How many property professionals are truly happy with their revenue? High levels of competition from new market entrants is a significant challenge.
Perhaps even more significant is how consumers are becoming less visible to estate agents and property companies in general - with an impact on footfalls, enquires and new business.
In fact, there’s an invisible market of customers who are silently making evaluations about property companies, without ever filling in a contact form or picking up the phone.
To engage potential customers and earn the trust necessary to win the business of these silent potential customers, the most successful property sites apply structured search engine optimisation strategies to capture web traffic, and convert visitors into customers.
Optimising property websites for SEO
Too many estate agents fall into the trap of producing repetitive on-site content, with words, images and underlying code not optimised for SEO.
This is a particularly big mistake for firms with strong regional credibility as, with a structured approach to SEO, such companies can find themselves doing very well indeed when it comes to search engine visibility.
As with most things online, it all starts with content.
On-site SEO for estate agents
The parts of your site that are visible to consumers, as well as the technical code that holds it altogether, play a critical role in how search engines determine the relevancy of the site, and by extension how your site should rank for terms like ‘estate agent Winchester’ and so on.
In short, your site will struggle to rank for local terms and be picked up by the ‘3-Pack’ (the familiar sight shown above) if there is a lack of on-site content related to local keywords, locations and consistent address and contact data.
Search engines love sites that have fresh, unique and detailed content that is regularly added. If you’re a local estate agent competing with larger chains or portals, this is where you have the opportunity to appear top in local results, and in map views.
Frequently larger chains or portals simply do not have the depth of content, local detail or focus to be picked up by search engines as a top local result.
In the property industry where local knowledge and trust still matters, this is a seriously big opportunity for firms who get it right.
It’s important to take any opportunity to give users and search engines all the information they need to correctly understand your locations and local credibility.
Make sure you write about your property business, your services and local credibility - be open minded about using video, infographics, staff videos and customer testimonials but at every step make sure your local perspectives and heritage is highlighted.
Technical on-site SEO
Your property website’s code should be optimised from top to bottom, with elements such as Page Title tags, Meta Descriptions and Header tags featuring keywords, terms and service details relating to your services and location.
Not only will this support efforts to rank for local property keywords, this information should give potential customers more information about your firm prior to making that crucial first click.
Technical SEO isn’t easily summarised – really, it’s a process of continuous improvement rather than a one-off strategy. The agents that excel in SEO and continually benefit from high quality web traffic protect and perfect their technical SEO performance month on month.
These days, that very much includes technical site performance - speed, mobile-readiness and user experience play an increasing role in how search engines rate the quality of sites, and how highly they rank them in search engine results.
One of the most straightforward tasks for any estate agent is to ensure that full company Name, Address and Phone number (NAP) should be featured in your site footer on each page, and - very importantly - be accurate and consistent with wherever else your locations are listed on the internet.
Citations and Google MyBusiness
Managing where your estate agent business is written about online is important for a variety of reasons - and SEO is very much among them.
Up to half of regional businesses report that they have never updated their online business listings, with 70% recently stating that time limitations prevented them from keeping them updated.
What is a citation?
In SEO, a citation is a mention of your business information on a website, usually in the form of your business name, address and phone number.
Citations often come from online directories, which can be thought of as being split into 3 categories: Business, Local and Niche.
• Business directories are sites such a Yell, Yelp or Scoot.
• Local directories are sites that are relevant to specific local such as leedscompany.co.uk.
• Niche directories are sites that are specific to a certain profession or service, such as http://www.home.co.uk/ for estate agents.
Google My Business
Google My Business is an incredibly important part of optimising your business to capture local search traffic.
My Business is the one central point Google references when sharing information about you in the search engine results page - location, phone number, specialisms and more.
An optimised, current and verified Google My Business page has potential to provide traffic to your site directly, but in SEO terms it is a great help in verifying your credentials as a property firm with strong regional credibility.
Of course, the data in Google My Business must match up with the data held in business listings and citations, as well as the Name, Address and Phone (NAP) data detailed on your site.
Between optimising your on-page content and having a structured and diligent approach to business listings, citations and mentions, you’ll go a long way to boosting your SEO visibility - especially for the regional and local search terms that landlords and tenants use e.g. ‘estate agent Edinburgh’ and so on.
Consistency is key when it comes to SEO but those who get it right can massively increase their visibility and competitive positioning - even in the face of huge national brands.
*Martin Calvert is Marketing Director at SEO agency Blueclaw