Real estate agencies, especially new ones, are constantly competing to get more traffic, more visibility, and some measure of differentiation from their competitors. Competition is thick, the market is limited, and oftentimes the agency with the most visibility wins.
There are dozens of marketing and advertising strategies a real estate agency can employ, from TV ads to billboards, but one of the most effective modern strategies for real estate is search engine optimization (SEO). Put simply, SEO is a set of tactics that business owners use to increase their likelihood of ranking for relevant user searches in search engines. When people search for homes in a specific neighborhood, the site that has invested the most in SEO will typically be ranked first.
So how does this strategy work, and how can you take advantage of it?
The Basic Tenets of SEO
Search engines like Google generally consider two big-picture concepts when attempting to populate search engine rankings for users: the relevance and authority of each page. Relevance refers to a page’s ability to meet a user’s need, or topical similarity to the user’s search query. Authority refers to a page’s level of trustworthiness; Google is driven to give users access to the best possible content.
Ultimately, you’ll be optimizing for relevance and authority in three main ways:
- Technical onsite optimization. Your site needs to be fully functional, and capable of being crawled by search engine bots. If there’s content missing, broken links, or otherwise non user-friendly content, it isn’t going to rank.
- Onsite content. To improve your authority and increase your relevance for real estate-related terms, you’ll need to have lots of onsite content dedicated to real estate. Home listings can help here, provided you have ample descriptions, but you’ll also want dedicated pages to each neighborhood you serve; including local keywords can really help you here. On top of that, it’s important to have a blog that you regularly update with content that your users will find valuable, such as guides on how to buy or sell a home.
- Offsite content and links. Google determines a site’s authority (as well as page-level authority) with a system known as PageRank. Basically, trustworthiness is established by the number and significance of links pointing to a specific domain or page; in other words, the more links pointing to your site, and the more powerful those links are, the higher all your content is going to rank. These days, most real estate agencies attempt to make use of this by writing high-quality content for external publishers, and including citations back to their own onsite work.
Strengths and Weaknesses to Acknowledge
SEO is an incredibly valuable strategy for real estate agencies because it’s not very expensive, but has a high return on investment (ROI). Over time, your results are multiplied, leaving you with an ever-growing stream of inbound traffic you don’t always have to chase down.
However, there are some weaknesses you’ll need to acknowledge and compensate for. First, understand that SEO is a long-term strategy. If you’re a relatively new real estate agency desperate to land its first few clients, SEO isn’t a good choice for you; at the very least, you’ll need some kind of marketing strategy to complement it. Many real estate agents aim to utilize a blend of short-term and long-term tactics to balance each other out.
You should also know that while SEO is a learnable strategy, it’s not particularly accessible to newcomers. If you try to handle your entire SEO strategy on your own, you’ll likely find yourself troubleshooting problems you don’t understand and/or missing big, important concepts. Accordingly, most real estate agencies seek the help of outside professionals; they hire someone in-house, work with independent contractors, or more commonly, work with SEO agencies. Though SEO agencies are a significant monetary investment, they also tend to offer the highest ROI.
The Competition Factor
It’s also important to note that real estate agencies often struggle with competition. In addition to real estate agencies like yours competing for clients at the local level, you’ll be competing with major platforms like Zillow and Trulia, which tend to dominate search engine rankings for real estate-related terms in most markets. If you’re going to compete with them, you’ll need some way to stand out; oftentimes, that means capitalizing on some specific real estate niche, or catering to one neighborhood above all the others you serve.
SEO isn’t an easy strategy, nor is it going to bring you instant results. But if you learn to make use of SEO alongside your other marketing and advertising strategies, it will be much easier for your real estate agency to achieve competitive dominance. The sooner you start investing, the sooner you can achieve that growth.