According to the National Association of Realtors, 22 percent of homebuyers looked to newspaper ads to find their next home in 1981. In 2018, 44 percent of homebuyers looked online first in order to find a property. Also, 50 percent of people who purchased a home in 2018 found it first online, per NAR.
It cannot be overstated just how important it is for real estate professionals to be online and to understand the tools needed to get noticed on the internet. It’s one thing to build a website and have social media accounts but it’s another altogether to understand how to make sure your company and your listings show up at the top of the search rankings when someone does a Google (or Bing) search.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the critical skills that a real estate professional can understand when it comes to marketing on the web. Real estate SEO can make the difference between no one ever noticing you and getting a dozen unsolicited leads every day. While it’s obvious why this is important for real estate agents and buyers, understanding SEO for real estate investors is just as significant.
Whether your goal is to supplement your cold calls and in-person visits with online lead generation or to focus solely on online leads and sales, you’re going to want to become an expert in the world of real estate SEO. Here is the ultimate guide to understanding how to get started.
What is Real Estate SEO?
It’s important to understand what we’re talking about before we discuss how to perfect it. In layman’s terms, SEO is the way that you can ensure your website, blog, and services show up near the top of user search results in Google, Bing, or any other search engine.
So let’s say a potential homebuyer is considering buying a property in Nashville, Tennessee. They open up Google and they type in “homes for sale in Nashville.” How can you make sure your website is among the choices available to them on the first page? Even more so, how can you make sure your website is among the top three choices on that first page? These are the questions at the heart of real estate SEO. There are actual answers to these questions that you can solve.
Why Is This So Important?
The numbers vary depending on who you ask, but it’s generally accepted that 75 to 90 percent of people who do a Google search do not scroll past the first page. So while you might have the 25th most popular rank for a search term, but it’s extremely unlikely anyone is going to click far enough to see that. Even more critical is that the first three results in any given Google search are likely to get around 55 to 60 percent of all the clicks.
In other words, if you’re not showing up on the first page of a search, you’re basically irrelevant. And even then, if you’re not showing up in the top three results, you’re probably not getting clicked on.
And this doesn’t take into account the prevalence of paid search results, instant answers, and local results that end up muddying the waters and making it even harder to stand out from the crowd.
So, yes, this is very important.
What Does SEO Mean in Real Estate?
As mentioned, almost half of all real estate transactions begin on the internet and that usually means they begin with a web search. Often times, a web search is a generalized “shot in the dark” and the user is counting on Google or another search engine to deliver the best possible answers to them.
Everything depends on your local market but you might be amazed to learn how many people search for “homes for sale” in your state, county, city, neighborhood, and subdivision every day. Depending on the demand, it could be in the thousands. And don’t discount the power of specific and hyperlocal searches. This is often where new real estate companies can make their mark, SEO-wise. It’s hard to rank highly for “homes for sale in Nashville.” It’s much easier to rank highly for “homes for sale in Germantown,” if you know how to use SEO to your advantage.
Consider Your Keywords
The most important thing you need to know about SEO when building your web presence is understanding the keywords that your potential clients are using when they do a Google search. There are companies and online tools that you can use to help figure this out (Ahrefs, Moz, SEMRush) but they often cost money and can seem byzantine to those unfamiliar with web practices.
So in lieu of that, focus on understanding the keywords that can potentially drive web users in your direction. Many of these keywords are very obvious. These are the names of the cities and neighborhoods that you want to do business. These are the different types of properties you plan to deal with. These are all of the relevant real estate terms that people use on a daily basis to describe real estate agents, real estate investors, as is buyers, and rental properties. And finally, think about the terms people use to find a property, like “homes for sale” or “where to live in…”, or “[CITY] houses to buy.”
A really great hack to find out if you’re on the right track is to identify some competitors, do Google searches based around the keywords you think make sense for you, and then see where those competitors come up in the rankings. If they’re coming up often, you know you’re on the right track. It also gives you a good sense of what you have to do to get ahead of them in the rankings.
Also, keep an eye on the “People Also Ask” section of the search results. Google is basically showing you what other relevant keywords and search times might be for your target audience.
Build Your Content Around These Keywords
Now that you have a good sense of what people are searching for when they look for real estate in your area, you want to create your website and core pieces of content around those keywords. You don’t want to do “keyword stuffing” as that’s something Google frowns upon (and will even penalize you for), but you want to be mindful that the more you can prove to Google that you have the right answers for the questions people are asking, you’ll rank higher because of it.
So if you’re going to be setting up shop in Nashville, you’re going to want to focus on phrases like “Nashville Homes for Sale” or “Available Properties in Nashville.” You can tailor the offerings based on the specific type of real estate transactions you’ll be doing, but you just want to make sure you are speaking the specific needs and demands of your market. As you go, pepper your writing with relevant keywords without overdoing it.
Ultimately, you want to be an expert on the specific topic and location you are doing business in. And you want your website to be a resource for your customers. Think beyond the specific way that you’re going to eventually make a profit and instead focus on the information that someone needs when they click on your link in the search results. So even though you want to generate a lead or sell a property, you also want to “answer the questions” that someone has so they stick around longer and view your website as a legitimate destination for them.
Don’t be afraid to get granular. Local traffic is the lifeblood of a real estate professional so the more fine-tuned your offerings can be the more likely you are to be a top result when someone searches for what they need. If you’re looking to buy as-is properties, you’ve got a better chance of being noticed if you’re focusing on “Nashville as-is properties” than if you were to focus on “Tennessee as-is properties.” And if you can include keywords that get it down to specific neighborhoods and regions, all the better.
Be Smart With Blog Posts and Social Media
Some people will tell you that blogging died as social media took off, but the truth is that there is still essential value in both sides of your content strategy. A blog is ultimately just a tool for you to create new content that reaches potential customers and clients, the same way a tweet or Facebook post might try to do the same. They’re all tools in your toolkit to use.
Blog posts are a great way to secure your spot in the rankings for very specific search terms. If you want to reach out to potential clients who have damaged properties they want to sell, you can write a blog post specifically about that and tailor it to your state, city, or region. If you want to stand out from the crowd regarding homes for sale in a specific neighborhood, or even a specific listing itself, write a blog post that provides valuable insights about it. Remember to think about the keywords people will use to find that specific topic and then answer the questions they are bound to have. The better you can do all of that, the more likely you are to hold onto them as a lead.
There are also some SEO-related tools that you can incorporate into your blog posts. You’ll want to get up to speed on what meta descriptions and meta titles are, why they are relevant, and how to add them to your posts when building them. If your website is built on WordPress, Squarespace, or any of the major web platforms, they make it fairly easy to find this. Other tools to take advantage of in order to make your blog post a little bit more compelling to Google (and therefore rank higher) include alt tags on photos, file names on photos, proper URLs, and targeted phrases.
Remember, the point here isn’t to just try to game the system. The point is to provide relevant, useful content that the end-user appreciates and decides to stay on your site. So don’t just slap together a paragraph or two, build a sizable post of at least 750 words. The more the better, so long as it’s worthwhile and relevant.
And make sure your content is unique. Not only will you be penalized for using duplicate content by Google but you could get in serious trouble for stealing content from the original creator. Plus, it’s just bad form.
The same rules apply for social media, which can show up in Google search as well. You can create unique content on your Facebook page, create a Twitter thread that people can search for, or provide insight via your LinkedIn page. Regardless of what you do, make sure you are linking back to your website and keeping all of the content unique as much as possible.
Contact Information is Critical
What good is mastering SEO for real estate agents and real estate investors if people don’t know how to contact you once they’ve found you? It’s absolutely critical to make sure there is always a contact touchpoint on all of the content you’re creating, even if it’s just a drop-down menu option on the website.
But it’s also important to think about all of the places where people are searching that could also include your contact information. Think about what happens if someone Googles your name or the name of your company. What comes up? And is it correct?
Does your website have a bio page or an About Us page? It should so that you can provide all of the requisite data and information needed to confirm who you are, why you’re an expert, and why potential clients should contact you.
Directories like Yelp, YellowPages.com, Manta, and many others should have all of your correct contact information available as people will find them through search just as easily as they’ll find your website. If you’re working with a broker make sure that your contact information is available.
The truth is that there are so many other important things you can consider when it comes to real estate SEO. You could spend all day going down rabbit holes to figure out the most important information and latest trends. But if you just follow the basic information listed here, you’ll be well on your way to ranking well for the important keywords you need to, and you should start to see a difference in how people find out about you from a simple internet search.