Many realtors and brokers look for ways to get better found on Google so they can generate more leads and thus more business from buyers or sellers via their websites.
Being in the first results for the right target keyword or keyphrase can be a great way to generate sort of “free” real estate leads without paying money for ads.
But before you start investing time and money in search engine optimization (SEO), you might wonder if SEO does work for realtors.
Provided you take the two most important ranking signals which are high-quality content and link building and optimally all of the 200 existing ones into consideration, SEO will also work for realtors.
You will also have a better ROI compared to PPC advertising in the long run.
I came to this conclusion by analyzing in this article the most important SEO statistics and Google’s current ranking signals.
What Is SEO for Realtors?
The term “SEO” stands for “search engine optimization”.
As a whole, it means that you use different strategies and tactics to improve the visibility of your real estate website in all types of search engines for certain keywords and key phrases.
Today, most aim for better rankings on Google, since it’s the largest search engine.
But your SEO efforts also affect rankings on other smaller search engines, such as Bing, Yahoo, Baidu, Yandex, DuckDuckGo, Ask.com, and Ecosia.
The overall goal of this is to get relevant “free” and “unpaid” traffic to your website to generate leads and hopefully sales.
However, it’s not really “free” traffic since you will have to make an important investment in great content, which you either can produce yourself (with the cost of your time) or outsource and pay for it with money.
Organic Traffic (SEO) [Statistics]
In my opinion, it’s important to learn first a bit about current statistics with regards to organic traffic, and also about Google’s ranking signals in 2021.
After we have this data, we can draw further conclusions, and then know what it means for using search engine optimization for realtors.
- There are billions of daily searches, and 15% of them are new to Google (source).
- If you are on Google’s first page, and if you are among the first five results, you receive 67.6% of all the clicks (source).
- There are more than 200 ranking factors that Google’s algorithm considers to rank websites (source).
- According to Google, the two most important ranking signals to make your (real estate website) rank are high-quality content and link building (source).
- According to 57% of marketing executives, on-page content development was most effective when it comes to SEO tactics (source).
- A large majority of marketers (70%) consider SEO as more effective than PPC (source). The reason for this is likely because 70%-80% of searchers ignore paid search results, and prefer to choose organic search results (source).
- Articles ranked in the top positions of Google have 2,416 words on average (source).
- Unfortunately, the majority of pages (91%) never receive any organic traffic from Google. This is in many cases due to a lack of backlinks (source).
- A little bit more than half (55.24%) of websites don’t have a single backlink (source).
- The amount of traffic you get from Google correlates with the number of backlinks your (real estate) website has (the more backlinks, the more traffic) (source).
- If you also use video content, you have 50x higher chances of getting organic rankings than with plain text (source).
- Should you manage to get your website to rank number #1, you will get an average click-through rate (CTR) of 31.7 from searchers (source).
- Mobile searchers’ intent is related to location 30% of the times (source).
- The large majority (76%) of people that are using their smartphones to look for something nearby, visit a business within a day (source).
- When it comes to purchases, potential buyers or consumers are influenced by a relevant search 39% of the time (source).
- In terms of major purchases (relevant for realtors), 80% start with an online search, despite the fact that the purchase itself happens in a store (source).
- Less relevant but still good to know is that in 18% of the cases, the local searches end up in a purchase within 24 hours (source).
- Almost one-third of searchers and potential buyers in the U.S. search daily for local businesses (source).
Google’s 10 Most Important Ranking Signals in 2021
Don’t worry, I won’t list all 200 of Google’s ranking signals from 2021 in this section.
Because not all have the same importance. And as in many things in business, marketing and life, they follow the 80/20 rule.
So, I will only mention the 10 most important ones.
But if you still want to dig deeper, I will give you a great article where you will be able to find and read about all of them. You can find it here.
1) High-Quality Content
In the statistics above I mentioned this ranking signal already as part of the two most important ones.
What does high-quality content mean?
Well, it’s definitely not a fast-written and outsourced 500-word article but rather content that covers a topic in-depth and provides real value.
This also means to include visual content that helps understand the respective topic in a better way (e.g. tables, infographics, or videos).
Related to high-quality content is also a signal called E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness).
If you cover certain topics that can have an influence on important decisions about someone’s health or financials, you will have to establish E-A-T.
For example, if you, as a realtor, would start producing content about health topics, it will be much more difficult to establish E-A-T for Google, if you can’t show somehow that you are a professional, such as a real doctor (M.D.) would be.
You would also be against websites that already have a well-established authority, such as certain universities and health institutions.
You couldn’t make a claim about a certain substance and treatment without citing trustworthy sources.
Backlinks are the second of the two most important ranking signals already mentioned in the statistics above.
As a general rule, the more links you get from websites that have a high authority, the better you can usually rank for certain keywords.
But here is a word of caution.
In the early days, you could just write a sloppy 250 to 500-word article and then proactively build links from often spammy websites and rank for the targeted keywords.
Due to several algorithm updates from Google, those times are over. You will have a high risk of getting “penalized” if you keep doing this in 2021.
Your backlink profile should look natural. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do proactive link building at all, but you want to make sure that your real estate website is already a bit aged.
If you do proactive link building for a new website, you may run into similar trouble.
This is because Google’s algorithm got quite smart with time and it will “ask” itself why a fresh new site suddenly gets a bunch of links, something that is not quite natural.
It is okay and even beneficial when your website gets some links from social media in the beginning.
But you might want to postpone proactive link building until it is around 8 to 12 months old.
You might not need to do proactive link building in the first place when you produce high-quality content and other sites will naturally start linking to your content because of the value it provides.
In the case of my blog that you are reading, I didn’t do any proactive link building and have more than 1000 backlinks already.
3) Keep it Fresh
In June 2010, the so-called Freshness Algorithm was rolled out.
This means that Google kind of prefers fresh new content over old and outdated one.
This also means that you could analyze existing content you have but doesn’t rank and improve it in terms of quality and “freshness”.
Another thing it also means is that you might want to prefer producing more timeless content that doesn’t require periodic updates to maintain it fresh.
In the case of content for realtors, you will need to update articles such as “best restaurants to visit in X in 2021” to “best restaurants to visit in X in 2022” once we are in the new year.
RankBrain not only sounds smart, but actually is a smart ranking signal.
In order to understand the search intent behind a particular search, it uses machine learning.
What it also does is understand complex searches, how they relate to certain topics, and how the searcher interacts with the search results she or he finds.
Let’s say you want to answer the search question (“How to qualify for a mortgage in XYZ location”), and write an article about it.
If you just list the mortgage providers in the article without answering the question, your article won’t be that relevant for the search term (the question asked), and Google will likely prefer another article that answers this question specifically and rank it higher.
5) Mobile Friendliness
This signal I already mentioned several times while reviewing certain realtor software, because of the importance this now has for the Google algorithm.
The mobile-first indexing algorithm was rolled out on November 4, 2016.
As a decent web developer (I also do web development work), you now know that you start developing with mobile display first in mind and desktop later.
But there are still realtor websites out there that aren’t mobile-friendly, which will have a negative effect on their ranking potential.
This is especially important for local search results. In this context, you may want to remember the statistic from above “Mobile searchers’ intent is related to location 30% of the times .”
6) Core Web Vitals
This signal was part of one of the most recent Google algorithm updates in May 2021.
It helps rank websites better if they have good loading, visual stability and interactivity.
Some of the things Google measures with this is, for example, how long it takes to load the largest element of a website (e.g. image, text, video, etc.).
It also measures how fast the site responds to a user’s first interaction, and visual instability.
If, for example, your real estate website doesn’t have images without defined dimensions or fonts that are rendered with visual instability, it will affect your Core Web Vitals.
You can check the Core Web Vitals of your real estate website with Google’s Search Console here.
7) Page Speed
Although page speed is actually part of the core web vitals, it merits a separate section.
If your real estate website takes a long time to load especially on mobile devices, it will be more than a challenge to rank it well.
So, together with the Core Web Vitals and the Page Speed signals, you can see that Google not only looks at the relevance of your content for certain search results, but also to make sure users have a good user experience on your site.
If you want to test your page speed, you can check out this tool from Google.
And if you want to work on your website page speed, I can recommend you the below video video by SEO link builder Julian Goldie:
8) The Power of Your Domain and Brand
If your real estate website is searched by users by using your name directly, it means that you get branded searches.
This is another important ranking signal for Google because it signals that your “brand” has a certain name recognition.
And the more branded searches you get, the more it will be liked by Google’s algorithm.
Usually, these branded searches are caused by mentions on social media.
People may hear the name of your website in a video on YouTube or in another channel, but can’t use a link and then look you up on Google.
But another cause is when your site is already generally well-known and when people want to find some further information, and just think of you and type your website’s name into Google to find out if you produced content about the topic they are interested in.
So, it doesn’t mean that you just need to spam social media channels with your website’s name and you will get this benefit.
It is more a combination of both and quite often develops automatically over time.
9) Schema Markup
Google’s search algorithm is smart, but it’s still not super smart.
And this is where schema markup comes in.
It is basically code (semantic vocabulary) that you can include on your website which helps search engines provide visitors with more informative results.
You can apply the schema markup for different use cases, such as movies, products, events, software applications, book reviews, and local search results. The latter is especially relevant for realtors.
For example, you can help search engines to understand phone numbers and addresses, and overall where your business is located.
If you include this, you will have better chances of getting ranked higher.
10) HTTPS/ SSL
The last ranking signal to mention is HTTPS, which was first introduced in August 2014.
The HTTPS protocol is used to establish a secure connection to a website.
So, with this update, Google wanted to make sure that users basically don’t get hacked, scammed or more by just visiting a website.
This means that if you don’t use an SSL certificate which makes HTTPS possible with your hosting provider, you likely don’t rank as well as you could.
Does SEO Work for Realtors?
To answer this question, we need to see what we can derive from the statistics and rank signals I previously discussed.
First of all, most of the statistics about SEO apply also to realtor websites. They are not just a weird exemption from the rules of the internet.
And the major key points to make SEO work that also apply realtor websites are:
- Producing high-quality content and doing on-page content development
- Link building
- Local SEO with mobile-first in mind
If you do all the above in the right way, you will have a high likelihood that you will make SEO work for you as a realtor.
Additionally, you may get even a better ROI than with PPC advertising, since it was stated that it can be more effective than PPC.
Additionally, since buying a house counts as a major purchase and these purchases start in 80% of the cases with an online search as a realtor, you will benefit from being visible and having high organic rankings in search engines such as Google.
But this also means that just by producing short 250 to 500-word articles, not tailored to search phrases that don’t provide value by answering specific questions, the chances are quite low that you will make SEO work for your realtor website.
This article has been reviewed by our editorial team. It has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policy.