Thursday, August 31, 2006

Real Estate SEO Primer (Part 1)

A good chunk of my day job is to try to keep our sales staff busy by generating enquiries through our website. When you get it right it can be a) a great source of low cost leads and b) a great source of smug pride. When you get it right that is.

So how do you get it right? I'm still not 100% sure to be honest but for those of you, like me, with an ever-hungry real estate company to feed I will discuss the steps I have taken to achieve above average websites in a competitive space. Apologies if some of this stuff is ovious.

Its a big ass topic so I will split it into as many posts as it needs/I can be arsed to write, stuff like:

  • Content
  • Site structure
  • Page design and conversion
  • Links
  • Sources of traffic
  • Paying vs organic
  • Tracking (Metrics)
  • Homework
  • Naughty tricks
Plus anything else I can think of. So where do we start?


There are essentially 2 types of factors that can determine how well you fare in the search engines, these are referred to as on page factors and off page factors. Your pages' content, unsurprisingly, comes under on page factors. Content is king is a bit of a cliche in the SEO world, but like most cliches, it holds true.

What does that mean for an estate agent? It means your portfolio. The tens, hundreds or thousands of properties that your company lists are the meat and two veg of your content. Get them all listed on your site. If your portfolio is of any considerable size, and you haven't done so already, look at using a database to store the listings which then provides the content for your site. This is a whole other topic so I am not going to get bogged down here in database and programming talk.

So you have all your properties listed? Yes, good. Now look at an individual property page. Your page should contain:

  • what the property is (eg apartment, villa, slaughterhouse, whatever)
  • where the property is (eg monaco, wigan, wherever)
These are the 2 most important information elements for an individual property, because they are generally the 2 elements (in one combination or another) that a potential client will type in a search engine (eg villas in marbella). Make sure these terms are prominent - place them in the title of your page. Place them in headline size fonts near the top of the page. Place them in the meta tags. Don't be tempted to take the piss however - the page must make sense, and keyword stuffing is something you want to avoid, otherwise the search engines will avoid you.

In addition you will need a decent dollop of real estate prose as a description. Place salient chunks of this into your description meta tag. Try to make sure each property description is unique. Search engines dislike duplicate content. They love fresh content, however, so make sure you update your listings regularly, removing the old, adding the new and updating price changes etc.

Finally, make sure all your individual property pages are accessible via the link structure on your site. If you cannot navigate to all your properties via an ordinary link (not through a search form) then neither can the search engines. You can create a sitemap to to acheive this. Google has a sitemap centre to assist webmasters who want to ensure their sites get spidered fully.

Right, thats enough for now. Tonight's homework - read Yahoo's webmaster guidelines. There will be a test.

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