On Wikipedia, SEO is defined as:
“Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine's “natural” or un-paid (“organic”) search results.”
Real Estate SEO poses unique challenges
If you Google a search term like “vancouver condos” today you’ll discover two things. At the very top of the search results, I’m seeing “About 11,400,000 results (0.48 seconds)”… that’s right, eleven million pages. The competition is formidable. As I begin to scroll down the first page I’m seeing a few hyperlocal specialty websites, a Kijiji listing, Globe and Mail articles, Realtor.com, a huge brokerage site, more hyperlocal sites… but not one of the “cloned” agent websites. You know, the template sites you essentially rent for fifty bucks a month, that present a MLS Reciprocity (IDX) listing feed instead of providing any real content.
It’s easy to understand why the big sites are on the first few pages of search results. Over the years they’ve added hundreds or even thousands of pages that talk about condos in Vancouver. But how does the independent agent “out content” those big players?
First of all, there is no single tactic, or a few quick tricks, that will get you to the top. It's a process and it takes time to earn quality lead-generating traffic online. I recommend a strategy that includes all 6 of these tactics.
1. Publish fresh, ridiculously valuable content consistently
If you want Google to notice you, and crawl your site regularly, become “crawl worthy.” If you’re not publishing at least one high value, extremely relevant, blog post a week, you need to step it up.
I’m not talking here about blasting your audience with new listings and open house notifications. That content is about “you” and what you want to sell. In addition to an IDX feed, your website should already have all of your listings — current and archived — entered on site; each page carefully optimized for search engines. And you can promote your new listings in local social media groups, where it’s acceptable to exchange listing information.
Your blog and social media posts should focus on providing real value to home buyers and sellers. It should address their pain points and provide real “help”.
2. Build a resource of “evergreen” content
“Evergreen” mean content that does not go out of date. In addition to the dynamic up-to-the-minute content you’re publishing in your blog and social channels, you should be building a resource of high quality long form articles. These resources become the subpages that attract links from local and authority websites. They establish your domain’s authority as a credible trustworthy source of local information and services.
3. Become “more local” than the competition
What the successful agents have discovered is that they can still take their place with the big data sites by becoming “more local”, or hyper-local. Very few real estate agents are willing to invest the time and effort, or money, to do SEO right. And therein lies a tremendous opportunity. For those dedicated agents willing to invest into a long-term asset, some sustainable and consistent search traffic, with a steady stream of real leads to nurture and develop into real business, there's still a lot of opportunity.
As a real estate professional, you need local search results, local traffic and local links. To get local businesses and websites to link to you, your website needs to become the go-to resource for local information.
4. Target long tail keywords
The competition for short-tail keywords like “vancouver condos” is stiff. Targeting specific long-tail keywords that align with your local niche, or property inventory, can capitalize on the low hanging fruit of local searches.
A keyword tool like Wordstream, Wordtracker or Hittail may reveal that there have been a lot of recent searches for the terms “2 bedroom condo english bay” and “english bay condo near park.” A little added research indicates that these terms may be heavily searched, but there’s little to no competition. In other words, few websites offer content that satisfies the need. If you’re creating hyperlocal content for the English Bay area, it’s easy to create a few evergreen pages and posts to pick up easy rankings and traffic.
5. Expand your distribution
If all of your traffic comes from Google, their algorithm may determine that you’ve found a way to ‘game’ their ranking system, but your content isn’t actually popular.
When your content is shared through many distribution channels, like social media, RSS readership and your email newsletter, and people arrive at your site through direct links, it demonstrates that your content is perceived to have considerable value.
6. Build your domain authority
High quality backlinks, earned by consistently publishing extremely valuable content for your audience, over time builds your domain’s authority. These links accumulate very naturally as readers discover your content, engage with it and share it with others.
Creating a balance of evergreen and dynamic well-optimized and highly-targeted content, on a high authority domain consistently delivers search engine success.
What doesn’t get it done
Due to the highly competitive nature of search results, there isn’t a single “quick fix” tactic that is going to drive traffic and lead generation.
On-page optimization of existing content simply isn’t enough. Attracting inbound links from many websites can still improve your SEO, but these are best earned through quality content.
Many look to MLS Reciprocity (IDX) as a quick solution to content. IDX populates pages, from a 3rd party database, with a listing feed. Website owners find themselves in a “cart before the horse” scenario. IDX does not build traffic so much as capitalize on it. Your site needs real content, and the “eyeballs” it attracts, before IDX works.
Do you have an SEO success story to share? Are you baffled by the many changes in SEO? I welcome your comments and questions below.
Do you need some help in mapping out and implementing your SEO strategy? A free 20 minute coaching call could be a game changer.