Search engines are the key to generating significant traffic on the internet. It can certainly be supplemented and enhanced by social networking like Facebook, Blogs and the Twitter but search engines are King. In other places around the world a number of search engines are very popular but in Australia, there is only one serious contender for the crown and thats Google.
Even well known brands in our industry like realestate.com.au have over 30% of their traffic delivered every single day by Google. Many of the returning vistors would be returning visitors have already arrived from the search engines in the past.
What this Article Series is.. and what it isnt
This article is going to be one in a series covering the topic of Search Engine Optimisation or SEO for short as it applies to the Australian Real Estate Industry. Search Engine Optimisation is the process of getting your site ranked higher in the search engines and thus generating more traffic.
This article is going to cover the basics of Search Engine Optimisation and how to get more visitors to your website. We are not going to be covering any advanced topics and everything discussed should be able to be completed by the average Australian Real Estate Agent with minimal technical skill. Each step is fairly easy but if you need help just ask for help in the comments section.
The restrictions of some content management systems will mean a few of you may not be able to do specific things but if thats the case, just skip that section and move on. You will probably have have to pay for some things to be done on your website but it should be very minimal as most things you will be able to do yourself.
Please understand that I am not going to provide a step be step guide of every single mouse click or form you have to fill in. That would require something about 10 times the size. Each step is very easy to do and millions of people from a range of skill levels have already been there before you. If you dont understand anything or want some help, just ask.
What is Search Engine Optimisation?
Now before we get too heavily into the subject I must point out a few things. SEO is considered a black art because there is no rule book or documented procedures to follow. Search engines use proprietary algorithms to rank all the websites in the world and they don’t share how that algorithm works for obvious reasons. This means that SEO experts around the world analyse in every fine detail the websites that do rank at the top and they attempt to reverse engineer just what makes a site rank well.
The very basics that form the core are universally agreed by most SEO experts but other than those you will always find someone somewhere who will disagree on any specific tactic or point. Also many experts who agree on a specific SEO strategy might still disagree on the importance that specific issue means in the calculating of web ranking. The important thing to remember is that it is the overall effect of everything that will deliver you results.
What Sort of Results Can You Expect?
SEO cannot work miracles! If your agency is in some small little town about 800km west of civilisation then the worlds best SEO is not going to create more people looking to buy real estate in your area. Better SEO than your competitors will get you more share of the existing searches but it cannot create more searches out of thin air. It also takes time for everything to work, a lot less than it use to, but it does not not happen overnight. You may first notice changes to how you rank in a few weeks after we finish but the full effect of what you do wont be felt for a few months at least.
In each article I am going to try and give you additional resources for further reading and if anybody at all has anything to add or share to the articles feel free to comment away.
I am aiming to have each article in the series require about 2 hours work and the target is for 6 articles. There is a specific logic to the order of these articles because some things either have to be done before others or they take longer to start acting.
Lets Get Started!
To measure the success of what you are going to undertake we need to record exactly where you are now. This will set a baseline that you have to work from. During this article there is going to be things you have to send your web provider. Obviously sending them each item in one email to be all done together will be the cheapest way to get this added to your site.
Website Grader Report
Website Grader produces a report on your website and gives you an overall grade out of 100. This is not perfect by any means but it is the best overall ranking of a website currently available and is perfect to compare how you score today and how you score after a few months. It takes a lot of factors into consideration when ranking a website. Request a report on your website. A good number would be between 80-100.Any score under that and you really need to do some work on your site to start getting results. Read the report it gives you as it will explain what you are doing right, and what still needs work.
To understand just what is happening on your site including how many visitors you get and what pages they visit you need some sort of web analytics reporting. A visitor count or hit counters just don’t cut it anymore. If you don’t have detailed statistics on your web visitors you need to install one.
I strongly suggest Google Analytics which is totally free although you may be charged by your web provider to install it. Hubonline recently announced a special for June for nearly $600 which also includes short property urls. For my mind this is highway robbery. In contrast I believe Portplus will install Google Analytics on your website for under $100 and I think they do short urls as standard.
If you have a Google account such as a gmail account you can use it to log into Google Analytics and create a profile for your website otherwise just create an account now. Google Analytics will provide you with some code that you need to send your web provider to get them to inject it into every page on your site. If you don’t want to use Google Analytics then see if your web provider has another detailed statistics package they can offer but dont just rely on property views.
Google Webmaster is a suite of tools for managing how your site integrates with Google Search. We will cover some of those tools in future articles but for now just setup the account and get the verification process underway.
Create an account at Google Webmaster using your Google Account login details you just used for Google Analytics. Add a profile for your website and it will ask you to verify in one of two different ways. Select the meta tag option and send that to your web provider to add to the code of your homepage.
Microsoft Bing Webmaster and Yahoo Site Explorer
The other major search providers, Microsoft and Yahoo also have their own versions of Google Webmaster. Create accounts with Microsoft Bing Webmasters and Yahoo Site Explorer and you should setup accounts with both of them and add your website profile. Select the meta tag verification option for both and send these meta tags through to your web provider.
A modern website should have a sitemap which provides instructions to search engines on exactly what pages you have, when they were last updated and how important are they. To find out if you have a sitemap on your site already you need to add the word sitemap.xml to your web address in a web browser. For our agency site the web address is http://www.nfn.com.au so we enter http://www.nfn.com.au/sitemap.xml and we find that we have a sitemap on our website.
If you don’t have a sitemap don’t panic you need to contact your web provider and ask them to create a sitemap for your site and ask them to place a reference to that sitemap in your robots.txt file. Dont worry what all that means just tell them and only get concerned if their techs don’t understand it.
You will not be able to add your website’s sitemap to Google Webmaster, Microsoft Bing Webmaster and Yahoo Sitexplorer until you have verified all of your accounts. I will remind you again in the next article but don’t forget to send your web provider the verification instructions and get them to setup a Sitemap for you if you don’t already have one.
Save Your Searches
Identify the three or four suburbs that make up your core trade area and use them to search google printing out the first two pages of results each time. Add the words “real estate”, “property”, “real estate agent”, “rentals” and “property for sale” and do a search on each.
So just for the suburb of Nerang I would conduct the following searches on Google and print out the first two pages of results for each.
- Nerang real estate
- Nerang Property
- Nerang real estate agent
- Nerang rentals
- Nerang property for sale
Repeat for each of your core suburbs and identify just where your site returns for each of those results. In the future you are going to run the same searches and if everything has worked out well you will be ranking higher. Ideally you want to be coming in the top three for every search on every one of your core suburbs. Ideally you want to be number 1 for each search but top 3 will still be pretty good.
We have now set a baseline to work from so you can see just what your work results in and started some prep work we will follow up in in future articles. The next article in the series will cover link building and getting your site listed in a range of online real estate and general business directories.
Read up on the Real Estate SEO Study as it shows you how important your pages look on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP’s)