From the Classroom
Once again, live from the classroom. I was speaking about the power of social media with search engines and a student stopped me mid sentence and asked, “hope this doesn’t sound like a lame question but can you explain what SEO means?”
So we had a brief conversation and then I went to the expert. Randy Eager, a friend, fellow instructor well versed in SEO joined me on a webinar where we discussed what SEO is. Here are some of his simple thoughts.
First though, SEO defined:
- Search engine optimization, the use of various techniques to improve a website’s ranking in the search engines and thus attract more visitors
Okay those work for me. So this is what I learned and now share with my students
First “natural” ranking on a search engine, Google, Yahoo and MSN is the goal of SEO. We try to get as many first page rankings on as many phrases as possible.
To accomplish this there are 3 major areas to change:
- Research the right keyword phrases for you
- Tie these phrases into your domain name
- Create a keyword rich title on your website or blog posts
We learned that there are very popular keyword searches, which means the probability of getting it is impossible. The point is to get as many keyword phrases that are not as popular.
Websites are likely to receive most of their search engine visitors through a large variety of low volume search queries.
So to break it down. If people are looking for Denver Real Estate and those words are in your domain name, you will show up. Even if you don’t have the perfect fit, your site will still show up.
Don’t focus on just “Denver” for keywords. Be more targeted with a whole bunch of keyword phrases. Don’t just take the large area of Denver, but put where you really live, local communities like Aurora and Lakewood. This will create more traffic and better leads.
Keyword phrases should not only be in your domain name, but metatags, title tags, alt tags and all throughout the content. make sure it is in the title of every page of your website. A different title on each page. Each title should include key words and then what the page is about, luxury homes, condos, financing, etc.
Metatags are the hidden code in the html. The Alt tags are the description of the graphics on your website.
The sum of all your minor keywords can be much more popular that the most coveted domain name.
Remember the Long Tail – Long Tail – Keyword phrases with at least three, sometimes four or five, words in them. These long tail keywords are usually highly specific and draw lower traffic than shorter, more competitive keyword phrases, which is why they are also cheaper.
July 5, 2009 at 12:27 am
I doubt that the keywords in the domain are a really important ranking factor. This is old school thinking. Look at the portals that dominate the search engines in your industry: trulia.com, zillow.com. The keywords in the domain name help, but they are not that big of a factor as you make it sound. It is important to have your keywords in the URL though. And you don’t even mention one of the most important ranking factors, backward links, in your article. Trusted links with your keywords in the anchor text are what makes your site rank high. You might argue that for the search “Denver real estate” some of the top pages have the keywords in the domain name. But if you look at another market like “San Francisco real estate” you will note that none of the top 10 results have San Francisco real estate in the domain name.
If you want to name the principles of SEO:
1. Good site architecture – making sure that the search engines can index your site and that the important content is linked on top pages and not burried deep within your website.
2. Your keywords have to be in your content, especially in important places, e.g. title tag, h1 and URL (domain is part of the URL). Content has to be quality and unique!
3. Good backward links to your site (keyword rich links from relevant and trusted sites)
Just my $0.02 on SEO.
July 5, 2009 at 9:10 am
Good advice, Amy.
Also a good idea to properly tag your images and video files. With Universal Search, your video might turn up in the SERPS ahead of your competition.
(you can also get visitors from Google image searches)
The Long Tail keyword phrases can also bring better traffic (transactional visitors) and keep you ahead of the TruZilla monster: search “Denver modern homes for sale” — Not a Trulia or Zillow in sight.
Agents oughta learn SEO techniques to take back their SERPS:
July 5, 2009 at 11:13 am
Nice comment Thomas….and to think you just touched the surface. SEO is in great part WAY above the paygrade of almost all Realtors. If the guy in the story didn’t even know what SEO was he is either
a. going to intensely learn about it
b. pay handsomely to have someone else achieve it for him
c. find out if Walmart is hiring
Since most Realtors don’t have websites or blogs and even of those who do most have silly , useless templates..SEO is going to beyond the grasp of most of them.
Obviously readers here represent the more interested population of realtors…but the rest…stick a fork in them.
July 5, 2009 at 1:23 pm
Thanks for the great tips. I have been tasked by Agent Genius to bring back what is happening in the classroom so we can have a better idea of the education and programs needed, plus a view of the attitude and accomplishments of our fellow real estate agents.
I have been paying a lot more attention and am realizing that answers need to be technology or organically achievable. Either do it yourself or know enough to hire someone to do it.
July 5, 2009 at 10:27 pm
I’m starting to put my arms around the theory that a bunch of low volume search queries will attract nice, solid leads. Mixing and matching is the fun part here, figuring out what combo will work.
Glenn in Naples
July 6, 2009 at 11:46 am
I agree with Thomas’ comment that the domain name a real ranking factor.
However, I wonder if outbound links to enhance a visitor’s experience on a site have any influence on the rankings. If there are no outbound links – the site is merely a brochure site and may not have good rankings. I think Matt Cutts may have mentioned this in one of his posts or at a seminar,
July 13, 2009 at 5:42 pm
Let me begin by saying I’m an SEO and here are some thoughts to consider. By the way Amy, good job on the post.
First I have seen real estate agent websites rank very well (first page) in the SERP’s for high volume keywords with horrible SEO, but a great keyword rich domain name. Keyword rich domains are not the “end all – be all” but they do carry weight and one should try to have one if possible. If you don’t have a keyword rich domain, then you can always get the backlinks to overcome this shortfall. You can still have a good keyword rich domain just by adding a different word on the backend of it like http://www.denverrealestatecenter.com or http://www.denverrealestatelw.com (the lw on the backend of the later domain represents your initials). Whatever the case good keyword rich domains are still to be found.
Targeting local communities beside your main city can be done, and should be done as Amy points out. One way to do this is by creating a separate page for the new locale. Make sure your Meta tags have your keywords for each page and make sure your page URL has your keywords in them. This can be a great way to get multiple pages ranking for multiple locations. This saves you from having to jam multiple keyword phrases in your home page text, thus reducing the amount of natural text that should be there for your potential clients.
Definitely look for the long tail, but don’t give up on the most searched. Barry makes a good point about the amount of knowledge Real Estate professionals have, which means the SEO competition may not be that high for your area, therefore with a little effort you could have both the long tail and the most searched in your pocket.
Barry Cunningham – shamefully true, but ahead of a lot of other industries.
Esko – Low volume search queries can give you solid leads because they are more target specific. I try to educate the real estate agents I work with that it’s better to fish in a pond that has 1,000 fish and 10 boats then in a pond with 10,000 fish and 1000 boats. Always look for the low lying fruit to pick. Keyword Research will tell you what pond is the best.
Glenn in Naples – outbound links do make a difference, especially if you link out to relevant sites. I have created a boost to real estate websites by creating outbound links to local and county sites from the home page. This too can be overcome though with quality inbound links with good keyword anchor text.
July 13, 2009 at 6:30 pm
Amy, good post. SEO is a full time job in of itself. Here are just a couple of quick tips I have picked up:
1. Dont try to cram a bunch of high ranking KWs into one page. Instead, try to focus on 2 or 3 KWs per page.
2. Use meta information as well as ORIGINAL and CREATIVE content to backup the page’s KWs
A. Do not stuff the content with the KWs you are trying to rank for.
B. Make sure your content is your own. Re-writing someone else’s content IS NOT ORIGINAL CONTENT!
3. Longtail KWs is a gold mine for the real estate market.
4. Google has a good KW research tool for free.
A. You want to focus on the less competitive but still popular KWs (Please see Lee’s fishing reference above)
5. Backlinks and anchor text. You can never have enough backlinks to your site.
6. As Thomas pointed out, dont get hung up on a domain name. Just do a few test searches on Google terms to prove it.
July 13, 2009 at 8:16 pm
Thanks all. Your input is invaluable. Now I understand SEO a bit better. Fantastic information!
December 10, 2009 at 10:25 pm
Long tail keywords are much more effective. 3 most important things to learn on seo – keywords, link building, and content writing. Being an seo writer is tough, it is an art to be mastered.