As a real estate agent, you’ve probably heard the term “SEO” (Search Engine Optimization) but it’s such a complex topic to navigate, it’s easy to lose track of where the real value is and how you should incorporate it into your business.
In basic terms, SEO is how people find you on the Internet. When done correctly, SEO can generate an unlimited source of new business… but an in-depth SEO strategy is not for every business, and if it isn’t right for yours, you can easily sink a ton of time and money into efforts that will never pay off.
I’m sure you’re thinking, “If it’s such a great source of business, why isn’t it for everyone? Is it for me?”
The Biggest Challenge
When determining if SEO is right for you, it really comes down to choosing one of two paths, and I’ll explain why.
In many ways, the largest benefit of SEO is also the biggest challenge: everyone is there. Both clients and competition flood the online landscape, and according to a NAR study, 100% of home buyers and sellers used the Internet to search before taking action. That’s 100% of your clients! Search engines have also evolved the longer they’ve been around, combining mature technology with a huge market means that there’s already a lot of competition. That doesn’t mean there isn’t any space for you though, but it does mean that you’ll need to put some time (and possibly money) into the right efforts.
So, which path should you take?
A Tale of Two Roads
Road 1: As we saw, 100% of your clients are using search in some fashion before working with you. So, at the very least you need to show up online when your clients invariably search for properties in your market, or when they search for you directly. This isn’t overly challenging and doesn’t require much to maintain. However, this strategy doesn’t consistently bring you new clients, it will only ensure you don’t lose the business you’re already driving from other avenues.
Road 2 (the road less traveled): If you’re looking to drive new business from your online presence, the payoff is enormous, but it’s going to take some time and consistent work on your end.
It’s not enough to drive business with SEO by creating a lot of content upfront. What most people don’t know is that can actually hurt your website. These days, Google is using every piece of data available to find and rank content, including how consistently you post, to how engaged people are that visit your site, to whether the content includes video with it. So, writing content about every neighborhood in your area and posting it all at once to your website would really be a disservice to your SEO ranking. Instead, making a commitment to write an in depth editorial on each neighborhood on your site every 1-2 weeks, will enable search engines to find you based on a broader set of criteria (this also gives you a great opportunity for continued promotion on social media.)
While individual neighborhood descriptions can be a great way to start, they’re not nearly enough to build a high traffic site around. In reality, you need to find a topic you’re passionate about that also helps your target audience. This can be anything from real estate advice (for a very specific audience) to the best restaurants in your city. The key is that you consistently put out new content around a single theme that your audience finds interesting and valuable.
Time To Pick
So, which option sounds best to you? Remember, there’s no wrong answer here. You can only focus on so many sources of business at once and it’s totally acceptable to run a basic ‘business card’ style website without focusing on SEO. However, if you’re already putting out content, or want to pursue new lead sources consistently, SEO could be a great source of business for you.
Either way, you’ll want to start with the basics so you show up in searches for your name, your business name, and maybe a few specific search terms related to your business. Now, I’m going to dive into the next steps if you’re interested in taking your SEO game up a notch!
Road 1: The Basics
First and foremost, focus on Google. As of April, 2020 Google controlled 86% of the global market share. So much of the market in fact, that other search engines are forced to follow a majority of Google’s protocols. Essentially, if you’re doing well on Google, you’ll do well on other search engines a majority of the time.
Start by opening an ‘incognito window’ in Google Chrome, and then running a search for your name and business name. (If you try to search within a regular browsing window, your search results will be skewed as your own website is more likely to show up based on sites you usually frequent.)
What did you find? If your website isn’t on the first page of the search results, you probably either need to update your existing website, or work with another vendor to build a new one.
Once you have at least a basic website in order, you’ll want to set up Google My Business and Google Search Console.
Google My Business is what allows you (as a business) to show up to the right of a Google Search, with your specific business information (shown below). This is a great way to stand out against other REALTORS® and gives people an easy way to contact you without having to go to your website.
Last but not least, setup Google Search Console. This tool allows you to monitor any errors on your website, view analytics for how you’re performing on Google, and research keywords you may want to show up for in searches.
This is about as far as it makes sense to go if you’re not ready to take the second road and only want a basic website for you and your business (remember, there is nothing wrong with this).
If you’re going to commit to creating content and building an audience with SEO, it’s probably time to consult with an expert. SEO is constantly evolving at a pace that makes it difficult to keep up with, even if you dedicate all of your time to it. What’s worse is that a number of Google’s updates make previously effective SEO practices counterproductive. So, when it comes to the technical aspects, you’ll need to be aware of the most recent and up-coming changes to the SEO landscape and will probably want to hand it off.
When it comes to content creation on the other hand, I would make sure you stay central to the process. It’s totally acceptable to hire a ghostwriter, but you’ll want to come up with or approve the content ideas, and do a final edit on everything you’re putting out. If your content doesn’t feel genuine, or speak to your audience, Google knows that and factors this into your search ranking.
A Word of Caution
Whatever your path, I wish you the best of luck. My only warning would be that you don’t try to capitalize on the benefits of SEO without fully understanding the journey you must travel down on that second path. I’ve seen way too many agents who believe that Google can bring them business without any continued work. While that may have been the case years ago, the market has become so saturated and competitive, and search engines have become so intelligent, that’s just not the case anymore.