Hi everyone, this article comes straight from our resident expert in online marketing, Aaron Jones. He’s good at what he does, so listen up and give it a shot; you won’t be sorry!
In this market, it helps to have an edge. Our ‘Internet Marketing for Real Estate Agents’ series is here to help you succeed in this fast-paced information driven business environment. It’s Easier than you Expect & more Important than you Realize.
Search engine optimization (SEO): The process of improving the visibility of a web site in unpaid search results.
Hold on there, get your finger away from the ‘close’ button – don’t let the technical terms spook you – this is a very valuable tool and you will have a grasp on the basics if you give this article a chance.
Ready? Here we go.
First of all, if you have an online presence and want people to be able to find you, your website or your listings, SEO is a valuable tool for you. You do not need to have a website to implement this type of internet marketing, but it certainly helps.
Let’s define what I meant when I said “Online Presence“. If you have ever commented on a news article, set up a Facebook account or posted a listing online, you have an online presence. Most people consider their company or personal website to be their ‘online presence’, but that is only a part of it. Internet marketing and SEO is all about promoting yourself, your listings and your business online, making every online interaction and website as effective as it can be for driving search results and getting found.
So the first real step in search engine optimization is to know what your online presence looks like. How do you do that? Google Yourself. It may sound silly, but if a referral customer is looking for a way to contact you, they will probably be typing your name into a search engine. Look for content that casts you in a less than professional light; you may be surprised at what you find! There are ways to get content removed from search engines, but the best way to clean up your online reputation is to create and promote the content that you want customers to see.
Your personal brand is important, but business comes first. SEO is one of the keys to selling real estate online – this is the #1 way to get more eyes on your listings, and with a little patience, you can do it yourself. Now, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, but since Google has over 70% of the market share for online search, we will stop saying “search engine” and start saying “Google”. Don’t worry, most search engines work in a similar way, so if you work towards good scores in Google, you will get results in the rest as well.
I should also mention that, while I do Online Marketing for a living, there are a lot of people out there who will charge an arm and a leg for what I’m about to explain to you, so be very careful if you decide to hire someone to do this for you, you might get taken for a ride.
Without further ado, here is part one on how to use SEO to build your business online. Stay tuned for part 2 next week.
The Three Ways that Google Ranks your Online Presence
1) The Content
This is the first and perhaps most valuable piece of the puzzle. Google can only read text that you can copy and paste, so if you upload a picture of your amazing listing flier, you shouldn’t be surprised if no-one can find it; Google needs the text to correctly categorize and rank it. There are ways to do SEO for images, but it is always better if there is text accompanying or explaining the image. The best thing about this is that since your website is already mostly text, you are halfway there, the next step is optimizing that text.
Google categorizes and ranks your content based on what words you use and how often you use them. If you were using Google several years ago, you may have run into websites that were just huge blocks of nonsensical text. People used to use this technique, called “keyword stuffing” to promote their website on Google. Now it will just get you banned from search results.
Think along these terms. If you were a customer, what would you search for to find this piece of content (house, agent website, blog, etc)? What specific words would you use? If you use those words in your website or online listing, you are helping your customers to find you, and that is great news for everyone! Well, except for your competition.
2) The Context
Context is very important for SEO and Google is really starting to use context to drive search results. For example, if you search for VA Loan or VA Mortgage, your results will be targeted towards Veterans, but if you search for VA Housing or VA Property, your results will be about Real Estate in Virginia – computers are getting smarter, so you need to make sure that your content has the right context.
How do you give context to your content? Part of it is the website that the content is hosted on. A post on Activerain.com or Trulia.com will have the natural context of real estate information, while a article from the Wall Street Journal will automatically score higher on financial topics. If you are putting the information on your website, Google gets that context from your websites “Meta Data”. Long story short, Meta Data is information that is in the code of your website (or isn’t, but should be, depending on who designed it) and it tells search engines what the website is about. If you are brave, look at the source code for your website (usually can be found by right-clicking on your web page) – otherwise simply use this tool to discover what your meta data says about your website. If you want to change your meta data, you have to edit your website – I would ask whoever set it up in the first place to do that for you, or Google it if you are feeling brave.
Quick primer on meta data – there are MANY types of meta data, the three most important for SEO are Keywords, Description and Title. Keywords should be words that are relevant to your content, separated by a comma. Description is a short (160 characters or less) chunk of text that describes your content. Title is the “name” of your page, and should not exceed 60 Characters,
The last way that Google gets context for your information is through outbound and inbound links. If both Activerain and the Wall Street Journal link their readers to your post about the financial aspects of real estate, you will get an added benefit for both Financial Topics and Real Estate Topics, because known experts have linked towards you. If you are linking out to them, it gives added context to what your material is about.
Online marketing has been a big thing for several years now, so your competitors might have beat you to the punch. Don’t get discouraged , just because you are starting behind is no reason to not start – you can and will catch up, but it will take a bit of time. If you are just starting with online marketing, you are not going to stand a chance against Amazon, Ebay, Zillow or other internet powerhouses, so I would encourage you to start small.
Here are the questions you should ask yourself – what piece of the market do I own? What clients do I really connect with? What are specific words used for my area (town, county, city, nicknames).
People tend to “search” like they talk, so remember that you have to put yourself in the customers shoes. A person coming into town to find a house to move into will not necessarily use the same words or phrases as a local. They may use zip codes, landmarks or other non-standard language to try to find what they are looking for. Once you know who your audience is, you can start talking like them. If you have multiple audiences that use different language, it is better to have multiple pages or articles that target each audience rather than trying to talk like 3 groups at once.
In the second part of this article we will give you some examples of how SEO works with social networking and blogging. We will also show you how to track your progress for the best results!
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Geoff Boyd – PrimeLending – Clackamas, OR