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How To Optimize Your Website for Google

webbox optimize site googleSearch Engine Optimization can be as difficult, time consuming, and expensive as you allow it to be. However, unless you've changed careers suddenly, you're not an SEO "guru" or consultant. You're a real estate professional who wants the most from your website, but without it sucking up most of your time and a lot of your money.

If you just take on reading as much as you can on the Web about SEO, you might as well quit practicing real estate, as there are tens of millions of articles about SEO in general, and millions specifically about SEO for real estate websites. Today, we'll explore proven techniques that bring websites to the top of the search engine results pages (called SERPs).

We start by recognizing that SEO is very much about "relevance." Is the content on the site relevant to the overall subject or goal of the site? Residential is the niche served by most agents, but you'll not get the most out of SEO with a pre-made residential site template or content if your market niche is commercial or property management. 

META is still important

Meta tags haven't changed much for years, but how the search engines use them has. For example, the Keywords Tag is still used by the engines for clarification as to the subject matter of the page. However, they aren't used much anymore for ranking the page according to Google. You still want them, but you don't want to "stuff" your article or your meta keywords with too many and not directly related keywords.

  • Title Tag - This one is very important, and we'll see later how to get the most out of the Title Tag and its relationship to the actual article title the visitor sees.
  • Keywords Tag - As we mentioned, the search engines no longer use the keywords here as much for ranking the page, but they definitely do help the engine to understand the subject matter of the page, which can help ranking if you're doing other things well.
  • Description Tag - This is a short description of the content of the page. It's very important to do a good job here, though more for search engine display than ranking. Many of the listings on SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) use all or a part of this description in the result listed. We'll talk about it more in detail later.

META and Key Phrase Best Practices

Notice that we're using "key phrase" more than "keywords" in discussing SEO. That's because there are few instances where a single word is very effective in optimizing content. Single keywords are simply too broad, so two, three, or more words in a phrase are far more effective. In your content, try to target a primary key phrase for each article or blog post. Let's say you're writing an article about "Inspections & Repair Negotiations in the Denver Real Estate Market."

Of course, you'll also want to get your local area/town in there as well. It's fine to educate the world, but it's better to educate someone who wants to buy or sell in your market area. Use your key phrase, inspections and repair negotiations:

  • In the title and meta tag of the article
  • In the description meta tag
  • In the keywords meta tag
  • In the first or second sentence of the article/post
  • In the last sentence or two of the article/post
  • Anywhere else it fits for good reading, not stuffing. And use h1, h2 or h3 header tags around it, or bold or italicize it for emphasis when it looks right
  • Use the local market area where appropriate

What we're doing is creating an article that's tightly focused on our single topic with the key phrase appropriately placed for both the visitor and for Google. Done properly, there's no doubt as to what this page is all about and what the visitor will learn when they arrive.

Keyword Research for Better Results

You may think you know the key phrases that a real estate site should optimize for, but you will probably miss some of the most productive phrases without keyword research. We all know that we want to optimize for "our area real estate," but it's also the most competitive, just like "our area homes for sale," etc. We want to use those, but for tighter targeting of phrases and visitor prospects, you should think outside the keyword box.

Google recently retired the very valuable and popular public Keyword Research Tool. You now must have a Google Adwords account for access. You can do that if you wish, or there are paid and limited free keyword research tools out there. Generally to get the data, you need you'll have to have a paid subscription. What should a keyword research tool provide for you at a minimum?

  • A way to see data for searches on key phrases you want to research and possibly optimize for on your website.
  • Suggestions of related key phrases that are actually being used by searchers on the Web.
  • A way to monitor search results position for competitors and your site to see how you rank for a particular phrase.

Don't assume you know all of the ways people are searching for real estate information in your area. Look for a tool suggests key phrases that you may not have thought about. People think of real estate, homes, land, and commercial in different ways, and their searches reflect that.

This isn't the major project some you may envision. For most local real estate websites, there are around a dozen really effective and widely used search phrases, and around two dozen more that are still ones you want to use, but their search volume isn't as great. Unless you move to a new area, your phrases won't be changing, so your initial research will be done only once. Then you need only monitor your phrases every few weeks or months to see if you're losing ground or need improvement so you can make corrections.

Image Attributes & Internal Linking

Image Attributes

An image isn't just an image to Google. You need to let the search engine know with text what the image represents. This text is part of the "image attributes," and you also have control of what Google sees.

When you insert an image into your website, edit the attributes and make sure the text includes your key phrase. It's one more way for Google to understand the focus of your page content.

Do this for every image on the site, no matter where it is placed. These alt tags, as they're also called, are very important for SEO.

Internal Anchor Text Links

Just because a searcher arrives from a search on "title insurance in Your Market" doesn't mean that everything they may want to know will be on that single page. In fact, it's better to break out that larger topic into several articles, such as title insurance binder, title insurance exceptions, and title insurance requirements.

This is actually a great way to serve your visitors and to make Google happy as well. Write your general article about "YourArea Title Insurance," but make it an overview and link out to the other more detailed articles. Use best practices for the text links, called "anchor text."

You're writing an overview of title insurance and mention that there is a section for "exceptions," and give a brief description of what exceptions are and why they're there. However, link out to the detailed article on title exceptions, and do it with relevant anchor text. An example would be: Title insurance exceptions are situations and conditions the title insurer is specifically excluding from coverage in your policy. They're logical and nothing to worry about in most cases, but for more detail and examples, check out our title binder exceptions explained article here.

Note that the link uses the key phrase for the page to where it's directing the visitor. The "click here" thing is useless and won't help your SEO at all. The specific key phrase anchor text lets both your visitor and Google know what they're going to find if they take the link to the page.

Going Out for Incoming Links

You now have a plan for your internal procedures to create a strong SEO presence for your website. What we've discussed will be valuable to your site visitors and to the search engines. Now let's get a quick overview of the external promotional piece. Incoming links to your site from quality related sites is still one of the best SEO strategies. If you've implemented what we've discussed so far, you have some valuable content that you can promote outside your site.

We're not talking about buying links or trading links, called "link exchanges." Google long ago figured out these tricks and you're just as likely to be penalized as rewarded for taking the easy approach. Use this quick tips list to begin to cultivate incoming links, and whenever you have any control over the anchor text used, give the other site the words you'd like in the link text.

  • Place links in Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social sites to your content. Use good anchor text practices in posting up short answers to questions with a link to more detail on your site.
  • Create YouTube videos of your local market and link to relevant pages on your site, such as neighborhood profiles.
  • Create articles about vendors and related businesses involved in your transactions. An example would be an article about a local title company and their job in a closing. Once you've published it, send a link over and ask them to link to it if they like the content.
  • Create guest posts on related sites that allow you to link back to your related content.

Once you have a strong SEO presence, you'll want to make it even more effective with external links from other real estate or market area related sites.

If you're going to have a real estate website, why not actually get business from it?

Use what you've learned here to create a website or improve the one you have. Doing this right will bring targeted buyers, sellers, and investors to your site for information. Once they're there, you work on getting them to let you know who they are. Then you work your leads through to the closing table. Your time invested in these SEO activities will pay back many times over.

To view the original article, visit the WebsiteBox blog.