Search engine optimization is essential to getting your site and listings in front of prospective buyers on the internet. According to a recent report by the National Association of Realtors, 44 percent of people searching for homes began by looking online for available properties. Compare that to the 17 percent who kicked-off the process by calling a real estate agent directly and you can easily understand the importance of a website to drive leads and sales. In short, a well-optimized site is critical to your overall real estate marketing plan.
There are a number of ways real estate SEO is different than a standard site optimization effort, including:
- An intense local focus. Homebuyers may begin searching by city, but quickly hone-in on specific neighborhoods and precise addresses when looking for a house. Your website needs to incorporate local SEO best-practices in order to compete on these search queries.
- Creative assets are extremely important. Comprehensive photo galleries, floorplans, videos, and virtual reality tours aren’t just nice-to-have features for home listings—they’re the price of entry for competitive search terms.
- The need for site speed. Prospects looking for the latest open house or driving through neighborhoods to spot “for sale” signs are using their phones to find listings. Your real estate website must be optimized for mobile search, and that includes getting page load times down to a minimum.
- A site’s structure should reflect the real world. URL taxonomy sends powerful location signals to Google. States, cities, neighborhoods, and street addresses must all be considered when building out a meaningful site structure.
- Unique content combats MLS data duplication. The number of bedrooms, square footage, property taxes, and more; the details of a home listing will be similar across websites that use MLS data. That means you need to find a way to distinguish your page from the rest, and that can include writing your own on-page description and sharing additional details about the area.
- Reputation matters. Your next customer is looking to make one of the biggest purchases of his or her life—expect them to perform their due diligence on you or your real estate company. Do you have an “About Me” page on your site and third-party aggregators where you list homes? Is your LinkedIn profile all it could be?
Curb Appeal: Evaluating Your Current Website
Much like an experienced home inspector, it’s easy for SEO professionals to spot issues with a website. Here are some of the most prominent SEO risks you should look out for:
- Missing or short title tags. The title tag is a bit of HTML text that should be included on every page of your website. Title tags are what searchers see as the clickable link when your page shows up on Google, and search engines check it for relevant keywords. Title tags have a maximum length of about 70 characters before they get truncated in results. Title tags that are too short might be ignored and replaced by other text on your page—not always a good thing.
- Missing or short meta descriptions. Much like the title tag, you should have a unique meta description for every page on your website. While this copy isn’t taken into consideration when ranking results, it’s where you can highlight your call-to-action. Meta descriptions should be no longer than 156 characters to avoid truncation.
- A lack of rich on-page content. Search engines devour content, including text, photos, videos, and lists or tables. Pages that provide the most useful content have an edge against the competition when rankings are determined.
- Slow site speed. Google knows that most searches are conducted on mobile devices. Site speed, or how long it takes your page to load on a phone, is a ranking factor. Sluggish sites will struggle to attract eyeballs as they usually cede ground to better-optimized competitors.
- Unsecure pages. Every business should’ve transitioned to the secure HTTPS protocol by now, but it’s especially important for companies that collect personal information about prospects and clients. A failure to take security and encryption seriously can cost real estate sites in terms of visibility in the rankings.
Website Renovation: DIY or Call in Professionals?
Once you’ve assessed the state of your real estate website it’s time to take action to fix it. Depending on your digital skills you may be able to patch some digital drywall yourself.
For example, it’s not unheard of for talented writers to read up on SEO and craft decent title tags and meta descriptions for their sites. It’s less common for agents to have time to write long-form copy, integrate new features, devise an internal linking strategy, and compress resources to improve site speed.
In cases where a comprehensive website renovation is needed it can be much more efficient to hire SEO professionals to do the heavy lifting.
The urgency of repairs will be determined by how well your listings are faring against competitors.
Real Estate SEO FAQs
Our experts answer frequently asked questions about real estate SEO:
Q: Aside from what we’ve discussed, what can affect my site’s ability to rank well for real estate searches?
A: The number and quality of backlinks from other sites, the size of your market, strength of the brand, and reputation can all impact your organic search performance. Collectively, these factors are known as off-site signals.
Q: Can small and medium-sized real estate agencies compete with household names like Zillow?
A: Yes, but you need a strategy and realistic expectations. Operate in a smaller city? You may be able to use this to your advantage by putting local SEO best practices into action. Do you have a particular niche you can exploit against the major aggregators? It takes time to find out what works against larger competitors, but it is possible to get a slice of the pie for yourself.
Q: How long does it take to start seeing results from SEO efforts?
A: It can take anywhere from several weeks to several months after optimizations are pushed live before you start to see significant ranking improvements.