So you are ready to get serious about your search engine rankings? In the old days, you could build a website, stuff it full of keywords, get a few links and traffic would start flying in. Unfortunately, this does not work anymore. What works now is making a great site, with great content and marketing that site effectively through the proper channels. There are many factors when it comes to effective search engine optimization for real estate websites and we will discuss these over the next few posts. Everything from on-site optimization to link building will be discussed in the series and we will begin at the beginning. Your website.
Choosing the right domain name
Before choosing a domain name, think about your goals. Will your site be for pure lead generation? Branding? A team site? My first bit of advice is keep it short and sweet. Every year the search engines seem to give less and less value to the content of a domain name so first and foremost get a name that you want, and don’t even take Google into consideration. Make it something people will remember while being representative of your goals with the site. If you are looking for branding power, use your company name as opposed to a generic city name. The opposite is true for just lead generation. Just remember to keep it simple. You should never have to explain your domain name.
Proper optimization starts at your website. This is your first stop on the SEO train and it can be tough. It is tough for many reasons but mainly you will need to know which on-page seo factors are important, which have been deprecated and be nimble enough to be able to change with new trends. The search engines in their endless struggle to deliver the best results while cutting spam will change their algorithms on a nearly daily basis, making on-page seo a constantly evolving factor. Here are some of the on-page factors to consider:
- Content: Do not duplicate your own or somebody elses content… ever. A huge problem with real estate websites is duplicate content. Unfortunately, there is no way around the fact that you have the same listing data that everyone else has. If your platform is flexible enough try to add another level of unique content to those pages to try and stand out while also giving the user more information than they can get with other websites. Write intelligently and check your spelling. Try to link out to other pages of your site. In case you did not know, there is usually a little chain link icon in your toolbar. Select the text you want to turn into a link, then click the link icon and enter the website address. Write for your users, not for the search engines.
- Meta-tags: While some of these are no longer used as much anymore, some are still important. Title tag is very important and should not be stuffed with keywords. The keyword should be in the title, but it should make sense to the viewer reading it as well. The description tag is used, but not as much by search engines anymore although social sites such as facebook will use them to create the default post description. The keyword tag is barely used and is not necessary anymore. There are other meta tags, but this is a good start.
- URL structure: The URL structure should be consistent and representative of the content on the page. If the page is a property, it should have address and/or mls#. If it is about a city, it should have the city name. Your URL structure should be like a cabinet full of folders and sub-folders so that your user will know what your page is about just by looking at your URL. Get it right the first time because changing this later can be very problematic.
- Code: This will be the hardest part for the non-developer, but the way your code looks is very important. When the page is rendered, the code should be clean and content should be as close to the top as possible. People use to hide text in the code, but Google will penalize you for those kinds of tricks.
- Microformats: This is the latest SEO trend and is here to stay. Microformats, including hCard, Schema.org, RDFa and other markups are a standard (or semi-standard) set of terms that let the search engines know what your site is about. They are becoming increasingly important. Unfortunately, there is no real standard on how to use them in real estate so it takes constant testing, but look around to see what everyone else is doing. You can use this tool from Google to see what structured data is being passed on a page.
- Speed: This is now an important factor for SEO, but it has always been a factor for usability. Every millisecond can make a difference to users happiness. Every piece of functionality we add is tested and optimized for speed which is why our sites are some of the fastest among all real estate websites. Think about your own online habits. Do you have the patience to wait for a page to load? Your clients don’t nor do the search engines. There are some great tools to look at the speed of a page. Webpagetest and ySlow are both great for this.
This is just some of the factors to consider when getting started with optimizing your real estate website. In the next post we will talk about local seo! Fun!