When house hunting, 90% of buyers use the Internet. In fact, 53% of buyers start their search online, according to “The Digital House Hunt,” an extensive report on real estate consumer trends conducted by Google and the National Association of Realtors.
More than ever, people head online when it comes to looking for homes and finding Realtors®. Between 2008 and 2012, real estate-related searches increased by 253%. With so much opportunity online, realtors can’t afford to miss out on this valuable traffic; for professionals in real estate, SEO is more important than ever.
When it comes to capturing traffic for terms related to real estate, SEO efforts begin with local keyword targets on a personal website.
“You have to carve out a niche for yourself — think locally, and then expand,” said Robert Ramirez, a senior SEO Analyst who has managed real estate SEO for agents at Sotheby’s and Century 21.
Read on to discover how you can leverage a real estate website to capture traffic (and leads).
1. Target Local Keyword Phrases
69% of home shoppers begin their research with a local keyword phrase, like “Glendale realtor.”
“Most realtors service multiple cities and regions. However, when you start your website, focus on the main city you do business in first. From there, build out silos that target other areas,” Ramirez said.
Optimize your website for search terms such as:
- [City] real estate
- [City] homes for sale
- [City] real estate listings
- [City] realtor
- [City] real estate agent
These words can appear on pages throughout your site. For example, a site focusing on just Glendale realty might be organized like this:
- Glendale Homes for Sale
- Living in Glendale
- Glendale Real Estate Testimonials
- About Your Glendale Realtor
Throughout these pages, incorporate the local keyword targets, working them into content that is useful to a prospective home buyer.
“Make your website a resource,” Ramirez explained. “On a page like ‘Living in Glendale,’ provide information on school districts, crime rates, median income, public transportation, and statistics on the average homeowner.”
The more targeted a real estate website can be, the better.
“Really focus on capturing local traffic. You have a much better chance to rank for, let’s say, ‘Glendale realtor’ than ‘Southern California realtor’ — as you build your site and traffic, you can eventually target more competitive terms like ‘Southern California realtor,’ but not right out of the gate. You’ll have more success if you take a more targeted approach,” Ramirez said. “For example, a real estate agent I worked with put up a website in Chinese that focused exclusively on selling homes in the Hollywood Hills to the Chinese community and he made a killing. It was so targeted and so niche-oriented, he was able to corner the market by honing in on very specific keywords and a very specific community.”
A Note on Using IDX/MLS
It’s common practice for realtors and brokers to use IDX (Internet Data Exchange) to render real estate listings. While this is great for users, it usually does little to influence rankings on search engines because these MLS listings are usually rendered with jQuery, in an iFrame or on a subdomain that appears off of the main site — meaning Google won’t index the content as part of the site. That’s why it’s important to add additional unique content to the listings page, such as:
- extra facts and features of a property
- excerpts from your testimonials page
2. Write Blog Post on Homes You’re Especially Keen to Sell
A real estate agent can represent hundreds of listings at a time, there are no doubt a few key properties that the realtor is particularly motivated to sell. One way to secure traffic to your site for those specific properties is to write blog posts. Each blog post should target a specific property’s address, which perspective home buyers will be searching for using Google. The address becomes the keyword — follow all SEO best practices such as using the keyword in:
- Meta Description
- Title tag
- ALT tag on photos
- File name on photos
- The content
As for the content itself, come up with 200 words of unique content describing the home’s features in addition to the standard description — and in this case, you don’t have to worry about duplicate content.
“Google expects to see those descriptions of homes appear across the web. You won’t be penalized for including standard listing information. However, if you want to rank for the address as a keyword, you’ll have to include unique content, as well,” Ramirez explained.
3. Take Advantage of Photos and Videos
Photos and videos are key engagement objects on all websites, but this is especially true of a real estate site. Home buyers love seeing a video tour of the inside of their prospective new homes. In addition to video tours, consider capturing testimonials on video, too.
“Whenever you sell a home, get a testimonial. If you have a video camera, a steady hand and good lighting, try to get that testimonial recorded on the spot. A home buyer is ecstatic right after getting their keys. That’s a great time to ask,” said Ramirez.
An Australian real estate group reported seeing 403% more inquiries for listings with video than those without video, and studies have shown adding a video to a page triples the amount of inbound link.
4. Make Your Site Mobile
The statistics are in and they show that home buyers are searching for real estate on mobile devices. “The Digital House Hunt” report referenced earlier also found:
- 89% of new home shoppers search using a mobile device during the home buying process.
- A 300% growth of real estate broker-related searches on tablets year over year.
- Foreclosure searches have risen 180% year over year on mobile devices.
The report found that home buyers are apt to use mobile real estate sites while at home, at work, while waiting in line, at restaurants and in other people’s homes. Home buyers visit real estate websites to:
- Read general home information
- Get directions to visit a home
- Compare prices
- Compare features
- Search a listing company’s inventory
- Call a broker
- Locate a listing agent
- Read reviews
- Research mortgage financing
- Email/contact a broker
- Watch an online video about a property
With these statistics in mind, it’s clear that making your website mobile is an important factor in real estate SEO. We recommend using responsive design, which is Google’s preferred mobile configuration.
Real Estate SEO: Beyond Your Website
In addition to optimizing your personal website for traffic, there are steps you can take off-site to entice prospective clients, as well, such as optimizing your bio page on your real estate agency’s website, getting listed in directories and using social media strategically
5. Get Listed in Directories
Real estate agent directories get a lot of traffic. Ramirez recommends getting listed in top real estate directories. Each of the following highly trafficked real estate sites have directories available to realtors:
Zillow alone had 498 million page views in January 2014 and Trulia had 277 million. There’s a lot of potential traffic to be captured by getting listed in the right real estate directory.
6. Optimize Your Bio on Your Broker’s Website
If you’re a realtor working with an agency, your brokerage house more than likely hosts a web page for each realtor. While it is unlikely that this sub-domain can rank for a local keyword target, this is a great page to optimize for your name.
“People will Google your name, so you need to optimize search for your name,” said Ramirez. “Include your full name in the Title tag and Meta Description. This might be challenging, however, because on the broker site, you’re operating on a domain that you don’t have full control over. Find out what you can and cannot change – if you can alter the Meta data, optimize those fields for your name.”
In addition to ranking for your name, you can also use the bio page to provide contact information and link to your personal website.
7. Incorporate Social Media
When it comes to client relations, social media is a great way to start relationships or strengthen existing ones. A realtor with an active social media presence is able interact with clients where they are everyday: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and/or Instagram.
“Real estate is all about relationships — obviously any record you can build on social media that shows your expertise is important. When people vet you and discover a healthy, professional social media presence, it’s going to signal trust,” said Ramirez.
Because photos and videos are key components in real estate sales, Pinterest and Instagram are particularly useful platforms for realtors. On Facebook, consider joining location-based groups and on Google+, get active in local communities. Across all platforms, use social media strategically, employing hashtags like #realestate or #listing.
Article by Bruce Clay