During the latest hurricane there were a lot of lesson to learn. All of the lessons could be encapsulated into one word “preparedness.” I covered this a tiny bit on our first episode of the 4rd Marketing Podcast, where we covered how to be “future proof” vs google’s constant shifting SERPS (Search Engine Result Pages) and algorithmic changes. In light of that episode, there’s some changes that I think Google made for the public good but just might have shown their hand so to speak. So during and in the aftermath of the storms, here’s What Irma Revealed About The Future of Google SERPS. (more…)
With Redfin’s new IPO and recent news of Keller Williams announcing a $1 Billion tech fund, you could be wondering what is the future for tech savvy real estate agents? You’d be right to have concern if you’ve been following the popular tech advice for the last 15 years. If you’re renting leads and platforms from zillow, cinc, and boomtown then sure, your world is going to change in the next few years. These platforms are great and they disrupted the online ppc (SEM) game, but they are not game changers for real estate long term.
First let’s examine what Redfin is doing. They are trying to reduce the “mundane” of real estate. From the experience I’ve seen so far from Redfin they are doing some very innovative things and at the same time they are realizing there’s something missing. Even stating in their recent Inman post, “there’s no replacement for a 10pm phone call about a transaction.” (I could easily go on why that call should never happen but I won’t).
Some are calling them the Amazon of real estate but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. They are getting into mortgages, this is something that EVERY brokerage should be doing. In many cases a mortgage company can make 7%+ on each transaction, meanwhile real estate commission averages for an agent have been steady at 2.8% for that last 20 years. You can easily see that if Redfin can at least lend on half of their own deals they will finally be profitable.
What about Keller Williams? On the other end of the spectrum you have the country’s largest brokerage trying to combat this news. It’ll be interesting to see what they will do. They’ve had 20 years to distrupt the real estate industry and they’ve manage to flip the broker model (really recycle it) and so mission accomplished there. However, KW’s weakness has always been technology, whether it was poorly planned partnerships with website providers or half-finished document soluttions, KW continues to fail… in the eyes of the tech world.
The Sad News… KW is a tech leader relative to real estate. Comparing KW to Redfin and other startups is like comparing AOL to Google. That’s how far off the tech is. However, if you were to ask about Remax or Coldwell Banker you’d find that’s like talking about Myspace. Complete universes apart in what they do.
With their current leadership (strong in personal leadership, weak in technology) I don’t see how they are going to bridge the gap, but $1 Billion is a great start.
What About The Real Estate Agent?
In this changing world, what should an agent do? There’s a “shiny nickel” salesman that will call you every day if you’re a real estate agent so it’s tough. Personal referral real estate will continue as it always has. Before MLS’ there were personal relationships and pocket listings and those relationships will still be here long after KW closes it’s last office. Any agent wanting to stay relevant in the next decade is going to have to double down on personal relationships.
What’s actually being disrupted is online lead generation.
Luckily for tech savvy agents, there’s hope! Agents that want to remain relevant from 2017 on, are going to have to be market experts but not in secret. They need to take a page out of a recent post by Gary Vaynerchuk.
Get passionate about something. That’s actually why I transitioned out of residential real estate. I wasn’t passionate about 80% of the business. I’m with Redfin, let’s remove this drudgery. In the coming weeks I’ll be talking about how you can as a real estate agent amplify your voice, but the key is to do this where your clients are. If you want to go after blogging, I posted the keys to SEO and picking a niche previously and you should read that. However you don’t have to be an SEO genius for this to work.
Go out and buy Tribes, by Seth Godin and start building your real estate tribe… that’s how you can survive. There’s not a single company out there that is going to do something to protect you. If you want to protect your business you have to get a gardener mentality. If you nurture your crops (your family, friends and past clients) then you’ll continue to eat great fruit, but if you’re chasing leads, you’re going to miss it.
Please understand what I’m saying here. The sky is not falling but an “IDX website” is not the key to what is looming ahead. Being an outspoken leader about your expertise in real estate and helping your Tribe is. So yes, learn SEO, but not for “homes for sale” learn SEO so you can optimize your voice and be found.
As I work with small business owners and thought leaders in doing SEO and Digital Marketing work I am learning a great many leadership lessons.
In order to do effective SEO, I need to know what my client’s ultimate goals are. I need to have a big picture vision of what they really want long term. SEO is a long term play and although it’s constantly changing what you do matters in 30-60-90 day increments. If the client lacks clarity it’s my job to help them get clarity around their own goals. What’s surprising is that so many entrepreneurs lack clarity around a specific vision. This does explain why so few have websites that perform well. In fact, one leadership blog says, Clarity is the antidote to fear. It’s this lack of clarity and fear of the unknown that I think paralyzes entrepreneurs.
A website is a reflection of the vision of the leader of the organization’s online strategy.
In fact, the best projects for me are the ones where the leaders have a clarity around their purpose. It reminds me of “Start with Why.” When organizations know why they exist they are better able to articulate the what and the how. For an SEO, it helps create content that engages, attracts and influences others around the brand vs a “sales” letter. Whether it’s on-page optimization or simply doing Local SEO, we’re creating content (in different forms).
Great content leads people to make decisions, not simply buy.
Collaboration and Engagement
It’s not just the content that needs to engage, it’s the SEO. Ultimately, for me to be the most effective I need to understand as much as possible the team dynamic I’m working with. Nothing frustrates me more than doing a lot of work only to have to go back and redo it because there was a lack of communication. For the team, there’s nothing more frustrating to be working on a project and realize what you are doing is hindering them. So much of SEO overlaps into other disciplines.
A good SEO is someone who might have a little programming background and a little design background. While they have to have a deep understanding of SEO, often “jack of all trades” make good SEO. Because of this ability to be able to communicate with teams with different specialties and hence personalities, they need to take a leadership role. This does not mean they need to take over, rarely is an SEO in an organizational position that would allow that. They need to be, what John Maxwell calls, a 360 degree leader. That means they are taking initiative and leading in communication and serving the team, not necessarily telling people what to do.
Integrity & Responsibility
That brings me to one aspect of leadership that I wasn’t ready for. Responsibility. As a content marketer, I craft content that CAN influence. It’s important as an industry that we take responsibility for what content we create. The methods we can use to help a website are so well documented there’s even niche’s inside of niches. For example, there are websites devoted to nearly illegal SEO activities called “Black Hat.” When you dissect these activities most of them could be ‘white hat’ under the right circumstance. Which is why I put these two together. As SEOs, we must take responsibility for the success of the online strategy of an organization and perform our jobs with integrity. Lest you think only slimy “black hatters” do bad SEO, check out JCPenny
Depending on where you are on the tech-geek spectrum as a real estate agent, search engine optimization could sound a bit like “snakes oil.” For others, this topic has been covered ad nausea and you might be looking for something fresh. In our research, there wasn’t a single real estate SEO expert that was and has an active real estate license or one that uses their SEO skills to generate income for their real estate business. So we decided to make our own Real Estate SEO Guide For Agents guide based on our research and our 15-year history of doing SEO in Atlanta. To be honest, the overarching keys are the same but the implementation is a bit different. Our hope is that this is a resource for real estate agents everywhere.
I’ve re-written this a few times partly due to all the great SEO training out there and partly due trying to make this as readable as possible. Let’s start here.
- Develop A Real Estate SEO Strategy
- Pick A Niche To Target
- Understand The SEO Tactics Needed To Succeed
1. Develop A Real Estate SEO Strategy
Do you have a strategy at all? Why were you googling real estate SEO in the first place? If you simply want to hire someone, the please head on over to our SEO consulting page. If wanted to learn, then read on.
You need a good SEO strategy before you buy your domain name or write your first word of content. My guess is that you want leads from your online effort or perhaps simply want to be found when someone wants to search for you. We’ll try as much detail as possible. If all you want is a vanity website that allows your customers to find you by name then that is relatively easy. What I purpose is that you actually go after both.
What I mean is go after your brand and for those that want to, go after a niche.
Your actual real estate SEO strategy would be to focus your content on “Your Name” or your unique business name. Once you rank for your own name, then go for a niche… but first…
Does the keyword phrase need to be in the domain name?
Before we get into selecting your niche, let’s have a conversation about your domain. I see too many real estate agents get all caught up in the process of selecting a domain. In our research, we’ve seen a boost in rankings due to a keyword phrase match in the domain (ex. keyword-phrase.com) but in practice, this will limit your growth. However, there is a Google penalty if you make a website with a keyword phrase and it’s not any good.
My suggestion to you is to get a domain that represents your brand. Not only if your name often available but it lines up with our strategy above as well as allows the flexibility to build later. Build around you and your real estate business. Then you can move on to owning your Niche.
2. Pick A Niche – Hyper-local is Winnable
Don’t go BIG, go small to win at Real Estate SEO
Before we dive into our guide we need to cover this myth that says, “Big CITY” homes for sale is your end all be all to Real Estate SEO. It’s not.
You’ve heard it said that “riches are in niches” and it’s absolutely true. We see most real estate agents decide to face off against a billion dollar behemoth in Zillow for “Big City homes for sale.” In fact, as of this writing, the number 1 ranked real estate SEO post (image on left) was about this very thing.
Unless you live in a rural area or have an MLS that has decided to stand and fight Zillow, then chances are pretty good you should avoid [Big CITY NAME] Homes For Sale, unless it’s part of a longer phrase that must include the city name. There’s a huge difference to google and it makes a difference to you too.
For example, let’s say you live in Atlanta. Naturally, you want to do “Atlanta Homes For Sale” because you read Bruce’s article. While you could make a strong case for this since you do live there. I’d recommend focusing on your niche. In Atlanta, we have areas that are divided up (most places have these), there’s Buckhead, Downtown, Midtown and then there’s a bunch of smaller ones like East Point, East Atlanta, Little 5 Points, West Side.
What I would suggest is starting with a very small niche and branching off. Stay hyper-local, go for the niches and avoid the “city name” homes for sale. For example, maybe start off with being a condo building or subdivision specialist, do what we are suggesting here and then move on after you’ve mastered it. I know this is counter to what you’ve read and it’s also a bit confusing (because I will later say to use “homes for sale”), but stay with me.
Why avoid big city name?. Take a look at the image below:
For the uninitiated, this means that there are 4,400 searches for “Atlanta Homes For Sale” with 27.6 Million competitive results. The competition factor is .67 (the higher this number the harder it is to rank) with a cost per click (should you try to do pay per click advertising) is almost $3 per click. As you can see companies in the UK, India, Canada and Australia are all trying to get rankings for this key word phrase.
Compare to “Morningside Atlanta Homes For Sale” (Morningside is a neighborhood in Atlanta)
Yes, the volume is lower but so is the competition on every front. Even here your competition is going to be Zillow and realtor.com but there are a few local brokerages. In fact, at the time of this writing, there were 4 local brokerages on the first page. Imagine if you only focus on Morningside, with a competition score of .33 you’d have a fighting chance to get on the first page.
Yes even here “Atlanta homes for sale” is part of the search string, but notice what 1 word does. It can be confusing but this is what is meant as “longtail.”
The biggest reason to go small is that at the higher competition keyword phrases you’re competing with multi-million dollar companies that have a team of people like me working for them. Even if you hired me full-time we might no crack the top 5 for a competitive word phrase like “Atlanta Homes For Sale”
Sidebar: Why “For Sale” for Real Estate SEO? because of Buyer Intent
Pick your favorite condo building, block or subdivision then tag on “homes for sale.” The reason is buyer intent. We’ve met many savvy agents that tried their hand at SEO and did a great job for ranking “best schools in Dallas.” Unfortunately, although it’s an outstanding achievement it’s not the goal for your business.
Buyer intent simply means that the visitor to your website is searching with an intent or desire to purchase. You’ll know the difference when you call them, the people who “love to look at houses” vs “we’re relocating in 3 months.”
Bottomline: Yes, you will have to use words “for sale” like condos or homes if you want buyer intent. However, don’t go big here, go small. I re-ran the above search and found a few great options inside of subdivision (actually the Morningside example was not in our initial draft).
3. Understand The Tactics For Real Estate SEO Success
Real Estate Blogging
You’ve likely heard about blogging, I know I’ve been teaching it for over 10 years now. Blogging is simply writing content for your clients and future clients to read. Don’t get hung up on how and where to do this. Most websites have some sort of function for this in 2017. If you’re a pro blogger then a site like ActiveRain could help you a lot, but I recommend focusing on your main content first and foremost. You might say you’re not a writer, that’s fine! Just go through your email and look at the questions your clients ask. Some common good blogger content:
- Why [Subdivision] is the best?
- FAQ about [subdivision]
- 7 cool things to do near [subdivision]
- Real Estate Market Predictions for [niche]
- The best neighborhoods in [niche]
- The best way to buy/sell a home in [niche]
- Upgrades you must have to sell your home in [niche]
As you can see you can totally write a blog with titles like this. Keep the word count 500+ and you’ll be doing well!
Get Linked Up
A backlink is like a vote for your website in the same way a friend can refer you to their family is a vote for you as a real estate agent. If you’re doing this yourself building backlinks can be a pain because it’s time-consuming. Here are some quick ideas to help.
- Ask clients if they have a website and see if they will give you a link, most will!
- Ask vendors (that you spend money with) the same thing
- Create A “[##] Mistakes Every Buyer Makes” Blog Post and then send it out to media outlets.
- Hire a designer to make an infographic.
Video is huge and it’s even bigger for Real Estate SEO and lead gen. You might be shy on the camera, then take video of your niche and answer questions. If you’re brave then go live with Facebook or utilize Instagram.
These platforms push live video because users are showing that they are very interested in them. The best videos answer a question.
Where to go to find out what questions consumers are asking?
Check your email. Then check Quora, there’s a ton of real estate related questions you could answer via video.
The number one reason a home buyer registers on a real estate website is to see pictures. They didn’t come here to see you or learn about real estate, they came for photos. It’s no wonder then that one of the best attractors to your real estate site is great photos! For example, you could take really amazing photos of your niche neighborhood and post it to a neighborhood page and you’ll likely outrank many other sites.
This strategy is doubly efficient because while you will also rank in the regular search, you’ll also rank on the image search. Many people will click through to your page because of that.
Also, with your photos on your page, you can post your pages to Pinterest. Be sure to put a link in the description though.
Be Loud and Local
Be Loud & Local is all about “owning” your niche. This means your social media post should be about your niche, you should claim all the directory listings you can and get reviews there, all talking about your niche.
I highly suggest you read about Local SEO. It’s a big deal now. Google is going to a mobile-first search platform so mobile searching and location based searching are going to be where the top spots go. The good news is that you can do this without paying for advertising. Yes, you can DIY your Local SEO. It’s not recommended but you can. Check out our Local SEO Guide.
With this SEO strategy, four things happen.
- You build backlinks to your website. Boosting SEO
- You build traffic – proven to help build your ranking
- Possibly generate leads
- Find “followers” that might share your content.
It’s a fact that social signals play a role in Google Search. It’s been mentioned here before, but one of the best lead gen techniques is to be socially engaged on social media. Use the same strategy as mentioned just above. You should at least have complete profiles on all the major social media outlets, linkedin, facebook, google plus, twitter, instagram and whatever you use.
We covered a ton of real estate SEO here, but really if you can simplify your thinking to these 3 keys then you can achieve the results you want from SEO.
As the saying goes, the Cobbler’s kids have no shoes. It’s often the case you’ll see a web designer who is brilliantly gifted and their website is still stuck on the modern day equivalent of geocities or worse, wix. I started to look around and realized that although I’m doing work that I’m proud of for my clients, my own site and businesses are not looking so hot. After a month and a half of writing with over 60,000 words worth of posts, articles, cornerstone content etc I’ve learned a ton! It really opened my eyes to what it takes to be successful in SEO but also business. There’s a reason the top sites stay at the top. So here’s 5 reasons why every digital marketer should write seo content. (more…)
You might already know how Google works. Did you know that there are basically two ways to rank on google? Keywords and Local SEO
The first is for keywords. For those that don’t know keywords rank on google, it’s pretty straight forward. Say you have a site about purple elephants. When other sites link to your site, Google takes that as those sites are “vouching” for your site. If they use the word “purple elephants” then all the better. Now Google is much smarter than this simple description, it weighs the “vouching” sites to determine if they have authority or not. So a link from Mashable.com would be worth more than a link from my own website at Gahomesdigest.com. In addition, it evaluates your page and how “good” the content (you can get an idea of what google is looking for by using the free service on the sidebar). Finally, google also takes into account a list of other harder to manipulate things such as how long people stay on your site, how many social shares are out there and how updated the site is (and how long the domain is registered for). All told it’s a lot for a business owner to master.
Luckily there’s an easier way for local business owners.