By Peyman Aleagha
RISMEDIA, July 1, 2008-If you’re like most Realtors in North America, you have probably heard the term “SEO” often over the past few months. Short for “Search Engine Optimization,” the idea behind SEO is to increase the likelihood that your website will be displayed-preferably as the top listing-whenever someone uses a search engine like Google, Yahoo! or MSN to find a real estate agent or broker. While most Realtors may be familiar with the term SEO, few Realtors truly understand how to optimize their website for search engines.
Contrary to all the “urban legends” about SEO, there are really only two factors which determine how a search engine will include (or rank) your site in the results it provides to prospective real estate buyers or sellers.
The following two factors are easy to understand-content and linking.
1. The “content” of your website. Whenever you hear the term “content,” this means all of the articles and text on your site. A search engine will inspect the pages on your site to see what has been printed there and, from it, will extract certain words or word groupings to use as “keywords.” This inspection will result in your site being associated with those keywords.
Common misconceptions. What many Realtors don’t understand is the fact that if they want to be associated with the words “Baltimore Real Estate,” for example, they actually have to use those words in their website-and use them more than once. In today’s competitive marketplace, it is simply not sufficient to provide a keyword and not use it in the text of your site.
Some website service providers allow you to indicate “meta-tags” to be associated with each page of your website. For example, RealtySoft.com includes three general tags: page title, page description, page keywords. Make sure that your title and description contains the words you want associated with your site. Don’t add keywords in the page keyword tag that don’t exist in content elsewhere on the page. Most search engines will discount them.
2. Links to you (sometimes called ‘linkbacks’). Search engines want to provide high quality results to their users. If they do not, they won’t last long in the search engine world. Their challenge is how to provide their users with high quality content. The way they solve this problem is to examine links to your site. They posit that if your site has more links than the next guy, then your site must be more “useful” than the next guy’s and therefore deserves a higher ranking.
Common misconceptions. While they also look at the number of links to your site, they also look at the quality of the links to your website. For example, if the New York Times newspaper links to your site, they might consider that to be an indicator that your site is more important than the guy down the street who only has a link from “Joe’s Pizza.” But links and the link source should be relevant to your site’s content. For example a Realtor.com link to your site could be more valuable than the New York Times.
One way links also give you more clout with search engines than reciprocal links. For example if you link to John Public’s website from yours and he returns the favor by doing the same thing, that would result in the search engine giving you less weight than if he only linked to you and you did not link to him.
Making SEO Work For You
Now that you better understand the mechanics behind SEO, you’re probably wondering how to decipher this information. First, make sure your website has appropriate keywords embedded in its content. For example, if you want to be associated with “Cleveland Real Estate” do not say things like “We offer the most experience available in the market.” Instead, say “We offer the most experience available in the Cleveland real estate market.” Do not say: “If you’re looking for a house….” Instead say, “If you’re looking for Cleveland real estate….” Make a list of relevant keywords for your area and then review your website to ensure that those keywords are shown in the website text at least three times each.
Getting linkbacks is a bit more involved. The first thing to do is to ensure that you and your website are shown in various local online directories. These could be Chamber of Commerce directories or city-focused directories (e.g. Chicago.com, or Toronto1.biz). You can also sign up on some of the larger Internet directories. Do a search on “free directories” to find a list of directories in your area. Then, register you business and website with each directory – more is better than less. Note: sometimes directories charge a small fee, but often they are no-charge. Next, approach all your business associates in and out of the real estate industry and ask to exchange links – i.e. you will provide them a link on your site and they will provide a link to you on their site.
A good way to increase the number of high-quality links is to make regular press releases to local newspapers or neighborhood newsletters that produce online versions of their publications. Make sure the press releases include your Web address.
All of these things take effort – and not just occasionally. Successful SEO takes a regularly scheduled effort. Plan on spending an hour on it each week. You will find, if you are diligent about this, it will pay off again and again in the volume and quality of leads that come your way.
Peyman Aleagha is the founder and president of http://www.RealtySoft.com. RealtySoft provides Web-based marketing solutions including agent and broker websites, IDX, contact management, listing management, and syndication to real estate professionals.
For more information, visit www.RealtySoft.com.