Posts Tagged ‘SEO Strategy’
Rolled out of a 4 part blog edition, we’d like to breakdown what SEO really means and entails for Real Estate professionals trying to stay ahead of the game. Served up as digestible nuggets of information and tactics to employ, we’ll cover what we think should be top of mind as you consider an SEO strategy, the technology behind it, and the content production involved- all with end goal of increasing your web presence and remaining competitive online!
Let’s Start with the “What” & “Why”
Search Engines are the single biggest source of traffic for most websites. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can be simply defined as the process of getting found on search engine sites like Google, Bing, and Yahoo! On the technical level, SEO considers how search engines work, what people search for, the actual search terms typed into a search bar, and which searches are preferred by your targeted audience.
Why is it Important?
Well, here are the facts: According to NAR’s 2010 “Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers”, 89% of home buyers searched the internet ‘frequently’ for a home in 2010. And the share of home buyers who found their home on the internet jumped from 8% in 2001 to 37% 2010. Not surprisingly, these numbers are continuing to grow.What Does it Get Me?
The next logical question is, “what exactly does SEO get me?” It gets you LEADS. And not just any leads…but qualified leads. These are the buyers or renters searching for specific types of properties in specific markets – and when they do search you want to be found right at the top of the search engine results.
Finally, SEO is a rare marketing medium. For most marketing media, consistent investment will get you consistent, flat returns. This is much like renting a home. You pay a fixed rent and you get a place to live. When you invest in SEO, you’re constantly building on your earlier investments. This is like buying a home instead of renting. Your dollars build equity. A well implemented SEO campaign sees better and better results as time goes on. Your website traffic and lead count goes up and up and up!
Stay tuned for the next edition, and we’ll talk STRATEGY.
I received this inquiry from a real estate SEO client, and thought I would share my response -
Q: “I recently read an interesting pointer in Realtor Magazine regarding naming photos. It recommends taking care with image names and not to leave camera-coded numerical file names on the images – rather retitling with relevant words. It further claims Google will recognize the keywords associated with those images and direct consumers to your website. I wanted to ask what technique/strategy you would recommend when naming photos during the download process. I noticed that when I hold my cursor on the photos on our blog, the photo title is revealed. Any insight or guidance is appreciated.”
A: Yes, it is very important to re-name images when you upload an image to your real estate website or blog! This is known as image optimization, and it is similar to optimizing a blog post or web page. Search engines do crawl photos (i.e., when you conduct a Google Image Search) so it’s best to optimize the photos when you upload them. You can do this by using your SEO keywords whenever possible: in the title, alt. text, or description.
Take a look at the image below – which is a screen shot of an image upload on WordPress – to see the steps involved in optimizing an image:
It’s also important to make sure that the keywords you are using are relevant. If you have an image of a generic beach – Wesagussett Beach, for example – title it as such. Using one of your keywords that has nothing to do with the image such as “Weymouth Homes for Sale” will not help your rankings and will not drive the relevant traffic that you are looking for. Additionally, the image alternate text (alt. text) and descriptions should be relevant and accurate.
To give an example, if you have an interior kitchen photo of 1482 Elm Street, don’t name the image <1482ElmStreetKitchenWeymouth>
- Make sure that the words have spaces so the search engines can crawl them as words and not 1 giant keyword
- You can make a title that specific, but if you are looking to increase your SEO rankings, you can name it something like “Elm Street Interior Kitchen Weymouth Home”. That way, you have the specifics of what street it is on if people are searching for it, as well as one of your SEO keywords (“weymouth homes”) incorporated into the title.
As a website owner, chances are you already know that backlinks from external sources are important to achieving high rankings in search engines. The following is a brief breakdown of the major link building tactics that you can utilize for generating inbound links for your real estate marketing strategy.
1. Internal Links
Internal links occur within your website, and offer you two great advantages: 1) The ability to develop silos of authority within the hierarchy of a website, and 2) The ability to assist search engine spiders find new content.
Benefits: Internal links are most substantial low hanging fruit of link building, but this tactic is frequently overlooked by website owners. Effective Internal Links are blended seamlessly into web page and blog post text, are not navigational, and aren’t clustered at the end of content.
2. SEO Directories
Essentially, web directories are the telephone book pages of the Internet. There is generally no relevance, ranking, or human input with the listings. They have in the past been an integral part of real estate SEO strategies, as it was believed that having inbound links from these directories was not only valuable for your website’s credibility in the eyes of the Search Engines, but it also validated your links so that Search Engines didn’t have to. However, now it’s important to hone in your focus on the big players in directories, and do your research as to which ones are relevant to you.
Benefits: With the exception of Yahoo, DMOZ, Google Places, and Yelp, many directories can potentially be a waste of time and resources. They’re basically a paid link that passes rank.
3. .Edu/.Gov Extensions
These websites are legitimate sites of authority, and getting your website placed on sites like these that are relevant to your business is great news for your real estate SEO campaign.
Benefits: Your URL placement on these websites will have a massive impact on your website’s keyword rankings. If you have “political connections”, these can go a long way, but a campaign dedicated only to obtaining these links may not be the best use of your time.
4. Social Media
Social media marketing has always been a great channel for spreading the word about your website through link sharing: the top dogs here are Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube. Just remember to not become a Twitter spam Robot by posting only links to your site over and over again!
Benefits: There are tremendous ancillary benefits to social media link building: one tweet can generate dozens of high-quality backlinks across the blogosphere.
5. Link Baiting
Link baiting is the process of creating incoming links through the generation of engaging content and tools. If you are considering link bait, follow one simple rule: make your content something an audience will want to share with others. There is also no risk level: Matt Cutts of Google has even encouraged link baiting. Famous examples of link baiting include Office Max’s “Elf Yourself.”
Benefits: Excellent. Link baiting is one of the most reliable long-term real estate SEO strategy for developing a high performance domain in search engines.
6. Press Release Links
Press Release links requires using a press release firm such as PR Web or PR Newswire to generate incoming links. This is a great strategy if the press release is both useful and relevant to your content. Tip: Check over your site content: determine the most relevant page to link to, and be sure to link deep, if possible.
Benefits: When appropriate to your business and website, releases can quickly drive quality backlinks from reputable news sources.
Link building is a constantly growing and changing process. One of the favorites of link building strategies is link baiting is because it’s creative, fun, and users want to share them with their friends. Take time to find something you enjoy creating and see if you can use it as a method to drive incoming links. Not only will this be something you enjoy participating in every day, but it will also encourage your link building to a part of your daily real estate SEO routine, and thus make your website an SEO success!
- Over 70% of online consumers start their search for products, services, and information by typing in what they need on a search engine. You probably can’t afford not introducing your company and yourself to this process (AND an enormous new audience!)
- Most internet users don’t bother clicking past the first couple search results pages (many don’t even bother reading past the first one!) so it’s clear why a good position on the first page is paramount to your success.
- Unlike paying for a banner advertisement or a sponsored listing on a search page, you can’t buy a good position in the search engines. What you can do is invest in SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to target visitors, provide publicity, exposure and revenue.
- While you cannot actually buy the keywords that will optimize your website, it helps to imagine that you are in fact paying for them. This will help you narrow down your list until you have the ones that will most effectively drive traffic to your site and provide the most return on investment.– For example, “BC apartments” might have a TON of global searches that aren’t relevant to a Boston
broker because they could be searches for apartments in British Colombia rather that Boston College.
- When choosing a keyword, you must understand that the more popular the keyword is, the more competitive it will be to achieve a high ranking for it. Typically, very general keywords tend to be more competitive. For instance, “Apartments” is extremely hard to rank for, but “South End Apartments” is much easier to achieve a high ranking for. Take advantage of the free Google Keywords Tool to determine a keyword’s difficulty rating in Local and Global Search Volumes. If you are a local company, place your focus on ranking high in your Local Search Volume and don’t worry about how you rank globally.
- Don’t be afraid to use specific keywords. With the advent of Google Instant, online consumers are naturally becoming more intelligent searchers. The search results morph in real time for each letter typed into the Google search box, so often consumers end up typing in very specific search terms. Search results now will appear and change almost instantly as the keyword phrase in the search box is edited. This will start getting rid of the need to scroll through pages of results; rather consumers will just refine their search and focus on Long Tail Keywords.
- After you determine how competitive a keyword is, you have to figure out how much traffic it will drive to your site. Luckily, there is no need to hire a psychic to predict the success of each keyword.There are two ways to predict the traffic from a keyword:
- Use industry standard keyword research tools such as Overture or WordTracker. These won’t be 100% accurate, but they offer a basic estimation of traffic flow.
- Set up a Google Adwords (pay-per-click) campaign that ties into web analytics. While Pay-Per-Click advertising is not the same as SEO because it is paid for, you can use Adwords to see the exact keywords that were typed in the search engine by a visitor. To start out, make sure to check the setting “broad match” so that you allow a variety of keywords to prompt your advertisement. While you have to pay for this service (you can rank for the first paid advertisement slot within 24 hours) it will help you learn about the keywords that will benefit your website.
- After you pick your keywords, it is important to make sure you aren’t just shoving keywords into your site without good content. Even if your site is easily found by search engine robots, you must have unique, correct, specific, and appealing content in order to entice online consumers to actually stay on your site. Updating your content often is also important; if you regularly update your website, you are giving consumers more reason to return. One of the best ways to ensure new content is to blog. We recommend blogging at least twice a week to keep a constant stream of content flowing. Search engine robots will also visit your site more often as it is updated, leading to a quicker index in the future.
- One of the hardest parts of SEO is acquiring incoming links. The only way you can make sure that other people link your website is to have good content. This is something that is sort of out of your hands, but by networking and blogging, you can often acquire incoming links. It is important to create social media accounts on popular websites and add links to your website on your profiles. Good websites to make accounts on are Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. It is also helpful to add your website to directories like Yelp, Google Places, Yp.com and industry-specific directories like Angieslist.com. You should also register your website’s blog on blog directories like Blogcatalogue.com.
- Do not try to fool the search engines. While it may seem appealing and easy just to stuff your website full of keywords to up your traffic, it is the easiest way to get your website penalized or even banned from search engines completely. Search engines need their results to reflect accurately on content, not on link farms, alt text spamming, cloaking or keyword stuffing.
Optimizing your blog for search engines is similar to optimizing your website. With a little planning and effort, your blog will give your SEO efforts a big boost! It will take some time to establish yourself as a reliable information source in the blogosphere, and the more relevant blogs you post with valuable content, the sooner this will happen. We try to encourage clients to blog twice each week.
You want each blog post (or web page) to focus on one subject or topic. Your topic should be fairly focused because you want to keep your readers engaged and make sure you leave yourself topics to cover in future blogs, too! This will also help you determine which keywords each blog post should try to incorporate.
Much like writing a research paper in school, you should develop an ‘Introduction’, ‘Body’, and a ‘Conclusion’ or ‘Call to Action’ to get the reader to engage in your site further, and become a Lead.
Read our blog on developing subjects to blog about if you’re stumped on what to write about.
If you want to optimize your blog, you’re most likely also optimizing your website as well, and you are using your blog as a way to increase traffic to your website and get new leads. When developing your website/ blog optimization strategy, you need to determine your list of ‘keywords’ (or phrases) that you will focus your optimization campaign around.
Your keywords will be terms you think potential clients you’d like to reach would type into a search engine while looking for your services. For example, if you are a broker focusing on student apartments in the Fenway neighborhood, you might choose a keyword like ‘Fenway apartments’ or ‘Fenway student apartments’.
There are a variety of free online tools you can use to learn about the popularity of the terms you are considering using and also to get suggestions for new terms. You can also view the presentation from our Logic Classroom about Long Tail Keywords and Keyword Strategy to learn more.
I’VE GOT MY KEYWORD LIST, NOW WHAT?
It’s important to try to keep these terms in mind when writing your blogs, and develop blog topics that incorporate these words to help improve your site’s organic search engine ranking for them. As a result, more visitors interested in what you’re selling (Fenway student apartments) will find your blog, and therefore your services, more easily.
You want to use your keywords in as many places as possible, such as in the URL of the page, in the Title of the Page, in the Header, etc. without being ‘spammy.’ If you want to learn more about keyword placement on your website, please read this blog about optimizing your website with keywords.
PRACTICAL TIPS FROM THE PROS:
Meta Titles: It’s always good to add your company name to the end of your Meta Titles, such as ‘Extremely Relevant Meta Title Here | My Company Name’ to help increase your brand awareness. You always want the Meta Title to be in ‘Title Case’ (instead of all lower case) so it looks good to a reader because they do see your Meta Titles in search engine results and at the top of the page in the browser tab. Search Engines typically only index the first 65-70 characters or so (including spaces) of your title, so make sure the important keywords are towards the beginning.
Meta Descriptions should also include your keywords. Your descriptions should be a brief summary (approx. 160 characters) of what your blog post or page is about. You should write it using proper punctuation and grammar because the descriptions are seen by visitors using search engines and by search engines to understand what your page is about. Here is an example of a description I might use for this blog post:
“Learn how to optimize your blog using these helpful tips on keyword strategy, meta data, and more to help increase your website traffic and capture more leads.”
Links: When you add a Hyperlink leading to another page from your blog, especially in the beginning or middle of your blog post, I prefer to have the link open a new window or tab in the visitor’s browser instead of replacing the page they are on (your extremely interesting and informative blog). This is easy to do with a Boston Logic Sequoia real estate website.
When you create your hyperlink, be sure to click onto the ‘Target’ tab when you are entering the Link information in the Link popup window. This tab will allow you to choose if you want the link to appear in a new window, and also provides the opportunity to name the link- which is great for SEO. I’ve attached screen shots to help walk you through it. Making the links bold is a good idea, too, because search engines know to considered words in bold to be highly relevant to the content of the page. Just don’t go making everything bold or it will lose its effectiveness (and annoy readers).
It is better for your SEO (and human visitors) if the links are using relevant keywords, not just ‘click here’, and if the link leads to a page that has those words or something similar in the URL and page title. For example, if you were writing a blog about the amenities of the Fenway neighborhood you could mention ‘ living in an apartment in Fenway’ and make ‘apartment in Fenway’ an internal link to your ‘Fenway Apartments’ Town Page.
Categories: Blog categories are not as important to SEO as some of the other elements mentioned, but they are VERY important to your visitor’s experience. If you have relevant blog categories that are well-organized (you can have ‘parent’ and ‘sub’ categories) and make it easy for readers to find what they are looking for, they will be more likely to read several of your blog posts and return for more information in the future.
You want to make sure you make a category for each of your keywords, and that you are putting blog posts into every category they are related to. Visitors will see and use these categories when searching your blog, so don’t just add your posts to categories for the sake of trying to increase ranking on certain keywords because it will actually hurt your SEO if visitors are regularly bouncing from your blog when they find that it’s unrelated to the keywords they typed into their search engine.
Meta Tags, again, are not as important to SEO as the content, Titles, Descriptions, and Links, but they are still worth putting effort into. You want to make sure you’re not wasting your meta tag space with extremely broad, single word keywords such as ‘luxury’ or ‘Boston’, however, because they will not help your SEO. Instead, try to be creative and use more targeted keywords, such as ‘Boston luxury apartment’. You want to make your tags as specific and relevant to the post/ page as possible.
Also, be careful with where you place the commas in your list of meta keywords. For example, if you entered ‘Mandarin, Oriental’ into your keyword list, that’s actually telling the search engines that you are using the two words separately ‘mandarin’ and ‘oriental’. Instead, you should keep the name of a building as one key-phrase by not putting a comma between the words you want to be seen as together, like ‘Mandarin Oriental’.
Calls to Action: One final suggestion is to leave the reader with some sort of internal link and a call to action to keep them engaged. Each blog should strive to do this in some way, even just ‘Contact a trusted advisor for more information’ with a link to the blogger’s email or a link to the Contact Page.
Having a blog is a great way to add fresh and informative content to your website to help potential clients find your website and see that you are a knowledgeable leader in your industry. You need to create a list of relevant keywords (or phrases) to help you focus and organize your blogging strategy and bring you the type of readers you are hoping to find and convert to leads.
If you take the effort and time to optimize your blog, and consistently blog at least twice each week, you will begin to see an increase in your search engine ranking and site traffic as a result.
If you have any questions regarding optimizing your website and blog, or wish to learn more about the services we provide, please feel free to contact the Boston Logic Marketing Department.