Hi everyone, this is part 2 of our series on using SEO tactics to be more successful online. In Part 1: SEO For Real Estate Agents, we showed you what SEO is and how it works. In Part 2, we will give you the tools that you need to make SEO work for you as you go about marketing yourself, your properties and your company online.
SEO For Real Estate Agents Part 2: Taming The Beast
By now we hope that you have a good grasp on the basics of SEO; what it is, why it’s important. The next step: how can you use it to build up your online business?
Note: These are deep waters, and if you want to really dig in, I would suggest that you purchase one of the many beginner/intermediate SEO books. My first book was “SEO For Dummies”, but I’m sure that Amazon can suggest a better one for you.
Every project begins with a bit of research. Luckily for you, researching keywords is a pretty easy and streamlined process. There are two ways to go about it.
1) Find keywords based on existing material
Have a home page, blog or other public website? Great! Go to Google’s Keyword Search Tool and plug in your website address (skip the http:// part, that breaks it) – you will get a list of keywords that Google thinks are relevant to that website. Here is what I get when I plug in our VA Loans website address:oregonveteransmortgage.com.
2) Find keywords based on a list of possibilities.
Have an idea of what you want your website to rank highly for? Make a list of pertinent words and phrases, including any “alternative” words that people use to say the same thing (example: Military, VA, Veteran, Vet, Mortgage, Loan, Home Loan, Mortgage Loan) common misspellings (Veteren, Morgage) and geographic words (Clackamas, Clackamas County, Portland, Happy Valley, Oregon, 97015, SE Portland, West Linn) and plug that list into Google’s Keyword Search Tool. It helps to write this out in Word or a similar application before you plug it in, trust me. Separate your keywords by line, as shown below. For now, just do one-word keywords. Later you can go back, once you have a better idea of what you will “specialize in” and go wild with multiple word phrases.
So, for example, my list would look like this.
Either option will give you good information, or for best results you can combine them.
Take a deep breath - the next part looks complicated and overwhelming, I’m going to walk you through it step by step.
2+ colors of Highlighter Pens
Either keyword option you chose above, you will wind up with a screen like this. You want to go to “columns”, like shown, and add the column called “Estimated Avg. CPC” – This stands for Estimated Average Cost-Per-Click” this is information that shows what people who use Google’s advertising service pay, on average, for a “click” on sponsored results. Why do you need this information if you are looking for free clicks? Keywords that have bring in money have more advertiser competition.
You want to sort by Monthly Searches. This can be global or local, for this example we are using global. You will get similar results either way. Go ahead and print the first page out. You can print the second as well if you have the time. Get your highlighters and do the following.
1) Look at the “keyword” column and cross out any keywords that don’t apply to your goals. For example, if I have Portland, Maine results or Car Loan results, I would mark those out because they have nothing to do with me. I also cross out keywords that don’t imply an intent to “buy” – try to put yourself in the shoes of the searcher. If you are looking for “Interest Calculator” or “Zillow Prices”, are you likely to be looking to buy a home soon? Maybe, but these keywords do not imply that the person is ready to act. Highlight “Very Relevant” Keywords with one color, Highlight “Not Relevant” Keywords with another. Try to highlight at least half the keywords one way or another.
2) Look at the “Average CPC” column; this will give you a good idea of how fierce your competition is. At some point, you may decide to advertise on Google, so this will give you an idea of how much you may end up paying if you go that route. Highlight “High” prices with one color, “Low” prices with another. If you look at the price range, you will probably see that some prices are much higher than average, while some are much lower. Try to highlight about half of the prices as “high” or “low”
3) Compare: As you can see above, I have Not Relevant Keywords, Very Relevant Keywords, High Prices & Low Prices color-coded for you. Start with your Very Relevant Keywords and look for ones with Low Prices, these are probably GREAT finds – if you use these keywords consistently, you can carve out a profitable niche for yourself. You also want Low Prices with Medium Relevance Keywords & Very Relevant Keywords with Medium Prices. Confused? Here is a cheat-sheet.
In my example, we end up with the following keywords.
Get A Loan
You might say, “Hey! None of those keywords implies that the customer is in the market for a Veterans Loan”, and you would be correct. If you look at the words together though, we are making progress on all the keywords that use some combination of Mortgage, Broker, Loan, VA and Home. So if someone types in “VA Home Loan Broker” – we have them covered too.
You can move a little outside of these rules, if you see a keyword that is just perfect for you, or if you think that you can beat the competition for a high-priced keyword, but I highly recommend this plan for putting together a targeted keyword list.
Okay, Now What?
Great news, we are almost done.
You now want to use these keywords on your website, in your blog, in your public profiles (think Zillow, Activerain, Trulia) and any other place that a search engine might see it.
1) Write for your Customer
In other words, I wouldn’t put Mortgage Broker Loan Homes Calculator in the middle of your web page; instead, I could write “I am a Mortgage Loan Officer (like a Broker, only better!) and I specialize in VA Home Loans; Here is my favorite Mortgage Calculator, Call me with any questions you may have”. That way, we still use all of our targeted keywords, but in a manner that won’t scare away business.
2) Use your Tools
Have a blog? Work your keywords into the titles of your posts. Website? Use the keywords in your navigation bar, and write pages that specialize in a few of the words (e.g. a page entitled “Get A Loan” where I use the words VA Mortgage Loan several times). If you own the website, you can probably add your keywords in to the Meta Tags that we talked about in Part 1: SEO For Real Estate Agents; you also want to use the words in your title and meta description. Again, get a web-nerd to do this for you if you don’t want to do it yourself. Offer them a 2-Liter of Mountain Dew and an hour or 2 of pay and you should be solid.
WordPress Users: Download this plugin, and use it on your posts.
I think it may be hard to make a sales-driven website around the keyword “Mortgage Calculator”, especially one that ranked high on Google naturally (every existing mortgage website has a calculator, so you are facing stiff competition). You also will want to narrow your web presence down by using geographic terms, like Portland, Clackamas County, Happy Valley, etcetera. Google will rank that article, website or profile higher as time goes on, so you want to winnow out the competition as much as is possible – make sure that if someone knows what they are looking for in your area, that they can find you through Google.
I highly recommend accomplishing this with multiple websites. The website address that you use is a very powerful SEO tool – oregonveteransmortgage.com will always score higher for mortgage / veteran / oregon than my “main site” geoffboyd.com, simply because it is specialized for that. So if I own Oregonmilitarymortgages.com, OregonVeteransMortgages.com, Military-Mortgages.com and Vet-Mortgages.com, I can specialize to a whole bunch of different keywords without losing effectiveness through diminishing returns.
“Aha!” you might say “Websites are expensive, and I don’t have time to figure out all of that!” – The website host that we use, Startlogic, gave us a coupon for Unlimited $3.95/mo hosting to share with you – including one free domain name, super-easy wordpress setup and $125 in free online advertising credits ($50 for Google Adwords, $25 for Yahoo, $50 for Facebook). Its a great deal, even if you just use the $125 advertising credits (for which you paid $48) to promote your existing website. Want to do multiple websites? Extra domain names are just $10 and you can use the same hosting account, so you can get 6 websites for less than $100 (I wouldn’t recommend starting 6 websites at once).
Now that you have your keywords figured out, go to whois.domaintools.com and find a good available website name! If you are hopeless with computers, pay your local nerd to do the integrated startlogic wordpress setup, and then just post some pictures, write up a few listings, talk about your experiences, in no time you will be getting traffic and (hopefully) some new customers! Use these tricks on your current website to capture more traffic and, if you wind up getting a new web hosting account, set up a google adwords account and spend that free advertising money!
All the best,
The Mortgage Pro Blog Team!
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Geoff Boyd – PrimeLending – Clackamas, OR