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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Beyond the smoke and mirrors of real estate SEO

There has been some recent chatter among leading SEO minds about the opportunities in real estate.

And you can't disagree. You've seen them yourself.

You were talking to an agent just last week who told you how great her website’s search engine optimization was. When you asked what she has done to her site, she told you her site provider has her ranking on the first page for "dozens of keywords." Unsatisfied, you dug a little deeper to find most of them included her name, which wasn't all that common.

It's for this reason that SEO practices have always scared you. You've felt it might be "smoke and mirrors," as many say, and you saw few true examples where agents drove real business from it.

But it started hitting closer to home as you started searching for homes through search engines.

It’s something you hadn’t really done before. Besides, you have access to the MLS and you know how to navigate your brokerage’s website, so why bother searching for homes any other way?

But something started itching at you, telling you that consumers don’t have access to the MLS, and they might not be all that familiar with your brokerage’s real estate website. In fact, they might not be familiar with any local real estate website, and they instead are turning to the one place they turn to each time they search for anything—Google.

You asked around to find your site gets very little traffic, and you have to assume there are a large number of people searching for homes in your region. You start feeling like most of them are using search engines to find more information.

Through an informative real estate blog, you are introduced to the Google AdWords Keyword Tool. You use it to search real estate keywords for your market. It tells you how many people are searching for them monthly on Google, and it gives you other variations of the keyword that are also searched frequently.

You start to recognize that the traffic opportunities are much greater than you previously anticipated.

You begin searching for your own listings on Google by address, only to find the top search results are competing real estate websites.

You don’t realize it at the time, but listings on your site aren’t even getting indexed by search engines. They are buried behind a convoluted drop-down and checkbox property search page, and search engines can’t index any pages beyond it. The listings aren’t linked from anywhere else on your website and you have no sitemap feeding the listing URLs to search engines.

You don’t know much about SEO, but you know enough to realize these practices will never get your site ranking competitively for keywords, and you’ll never see significant organic traffic from search engines as a result.

It’s about then that you start thinking you know what you want. You want an easy-to-use property search, but you want listings to get indexed by search engines. You want your website to show up when consumers search directly by listing areas and listing addresses alike.

And you want to make sure you can capture the traffic that comes to your website when consumers find your site on search engines. You want to make sure those consumers aren’t lost in an infinite property search, but can easily ask questions about a listing or request a showing. You want those inquiries to come to you immediately in the form of leads, and you want to be able to access the lead info instantly, follow up with the customer, and later be able to access the customer’s profile and record of interactions in a working CRM.

It seems like a lot to ask, but a little homework on SEO helped you realize there’s a lot of business to be had, a means to earn it, the capability to capture the business once it comes to you, and the ability to convert those inquiring consumers to leads, and eventually to transactions.

You’re starting to realize you know exactly what you want, and you want it to work the right way. And, in all your homework, you realize there’s a real estate website, lead management and SEO provider that might have the tools you’re looking for.
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