If you own a website, it’s likely you have heard the term SEO or Search Engine Optimization. If you’re a real estate agent with a website, it’s also highly probable a firm offering SEO services have solicited you.
The challenge with SEO today, for many agents, is that the largest real estate companies who focus on the internet invest millions of dollars in SEO. They often have outside firms, or internal teams, whose daily focus is on perfecting the SEO of their websites. As a result, they often dominate even local real estate search results. Also, these companies buy a lot of local real estate advertising keywords, so these sponsored search results are always on top of the unpaid ranked search results below.
Moreover, the rules governing SEO are ever-changing. What works today may not work tomorrow. Also, what works for Bing’s search engine, may not work for Google. Therefore, the rules surrounding SEO are not only in flux, but they also vary across the web.
One more complication for SEO: it has become more personalized. Google, in particular, will watch what your searching patterns are. Then Google will potentially deliver a much different set of ranked search results to you than someone else using the exact search phrase.
Does it still make sense for an average agent’s website to focus on SEO? The answer is: it depends.
First things first: What is SEO?
Google defines it as “the process of maximizing the number of visitors to a particular website by ensuring that the site appears high on the list of results returned by a search engine.” Each search engine uses its algorithm – or set of rules – to determine which site it believes to be the most relevant for someone’s search. It then presents the results back in rank order, most relevant to least relevant.
SEO experts’ job is to increase your website’s search ranking. But it turns out that SEO is as much an art as it is a science because all of the precise rules behind the ever-changing algorithms of the search engines are known only to the folks that run the search engines. And one more thing SEO experts will tell you: it takes time for SEO to work.
What can an agent do?
Agent websites have one significant advantage over the major players: they are truly local. Often your firm’s name has the city, town or community included. That can be a massive advantage with SEO. You also have a local address, and that’s golden too.
Today, the experts say you can choose to ignore SEO, but why? If you do a few basic things, you can improve your site’s ability to be discovered. If you do these things very well, you’ll connect to the clients that need the exact kind of services you offer.
5 things for your website
The best thing to do for your agent website, the experts say, is to outsource your SEO because you won’t have enough time to manage it yourself. However, for most real estate agents, that’s probably too expensive of a proposition.
If you find yourself in the do-it-yourself camp when it comes to your agent website, here are five things you can do to strengthen your agent website SEO:
1. Select the right keywords: If you have a WordPress site, there is a simple plugin for SEO optimization called Yoast. Yoast can help you select the right words that people you want to find you will use it to search for you.
2. Tag every image: Every uploaded image to your website must have a title and an alt (alternative text) image attribute. Not only is this a Web ADA requirement, but without it, search engines are not going to like your site. According to one study, about 78% of all on-page SEO issues were caused by images with missing alt and title attributes.
3. Content that reflects your keywords: Your website needs to be flush with keyword content. For example, if you are a neighborhood expert, your website should be filled with information about the local neighborhood and surrounding community. Videos are a huge bonus, especially when you embed the video in your site, host it from YouTube (owned by Google) and have a keyword in the title too. And keeping your content freshly updated also improves your SEO.
4. Figure out your “long tail” search words: The large players are focused on shorter keyword search terms and buying the most popular Google Ad Words. That leaves open for smaller players, like real estate agents, longer search terms – the use of several words when people search for real estate, called a “long tail” search. If you figure out what your best “long tail” keyword search terms are for your local market, you can create content for your website with those keywords for your site.
5. Offsite links: Agents forget that so much of SEO is not just what happens on your website, but what happens off your site. Backlinks are the key: those are when someone else’s website displays a public link to your site. But how Google values backlinks has changed. You can’t just signup for a bunch of directories anymore or click a link to submit your website for registration. But there are many ways you can get your site linked by many others and if you do, it will be worth it. A study of Google search showed you have a slim chance of being ranked high without backlinks. Here’s a terrific article packed with lots of tactics to get backlinks for your agent website.
SEO is still a go
The bottom line is SEO is still something agents need to have for their websites, but like everything else, don’t let it consume you. Look for the lower hanging fruit – the easiest ways to make your site easier to find for the kind of clients who are searching for you.
About the author: Tech Helpline began more than a decade ago as a service for members of Florida Association of Realtors®, and it quickly became well known for it’s warm customer service and no-nonsense technical advice. After receiving significant interest outside of the state association, Tech Helpline expanded its service to assist other associations and businesses in need of technical support.