The real estate industry is competitive. To have any chance of being chosen by the people looking to buy or sell a home in your town, you have to find a way to stand out and get noticed.
The most successful real estate agents aren’t constantly on the prowl trying to find new clients—they’re the ones who make it exceedingly easy for those clients to find them.
In the age of the internet, the best method for doing that is search engine optimization (SEO).
Research from the National Association of Realtors found that 57% of people turned to the internet as a first step in the home-buying process, either to start looking at listings or to research information on how to buy a home. The real estate websites that snag the top rankings in those searches have a good chance of winning that business.
SEO requires a lot of work, but the good news for real estate agents is that you don’t have to compete with all the other agents out there. You only need to attract local business, so your SEO competition is restricted to the other agents working in your immediate area.
If you’re in a high-competition city like San Francisco or New York City, that may be cold comfort. But in smaller cities and towns across the country, getting a page one spot in the search engines is an attainable goal.
You just need the right SEO strategy for your real estate website.
Your 12-Step Real Estate SEO Strategy
To make your real estate website more competitive on the search engine results page (SERP), these are the most important steps to take.
1. Make sure your website is mobile friendly.
If you built your website a few years ago, mobile may not have been top of mind for you yet. But with every year, mobile use claims a greater share of all internet use (even surpassing desktop usage). And Google has been very clear about considering how well websites work on mobile when calculating rankings.
When was the last time you pulled up your website on a smartphone to see what the experience of using it on a small screen is like? Do it now. Does it load fast? Is it easy to use? If not, it’s past time for an update.
This doesn’t have to be a huge overwhelming project. Now that mobile use is ubiquitous, there are lots of easy options for building a responsive website that works as well on mobile as on desktop. With a website builder, you can get a mobile-friendly website up quickly and affordably.
This is another key ranking factor Google’s been upfront about. People like websites that load fast, and Google likes to deliver results that people like. If your website takes more than a split second to load, you risk visitors clicking away and Google’s algorithm docking you for it.
A big part of having a fast website is choosing a web hosting provider that delivers reliable service. Beyond that, tips like using image compression, reducing the number of plugins you use, and enabling browser caching can help as well.
3. Do keyword research.
A lot of your real estate SEO strategy will hinge on keywords. Keyword research is how you learn what the home buyers in your city are thinking about and searching for, so you know what search terms you want your website to show up for.
Make sure your keyword research prioritizes local terms. And not just obvious ones like “cincinnati real estate agent.” Get even more specific with neighborhood names and local landmarks.
A good keyword strategy includes two types of keywords:
- Broad keywords – these will be the ones you optimize the main pages of your website for (your homepage and About page, for example). They’ll be straight to the point of what people are looking for, e.g. santa fe home selling, tampa home search, atlanta real estate agent
- Long-tail keywords – these are what you build a content strategy around. They usually include more words and answer questions related to buying and selling a home, e.g. best neighborhoods in charlotte, common home improvements san jose
4. Perform on-site optimization on your real estate website.
For each page on your real estate website, choose a relevant primary keyword to optimize it for, and a couple of related secondary keywords. You want a unique primary keyword for every page, so you’re not competing with yourself.
Look for opportunities to naturally incorporate your keywords into, such as:
- The page’s title tag
- The page’s headings and subheadings (h1, h2, h3, etc.)
- The copy on the webpage
- Image names and alt tags
- The meta description
Also consider other pages on the site where it makes natural sense to link back to the page using your primary keyword as the anchor text.
Be careful in this step not to overdo it. Keyword stuffing—overusing a particular keyword to the point where your page doesn’t make sense for humans anymore—is actually bad for SEO. The algorithm penalizes websites that it registers keyword stuffing on. Don’t force it. But as long as you’ve chosen a keyword that’s actually relevant to the page, weaving it in naturally shouldn’t be too difficult.
5. Create and optimize a Google My Business listing.
Google recognizes when a search has local intent. When location matters, it usually puts map results at the very top of the search engine results page (SERP). And a search term like “real estate” is definitely one where location matters.
The results that show up under the map are all Google My Business listings. If you want a chance at winning one of those spots, you need to make sure you both have a Google My Business listing, and that you’ve optimized it.
Setting up your listing is pretty straightforward. Go here, and follow the steps the website walks you through. Fill out your profile as completely as possible, with contact information, hours, and an accurate category. Add any high-quality photographs you have to help your listing stand out for people who click through to learn more.
6. Add your real estate company to relevant directories and review sites.
Make sure you have a profile on popular review sites like Yelp, Trust Pilot, and Angie’s List. Create profiles on the main real estate websites including Zillow, Realtor.com, and Redfin as well, and check and see if your city has any local sites with listings for real estate agents.
Research additional local organizations that have directories you can add your information to. That may include real estate professional organizations, local chambers of commerce, or other professional groups in your city.
These sites are both an opportunity to gain a link back to your website, and a way to make yourself easy for clients to find by showing up in one more place. Make sure you provide your information with the same spelling and formatting in each place you add a listing, so the algorithms can easily recognize them as representing the same business. For instance, if your office is located on Pretty Bird Lane, make sure you’re consistent in how you spell out Lane—don’t use Lane in some places and Ln in others.
7. Encourage reviews.
Reviews are widely regarded by SEO professionals as an important ranking factor in local search. Obviously reviews on your Google My Business listing are important in this regard, but so are reviews on other sites across the web as well. If Google can see that you have a lot of 5-star ratings from clients around the web, you’re that much more likely to claim a top spot on the SERP.
So don’t be afraid to ask your clients to leave you a review if they’re happy with their experience. You can include a link to your main review profiles in your email signature, add them to your website, and send a followup email to clients after each house sale asking them to take a few minutes to leave a review.
8. Create local content relevant to real estate.
Any good SEO strategy will involve creating relevant content that provides value to your target audience. For real estate agents, that can include any topic that relates to living in your city, which should give you plenty to work with. Think about everything someone moving to your town would want to know, and create a list of ideas for content pieces to create that answer all their questions.
As a starter list, this could include:
- Information about the local schools
- The differences between local neighborhoods
- The best restaurants in town
- Updates on big construction projects in town
- Details about local elections
- Best events and conferences in the city
- Common types of repairs or issues homeowners in the area deal with
- Trends in local real estate prices
As a local, you know what people in your city care about. Package that knowledge into helpful blog posts, videos, or podcast episodes to help boost your SEO.
9. Use rich photos and videos.
Buying a home is a visual experience. Sure, seeing written details like the number of rooms and square footage included in a home is an important part of it. But people will make more of their decisions based on an emotional response to the images they see.
Your real estate website will gain more traction if you include high-quality photos of the homes you represent. Even better if you also add video tours of them. To make sure these visual elements play an SEO role as well, optimize them by including the proper alt tags and adding detailed descriptions and/or transcripts of the video.
10. Promote your content.
In a lot of cities, creating great content and making sure it’s optimized for search will already put you ahead of a lot of your competition. But if your city is more competitive, or if you want to go the extra mile to stake out a top spot on the SERPs, put some extra effort into getting your content in front of people.
That could include sharing it on social media and sending it to your email list. It may even be worth promoting it with paid advertising on Google and the main social media platforms to give it an extra boost.
11. Partner with other local businesses and bloggers.
All the steps you take on your real estate website are an important part of SEO, but they’re usually not enough on their own. You also have to work on the harder part of it: getting other websites to link back to yours.
A good local link building strategy is to identify local businesses, bloggers, and publications that you can partner with in some way.
Can you guest post on a local website providing expertise on the current local market trends? Maybe you can join with a couple of other local businesses to sponsor a charity drive or put on an event together. Partnerships like this show you’re active in the community, raise your local profile, and therefore usually also lead to more links back to your website.
12. Sponsor local events.
Event organizers are always looking for sponsors to help cover the costs of putting their events on. Start paying attention to the events that happen in your city: conferences, networking meetups, awards ceremonies, film festivals, music festivals, theater and dance performances, marathons. All of them likely need sponsors.
Sponsoring an event often comes with a link to your site on the organizer’s website, along with other forms of promotion such as your name in the program. Sponsorship can be a good way to raise the profile of your real estate business, while building goodwill in the community at the same time.
Get Your Real Estate SEO Right
Your life as a real estate agent will be much easier if you can count on people to find you, rather than having to go out of your way to find them. By building a strong website and making sure it’s optimized for the search engines, you’ll build a more successful real estate business that makes more with less work.
Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based freelance content writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She uses that curiosity, combined with her experience as a freelance business owner, to write about subjects valuable to small business owners on the HostGator blog. You can find her on Twitter at @atxcopywriter.