If you’re a real estate agent in this positively insane market, you probably struggle to find time for sleeping, much less marketing.
We talk to a lot of realtors that say that they don’t have time for SEO right now. The truth is that they don’t have time to do their own SEO. If they hand things off to a skilled SEO consulting firm, that frees up time for them to do what they do best: Show houses and close deals.
Take a second to think about all of the realtors who don’t think they have time for SEO. Now, consider that The National Association of Realtors has estimated that:
- Real estate-related Google searches have jumped by as much as 2,400% for some keywords
- 97% of homebuyers used the internet as a source of research
- Over half of all Canadian buyers (51%) found the home they eventually bought online
This means that the realtors that find the time for SEO right now are going to see some big wins and the ones that don’t will fall behind… Way behind, in some markets.
Want a piece of all that traffic and all of those leads? Keep reading. A lot of what we will cover will be realtor-specific. If you would like something more general, feel free to browse this SEO guide for business owners of any type.
1. Audit Your Website and Ask the Big Questions
A lot of our customers will come to us with the assumption that they need a new website to boost their rankings. That certainly may be the case, sometimes, but you can salvage and optimize your site in more cases than you might think.
When we’re conducting website audits these days, most of our focus is going to be on your site’s speed. Why? Because Google is also very focused on your site’s speed.
Your website’s load speed has always been a ranking signal. However, Google recently rolled out their Page Experience Update and the Core Web Vitals. This made your user’s experience more important than ever, and your site’s speed is a major part of that experience.
The Page Experience Update
Google is constantly looking to reward the sites that provide the best possible experience, and a good experience is free of friction. What’s friction? Simply put, it’s any of the little things that annoy the hell out of us on the web every single day.
Google knows that we all hate:
- Pages that take forever to load
- Pages that don’t look/work right on mobile devices
- Non-secure sites that Chrome won’t even let us open
- Giant interstitial ads that stand between us and what we want to read
In response, the Page Experience Update focused on:
- The Core Web Vitals (Speed. More on that below)
- Intrusive interstitial guidelines
In an incredibly complex and technical world of SEO, so much of ranking is still going to come down to how human users feel about your site.
The Core Web Vitals
If you have never worried about your website’s speed before, the odds are very good that you have a speed issue.
The Core Web Vitals test is Google’s way of giving us a new way to think about speed and some finite numbers to shoot for.
If you have a site speed issue, you’re not alone. There are reports that estimate that between 60-90% of all sites on the web fail the Core Web Vitals test on the first try, while others estimate that even 50-70% of the top domains on the web fail.
Determining whether or not you need a new site basically involves taking the data from all of those tests, seeing where the problems and opportunities lie, and then weighing how much it would cost to fix those problems versus starting over (the right way) from scratch.
As we mentioned earlier, you might be surprised by how much can be done to save an underperforming website!
2. Conduct Keyword Research
Smart keyword research is the foundation on which we build SEO success. Everyone has access to the same tools. But not everyone knows what to look for.
Remember when we said that some real estate searches jumped by 2,400% in 2021? Not all of them are the obvious two or three-word queries that may come to mind, such as “real estate Toronto.” NAOR reported a spike for terms like:
- ‘When is the housing market going to crash?’ – up 2,450%
- ‘How much over asking price should I offer on a home in 2021?’ – up 350%
- ‘Why is the market so hot?’ – up 200%
People are searching for more than just listings. They’re searching for answers to very important questions. If you can rank for longtail search queries like the ones above, you’re going to send more traffic to your site, and more leads into your inbox, while you establish yourself as a trusted authority in your space.
Let’s take a look at a hyper-competitive SEO market like Toronto. The Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB) has over 66,000 members. This means that roughly 1 in 59 members of the GTA labour force is selling houses. That’s 66,000 people all competing for the same clicks and eyeballs.
Now, let’s take a very competitive and general keyword like ‘Toronto real estate agent.’ If you Google that right now, something incredible happens: Only one actual realtor shows up! The other organic results are real estate directories, realtor-ranker sites, and REMAX’s website. If you Google ‘houses for sale in Toronto,’ absolutely zero realtors show up in organic results. It’s all major listing sites like Royal LePage and Zoocasa.
This tells us that it would take an absolutely Herculean effort for any single realtor or real estate agency to rank for these terms, on any budget. You’re far better off focusing on less competitive keywords that you can actually rank for. You want to find that sweet spot of low-competition/ high-volume keywords that still have a clear purchase intent. Those are the ones that drive leads.
3. Optimize Your Pages
Now that we’ve found your keywords, let’s put them to work. Strategic and proper keyword usage is crucial.
You need to strategically add your keywords to your:
- Page/Blog titles
- Meta descriptions
- Image attributes
- Body copy, including at least one heading (H2)
Work them in organically wherever they fit. DO NOT try to wedge them in where they don’t belong. Never ruin the flow of a sentence by arbitrarily plopping in an awkward keyword. For example:
- Good keyword usage: I can tell you that nearly every Toronto Realtor I know is scrambling right now.
- Awful keyword usage: As a realtor in Toronto, people always come up to me and say hello Toronto realtor how are you.
Keyword stuffing was outlawed around 2005, but I am astounded to say that I still see it.
If you are going to have more than one person on your team publishing blogs, you may need some basic SEO training for your company to make sure everyone knows how to properly optimize each page.
You also need to strategically plan your internal linking so you’re linking keywords to services pages and blogs. This gives your users an invitation to click deeper into your site, while also enabling Google bots to crawl deeper into your site.
4. Build Your Off-Site Presence
Far too many business owners (in every industry) don’t invest in their off-page SEO presence. This is such a mistake! Some experts estimate that your off-page SEO makes up 50% of your overall SEO value. Others estimate it at close to 75%. In either case, you simply cannot afford to leave that much SEO value on the table.
Directory Listings and Reviewers
In the world of real estate SEO, a lot of your off-page presence is going to be made up of directory listings. Remember earlier when I said that two different directory sites are on the front page of Google for ‘Toronto real estate?’ That means your presence on these sites is absolutely crucial. If you Google any realtor by name, there is a very good chance that their directory listing outranks their actual website.
You need to make sure you’re on as many reputable industry directory listings as possible, with well-written profiles that thoroughly describe your market and your services. At the same time, you need to make sure your Google Business Profile (Formerly Google My Business) is up-to-date and complete. I don’t think most people realize how important this is, because far too many businesses have incomplete or (gasp) unclaimed profiles. Again, that’s just leaving SEO clout on the table.
Good reviews are SEO gold. However, never post a fake review for the sake of boosting your numbers. This is a massive no-no that can hurt your SEO and your business for years to come. With so much at stake, avoiding fake online reviews is critical for any realtor.
Digital PR + Link Building
You may have heard of guest blogging. You may have also heard that guest blogging died sometime in 2014. That’s not quite true. Guest blogging basically evolved into what is now called Digital PR.
Take it from someone who was there, SEO was the wild west in 2014. Both the guest blogging approach and the link building process were both in their infancy. You could earn some SEO wins by shotgun-blasting your content to a bunch of random sites. Now you have to be a lot more sophisticated and strategic, thanks to a number of Google updates like the Penguin.
Digital PR involves guest posts on other people’s sites. However, the focus is on relevance and quality. Like traditional PR, it requires strategic manual outreach to a media outlet, blogger, or influencer. And like traditional PR, you need to approach them with a good story and offer real value for their audience. Otherwise, you will end up in their trash or spam folder.
You could do this yourself. However, it’s very time-consuming. It also requires tact and knowledge of digital publishing. You are probably better off outsourcing this part of your marketing to a team with a proven history of digital PR wins, and an existing list of blog contacts that already know and trust them.
If you do decide to go it alone, feel free to browse this list of SEO campaign tips to make your life a little easier.
5. Write Better Blogs
How do you rank for things like ‘When is the housing market going to crash?’ You publish well-written and well-optimized content on that topic.
We don’t have to tell you that most realtors will claim to be experts in their area. They say things like ‘I Know Etobicoke’ or ‘Leaside is My Side.’ Catchy slogans are great. But, to establish yourself as a real authority, you need a blog that’s respected by both Google and human readers. So, here are some tips for improving your blogs and building your authority.
The first thing you need to do is make sure your blog is free of any speed or user experience issues. That means it needs to load quickly and look great on a mobile device.
Now, you’re going to take that next-level keyword research we talked about earlier and use it to create blog titles, while also optimizing your blogs properly. Again, that means using the phrase in your page title, meta description, at least one heading, and image attributes. It also means working it organically into your actual text where you can, without stuffing it in. Readers hate stuffing, and so does Google.
It’s also important to remember that your day-to-day experiences are an incredible source of targeted blog topics. If you know that people always ask you ‘What’s the best public school in Leslieville,’ you should absolutely blog about that. Maybe even do a whitepaper on the best schools in the area. If you work in Corktown, you may get a lot of questions about public parking. Not all great blog topics come from SEO research. A lot of them will come from conversations with your customers.
What Does ‘Good’ Writing Even Mean?
For the last few years, Google has been telling site owners and webmasters to write for human beings, not Google bots.
Just write better blogs, that’s all. This advice can be a bit frustrating for some. Better is hard to quantify. It’s not a value that fits into a spreadsheet.
Good writing may be subjective, but in terms of blogging, it often means the following:
1. Good Titles: You need attention-grabbing headlines. This does not necessarily mean provocative, sensational, or clickbaity (i.e. You Won’t BELIEVE What is Going on in Dundas West Right Now). There is a difference between clickbait and clickable.
Clickable simply means tapping into your target audience’s pain points or addressing their burning questions. If you really know what your audience is looking for, there is no need to be sensational or gimmicky. If people see their questions in a social feed or SERP, they’re going to click them.
2. Delivering on the Title’s Promise: Ever click on something that doesn’t deliver what it promised? You scroll and scroll, but don’t see what you’re looking for. Then what do you do? Do you give the blog the benefit of the doubt? Lord no. You click back and go somewhere else.
Don’t hide your blog’s most important parts under a long intro or unrelated sections. As they said in the old newspaper offices, don’t bury the lede.
Your visitors will bounce and Google will notice.
3. Logical Keyword Usage: Again, use your keywords organically.
In the old days of SEO, it was all about volume. How many keywords can we squeeze onto a page? Cadence and flow be damned! But in 2022, content is all about quality, not quantity. Keyword usage is more important than keyword density.
Don’t ruin the flow of your writing in the name of adding one more keyword.
4. Good Images: A good image will bring people to your blog, and multiple good images peppered throughout the content will keep them reading.
Spend some time selecting an interesting and enticing image. We know you’re competing against 10,000 other real estate blogs, but don’t use the same picture of ‘hands turning over a house key’ that about 8,000 of the other realtors seem to use in their blogs.
If you’re focused on one specific geographic area (and we imagine you are), recognizable pictures from that neighbourhood will play very well. Just make sure you follow Google’s image guidelines.
5. Unique Insights: If you’re trying to carve out a niche as Missisauga’s go-to expert, you need Mississauga-specific insights.
Local data and stats are great. Local insights and anecdotes are just as good! If you can be the first person to write about the city council approving a new building in the area, you don’t have to tell people you’re a local expert; you just proved it.
Want to Boost Your Traffic and Your Leads?
We don’t believe in SEO tricks or hacks– only proven strategies that create sustainable and update-proof success. More than one location? No problem! We specialize in SEO consulting for your franchise and know how to create real results.
Paul Teitelman is a proven SEO expert whose insights have been used by major media outlets like The Globe and Mail and widely-read industry blogs like GoDaddy.
What can he do for you? Find out how we can help you by calling 647-448-4449 or by clicking the green Connect With Paul button at the top of the page.