As a small real estate business, it can be tricky getting found online, especially if you’re a small fish in a large pond. The larger players in real estate tend to be at the top of search engines, putting them in a better position to get customer inquiries.
However, it is possible for a small real estate company to have a mighty presence online. Follow these simple tips and you’ll find your lead pipeline growing.
Many real estate agencies still hesitate over online portals such as Zillow or Trulia. Often the fear is, “what if I get a bad review?” You should always aim to have good reviews, but this is not a reason to avoid online portals. The screenshot below emphasizes why being present on those sites is important:
The first three results after paid advertising are for online real estate portals. If you’re not appearing on these sites, your competitors probably are, and a valuable opportunity to be found is slipping through your fingers.
Consider these facts and stats if you need more convincing:
- 92% of home buyers begin their search online
- 89% of customers are influenced by testimonials
- Studies have shown that the occasional bad review is not to be feared. In fact, it can give your agency legitimacy and prove that good reviews were not purchased
What if I do get a bad review?
Yes, it happens. Unfortunately, customers who have a bad experience tend to be more likely to write a review than those who had a great experience. In this situation, it’s all about how you respond to it.
Respond to all feedback in an appropriate manner, offering to rectify the situation if possible. People will look to see how you respond to poor feedback and this can influence them to do business with you.
Whatever you do, DO NOT turn it into a kindergarten-like fight played out in a public forum. Even if the reviewer was in the wrong, you will end up looking unprofessional and not like someone that others want to do business with.
Amy’s Baking Company unleashed a scathing tirade in response to negative reviews last year. This just added fuel to the fire and their current average Google review is still at 1.3 stars from over 1700 reviews…
How do you (ethically) boost your good reviews? Just ask your happy customers to give you a review – they probably won’t do it automatically.
Local Search Tools
Any local business should be on local business listing sites. These also tend to rank well in Google searches and are usually free or low-cost to sign up to.
Here are some local business directories to check out:
- Google My Business – a very simple sign-up. Just click on the blue “Get On Google” button and follow the instructions.
- Yellow Pages
- Aabaco (formerly Yahoo small business) – this offers a multiple-listing service
- Yelp For Business Owners – Check first if your business is already on Yelp (it could be if someone has rated it), then “claim” the listing so you can complete the profile.
- Facebook For Business
- Foursquare For Business
- Bing Places For Business
- Other directories in the U.S. – this article has a list of the top 50 local directories.
Besides online directories, make sure that any social media profiles for your business have been completely filled out, including your location details. Social media sites tend to rank well in search, helping your business stand out.
A backlink is a link on someone else’s website to your site. Backlinks are one indicator used by search engines to assess the relevance of your website and rank you for specific keywords. HubSpot found backlinks to be the fourth-greatest factor in determining search engine ranking.
However, not just any old link will do. There was a time where “black hat” search engine optimization “experts” used spammy directories and irrelevant websites to create a network of links, but Google has since updated its algorithms. Not only are these old methods now ineffective, you may find yourself “Google slapped” with a search ranking penalty if you try them.
The thought of a Google penalty has put some website owners off from trying to get backlinks, but, as explained by Mark and Eric from Stonetemple, you needn’t be afraid as long as your backlinks meet these criteria:
- They are relevant to your website (so related to real estate, housing etc. A link from a dog training website is not a good idea).
- They build your visibility and reputation with your target audience (the link should come from a site your target audience can be found on).
- They naturally drive traffic to your website.
How can your real estate agency build quality backlinks? Here are some ideas:
- Sponsor local events. This gives you exposure both on and offline as event websites will usually link to sponsors.
- Be a member of local organizations such as your Chamber of Commerce. Member websites are usually linked on organization websites.
- Get nominated for local awards/best of competitions. They are not only a boost for your brand, but your website will usually be linked to the award website.
Backlinks will assist you in ranking better as long as they are good quality. Avoid dodgy reciprocal link schemes, ANY kind of purchased link and low-quality directories.
Optimize For Search Engines
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is often relegated to the realms of the mystic. The exact formulas that search engines such as Google or Bing use to rank websites are a closely-guarded secret, but they do tell us what some of their ranking factors are.
You may want to hire someone who specializes in SEO to make improvements to your website, but here are some simple things you can take into account…
Google outright told us last year that they were expanding their use of mobile-friendliness as a search ranking factor. It’s easy to see why: Google’s job is to deliver quality results to search engine users, and a huge number of those users are searching by mobile.
Just check out these stats from Smart Insights:
Besides helping your search engine ranking, being mobile-friendly is helpful to give your customers a better experience. Mobile-friendly websites are optimized to fit the mobile device, meaning they are easier to navigate and require less “pinching” of the screen.
Content and Keywords
Use of content and keywords does two things: it tells Google what your website is about and drives traffic, depending on the quality of the content.
To know which keywords may be best for you to use, conduct keyword research using a tool such as Google’s Keyword Planner. Include “latent semantic indexing” (LSI) keywords – these are additional words or synonyms which add meaning to your keywords.
Beware that keyword “stuffing” is not going to help you. Overuse of keywords may mark you as a spammy kind of website to Google and push you down in the rankings. Aim to use natural language and phrases that customers actually search for.
Content helps your ranking if it is original and high quality. This means that it should be useful to your target audience and encourage them to check out your website. Google takes note of metrics like how long visitors spend on your website and “bounce rate” – how many people leave after visiting just one page of your site.
Interesting content that is helpful to your target customers keeps them on your website and boosts those signals to Google. Besides getting you found, content is an excellent way to showcase your expertise. Try to find ways to stand out, whether it’s a blog, videos, podcasts, infographics, embedded Slideshare presentations or a combination of mediums.
Optimized Website Design
The design of your website plays a role in how well you rank on search engines. Easy navigation makes visitors more inclined to hang around and explore your site, while other design elements play a role in the perceived trustworthiness of your site.
Brian Dean of Backlinko says: “A site that’s difficult to use or to navigate can hurt ranking by reducing time on site, pages viewed and bounce rate.”
So if your website hasn’t been reviewed for usability and design since you created it 10 years ago, it’s a good idea to have a professional designer look it over.
It’s a jungle out there on the internet, but small real estate firms can still produce big results in search if these simple strategies are followed.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of search engine ranking factors (there are said to be over 200 of them), but these items are fairly simple for any firm to take control of and change.
If in doubt, seek professional help for developing a better strategy for online marketing. Most importantly, take a proactive approach. Tools and strategies are changing online at a rapid pace, so “set and forget” is not an option if you want your website to get found.