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Winning the search engine optimization (SEO) game is growing ever more challenging for real estate professionals.

You could pay for results, but you’ll still end up below the best players.

Zillow,® and their brethren own the first page of just about any home search, nationwide.

A look-up of “homes for sale in Raleigh” returns four top-level ads, and then: Zillow,,, Trulia, Redfin, then, finally—the first organic return—the made-for-SEO

Portals spend millions to keep their ranks, from investing in perpetual streams of content to plain and simple back-end programming—marketing tactics not traditionally part of the typical real estate agent’s business plan. The overhead just isn’t in the cards.

Even agents with existing SEO budgets are constantly under pressure to spend more with their marketing vendors to keep pace with algorithm changes and content best practices.

We can’t fault Google. Its mission is to provide the highest quality product possible. Problem is, it’s an expensive product. And quickly growing more so.

Today’s SEO real estate playing field is not very accepting of new players. Thus, the majority of the industry—smaller, regional firms—are left on the sidelines, hoping for a few minutes of exposure on occasion.

Thankfully, there’s a better way to spend those SEO dollars.

You Are a Local—Publish Like One

If you are looking to compete online with big SEO spenders, you need to narrow your focus. Instead of trying to capture the whole world’s interest with high Google rankings, consider investing in a smaller, more localized presence.

The real estate agents of yesteryear led with their local market wisdom, a strategy that remains very relevant, especially in the midst of an ever-increasing “live where you play” mindset among younger homebuyers.

To start, ensure your web presence reflects local themes and market trends, and when landed upon, will keep visitors’ attention and capture their information.

Part of this effort includes publishing pages for individual listings. This builds page count and gives your prospect buyers and sellers something to browse. And each listing offers multiple content opportunities: a “Just Listed” post announces properties new to the market. Then you can post about the open house and why it will be a fun event. Then post again when the home sells, and how excited the new owners are.

Content is also critical in building an effective, local presence. It keeps your site fresh and points to you as a local expert, even a supporter of local business and community events.

Focusing local will require more than a sharp website, though. This is where that pesky SEO budget will help. Instead of spending more on keyword chasing and pricey programmers, launch a digital ad campaign.

A Smart Alternative to SEO

Don’t let the big numbers scare you, or assume that more competition in the online ad space will soon run up prices. New ad server technology makes campaigns quick to launch and affordable, not to mention easy to measure.

Online advertising can be made a local’s game. That’s the magic of it. Companies like Adwerx offer digital ad plans based on zip code, and limits how many agents can advertise in each one.

Supported by sharp and effective retargeting, a technology that allows ads to “follow” website visitors to places they browse after visiting your site, Adwerx plans are the industry standard for online display advertising.

Geo-targeted tactics keep your ad local and in front of people browsing nearby properties, and also deliver your ad to prospects who have searched other home search sites.

Facebook is also a powerful aggregator of local business content, and Adwerx ads can reach potential homebuyers and sellers there, as well.

Use your online ad plan to push new listings, just-solds and price reductions. Clicks will pull people back into your website, where your local plan of attack can kick into action.

Search engine optimization and marketing (SEM) don’t have to be an expensive part of your marketing budget. With solid, authentic content and a stream of incoming traffic over time, your site will remain in good standing with the search powers that be.

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