For a lot of real estate websites, the majority of landing pages are simply listing pages that have been indexed by search engines. This provides a great many entry points into the site. However, since MLS data is shared with every other website on that MLS feed, including big players such as Trulia, Zillow and Homes.com, the competition for visibility is high. Sellers want to get as many people viewing their property as possible so that it will sell. This puts agents and brokers under pressure for good search rankings, where the majority of people begin their property search.
So How Do I Get My Listings to the Top?
For the reason mentioned above, your listings can appear on other competitor sites as syndicated listings. While there is no silver bullet in getting your listing on your website to rank number 1 for a property, there are several ways to increase the chances of leap-frogging the pack. In no particular order, here are 10 ways to improve search engine traction to your listings.
1. Share Your Listings on Social Media
This seems like a no-brainer for a business page on Google +, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, since your network can easily share these listings through links and do a lot of work for you. Watch out however, that you don’t overuse these mediums and come across as overtly commercial. Simply posting listings with no context can have the reverse effect and the Likes and Followers you have slowly built, will quickly disappear. If there is a listing with an appealing narrative, then make sure to comment about the listing and explain why you think your network needs to see it. (Related Post: Good Netiquette in a Multi-Channel World)
2. Promote on Real Estate Aggregator sites
If you can’t beat them, join them. Sites like Trulia, Zillow and Homes.com receive millions of visitors a day and so the potential visibility for your listing is significant. This comes at a cost, since most of these sites will require a Pro account or a fee for promoted listings. A good tool to measure the quality of traffic from these sites, is Google Analytics. If these traffic sources consistently refer visitors that stick around on your site and/or convert into leads, then working this traffic source a little harder can be worthwhile. Keep in mind that you are not the only broker receiving promotion on these sites, so a loyalty to your brand has not been established at the point someone views your listing. (Related Post: Internet Marketing Strategies for Real Estate: Listing Syndication)
3. Create a video tour of the property
The benefit of video tours are that you can gain search engine traction, since videos are indexed. Be sure to optimize the video title and description by including the address, MLS number and some keyword-rich copy. Include a link to the property detail view page on your site rather than just a link to your home page, so you are directing visitors to the relevant page instead of forcing them to search again for it on your site. Property video tours can either be cheap or highly produced. If you’re selling a luxury property with a favorable commission, it is worth spending upfront to market the property in its best light. If you put yourself in front of the camera to tour the viewer, then this can build even more trust, demonstrating to people that you know the property inside and out. It’s also a good marketing strategy to capture other sellers looking to find a listing agent. (Related Post: Optimizing and Distributing your Videos)
4. Enhance the listing with additional information
One of the many benefits of having a real estate website with Union Street Media, is your ability to further optimize your own listings, beyond what is shared in the MLS. This can include customizing the title of the page other than the address. Other ways to enhance your listing are to include a video tour, customize the URL for a better click through rate in search engines and provide more keyword-rich copy. This will send more signals to search engines to help your rankings and make the listing more link-worthy. Not all Content Management Systems will have this feature, so this is a way to gain much more control over your listings. Vermont broker Geri Reilly is a great example of taking advantage of these features.
5. Blog about your listings
Similar to using social media, your blog is a way to communicate less formally with site visitors, so avoid an overtly commercial blog strategy. Our client Lang McLaughry Spera judiciously picks out listings of interest each week amongst many other types of blog post. This is the kind of blog post category that can encourage subscribers since there is care behind the choice of properties and a unique description separate from the MLS description that has been provided on the standard listing page. The SEO benefits of blog posts can help contribute to the listing’s search ranking and, in conjunction with a video tour and images, can add value that pushes up your rankings. Steve Bush, recently did a great job of blogging about it, shooting a video and featuring it on his website. The natural ranking for this listing page shot to number 1 in Google, beating out all the big real estate websites.
6. Feature your listing on your home page
Sometimes you need to put content in front of existing traffic to get noticed, and there is no better place than your home page to do this. Our websites offer clients a variety of featured listings options that funnel traffic to your listings quickly. We also track visitor metrics such as conversion rate, and this is on average a higher rate for site visitors that have viewed a featured listing. In some cases, 1 single listing can be the featured listing, which for an individual agent with only a few listings, does a great job of shining a light on a property.
7. Be Smart, get a Mobile Site
Considering how much time is spent outside when looking for houses, a mobile device is crucial in order to check out information online about a property. Growth in mobile device adoption has exploded in the last 2 years as well. Our websites enable visitors to save their favorite properties to their account and access them from a smart phone. The mobile device experience is all about simplicity, making pertinent content easy to find. We offer some useful features such as click-to-call, which allows visitors to click on your company’s phone number and automatically dial it from their phone. The auto-locate feature is great for real estate because it helps users find properties in the area they’re living in without typing in their address. A map of your company’s location might also be helpful so that visitors can find directions to your office easily.
QR codes may not be a major driver of traffic but they’re an opportunity none the less. Utilize these on any off-line marketing such as newspaper ads and yard signs. The effort to actually create a QR code is minimal, so if you are capturing leads from it, the ROI is high. Remember to shorten your URLs and then create the QR code, since these are easier to scan for mobile devices. At Union Street Media, we track QR codes with our clients, so we can measure their value. In real estate, the QR code adoption rate has been relatively quick, so if it is something your competition is doing it should be on your radar. (Related post: QR Codes for Real Estate – Hype or Here to Stay)
8. Create a single property website
This requires more effort and is more suited to luxury real estate. The idea behind these is to create much more content around 1 listing to improve its search engine visibility and market a property to it’s fullest capacity. While this has many benefits, this will not necessarily outperform a listing page on your website. For our clients, enhancing the listing, leveraging their blog and social media combined can have the same effect. A single property website might earn more inbound links due to it’s URL and can be marketed in print more professionally. Recently, a real estate team created a custom landing page for their luxury end of the business, promoting their listings, how they market their properties and using this landing page to direct visitors offline from magazine and brochure materials. They also used pay-per-click ads to drive qualified online traffic to this page with great success. A true single property example is used by Tubbs Mill.
9. Use paid search advertising
If you have a list of your own listings on your website, you can use a pay per click ad to drive traffic to this page. If your listings are similar in price and type, then this makes it easier to create ad copy that targets a particular audience e.g. luxury waterfront homes. If you have a wide range of listings from mobile homes and condos to single and multi family listings, it becomes more problematic, since your audience is more diverse and will not want to be directed to a property type they are not interested in. In this case, opt for a few ads targeting these different types and create multiple landing pages for these types of property. This is a great way of guaranteeing page 1 placement to help drive traffic when you need it the most.
10. Use email marketing and drip campaigns
Last but by no means least, is email marketing. This is a great way to nurture your current leads, to keep them in the know and deliver them targeted listings. At Union Street Media, we provide our clients with a tool that enables site visitors to register for property updates they can control. Site visitors can save their favorite searches by town, price, style, or feature and receive a regular email of new listings that come onto the marker first. We then track these visitors who have arrived at our client’s site by clicking from a listing update email. Our data shows that these visitors who have come back to the client’s website have a repeat conversion rate of up to 15%, three times the average conversion rate of all other site visitors. If they save a search that is exclusively your listings, this helps to keep your listings at the front of their mind. Whether or not you use our CMS, nurturing your client list with regular opt-in email updates, is a great way of driving traffic to your listings, that is also highly qualified. (Related Post: Reel ’em in! Engaging your clients with you website’s search tools)