Search engines have radically transformed the way real estate agents prospect, market and sell their expertise. They have also changed buyer and seller behaviour. And although we might use Google every day, few agents actually understand how a search engine works.
This guide is designed for real estate agents who recognize the importance of good SEO but don’t know where to begin. If you’re spending a lot of time on your website or blog, but not experiencing the traffic, conversion or lead generation you were expecting – this guide is for you!
By learning how a search engine works, you’ll find more success generating organic traffic you don’t have to pay for. Your website or blog will also gain higher visibility in search results, making it easier for prospects to discover you online.
What is a Search Engine?
A search engine is a highly sophisticated indexing tool that facilitates the discovery of digital content. Think of Google as a super fast librarian capable of searching a vast library with thousands of floors and shelves full of diverse content.
This highly intelligent and sophisticated librarian can analyze and process information much faster than anyone else. They can retrieve an entire book or just a single page.
What is a Search Engine Results Page (SERP)?
You may have noticed that when you conduct a Google search, the results page displays a number of options. How are these selected?
A search engine results page (SERP as referred to in SEO), is the results page that displays a list of URL’s. Each links to a page or website containing relevant information sought by the user.
There are millions of websites with pages that might be related to your search, but they are not all equally relevant. Each page is analyzed and ranked to make it easier for you to find what you’re looking for.
If the results weren’t ranked, you’d spend days combing through the results to find what you need.
How Are Search Engine Results Ranked?
Over 200 ranking factors or signals are used by Google to analyze and rank search results. When it finds an appropriate keyword match, the search engine ranks all its discoveries based on the user’s need, location and intent.
Let’s say you’re researching a topic such as the ‘French Revolution’; Google will find all the available content that has the keyword ‘French Revolution’. It then ranks all the pages based on the quality and usefulness of the information.
On the other hand, if you are searching for a business or service like a bakery, Google will rank the results based on the user’s geo-proximity, starting with the closest and most trusted businesses first.
Pages and content that offer the most relevant, useful information appear higher in search results. Content that lacks sufficient information, appropriate keyword usage, isn’t updated or seems suspicious, will rank much lower.
Fortunately, you don’t need to know all 200+ ranking factors to rank successfully in SERPs. Some of the key ranking factors include:
Backlinks: how many people are linking to your content?
Internal links: is your content enhanced with information from other quality pages?
Keywords: are the keywords relevant?
Meta tags: does the content have appropriate metadata?
Bounce rate: how long do visitors stay on your site/page before leaving?
Traffic volume: how many people visit your site each month?
Page relevance: is the content relevant to the keywords you are using?
Geo-proximity: is the user within physical proximity to your business?
Page Speed: how long does it take your content to load?
Mobile-Responsiveness: do your pages render seamlessly on mobile devices?
What is Local Search?
Local search results are search engine results based on a user’s physical location. A search for a business will yield results that are geo-relevant to the user’s location because search engines want to provide you with useful information.
So, for example, if you’re searching on your smartphone for a dentist office, the results page will display the locations closest to you in order of quality.
Businesses compete for visibility on the first page of local SERP’s because you are more likely to win a new customer who lives or works nearby than a user who lives miles away. A person searching for local solutions online is more likely to select a business that is conveniently located.
Even if a user doesn’t type a location as a keyword, search engines will still rank the results based on the user’s geolocation by default.
Why? Search engines reason that if you are looking for a babysitter, for instance, you probably would like to find someone who is within close proximity to your location. The search results will have less relevance for you if they list babysitters from another city.
Why Traffic Volume Matters Less Than Engagement
Real estate agents, like many business owners, tend to focus on traffic volume as a key metric of success. They assume that if their website or blog is receiving high volume traffic, they’ll get more business.
The reality is that there are many businesses succeeding without high volume traffic. Providers of niche services and rare custom products cater to a very small but discerning clientele. Their traffic volume is relatively low compared to national brands and retail chains. So how do they survive?
Traffic volume is meaningless if the traffic isn’t relevant. If you attract 100 monthly visitors and only ten of them are interested in the neighbourhood, your conversion rate is poor.
Measuring engagement through likes, shares and comments is a much better way to evaluate your traffic. When 90% of visitors leave your website without engaging in any way, it’s time to reassess the keywords that led visitors to your site.
What is Search Engine Volatility?
Search engine technology is powered by sophisticated algorithms and mathematical programs that analyze and index digital content at lightning speed.
Google and other search engines are constantly developing and refining their search results through special updates. This leads to radical changes in search results and keyword performance.
All businesses struggle with the effects of search engine volatility. A keyword that may have landed you on the first page of results today, might not be as effective after a search engine update. Your website may rank on the first page of results, then suddenly drop in visibility after an update.
While Google announces updates regularly, every change to Google’s algorithm is not published. SEO experts, developers and web administrators spend a great deal of time trying to stay ahead of Google updates and trends in order to help them in SEO maintenance.
Why Is SEO Important For Real Estate?
Search engine optimization is the only way to ensure your website is functioning at its best to attract visitors. Good SEO practices will save you money, reducing your need to invest in CPC (cost per click) advertising and PPC (pay per click) campaigns.
Learning SEO best practices will enable you to outthink other agents who are currently underutilizing their website or blog. Instead of working hard, you’ll be working smarter and getting more value out of your website.
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