When it comes to search engine optimization and marketing for real estate websites, the conversation can get wonky in a hurry. Luckily, most agents and brokers don’t need to know about canonical references, link structures or the intricate guts of SEO/SEM.
We can have a little bit of fun with the topic, because basics of generating rankings and traffic online are fairly straightforward. The truth is that 90 percent of the concepts you need to understand can be explained with Taco Bell, muscle cars and “The Matrix.” If you have a career in real estate, you can easily take on these topics and form simple habits that allow you to create good SEO/SEM for your website now and in the future.
Muscle car image via Shutterstock.
Making a run from the border — the Taco Bell effect
The first hurdle most real estate practitioners have to get over today is the pervasive myth that large companies dominate search rankings and there is no chance for the little guy, so they ought to give up.
The fact is, big portal websites garner very many of the top spots on search engine results pages. At the same time, there’s still plenty of room in the rankings for smaller companies that can supply more than enough business to keep them busy. It’s a matter of the ranking’s value relative to the business’s and the consumer’s needs.
Imagine you’re on a road trip through Southern California, and your clan wants to find some great Mexican food. Guess what you’re going to drive by first: Taco Bell. Two miles later, it’s another Taco Bell. You ask Siri: “Find Mexican restaurants nearby.”
“I … found … 16 … Taco … Bells … within two miles. …”
The thing is, Siri has the mental capacity of a toddler, and Google just barely got through first grade. There’s a reason an old SEO mantra was “treat a search engine like a blind 5-year-old.” They’re trying really hard to weed through the drivel online for you, but they’re just not very good at it yet. Luckily, you are an adult and you know how to page through their countless bland, inauthentic choices until you find El Cotixan. You can’t even pronounce the name, which is why you know it’s not some mass-produced meal whose creators never saw the southern side of the border. As an experienced diner, you know El Cotixan will offer horchata on the drink menu, not Taco Bell’s Frankenstein orange juice mixed with Mountain Dew.
Most consumers search online the same way. Taco Bell might be their first foray into “Mexican” food, and it works when they’re just trying to appease themselves for a bit and get on down the road, but they’re going to spend only five bucks. When they’re looking for a serious meal, and are willing to spend real money, they will take the extra time to scroll through their choices and find a local, authentic, unique business that actually understands the specificity of the cuisine it’s supposed to prepare. They’ll look past the 20 fast-food signs perched on 150-foot poles to find the quality product tucked away in the corner.
Create a different product. Create what the big portals can’t create. Their stats and charts don’t show that they know your neighborhood. They don’t know the flavor of the local scene. They can’t get on camera and explain the nuances of the local market with personality. Even more important, they need thousands (or millions) of visitors per day to be successful, but you don’t. A few dozen serious homebuyers and sellers are plenty to keep you busy with real clients.
Whatever you do online, make it reflect the unique vibe of your home marketplace, and serious consumers will take the time to not just find your business, but to seek you out again in the future because they can see that your product is authentic. Your website might be ranked behind gobs of repetitive portal pages, but consumers learn over time how to scroll past the outdated listings and the Crunchwrap Supremes to find the authentic pozole they’ve been really searching for.
Muscle cars: tuning up for long-term horsepower
Your website is like an engine. It has to be in good working order, with everything correctly connected and maintained to run smoothly.
There are four basic ways to increase the engine’s output:
- Add larger components that increase the size of the engine.
- Add superchargers or turbochargers that force more fuel and air into the system.
- Add temporary enhancers like NOS (nitrous oxide) that force more fuel and air into the system.
- Finely tune the current components to maximize their efficiency.
Adding some good old-fashioned American displacement
The first three options above are readily available to a novice, and No. 1 is fairly easy. Gearheads spend their time adding displacement with larger engine components. This is essentially like adding content to your website. The more neighborhood pages you have, and the more videos, photos and area descriptions they have, the more capacity for horsepower your website gains.
Writing blog posts, doing features on new developments, posting client video testimonials and creating market reports all add capacity to your website. To achieve credibility in the search engines, you have to achieve a minimum level of capacity. The Daytona 500 isn’t going to let you enter your two-cylinder, 0.9-liter Fiat into their race, no matter how fast you say it is. Build out a rich, robust website with unique local content to show Google you’ve got the chops to be ranked, and you’ll have a healthy baseline to begin with.