SEO For Realtors in 2015: Where You Should Be Focusing
Recently I have been traveling quite a bit speaking at different events across the country to present a variety of marketing topics. One of the more recent events took place the first week in February in 2015 at the In It To Win It real estate expo by Eagle Home Mortgage. If you follow me online you may know that I mostly speak and write about Local SEO and specifically Google My Business results. However when I was asked to give this marketing presentation I had to create this content from the ground up. In this post I’m going to walk you through the presentation I gave at these seminars and why it’s relevant and important for Realtors to focus on these points for the foreseeable future.
Let’s Start By Seeing How Google Displays Results for Realtors
For the first half of 2014 many Realtor’s were cleaning up on local results. Many real estate agents had been spending time, effort, and money optimizing their Google My Business listing to rank in the map results as shown in the graphic below. The local results are the ones labeled A, B, and C with the map markers.
Then suddenly at night in July 2014 the real estate agent listings changed significantly. Previously where agents had been ranking locally in their areas in the map results there were no local results to be found.
Did you notice the difference? In one swoop Google decided that Realtors no longer deserved the local rankings that used to display the realtors business name, address, and phone number and decided that they only deserved organic and paid results.
Below is a quick example of how realtors rank in Google today and what type of results they’re given:
Just incase you weren’t already aware of it. The Paid ad’s are PPC ad’s or Pay Per Click meaning that every single time someone clicks on these results it costs you money. Just like paying for an ad on Zillow or another IDX platform these types of clicks can add up. However the organic listings don’t cost money once you rank there. Therefore its typically more economical to rank organically or locally when possible.
Where Are Clients Finding You?
Whether you have a very established business, you’re working for a bigger brand, or you’re just starting off working for yourself, you m need one thing. You need more clients. So how are your current clients finding you?
- If you’re only using Yellow Pages in Metropolitan areas you can expect a slow (or fast) painful reduction in your leads
- If you use word of mouth via networking events and meeting people, don’t stop. Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket though.
- If you’re doing postcard mailers make sure to measure how effective they are. If they work don’t stop. If they don’t, well…
- If you use paid listings and they work… keep using them. Just track your ROI
If it wasn’t clear enough here I am trying to get at one major point. Know where your marketing dollars are spent and find out what they produce. If you don’t have any way of tracking the data then your marketing decisions will be based on emotions instead of facts. Base your marketing decisions off of data and be prepared to spend more in the areas that produce and reduce or make changes in the areas that aren’t working.
It sounds simple but if you can’t trace leads to conversions by marketing methods then you’re likely wasting money where you don’t need to be and you’re not making the proper investments where you need to be.
In today’s article we will be looking specifically at Inbound Marketing. If you haven’t heard that term before it basically means that we want to make you visible in front of people WHO ARE ALREADY LOOKING FOR YOUR SERVICES.
That’s right. Instead of putting yourself in front of 1,000 people and hoping 2% of them are interested and will contact you, we are getting in front of people who area already looking for you. In this article I will be covering that exclusivity in an online enviorment. So how do we get started?
Casey’s Online Strategy For Realtors Involves 3 Key Areas
The strategy that I have been focusing on is really based on laser focusing real estate agents attention. If you’re a realtor and you’re like me you might have a small case of ADD and find it easy to get distracted. That’s why we will only focus on three easy to understand points in this article. They are:
- Start with a solid platform
- Be the best in ONE geographic area
- Become an authority
I know it sounds a little simple, but bare with me.
Step 1: Start With A Solid Platform
Let me get one thing straight here. I am fundamentally different from any other online marketer you will meet just based on my personal experiences. However I believe that if you’re going to invest in a website you need to be the least imperfect from two points of view. They are:
- The people that will use your website
- The search engines
Let’s be honest here. If the people using your website find it slow, clunky, boring, uninformative or anything else on my laundry list, then they’re probably not going to be to happy with it.
Alternatively if your website is slow to load, doesn’t have good content, or doesn’t DO BETTER THAN YOUR COMPETITION then why the heck would Google rank your website above theirs? Be honest with yourself. Just like you try to provide the best home buying or selling experience for your customers Google is not stupid. They want to provide the best searcher experience and even if they’re not there yet, they are working towards that goal.
It’s for this reason that you’re site needs to be built on a technical platform that sets you apart. If your website is not SEO friendly than you better be generating your business through direct mailers and print ad’s where you can list your website because nobody can find you on Google.
Now before I go into the requirements of what I mean I want you to read this sobering fact from Realtor.com. Every year they conduct a profile of home buyers and sellers. In the 2014 profile they had this to say about internet marketing.
“Ninety-two percent of buyers use the internet in some way in their home search process and 50 percent of buyers use a mobile website or application in their home search” (Realtor.com)
That’s a bit of a wake up call if you’re online in capacity. Not only do you need to have a website, it needs to be mobile friendly for your users. So how can you tell this?
Run A Google Mobile Friendly Test
This test you’re about to run isn’t for ego bait. If your site is NOT mobile friendly you MAY NOT EVEN RANK FOR MOBILE QUERIES. Just incase that didn’t settle in enough, if you know that over 50% of home buyers are using mobile searching and you’re not showing up on mobile searches… Well then you’re missing out on OVER 50% of potential clients.
So what you need to do first is run this mobile friendly site tester here. If you don’t get a good score then those need to be priority tasks for you to fix.
What If I Don’t Have A Website?
If you don’t have a website to check then you’re one step further behind than your competition. You need to get a website but you also need to make sure you adhere to the best SEO practices.
If you don’t have a website and need somewhere to get started make sure whoever you use is not only a development company or not only an SEO company. I say this because unless they’re working in harmony you might get mixed results.
So what platform should you use to start a website?
- If you feel semi comfortable making web edits and can use MS Word Comfortably push for a WordPress Platform. Bluehost and Godaddy offer these packages where you can get a website up pretty fast. You can also integrate this into your IDX platform.
- If technology intimidates you then I might suggest Squarespace. It’s not the best on the market for SEO needs but it will get the job done and it’s easy to use. If you watched the 2015 superbowl you might have even noticed that Jeff Bridges can use it to create a website (not that I’m judging).
PRO TIP: “Be careful about the design template you use with SquareSpace or WordPress. If you’re website takes more than 5-10 seconds to load using www.urivalet.com there might be potential issues with user experience or bot experience” – Casey Meraz
There are a lot of things I could tell you about starting a website. Yes you can do it pretty quickly and with minimal effort (no matter your technical ability). But should you? Many people forget to think about this question before getting started. While I do think that all realtors whether you’re working for a brand or for your own brand should have a website, I also believe you should not have one unless you meet the following criteria:
- Are you willing to start with a solid platform?
- Are you willing to write great content and create enough content to be the best realtor in ONE geographic area?
- Are you willing to put in the effort to get mentioned by news sources and have your website linked to? Are you willing to become the ultimate authority on your area?
Do you notice the pattern here? Let’s be honest though. Just having a website doesn’t get you found in the search engines.
Be The Best In One Geographic Area
Sometimes I like using metaphors. This is one of those times. Let’s say that you have one person who can knock on 100 doors in a neighborhood today. You want to reach 100 homes in all of Colorado so you decide to have the person knock on 20 doors in Denver, 20 in Pueblo, 20 in Parker, 20 in Northglenn, and 20 in Colorado Springs. At the end of the day you meet with your rep and find out he wasn’t able to reach the 100 homes because of the travel time and dividing his efforts between so many geographic areas.
Just like splitting your door to door marketing efforts or armies, SEO is the same principal. Every single geographic area you try to compete in has competitors. You can either compete against all of them at once of you can pick a smaller one and put all of your energies and efforts there until you master it.
While it will impress your peers and maybe even Redfin or Zillow, ranking for Denver Realtor as goal is a silly one that will require too much effort and likely not provide you with a strong ROI. Do you remember my real talk from earlier about having a better website than your competition?
Well let me ask you this. If I’m looking for details on a specific home if your personal website better than Zillow.com? Does it read better? Is the layout better? Or should you even care? In today’s market houses are selling fast depending on the demand and the price point. If your clients home is going to sell in 22 hours does it make sense to rank for it on Google? The short answer is likely no because it won’t even show up in the search results before it sells. This isn’t practical marketing for me and that’s why I believe in focusing your efforts on one area that will pay off big.
Now let’s look at a practical example. Below is a search for Realtor in Denver:
And below we have another result. This time the search was in Parker.
The cliff notes of my above rant are this: There are hundreds of realtors trying to fry the big fish of Denver realtor. There are about 10 in Parker. Where can you make the most impact with a smaller budget?
Answer: You can make the biggest impact by focusing on and being the best in one geographic area.
So How Do You Become The Best In One Area?
To become the best in one geographic area (or subdivision) you should adhere to the following guidelines by sending good signals to the search engines and reducing confusion:
- Your business name, address, and phone number (NAP) should be on every page of your website.
- The content whether it be blogs or informational pages should be substantial and be focused on locally relevant content.
- You should consider adding locally relevant videos
- Video on The Top 10 Reasons to Move to _____________ (Subdivision)
- 10 Reasons Why Residents Love the _________ HOA
- Link out to local resources like crime statistics, local events, local schools
- If you don’t want to link out you could spend time creating these resources
- Include a map of the area you service that is clearly visible on every page of your website
Those are just a few examples to get you started. Google and other search engines like substantial websites. You can create substantial websites by creating good content. As a rule of thumb any content (text) you produce should adhere to the following guidelines as a minimum. Usually I hate giving out guidelines because it makes people put the least amount of effort as possible. Don’t be in that ship. Take this and run with it. Take this seriously if you truly want to be the best:
- Your content needs to be substantial and each page needs to be around one topic (not 20)
- Your content needs to be unique. It CANNOT be copied from somewhere else. Duplicate content can get you penalized and make all of this reading worth nothing. After all if you can’t rank due to your shortcuts you probably shouldn’t waste the efforts.
- Think about the best possible way to address the users primary need
- One GREAT post is better than 100 mediocre posts
Now that we have my simple guidelines out of the way you have to ask yourself what you should write about? Before just digging into a random topic you need to address your audience. Who are your potential clients? They are likely Home Buyers and Home Sellers. Below I have included a list of topics that might be beneficial for each. If you want to see if people are actually searching for these terms read this post on using Google Keyword Planner for Keyword Research. It will tell you whether or not people are searching for the terms you think they’re typing into Google.
Content Topic Ideas for Potential Buyers
- Fun Things to do in _________________ (City & State).
Potential visitors to your city might find this useful
- Crime Rates in _________________ (City, State)
Now why would someone look this up? Research paper or they’re thinking about moving there is my guess
- Best Restaurants in _______________ (City, State)
Again this might be good for potential visitors. A first contact or impression can’t hurt
- Subdivision Amenities in _______________ (City, State)
Do you think anybody is reading those 300 page HOA Agreements? Tell them the highlights. Make them move here.
- Local School Reviews
Schools are important for families. Maybe even a guide to getting them acquainted would be good.
- HOA Reviews of ______________ (Name of HOA)
Be honest. Don’t sugarcoat this. People are interested in this stuff and it’s not common to find legitimate information on it.
- Can I own a boat at _____________ (HOA or subdivision)
I wish I would have done my own due diligence before buying a home in an area where this is not permitted.
The fact of the matter is that potential buyers, sellers, and home researchers are looking for different things. You need to be prepared to answer their questions. If you only focus in one area this can be easy. But what are potential home sellers searching?
- Average Close Time In __________________________.
Potential home investors or sellers might be looking for this information.
- Average Days On Market in ________________ (City).
What if instead of providing a one word answer to this question you provided a case study that proved how your clients sold their homes XXXXXXX% faster than everyone else in the neighborhood. Powerful selling tool? Yes please.
The reality of this situation is that home owners and home buyers who have already hired you know that you’re an authority. They recognize you as an expert already. That means that you just need to write down a list of common questions you get from clients and you have a content goldmine on your hands.
Remember that each of these topics should basically represent one page of your website in an authoritative manner. This will help potential clients find you on the search engines and help solidify the last but most important part or my post, which is:
Become The Authority
“I would become an authority but I don’t have time to” – Anonymous Former Realtor
I hate to be rude but you don’t have the time not to. Whether you work for a bigger company like Century 21 or have a private company the reality is the same. You are your brand. If your name sucks than people will Google it and find that out with a few searches. Don’t be delusional. Potential and active clients are more empowered than ever and they’re actively doing their due diligence whether you want them to or not.
You control your brand whether you like it tor not. It’s your job to become the authority not only on Google but also in the eyes of the consumers. If you have to tell people you’re an expert than you’re probably not. So how do you become an authority? It takes work but you can use my four step process to get there. The steps are:
- Get Interviewed – If people read about you in a publication you will have ZERO explaining to do. Plus you can reference it in your bio.
- Be Social – It’s cool to hire a high school kid $10 a week to “manage your social media”, but it’s probably more fun to spend that $10 on lotto tickets. Don’t be fooled. You’re the expert in your industry. Act like it. Spend 10 minutes every morning as a part of your routine and get on social media. Respond to requests and promote good content and expert feedback.
- Build Your Reputation – It’s YOUR brand. You are your brand. Build it in every way possible.
- Own Your Visibility – If I Google You RIGHT NOW do you OWN all 10 search results? If you don’t and I see questionable stuff I’m not calling you.
The above four steps may have sounded a little harsh. I get that. I’m a very positive thinker myself and I love seeing that the grass is greener. But to see that sometimes you need to accept reality. There is no excuse to try to pay someone to become the authority. If you can afford it that’s great. If you can’t, you shouldn’t put this on the back burner thinking “I will afford this eventually”…. Instead change your mindset and follow these steps to get the ball rolling.
Sign Up for HARO
If I told 100 people to use this service a day about 1 would. It’s a sad fact. HARO stands for Help A Reporter Out and their website is www.HelpAReporter.com. When journalists need interviews for topics they post the inquires here. They’re looking for experts all of the time and signing up for their free service will get you two emails a day with hundreds of potential pitches you can apply for. If you’re selected you might get an interview (exposure & expertise) and a link to your website (this acts as a vote of confidence) which will help you rank higher in Google.
Get More Reviews
I could talk about reviews for hours. Like iv’e already mentioned in this post and many others… Consumers are getting smarter. They’re looking into you whether you like it or not. You need to have good reviews. As a Realtor I suggest focusing on the following platforms:
- Yelp – (Although you can’t ask for reviews according to their TOS you can install badge)
- Zillow – Yeah they rank everywhere. Don’t ignore them.
- Yahoo Local – Still alive and breathing. Make sure you get some reviews here.
- Facebook – You may not generate business from here without a plan, but you should be getting reviews
Now just don’t take my word for it. If you know your customers or clients are hanging out in a specific area make sure to market to them directly where they already are.
If you want each of your profiles to rank for your brand I suggest you fill them out completely with substantial content. Try t re-write your bio or about us for each one (just to be the least imperfect). That means don’t just put two sentences in the about us (unless that’s all they allow). Instead think about putting a 300+ word bio or informational blurb about you in these fields.
Lastly, Own Your Visibility
If I am searching for your brand and you don’t control the search results you need to do more. I started off this article by mentioning that Google killed local results for Realtors post Pigeon. While it doesn’t look like the results are coming back anytime soon it can’t hurt to optimize your citations.
Citations are a local SEO ranking factor and are your company (or brand) Name, Address, and Phone Number. If you have inconsistent data or you moved an office this information may not match up. This could hurt your rankings if Local results ever come back for realtors but also from a practical standpoint, potential clients may get wrong info and not be able to find you.
It’s for this reason that I recommend the following service if you can afford it.
- Moz Local
This will make your business name (current and old) consistent across and local directories that they service. It costs about $80 a year and you can sign up here.
Overall I hope this article wasn’t too long winded. If you had three takeaways I hope they were:
- Start with a solid platform
- Be the best in ONE geographic area
- Become an authority
Following these three but basic steps will help align your real estate agency with long term goals. No matter what happens in the economy, with your large company, or with your own business, following these steps will set you on the path to success. For your reference I have included the presentation from the seminar titled: The True Power Of Internet Marketing for 2015 below: