Recognize Your Competitors’ Blind Spots
Of all the industries on the web, it seems that real estate is perhaps more dominated online by a smaller and more powerful group of major players than any other. Let’s name a few right here and now who may not necessarily deserve so much traffic for what is essentially a local business. Zillow, Redfin, StreetEasy, Realtor.com, and others all come to mind. Then there are the major brokerages too like Coldwell Banker, Keller Williams, Sotheby’s International Realty, Douglas Elliman, Century21, and many more. But what about the little guys? Is there any chance that the local real estate agent or brokerage can get any traffic online on their own websites?
Yes! With the right kind of optimized content, and it all starts with understanding how people use the web when they are looking for a new home or property. There are a lot of topics that only a local agent can write about with any accuracy and knowledge and there is the fact that some 40% of searches in Google are typed in for the very first time. In other words, people have a lot of different ways to word what they are looking for and it’s up to the real estate agent to figure out how to word it so they can be found. You may not be able to get traffic for “homes for sale in X city” but there are lots of opportunities that are never touched by national-level websites.
I’ll mention one more platform that is free and can propel your content to heights that may take years for your website to reach and can get you very fast traffic- YouTube. You don’t even have to appear in your video. The right topics can get traffic just fine and there are free and cheap, easy to use tools to get the job done, like Canva.com
Understand Search Intent For Real Estate
People start researching for a lot more than home sales and prices when they are looking to buy or sell a property. Search engines are very good at understanding what people want when they type in certain words and phrases. This is called “search intent” and it’s something that every real estate agent needs to be aware of.
They might just search for something like “Realtors in (city) who listen to you” and you can be the one who responds.
When someone types in “sell my house fast” the search engine understands that this person is looking to find out how to sell their house quickly. They are not interested in finding out the average home price in their area or looking at pretty pictures of houses. The search engine is going to show results that are focused on helping this person Sell My House Fast. Your opportunity is to include city or community names in your post that snags local traffic and visitors who you can talk to very directly.
On the other hand, if someone types in “homes for sale in Anytown, USA” the search engine knows that this person is looking for a list of homes that are for sale in a specific town. This is someone who is at the beginning of their search and they are looking for homes that match their criteria. They’ll most likely end up with Zillow or others on the shortlist I mentioned starting out in this post.
What happens however if they search for Agents in (city) who specialize in small homes, or fast closings, or older homes? One of the page one results in my city is a website with a domain rating of 9/100. That means there’s a shortage of good websites answering that question. Opportunity knocks, even if you only get a few visits for each article. Answering questions on your website is magic. It creates customers. Answering questions on video at least doubles your exposure and sometimes makes it exponential.
Real estate agents need to understand search intent so they can create content that will attract the right kinds of visitors. If you write an article entitled “Sell My House Fast” and it’s really just a list of homes that are for sale in your area, you’re not going to attract the right kind of visitors. But if you write an article entitled “How To Sell Your House Fast” and it provides advice and tips on how to do that in your market without losing a lot that will weigh a lot more heavily toward ranking you than a website like Zillow.
Keyword Research For Everything
One way to do this is by optimizing your website for search engines. This means using the right keywords in your titles, descriptions, sub-headings, and content at the right ratios and frequency so that when someone searches for a topic in your area, your website comes up. You can also use this strategy on your blogs, videos and social media posts. Make sure to include relevant keywords so that people who are searching for information about buying or selling a home in your market find you when they have important questions that you answer best.
Understand How Search Engines Work
This may seem like an obvious place to start, but it’s important to understand how search engines work if you want to optimize your content for them. In a nutshell, search engines are looking for the best possible answer to a searcher’s query. To do this, they scour the internet for content that contains the keywords being searched and then rank that content based on a number of factors.
If you are a Realtor then it is absolutely essential that you learn how to optimize your content in order to get the most possible traffic and leads from your website.
The practice of optimizing content for the web has been around since the early days of the internet. In those days, it was all about stuffing as many keywords into a document as possible in order to rank higher in search engine results pages.
It’s not like that anymore. Over time, search engines, especially Google which enjoys 92.47% of organic search traffic according to Stastistia, have become smarter and are now able to discern between high-quality content and content that is nothing more than a string of keywords. As a result, the focus of content optimization has shifted from keyword stuffing to creating quality content that is informative, relevant, and engaging.
Well, how does Google know what’s high quality since it can’t actually read your content and say, “That was really inspiring! It changed my life!” ? Instead, Google looks at a number of factors to determine the quality of your content including:
– The length of your content: In general, longer pieces of content tend to be more comprehensive and, as a result, tend to rank higher than shorter ones. That’s not to say that you should start writing War and Peace just to get a few extra points from Google. But if you have two pieces of content that are similar in every other way, the longer one is likely to come out on top.
– The freshness of your content: If you’re regularly publishing new and relevant content, Google will take notice and give your site a boost. On the other hand, if your site is full of outdated articles, Google will assume that your site is not being regularly maintained and will devalue it accordingly.
– The structure of your content: Breaking your content up into smaller paragraphs with subheadings makes it easier to read and understand. This, in turn, helps Google determine what your content is about and how relevant it is to the user’s query.
– The visuals in your content: Adding images, infographics, and videos to your content helps to break it up and make it more visually appealing. This can help keep readers engaged and, as a result, can help improve your ranking.
– The authority of your content: This actually relates, in part, to the length of your content but it also stems from the rest of your website and how well you address the taxonomy of what you’re about. That’s something Google calls “Entity.” and yes, they’re judging you for how well you cover not just one topic but a whole enchilada of closely related subjects. This is all based on keywords and where they’re placed.
It boils down to a little statistical relevance in the words in your content because just like the old 90s dot-com TV commercial that said, “Pet’s can’t read!” Google can’t either. What it does is this. It looks at how popular a certain keyword or phrase is and then compares that to other related keywords and phrases on your site, on other sites, and even in social media. If you’re using the keyword or phrase more often than other websites, then you have a higher “Entity” score for that topic. Unless you overdo it.
Who Do You Write For- Your Audience or Google?
It’s absolutely true that you need to write for audiences but you have to do double duty and write for Google as well. The good news is that if you’re providing quality content, you’re likely doing both. But there’s the catch. For an algorithm that can’t read, how does it define quality, expertise, authority, or trust? (EAT)
It runs algorithmic scores on multiple factors. One of the increasingly important, if not ultimately the most important, factors is how much time people spend on your site once they arrive there. That’s called “dwell time” and it’s a key metric that Google looks at when determining whether to move your content up or down in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
The logic behind it is simple: If someone clicks on your result and then quickly returns to the SERP to click on another result, that’s a sign that your content wasn’t relevant to what they were looking for. On the other hand, if they click on your result and spend several minutes reading your content before returning to the SERP, that’s a sign that your content was exactly what they were looking for, or at least in part. If a visitor consumes your content fully and never goes back to the search engine, then you have achieved “end of search” which is a signal for Google to send you more visitors.
But, how do they get to your content in the first place? If your authority and trust are relatively low compared to say, Zillow, you’ll have to research keywords that get at least some traffic without having to compete with the behemoths that dominate page one.
Here’s an example. I built a little test website. Only 2 or 3 pages are indexed in Google as of the time of this post, but a keyword that only gets a little traffic ranks in position 5. It’s “Aspen market updates” not a lot of people search that term but once in a while someone does and it gets traffic. Do they stay and read it? This is where the balance between writing for search engines and for real people is critical. It’s both an art and a science. A couple of recommendations for achieving that balance are Page Optimizer Pro by Kyle Roof (I’ve used that one very successfully to achieve ranking increases on page one to higher page one positions literally overnight) and Michal Suski’s Surfer SEO.
Both of those will help you to do keyword research based on traffic and competition as well as give you recommendations for optimizing your content for higher Dwell Time.
But, I Digress…
You could get lost down the rabbit hole of search engine optimization (SEO) very quickly so I’m going to pull back for a moment and talk about the overall strategy. First, you need to understand your audience. If you’re writing for other Realtors, then you need to be aware of what they want and need to know. If you’re writing for buyers then you’ll want to focus on topics like “how to buy a home” or “first-time buyer mistakes.” If you’re writing for sellers, then you’ll want to focus on topics like “preparing your home for sale” or “staging your home.” These are still obvious topics and may have stiff competition, even locally but there are many other topics, especially community and neighborhood-specific that simply aren’t tapped into by anyone.
Simply, you need to understand what keywords they may use when they’re searching for the content that you want to write. Once you know that, you can do some research and find other related keywords that you can use in your content to help Google understand what your primary topic for your post is about.
There are plenty of tools, from free to cheap to the overly expensive to find out what people are searching for. The ones I’ve mentioned are low cost and easy to learn and use.
One that is outright free and useful to anyone is Answer The Public answerthepublic.com, that will produce every important question asked about a topic. For “sell my home fast”, it produced 68 what, why, where, when, can, will type questions to write about.
Here is my recommendation for keyword research- Keywords Everywhere, a Google Chrome plugin that gives you all the keyword research you need. I use it extensively and it still only costs me about $10 a quarter (their small recharge fee) It also tells me the domain authority and other link info on every website I see in search results as well as suggested keywords and Google’s “people also ask” results. I use it a lot more than most so you’ll probably use it so long that you nearly forget that it needs to be recharged until it stops giving you data. It won’t tell you why but this hopefully will help you remember.
Once you have a list of potential topics, the next step is to figure out which ones you can compete for. Always reach beyond the immediately achievable. When your website gains authority, the posts that were once too difficult will start to rank and get traffic.
Big sites on page one usually mean a challenge. Smaller sites mixed in means you have an opportunity. Content is probably now the biggest factor in ranking much of what you need. Links are still powerful but they won’t do the job alone. I’ve had clients with lots of links that only achieved what they wanted when they got the content part of the equation right.