Australian Real Estate SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) Part 1

SEO-Search

Search engines are the  key to generating significant traffic on the internet. It can certainly be supplemented and enhanced by social networking like Facebook, Blogs and the Twitter but search engines are King. In other places around the world a number of search engines are very popular but in Australia, there is only one serious contender for the crown and thats Google.

Even well known brands in our industry like realestate.com.au have over 30% of their traffic delivered every single day by Google. Many of the returning vistors would be returning visitors have already arrived from the search engines in the past.

What this Article Series is.. and what it isnt

This article is going to be one in a series covering the topic of Search Engine Optimisation or SEO for short as it applies to the Australian Real Estate Industry. Search Engine Optimisation is the process of getting your site ranked higher in the search engines and thus generating more traffic.

This article is going to cover the basics of Search Engine Optimisation and how to get more visitors to your website. We are not going to be covering any advanced topics and everything discussed should be able to be completed by the average Australian Real Estate Agent with minimal technical skill. Each step is fairly easy but if you need help just ask for help in the comments section.

SEO-GoogleThe restrictions of some content management systems will mean a few of you may not be able to do specific things but if thats the case, just skip that section and move on. You will probably have have to pay for some things to be done on your website but it should be very minimal as most things you will be able to do yourself.

Please understand that I am not going to provide a step be step guide of every single mouse click or form you have to fill in.  That would require something about 10 times the size. Each step is very easy to do and millions of people from a range of skill levels have already been there before you. If you dont understand anything or want some help, just ask.

What is Search Engine Optimisation?

Now before we get too heavily into the subject I must point out a few things. SEO is considered a black art because there is no rule book or documented procedures to follow. Search engines use proprietary algorithms to rank all the websites in the world and they don’t share how that algorithm works for obvious reasons. This means that SEO experts around the world analyse in every fine detail the websites that do rank at the top and they attempt to reverse engineer just what makes a site rank well.

The very basics that form the core are universally agreed by most SEO experts but other than those you will always find someone somewhere who will disagree on any specific tactic or point. Also many experts who agree on a specific SEO strategy might still disagree on the importance that specific issue means in the calculating of web ranking. The important thing to remember is that it is the overall effect of everything that will deliver you results.

What Sort of Results Can You Expect?
SEO-GoogleWebmasterSEO cannot work miracles! If your agency is in some small little town about 800km west of civilisation then the worlds best SEO is not going to create more people looking to buy real estate in your area. Better SEO than your competitors will get you more share of the existing searches but it cannot create more searches out of thin air.  It also takes time for everything to work, a lot less than it use to, but it does not not happen overnight. You may first notice changes to how you rank in a few weeks after we finish but the full effect of what you do wont be felt for a few months at least.

In each article I am going to try and give you additional resources for further reading and if anybody at all has anything to add or share to the articles feel free to comment away.

I am aiming to have each article in the series require about 2 hours work and the target is for 6 articles. There is a specific logic to the order of these articles because some things either have to be done before others or they take longer to start acting.

Lets Get Started!

To measure the success of what you are going to undertake we need to record exactly where you are now. This will set a baseline that you have to work from. During this article there is going to be things you have to send your web provider. Obviously sending them each item in one email to be all done together will be the cheapest way to get this added to your site.

Website Grader Report

SEO-WebsiteGrader

Website Grader produces a report on your website and gives you an overall grade out of 100. This is not perfect by any means but it is the best overall ranking of a website currently available and is perfect to compare how you score today and how you score after a few months. It takes a lot of factors into consideration when ranking a website. Request a report on your website. A good number would be between 80-100.Any score under that and you really need to do some work on your site to start getting results. Read the report it gives you as it will explain what you are doing right, and what still needs work.

Web Analytics

To understand just what is happening on your site including how many visitors you get and what pages they visit you need some sort of web analytics reporting. A visitor count or hit counters just don’t cut it anymore. If you don’t have detailed statistics on your web visitors you need to install one.

SEO-GoogleAnalyticsI strongly suggest Google Analytics which is totally free although you may be charged by your web provider to install it. Hubonline recently announced a special for June for nearly $600 which also includes short property urls. For my mind this is highway robbery.  In contrast I believe Portplus will install Google Analytics on your website for under $100 and I think they do short urls as standard.

If you have a Google account such as a gmail account you can use it to log into Google Analytics and create a profile for your website otherwise just create an account now. Google Analytics will provide you with some code that you need to send your web provider to get them to inject it into every page on your site. If you don’t want to use Google Analytics then see if your web provider has another detailed statistics package they can offer but dont just rely on property views.

Google Webmaster

SEO-GoogleWebmasterGoogle Webmaster is a suite of tools for managing how your site integrates with Google Search. We will cover some of those tools in future articles but for now just setup the account and get the verification process underway.

Create an account at Google Webmaster using your Google Account login details you just used for Google Analytics. Add a profile for your website and it will ask you to verify in one of two different ways. Select the meta tag option and send that to your web provider to add to the code of your homepage.

Microsoft Bing Webmaster and Yahoo Site Explorer

The other major search providers, Microsoft and Yahoo also have their own versions of Google Webmaster. Create accounts with Microsoft Bing Webmasters and Yahoo Site Explorer and you should setup accounts with both of them and add your website profile. Select the meta tag verification option for both and send these meta tags through to your web provider.

Sitemaps

A modern website should have a sitemap which provides instructions to search engines on exactly what pages you have, when they were last updated and how important are they. To find out if you have a sitemap on your site already you need to add the word sitemap.xml to your web address in a web browser. For our agency site the web address is http://www.nfn.com.au so we enter http://www.nfn.com.au/sitemap.xml and we find that we have a sitemap on our website.

If you don’t have a sitemap don’t panic you need to contact your web provider and ask them to create a sitemap for your site and ask them to place a reference to that sitemap in your robots.txt file. Dont worry what all that means just tell them and only get concerned if their techs don’t understand it.

You will not be able to add your website’s sitemap to Google Webmaster, Microsoft Bing Webmaster and Yahoo Sitexplorer until you have verified all of your accounts. I will remind you again in the next article but don’t forget to send your web provider the verification instructions and get them to setup a Sitemap for you if you don’t already have one.

Save Your Searches

Identify the three or four suburbs that make up your core trade area and use them to search google printing out the first two pages of results each time. Add the words “real estate”, “property”, “real estate agent”, “rentals” and “property for sale” and do a search on each.

So just for the suburb of Nerang I would conduct the following searches on Google and print out the first two pages of results for each.

  1. Nerang
  2. Nerang real estate
  3. Nerang Property
  4. Nerang real estate agent
  5. Nerang rentals
  6. Nerang property for sale

Repeat for each of your core suburbs and identify just where your site returns for each of those results. In the future you are going to run the same searches and if everything has worked out well you will be ranking higher. Ideally you want to be coming in the top three for every search on every one of your core suburbs. Ideally you want to be number 1 for each search but top 3 will still be pretty good.

Next Article

We have now set a baseline to work from so you can see just what your work results in and started some prep work we will follow up in in future articles. The next article in the series will cover link building and getting your site listed in a range of online real estate and general business directories.

Further Reading

Read up on the Real Estate SEO Study as it shows you how important your pages look on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP’s)

Show CommentsClose Comments

34 Comments

  • Robert Simeon
    Posted June 16, 2009 at 11:59 am 0Likes

    Brilliant article – so much intelligent information. The URL for website grader is http://website.grader.com/ and we can only manage 95.6 /100. Any advice where I can find my missing 4.4 per cent 🙂

  • Glenn Batten
    Posted June 16, 2009 at 12:16 pm 0Likes

    Thanks Robert

    95.6 is a fantastic result and one you should be very proud of. Last time I checked I think we got 92.8 so your certainly leading at the moment. I would bet that you opposition would struggle to get over 20 or 30 in the same test. Have you ever used those results in an appraisal situation?

    Obviously it’s worth pointing out that your site was recently upgraded by Peter Ricci and Agentpoint (www.agentpoint.com.au). A serious investment in your time and $ no doubt, but one I am sure it is returning well for you.

    Robert, did you ever run website grader on your previous website. It would be interesting to compare what Peter and his team did for you in terms of your SEO. Obviously you had some great content yourself which is half the battle and we will cover that in further articles but it would be great to compare what the changeover did in real terms.

  • Glenn Rogers
    Posted June 16, 2009 at 2:08 pm 0Likes

    Great article Glenn, well done.

    Dont know if it’s me or not but the new B2 site doesnt load for me at all, I went to make a coffee while I was wating for this page to load, it’s been like that since the new site was up, I’m using IE8

  • Glenn Rogers
    Posted June 16, 2009 at 2:17 pm 0Likes

    Web Grader shows REA at a score of 93 and NineMSN, the most popular site in Australia, at 90 so I dont think it’s to be taken seriously though you may pick up a few hints from the comments it makes about your site.

  • Robert Simeon
    Posted June 16, 2009 at 2:46 pm 0Likes

    Thanks Glenn – so far I have not found a site that beats our score. The important thing to be taken from websites (in my opinion) is that too many are in search of a Ferrari when what they actually need is a Ute. Your website works around the clock and currently we are fast closing in on 2,000 pages on our website because this actually feeds then grows your SEO. Most agent websites are flat out at 150 pages. All of this I learnt from Peter who is in my opinion the best in the business and I did plenty of research.

    Why pay for Google AdWords when your can grow your own website organically – which is exactly what we have done.

  • Glenn Rogers
    Posted June 16, 2009 at 3:11 pm 0Likes

    This page took fully 2 minutes to load.
    Somethings wrong.

  • Trish van Tussenbroek
    Posted June 16, 2009 at 4:36 pm 0Likes

    Great article Glen.

    It is good to see you promoting the importance of SEO and how people can use this to generate more traffic into their business.

    May I make a slight amendment to your information under

  • Glenn Batten
    Posted June 16, 2009 at 9:04 pm 0Likes

    Thanks Trish.

    I had $600 in my head from your Tweet but as you point it was indeed the $500 mark. I added that information in just before submitting the article given your recent tweet was bang on the topic. Your tweet did not mention that the charge was only for existing clients and new clients get it included as standard.

    Can you advise how hubonline handles sitemaps for client’s websites? Extra charge or included?

  • Trish van Tussenbroek
    Posted June 16, 2009 at 9:48 pm 0Likes

    Hi Glenn.

    The fun of 140 characters on Twitter! Thanks for the feedback, we will absolutely watch that for future tweets.

    Site maps are part of our standard website delivery process so absolutely included for clients.

  • Allan Hassett
    Posted June 17, 2009 at 11:15 am 0Likes

    Informative article Glenn, look forward to reading the next.

    I wanted to make a comment on something I have noticed on REA in regards to links to agency websites. As we all know in SEO, quality links to your website will help in your rankings in google etc, so I wonder why REA doesnt directly link to the agency URL and at the moment the link doesn’t actually even work, clicking through to http://www.nfn.com.au for example from REA agent page brings me to a REA “page not found” error as its screws up the link. Why have the link if its not going to work?

    Seems to me this is something that agents should be demanding is fixed and changed. My apologies if this has been mentioned before.

  • Glenn Batten
    Posted June 17, 2009 at 11:47 am 0Likes

    Alan,

    I have noticed that they dont direct link myself although in the past clicking still sent you to the agent fine. Maybe there is a current issue. I even asked the question of an old rep who in typical fashion promised to chase it up but never got back to me.

    Realestate.com.au has no desire to see agents websites doing more business. This would reduce their reliance on them. Because realestate.com.au is a very popular website a link from them would be gold for SEO value for each agency.

    In simple terms it would not be in their best commercial interest and is the same reason why they now strip out any html in the property description. Some agents use to insert links back to their website in the property description.

    An alternative would be for them to use “nofollow” attribute on a direct link to the agent website but not all engines pay attention to that. Yahoo as one example will still list all inlinks from blogs to a website even though virtually all links in blog comments are marked nofollow. So whilst it would help, it would not stop the leakage of the so called “link juice”.

    Realestate.com.au stance in the past has been that they redirect links through a redirect engine is so they can track how many people click through to the agent. The only issue with that is there are ways to provide the link for the SEO benefit of the agent and still count traffic such as through javascript event tracking.

  • Glenn Rogers
    Posted June 17, 2009 at 1:09 pm 0Likes

    Commercialrealestate.com.au has direct links to the agents , we implemented that for SEO reason to benefit the agents years ago.
    Fairfax have continued with that.

    Still takes a couple of minutes for this page to load.

    Is anyone else having this problem ?

  • Robert Simeon
    Posted June 17, 2009 at 2:19 pm 0Likes

    No loading problems here quick and fast

  • Glenn Rogers
    Posted June 17, 2009 at 2:32 pm 0Likes

    Homepage comes up ok but every link after that is almost dead, I’ll try again in a day or so.

  • Sean Wyld
    Posted June 17, 2009 at 5:18 pm 0Likes

    Great article Glenn.

    When determining which terms to monitor your ranking and optimise for, i’d highly recommend people use the Google keyword tool (URL below) to gain a better insight into what people are actually searching for prior to making any changes to their site.

    adwords.google.com.au/select/KeywordToolExternal

    Using Narang as an example, the keyword tool reports the following number of monthly searches in Australia:

    Nerang – 110,000 searches in May
    Nerang real estate – 1,000 searches in May
    Nerang Property – 170 searches in May
    Nerang real estate agent – not enough data
    Nerang rentals – 260 searches in May

    As a result of this, for example I would put a lot more effort into trying to get my site ranked highly for ‘Nerang real estate’ then I would for ‘Nerang real estate agent’.

    The keyword tool will also help you identify frequently searched terms which are relevant to your business which you may not have thought of.

    Lastly, while a large portion of the 100,000 searches per month containing Nerang aren’t real estate specific, a growing trend is for people to use search engines to research a location prior to moving there. So a lot of searches for things like ‘Nerang schools’ and ‘Nerang shopping centres’ etc are being done by people who are thinking of buying or renting a house in Nerang, so definately useful to get your brand in front of them with a high search result. So don’t restrict yourself to terms which are specifically for your business.

    Sean

  • Peter Ricci
    Posted June 17, 2009 at 7:38 pm 0Likes

    Glenn

    I cannot replicate any of your issues, does anyone else have the problem Glenn is having?

    Regards Ed

  • Glenn Rogers
    Posted June 17, 2009 at 8:15 pm 0Likes

    I’m on the laptop now same Wireless connection Telstra and it took almost 2 minutes to load this page, homepage ok, but click on any other link in the site and it slows down to a crawl.
    Anyone else with this issue probably wont repond because they wont be here, if I can do anything let me know but email me instead of repond though here.
    glenn@weekend.com.au

  • Greg Vincent
    Posted June 17, 2009 at 11:26 pm 0Likes

    Sean, even though Google’s Keyword Tool doesn’t have enough data to show potential traffic, in this example, there are 2 main reasons why I’d be making the keywords Nerang Real Estate Agent the first priority for agents to try to rank for:-

    1. It should be an easier keyword to rank on.
    2. More importantly, if someone is searching for a Nerang Real Estate Agent on Google then if I was an agent in that area that’s the red hot search term I’d want to be ranking for. That’s a keyword that a seller would more than likely type into Google when they are ready to contact an agent or 2 for a market appraisal.

    eg. If someone needed a plumber in Nerang they’d probably type in the keyword Plumber Nerang or Nerang Plumber. I’d imagine that the keyword Nerang Real Estate Agent would have similar implications.

    PS, Great idea about the schools & shops. I hadn’t ever thought of agents trying to rank on those terms.

  • Ex-Portal Man
    Posted June 18, 2009 at 7:36 am 0Likes

    Great article.
    SEO is definitely the better option overall when it comes to ranking your website on Google. SEM has its place and is more immediate when done properly, but our bread and butter and main product is SEO.
    Although we deal with all industries, Real Estate is one of the more competitive when it comes to ranking on Google so dont expect to get on that front page for at least 3-6 months, unless your RE business is more specific.

    Setting up your SEO can be a lot of work in your industry. What we have found is that many are making the effort, are installing good analytics as well (like Glenn suggests with Google) but fail to Manage the process on a regular basis. SEO is not set and forget. Especially in RE, you have to have an ‘Online Marketing’ policy that not only includes your website, but the different channels like SEO, SEM/PPC, EDM’s, Portals etc….
    With the clients we are working with in RE, we have recommended a sliding scale of time spent on analysing the performance reports you get from your website and making the relevent changes to your SEO. Once set up, twice a week for 2 hrs each over 8 weeks, then once a week 2 hrs week 9+.

    (Business plug) We have a team of 5 students straight out of uni that have the job of looking after a range of clients SEO needs. Their only job is to rip each clients performance report apart on a daily basis, work out what is/isnt working and make the relevent changes to that website to help move it up the Google rankings (on multi search terms). This service is a monthly charge from $310.00 (min 3 months).

    I hope you dont mind me linking this article Glenn.

  • Ex-Portal Man
    Posted June 18, 2009 at 7:38 am 0Likes

    Oops, website address might help………..
    http://www.quantive.com.au

  • Glenn Batten
    Posted June 18, 2009 at 8:03 am 0Likes

    Sean,

    Thanks for that.I dont think we are going to create any SEO experts here but if we can educated the industry just a little to appreciate the subject better, make some basic improvements themselves and even identify when they need to use the services of a professional I think we will have a win.

    I will be covering keyword research and google’s Keyword tool in Article 3. I have a roadmap pencilled out to follow for the series .. but they are not written yet. As you mentioned we will be covering this before they decide to add new pages or change their existing page.

    The plan is the series will follow this framework.

    Article 1 – Getting Ready
    Article 2 – Referrer Building
    Article 3 – Keyword Research
    Article 4 – Update Your Current Pages
    Article 5 – Add Some Additional Content
    Article 6 – Where to Next?

    As Greg points out, traffic to a particular keyword is only half the story. Visitor from Nerang Real Estate would primarily be buyers and Nerang Real Estate Agent would be sellers. You would never expect the latter to have anywhere near the same traffic but both are important. In fact in some markets 5 seller inquiries would be more important and of more value than 150 buyer inquiries. When using the keyword research tool an agent needs to provide their own fundamental information to the quantitative results when analysing what search terms they need to target.

    We will also be covering targetting more generalised suburb search terms, and how agents can fit that into your site through things like suburb profiles. School profiles etc etc.

  • Glenn Batten
    Posted June 18, 2009 at 9:31 am 0Likes

    **I will provide these links again in a future article for those that dont read the comments**

    In the article I discussed SEO strategy that experts have differing opinions on its success and relative strength. These are the results of a survey covering this very topic with 37 SEO Experts. It ranks common SEO strategies, how the experts rank each strategy and rates the agreement between them all. http://bit.ly/PCwew

    As an example “Keyword Use in the Title Tag” is ranked “4.9 – Exceptional Importance” and is of “High Consensus” however “Global Link Popularity of Linking Site” is ranked “3.3 – High Importance” but is also “Highly Disputed”.

    One of the best introductions to SEO is the SEOmoz “Beginner’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization” at http://bit.ly/m5aSb. You can even download the guide and print it out for later reading.

    Despite being for Beginners I believe many agents will find this far more advanced than they need. It still requires a basic technical knowledge to get the most of it. This article series will be a bit more Australian real estate orientated but if anybody wants to jump ahead in their SEO knowledge, this guide is a great place to start and it will certainly do no harm.

  • Glenn Rogers
    Posted June 19, 2009 at 11:17 am 0Likes
  • Glenn Batten
    Posted June 19, 2009 at 11:33 am 0Likes

    Glenn,

    You obviously did not click on my links in my last comment… Thats where the first link goes to.

  • Glenn Rogers
    Posted June 19, 2009 at 11:40 am 0Likes

    So it does, no I didn’t click on them, oh well at least it reinforces the importance of it.
    Still very slow here, maybe Peter should ring around and see if agents can get in, not just the homepage which is a little slow but not terminal, but the other internal links on the site, external links work ok of course.

  • Glenn Rogers
    Posted June 19, 2009 at 12:09 pm 0Likes

    I just called my programmer and asked him to try it, he had the same problem, internal lnks just dont load for him either so there is a problem there , perhaps it’s a slow server, I note that it’s in the USA.

  • Glenn Batten
    Posted June 19, 2009 at 1:02 pm 0Likes

    Glenn,

    Very weird

    I have tested now on half a dozen different page load testers and have not seen a problem.

    The best ones I tried that provide full graphs on every individual resource downloaded plus more are

    http://www.uptrends.com/aspx/free-html-site-page-load-check-tool.aspx where you can select different locations to run the test from including Sydney

    and

    http://tools.pingdom.com

    The results for all tests were in the 6 to 8 sec range when run on this very page.

    DNS issues maybe? Are you and your programmer on the same ISP .. Bigpond, Optus or somebody else? Try flushing your DNS Cache or use the OpenDNS servers for your DNS and see if that makes a difference. Other than that maybe an issue with your isp’s transparent proxy.

    Apart from that I have no idea.. Try a traceroute back to Business 2, other than that maybe run one of the developer plugins in FF to log the html headers which might show something.

  • Glenn Rogers
    Posted June 19, 2009 at 1:20 pm 0Likes

    We have different ISP’s

    Ring a few mates and see if they have the problem.

  • Glenn Rogers
    Posted June 19, 2009 at 1:56 pm 0Likes

    Tracerout results were Timed Out for all but the first 2 hops of 30

    Microsoft Windows XP [Version 5.1.2600]
    (C) Copyright 1985-2001 Microsoft Corp.

    C:\Documents and Settings\ADMIN>tracert http://www.business2.com.au

    Tracing route to business2.com.au [72.32.63.162]
    over a maximum of 30 hops:

    1 <1 ms <1 ms

  • Glenn Rogers
    Posted June 19, 2009 at 1:57 pm 0Likes

    Microsoft Windows XP [Version 5.1.2600]
    (C) Copyright 1985-2001 Microsoft Corp.

    C:\Documents and Settings\ADMIN>tracert http://www.business2.com.au

    Tracing route to business2.com.au [72.32.63.162]
    over a maximum of 30 hops:

    1 <1 ms <1 ms

  • Rachael Lord
    Posted July 2, 2009 at 10:53 am 0Likes

    Have been spending lots of time adding links to business directories etc.

    This information is so useful, I can’t stress how grateful we are you put these articles up!

    We just did our website grading. 61/100. Better get back to work!!

  • Glenn Batten
    Posted July 3, 2009 at 9:39 am 0Likes

    Thanks Rachael… and your welcome.

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