This article focuses on changes in search engine marketing for REALTORS and the real estate industry but the information given here applies to any business.
The days of optimizing a website for search engine positions by adjusting things like meta tags, keyword density ratios and headers have been over for quite a while now. Search engines like Google now analyze more than website code, visible text, and links when deciding how to rank a website especially when the keywords being searched are competitive commercial keywords which includes everything related to real estate.
If you are not fully aware of the changes Google has made you may want to read a couple of the recent articles here to get up to speed.
Search engines have decided that it is better to show a searcher a real business – a real brand – rather than a web page that can’t be connected to a real business regardless of how well optimized and linked that page may be.
How do search engines determine whether a business is real? There has to be some evidence that the business is a known brand and that people arrive at the page in ways other than the page being found in search engines. Search engines want to know that search engine traffic is only one way people find a website and not the major way.
A real business also has to have a presence and/or following in the searcher’s local area. When you type a search into Google it knows exactly where you are. When your search is commercial in nature they attempt to first show you results that they know for sure are actually located near you and second show you results where they have evidence that the sites they are showing you in the search results do real business in the area.
This presence and following is your branding. To increase your search engine ranking and results what needs to be done is the strengthening of your brand.
How does one go about showing search engines that the business is a known brand and the site receives traffic from the searcher’s geographic location?
Take a look at the results for any “mycity real estate search” and you find it is dominated by sites like Zillow and Trulia followed by national brokerages and large local brokerages. All of these receive most of their actual traffic from sources other than search engines even though they rank at the top of search engine results.
They receive this traffic because of the strengthening of their brand that they do through offline and online promotion. Zillow’s recent financial report states “The majority of our traffic comes direct, not dependant on search engines. With demonstrated consumer intent to visit the Zillow brand.”
To strengthen your website’s brand for better search engine traffic and results you need to increase the traffic the site receives from local people who arrive at your site from sources other than search engines.
One way to do this is obvious. Just like Zillow, you would make sure to increase your offline advertising and promotion making sure to include your web address with a call-to-action to encourage visits to your website. The address bar on most browsers double as a search box for Google. When someone types your web address directly into a browser address bar Google is aware of this and it is noted as traffic that came to you directly from a person in your geographic market area. Google now has greater confidence that you actually have a real brand and presence in the area you say you do business in. You have strengthened your brand in Google’s eyes and made them more confident that you deserve placement in search results.
In addition to increasing your offline promotion you can also increase your online promotion to build your brand. Developing good links pointing to your website from other websites that Google is aware are expressly about your market area builds your brand as a real business servicing the local area.
We are talking about branded content marketing. These links can come from directory pages that are about your market area, blog posts that are about your market area, and other websites that are about your market area. The page on which your link resides should have content about your geographic market area and ideally should be focused on themes related to real estate.
There are a few good Realtor Directories around and as long as the page on which your link will reside is actually included in Google you will receive benefit. Ideally you will want links that have not been given the “no follow” attribute since that is a sign of editorial approval. EpoweredProfessionals.com is one such directory that you should list yourself in.
Finding other real estate websites that will provide you branded content marketing is a little harder. Setting up a bunch of websites on your own may seem like a solution but search engines have access to registrar records and can ascertain the all the sites are owned by you and/or are hosted on the same server. They will then choose to ignore all your hard work and depending on how vigorous your strategy they may choose to penalize your main website.
You need to find websites other than your own for branded content marketing. One solution you should consider is from RNC Internet Services who has been providing branded content marketing solutions for a long time – from before anyone knew what it was or why it was a good thing. Some of the websites on which you would appear are a decade or more old and search engines have known and trusted them for a long time. This allows your branded content and link to be quickly included so you realize the benefits faster.
By showing search engines your website doesn’t really need them very much they then want your website in the search results more than they did before. The side benefit to strengthening your brand to help your search engine positions is that you then receive more business from sources other than search engines too. You have to like that!