Introduction to SEO for Estate Agents
Estate agency SEO is the process of increasing the amount of organic traffic to your website – essentially meaning that you’re not assigning your marketing budget to your efforts like you would with Social Media Advertising or PPC (Pay Per Click). Getting organic search right is a great way of boosting your online presence, helping you to gain that sought-after competitive advantage.
Did you know that more than 70% of internet users skip straight past the paid adverts at the top of SERP’s and click on the first organic result instead?
What is important to know about estate agency SEO is that you need to invest in what you’re doing. It’s not a one-off undertaking that can be applied and it’s certainly not a one-size-fits-all solution. Every website is different, with each one facing its own issues. And that’s why estate agency SEO can often take up anywhere from six to 18 months before you start to see effective results. However, what we can say is that when you get it right, SEO can result in higher rankings, more traffic and long-term success.
With search engine giants such as Google updating their algorithms and continually striving to deliver the best organic results, it’s essential that you remain up to date with the latest trends. If you’re lacking behind with what’s happening in the world of estate agency SEO, the chances are that you could be missing out on leads and opportunities for growth.
Why You Can’t Overlook Estate Agency SEO
Interesting and unique real estate website content is an essential part of estate agency SEO, but the real key is uniqueness. The power of bespoke yet relevant content can greatly improve your organic position within search results. Google receives over 4 billion daily searches, with the top five results getting 65% of the clicks. 75% of users don’t tend to go further than the first page, so getting within the top 10 for your primary keywords is imperative for online success. With that in mind, you need to be on top of your estate agency’s SEO efforts.
How Search Engines Work
To make sure that your estate agency website appears organically, you’ve got to have some understanding of how search engines work. Search engines are like answering machines – they get asked a question and they offer up the best possible response based on the query. In order to do this, search engines crawl, index and then rank the content.
Crawling: Search engines crawl your website, fetching pages and following links to discover new URLs
Indexing: Search engines process and store information they find in an index, a huge database of all the content they’ve discovered and deem good enough to serve up to searchers
Ranking: Search engines take what they have in their index, finding highly relevant content and showing this to the user
If your estate agency website isn’t being indexed by Google, there could be a few reasons as to why:
- Your website is brand new and Google hasn’t crawled it yet
- You don’t have any backlinks from external sources
- Your site’s navigation makes it hard for a robot to crawl it effectively
- You’re using crawler directives that are blocking search engines from crawling your website
- Your site has been penalised by Google for spammy tactics
Even if your website is being indexed, it’s important to remember that search engines don’t always recognise changes straight away. If you want your estate agency to be found online, try these tips and see how your website improves over 6 months.
- Target long-tail keywords with a smaller search volume yet lower competition
- Write optimised blog articles and post them regularly
- Have your website featured in online round-ups and review posts
- Collaborate with others in order to gain backlinks from websites with a high domain authority and trust score
- Run regular audits of your website to manage technical changes
Knowing Your Audience
With how much focus there is now on writing for people rather than the web, estate agencies need to know who their audience is if they’re going to succeed online. Although your website content is going to be optimised and focussed on a specific topic/subject, the primary point of what you produce is to attract and engage with your readers. The first step to doing this is knowing who your audience is and understanding their wants and needs.
Tip: Remember to have a specific purpose in mind for the content that your estate agency is producing.
Making content that is of genuine interest to your users will perform much better than pieces you’ve done just for the sake of doing it. Your content should:
- Be informative
- Be entertaining
- Solve a problem
- Provide something worthwhile
Knowing your audience and creating content that’s relatable to them will also be more shareable on social media. This, in turn, can help heighten brand awareness while also driving additional traffic to your website.
Optimising Your On-Page Content
Making sure that your estate agency website is properly optimised is essential. To ensure that your target audience finds you online, you must first make sure that search engines are able to find you first. Optimising your site’s content includes everything from having well-written and grammatically correct copy to providing users with a flawless on-site experience. This means that your content has to be easy to read and not appear spammy.
On-page SEO aspects of an estate agent’s website include:
- High-quality and up-to-date content
- Page titles and meta descriptions
- URL structure
- User-friendly navigation
- Internal linking
- Image optimisation
- Fast website speed
- Mobile friendliness
In the world of estate agency SEO, the technical side of things is one of the hardest things to grasp. However, it’s important to understand that if what’s going on behind the scenes isn’t optimised, you’ll struggle to appear in the search results – no matter how much high-quality content you’re producing. You may have a website that looks good, but if it’s not working as it should be in the back end then this can be causing your estate agency website harm.
Technical search engine optimisation forms the backbone of any estate agent’s SEO strategy; without it, your website will fail. Technical SEO refers to things such as:
- Website structure
- XML sitemap
- 404 pages
- Broken links
- Toxic backlinks
- Website cannibalisation
- Duplicate content
- Noindex tags
Understanding Google Analytics
First off, to be able to reap the benefits of Google Analytics, you must first install your unique bit of code on your website. Once you’ve set up your account and created a property, you’ll be given a Global Site Tag tracking code. When correctly installed as the first item into the <HEAD> of every webpage you want to track, you’ll gather all kinds of usable data that can help improve your estate agency SEO.
There’s so much you can do with Google Analytics, that it can often be difficult to know where to start. It’s an essential tool that estate agents need to be using as it tells you how much traffic is going to your website, as well as how they’re engaging with what they see. Here are five useful things you can be doing with Google Analytics:
- See how many pageviews your website has
- See how many new users your website has
- See where your audience is based
- See how people are landing on your website (organically, via social media, via email)
- See where people are exiting your website
Evolution of SEO
Search engines are here to help provide users with the best possible results based on a search term or query they’ve entered. Algorithm updates are designed to make sure that SERP’s are giving a searcher an appropriate answer. Although Google now makes thousands of changes every year, most of them go unnoticed. However, every so often, a major update is rolled out, which can see webmasters put their head in their hands as they watch their rankings drop because they’ve been applying techniques that aren’t recognised as a best practice. Providing you’re doing everything that Google wants, you’ll be rewarded for your efforts. To fully understand and appreciate how search engines work, we need to take a look back at how they’ve changed over time.
Google Panda Update – 2011
This was an update released by Google in order to remove any low-quality or duplicate content from its results while rewarding high-quality websites. It diminished what it deemed as ‘poor quality’ and affected up to 12% of English language search results. Content farms and scraper sites filled with low-quality content were highly penalised as well as weak pages with very little relevant or substantive text and resources included. A lot of it was based on lack of authority and trustworthiness, which showed that the search engine was doing what it could to deliver something reliable to its users.
Google Penguin Update – 2012
Penguin was announced by Google in an attempt to reduce the presence of websites that engaged in manipulative link schemes and keyword stuffing. Before this was rolled out, it was quite common for webmasters to either pay for links or stuff keywords into their content (or both). The initial rollout impacted 3.1% of English language search engine queries, driving black hat SEO to a thing of the past. If you were to apply these methods to your estate agency website these days then your efforts are sure to be penalised.
Google Hummingbird Update – 2013
Hummingbird was a complete overhaul of the core algorithm, unlike Panda and Penguin which were simply seen as add ons. It was brought into place so that what was shown on results pages matched the intent of searchers’ queries. To do this, the algorithm’s lexicon was greatly improved, which meant that keyword synonyms or related phrases we’re now being recognised. It was the first major step Google took towards providing results for people rather than showing something simply because it met its guidelines.
Google Pigeon Update – 2014
Pigeon caused a major shakeup in organic results once it was released. It was designed to help local businesses by improving ranking parameters based on distance and location. This move offered more personalised results in SERP’s, with some major differences shown to a user. It meant that local businesses needed to have a strong organic web presence in order to compete for local rankings.
RankBrain – 2015
As technology and customer behaviour grows and adapts, so do search engines. RankBrain was designed as a form of machine-learning artificial intelligence that helps Google to process a large portion of search results each day. It was put into place to interpret what someone was searching for and understand how to submit that request in various ways. It worked hand in hand with Hummingbird to read a user’s query and deliver results based on that, even if it doesn’t match the exact term entered. RankBrain is now considered equal to links and content in priority for rankings.
Mobile-First Indexing – 2019
One of the next major things to come into place was when Google rolled out mobile-first indexing. After a year and a half of experimenting, it launched on July 1st 2019 and was designed to reward sites that were optimised for mobile. It meant that instead of crawling the desktop version of a website, it was now looking at the mobile design and experience. To put it simply, Google started to index pages based on how they rendered and operated on a mobile as opposed to a desktop.
Google BERT Update – 2019
BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) is being referred to as the largest change to Google’s search system since RankBrain. Once it’s fully rolled it, it’s set to impact 1 in 10 of all search queries. According to Google, this update will affect complicated search queries that depend on context. It’s related to natural language processing and helps a machine to understand what words in a sentence mean, but with all the nuances of context. What this means is that if the content on your website is poorly written, there’s going to be some work to do. It’s now more important than ever to be writing people-focussed content and search engines will do the rest of the work to understand it.
We know that’s a lot to take in. Estate agency SEO is vast and complex, and what we’ve discussed here is only the tip of the iceberg. We don’t want to bombard you with jargon or overused buzzwords, which is why we’re here to keep things as simple as possible.
Algorithm – a process or set of rules applied by search engines to help determine what is shown to a user. Data is interpreted and then pages are ranked based on the findings.
Analytics – a free bit of software launched by Google in 2005 that tracks and reports on website traffic.
Audit – an in-depth analysis of content and technical elements in order to identify key areas for improvement.
Authority – a score based on how trustworthy a website is deemed by search engines. Typically calculated by links gained from other relevant and trusted websites.
Backlink – a link from one website that points back to yours.
Black Hat SEO – tactics applied by webmasters that search engines don’t see as best practice. Usually done in an attempt to manipulate the system and rank higher based on dishonourable techniques. Websites using this method will be penalised once caught.
Canonicalisation – canonical tags are used where there’s similar content accessible on multiple URLs. They allow you to tell Google which version of the page you want users and search engines to see.
Cannibalisation – this happens when your website has multiple pages targeting the same keyword. It can cause problems as search engines don’t know which page to rank for that specific query.
Content Farm – a website that contains very large quantities of low-quality content often aggregated from other sites. Done in an attempt to force rankings.
Duplicate Content – content that is very similar or copied and pasted from somewhere that already exists on the web. Can often be caused by having both http and https versions of the website live at the same time or by having the same piece of content accessible via different paths which then creates more than one URL.
Indexed – a website/URL that is found on a search engines database which can then be presented to a user based on their search.
Keyword – a word, phrase or term entered into a search engine by a user that you want your website or specific page to rank for.
Keyword Stuffing – a form of black hat SEO that was common before search engines started to penalise sites for it. It is the act of repeating a specific keyword over and over again in a bit of content in the hope that search engines would pick up on it.
Long-Tail Keyword – phrases that tend to be over 3 or 4 words and are very specific search queries. E.g. ‘UK properties’ is a broad search term but ‘2-bedroom properties for sale in the UK’ will be classed as a long-tail keyword.
Noindex – a directive used within HTML source code of certain pages that suggests that search engines should not index them.
Pageview – a report within Google Analytics that shows how many views a specific page has had.
Redirect – something put in place to send search engines and users to a different URL than the one they’ve clicked on. Usually put in place when a page is no longer available or a URL structure changes.
Robots.txt – a text file created that instructs search engine robots how to crawl pages on a website.
Search Engine Robots – also known as bots, wanderers, spiders and crawlers. Tools used by search engines that follow links on your website to build their database of web pages to show users when a search is made.
SERP – stands for “search engine results page”. This is the page you are presented with once the search engine is done looking for results that match your query.
URL – stands for “uniform resource locator”. It is formed by your domain name and other detailed information to create a complete web address.
Webmaster – someone who acts as an admin of a website and is responsible for its maintenance.
XML Sitemap – a document that acts as a roadmap for search engines to be able to understand the pages on your website. Helps to improve site access for search engine crawlers as they’ll have your links in one place.
Is Your Estate Agency Website Optimised for Search Engines?
You may find that you don’t have the time or resources to reach your full potential online. If you need help with your estate agency SEO, be sure to enlist the help of property marketing specialists who are able to dedicate their expertise to improving rankings, traffic and qualified leads.
To find out more about Property Webmasters’ SEO services, book in for a free one-to-one session with one of our digital marketing experts today!
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