Whenever you create a real estate website, or any website, for that matter, one question may arise: How will people find it?
Having déjà vu? That’s my fault. I began another article the same way. Remaining competitive in online searches is sort of like exercise: You’re not healthy just because you went to the gym once three months ago (unfortunate, I know).
Appearing in search results is one thing. Ranking well in those results is an entirely other thing. Hopefully, you already checked out submitting your real estate website to Google and Bing Webmaster Tools. If so, let’s talk about optimizing your home page for SEO.
SEO is multifaceted, but a key contributor in determining your website’s ranking online. There are tons of valuable resources that discuss the “big picture” when it comes to SEO. Domain authority, curating backlinks, continuous content marketing efforts — these variables are super-important. They also require a little bit more work and, as such, a little bit more time. Ideally, an SEO setup guide for your home page would be one step. Instead, we’ll review some smaller actions that you can take while working up the courage to paint the bigger picture.
The what: Find opportunities to leverage important keywords on your home page.
The why: This one does require a little bit of prework. That said, it’s worth it. Do some research and determine your primary keywords. Then, look for areas on your home page where you can optimize those keywords. It’s likely you’ll want these keywords to frequently appear in any blog posts you produce, too. This will increase the chances that Google and Bing will recognize your website as a valuable resource when people search for those keywords. Is your niche market short sales in Chicago? Demonstrate that.
The action: The keyword research is the hard part. Applying the research shouldn’t take as long. Think about updating the titles of your widgets. Does the theme you’re using allow for a text overlay in your slideshow? If you’re using a Placester theme, navigate to the WordPress side of your site. Select the Theme Options tab and then jump into the “Home” or “Home Page” tab. There are probably a few fields lurking in here, too.
The what: Improve your search page’s URL.
The why: Technically, this isn’t your home page. You’ll thank me in a few minutes for highlighting this piece first, though.
The action: If you’re using a Placester-hosted site, simply log in to the WordPress dashboard. Check out the “Pages” tab and edit your Search page. Strengthen the end of your permalink and update the page.
The what: Link within your real estate website.
The why: You might notice many blogs produce articles containing hyperlinked words. There’s a reason they do this and it’s often to improve SEO. You may be curating a pretty good list of resources in your blog. Maybe you even know a few property searches that are likely to be popular. Use this to your advantage on your home page.
The action: Use your footer to create a new menu that links to other pages within your site. This is also an opportunity to leverage keywords. Using a Placester site? Go to your advanced search page, complete a search within a popular city or neighborhood, grab the resulting URL, and make a menu item based off of that URL. Repeat. See, aren’t you glad you already adjusted the search page’s permalink? Here’s a helpful support article about menus.
The what: Link outside of your real estate website.
The why: Think of it as karma. Have a list of your favorite resources? Link to them! Everyone loves a shoutout and receiving credit. Keep it relevant. If you’re lucky, maybe they’ll return the favor in the form of backlinking. Search engines love seeing credible websites link to your site. Backlinking takes some time, so don’t be discouraged. It’s likely to happen when you’re producing more content. Participate early and maybe you’ll reap the benefits later.
The action: If you’re using a Placester theme, think about using a widget to achieve this. For consistency, I’ll stick with our Fremont theme, which provides a “Custom Menu” widget. You could also consider using the “Text” or “Links” widgets. Similar to above, create a new menu. Then, navigate to the “Appearance” tab and click “Widgets.” You’ll see a “Custom Menu” widget. Drag this into one of the “Homepage” sidebars and select the menu you just created.
Need help understanding widgets?
The what: Strengthen your images.
The why: This one is easy to overlook. It’s likely you have images on your real estate website’s home page. Make sure search engines reward you for these. This will be even easier if you’ve already done your keyword research. I’ve run out of synonyms for “leverage every opportunity to optimize keywords.” Insert those here, though. The objective is to be found in search results for specific keywords and search queries.
The action: If you’re following along with me, and are already in your WordPress dashboard, navigate to the “Media” tab. Search for the images that are featured on your home page. Think about your slideshow or any other images featured in the widget sections. Edit the image and fill out titles, alternate text fields and descriptions.
The what: Update your home page’s title and meta description.
The why: The meta description is the snippet of information that appears in search results. It’s probably more important for click-throughs than SEO. Even so, it’s an important step to take. Ranking well is awesome, but don’t forget about the ultimate goal: conversions. Even though you might not rank higher for optimizing keywords here, your keywords will be bolded if they’re relevant to the searcher’s query. Attract attention, validate that you provide what they need, and earn a click.
The action: Still in your dashboard? Head over to the SEO tab that is powered by Yoast. You probably hung out in here a bit when you submitted your sitemap to Google and Bing’s Webmaster Tools accounts. Select the “Titles & Metas” option and navigate to the “Home” tab. Use this opportunity to fill out the “Title template” and “Meta description template” fields.
It might feel as though you’re only scratching the surface, but some people dedicate entire careers to SEO. The steps you’re taking now set the foundation. Next, start thinking about content creation.
Seth Price is director of sales and real estate marketing at Placester, a Cambridge, Mass.-based technology company specializing in building online marketing tools for the real estate industry.