Real Estate SEO Study

I recently found this SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) study on the leading Real Estate websites in the US. The report was created by Randi Thorton who specialises in SEO for the Real Estate Industry in the US but because of its global nature the information is just as valid here in Australia as it is in the US.

Other than Devnet, who have only just setup a specialised Real Estate department this is the first time I have come across a dedicated Real Estate SEO specialist.

The study is targeted to the uninitiated or SEO beginner so is perfect for someone trying to understand just what the SEO subject is about. It shows you just how simple changes can effect how your website looks on Google and how to make it stand out on the search engine results pages. Most of the changes she recommends can easily be implemented by any agent using their content management systems.

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SEO For Real Estate
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Agentpoint Real estate

About Glenn Batten

Glenn Batten is the General Manager at First National Real Estate Nerang and Principal at the First National Real Estate Upper Coomera office and has over 20 years real estate experience and a passion for technology. Glenn has been writing from an agents perspective on industry issues and covering a range of topics on Business2 since 2007.

23 Responses to Real Estate SEO Study

  1. Glenn Batten June 4, 2009 at 9:15 pm #

    Just in case you don’t have the right plugin installed to see the embeded report in the article, the direct links is http://issuu.com/randit/docs/real_estate_seo_study/4

  2. Glenn Rogers June 4, 2009 at 9:15 pm #

    SEO is important but only to a certain level as far as real estate sites go, the cost of compehensive SEO is too high for most agents and the results are not immediate, it can take 12 months for proper SEO to kick in.

    Thats why there are portals, you can take full advantage of the best SEO available immediately for very little compared to going it alone.

  3. Greg Vincent June 4, 2009 at 9:16 pm #

    Great find Glenn. As more & more people search online SEO is going to become more & more important for real estate agents to implement into their business.

    Many agents are already missing out on lots of business due to poor SEO, whilst the early adopters of SEO are now miles ahead.

    If any agents are wondering, ‘Right Now’ is the time to start implementing SEO.

  4. Robert Simeon June 4, 2009 at 9:16 pm #

    I thought SEO meant Sending Energy Online πŸ™‚

  5. Glenn Rogers June 4, 2009 at 9:17 pm #

    An agent with no SEO at all can get better results from REA or Domain than the agent who spends thousands on SEO and less on the portals.

    Add to that that many SEO “professionals” are useless, all talk no expertise and charge like wounded bulls, the only thing they are good at is reading from their large book of excuses as to why it hasn’t worked or if it did work why the SEO to get a sale cost as much as the commission from the sale itself.

    Don’t be fooled.

  6. Glenn Batten June 4, 2009 at 9:18 pm #

    First things first… IMHO SEO is very important, whether you rely upon the portals or not. Placing all your eggs in the portal basket is not only dangerous but will only ever get you the results that your opposition gets. If that is good enough for you, then sure, sit back and let the portals control your online destiny. If you want “extra” traffic to your own website where there are no other agents listings to entice your visitors away, you need to make an investment before you can get a return.

    “Basic” SEO strategies like those mentioned in this report can be employed by an agent using any sort of CMS system to maintain their website and that is going to cover quite a large percentage of the industry. Employing the cost of an SEO professional to actually do the work is as you say going to be expensive. If the results are great then it will pay for itself, but SEO being a black art with no actually rule book to follow pretenders like those Glenn R described, can ramp themselves up fairly easily and take advantage of those with little to no knowledge themselves.

    Doing the basics yourself will cost you nothing but time. Then getting somebody experienced in SEO to advise you what to change with you doing as much of the work as possible will keeps costs low.

    Alternatively you can invest a bit more time yourself and learn more advanced strategies but for many that is not going to be an option. They just don’t have the technical aptitude to do it and are restricted to hiring a professional so thinking outside the square might help them improve the return on their investment.

    Technology expertise and willingness to learn is not hampered by someones age. Agents should start looking for high school age kids or relatives of employees who have a good understanding of the web and can help at a reasonable rate. They will probably learn it 10 times quicker than you can and they are getting real world experience at the same time. If they are able to help you out and improve your results on the web I am sure you can find some other colleagues who would be prepared to use their services. In fact you might even turn them into a little entrepreneur.

  7. Glenn Rogers June 4, 2009 at 9:18 pm #

    Glenn, your site for instance comes up 4th last on the second page for Gold Coast real estate despite Gold Coast Real Estate being the title of your homepage – and on the first page for Nerang real estate, behind another site.

    Perhaps Nerang isnt such a popular or sought after search term there being only 14 agents in the area according to REA, making it easy.

    Agents are agents they havent got the time to be IT experts as well, you dont print your own newspaper do you ? Why ? because it wouldnt get the coverage the Nationals get and would be time consuming and expensive.

    You say –

    “”””Placing all your eggs in the portal basket is not only dangerous but will only ever get you the results that your opposition gets”””””

    Not really, it all depends on the stock you’ve got, no one will buy a house just because it comes up first in a search

    “””””If that is good enough for you, then sure, sit back and let the portals control your online destiny.””””””

    Once again you let newspapers do that for decades and it worked, but was more expensive than the net.

    “”””””If you want

  8. Glenn Rogers June 4, 2009 at 9:19 pm #

    Actually looking closer, the result for Nerang real estate and also for Nerang houses for sale are both excellent. (Google search)

    Think you would get as good if not a better result if you put the resources into REA though. thats where the buyers will end up anyway.

  9. Glenn Batten June 4, 2009 at 9:19 pm #

    Glenn,

    Thanks for checking us out on Google. It;s been too long since I did it myself with everything else on so I did a few searches myself.

    I dont think you fully understand the perspective of a typical real estate agent but let me explain what I mean. You recommend that the average real estate agent not invest resources into SEO and you use our site to support that with two points when you looked at our site.

    Lets deal with the first.

    There is “only 14 agents in the area according to REA, making it easy”.

    The vast majority of agents have far less competition than that. Thankfully competing with just 14 is an easy thing to do! Imagine the agents with only 4 or 5 competitors operating in their suburb which is more typical… it must be a cinch! πŸ™‚

    The second point I feel you miss the mark on is that you think ranking 14th for the term “Gold Coast Real Estate” on Google is a bad thing. Thats like competing for Brisbane Real Estate, Sydney Real Estate or Melbourne Real Estate. Those terms are highly competitive and great to have but there is alot of competition for those terms and expecting to return well for them is unrealistic without investing significantly.

    Lets look at it another way using the example of our site that you used.Out of all the individual real estate agents on the Gold Coast only one other agent ranking in the 13 places above us. Every other position was filled with differnet portals, real estate groups or non real estate sites. In fact we are still represented on most of those as well. For the term Gold Coast Property we rank 12th with 2 other individual agents above us. For Real Estate Gold Coast we rank 9th and are the highest place agency and for property Gold Coast we are rank 13th we are the 5th highest placed agent.

    So that covers the following search terms

    Gold Coast Real Estate
    Gold Coast Property
    Real Estate Gold Coast
    Property Gold Coast

    but we operate in 4 primary residential suburbs Nerang, Carrara, Highland Park and Worongary. This is where the majority of our SEO is based and where our traffic is generated from so whilst I was on Google I checked out all of these search terms.

    Nerang Real Estate
    Nerang Property
    Real Estate Nerang
    Property Nerang

    Carrara Real Estate
    Carrara Property
    Real Estate Carrara
    Property Carrara

    Highland Park Real Estate
    Highland Park Property
    Real Estate Highland Park
    Property Highland Park

    Worongary Real Estate
    Worongary Property
    Real Estate Worongary
    Property Worongary

    Thats 16 specific search terms that we have to compete with the 14 agents (plus other agents from other suburbs) you nominated.

    15 out of 16 searches had http://www.nfn.com.au on the first page. (the other one was page 2).

    14 out of 16 searches had Nerang First National as the highest placed agent (the other 2 we were 2nd)

    7 out of 16 had http://www.nfn.com.au as the first result on the page

    11 out of 16 had http://www.nfn.com.au as a top 5 result

    Of the two local searches we were not the first individual agent both were to agents whose name and domain name were the keywords. ie.. Nerang Real Estate on http://www.nerangrealestate.com.au beats us for the search “Nerang Real Estate”.

    None of these statistics allow for other domains and websites we run which also turn up in the results but that brings a whole new discussion into play. In comparison not one of our 13 other competitors comes first in more than 2 of those searches, or has more than 4 entries in the top 5 results of the 16 searches.

    Now all of this is just the search engine results for 16 search terms and a few pages on our site. We have a lot of other pages that produce significant results. As an example the search term “Queensland Commission Rates” returns us as number one and provides us anywhere from 10 to 30 visitors per day. The traffic is not that targetted to our specific primary trade area but its still important to us.

    Over the past 12 months we have had over 17,000 search terms send us traffic. The top few terms produce over 2000 visitors each for the year. Thats visitors from one single search term that provides us more than many agents get for their whole web site.

    There is certainly going to be other individual agents getting better results than we are but I reckon there would also be plenty of agents who would find those sort of results pretty enticing especially since you reckon it is so “easy” πŸ™‚

    One of the things on our side is that we started early but the real key is that we tried. We did not sit on our bums but invested time in reading and researching and testing to get it right.

    It was not so easy, but on the other hand we never paid any expert to speed up the process either. If I was starting from scratch not knowing what I know now I would do a bit of research so I at least understood the terms and strategies involved. I would then do the basics myself and engage a professional for more targetted advice.

    If we wanted to get better results on highly competitive keywords like “Gold Coast Real Estate” we would have to do some of the more advanced SEO strategies you are talking about but for 99% of agents thats just not needed. They need to be as high as possible in the rankings for the suburbs in their immediate core trade area.

    Your tactics and comments are more relevent from a National portal point of view, which not so conincidentially is where you come from. But you are applying strategies that suit your business to how an individual real estate agency should handle the subject.

    One of the things you did say I totally agree with is “getting the sale depends on the stock you have”. But again you seem to miss the obvious with this.

    Thinking that SEO is only for buyers is pretty myopic although it is unfortunatley typical of the industry. We get significant traffic for search terms like “Nerang Property Management”, “Nerang Property Managers”, “Nerang Home Appraisal” and thousands of other search terms used by sellers and investors. In fact sellers will not only search these sort of “seller” terms but during the research phase in particular they will use typical “buyers” terms looking for current properties on the market to compare their home with. Coming up high in the search engines is important for all facets of our business including buyers, sellers and property management.

    Whilst I appreciate your points and agree with you on many things I think sometimes your perspective is not quite as relevant to a typical agent as you might think. How it relates to say a large real estate group tackling SEO at a national level and thats a different story!!!

    Just for the record you stated our homepage title was “Gold Coast Real Estate”. Thats not entirely true as the full page title for the past week has been “Gold Coast Real Estate – Nerang First National Real Estate | Nerang, Carrara, Worongary, Highland Park, Mount Nathan”

    We get great results from realestate.com.au and domain.com.au but they are just two eggs in our basket. Direct enquries are not everything but our own websites produce well over three times the buyer level that domain does and very close to what realestate.com.au does. I can give you stats, but that not as quick to access as google analytics but anecdotally our own website runs at about 85% of the property views of our realestate.com.au property views.

    What our website produces far better than either of these is seller and investor enquiries. If you consider that realestate.com.au costs us around $800 every single month whats the real value of just our main website in comparison to a cookie cutter site producing 3/5ths of bugger all? 49.58% of our traffic is delivered by search engines and the majority of the rest would be returning visitors who found us on the search engines they first time the visited us.

  10. Glenn Rogers June 4, 2009 at 9:20 pm #

    Well …..from what you’ve said you would be the exception rather than the rule and well done with your strategy.

    For the record I was a practicing licensed real estate agent for 25 years before CRE (still got the license) so I understand both sides of the fence.

    Most agents hardly know how to turn their computer on let alone delve into the web.

    That will change as the next generation takes over they will be more net savvy and be able to use the resource to better effect.

    In an ideal world you should be able to not rely entirely on the portals but they do have the upper hand and for most agents just leaving it to them is good enough.

    I’ve no problem with that but if they start to raise prices just because they can, like the Age did years ago, then you need a backstop and your SEO strategy is spot on there.

    You have a great spread of positions and have done an excellent job of it. My guess is if you used one of the SEO pros out there you wouldnt be so far ahead, to have it done properly you really need to understand how it works and do some of it yourself

    Trouble is if everyone did it the benefit would be watered down.

  11. Glenn Batten June 4, 2009 at 9:21 pm #

    Glenn

    You are right, the portals do have the upper hand which is why smart agents will try and use SEO and their own website as a hedge against them.

    I am thinking of doing a series of articles on some initial steps to improve an agents SEO if there is enough interest (anybody interested???).

    Don’t get too concerned though… it will all be pretty basic stuff πŸ™‚ like submitting to DMOZ and other directories, using keywords in page titles and page descriptions etc etc.. I will try and keep to the non technical stuff, try to hold a few hands and not do to much at one time. I wont try and talk the strategy behind much of it but will provide links for further reading if people want to do that.

    Hopefully a few agents will follow along with the series and invest an hour or so every few weeks.

    I would appreciate your input along the way as well as from anybody else. One area I see some great input especially relates to how to change certain things in the different CMS systems. I can talk concepts but the actual instructions to do some of these things in each will need to be added to by the community. One thing it may highlight is just where some of these CMS are lacking.. As an example using the same page description for every page on the site is pathetic but I bet we will find plenty that do just that.

    Same sort of thing with the real estate directories. I can list what I would recommend but there will obviously be ones I have not come across that others can share.

  12. Glenn Rogers June 4, 2009 at 9:21 pm #

    Happy to contribute but I think unless the agent can FTP their own site to make basic changes they will just hand it over to the “pros” who will take credit and charge them for it.

    Yep keep it basic and it might arouse interest in some agents to take it further on their own.

  13. Glenn Batten June 4, 2009 at 9:22 pm #

    Glenn…

    I had a think about what could go into a series like this to keep it simple but still provide results.

    This is what I came up with. My best guess is that each article would require about 2 hours work with the exception of the last article because it is more about what they can plan to do from here.

    Most agents use a CMS system like Hubonline, Portplus or their franchise’s solution to setup their website. There will obviously be some people that cant do certain things because they dont have access or their website is not flexible enough for them to change things like page titles. In those cases they just have to miss those sections but there will only be a few of those. Most of the stuff most of the people will be able to do.

    Let me know what you think of the following.

    ***********************************************************************

    Australian Real Estate SEO Article Series

    Article 1 – Getting Ready

    Get access to your web stats program or install analytics so you can track the results of your work.
    Setup accounts for online tools (Google, Yahoo etc)
    Record your current search positions
    Test using online seo grading solutions
    Identify your competitors with the best SEO and see whats working for them.

    Article 2 – Referrer Building

    Provide links and suggest a protocol for submitting to directories.

    Key Directories – eg. DMOZ and Yahoo
    General Business Directories
    Real Estate Industry Directories- Australian and International

    Article 3 – Keyword Research

    How to find out what keywords are important for you

    Article 4 – Update Your Current Pages

    How to apply basic SEO principals to your existing pages. Change body text, page title, page description and alt text to include keywords.

    Article 5 – Add Some Additional Content

    What new pages should you add to your site and where do you get the information from easily and quickly to fill the pages. ie. suburb profiles, buyers guides, sellers guides
    Your Own Resource/Links Section

    Article 6 – Where to Next?

    Offer Additional Reading
    Setup Schedule to add Additional Content
    Explain Additional Strategies likes Blogs, Autoresponders, Additional Targetted Websites
    Explain basics of Social Networking – Facebook, Twitter, Google Friend Connect
    Regularly Update Current Search Positions and online SEO testing

  14. Robert Simeon June 4, 2009 at 9:22 pm #

    Great content here gentlemen – SEO is the best online tool that I personally have seen in quite some time. The beauty being that once you post all the hard work is done by the other online parties for your benefit.

  15. Glenn Rogers June 4, 2009 at 9:23 pm #

    I’ll go along with whatever you suggest, you write your bit and I’ll add whatever I think should be included.

    Might have been easier just to tell people what to do first, ie: what directories and search engines to submit to and what simple changes to make to their web sites ie: key words and meta tags.

    Once the easy stuff is out of the way then move into Google analytics etc, a gentle easing into it might be best ?

  16. Glenn Batten June 4, 2009 at 9:23 pm #

    I have added “Google Friends Connect” over the last couple of days to our website and I am hoping to write an article on it once I take it for a testdrive.

    If anybody wants check it out in the meantime and help accelerate our experience feel free to visit our site and join. Even if you have never used Google Friends Connect before if you already have Google (includes Gmail), AIM, Yahoo or OpenID accounts you can sign in with that.

    The service allows you to very easily add page and site commenting, polls, ratings, reviews, even a basic support area and other social interaction between the visitors to your website.

    I read somewhere that around 3 million websites around the world have installed the features already but I have yet to confirm this.

    I don’t want to make a bid deal about it but if your interested in seeing it implemented check it out on our website (click my name to the right to visit the site as per normal). if you would prefer to see the official website then check it out at http://www.google.com/friendconnect/home/overview?hl=en_US

    Obviously I would also be interested in your feedback and impressions to glenn @ nfn.com.au

  17. Glenn Rogers June 4, 2009 at 9:24 pm #

    Glenn,

    Good work, I’ll be overseas soon for a while and things are hotting up around here so I wont have a lot of time, but you could handle the whole thing by yourself anyway, you’ve done a terrific job on your own site.

    Just a few points –

    Submit your site to DMOZ http://www.dmoz.org as this feeds the Google directory.

    http://www.dmoz.org/add.html

    Submit to the real estate section of the LOCALITY your office is located in, keep the description free of self praise and just put in there what you do and what your site offers eg: searchable listings.

    Your description will be corrected anyway it just makes it easier and perhaps quicker if you do it right in the first place.

    Don’t expect to be listed straight away, it can take many months, there are over 8,000 sites waiting in unreviewed in Australia at present.

    Submit to the Yahoo directory –

    https://ecom.yahoo.com/dir/submit/intro/

    Costs a few hundred but worth it, be sure your site is up to scratch and not under construction or it will not be included in the directory and you will not get a refund.

    Make sure your site has a suitable title, thats the bit that shows in the title bar on top of your browser when the site has loaded, make sure it identifies you as an agent and your locality.

    Other keywords on the home page and keywords and titles on each individual page are important also, but I’ll leave all that to Glenn otherwise I’ll just go on forever and Glenn if you want to run anything past me at any time I’m contactable at glenn@weekend.com.au

    Good luck…………

  18. David June 28, 2009 at 2:52 am #

    Interesting comments, i think one of the most interesting points that needs to be made is that REA or Domain will struggle to outrank a local real estate agent who builds a quilty website.

    Google understands that your local agency will likely to more suitable and relevant to a user than a large multinational network site such as REA.

    There is no reason why if you work with a quality website designer using a good cms that you cannot grow your enquiries outside REA/Domain. While these will drive a majority of your traffic you also have options to consider such as Adwords where you only pay per click and can target those specific keywords.

    Sorry to shake up the world, but SEO is not black hat, as even common elements arent followed by “google optimised” websites….

    Glenn a quick check over your site http://www.weekend.com.au shows there is still a number of points that can be further tweaked to get better rankings. Every site even large websites such Domain understand they have elements of the site to improve, but it comes down to resources,budgets and time.

    The biggest point in seo is that it is not a band-aid solution or a quick fix, if you want a quick fix run a Google Adwords campaign.

    http://thelostagency.wordpress.com

  19. Randi Thornton June 29, 2009 at 11:04 am #

    Hi Glenn:

    I am the SEO Google Real Estate Guru who wrote the article you refer to. Thanks for the mention. Hope all is good in your SEO world! I have read through several of your posts and you are right on…. Keep up the great job providing valuable SEO content. Look forward to my year end updates!

    Randi Thornton

  20. Glenn Batten June 29, 2009 at 12:17 pm #

    Thanks Randi.

    I have started a 6 part SEO article series on this blog specifically targeted for Australian Real Estate Agents. Hopefully these are the other articles you checked out. Feel free to chime in with any additional hint and tips.

  21. Warren Crosbie November 30, 2009 at 10:13 am #

    Glenn Batten: Thanks for the post.

    Sorry for coming in late. Glenn Rogers says (4th June 2009) “… the cost of comprehensive SEO is too high for most agents … That’s why there are portals.”

    I’d be interested to know what agents think of portals in Australia, compared to what’s available in the us (e.g. Zillow, and Trulia). I’d be happy to be proven wrong but I think XML is underutilised in Australian real estate web sites and portals.

    Warren Crosbie
    Melbourne

  22. Glenn Batten November 30, 2009 at 11:19 am #

    The big difference between the US and Australia is the access to the data. In the US it is very easy to get listing data. There is a recognised standard and sharing of the listing data is quite normal and this has lead to a very fractured portal market with nobody holding a dominant market share. Last time I looked Realtor.com was the largest in the US and held just over 7% market penetration.

    In Australia it is exactly the opposite. Only one place has virtually all the listings in Australia and that is realestate.com.au. They will not feed those listings to anybody including Google for obvious reasons. Anybody can create a mashup of the listing on Google Base so the minute they share that data then there will be hundreds of other sites pop up virtually over night.

    Restricting access to the data is exactly what keeps realestate.com.au strong. The lack of access to the listing data has caused more than one portal to fail and is the reason that there is no serious challenge to the top 2 portals yet. I will go so far as to say that the lack of a standard and open sharing of that data is the only reason that we pay the huge subscription costs that we do. In the US there are better more featured portals that are totally free to the agent such as Zillow and Trulia that you mentioned. I bet these portals would fall over themselves to get agents to pay them $10,000 per year like we do here in Australia.

    In the US the National Association of Realtors sets the standard communication protocols that everybody swaps data by. In Australia there is no official standard and market forces have dictated that the realestate.com.au is the defacto standard. In fact the NAR has a wide range of technology initiatives that would surprise most Australian Agents.

    What do we have in Australia from our industry bodies regarding technology… NOTHING! Over the years they all fall over themselves trying to create income streams from real estate portals which for the most part has failed. Sure the REIV and REIWA are finally starting to get a little bit of traction but they are fighting the battle from the rear. If all the state bodies and the national bodies would have banded together in the beginning we would not have the situation we have now.

    The REIA needs to take some leadership and create a standard that all industry players must follow.

    Peter Ricci started discussions a year or two back trying to gain interest about setting up an XML standard. What was interesting was that all the smaller players jumped in but the top 2 portals were very reserved. I believe in the end they said they may play a part but it was very half hearted at best.

    In hindsight relying upon commercial interests to set this sort of thing up is not the way to go. IMHO this should be an REIA initiative.

    Ignoring the issue of subscriptions for a second.. what is interesting to consider is what is better for the agent. A couple of very strong portals holding the majority of marketshare such as Australia… or a fractured marketplace featuring lots of portals with no dominant players???

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