Real estate lead generation is critical to the success of your business. As a real estate agent myself, I know the importance of being able to generate high-quality leads. There is an abundance of companies trying to sell leads to agents. A lot of agents end up going down this path and receive leads that are not qualified or have false contact information. Premier Agent is one of the best sources for local real estate leads, but you still have to compete with other agents in your market and the leads are expensive. That's why I created this real estate SEO guide.
I want to introduce an option that makes you independent of the big brands. Becoming your own Premier Agent. How did Zillow and Trulia grow to multi-billion dollar companies? By taking over YOUR real estate market. They ranked their websites in the top of the search results for properties in your area. They did what I am going to show you in this guide. This article is the complete guide on how to take your market back. I am going to lay out the exact action steps that you can apply, mostly for free, to rank your website in the top of the search engines. Everything that I am going to show you are important aspects of what Google uses to rank websites. So let's get started.
The first component of search engine optimization covers the parts of your website that you have full control over, and it's called On-Page SEO. On-Page SEO is just one part of the process, and you must make sure it is the best it can be (I'll show you how). This part is where your website can shine. I'm going to lay out everything you need on your site and how to do it.
Keyword research is the first place to start if you are looking to get more buyers and sellers coming to your website. This step alone can make or break your online success. Keyword research is about finding the search terms that people are typing into Google. You can use Google's Keyword Planner for finding keywords. We use some paid tools for this, such as KW Finder and Longtail Pro. KWFinder is a great program that can dig up keywords and show metrics on websites that are already ranking for the terms.
I am going to use Raleigh NC as the city we are targeting for the remainder of this guide. I already know that one of the most searched terms in real estate starts with "homes for sale," so I want to know how much traffic "homes for sale in Raleigh NC" is receiving. If we load it up in KWFinder, we can see that 4,400 people searched for this exact term in December.
We know we have a great keyword to target, but what else can we find? If I use different searches around real estate in Raleigh, I can find:
Try swapping out the city and state for your area and see what kind of search volume you get.
These keywords total up 9,226 searches for real estate keywords in Raleigh NC. These keywords for this city have medium/high competition, so we will have a lot of work to do in the later stages of this guide. Smaller cities/towns with less competition take much less effort to get to the top of the search results. It just depends on how many people are competing for the keywords and the competition's search engine optimization.
Once we have the keywords we like, we can start creating content around them. Previous Google updates included optimal keyword density of around 2-5% in their algorithm. Keyword density does not play a role anymore. There is no optimal keyword density, but you do want to avoid stuffing keywords into your content. Instead, we are going to use LSI keywords. LSI keywords are synonyms for the keywords you want to target.
Say I wanted to focus my efforts on "homes for sale Raleigh NC." I would use this keyword in a few key places on my page and use the keywords in the list above as LSI keywords.
I added commercial real estate Raleigh NC, Raleigh NC houses for rent, and real estate agents Raleigh NC to the list of keywords. These would be much easier keywords to target, and they will probably not show up if you are targeting homes for sale in Raleigh NC. You can create separate pages for these terms and a list of LSI keywords to target these searches.
There are many things that Google looks at when trying to understand what your page is targeting. The first thing they see is your URL structure. You want your URL's to be short and sweet. Google does not like to see a lot of meaningless characters in your URL. If I were going to target the above keyword list, I would make a single page that targeting real estate in Raleigh NC. For these keywords, I would make the URL of that page as firesideseo.com/best-homes-for-sale-in-raleigh-nc. For most websites, the URL structure comes from your page title. Just name your page whatever you want your URL structure to be, like "Best Homes for Sale in Raleigh."
Another great strategy is using an EMD or exact match domain. An EMD is just using your keyword as the domain name, for example, "HomesForSaleInRaleighNC.com." There are a lot of people that say exact match domains do not work anymore. Exact match domains do still work. Google has gone after exact match domains before, but only because they were low-quality sites. A lot of spammers have used this strategy to throw up spam sites and get them ranked quickly. Google wants their users to have a great online experience, and low-quality sites have a negative impact. EMD's are still a great strategy rank your site in the search results. Just make sure you are providing value to your visitors. EMD's might not have the power they once had, but using them is still a great strategy for ranking high in the search.
In 2017 and beyond, webmaster's need to be careful about how they optimize exact match domains. EMD's make it easy to over-optimize if site owners are putting their exact keyword in the main URL, in the content, and in the anchor text. The first two are fine, but you will need much less exact match anchor text to rank for your main keyword.
Heading tags are another signal that your website sends to Google. These tags are a part of your site's code. If you are using a Wordpress site, you can style your tags in the drop down menu. The H1 tag should only be applied once per page. The H1 tag is assigned to the title of your page automatically if you are using Wordpress. Main categories are assigned the H2 tag, and subcategories are assigned the H3 tag. You can use H4 and H5 tags, but they are not necessary.
If I were going to create content for our page, I would use LSI keywords as the sub headings. For example, I would create a category for "Luxury Real Estate in Raleigh NC," a category for "Foreclosures in Raleigh NC, and a category for "Condominiums for Sale in Raleigh NC." Wrap all of these in H2 tags, and create content around them. Notice I did not use our main keyword "homes for sale in Raleigh NC." I used LSI keywords. Google will pick these tags up and understand that you are talking about homes for sale in Raleigh, NC. H3 tags could be different luxury neighborhoods or condominium developments in Raleigh, NC.
What kind of content do you need for your page? MLS Listing data is great if you can style the listing feed to match your headings. The main goal here is to give valuable information that answers the visitor's questions. Show a few new listings and tell your visitors what the luxury real estate market is like in your area. Write epic content. The downfall of a lot of the large branded sites is that they cannot go deep in a local area. Their websites have hundreds of thousands of pages, but they have thin content. They cannot tell their visitors a personal story about the area or the market. All they know is what public data shows them, so write great content that answers your visitor's questions. Tell your visitors about the schools, shops, and restaurants.
Only drop your main keyword in the first 100 words of your content and then use LSI keywords throughout the rest of page. Using your keyword too often is considered "keyword stuffing." Google knows this is a tactic that people use to get their website to the top of the search engines, and you can get an over-optimization penalty. You will not know if you have this kind of penalty, other than the fact that your website might never make it above the second or third page of the results. If you think this is the case, just change your keywords around and wait for Google to crawl your content again. The algorithm is in real time, so the penalty will be lifted once Google sees your new content.
Make sure your content is over 2,000 words long. It has been proven that Google favors long content, but it also needs to be valuable content. It would be better to write 10,000 words if you can still provide epic content. Don't just make an article for the search engines. Google looks at factors like click-through rate and time spent on page by visitors. If people are not staying on your page for very long, then you will lose ranking in the search results.
I used Brian Dean's Expanded List Post to write this guide, and it's a great way to style your content, too. Tell your visitors everything they need to know about buying/selling a home in your market, and you will be well on your way to ranking on the first page of Google. Visitors might not read through your content in the first sitting if it is 3000+ words, but they will bookmark your page and keep coming back for more.
An example of well-written content that answers visitor's questions is Bill Gassett's page at Maximum Exposure Real Estate. Bill does a great job of giving valuable information to his visitors. This is information with a personal touch that only a local agent can write. Google wants us to prove that our websites are worthy to be ranked at the top, and Bill did an excellent job to prove his value to Google.
There is a misconception about the duplicate content penalty. You want to avoid posting anything on your site that you get from another website. If you do this, at least add a link to the source of the content. The link will show Google that you are giving credit to the original content, and will not penalize your site. However, it will be difficult to ever rank with the content from another site.
There is a type of duplicate content that is safe to use. Google does not penalize your website for the same content posted on multiple pages. This only applies to website's targeting local areas. Why would I ever want to use duplicate content on my site, you say? If you have a generic article targeting one area, you can create a new page, swap the area keywords in the content, and post it up, and you can rank for another area with the same content. We do not necessarily advise this strategy, as it can be odd to the visitor and cause a higher bounce rate or less time on page.
It is great practice to include at least one or two outbound links to authority websites. An article on Wikipedia would work well for this. Just make sure you are not sending any link juice to your competitor's websites. Also, make sure outbound links are set to open in a new window. Your website's rank will suffer if your bounce rate is high and time on page is low because visitors are leaving your site through links on your pages. Both of those metrics are tracked by Google, and you can see them if you setup your Webmaster's Console.
Images also send page information to Google. Google cannot look at images and understand what they are, so they read the image title and alt tags. To optimize images, make sure they are named either your target keyword (don't get carried away) or LSI keywords. Your image file name should be homes-for-sale-in-raleigh-nc.jpg. Never leave spaces or underscores in your image name. Always use hyphens or dashes. The alt tag should also have your keyword, but without hyphens or dashes. Just use spaces with the alt tags, i.e. Homes for Sale in Raleigh NC. Only use one keyword per image, but make sure the image names and alt tags are filled in correctly, and you will have perfectly optimized images on your site.
A meta description is a text located underneath the website URL in a search engine result page. Meta descriptions are not used by Google's ranking algorithm. Instead, they are there to provide information, so the visitor will know what your page is. Optimize these for people and not for search engines. If you do not write your own, Google will pull some text from your page to be displayed. It's always best to write your own. I would try to include LSI keywords in your meta description, as it is what they are looking for and it will be displayed in bold. Realtor.com is ranking in the top position for our keyword, and their meta description is:
"Realtor.com® has Raleigh, NC homes for sale listings. Find Raleigh real estate listings and information."
Google recognizes the words in bold as being relative to our search.
Page speed is also a factor that Google looks at when ranking your website. Check your page speed here. Loading speed is another factor that lends itself to the visitor experience. If the page takes too long to load, you need to correct the issues.
Items that can make your page slow:
Images are too large or are being resized.
Not using browser caching
Server response time
Landing page redirects
In 2015, Google updated their mobile algorithm and started giving preference to websites that were mobile optimized. This event has been dubbed "Mobilegeddon." The majority of search traffic is now performed on mobile, so it is understandable that Google does not want to display websites that are not mobile friendly to the largest portion of their customer base. You can find out if your website is mobile friendly here.
If it is not optimized, you should do that immediately or find a new website provider yesterday. We do provide website development if you need a new solution. Click here for more info.
Now that we have covered the things to do on your website that will help you get ranked higher in the search engines let's look at the things we can do off site. We usually do not have complete control over our off-site SEO. It mainly consists of getting other websites to link to us, also known as link building. If on-page SEO is the foundation for us to be able to rank high in the search engines, then off-page SEO is the power that gets us there. Build a good foundation, and you will need less power to rise in the search results. If you build a bad foundation, you will never rank for your target terms, and you will have to resort to other forms of advertising to get traffic to your website.
There are four key metrics that every web page has. They have domain authority, page authority, trust flow, and citation flow. To move these metrics, you need backlinks. A brand new website will have 1 domain authority, 1 page authority, 0 citation flow, and 0 trust flow. Domain and page authority is provided to us by moz.com. Trust flow and citation flow is provided by majestic.com. You can run a few reports on a free account at both websites. Domain authority is a value that extends to every page on your website. Page authority only applies to single pages. A new page on an authority website would have high domain authority but only 1 page authority. The links that are sent to other pages on the site are counted towards the overall domain authority. To increase page authority, backlinks must be sent to that exact page. Domain and page authority is on a scale of 0-100. It's very hard to get a local website past 40 for either. Zillow has a domain authority of 91, Trulia has 86, and Realtor.com has 89. Don't let this scare you though. We can still take over their rankings. It just props them up in everyone's market and makes it hard to get passed, if you don't know what you are doing.
Backlinks provide what is called "link juice." When one website links to another, it provides that website with some of its power. You will not receive much movement in the search engine results if your site is only linked to by thirty brand new websites. However, you could be shot to the top of the search engine results with only one high authority web page linking to your site (depending on the competition of the keyword.)
Trust flow is a different type of metric. Trust flow is more about getting links from quality sites, not just powerful ones. You raise your trust flow by getting links from trustworthy sites. Citation flow is more about the volume of links your website receives. Neither trust flow nor citation flow is important metrics to pay close attention to. The goal here is just to make sure you are getting links from sites that are not using spam tactics to rank their sites. A 1:1 or 1:1.5 ratio of trust flow to citation flow should be a pretty good site. You want trust flow high and citation flow to be close to the same number.
Another thing to note is that some links are do-follow and some are no-follow. A do-follow link will transfer power to your website, and a no-follow link will not. It's great to have both types of links, as it gives diversity to your backlink profile. A link from Facebook is no-follow, but a link from this website is do-follow. A lot of authority websites that allow you to create pages, posts, or profiles on their website are usually no-follow. They do this to counter spammers that go there to build tons of links to increase the authority of their websites.
A great way to transfer page authority around your site is to link to other pages on your site from the content of the pages. Some people call this a silo. When you write a page or article on a certain topic, include a hyperlink or two that takes them to a page on your website where they can learn more about a specific topic that you reference in your page. You can always go back and create a silo after you have some pages built out.
Example: If you want to learn more about our SEO services, check out our local seo page. We can take care of the entire ranking process for you.
I shamelessly plugged our services, but you get the idea. Just do this a couple of times on your pages, and this will build topical relevance for those pages. The menu at the top of the site does not count for this.
How can you score some great links for your site? There are several methods that can be very productive.
Remember earlier, when we touched on writing content about local businesses? Well, reach out to those owners if you dropped them a link. Let them know you just wrote some content and featured them in it. Most likely, they will want to return the favor and link to your page.
Guest posting is a great white hat link building strategy that is relatively easy to enact. The idea here is to find relevant authority sites, reach out to them with great content and get a link back to your site. The best guest post backlinks come from authority sites in your space that already have traffic. You can look for major real estate related sites or local business sites. The posting is usually free, but the website it is posted to retains all rights to the content. You can write the articles yourself or outsource the writing. Do not get a cheap writer for this, as there are high editorial standards on the websites where you are trying to get links, and the article might be denied. You can get an article written that is sure to be posted to the site for around $100. That is great value for a strong link that will provide your site with trust and authority.
Another great place to build backlinks is ActiveRain.com. ActiveRain is a real estate blog with a domain authority of 71. It's hard to get a better do-follow link than that! Just send a link from your website to your ActiveRain blog and vice versa. Use the on-page guide above and keep creating great content and you are good to go. I know of several real estate websites ranking in Google because of these links alone. You can even rank these blog posts in Google and get extra traffic for your keywords. The account you need to make this work costs $39 per month or $199 per year. It's a small price to pay for links of this quality.
Other links you should be trying to acquire are links from local websites, the local newspaper's website, local directories (chamber of commerce), and real estate directories.
A large part of SEO is to check up on what your competitors are doing, matching their efforts, and going above and beyond. Is there a local agent who is high in the search rankings for a term you want to target? Do you remember the site we used to look at trust flow? Head over to majestic.com and type your competitor's website URL exactly as they have it. Go to their page, copy their website URL, and paste it into Majestic. It's important that you do it like this because the difference between a website with www in front of it and one without it is like night and day. Also, make sure any links you build are going to the correct www or non-www pages. Google treats www as a subdomain and sees it as a completely different website as the non-www version. For instance, this site is located at http://firesideseo.com and not at
Once you have found their links, go out and try to build the same backlinks. Google is telling us what they like to see, so use it to your advantage.
Anchor text is the words that make up a hyperlink. Google also uses this to know what terms a website should be ranking for. There are many types of common anchor text that you should be building. A great strategy is to look at your competition and see what they are doing. You can use Majestic for this.
Your website should have the following types of anchor text:
Building branded and naked URL anchor text is the safest way to go. Only build one link with an exact match anchor and one with each LSI keyword if you are building less than thirty backlinks to your website. You can mix it up with generic anchor text, and you can probably come up with an endless supply of them.
If you have ever searched for a local service provider in your area, then you have seen the box in the top of the search results with a map and three local professionals. This is called the "snack pack." You need to build local citations to rank in the snack pack. Citations are those profile links we were talking about earlier. They are high authority websites that give you a no-follow link. You must have your business name, address, and phone number (NAP) the same across all platforms.
The first thing to do is setup your Google My Business profile. Google will sometimes slightly alter your address, and it's the hardest one to change. Google will send you an authorization in the mail. Once you get it setup, you should add your NAP to the footer of every page on your website. After that, start building citations. You can find the citations your competitors are using by spying on their backlink profile.
Make sure all of the citations you currently have are up to date with your exact NAP (name, address, phone number). Inconsistencies can hurt your chance to rank in the snack pack. After that, work on getting reviews to those citations, especially your Google My Business page.
Master list of real estate citation sources (we can also help you build these):
Social signals are things like Facebook likes and shares, Tweets, and Google+ shares. Google says they do not use social signals in their ranking algorithm, but who sends backlinks to a page that cannot even receive a single Facebook like?
Just make sure each page has prominent social sharing buttons on them, and you are good to go. If you created great content that people love to read, then you will have no trouble getting social signals. To kick it off, go through and share your page to each one of your social accounts. You could also get your friends and family to like and share your content
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