7 Keys to Local SEO for Real Estate Marketing
By Seth Price
Real estate professionals seem to have a love-hate relationship when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO). We all want the benefits of having the web deliver qualified leads to our door. When our tried-and-true marketing tactics start to become less effective, we’re immediately poised to move onto the next promising silver bullet.
But, there’s one thing that SEO isn’t, and that’s “instant.”
Having worked with thousands of real estate agents, brokers, and brands on their websites, I have learned to take the long view. The fact is, online marketing is a marathon that requires consistent SEO to adapt to the ever-changing landscape of online consumer behavior. Knowing the best SEO methods to apply can make the difference between lead generation nirvana and spinning your wheels.
At its essence, SEO is just a fancy way of describing the work you need to do to be discovered by your target audience online. Many of you have probably heard the term “local SEO” bandied about and wondered what the distinction is between that and garden-variety SEO.
Local SEO is just what it sounds like. Any business that gets some of its customers locally can take advantage of local SEO. That could be a pizza parlor, hardware store, agent, broker, dentist, or lawyer. If you have a physical address or work in a specific geographic area, you have to get your local SEO going.
In this post, we dive deep into what works today with seven keys to local SEO for real estate marketers. Researching competitive keywords, using local citations, filling in meta data, securing client reviews and testimonials, and publishing quality, relevant content are vital for helping agents get the traffic and leads they desire, and we explain in detail how to perform each one of these tasks.
We recently hosted a webinar on the topic of SEO for real estate, and while this isn’t the same as having a live training with Q&A, this post is gold, as it will help you understand how the world of local SEO is evolving and what you can do to stay on top of it.
The Current State of SEO
Before we examine the specific components needed to become a local SEO expert, let’s debunk a recent myth: SEO isn’t dead. Far from it. In fact, it’s evolving.
In the past, internet users primarily depended on their personal computers to conduct searches. But the emergence and constant growth of the mobile device market has transformed how users search online. Data from the last five years shows a clear trend of mobile steadily taking over PCs in the search sphere:
Planning your real estate marketing around this ever-growing trend is the key to staying ahead of the curve and ensuring your website looks great no matter what device your audience uses. Of course, aesthetics is one thing — optimizing for SEO is another. It won’t matter that your responsive real estate website looks fancy if it doesn’t feature compelling, relevant, SEO-rich content.
Let’s explore what it takes to become a champion of search optimization through some real-life examples and expert tips and tricks that’ll help improve your standings in search.
How to Become a Local SEO Master
1) Be as unique as possible with SEO.
There is an art and a science to being a good marketer in real estate. There are real estate coaches, marketing books, and classes that will teach all about the transaction, managing your gross commission income (GCI), personal branding, and even effective advertising. However, no matter the tactic, if you don’t resonate with the audience you’re connecting with, there will be no transaction to get commission from. The world is way too busy to pay attention to the status quo.
As a people, we respond to the exceptional. Without a remarkable factor, we are destined to be ignored. Read more on the concept of being remarkable in real estate from a post by my friend Marc Davison at 1000Watt. This is what happens when we try to be like everyone else: We lose our competitive edge.
How does this relate to local real estate SEO you might wonder? Well, search engines are in the business of providing the best possible search results to the people looking for answers. It’s how they keep people coming back for more. Without searchers, there’s no advertising business, no advertising, no Google — at least as we know it today.
Your job as a marketer is to tell the story of how you create value for the audience you serve, and that includes highlighting your unique knowledge of the market. Here are a few examples of real estate marketers doing just that:
2) Keyword research is crucial to understanding consumer intent.
Keyword research may be the most overlooked aspect of SEO. While most real estate marketers will happily spend countless hours on their social media strategy and content marketing, very few spend the time needed to learn how to actually do effective keyword research. What’s crazy is that keywords largely determine which potential customers find you via search. Consider it potentially free traffic if done correctly.
In addition, the right keywords will insure that your content marketing efforts aren’t wasted attracting the wrong customer or, worse, no customer at all. Remember, including your location in your keywords is a great way to make sure you reach customers specifically interested in the market you serve.
We’ve got a super-in-depth guide to keyword research that you should definitely save for later reading. For now, use these quick tips to get the ball rolling:
Use the Google search bar for long-tail keywords:
3) Good headlines are like oxygen for real estate marketing.
There’s nothing worse than uninspired copy. We’ve all experienced it: the email title that doesn’t deserve a click, the book covers that don’t catch our eye, or the pickup line that make you want to cringe. For marketers, it’s even more dire.
You spend countless hours creating awesome content and add a title as an afterthought. This is killing your conversion rates because even if 8 out of 10 people read your headline, only two out of 10 will read the rest of your post. Talk about a waste of effort. But it doesn’t have to be like that.
Here’s a little formula from our friends at CopyBlogger.
Start with something like “Selling Your Home in a Day” and apply the formula from above. You end up with “How to Effortlessly Sell Your Home in Less Than 24 Hours.” You could also try some other simple formulas:
- Who Else Wants [blank]
- The Secret of [blank]
- Little Known Ways to [blank]
- What Everybody Ought to Know About [blank]
4) Create awesome content, rinse, and repeat.
The real estate industry has a reputation of producing some fairly lame content which is why there aren’t a ton of examples of beautiful inspiring content marketing in our industry. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, creating awesome content that educates, informs, and engages consumers through the entire customer life cycle will be a requirement for any business looking to survive the decades to come. Consumers are in the drivers seat and have grown to expect value added experiences.
Here’s a resource of content ideas to get you inspired:
You should also consider looking at what some of your competitors are doing in the space. It can be a source of inspiration and give you insight into what types of content is resonating with similar audiences. One of my favorite free tools is QuickSprout. Use it to run a simple query.
I choose Bill Gassett of MaxRealEstateExposure who does a fantastic job creating content. He may be the first to tell you that his site could be prettier, but look at his content: people read it and share it. He’s taken the time to build a tribe and he rewards them with well thought-out and timely content. Many could learn from Bill’s example:
Here’s the results of the query that we ran on Bill’s site:
If you want to see an example of some of the content that we create to engage agent and brokers, take a look at this Real Estate Marketing Ideas Slideshare that we created in advance of the last Inman Conference in San Francisco.
It was a quadruple-whammy of
- Timing: We shared it right before the conference.
- Collaboration: We interviewed a bunch of super smart real estate marketers that helped spread the word and share the piece.
- Design: We worked really hard to make everyone look as good as they could.
- Built-in social sharing: We added a ‘Click to Tweet’ feature on almost every slide to make it easy for folks to share.
5) Optimize all of the little SEO details (aka on-site SEO).
On-site for local real estate SEO requires some slightly different tactics than national SEO. First, you want to make sure your business NAP (name, address, and phone number) is used throughout your website and that it’s the same NAP that you used for your local listing and citations. Then you want to use your state, city, and town names in your title tags, meta descriptions, and in the content that you create for your site.
Choose a website platform that makes use of Schema local markup — this acts as a homing beacon for the search engines, letting Google, Bing, and Yahoo indexing bots know what they are looking at. And specifically for real estate, you want to make sure all of your listings are indexable and have an XML sitemap. Without it, you can’t take advantage of the incredible SEO value of real estate listings.
6) Know how local SEO differs from national SEO.
While there’s a lot of overlap in the elements that apply to both local and national SEO (indexing, on-page factors, social, listing optimization, backlinks, and great content), local comes with a few unique elements that require your attention.
In the current world of search, all roads lead to Google. In regards to local search create and claim a local profile on Google, Bing, Yahoo, Realtor, Trulia, and Zillow. This local listing is what generally shows up in localized search results.
Then there is the citation. A citation is simple: It’s any place online that uses your company NAP (name, address, and phone number) all on the same page. It’s imperative that this citation information is in the same format as your local listing.
Lastly, there are reviews. The more the merrier. The quality and quantity of reviews that customers leave for your business on Google Places and Yelp (especially of iOS search results) are one of the most important search ranking factors for local discovery.
Here’s what the reviews look like in search results:
Check out what Sarah Jones has done over at Bamboo Realty in Houston. She has turned reviews into one of the leading referral engines on her site. I have seen very few brokers capitalize on customer reviews as well as this. (Full disclosure, Sarah is in the process of rebuilding her website on the Placester Web platform, so don’t criticize the look of her site.)
7) Optimize your website for mobile discovery.
We are a culture in love with our devices. Look around you: Is there anyone close by that doesn’t have a smart device, tablet, phablet, or mobile phone? If the answer is yes, you’ve just found one of the last people in America that doesn’t have one. All kidding aside, the growth is astounding and doesn’t show any sign of slowing. What that means to you is that all of those consumers are doing their searching on their mobile devices. So much so that 78 percent of local-mobile searches result in offline purchases, and if your website isn’t conducive to being viewed on a mobile device, you are likely turning customers away.
It doesn’t have to be that way. The cost of getting your real estate business online has dropped 1000-fold in the last decade and the available expertise to help you get set up has expanded far beyond the webmasters of yesteryear. If you want to learn more, read our ebook.
Ensure your entire website is optimized by downloading our eBook The Ultimate Guide to Building a Real Estate Website.
How do you think Local real estate SEO will evolve in the years ahead? Share your comments with us in the comments below!
Published on August 12, 2014
Written by Seth Price
Seth is a brand and marketing strategist with 20 years of digital marketing experience. He’s a founding team member and VP @Placester, author of the bestselling small business marketing book, The Road to Recognition and host of The Craft of Marketing and Marketing Genius podcasts. As a speaker, writer, and marketing workshop leader, Seth brings levity, mentorship, and a dose of reality to the businesses and entrepreneurs he coaches.