People often turn to the internet for everything from ordering pizza, to tracking their favorite teams and find out what the heck a bomb cyclone is. Zillow, Trulia and other sites have made it an increasingly viable tool for home buyers to at least begin their home search process before taking in-person tours. It makes sense for real estate agents to want to get in front of these home buyers to build a client base.
However, without some tips, how do you know if your web marketing is working for you? You can give your clients all the tips in the world about how to show a home, but you have to get them there first. Google and other search engines with their opaque algorithms can be intimidating beasts.
If the world of meta-tags, keywords and content marketing has you confused, you’re not alone. There are Fortune 500 companies constantly trying to figure out how to make something show up in search. Google, Bing and others guard their algorithms like the gold in Fort Knox. There’s good reason for this, too. If someone were to figure out exactly how search engines worked and fool them, high quality content might be pushed down in favor of info that wasn’t as good because the person who wrote it knew how to game the system.
While there’s no search engine silver bullet, we do know some things about what search engines are looking for to find the high quality content their users covet. What follows is a series of tips that should have your content headed to the top of page 1 in no time.
Make Sure Your Info Is Accurate
If you’ve ever searched online for a restaurant, florist or any number of other businesses, you’ll probably notice they have photos, their hours, reviews and even notes on when they’re busy. It comes up in an info box to the side of search results and looks a lot like this.
This is really nice and draws a ton of attention to your business if you can make it stand out with pictures of yourself, the exterior and possibly interior of your offices. There would also be a map to your location. So how do you get one of these?
You can go to Google My Business in order to claim your location and start filling out relevant details about your business. Now, when someone searches for that location on Google, they’ll get this handy search box that’s going to show you putting your best foot forward.
Beyond these, you should search your own business, making sure that the online information is accurate and relevant. In many cases, if these are internet listings, you can edit your own address, phone number and email. If you’re mentioned on news sites or blogs run by another entity, a quick perusal of the website will often turn up the author or editor of the information and you can reach out.
Your listing should include at minimum:
- Your name and the name of your business
- Business phone number
- Business email address
Use Location-Specific Webpages
Real estate is all about location. No one knows the ins and outs of the areas and neighborhoods you cover better than you do. People looking for houses may only do so once a decade. You’re out there pounding the pavement every day.
With that in mind, if you cover several cities across a metro or county area, you should have specific webpages for each major area you cover on your site.
As an example, if I were to look at cities in the metro Detroit area, Ferndale or Royal Oak are much different areas from Dearborn or Redford, despite being within a relatively close distance to each other. You might choose to keep separate localized webpages or even dedicated sites. That way, if someone is searching for homes in those specific areas, your site comes up.
If you had your own site, you could have pages focusing on the different selling points of the area and you yourself as a real estate agent. For example:
- Homes for sale in Royal Oak
- Living in Royal Oak
- Royal Oak real estate testimonials
Amanda Peters is one of our search specialists here at Quicken Loans. She says that every page should include a call to action.
“Let’s say you’re a real estate agent focused on the Ann Arbor, Michigan area,” she said. “The call to action under your Google result might be something like ‘Wondering what it would be like to live in Ann Arbor? Schedule a walk-through today!’”
Many real estate professionals are using some sort of content management system (CMS) for their website. When you set up a particular page, many of these systems will have plug-ins that will allow you to edit what comes up underneath your Google result, sometimes referred to as the “search snippet.” For example, you might search “WordPress search plug-ins.” If you don’t know which CMS you might be using, you can contact the person or organization who helped set you up with the site.
In addition to being in your search snippet, any calls to action that you have should also be prominent on your page. You want to be able to convert those eyeballs into leads who could eventually sign a contract to work with you.
Do Some Experimenting
If you want to get a little more advanced, companies do plenty of A/B testing on their sites. You can play around with where the calls to action are on your pages. If it’s just a link, does it work best at the top or bottom of the page? If it’s button copy, does it work best when the button is orange or blue? You can spend a lot of time on this stuff and you shouldn’t go too crazy, but if you’re having trouble getting people to convert after viewing your page, you might change up some things.
Keywords are an important part of your strategy for rising up the rankings. The important thing to remember is if you’re writing on something like homes in Sterling Heights, it’s important to have the phrase “homes in Sterling Heights” near the top of the page in the first few paragraphs.
You’ll also want to cover other topics and keywords your potential clients might be searching for. How do you find those?
In this case, related searches are your friend. When you type in one inquiry into a search engine, the engine will auto populate other entries. This can be immensely useful in generating related topics for your pages. You can also find related searches at the bottom of the search results page.
If you phrase your inquiry in the form of a question, sometimes you’ll get a box with the questions people also ask. This can be helpful in generating ideas for blog posts, which we’ll get into below.
The one thing I will caution against is you don’t want to have keyword stuffing. That means putting the keyword in every sentence or even every paragraph doesn’t necessarily help you and may actually hurt you because Google doesn’t want people gaming the system. They can penalize you in search.
You don’t have to go out of your way to walk a keyword tight rope, but a good general guideline is to only mention the keyword where it would make sense if you were just having a conversation with someone about the topic. You wouldn’t say something like “Mountain Dew is my favorite soft drink because Mountain Dew has a refreshing lemon lime flavor.”
Mobile Friendly Sites
More and more web browsing is done on phones, particularly among millennial first-time home buyers. You’re going to want to make sure your site is mobile friendly and fast. If your page doesn’t load in the time the user expects it to, they tend to move on and there’s no sense letting them go to your competitors.
Just how fast is fast?
“Page load speed is huge, particularly on the phone or tablet,” said Peters. “People aren’t going to go microwave dinner while waiting for your page load. They’ll move on. Your page should load in three seconds or less, but you would like to see it under one-and-a-half seconds.”
What can you do to speed up page loading? Having your tech person or a webpage designer working on it may help. In general, make sure you’re loading versions of images that are optimized for digital. Without getting too technical, screen resolutions aren’t as high as what would be required for print. Therefore, you can get away with smaller file sizes, which will help speed up load times.
Google also has a PageSpeed Insights tool. It may be helpful to follow the recommendations.
One way Google measures your site is if it’s regularly updated with high-quality content. One way you can do that is by writing blog posts on home buying and selling topics.
You can do a few things. Talk up the virtues of the areas you serve. It makes you look like you really know the area if you can talk about how good Air Margaritaville was during Music in the Park or speak highly of the fettuccine Alfredo at the best local Italian place.
The other cool thing to do is write about the topics in which your clients are interested. You’re in a unique position to know these things because you talk to clients on a daily basis. The other great way to find topics is to put a question in Google that you might write on and then look at the related questions as we did earlier.
The best thing about blog posts is that it’s a great way to get other sites to link to you and this is one of the best ways to get your search engine rank to increase quickly. One key indicator for Google is whether other sites link to you because it’s a sign that you have good content they’re interested in sharing with their group. You’re considered influential in your field.
So how do you get back links? You’ll have to do a little legwork, but there’s a method to the madness.
I recommend downloading the free MozBar extension for Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox, and creating a free account.
Now you’re going to want to do a Google search on a topic you plan on writing about like “buying a home in the winter.”
Once you have the extension, you’ll get a toolbar under each Google search results. Ideally, it would be good to get a link from any site with a domain authority (labeled DA in the extension) above 30.
It may be unlikely that sites like realtor.com or Trulia will link to you as an individual real estate agent, but there are plenty of great real estate blogs out there looking to share good, engaging content with their audience. Once you’ve identified several prospects, now it’s time to do outreach.
Try to find contact info for the authors of the articles you’re writing. Many times, the info for an author or editor can be found right on the site. Other good resources for finding contact info might be social media like Facebook or LinkedIn. However you do it, just try to get in front of the person and tell them how much you enjoy their site – a little flattery never hurt anyone. Maybe you throw in that you’ve read a few articles and that you really liked a particular one they wrote.
Then you can run through the fact that you’ve recently written a great article on buying a home in the winter that you think could benefit readers. Would they be willing to link to the page now or in the future as a resource? One thing that helps is if it adds something to the article that they don’t already have covered in their post.
Not every editor or author will say yes and they may not even respond, but if you get a few links for your articles, every little bit helps and if you do this for enough articles, you can steadily climb the online rankings.
Hopefully, those tips help you master the search engine game. Now it’s time to turn to social media marketing, just maybe not all in one day.