We've heard about the horror stories. People spend thousands of dollars on an SEO strategy that never produces results.
However, that isn't to say that companies aren't spending millions each year on content, backlinks, and digital PR.
Because they are.
In this article, I'll tell you exactly what you need to do before engaging an SEO company or bringing your efforts in-house. Real estate SEO is an art. And, if you get it right, you could dominate your local area and leave your competition wondering how you did it.
What is SEO?
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the practice of helping businesses rank organically in Google and other search engines.
Simply put: it's showing up at the perfect time when a buyer or seller is looking for an agent.
With 97% of homebuyers searching for real estate listings online, you can see how ranking highly can fundamentally change your business.
But, this is a pro tip, there's more than one search engine to think about.
While Google holds the majority share of search engine traffic, there are still other considerations:
- Apple's Search Engine.
With billions of searches happening every single day, it's an opportunity that agents simply cannot ignore.
And with Bing being far less competitive than Google, it makes sense to try to capture as many site visitors as possible.
SEO can be defined and broken down into three core categories:
- On-page SEO.
- Off-page SEO.
- Technical SEO.
Each element of SEO needs to be optimized to be effective.
There's no point in having a real estate website with a poor technical foundation. You can't write quality content on a page that takes 15 seconds to load.
Real estate SEO is only (truly) successful once you understand that you need to give search engines what they want.
Key facts and statistics
Even though SEO plays a major role in online marketing, I don't think people truly understand the scale. Here are a few key stats to keep in mind for your real estate business.
- SEO leads have a 14.6% close rate, while outbound leads (such as direct mail or print advertising) have a 1.7% close rate.
- 76% of people who search for something nearby on their smartphone visit a related business within a day, and 28% of those searches result in a purchase.
- The SEO industry is worth over $80 billion in the US.
How has the industry changed?
Ten years ago, SEO was completely different from what it is today.
I've been around long enough to see the change from stuffing keywords to building a brand. It's less about writing another blog post and more about becoming the authority in your industry.
For example, the real estate niche is an industry where you can't 'fake it.'
To drive organic traffic to your website, you must know a thing or two about real estate.
Google only wants to serve people with relevant and helpful content. Gone are the days of being able to cheat your way to the top of search engines.
Here's what used to work (please don't try any of these SEO tactics):
- Low-level link building on spammy websites.
- Forum comments.
- Black hat SEO strategies such as cloaking or scraping.
- Manipulating search engine algorithms with fake traffic.
- Thin or poor content.
- Keyword stuffing.
- Hiding text on the page.
These are all things that used to work, and it's likely where the bad reputation came from for real estate SEO.
But, I can almost guarantee you success if you listen to the following real estate SEO tips:
- Consistently produce quality content for your target market (local or national).
- Be featured in the local press.
- Contribute to your industry with thought leadership and research.
- Integrate SEO with your overall marketing strategy.
- Build a brand you'd want to work with.
- Write content with keyword research in mind.
- Focus on the user, not just the search results.
Can SEO still work for real estate agents?
Yes, SEO can help you build an incredibly successful real estate business.
However, being able to dominate the search results in your local market comes with time. It isn't as simple as Google ads.
It can take months to build depending on a few things:
- Your budget.
- How competitive is your local area?
- What resources do you have in-house?
- Your patience.
And this is where agents miss out.
For example, for the keyword 'houses for sale in Boston', there are over 1,200 searches per month.
The top 1-3 organic positions absorb most of that traffic.
You lose out on business monthly if you don't rank at the top of your local area's search results.
Based on click-through rate estimates, you're likely to turn 30-40% of those searches into website visitors.
In this example, that's as high as 480 (potential) leads every single month.
Google My Business (Google Business Profile)
Google My Business (now known as Google Business Profile) can be a game-changer for real estate agents.
Because local SEO relies on what we call 'the map pack,' which appears above the organic results.
In fact, as a lead generation tool, it's possibly the most effective way for real estate companies to increase their local visibility and drive sales.
Agents have the ability to focus their profile directly on home buyers in particular cities. And, just like any other website, your profile can be optimized for your audience.
- Share properties and listings for sale.
- Regularly posting to keep your profile active.
- Generate and reply to reviews from your clients.
- Stop relying on Zillow for leads.
With 93% of Google searches coming from people looking to interact with a local business, having a Google My Business profile is not optional.
We share a lot of ongoing optimization tips for local SEO, but here are the most important parts of optimizing your profile:
- Optimize your profile name for your brand + location.
- Utilize the most relevant business categories for your business.
- Complete your profile's description using well-placed keywords.
- Share high-quality content (photos, videos) regularly.
- Set up your services to reflect your website.
- Focus on generating and replying to online reviews.
SEO tips for real estate websites (the truth)
There's a lot of information about real estate SEO on the internet. Some advice is for local SEO, and the rest is completely generic.
So-called "SEO experts" who advise without experience are a recipe for disaster.
Thankfully, I can tell you what works after nearly ten years of ranking websites. And I can tell you what doesn't.
So, if you're a real estate agent looking for more traffic from somebody who lives and breathes this industry, let's dive in.
Always do keyword research first
The most important step, before anything else, is keyword research. This means understanding what keywords you want to rank for.
Keywords are split into intent.
- Commercial: I want to buy something.
- Informational: I want to know something.
- Navigational: I want to go somewhere.
- Investigation: I need to compare two options.
The reason why this is so important is that any real estate SEO strategy needs direction. You need to understand what you can rank for, how long it will take, and what that means for your real estate business.
Most 'real estate SEO experts' try to rank for as many long-tail keywords as possible.
Without any consideration for your commercial goals as a real estate agent. This can be great for generating traffic, but it's bad for your conversions.
The easiest way to do keyword research is to look at who already owns the search engine rankings in your area.
Google is telling you what it wants.
For the sake of this article, I'm going to use Ahrefs (you can get a trial for $7 here) to show you how you can find the best real estate keywords for your website.
Firstly, start with your seed keyword. For any real estate agency, this will be 'service + location'.
The most common commercial local keywords are:
- Realtor + location.
- Real estate agent + location.
- Real estate agency + location.
Pro tip: don't be disheartened if your location has little search volume. This just means your local market isn't that competitive. And thus, you should be able to take over the organic search results easily.
If you only operate in one area (i.e., Miami), then your homepage will be your target page to rank higher with.
But, if you have multiple locations, you need different landing pages to rank in those areas. The reason for that is that Google uses content to determine what your business does.
So, now you know:
- How to find your main target keyword.
- Break your website up if you want to capture Google searches in different neighborhoods.
Don't overthink your informational keywords.
Most real estate websites write content on very similar topics. Topics like:
- How to sell your property for above market value.
- How to make your property look more appealing.
- The best things to do in 'X' neighborhood.
Your job isn't to reinvent the wheel with your informational content.
Your job is to produce higher-quality content than the rest of the real estate industry. It is the easiest way to rank higher in search engines.
Creating the perfect content strategy
Most real estate businesses will hit publish on their content and think their job is done.
Not you, though.
You know that to make your content work for you, you've got to distribute it effectively.
A solid SEO content strategy for real estate might look like this:
- Write a blog post on how to increase the market value of your property.
- Repurpose snippets of this content for social media, Google maps, and email.
- Turn this blog post into video content and distribute it on YouTube.
- Create shorts for YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok.
Creating content is only 20% of the battle.
The remaining 80% is generating referral traffic to your pages. This is considered an indirect ranking factor.
Well, it's a popularity signal. If search engines can see traffic from other websites engaging with your content, they'll know it's valuable.
For real estate, you've got so many options to choose from.
This industry is data-driven but relies on visualization to master real estate SEO.
Foundational link building
Links are the most contested area of search engine optimization.
Links are what help pages rank higher. If you've produced amazing content, for the right search queries, on a fast website, backlinks are the missing piece.
But, the real estate space seems to get it wrong.
Your goal with any SEO strategy is to build your foundations first and then worry about higher authority links.
Let me give you an example.
Local SEO relies on proximity, relevancy, and prominence. These ranking factors have been taken directly from Google's local SEO guidelines.
If you want to show Google 'hey, I operate in this area; this is where I want to sell property,' you have to build local citations.
Local citations are directory submissions (think about Yelp) where you list your name, address, and phone number (we call it NAPs).
Social profiles are also a great place to start your link-building efforts. Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube are all trusted websites that search engines rely on.
Your goal is to have your business listed on as many relevant directories as possible. Local SEO optimization doesn't have to be difficult. Quality over quantity matters more.
It can be tricky and time-consuming to do this yourself. Here are my favorite SEO tools I've used to speed this up:
- Bright Local
- SEO Builder
Pro tip: if you change business address, which you will, remember to go back and update your citations. Inconsistencies in this data will prevent Google from trusting your business.
Once you've added your citations, it's time to focus on building relevancy and trust.
The ideal websites to get links from are other real estate companies or real estate websites.
Because they're extremely relevant.
The most common methods used for link building are:
- Guest posting: you write an article for another website.
- Resource link building: you have something of value that can be featured on another website.
- Editorial links: having your link placed in any existing article.
- Broken links: finding out-of-date links on other websites and replacing them with your link.
Let's say you've produced an in-depth market report of your local area. You could email another real estate website and offer this report to them, free of charge, for their readers.
You'd like a link to your homepage in exchange for this free asset. It's often a simple exchange and usually results in more traffic (for everyone involved).
Think outside of the box. Real estate is an exciting topic. Why not create something of value that's worth sharing?
Pro tip: when you build links, it's important to focus on the quality of the website you're getting the link from. Don't fall for link sellers who promise you overnight success on the search engine results page. It's a lie.
Dominate with on-page SEO
What's a good real estate website without well-optimized content?
It's not a good real estate website.
We've spoken about finding the best real estate SEO keywords. Now I'm going to tell you how to optimize for them.
On-page SEO is 80% getting the basics right. If you want more organic traffic, there are a few key areas of a page to pay attention to.
- Page title.
- Your headers.
- Meta description.
- Body content.
- Internal links.
Your page title is the first thing Google reads to try and understand your page. It's also what homeowners pay the most attention to in the search results.
Creating a well-optimized page title can dramatically increase clicks (commonly known as click-through rate or CTR).
Here's an example of a bad page title:
And here's what it should look like:
Next, your headers.
This is how search engines can break your pages down into sections. Each page should have a hierarchy of information.
All that means is that your content should be written in a logical order, and each section should tie into the other.
There are six header tags, but any great real estate SEO will tell you that the first three are all you need.
Remember how I said keyword stuffing is a thing of the past?
When you're writing your content, mention your target keyword in the first 100 words of your page. You don't need to do it any more than that.
Your headers, page title, and URL will do the rest.
Pro tip: if you overuse a term too much, it can kill your rankings. It's commonly known as 'over-optimization.' A search engine can tell when you're trying to manipulate the page by doing it.
Think about how you can use long-tail keywords or variations of your keywords on the page. It's known in the SEO industry as NLP terms or semantically related phrases (don't worry about that, though).
Finally, we have internal links.
Even the most 'experienced SEO agency' can get this wrong.
Internal links are a real estate website's superpower. They're incredibly important to search engine optimization because they help connect relevant pages.
When you internally link between pages, it can often get complicated. There's no need.
Here are four simple tips for real estate SEO:
- Link naturally between pages. Don't force a word for the sake of SEO.
- Don't overuse them. Use between 5-10 on a page.
- Make sure pages always have at least one internal link to them.
- The more links a page has, the more important it is to Google.
Build a recognizable brand
Google has said that it wants to rank 'brands,' not websites.
Real estate agents who take the time to build an experience for their buyers and sellers will come out on top.
Treat your website like you would real estate listings. This is your opportunity to sell. To leave an impression in the search engine results and for your users.
Building a brand with real estate marketing will put you in your area's top 1% of agents.
- Your website design.
- Your UX (user experience).
- Your brand's consistency.
- Social proof (online reviews)
Homebuyers want to find listings fast and easily.
And, if lead generation is important to your business, milliseconds can make millions. On average, people will wait less than three seconds for your website to load before returning to the search engine.
Speed is critical for real estate SEO, especially on mobile devices.
You can test how quickly your website loads using these free tools:
- GT Metrix
- Page Speed Insights
If you use WordPress, you have a great choice of free and paid plug-ins to help speed your website up.
- WP Fastest Cache.
- WP Optimize.
Plug-ins are a great way of speeding up real estate websites because they're typically image-heavy with listing photos.
Pro tip: don't overuse plug-ins on your site. If you currently have too many plug-ins installed, we recommend auditing what's critical and if you could uninstall any.
Secondly, you want to design your website with conversions in mind.
Does this look like what homebuyers must go through before contacting your team?
Make the journey frictionless. Limit the number of steps potential clients have to take before converting.
Curaytor has helped thousands of agents get over this hurdle. We specialize in designing a real estate website that gets you leads.
Lastly, show off your online reviews.
The real estate industry thrives on referrals. Why not leverage your hard work by showing it off on your website?
Use digital PR in your area
Another great tool for lead generation is digital PR (with a mix of traditional PR).
In the SEO industry, digital PR has become the go-to for building a presence in your industry. It offers the power of off-page SEO with the awareness of traditional PR.
For real estate SEO, I'd consider this the final part of your campaign. If you've picked your keywords, optimized your content, and designed a great site, you're ready for PR.
The best forms of PR for real estate agents are:
- Features in your local area.
- Interviews or expert commentary in national publications.
- Features in magazine publications.
Most high-authority websites and journalists very rarely speak about commercial services. So, when planning your online marketing campaigns, think about where you can add value.
You're probably asking, 'Ryan, how am I supposed to find these websites?'
There are some easy (and free) ways to keep an eye out for these opportunities.
- HARO (Help A Reporter Out).
- #JournoRequest on Twitter.
There will be a need for expert commentary every single day. Either from real estate websites or business websites.
Pro tip: journalists are busy people. Busy swatting pesky SEOs (like me) away from their inbox. When you reply to a request, make it extremely easy for them to review and publish. Include your credentials and any images, format the article properly, and you'll have a much higher chance of being published.
Tools for SEO
If you're new to SEO, then it can be daunting. But it doesn't need to be. Below I've listed the best tools and software for real estate SEO with a short description of what each does.
Ahrefs is likely the most used tool in the SEO industry. It helps with keyword research and website auditing, and, more importantly, it's very user-friendly. It's expensive, but you can get a trial for $7 to see if you like it.
Keywords Everywhere (paid)
Keywords Everywhere is a Chrome extension. It allows you to look up the search volume of your keywords. Thankfully, it's incredibly cost-effective and works on a credit system. There's no need for recurring expenses.
SEO Minion (free)
Another great, beginner-friendly Chrome extension. SEO Minion helps you analyze your on-page SEO, meta descriptions, links, and more.
Page Speed Insights (free)
Google's very own page speed testing tool. It's very easy to use and provides you with Google's data to analyze websites. Simply paste your website's domain into the search bar, and it'll give you insights into your Core Web Vitals.
Google Analytics (free)
Google Analytics should be the first thing installed on your website. It'll allow you to track user behavior and monitor your website's traffic. A must-have for any real estate SEO strategy.
Google Search Console (free)
Google Search Console is not so commonly used. But it should be. It allows you to track clicks from search engines, impressions, average position, and what queries are being used to find your website. It is one of the most powerful SEO tools anybody could have.
Bing Webmaster Tools (free)
Bing's Webmaster Tools are a fantastic addition to this list. Bing gives you a similar insight as Google Search Console but specifically for Bing.
Real estate SEO can help you generate (and sell) more real estate listings in your area. There's no question about it.
This article should be a push in the right direction.
We hope that realtors understand that SEO for real estate doesn't have to be difficult. You just have to be willing to invest your time and commit to a budget.
It's your opportunity to take the real estate industry by storm by claiming more traffic from each search engine.