Great
A real estate agent’s Google My Business Page can break or make their company. Since most real estate agent searches happen online and through Google, your Google My Business Page must be up to date. Make sure your name, address, and phone number are correct.
Verify your business with Google if you haven’t yet. Add images to raise your rankings. If you can add images of local homes for sale, that’s even better! Get a professional headshot. Make sure to smile. Smiling is a lost art.
Fill out the Categories section correctly. Don’t forget, Google requires all businesses to focus on services. You must include the words “real estate” into any category. Since you want to concentrate on local, consider this category: Local Real Estate Agency. That’s one category. Create at least 3 categories. A couple more could be Residential Property Real Estate Agency and Local Real Estate Services.
Keep in mind that you must optimize your website for local searches. Real estate agents should only use the clearest possible photos of homes for sale. Posting a specific page about each home is a best practice.
Real estate agents should also post relevant local content on their sites. An example might be if your real estate business sponsors a local event. Make sure to post videos and photos of the event. The more you can build your local presence online, the more you will optimize your site.
Real Estate Agents Should Take Advantage of These Free SEO Tools
Real estate agents run their own businesses. They have no choice but to be cost conscious. Check out free SEO tools that you can use to increase your search engine optimization ranking.
1. Google’s Search Console
Google’s Search Console provides a suite of tools that help real estate agents measure their site’s search traffic and performance. Through the console, real estate agents can see how Google views their website and if there are any issues with indexing or crawling their websites.
2. Google’s Keyword Planner
With Google’s Keyword Planner, agents can get help with keyword research. Real estate agents can search for keywords related to their products or services. They can also research keywords to discover how often certain words are searched and how searches have changed over time.
Google Keyword Planner is essential to a real estate agent’s goal of gaining a better site ranking. It doesn’t just help with that, though. It’s also important because it helps real estate agents narrow their keyword list. That should lead to more efficient, and likely less difficult, keywords to rank for.
3. Google Analytics
Google Analytics helps real estate agents understand how website visitors behave online and and their website. Google Analytics allows agents to discover which queries bring visitors to their sites. It also analyzes a real estate agent’s site’s impression, clicks, and position on Google Search.
How to Use Google’s Tools for Real Estate SEO
1. Use Google Keyword Planner to Find Keywords
Find what you believe to be the most efficient real estate agent keywords. Remember, you’re a local marketer, which means the keywords you choose should have something to do with your local market.
Also, it’s important to choose keywords that tie into the categories on your Google Business Page as well as your blog.
2. Use Google Analytics to Discover What Optimization Choices to Make
A part of search engine optimization means using correct keywords. Once they land on your site, you can use your blog and other content to convince them to list with you.
Getting them to your site is the first step, though. Use analytics to discover the top queries, the top searches for your site. Use Analytics to see which are your most popular pages and which are the pages that visitors exited from. Use Analytics to track lead conversions and other information about your visitors from where they are visiting to what device they used.
What’s most effective? Again, think local. Then, change your strategy based on the information from Google Analytics.
SEO for Real Estate Agents: A Long-Tail Keyword Formula to Follow
Ed Brancheau, CEO of Goozleology Digital Marketing, has helped numerous real estate agents rank their sites and attract targeted traffic. What he’s found the most successful: always focus hyper-locally and on one niche. And he has an awesome formula to help, below, in his own words.
1. Pick only one niche
Condos, single-family homes, green homes, etc. Whatever you think will make you the most money.
2. Pick a neighborhood to focus on
For example, most real estate agents come to me and say that they can “sell anywhere in San Diego.” Well, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Usually, I tell them to zero in on a one-mile radius around their office.
Now, some come to me and are a little more targeted by choosing a smaller city within their area. But most of the time, even that is too broad. For example, I work with a realtor in La Jolla (outside of San Diego) who wanted to rank in all La Jolla.
But we chose to dominate the Bird Rock area of La Jolla first. At first, they ranked in Bird Rock and got plenty of business. Yet, over time, they also started to rank for La Jolla in general. Their business is growing and stable.
3. Create evergreen content about the area in which you sell
Interview restaurant owners. Take pictures of the parks. Post crime and school reports. Everything that you can think of because most people don’t buy the house, they buy the area. Plus, when you create posts about the houses you have for sale, they die once you sell the house.
So, bottom line, choose a long-tail keyword, go with Niche + Neighborhood + Local
SEO is the Only Way Forward for Today’s Real Estate Agents
We live in an online, mobile, driven world. Many of us are constantly on our phones. Those of us who aren’t constantly on our phones repeatedly check our phones. Because we are so online driven, every business in every industry has had to develop online marketing skills.
The most important of online marketing skills is search engine optimization. Real estate agents that become SEO experts help their sites achieve high Google rankings. Because people often choose one of the top 3 search results on Google, real estate agents with SEO skills are likelier to get the best listings.
Better listings lead to more sales. When it comes to online marketing, search engine optimization is the most important skill for real estate agents to learn. Those agents without it will miss out on the prime listings while those with it will become real estate stars.