Since the infancy of the internet, search engine optimization (SEO) has been on savvy business minds: How does one get to the top of the rankings? More than three decades and much fine-tuning later, real estate SEO asks the same question: What makes your brokerage or company worthy of a #1 rank?
The answer is a lot more complicated than a “we deserve it” or “we’re the best.” Because, while you may deserve it and you may be the best, the search engines have no way of knowing that – unless you tell them. And that’s where SEO comes in.
At its heart, SEO is not about gaming the system; it’s about telling the search engines who you are, what you do, and where your expertise lies, by demonstrating all three through your excellent content. Because at the end of the day, the search engines want to serve their users with the best, most targeted, and most knowledgeable information. Your job is to convince them that’s you.
This checklist will help. Keep in mind, thought, that you must complete this checklist for every, single piece of website content you create – from major website real estate, like your homepage, straight down the line to your current listings and blog posts. That’s how real estate SEO (and any industry’s SEO, really) works: It’s an inchworm’s effort, working toward the greater goal, little by little and piece by piece.
☐ Produce Content. And Make it Fantastic.
It’s 2022 and today, the SEO world is built on the back of solid content: There is no search-engine optimization without great content.
You might say, that’s not true! There’s on-page and off-page SEO and only on-page SEO is rooted in content. And, if we’re playing semantics, you’d be right. Except that off-page SEO is all about earning links back to your site, which must have the quality content to merit those links. So, again – content! Superb, excellent, and quality content. And always, always write for human eyes, not the search engines. Search engines are fickle but people aren’t. Not in this sense, at least!
This is where your real estate SEO begins: Create GREAT content. The kind you’d want to link to, if you were searching around for the best link about XY topic. Answer frequently asked questions (in detail). Write strong listing descriptions. Blog about the things people want to know. (And make them long posts – 1,500, 2,000, or even 2,500+ words.)
Put in the effort to build a website deep in well-written, valuable content – and check off the items listed below – and you’ll already be well on your way to high organic search engine placement.
☐ Do Your Keyword Research
Your everyday real estate SEO efforts will always begin with keyword research. And, while there are free keyword research tools out there, know that the best keyword research is usually of the paid (and well-known) variety.
That said, if you don’t pay for one of the premium tools and don’t have an SEO professional on staff, then several of the free tools will get you most of the way there. And when you’re most of the way there, your logic and critical thinking skills can close the gap: Ask yourself, what do people search for, when they’re searching for what I offer? This is what’s known as search intent and those are your keywords or key phrases.
☐ Don’t Overlook Long-Tail Keywords
We don’t want to get overly technical but “long-tail keywords” is an SEO term that you’ll want to be familiar with. In a nutshell, long-tail keywords are those ultra-specific key phrases that have low competition – but high value to your target audience.
When it comes to real estate SEO, think about the kind of questions, requests, and priorities that your clients make. For example, if you often hear something along the lines of, “We’re looking for a family home within X minutes of the beach and Y minutes of this specific private school,” then “family-friendly beach homes near XY private school” might be a long-tail key phrase to target for your business.
Long-tail keywords are excellent fodder for your more specific website pages and especially your blog posts.
☐ Focus (But Not Too Much) on Keyword Density
Okay, so you know what key phrase you’re going to target for a specific page or blog post. (And it’s probably a long-tail keyword.) Now, it’s time to consider – but absolutely, positively NOT obsess over – keyword density.
Put simply, keyword density is how often your exact keyphrase appears in your content. Generally speaking, your target keyword density is 0.5% to 3% – in other words, a minimum of 5 occurrences in a 1,000-word blog post. But here’s why you shouldn’t obsess: For years, the internet world participated in “keyword stuffing” and it resulted in low-quality content filled with keywords but devoid of real, helpful, and valuable information. No one was happy.
So, bottom line: Know your keywords, add them where appropriate, and then try not to worry about jamming a specific phrase into your content a specific number of times. It’ll show, and in the worst way possible.
☐ Don’t Forget the Meta Data
Loosely speaking, website meta data (sometimes called markup meta data) refers to the stuff you don’t see when you’re already on a website.
For example, this blog post: In addition to the text you’re reading, there are other factors built into this post that help the search engines understand what we’re writing about. If you found us via a search engine, you’ll know that this post had an associated title and a post description – a Meta Title and Meta Description, respectively. When appropriate, the photos we use have title and ALT tag data related to our keywords. These are important elements of on-page real estate SEO.
☐ Go Local
Local SEO might just be one of the best things to happen to the real estate industry. In a nutshell, this allows local businesses – in other words, businesses that offer a service or product specific to their local area – to rank higher for people searching locally.
And that means that if your real estate company is located on Costa Rica’s Gold Coast, local SEO efforts help you rank higher when people with Gold Coast IP addresses (or even Costa Rican IP addresses) search for a real estate brokerage.
☐ Major Trend: All Hail UX in SEO
Ah yes, another industry acronym: UX, short for the user experience, is deservedly the current (and next and likely ever-changing final) frontier in search engine optimization.
Here’s the deal: Search engines have moved beyond all the formulaic elements of how to rank websites and now put the end-user – that is, real humans – at the core of the SEO experience. What do people want from their searches?
And that’s why the biggest trend in SEO doesn’t affect your rankings (but does affect your traffic): Search engines have evolved to serve people with what they most want – and they really don’t want to click through to a dozen different websites. You must give them a taste of the good stuff – and then tease them over to your site for more of what they want. And in 2022, that’s:
· More visuals (images and videos)
· Different types of media (Q&As/FAQs, stories, etc.)
· More targeted content (ex. jump-to links, calls-to-action, etc.)
· Snazzy headlines (that encourage people to click through)
· Content that requires further explanation (complicated topics with no easy answer)
We encourage you to click through on the above link to learn more, but the bottom line is that in 2022, you can rank #1 for an organic search result and still have very little website traffic (= a low click-through rate) because a high rank no longer guarantees a click. If you want people to click through, you must provide them with the kind of content they cannot allow themselves to scroll past.
Real Estate SEO Overwhelm? We’re Here to Help.
This checklist may be only a handful of items long, but SEO is not a simple matter. After all, there’s an entire industry devoted to just this topic – professionals, experts, and companies that dedicate their 40-hour workweeks to SEO and SEO alone.
If SEO isn’t your passion or your interest or your wheelhouse, then every page, every post, and every piece of content you produce can feel like a slog through endless and confusing lists of must-dos and don’t-forgets. If that’s your case, then we’re here to help.
At Peak Integrated Marketing, we take our clients’ SEO seriously. In fact, our team includes a dedicated SEO expert whose entire job is to do everything above (and a lot more). Not just so you don’t have to, but so that your website and your brokerage get the search engine love they truly deserve. So please, get in touch and let’s talk. We look forward to it!