No matter what else is in the headlines right now, the fact is that the UK property market is in as strong a position as it’s been in years, and that applies to both residential and commercial properties. Investment in commercial properties rose a whopping 88% in 2018 and entrepreneurs everywhere have begun taking notice of the AirBnb and short let phenomenon and directing their efforts into the property market in a big way as well.
Something else that is growing is the competition between agents. The available housing stock is lower in early 2019 than it has been in years, which means listings are harder to come by and those shopping for new homes have more choices when it comes to looking for a real estate agent to work with.
So how can your company stand out? One of the most effective tactics is to take advantage of everything that a structured, planned and expertly executed SEO for real estate campaign has to offer.
That said, one digital marketing agency’s idea of SEO great SEO often differs significantly from another’s. Back in the early days of real estate SEO businesses would do whatever it took to get their website ranked. The name of the game was rankings, numbers and little else, and people did some pretty shady things in order to win the game. But now that game is up. It’s Google’s game (thanks to their 88% search share), and they’ve changed the rules.
We’re getting ahead of ourselves, though. All of that is to come. Here is why SEO is vitally important for real estate businesses and real estate agents everywhere.
The Evolution of SEO
As we said, it’s Google’s game, and everyone has to play it their way. Over the past few years, that has meant ensuring that you keep up with the massive algorithm updates that were implemented to reinforce the mantra of ‘quality over quantity’.
This means that content with greater depth, increased relevance, and an altogether more informative approach is almost certainly going to rank highest. Those 300-word blogs about nothing in particular created only to shoehorn a few popular keywords into the mix are now useless.
What are those bots really looking for today? According to Google’s own search quality ratings, when it indexes the main content of each page, it checks factors like:
- The purpose of the page
- Expertise, authority, and trustworthiness – not just from the site and the page content, but expertise from the individual creator of the content too.
- Content quality and amount
- Website info and info about the content creator
- Website reputation and content creator reputation
These go into its ranking algorithm and help to determine SEO ranking.
Based on the rating guidelines above, Google shows searchers the most relevant, high-quality results related to what they’re looking for. The most relevant are shown first, with the rest being shown over successive pages.
SEO today has far more to do with positive, enriching user experience than it has ever done in the past. Users – who are now bombarded from all sides, every day with a slew of content demands much more from content, and – in the name of those coveted conversions – content marketers must serve the user completely.
It’s important to please Google, but Google wants you to please your users. Do that, and they’ll be happy too. Google rewards content that’s informative, helpful, and above all relevant to the user consuming it and their original search query.
Effective SEO for real estate in 2020 is more about anticipating and interpreting consumer behaviour. In terms of the real estate and property sector – the value of which stood at £883 billion last year – there is a massive competition, with brands and individuals fighting harder than ever before for those coveted top spots in the SERPs.
Getting Your Keywords Right
To stand a chance of competing in this intense arena in 2020, you need to constantly ‘go after’ the most relevant keywords.
Thorough keyword research is the cornerstone of all effective SEO; it allows you to focus on the areas that are of interest to your specific audience. You need to know which search terms are most relevant to your business because, without this insight, your content will fall short every time.
In terms of keyword research tools, in 2020, it’s time to think beyond the Google Keyword Planner. It’s still a good tool for minimal research tasks, but to really get the in-depth results you need, you need one – or often a combination of – the following more sophisticated and targeted tools; Ahrefs, SEMrush, Ubersuggest, and Moz’s Keyword Explorer.
It’s a matter of opinion of course, and some SEOs prefer different tools, but these are considered the most popular on the market today and the tools that the Pearl Lemon team have found to be the most effective.
The Importance of Local Keywords
Numerous studies have shown that 69% of those searching for a new home or commercial property will make use of a local keyword first. With this in mind, you should incorporate local search terms when you optimise your business’s website. By capturing local traffic, your business stands a much greater chance of ranking for more targeted terms.
How complicated is the local search ecosystem to navigate? Take a look at the chart that Moz came up with, and you’ll see:
As the article, this infographic comes from notes; “The UK features one of the most complex search ecosystems of any country in the world.”. So it takes a lot of know-how to navigate and take full advantage of effectively. Make sure you choose to work with someone who can.
Optimized Images and the Rise of Real Estate Multimedia
Home shoppers are visual creatures. Sure they might eventually get around to reading a carefully crafted property description, but it’s images – and increasingly video – that will capture their attention first. Is your site offering them enough? If not it’s something you’ll need to rethink quickly.
There is an important SEO aspect to all of this as well, though. Google Image Search is a tab that many homebuyers will flip to during their local search. They want to see pictures to get a feel for what’s out there. So your images, as well as your written content, need to show up in those searches.
This means ensuring that your image descriptions and alt tags are properly optimised so that Google understands their relevance and can rank them accordingly. It really is SEO 101, and overlooking these areas will damage your website’s overall visibility, yet it is something that even ‘seasoned’ SEOs seem to do all the time.
Speed Really Does Matter
Staying on the technical end of the SEO spectrum, site speed is something that many webmasters and business owners overlook – often because it’s seen as more a web-development matter – which is techy and boring – than a more vital and exciting marketing matter.
And once again, picking up on that need for speed, Google cares a lot too. If you have great content, but it loads at a snail’s pace the Google bots take notice of that fact and will rank that great content in a SERP position that is probably lower than it deserved because it was served up too slowly.
This is one aspect of SEO that it is crucial to get some expert help with, because, as we mentioned, it’s the ‘boring’ techy stuff that it takes a certain mind to even want to understand, let alone spend their time implementing. But those people do exist – including here at Pearl Lemon – and failing to defer to their expertise can be a costly mistake.
Link Building for Real Estate
Ah. Link building. It’s tricky stuff. And sometimes even scary. So scary in fact that some webmasters choose to stay away from it altogether. You can’t get punished by Google for bad links if you don’t have any at all right? And that’s the mindset Google’s much-feared Penguin has left many with.
However, the point of Penguin is not to end the practice of link building. The bots need those links. What Penguin does is hand down algorithmic penalties that target sites with spammy link-building techniques (underhanded guest posting, inserting hidden links, and even buying links)
Google hates black hat methods, but it has no problem when the headwear is white. They still encourage ethical, valuable link building and reward those who take the time to build them. So you need to build links but do so carefully.
Yes, it’s easier – and cheaper – to spend a few quid on Fivver to buy some ‘natural-looking’ links than actually work with an SEO agency to build some real ones, but there is so much at stake if the bots find those bad links – and they will – it’s one of the biggest mistakes you can make.
So what makes a good link?
Ethical, white hat link building is about engaging in some healthy outreach to secure those high-quality links on reputable, relevant sites. It’s all in the name of improving your visibility, in order to give you a better chance of being the first site that your target customers come across when they’re looking for information.
In terms of what sites your website should aim to receive backlinks from, use DA (domain authority) as a guide. The higher the DA, the more you’ll want to be ‘endorsed’ by high DA websites. Google pays attention to who you ‘hang out with’ in terms of links, so it’s more important than ever that you’re seen as ‘running with the right crowd’.
Local SEO … Again
Local SEO can work wonders when you’re marketing in the property sector. Local SEO is an extension of regular SEO, focusing on specific locations to ensure you rank the highest on your patch.
If there are competitors in your digital backyard, local SEO will help you outrank them. Over the years, local SEO implementation has evolved into an area of its own. It’s not the same as general SEO, and so working with someone who knows, understands and can implement local SEO first is the way to go to outrank those pesky competitors just a few streets down. And speaking of them, keep an eye on them because it gives you a good lay of the land in terms what other businesses in your sector are up to.
Content is Still King
The phrase above has possibly become known as one of the most cliched in the SEO business. But, corny or not, it’s still true. Taking the time to invest in content creation that produces valuable, informative, helpful information – in the form of blogs, articles, videos and even podcasts and webinars – is still worth the investment every time.