Are you a realtor looking to rank your real estate website on the first page of Google? Or maybe you’re an SEO agency trying to get some traction for your real estate client. If that’s the case, then this article is for you.
Some real estate SEO guides are too simple and amateurish to be of any help. Others are too long and complex. This guide, however, is perfect for those who have a basic to intermediate understanding of SEO and want to learn exactly how they can optimize their real estate website. Follow our tips to rank your way to the top and generate hundreds, if not thousands, of leads without actively spending money.
In this article, we’ll show you:
- How to develop a 360 strategy for effective real estate SEO.
- The 3 real estate SEO pillars you need to know to rank your website.
- An easy to follow guide (and checklist) which shows you how to master real estate SEO.
What is Real Estate SEO?
Simply put, real estate SEO allows you to show up on search engines whenever someone is searching online for a property. According to research, in 2019, 50% of homeowners found their desired properties via online sources.
Why Is It Important?
Lead generation and SEO for real estate is a tricky game. This isn’t some run-of-the-mill product that’ll retail for $10-$30. You can expect your customers to do extensive research online before they even visit a property. And with the digital boom, marketers have explored all online avenues, making the average cost per lead $40 for moderate real estate markets to $60 for slow real estate markets. That’s why paid marketing for real estate lead generation might not be a viable option for all real estate businesses.
The phenomenal spread of smart devices, coupled with internet access virtually everywhere, means that users are searching on the go. Online marketing for real estate companies is becoming increasingly competitive, and SEO – especially local SEO – has become mission critical.
Now, why did we just mention SEO?
- Paid marketing will effectively target only those in the ‘purchase’ stage.
With leads costing upwards of $30, no paid marketer is going to waste precious $$$ “educating” customers or nurture a user still in the awareness stage. Organic marketing or SEO is better in this regard because it automatically creates a funnel passing users from “awareness” to “consideration” and finally to “decision”. That’s because real estate SEO relies heavily on content marketing and high-ranking real estate companies will be those who provide the most complete information.
- Organic marketing is long-term and will lead to auto-pilot leads.
Paid marketing or pay-per-click advertising will get leads straight to your digital doorstep, but the moment you stop spending, the leads stop and you’re back to square one. On the other hand, SEO ranks up your profile over time and once you put in the time and effort to rank on a high-value real estate keyword, then you will not lose your position unless another real estate business puts in a greater effort to outrank you.
Look at Zillow for example:
This online real estate giant spends quite a bit on paid marketing. Case in point: all their ads for the keywords buy apartments in Seattle:
However, despite their impressive ad spend, they are also ranking #1 organically for the same search query:
Now that we have established the importance of search engine optimization in real estate, let’s have a look at some strategies and tips you can follow to ensure that your real estate listings rank among the top spots for your desired keywords.
Here Are 14 Tips to Help You Optimize for Real Estate SEO:
- Claim your Google My Business listing.
- Use our winning formula to develop your real estate SEO keywords.
- Create localized, city-specific, content.
- Develop a mobile-first website.
- Optimize your HTML tags and descriptions.
- Upgrade to HTTPS.
- Implement schema markup.
- Add useful tools to your site.
- Optimize for image SEO.
- Fix broken links.
- List your properties on major platforms.
- Write guest blogs.
- Get local citations.
- Earn online reviews.
Let’s break down these 14 tips into three major categories, Local SEO, On-page optimization, Off-page optimization, and dive right in!
How many times have you searched something on your phone and you chose the search result nearest to you?
Well, that usually happens with physical businesses or a result that’s highly dependent on location. Those top 3-4 results have mastered local SEO that allows them to rank in Google’s knowledge box with valuable details that are not given to other lower-ranking results.
We are talking about the highly coveted “Google 3-Pack.” The top 3 location-based results for a particular search query.
This list used to consist of 7 results, but since 2015, Google has changed it to 3 results. Hence, the competition has gotten significantly harder and more than half of the businesses that used to rank in “7-packs” don’t have a place in the “3-pack”.
Take a look at these search results for “Electricians in Boston.”
If you own a real estate website want to appear on the top searches on Google, the first thing you need to focus on is getting the local SEO right. Now why is that important? Google does not display the same results for everyone. Your search results are personalized depending on your search history, preferences and location. This means that a person searching for condos in Miami, FL will find different results than one in Chicago, IL.
If you’re a real estate SEO, you will need to identify the regions where you want to rank well, and the pages you want to display in those search results. After all, there’s no point in trying to show a Miami listing to someone who’s searching for “condos in Chicago”
And the art of ranking on top in your targeted locations is, you guessed it, local SEO. But how do you go about optimizing your page for local SEO?
How To Optimize For Local Real Estate SEO
Claim Your Google My Business Listing
The first step in local SEO is claiming your Google My Business listing. This allows you to list your business details on Google, including your business name, business address and business phone number. We also call this your NAP (Name, Address, and Phone Number).
It’s very important that your NAP is consistent across all digital channels, such as your website and social media pages & accounts. Once you’ve claimed your Google My Business listing, you will start appearing on knowledge cards on Google SERPs, Google’s 3 Pack, and on Google Maps.
After your Google My Business Listing has been verified, you can also create citation accounts on Facebook, Yelp, Yellow Pages, Foursquare and other places. This ensures that when a user searches for real estate agencies or listings on these platforms instead of Google, you appear in their results.
Keyword Research for Real Estate
We’ve analyzed thousands of different real estate keywords to arrive at a winning formula. Our research shows that the best real estate SEO keywords use the following format:
- “city name” real estate
- “city name” homes for sale
- “city name + state abr” real estate
- “city name + state abr” homes for sale
- “property type” for sale in “city name”
- “property type” for sale in “city name + state abr”
- “action + property type” in “city name”
- “action + property type” in “city name + state abr”
You will need to study your market fully before you can create an exhaustive list of real estate keywords that will help you rank higher. However, you should also know Google is moving away from keywords to search intent – which is good news for both real estates and search users. This means that you can rank for keywords that are not explicitly mentioned on your page as long as you are satisfying a search query, while search users get to see relevant results that help them make a decision.
Create City Specific Content
Creating city specific content through blogs, transcribed videos and interviews is a great way for a real estate to rank their website. While this involves a lot of research and hours of writing, editing and publishing, the end result is worth it.
This also ties into the concept of E-A-T, which is an acronym for Expertise, Authority and Trust. Google will reward sites with high EAT and one way to improve your EAT is to be seen as an authority on the subject.
But how does that tie with local SEO?
Let’s talk about a fictional scenario: Emily is moving from her hometown of Scranton, PA to Chicago because she found a great job there. She’s looking to rent an apartment in the city. Probably the first thing she’s going to do, apart from asking around her social circle, is to Google “moving to Chicago.”
If you, a real estate agent, were to create useful, engaging and actionable content that answers Emily’s query by telling her everything she needs to know before making the jump, you increase the chances of her TRUSTING you to provide useful information and USING your website to find apartments in Chicago.
You need to be local and useful by creating content around each city where you want to dominate. Naturally, some cities will be easier than others depending on their search volume and competition.
Creating such top-funnel content opens up opportunities to hook a user when they are in their initial research phase. If you’re not sure about what to write, you can create useful content around the following topics:
- City landmarks and attractions
- Economy, jobs and top employers
- Schools and neighborhoods
- Restaurants and shopping
- Things to do
On-page optimization is SEO-speak for making technical fixes and improvements on your website to help you rank higher. These fixes are prerequisites for winning at digital marketing for real estate companies.
Some of the things that we mentioned in Local SEO Optimization, such as keyword research and creating optimized content, fall under the category of on-page optimization as well. Obviously, we’re not going to be repeating them. But let’s discuss additional ways to optimize your website for SEO.
How to Optimize For On-Page Real Estate SEO
Be Mobile First
Google has shifted to mobile-first indexing which means that your website’s mobile version is given more importance than the desktop version. If your website is still not optimized for mobile viewers, you should fix that before doing anything else.
Moreover, research shows that 73% of all users used a mobile device to search for real estate while 58% of millennial home buyers found their home on a mobile device. So, the verdict is pretty clear for real estate websites: it’s mobile or bust.
Optimize your tags and meta description
An easy fix, all you have to do is properly use state, city, and town names in your title tags, meta descriptions, and the main body.
Upgrade to HTTPS
Ditch HTTP and go for HTTPS on your site. The ‘S’ at the end of HTTPS stands for ‘Secure’ because all information transferred between the browser and your site is encrypted using an SSL certificate. Google places more trust in sites with HTTPS, which helps you with rankings.
Implement Schema Markup
Use schema local markup to let search engine crawlers know exactly what they’re looking at and how to catalog all the information on your site. Schema markup refers to specific tags that “tell” Google how to display your page information on SERPs.
Real estate SEOs should also ensure that all of your listings are indexable and have an XML sitemap. This will give you an edge over your competitors who are too lazy to make sitemaps and schema work for them. The topic of schema markup is slightly long and technical. If you’re interested, here is a helpful resource from Moz to introduce you to the topic.
Add Tools Like Mortgage Calculators on Your Website
This ties in with our advice about creating helpful content. Most users who are in their early research phase will be using DIY mortgage calculators to get an idea of what’s in their range. Add this tool to your website to get these users into your funnel.
The best part is that you don’t have to create this tool from scratch. A number of mortgage calculator plugins are available that you can install on your website.
Optimize for Image SEO
Adding alt-text and optimizing real estate listings for image SEO increases Google Images clicks by 37%. You should make this a standard practice whenever you’re adding a new listing on your website. This tiny change could mean that your next lead, and $$$, are coming thanks to image SEO.
Fix Broken Links
Another best practice is to periodically audit your website for broken links. You can run it in small sprints by checking particular sections at a time. Chances are that you will find some broken links to internal listings that have been removed or to other sites that have changed the URL of the page you were linking to.
Broken links have an adverse impact on the user experience as it temporarily halts their search, and by extension, their journey down your sales funnel. You can use the free version of tools like Screaming Frog SEO Spider to check for broken links.
The third pillar of your real estate SEO strategy is off-page optimization. While there’s a limit to how much you can optimize the technical aspects and keywords on your page, off-page SEO (also called off-site SEO) gives you more room to work with.
One of the biggest focus of off-page SEO is earning backlinks. Google considers high quality backlinks as one of the best ways to assess your authority, and websites with a strong backlink profile almost always rank better. So, here’s how you can go about optimizing for off-page SEO.
How to Optimize For Off-Page Real Estate SEO
Get Your Properties Listed On Major Platforms
Listing your real estate properties on platforms such as Zillow significantly increases their impressions (number of views). Zillow uses a massive database, smart technology, a great network of realtors, and continuous research to keep up with the market. In 2018, Zillow received a staggering 7.10 billion annual visits on their websites and apps, making it the most successful real estate marketplace in the world. You can also list your properties on other websites such as Trulia (also owned by Zillow) and Realtor.com.
Write Guest Blogs
Identify reputable publishers within the real estate industry and contribute content to their site. Most publishers are hungry for quality content since there’s only so much their in-house team can create.
Guest blogs are a great way to earn backlinks that point back to your site. If your content is really good, you will be able to publish it on some of the biggest names in your niche and get backlinks from authoritative websites. If you’re not sure which real estate blogs to target, Hubspot has compiled an excellent list that you can check here.
However, effective link building requires a lot of resources. If all of this sounds overwhelming, you can always use the help of an experienced SEO agency to help you out.
Get Local Citations
A local citation is any mention or listing of your business on the web. Complete citations include your NAP (company name, address, and phone number). Citations are extremely important in ranking for local search results. Most citations may come with either no backlinks or no-followed links – that’s fine. If you get citations with backlinks to your site, that’s even better as it helps strengthen your overall backlink profile. You can get citations from Yelp, Yellowpages, Facebook, Instagram, Superpages, MapQuest and other places.
Earn Online Reviews
Get organic reviews on popular platforms to improve your brand image and boost your online presence. Make sure your reviews are not artificial or paid for, as this will hurt your rankings. Getting online reviews on Google Reviews, your social media pages or on Yelp is pretty easy – all you have to do is ask your clients who have had a good experience with your business. Research shows that 83% of consumers are willing to refer after a positive experience, so go get those reviews!
Things to remember
Now that you have a decent idea of what strategies to follow in order to get your real estate listings and your real estate website to the first place of Google and beyond (think featured snippets!), there are a few things you should remember so that you can gain the full benefits of real estate SEO without any of the negative effects.
- Don’t delve into black hat SEO techniques
However attractive they may appear, black hat techniques always end up harming your website and search rankings. Most of these techniques are old but some marketers still try to find out new ways to game the system. Given the learning speed of Google’s algorithms in light of recent updates, we wouldn’t recommend using these at all.
- Practice patience and keep optimizing
As stated in the beginning of this article, SEO takes time. Don’t expect your newly developed website to get to the first page of Google overnight. Good SEO takes time but the results are long-lasting. You can expect good leads for years to come.
- Be careful with website changes
If for some reason you are revamping your website partially or completely, make sure that your navigational framework is correct. So, whenever you move over content from your old site to your new site, set up 301 redirects to ensure that users will be taken to the new pages.
Start slow but finish strong!
So this concludes one of the most comprehensive real estate SEO guides that you’ll find on the internet. Keep in mind, if you choose a strategy from this article, make sure you follow through with it to the end otherwise it might not be as effective.