I am not an SEO genius…
…but, between the articles here and my own experiences, I’ve figured out a few things that work for me. My RErockstar.com blog isn’t the highest ranked site, but it garners enough traffic that I consider it to be a successful real estate blog. AgentGenius has plenty of great writers (ever read Jack Leblond’s SEO posts?) who know tons about SEO and have written excellent articles about the finer points of the various algorithms used to figure out where you show up in search engine rankings.
This post is for everyone else. It’s about simple logic. It’s not going to fling you past Trulia or Realtor.com overnight and make you an internet sensation. It’s not going to make you a millionaire by years end. These are little things I’ve learned over the years. Simple things that have had a lot of impact on my blogging and have worked wonders for a blog that used to be read by just me and my dad. The best part – they’re logical and easy to implement. While some SEO experts may thumb their nose at the simplicity of these efforts (and argue their merits), I swear by these little tips.
SEO for the rest of us.
1. One of my favorite tricks is to throw away the two letter state abbreviation. I see it all the time in real estate blogging. “Philadelphia, PA – New listing – 123 Fake Street” – “How to buy insurance in Los Angeles, CA” – “How to choose a Realtor® in Seattle, WA” Unless they live in Springfield, many people out there searching aren’t going to include the state information as part of their keyword string. I sat a friend down and had him google a few random things about specific cities. Never once did he enter the state information. I used to use state information all the time.
Let’s say a post was titled “Best BBQ in San Antonio, TX.” When I would search Google to see how I was doing, I would be ranked low for the search phrase “best bbq san antonio” – maybe not even making the first (or tenth) page. If I googled “best bbq san antonio tx” I suddenly ranked pretty decently. Of course, you would think that this would mean that the “TX” was helping me be found, but when looking at Google Analytics, I found that few people were finding those posts through keyword searches. The day I deleted the “TX” and just went with “San Antonio,” I started to notice a strong uptick in traffic from search engines and now I was appearing higher in the results too.
2. Never underestimate the searcher. If you’ve ever taken a look at any kind of analytics for your website, you’ve probably had to stop for a moment and wonder “why in the hell would someone google that?” I do it everyday. Oddball phrasing, misspellings, made up words, and things I never thought about when writing a post. (I was showing up for “suicide listings in san antonio” thanks to a post about a seller’s responsibility to disclose death on their property. I also used to be number one for “silly realtor” from a post where I called NAR a “silly old goat.”) Although I talk about logic in this post, sometimes you have to defy logic and think like the oddball.
3. Abbreviate nothing. Well almost nothing. We Realtors® love to use abbreviations. I’d write a list of some of them, but you probably know a thousand more than I do (it took me forever to figure out what SMKAL in our old abbreviation-filled MLS meant). People don’t naturally search for a 3br/2ba home with a EIK (or even worse a 3/2/2). Use words. That’s what they’re there for. Some MLS systems don’t provide much room for remarks, so agents tend to abbreviate there, but when it’s on your blog there’s no reason to be brief (other than to avoid long winded posts like mine).
3. When you have a link you make quite often on your site (such as a link to your contact page), vary the anchor text and link title. “Contact Matt Stigliano, Realtor® with RE/MAX Access” isn’t going to be searched as often as “contact agent on 123 Fake Street” – I see a lot of blogs with repetitive link text, which might build authority on a particular search phrase, but there’s something to be said about diversity.
4. Your audience is not other Realtors® and therefore don’t always speak your language. Although many consumers know the term MLS, many don’t. Or they don’t understand what it means to them. The word disclosure isn’t exactly a tough word or one that’s never used in common English, but we use it all the time in real estate. Yet, time and time again I see keyword searches such as “do I have to tell a buyer this or that” or “do we need to reveal such and such.” Try not to get caught up in our own lingo. Think of other ways to say the same thing.
5. Don’t overlook zip codes. I used to think no one cared about them all that much unless we were talking about 90210. I started using zip codes when I started doing market reports. At first my traffic went up because people were googling “78230 market report” and landing on those pages. Now I see more general searches hitting those pages, such as “78230 homes for sale” and “search homes 78230.” Interesting thing is that these searches for homes that land on market report pages tend to keep visitors on the site. They tend to view more pages (often specific neighborhood information and home search pages) and stay longer than many other searches. There’s gold in zip codes if you ask me.
I am not an SEO genius…
…but I swear by these simple items. I can directly relate traffic back to putting them into practice and use them as often as I can. None of them are difficult to implement and all of them are quite logical, so it’s not as hard as convincing yourself to put into practice other things that might take a little more thought. Think like a searcher and throw out the Realtor® mindset. The more you think like a Realtor®, the more you’re going to attract more Realtors® (if that’s your goal, great!). The more you think like a first time home buyer looking for an agent that makes them comfortable and that they can trust as their go-to for everything real estate related, the more you will find clients who appreciate what you do and come back for more.
photo courtesy of plindberg
June 23, 2010 at 10:26 am
All good stuff!
I’ll add a couple things for you;
1) Don’t forget that page titles and link/anchor text are super powerful – choose the words you use in those carefully. Also – I would recommend you NOT link to the same page many times over with many different words as the link – this may confuse Google to the point it’s not sure what the page is about.
2) Don’t underestimate the importance of street addresses. There would certainly be far fewer searches for “123 any street, austin” than for “austin homes for sale” but people searching for the address are MUCH more interested and probably want to buy it – or are just nosy neighbors.
3) Don’t use Google to check your rankings. Google remembers what you search for and what you click on, this will bias ALL futures searches. Instead, use a tool – I like the firefox plugin “rankchecker”.
June 23, 2010 at 10:52 am
Great tips Matt. I’m definitely guilty of a couple of these, and am also surprised by the search words some people use.
June 23, 2010 at 11:27 am
Great tips Matt ! We will start utilizing some of your suggestions ! Sometimes it is the little things that make a difference. I never really thought about the abbreviations for the state before and you are right, people are not searching the state. Good suggestion about tweaking verbage as well. Great post as usual !
June 23, 2010 at 11:31 am
Great article Matt. For all of us just trying to figure SEO out through trial and error this does help simplify things. Keep up the great work.
June 23, 2010 at 2:28 pm
Great article. Outside of choices in how to present content on the page, the biggest issue I often see is with depth of indexing. If search engines can’t see pages within your site, it doesn’t really matter what the content of the page looks like.
June 23, 2010 at 7:23 pm
Thanks for the great tip on the firefox rank checker, Jack. My blogsite ranks high on Google for my search terms but not as well on Yahoo or Bing. Any suggestions?
June 23, 2010 at 7:49 pm
Don’t forget the “long tail.” In general, the primary two keywords (short tail) may account for a large number of hits, but when added together – the remaining keywords for ALL search terms related to your area (other than the top two) will typically account for 80% of the searches. Vary your keyword usage to include those terms no one is focusing on in their own SEO efforts.
Navy Chief, Navy Pride
Los Angeles SEO
June 24, 2010 at 4:31 am
Nice article! You say, you are not an SEO genius but I think you are close. Thank you for sharing the tips. And thanks to the commentors as well for adding their share.
June 24, 2010 at 11:44 pm
Thanks for the reminder that I need to start using zip codes. I thought of that a while ago when I started doing some geo-specific market report type posts, but it doesn’t come naturally.
June 24, 2010 at 11:55 pm
Nice post! I also swear by zip codes. My Nashville’s neighborhoods don’t have well defined boundaries so zips work best for search IMHO. School zones are good ones too.
EasyStreet Realty, Inc.
March 10, 2011 at 7:08 am
Thanks Matt for sharing your insight. We are completely redesigning our website and contemplated on the zip code idea and how to work it into our site. Do you think that the local boards would care if we dynamically re-wrote the property remarks with out all the abbreviations? 🙂
March 21, 2011 at 3:42 pm
I am agree with all points except this that “I am not an SEO genius…”Really a post from an SEO expert and simple tips and effective one also thanks for sharing