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Real Estate SEO




Ross: Hello everyone and welcome to a very special edition of SEMrush webinars. I’m joined today by a bunch of heavyweights because we were all named in search engine journal's 2019 SEOs to follow. First and foremost, we've got Grant Simmons. How are you doing?

Grant: I'm doing very good. Thanks, Ross. How are you?

Ross: I'm doing fantastic. Grant is the vice president of performance marketing at homes.com and he helps optimize lead generation and qualified traffic.

I'm going to go through the rest of the guys. We have also got Simon Heseltine here. He is the vice president of audience growth at Trader Interactive. Simon, how you doing?

Simon: Not so bad.

Ross: I see here also you're the co-founder of WTF SEO. Do you want to explain to everyone out there what that is?

Simon: WTF SEO started out as a parody SEO site. Where we just basically make fun of whatever industry news or industry tropes that are out there. Until we got to a point where it just got, we were just too lazy to continue to write any more posts. Now it's mostly Twitter. When the occasion strikes us we will put a post out and we get engagement from both of our fans occasionally.

Ross: All right, well thanks. Lovely to have you here. We've also got Jesse here as well. Jesse McDonald is the director of operations at Top Hat Rank. They are a full-service digital agency based out of Los Angeles. He’s taken an innovative digital marketing approach for modern brands of all sizes. Jesse, did you start in graphic design before you moved into SEO?

Jesse: I did. My education is formally in a design background. Also did some photography stuff and then that led me into the SEO world, which is where I've been for the past five years.

Ross: Without further ado, Grant, I'd like to hand over to you because I think you're going to set as off, set the SEO world a late with your real estate as your presentation. Over to you.

Grant: Hi guys. Well, hopefully, you can all see my screen.

Simon: Yes.

Grant: Excellent. Thank you. All of you. That's right. We're going to talk about SEO for real estate. Obviously, it's the main focus over this chat today. We all know that SEO is important. I've been in the real estate space for almost 10 years.

Why is SEO Important in Real Estate?

Why is it important? 95% of home buyers start off online. Using the information within the home buying process. Most of them are in the market, which means they're more likely to buy a house in the next six to 12 months once they start that process.


Now, if we really want to be SEO-driven real estate agents and capture that particular audience, what we've got to think about is what the main key elements that Google is looking at. Google is the largest search engine on the web. What are we looking at as a real estate agent that really is important for users and folks searching for houses?

Let's start with that definition of real estate SEO. It's the work... that goes into showing the search engines that you are the most trusted source of information. The most authoritative answers to search are questions related to buying and selling homes in your area of expertise.


You would be really surprised with how many folks come to me and say, hey, I want to rank number one for real estate in Chicago. It isn't that easy. You've got to really think about what your area, your actual area of expertise is. These three elements, expertise, authority, and trust. EAT. Now, this is actually a Google acronym, not a Grant Simmons acronym.

These give an understanding of what Google is looking for in a page from a standpoint of expertise, authority, and trust. That is a document that's given to individuals; quality writers. They go out and look at websites and they define what is good, bad and ugly, based on the guideline Google gives them.

Really EAT is what you should be looking at and underscoring again, of homes in a specific area of expertise. What is your area of expertise? It really comes down to, as we've said, in real estate for a long time: location, location, location, so expertise of and in the listings of that location.

What makes you an expert in that location and the listings in that location? Authority on the location itself. Why are you an authority? What gives you the right to say that you are an authority in a particular location and trusted information about the location? Why is the info that you're giving specific to a location trustworthy? Why should it be considered trustworthy?

Now, these things; expertise, authority and trust, they mix all in together and they mix into what I call the reputation. That's really what Google is looking at. Are you a reputable source of information on real estate in a particular location? If you are, you're liable to rank higher than some of them might not have a similar or better reputation.

Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness (EAT) in Real Estate

Those other three elements blur a little bit. I'm going to give you one definition today and there are many of how one should describe expert, authority and trustworthy.


All right. We have to understand that real estate agents and brokers are busy. They don't have time to do their own, not SEO, but their own technical SEO. Technical SEO is tough. Really your website does need to work first before you can do any other SEO. Those things include good hosting, good code, good speed, a good template if you're using a template.

You've got to make sure that platform is 100% solid. This is the technical stuff I'm talking about: site structure, Schema, XML site maps, robot.txt. You have to partner with someone that understands technology to make sure that is okay. There are plugins for WordPress, there are plugins for some of the other CMS system that make it worthwhile and easy to do. This is really the bare minimum. You've got to make sure the technical stuff is taken care of. Then you can work on building the EAT expertise, authority, trust in your site.

The technical stuff, the availability of the site also contributes to that trust. If someone goes to a site and search engines go to a site and it's not working, they’re going to have a lower level of trust in that site.

Let's get down to the stuff you can actually do if you're not a technical whiz. Expertise of and in the listing's location. The more listings you have, the better.

Updating Real Estate Listings to Stand Out

You should be descriptive in the descriptions. A lot of times if you do get a feed from your brokerage or via the MLS or by IDX feed, you should take some time and make the descriptions more descriptive. By that I mean, if the same content appears on lots of different sites, it isn't as valuable.

An expert is going to add things that make sense. Add things that give more context to the listing, add things that make it more attractive. Add things that demonstrate that expertise. That includes making sure your own listings have great photography and/or video. These elements improve the value and improve the expertise that you might have in the eyes of search engines.

Put the home in the context of the location. More often than not people are searching for homes in a specific neighborhood, but make sure they also understand that there's public transport nearby. Or what the schools are like, what businesses might be nearby? How far you are you away from the center of town.

This is all great information that shows that you're an expert, shows you really understand what's happening in that particular area. This is also differentiated from other folks that might just be putting out just the listings they get off the MLS.

A lot of times you hear about keywords and queries and everything else. It's really important to understand how people are actually searching for properties in the area where you're representing.

Research those queries, how people search. Now tools like SEMrush and there's others as well can help you understand how people are actually searching; what words they're using. Then also ask locals, ask real people.

More often than not, I recommend that you talk to either the people that are looking, the people that have already moved or just go around the neighborhood and chat to people and say, hey, why is this such a great place? How would you describe it to people? Because it might come up with something that you never even thought about.

It is pretty smart if you are an expert, you really already understand the area that you're representing and you should think about how to position differently. The words that you use within listings, within descriptions, within your website. An example might be a bungalow versus a ranch style. Some people in the area may call it ranch style, some people might call it a bungalow. Same thing with downtown versus Main Street.

There's going to be a vernacular that's used locally that you want to make sure you're aware of and use it. Use the right words in page titles and each one tag. This is generally if you're using a CMS like WordPress. The title of the pages is generally what you put into the box as the title of the actual page itself or the post.

Make sure you're doing and those elements right. There are some great resources out there to give you some basic core SEO elements, but make sure you’re using the right words there. “This house is near this store. This house is near this transportation stop or this metro station.”

Near and near me terms also give an expert view of something. It's like when you go up to someone who lives in a town, they say, it's just over there, near there or around the corner. Think about those terms. Think about those colloquialisms that give the impression and the understanding of expertise and be creative in any blog posts you do. We always recommend creating blog posts once you've got the main site up because that adds additional context and understanding of the expertise you have.

Now, a byproduct of great content that you're going to create is that people link to it. We talk about linking in some of the other sections, but links are valuable for SEO and are valuable to reinforce this expertise as well.

Answer Questions About Locations

All right, last thing. We going to talk about expert answers about the location. Research questions that people are asking about the particular location. Where's the nearest parking location? How good are the schools in this location? What's my commute going to be like in this location? These are all questions that you can answer really, really easily within the main content of the site.


What else are people talking about? How else are they answering it in your area? If you can improve on that answer, if you can make it better, that is then obviously the best answer. The way I look at this is adding maps, adding drawings, adding diagrams, adding photography. Adding video if you want to describe a particular answer better. These are all things that make a better answer even better.

How to Display Authority and Trustworthiness to Google

Okay, next up, talk about expertise or authority on location. This comes down to citations and reviews and third party site affirmation of how you are an authority. Your credentials obviously NIR, Realtor, anything like that from a standpoint of local MNS affiliations or local affiliations. If you can, for instance, for the local newspaper for the local radio station, become their expert, their authority; that becomes another opportunity to be recognized by search engines. Make sure you make those connections. It's really important.

Really this is the key thing. Google needs to know that you are a legitimate authority. Which means you're a real person, that you have a real address, a real phone number. You are available at real times. The reviews should reflect your expertise, your authority, and your trust because you should be the guy or girl that folks go to because of that legitimacy.


Pretty much every business in the U.S has its own listing to a search for in Google. If you come up as a business, then you can essentially claim that listing and then you could fill out all the other information. If you don't show up, you can go there and create your own business with the address and phone number and information.

One of the key things about trust, it's about having consistency in that information. Once you've got Google My Business sorted out, then syndicate your NAP, your name, address, and phone number.

Once again, trust is built by consistency. Trust is built by having the right information out there. Inspire local businesses to link. Offer some partnerships. These are other ways of getting links from local businesses, inspire local schools or other organizations to link sponsorship, competitions, parent’s day.


The technical stuff, I'm just reminding you that has to be done. You have to partner with someone or have a provider that gives you that technical baseline because none of this stuff is going to work if your site isn't available.

You've got to look at what's out there and you've got to do better. That means you've got to be more expert, pushed out, more expert content. You've got to be more authoritative. Make sure you've got great links. Citations, mentions, make sure you're building third-party affirmation of how wonderful you are, an expert you are. The trust; just make sure everything is consistent. Make sure the data, the information out of is consistent for you.

Okay, that's all I've got right now guys. Hopefully, I was exactly on 15 minutes. I'll go back to un-sharing my screen. Hopefully.

How to Outrank the Big Names in Real Estate

Ross: There you go. Now really well done buddy. The chat was absolutely on fire with tons and tons of questions. One of the big themes a bunch of people were asking: Kimberly Loveland, said, “so I'm basically convinced the SEO is not going to be really influential for individual real estate agent websites. There are one too many of us and two Remax and Zillow etc will always be at the top.” Do you have any comments on that?

Grant: If you are authoritative and recognized as a local business, you have the opportunity of appearing above those guys in the local pack.

Simon: Yeah. I'm, actually going to agree with Grant on that because, if you've got that local relevance. If you're recognized as an expert in that local real estate area, you can absolutely rank above home.com.

Grant: Okay.

Simon: Plus don't forget it's not just about winning on the big keywords, it's also the long tail of search as well. Those long keywords that people are searching for that have a much higher intent associated with them. If you can rank for those when your Zillow and your homes.com don't, then you go.

Jesse: Well, it's also a long play too. You have to put yourself in the mindset of it's going to take time. Like I worked for a site locally that was a real estate agent and it took like a good three years to start seeing movement to page one, but we were working on it constantly. Constantly making new content, becoming the authority for our area. Eventually, we started hitting that spot where we were ranking above even those sites. You just have to change your mentality and understand that it's going to take time.

Grant: Yeah. If I can add one more thing. Which is, if you want to be number one in Los Angeles, you're going to have challenges. If you want to be an expert in an area that's more finite, where you can be the absolute total expert. Look at it from that standpoint. When we say location, location, location. Dominate an area there’s enough business to give you a good quality of life. You can be the absolute expert there. Don't look at this as you have to dominate everything.

Ross: I suppose like content and differentiation is one way to, you would say, can I stand out. In all different areas of the funnel. Outside of just differentiating the targeting of the content, one of the questions that were asked was what can we do to stand out against the big guys in particular?

Grant: Yeah, to be honest, people can claim lots but Google is not looking at who has the loudest voice. It looking at the best context, the best content and the best understanding of the area. I think local citations is really key to that.

Because other people are saying you're the expert and it really comes down to social media as well so that you can get some visibility there. It doesn't directly correlate to your rankings, but it correlates to discoverability. I think really getting folks to mention you in different areas around the web. Certainly customers, certainly businesses, certainly education institutions, things like that can be really valuable.

Simon: If everybody's getting the same feed and presenting the same feed to Google, how are you going to win on that? You're just saying you're like everybody else. You've got to go in there, you've got to do some updates on the description. You've got to talk a little bit, put some additional features on there. Know what people are looking for around those and override what's coming through in that feed. Just to get yourself out there a little bit more unique, a little bit differentiated and Google can like that.

Ross: Yeah, I think that makes a lot of sense. That I suppose you'd class that as the expertise, pyrite when you're building that content. One of the things that came through the chat was looking at the authority part. Someone actually asked how do you actually build EAT personally. How do you physically go about that? Grant your talk alluded to getting citations and links from partnerships. Can you talk about that a little bit more down to the nitty gritty of what that actually means? Do you mean like calling up partners and getting them to add links? Like how does that work?

The Importance of Face to Face Networking

Grant: The way you’d have done this in the past is really reaching out to local businesses for example, and saying, can we write about your ideal employee? Who would you be looking for if someone was moving into the area you wanted to hire them, what would that person look like? They would tell us, we'd write them some content but get them to put it on their company blog as a win, win for them.

Generally, it's money, it's time. It's things like that. You say to them, well can I help write something about the real estate in the area or can I interview some of the parents? Those parents generally have businesses or websites or stuff like that.  

I built a website for a school... and basically got a lot of links, a lot of parents interested and making notes. I went out there and I said to the parents, would you mind giving me a review of the website? Then that was something that I was able to use and leverage as unique content as well.

Cold calling is the worst way of building local connections. It's really going to be a bit more face to face working to local business.

Jesse: The key is to be genuinely helpful, especially on from a local perspective. That completely changes the game from a local perspective. Especially in real estate because a real estate agent ends up being such a forward facing community figure, once you implement that genuine helpfulness, things start blowing up from an expertise and authority perspective as well.

Does Social Media Help Real Estate SEO?

Ross: What do you think about leveraging social?  What's your thoughts on using that to build authority and trust with you? Or do you think is perhaps something to stay away from?

Simon: Well it helps discoverability. It enables people who may not necessarily have known about your business to find out about you. Especially if you've got good content that is being shared and then they'll go to your site. Who knows, maybe if it's interesting content that you're putting up on Facebook or whatever social channel you're using; maybe they'll write about it, maybe they'll link to it. You can get the boost from it from that particular way. Yeah, that's probably about the best way to go about it.

Grant: Social is a great way of being discovered quicker, and search engines, if it's a public post, can call that.

Simon: Going back to what Grant said as well about the technical stuff on your site. If your site is just technically bad and Google is having issues crawling it, at least with social, you don't necessarily have to worry about that. You just pushing it out to social for people to just find it and get to it. You're not worrying about Google being able to crawl it. Obviously, you'll want to fix that or have your dev team or whoever is building your site fix it up.

Get Links from Local Journalists

Ross: Well, a lot of guys are asking about the press and particular getting a link to mentions and local news sites. Does anyone here have experience with pitching things to journalists?

Simon: I'm just going to say as well, what you were talking about before, Grant about to be involved in the community. If you're talking about the local press and you've done some local community involvement, talk to reporters about that. If it's interesting enough, if it's something that is very community focused. Anything that might be of interest to them. If it's a slow news week, maybe I can get you up on the site, gets you a couple of links.

Grant: Yeah. Really get to know the local reporters. They can help a lot.

Ross: Yes. Is excellent. On the topic of links, actually Megan Van, asked what your thoughts are on nofollow versus follow links, but in particular linking back to listing pages with a short shelf life as opposed to, say, a category page. How do we deal with that?

Grant: Well, the thing is to have a standard URL for every property I likely to represent or keep the property up there and just put it sold. More often than not it's good to have consistency. If it is sold and you're not allowed to show it because of MLS or IDX limitations, you just don't have it anymore. We had consistent URLs whether it's on or off-market. I don't recommend realtors do that for every single property in their neighborhood or the area. Definitely, you can do it for homes that once they go off market, keeping them up for a little bit as long as you can, based on the guidelines that you have from your local authority affiliation, yeah.

You can keep the URL up if you're capable of doing that. If you can do that you can build a page out. You can talk about maybe who bought it at a high level, not obviously names and addresses. You can get some reviews there on that page. As far as follow, nofollow, I tend to be a Google follower on this stuff.

If it's something that you want to pass authority with because it’s an authoritative site that has value to a user, I just don't put a nofollow on it. Really it's if I think there's a value to a user in a link, then it's normally going to be followed.

Augment that page with additional information. Really what you're trying to do is get even more authority and uniqueness on that page. That's all right. You can certainly do that with some of the CMS like WordPress and things like that.

What to Prioritize if You Want Increased Visibility in Search Engines

Ross: Yeah, makes a lot of sense. We're coming towards the end. I'd like one final little nugget from everyone if that's possible. Let's see. I'm a real estate agent and I've only got $100 in my pocket. Why am I spending that money on in your estimations to get me ranking a little higher and driving some organic traffic? If you could spend 100 bucks to help you increase your visibility, what would you guys be spending that on? Who wants to go first? Jesse, do you want to go first?

Jesse: I would say content creation. Create content that like what we've been speaking on and then use your organic network to get that out there for free. I bet that makes a huge difference.

Ross: Excellent. Thank you. Jesse. Simon.

Simon: I'm going to say pretty much the same because $100 ain’t going to go far. You're probably going to get one page out of that. Yeah, just try and ideate, pick something that's going to have some form of impact and it's going to have that uniqueness, and yeah, just push that out. Push it out wherever you can.

Grant: I might be a little bit different, but I do agree on content, but I probably spend five bucks on gas to drive somewhere quiet. Just go out there and write the crap out of the next two days. Take a weekend and do it.

Just knock out 20 articles or 10 or five and knock that out in a weekend and then just sit down afterward and then distribute it out slowly. Promote that as best you can. Make sure it's of interest to the local people. I think content is the key too. Jesse and Simon agree 100%. Go write it yourself. You're the expert. You’ll have the byline on this and you can promote that out to other people as well. That to me is good.

Ross: Guys. Thank you so much for taking the time today. Please do go to SEMrush.com/webinars.

Grant: Thank you, Ross.

Simon: Thank you.

Jesse: Thank you.

Grant: Thanks, guys.

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