I would put money on the fact that everybody in commercial real estate has been told they need to do SEO. Okay, that’s a little hyperbolic, but seriously it has to be at least 90 percent. I talk to brokers, lenders and service providers all the time, and when they find out I have a background in digital marketing, specifically search marketing, they pretty much all say the same thing, “So-and-so told me I need to be doing SEO, what do you think?”
The so-and-so can range from someone’s marketing consultant down to a fellow broker that says they get all their business from Google (speaking of hyperboles). While the who can vary, my answer is always the same – yes, you should be doing SEO.
Why? According to SVN, 60 percent of commercial real estate deals are happening across state lines, impressing the importance of expanding personal networks beyond local markets. Leveraging digital platforms to build corporate and personal branding, and sourcing deal flow using the internet are increasingly becoming a requirement of being successful in the industry. Duke Long recently espoused the importance of Real Estate SEO in part two of the blog post CREtech Startup Marketing: How to Do It Right. And since Duke said it, it must be true.
Before discussing how to use SEO, let’s start with what it actually is.
The acronym gets thrown around pretty loosely these days. If you want to know everything about SEO go read this article on Moz, https://moz.com/learn/seo/what-is-seo. For our purposes, let’s just cover the basics. SEO stands for search engine optimization, which basically refers to any efforts to improve on-page (on your website) and off-page (not on your website) ranking factors that may boost a website’s search engine rankings – you know, the results you get when you Google something.
Search Engine Land made this excellent visual aid to show different factors associated with search optimization.
Now that we know what SEO is and the ranking factors that influence it, here are three tips to improve your search game.
This is the tip people never want to hear, and also what ends up getting them in the most trouble. I’m going to go on record and say there is no such thing as SEO growth hacking. There are ways to amplify your content reach and plenty of changes that will improve your website visibility, but you’re not going to “hack” Google. That means you will have to be thoughtful about the content and keywords you put on your website.
The easy, and expensive, way would be to find a digital marketing agency who specializes in Real Estate SEO and content creation and hand over the reins. If you have the money, this is a great option. You don’t have to keep up to date on the 500 to 600 changes Google makes to its algorithm each year, and you get back the opportunity cost of the time and effort it takes to produce good content.
If you’re not quite ready to make that kind of financial commitment, content creation and keyword selection can be managed in-house to build up your search rankings. The best advice I can give you is be empathetic with your target audience. If you’re writing a blog article ask yourself, “Is this what my clients would want to spend their time reading?” If the answer is yes, then you’re doing it right. You can do the same thing with keyword selection, think to yourself, “If I was trying to find my website on Google what keyword (that aren’t the brand name) would I use?” This approach may not be scientific, but I guarantee you know your target audience better than an agency ever will.
Most of the factors listed in the Periodic Table of SEO Elements require a developer’s help to make sure your website is setup properly. Whereas content is an ongoing process, these factors are often a one-time task. So make sure you’re working with someone you trust, and who doesn’t cut corners. If you don’t have a technical background it might be tough to actually check their work, but it’s always a good idea to go with your gut feelings. Ask your developer what steps they are taking to improve your search rankings. If the answer they give you feels like a lie, it probably is. Whatever you do, don’t ever let someone tell you to do the things listed in red on the SEO Periodic Table of Elements. Buying links, stuffing keywords and spamming your users may lead to a temporary bump in traffic, but you always get caught in the long run.
In Duke Long’s post, he points out that Loopnet performs well in organic search. As you can see, over half of their site traffic comes from search.
That’s great for Loopnet and their 78 domain authority score, but does that mean the average CRE website will never be able to outrank Loopnet? The short answer is no; you just need to optimize your website for local search. Ever wonder why Google gives you this pop up when you’re using your phone?
It’s so Google can provide you with more locally relevant searches. The same thing applies when you use a search term that contains a local keyword, for example if you searched “Las Vegas Commercial Real Estate.”
The factors that impact your local search presence are things like name/address/phone number (NAP) being localized, using local keyword such as city names in page titles and having a local social presence such as a Google My Business or Facebook Places page.
Optimizing for local search is primarily done through content based updates, which the least technical person can handle. And, these updates will actively give local companies a leg up on national brands.
Social helps you in three different ways. The first way is, Google uses your social presence as a modest organic ranking factor. Google sees companies with stronger social channels as more trustworthy. Again, this is just a modest ranking factor, but every little bit helps.
The second way, and probably the most helpful factor from social media, is expanding your content’s reach. Content publishing websites like LinkedIn and Medium have hundreds of millions of monthly visits. While you shouldn’t publish all your content through these channels, because you want to build up your own site’s domain authority, strategically publishing content through these networks can greatly expand your reach. The more people who see your content, the more likely they are to visit your page and hopefully link back to it. And, inbound links are the rainmaker of SEO ranking factors.
The third factor is kind of a fringe benefit. Since these platforms have high domain authorities, posting content that links back to your own site will automatically give you a positive ranking factor. There are a lot of opportunities to use social to improve your organic search rankings. Moz, an industry leader in search marketing, made this video detailing ways to amplify your content across social channels.
These are just a few factors impacting your search rankings, but they are all factors that can make a big impact and can be done by an in-house team. SEO success cannot be thought of as a one-time thing. It will take a little time and effort, but the long-term benefits are definitely worth the work. Keep producing great content and engaging with your users, and good rankings will start to come your way.