It makes the most sense to focus on local SEO for real estate agents and brokerages. In all likelihood, your prospective clients are either in your area or searching in your area. Plus, it is easier to be found on Google in your local market.
Global, countrywide, and statewide Google real estate keyword searches are insanely difficult for SEO. However, it is achievable to rank in regional and local search results with a solid strategy.
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What is a local real estate search?
A regular search is more generic in nature, like “real estate.” A local search includes a geographic location, like “real estate morris mn.”
These local searches are displayed in three different places predominantly: regular results, maps, and local packs. Maps and the regular results are pretty self-explanatory.
Local pack searches are when the regular search is used and Google recognizes the intent for local results. The local pack results will typically display above the rest of the results and just below the map display, like the image to the right.
Steps for real estate local SEO
Now it’s time for the hard work. We’ll go through the steps on how to optimize your website, Google My Business page, and online presence specifically for local real estate searches.
1. Optimize your website
I like starting this process with your website. It is generally at the foundation of your digital marketing so it is a good place to start.
It is important when looking at these recommendations to keep the user’s search intent in mind. That means trying to understand why these users are using certain Google searches.
Gear your website experience around this intent to be as helpful as possible. A better user experience will help your site rank higher on Google and generate more leads.
- Meta title and description: complete the meta data for all of your main pages with relevant keywords and an eye-catching title. This is the data users will see in the Google search results so it’s very important. It can be the difference between getting a visit or getting passed by.
- Optimize individual pages: it is important to include the main keywords and geo tags (i.e. city name and/or zipcode) for a specific page in the title, meta description, heading tags, image alt tags, URLs, and more to send the right signals. Google will use these elements to understand which keywords are most important for a page. If you’re website was built on WordPress, use the Yoast plugin to get guidance on optimizating content.
- Mobile optimized: it’s no secret that mobile traffic is very important to the real estate industry. Be sure to review and improve the user experience from a mobile perspective. Otherwise, you might be missing out on half of the online market.
- Security (SSL): Google has explicitly stated that securing your website a SSL certificate helps your ranking. Most hosts provide a free certificate through Let’s Encrypt so there’s no excuse to have an insecure website these days.
- Speed optimized: a big part of the user experience is page speed. Nobody likes a slow website, including Google. Use a tool, like GTMetrix or PageSpeed Insights, to run a speed test on your website to see where you can improve. Keep in mind that Google has a separate page speed score for desktop and mobile site. [Bonus: WordPress page speed optimization guide]
- Sitemap: add an XML sitemap to your website and submit it to both Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster. This is like giving a blueprint to Google and Bing so they know where to find content on your website. If you’re using a popular CMS, like WordPress, your website likely has a sitemap already. You’ll just need to find the correct URL.
- Fresh content: aim to keep adding content to your website on a regular basis. As long as the content has great info, the more the better. Each piece of content is like a target for Google searches. Having more content can help you cast a wider net and get more data from Google Search Console. And this doesn’t have to be all long-form content, like blog posts. Consider adding FAQs, helpful tips, neighborhood landing pages, real estate market snapshots, etc. Aim to write on local topics. Consider keyword mapping if you need help generating topics in a strategic manner.
- Local video content: video can be wonderful compliment to the content from the previous recommendation. Content with a video garners 157% more organic search traffic. Take this a step further and focus on local. Local video SEO is very underutilized.
Advanced website SEO techniques
- Schema: Schema is a type of SEO code officially approved the major search engines. It is very rigid in terms of how you can use it, including a Local Business schema. This code is typically added to your homepage and helps Google verify key pieces of information about your business. Try using the Structured Data Markup Helper if you’re not a developer or Schema Pro if you’re using WordPress.
- Accessibility: accessibility in this context refers to the usability of a website for anyone with perception disabilities (e.g. color blindness, dyslexia, etc.). About 1/5 online users require accessibility features so it is a big group to ignore. Plus, Google and other search engines use a lot of the accessibility code to understand a website. Need extra motiviation? A lot of real estate businesses are the target ADA lawsuits for not having ADA compliant websites. Try using the WAVE tool to test your website.
2. Setup and optimize Google My Business
Complete all of the basic info on your profile. Be sure to include your most important keywords and local geotags in the description field.
The category of your GMB listing is the most significant selection you’ll make during this process. Google has set categories to pick from Don’t pick more categories than necessary. This can water down the keywords that matter most to your business. Only pick the top 1-3 categories you value most.
Google My Business categories available for real estate
- Real Estate Agents
- Real Estate Agency
- Real Estate Surveyor
- Real Estate Appraiser
- Real Estate Consultant
- Real Estate Rental Agency
- Industrial Real Estate Agency
- Commercial Real Estate Inspector
Further GMB optimization
Are you wanting to optimize your GMB listing even further? There are three GMB features to help you expand your online presence: posts, FAQs, photos.
GMB posts allow you to put sales, specials, events, news, offers, and other timely content in front of Google users. Try to include your main keywords or variations of those keywords in these posts.
FAQs is pretty much like it sounds. You can find these by searching your name and clicking on the “See all questions” link in the sidebar. Both you and Google users can post and answer questions. It is perfectly acceptable for you to post and answer your question. In fact, I’d recommend it. It can improve the user experience and give you another chance to touch on content related to your keywords and local market.
The photo gallery section might not seem like an SEO feature but can work wonders. Take photos of any of your work, events, networking, etc. from around your area. As you get these photos, add them under the “at work” or “additional” categories of your GMB profile. This helps confirm the areas you serve with Google. While this doesn’t work well for certain types of businesses, it is a great local SEO tactic for real estate GMB pages.
Below are before and after images showing the effects of these local SEO tactics on Google. The best part is how this can help you expand beyond the location of your business and reach the surrounding area as well.
3. Local directory citations
Google analyzes your listing from online directories to validate information about your business. The more accurate and complete your information is across these directories, the better you’ll rank in your area on Google.
You can manually go through the dozens of different directories out there to create and fix your listings but it takes a lot of time. I’d highly recommend using a tool like Moz Local or brightlocal.
Real-Estate specific directories
Tools like Moz will take care of all of the general business directories. It is great if you can take this a step further and set up listings on websites specific to real estate. Here are some good ones to get listed on:
- Yahoo Homes
- Neighborhood Scout
Every year online reviews become more critical to digital marketing strategies, including local SEO. In fact, it is now the second most important factor behind Google My Business page optimization.
So how do reviews affect SEO? Google uses essentially the same way users do; social proof for your business. This includes reviews from beyond Google’s own websites, like Yelp and Facebook.
Google will pay attention to the rating, keywords in the review, the number of reviews, and the rate at which new reviews are left. I personally support encouraging clients to leave you a review but be sure to stay within the platform policies.
To encourage reviews, send clients the GMB review link. You can find this link on the main dashboard of your GMB page.
Lastly, don’t forget to respond to all reviews – even the bad ones. This shows both Google and clients that you’re paying attention to feedback.
5. Real estate backlinks
Google set itself apart from other search engines decades ago by leveraging backlinks to find quality content and websites. What is a backlink? It is a link from another website to your website. Google viewed this as a sort of voting system since nobody would link to a bad website intentionally.
Good backlinks from relevant websites can make a big impact on your search rankings. Generally speaking, any website in your local market (e.g. chamber of commerce) or related to real estate will help the most.
This can be very tough and time-consuming since you typically have to reach out to other website owners and get them a reason to link to your website. Aim to leverage your current relationships and connections to find these opportunities.
Here are a few ideas for generating backlinks.
- Look at organizations or associations you belong to with a website (e.g. chamber, local MLS board, service clubs, etc.)
- Include links in any press releases you send out to local media
- Analyze competition to see where they’re getting backlinks (i.e. ahrefs backlink checker)
- Create online tools or content so amazing that other websites want to reference it
PS it is good to note that links from sites where you can easily post links (e.g. social media posts) don’t get counted by Google.
Frequently asked questions
Sprinkling in the name of the city, state, zip code, etc. into key content can help send signals to Google and other search engines for where to display your website.
Your website can appear in the regular search results, map search, and local pack.
Yes, but it is preferred to not use the same address as your brokerage. Google will only show one listing per address and the brokerage will likely overshadow your individual GMB listing.
It is tough to say for sure since Google doesn’t release these numbers. However, you can make some educated guesses using keyword analysis and Google Search Console.
If you have an established website that is ranking on that 1st page for query, simply look at the impressions to get a good idea of the total number of searches for that specific phrase. Otherwise, you can use a keyword research tool to estimate the numbers.
The table below is a sample of some of the main real estate keyword searches for our local area. Keep in mind these are stats are for a city with a population of ~15,000. Also, these are just some of the obvious keyword search queries. There are likely hundreds of other unique searches that will bring this search total up by a factor of at least 2-3.
Continuing search engine optimization
At this point, all of the fundamentals are completed. But local SEO for real estate is not something you can set and forget. To really maximize the strategy, ongoing optimization makes a big difference.
Tips for ongoing Local SEO for Real Estate
- Google My Business updates: keep your profile updated while posting new GMB posts, photos, and FAQs reguarlary.
- Keep encouraging online reviews: keep encouraging new, current, and past clients to leave you reviews on Google.
- Review Google Search Console: reviews the performance of your site in Google search results to see where your website is ranking and what pages are pulling in traffic. Keep optimizing the pages that performing best.
- Plan/add new content: continue to add in new blog posts, knowledgebase articles, FAQs, testimonials, projects, etc. to keep the content on your site fresh and expand your reach on Google.
- Customize your IDX listings: Does your website feature a real estate IDX search? These individual listings don’t help your search engine marketing efforts because every website with IDX has the same data. However, you can typically customize and add content to your own listings (depending on IDX provider). This will help set your listings apart from all of the other websites with the same listings from the exchange.
Aim to check the above recommendations monthly. This can be a fair amount of work but it’ll get easier with each month.
Search engine optimization is like the crockpot of digital marketing. It takes time and effort but can yield very powerful results. Once you start ranking locally for the right keywords, you should see consistent lead generation from Google.