Why Real Estate Professionals Should Forget About SEO

Breathe easy, SEO for real estate websites just got a whole lot easier… These days, almost all real estate professionals will recognise the importance of the internet in their business. Having a website of your own is meant to not only showcase you as a person, and your business as a brand, but also showcase your listings and be a marketing mouth-piece. In a lot of ways, social networking became a shouting match too, a bad habit among a lot of realtors.

The idea of SEO was also to rank well in the search engines (especially in Google’s results) so as to maximize the exposure of the site, and therefore increase the web traffic that flows through to the site. The way to do this was through SEO – and plenty of people pay good money to firms and consultants to do it right. But that’s all about to change in a big way, and we need to change with it.

seo punishment © by Sean MacEntee

SEO for dinosaurs

SEO used to be as simple as ‘the site with the most links wins’ – then it evolved to a hotchpotch of different factors, including keyword use, authority links, alt tags on images, meta tags and riding high on a social networking buzz. That’s all over – dead and all but buried.

Gone are the days of paying a bunch of people to write hundreds of backlinking articles to post on different article hosting websites like Ezine Articles and Squidoo. It’s just not worth it. Your site does not get any benefit from it at all. Stop paying people for links to your website too – not only is the benefit questionable, but you’re likely to be hit with a penalty which will see your site vanish from the search engine results.

Just like in the real world, you have to make it in the real estate industry on your own terms – by hard, consistent work, a good character and a sunny disposition. I’ll explain why later – but first: why is SEO changing to a point where it is almost unrecognisable from what it was?

SEO reborn

Google has been constantly changing its search algorithm since its inception, and last year’s ‘tweaks’ (called Panda) caused massive earthquakes and near panic in the SEO community. The changes were implemented progressively – and are not over yet. In fact just recently, another upcoming algorithm update was announce in which Google said it would be penalizing sites that were ‘over-optimized’.

The point of this is to apparently to level the playing field – to even things out between the big companies that spent a whole lot on SEO type activities and produced content of little value, and the little guys and gals that produce great stuff but don’t allocate much to SEO beyond simple on-page stuff.

That’s great news really… it means that we will see better, more relevant stuff come up to the higher results when we search. This is important, because as most will know, around 40% of the clicks on a search result go through to the first listing. There’s a way of improving that figure – but we’ll get to that in a minute.

So everything’s changing and SEO for real estate websites will never be the same again… but what will the new world of SEO look like and how can we have our sites rank well?

The brave new world of SEO

In a word – the way to succeed in SEO for your websites these days and into the future is… (drum roll) Google.

It doesn’t matter if you like Google or hate them – totally irrelevant. Remember you are running a business, and your own emotions really have no place in business decision making. Make  smart business decision to play along – because that is the way to get solid results for your site.

Google’s release of Google+ last year changed everything. What I will say is that you need to go and sign up for Google+. It is a watershed for the way that Google looks at the internet and the way we see what’s there.

The most important part of all is the release of what’s called the ‘rel=author’ tag. This is something that is written into the coding of a web page that tells Google who the author of a post or article is. The thing about this tag is that it will point Google to the G+ profile of the author – which tells Google a lot about both the author and the page their content is on.

The more people that have the author in their circles (or are following them), the higher that author’s credibility – and the higher the post will rank. This has been borne out in tests (links to come). The amount of +1 (or plusses) that your site’s content receives will also result in a rise in the rankings.

New Google Plus Logo © by AJC1

If your mind’s not boggling right now with the possibilities of it all, give it a minute… By contributing to the Google+ community in a constructive and honest way, you will raise the number of people that have you in circles – and if you implement the ‘rel=author’ tag, then you will also raise the position your content occupies in the search engine results.

What does this mean for real estate sites and SEO?

What this whole shift means is that we’re essentially going back to the old days of marketing – where reputation is everything. Be honest, approachable, constructive and above all trust-worthy. Like some are saying, you won’t rank well if the community does not perceive you as being trustworthy, and Google is fast becoming a search engine where reputation ranks well.

Another interesting thing is that G+ profiles and posts are starting to appear in search results. In fact on of my posts which received a whole bunch of +1s outranks my most popular post on Real Estate Mad! I’m not for one second saying to abandon your websites because they are archaic (but there are some who say that G+ alone will be enough in the future for an online presence). Be aware that your G+ posts will show in search results.

Get started today

Get yourself a Google+ profile, circle at least 300 people to get some content flowing in your stream (you’ll know what I mean), and take part in the conversation. Comment on other people’s posts, +1 things you like and contribute your own posts that mean something. Don’t use G+ as just another marketing mouthpiece (read my open letter for more on that), but rather be a positive person, part of the community – and there’s a good variety of great real estate people around.

All you need is a G+ profile linked to your website, and an ability to post regularly on both. Ideally you’ll do this every day – but that’s not always possible, and that’s fine. I do suggest being more active on G+ though – as the more active you are, the more people will circle you, and the more circlers you have, the better you will rank.

The secret to becoming a successful real estate agent with a good online presence these days is not shrouded in secrecy, and you don’t need to be a web whiz or SEO super-geek to succeed. You can’t avoid these changes – they are already happening – and it’s always better to ride the wave than be pounded by it. Embrace change.

Too technical for you? Need more? Read this…

If you need a little bit of extra help:

  • If you can’t get your head around how Google+ works, read Guy Kawasaki’s book ‘What the Plus‘ – it’s invaluable and a steal at only $2.99.
  • For a nice, easy way to implement the rel=author tag on WordPress sites, with support for multiple authors, check out this awesome plugin from Fraser Cain.

This post was very much a stream of consciousness effort – and I have likely missed a few key points I wanted to make – so I’ll probably make some edits. All comments and contributions welcomed!

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