November 26, 2010

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Real Estate SEO Part 2

glennbatten

propertyadguru.com welcomes the second in a series of guest posts from Australian real estate expert Glenn Batten about SEO or “Search Engine Optimisation” for real estate.

Glenn Batten is the General Manager with Nerang First National where he started in the industry in 1992 as one of the agency’s foundation sales associates. One of Glenn’s passions is technology, especially as it applies to the real estate industry and his responsibilities extend to the design, creation and implementation of a number of the agency’s systems and procedures, an integral reason why Nerang First National has been awarded the REIQ Gold Coast Agency of the Year for 4 years in a row and the REIQ Queensland Agency of the Year for 2000 and 2009. This article is part of a series on SEO for Real Estate Agents featured on the Business2 Blog

This article is the second in the series to help Australian Real Estate Agents improve their traffic from optimizing their website. If you have not read the first article in the SEO series I strongly suggest you start there instead and return to reading this article after that.

Referral Building

One of the recognized methods that Search Engines use to rank websites is by placing preference on what they consider authoritative websites. One of the key methods to assess your authoritative value is by analysing your website content, but we will discuss that in a future article.

The other way they calculate a websites authoritative value is by checking what websites link to you and to a lesser extent what websites you link to. The search engines understand that if popular well visited and quality websites who cover your website’s topic link to your website then there is a very high chance that you are also a quality website on that same topic. It conversely stands to reason that links from low quality off topic websites will provide no authoritative value at all, and in fact can impact negatively on your ranking. A link from a highly ranked website is like a “vote” and the more votes you get the better. The seo value or “vote” a website passes to another with a referral link is often coined “link juice”.

PageRank

Google uses a page quality ranking system called PageRank which covers the popularity of a page or website. PageRank is only part of the whole equation but it is a useful way to determine how popular a website is with incoming weblinks. Just remember as far as google is concerned PageRank is only one of the ranking factors of why your website is top of the list. A good PageRank (abbreviated to PR) for an agency is 3 or 4. Anything higher is probably an unrealistic goal given the traffic and exposure an indivudal agency can generate… but there is no harm in trying.

So one of the most important parts of improving your SEO strategy is to build quality referral links back to your website. These links back to your website will create a level of traffic in their own right but their real value from an SEO perspective is the “link juice” they pass to you allowing you to rank higher and get more traffic from the search engines.

There are several ways to build referral links to your website but the easiest quickest place to get your site listed on Internet website directories. That’s what we are going to concentrate on first but I will discuss other strategies of building website links later in the article.

Website Directories – Paid or Free?

In the early days of the web very few web directories charged as they all tried to build up their website’s content. Over recent years things have changed and now a few web directories have started to charge to list your site. They built up high PageRank rankings for their websites when free and then changed a “fee” to websites to get themselves listed on a high PR site. Google recently applied a manual override to many directories “selling” links from their websites for what they considered as an excessive charge.

Even though paying a reasonable amount to get your listed is probably not out of the question, for my mind there are very few websites that are worthwhile paying for at the end of the day. There is one major exception for that rule though and that’s Yahoo.

Get Ready

Before you start submitting your website some thought has to be put into exactly what information you submit. Other than your website address and email you are going to require two other pieces of information for just about all directories you submit to. You should prepare these for two reasons. Firstly its very important that you use the right keywords as it will help your SEO and secondly it will speed up your submission process when you can cut and paste the information every time.

Website Title

It is important to include your primary keywords in the website title but ensure you don’t include promotion terms.

“Nerang First National Real Estate – Gold Coast Real Estate Agent” might be acceptable but

“Nerang First National, the Gold Coasts Best Real Estate Agent” would not be.

Description

It is important to cover the range of services on your website. Different sites will allow different length descriptions of your website so create one default description and change it if you have it or you can create a small and a large version.

“Specialising in residential real estate services for the suburbs of Nerang, Carrara, Highland Park, Worongary and the surrounding hinterland of the Gold Coast, Queensland Australia. Website features include property for sale, property for rent, real estate guide, free advisory guides to download, local community and business directory, email newsletters, blog and more”

might be ok for a directory submission but something like

”Nerang property for sale and rent” would be very poor utilization.

Selecting the Right Category

When you submit to a business directory it is vitally important that you submit to the right category. Submitting to the wrong category will at best slow down your acceptance but at worst will mean that your submission is not even considered at all. Some directories are sorted by suburb or city. Some are just sorted by state.

I will try and make some recommendations along the way but do some research and make sure you place your submission in the best category. Some directories will even let you submit to more than one category so when you can maximize your exposure and select as many as you can. On the directory pages look for words similar to “add your site”, “add your url”, “add your business” or something similar

The Top Tips for your submissions

1. No words in CAPITALS
2. No promotional language – ie. Sydney’s Best Real Estate Agent
3. Remember to use keywords that buyers or sellers would use
4. Read the submission rules and follow them
5. Submit to the right category

Major Web Directories

There are two web directories that are essential in SEO and are the single most powerful things you will do throughout this whole series.

DMOZ or Open Directory Project

This is one of the most powerful web directory and your listing in the directory will provide you an instant boost to your SEO. Why is it so powerful? “The Open Directory Project is the largest, most comprehensive human-edited directory of the Web. It is constructed and maintained by a vast, global community of volunteer editors.”

This directory is used directly by nearly 150 other sites on the internet as their own directory. In simple terms you list once on DMOZ and if accepted you will automatically get listed on nearly 150 other high quality sites. Even Google itself rebrands the DMOZ directory data as its own Google Directory. Because of this sheer power and the fact that every single submission is checked manually by a real person, the directory is held in very high regard.

You are only allowed up to 30 words as a description so make them count. Browse to your geographic region first. Ideally submit your category into the real estate section of the business section under the locality but if one does not exist yet, just submit to the business section or even the locality category. Do not submit to state or national real estate sections as it will not be allowed unless you deal with the whole state and will just delay your submission.

Yahoo Web Directory

This is the only directory that I would suggest you pay the listing fee without question. Listing in the yahoo directory is very important SEO wise and like DMOZ every submission is manually checked. Unlike DMOZ that is a community maintained, the Yahoo directory is a business which is why there is now a listing charge.

Browse to the category of your local area and then add your listing to the real estate section if it exists or else just add it there

Other Important Directories to Submit To

For some search types (and real estate is one of them) Google includes a map section at the top of the page when you use their search engine. This information is populated directly from the Google Local Directory. The default data is now drawn from the Yellow Pages but DO NOT rely up on this. Creating your own listing is easy and will get you on the top of the list on the front page plus it puts more information in the directory listing.

ZoomInfo

This is a well regarded business directory and although US centric, most of the search engines are based in the US as well.

Other Directories to submit to include:

Hotfrog
International Real Estate Directory
Property Listings Australia
Come on Aussie
TrueLocal
Brownbook
Start Local
YourEstate.com.au
HouseHunters
Real Estate Guide.net
Just Real Estate

Link Exchanges

There are many websites that will list you in their directory if you link back to them first. If it’s a good quality site and its about real estate then this may be worthwhile. Don’t bother unless it is about real estate. If you decide to exchange or swap link then you will first need to setup a links page on your website. Call this page, Links, Real Estate Links, Real Estate Resources or whatever you want but its purpose is to provide links to other real estate websites. Search “Real Estate Link Exchange” on google and you will find plenty of contenders.

Don’t base your whole link building efforts on these exchanges but they are good to bolster your numbers.

Local Directories. Do a search on google to find local business directories to submit to. As an example searching for “Gold Coast Business Directory” and “Gold Coast Website Directory” identifies a number of local web directories that we can submit our agency website to.

Other Link Building Strategies

Here are some ideas for building other links back to your website, all of which will help your SEO.

  • Include your link on everything off the net, especially if it is published online as when it is it becomes a link back to you. Things like job ads, print magazines, press releases and many more things end up online.
  • Because Government (gov.au) and Educational (edu.au) domains are unavailable to just anybody, getting a link from them is very good for SEO and one of the best ways to get this is to sponsor your local school and get them to link to your website from the schools website.
  • Get everyone from the same real estate network and the same area to all link to each other.
  • Make sure you comment on blogs and forums and use your web address.
  • Create your own blog. Other people will reference your blog posts either in their blog or will book mark it in many of the social bookmarking sites.
  • Setup accounts on social bookmarking sites like Delicious and Stumbleupon and bookmark your own websites but don’t just stop there.
  • Create a Google Profile, Linked In Profile, Twitter Account for you and then a Twitter Account for your agency, Facebook Account for you and then a Facebook Page for your agency. Each of these accounts allows you to link back to your website and to each other.

So Who Should You Link To

Since what sites you link to also improves your own authoritative value why don’t you consider creating your own link section by linking to other websites about real estate and about your immediate area. Setting up a local business and community section on your website and a real estate guide will help find a home for these links. Government and education websites also have extra importance here so don’t forget to link to those sites. Things like state industry bodies, local schools, universities, local businesses.

Don’t go crazy and link to every single website you can find on the topic and don’t link to everyone that links to you. Most experts agree that a link from someone that you don’t reciprocate to is worth more than a link you do. Some seo experts suggest Site A links to Site B which in turn only links to Site C which links only back to Site A.

When you create your own link exchange pages you will get others contacting you to ask about exchanging links with you. Why not get a little proactive about it and set the rules on your page for how to exchange links. Something like these:-

If you wish to be considered for addition to this links page :

1. All websites are to be for sites on Real Estate, Property, Property Investment, Nerang or the Gold Coast
2. Links are not to include no follow attributes and if you remove your link so will we
3. Please create a link on your website that can be accessed through your homepage (no orphaned pages) with the following link Nerang First National – Gold Coast Real Estate Agent – specialising in residential real estate services in the suburbs of Nerang, Carrara, Highland Park and the Gold Coast Hinterland including property for sale and property for rent”
4. Please send the location of our link on your website and the link text you require to [email protected]

WARNING ! Do not participate in a Link Farms or link building system.. ever..

A link farm is a collection of thousands and even hundreds of thousands of links to other websites through an organised link swapping. The links are not natural and each participant has the same links page on their website with virtually the same links. This practice is frowned upon and you will probably get a negative impact on your SEO. Link farms certainly use to work when authoritative value was first introduced but now they do not.

At least one self styled Real Estate SEO expert is still pushing his link farm matrix as some magical form of SEO even though it has really helped nobody else and all major search engines strongly warn in writing against participating or running a link farm. It is believed that a possible link farm trigger will be raised with search engines if you have any more than 100 links on page. If any page is even approaching this limit split it into multiple pages. If someone promises to give you hundreds or thousands of links for a price remember, if it sounds too good to be true… IT IS.

Link building should be done manually which is time and effort.. but you only have to do it once for the link work for you for years and even decades.

Next Article

The next article in the series will cover Keyword Research and working out exactly what sort of keywords outside of the “<> Real Estate” and “<> Property” normal ones you should be targeting.

Further Reading

The SEOmoz article Search Engine Ranking Factors is 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. SEOmoz also produce a fantastic “Beginner’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization” at . You can even download the guide and print it out for later reading.

By Glenn Batten
General Manager at Nerang First National Real Estate
Gold Coast, QLD, Australia

This article is part of a series on SEO for Real Estate Agents featured on the Business2 Blog.

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Related posts:

  1. Real Estate SEO Part 4
  2. Real Estate SEO Part 1
  3. Real Estate SEO Part 3
  4. What is SEO?
  5. Common SEO Mistakes on Real Estate Sites
  6. SEO for Real Estate: What to Avoid
  7. Top 10 Tips for SEO
  8. Link Building Tips from Google

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