I don’t mean the real estate world is in a state of dramatic change, and I don’t mean the market ups and downs caused by the shift from a seller’s market to a buyer’s market.
Homes are always bought and sold regardless of price level. But the way people are looking for and finding homes is in the midst of a dramatic shift. The Internet is the great equalizer but also the great differentiator.
People searching online don’t know your achievements, everyone is equal in the beginning. If your website doesn’t deliver the design and services, you won’t be long to find out. This is where you can differentiate yourself.
But how design and functionality are achieved in the first place is a secondary issue to the problem. Use websites like online business cards. New business cards are placed at the bottom of the stack, not the top. Customers are taking business cards from the top of the stack. SEO, or search engine optimization, deals with the effort to move business cards into the pile so that customers can find a site in popular search engines.
So you have a new website. So you basically have your business cards printed but no one knows how to get them. Or, even more dramatic, someone is taking your business cards and you have no idea that your business cards are still in a big pile.
I define SEO as the act of intentionally positioning a website higher on the results page in response to a search query in various search engines.
But there are thousands of search engines out there. it’s true. But all but 3 are irrelevant to your optimization efforts. Google, Yahoo and MSN control about 98% of all searches on the Internet. Focus on the three biggest search engines and the rest will take care of itself.
What is there to facilitate? The goal is to find what you have to offer on your website by people who are looking for it. People do this by asking for a search term or phrase when they search. To optimize your site, you must first understand what keywords or key phrases you want to be found for. As I am practicing real estate in Aspen, Colorado and the correct search term might be “aspen real estate”.
Make sure to repeat your keywords and phrases on your home page. Type the most important keyword phrase as the title in bold font.
It is important to understand that search engines are automated computer systems designed by humans to evaluate the content of web pages without human intervention. This means that search results are based on so-called computer algorithms. This is basically a set of instructions for the computer to evaluate certain criteria and how to translate the results into an order of importance. Most important website first, least important website last.
The art and science of search engine optimization is trying to understand what the search engines are looking for in a good site and giving that to the search engine. Google’s search engine algorithm looks at hundreds of different criteria. It’s so complex that even the engineers at Google don’t know the whole picture. Well, you say, how should any Google employee not know what to do?
Basically, the most important fundamentals of what makes good websites are known. For example, Google uses a patented mathematical concept they call “PageRank” under their system. Links are displayed as sounds. The more links pointing to a website, the more important the website must be. The more important the website is, the more weighted the vote is for another website.
So try to get people to link to your website. It is important to know that links from websites with the same topic as your website seem more important than links from websites that do not match the topic. Links from other real estate related websites are more important to my website than links from websites that advertise toys.
Search engines like content-rich websites. The more pages with useful content, the better. Blogs are a great way to store content on a topic over a period of time. It’s all the more important that search engines like websites regularly have fresh content.
DMOZ.org is a human-compiled directory of websites. Read their guidelines carefully and submit your website to the relevant category. Yahoo and Google use this directory and it helps to get listed.
Create a sitemap and save the xml file to your web server. A sitemap is basically a long list of all your web pages in a format that can be read by search engines, the computer programs used to crawl the web. These programs are called “bots” or “spiders”. This helps the search engines find all the pages on your website. Remember, the more websites the search engine recognizes, the better for you.
Search engines cannot read certain content. Graphical content is such a thing. If your site consists mainly of pictures, the search engine won’t understand what your site is about and therefore won’t show it as a search result. Make sure your site is text rich.
A real estate website may have pages for different subdivisions within the area it serves. Write a blog on Property of the Week. Include a “Frequently Asked Questions” section. Write about yourself and give people a biography for you. Explain the buying and selling process. Provide sales statistics. The list goes on.
Get a program like “Advanced Web Ranking” to search search engines for search results that contain your keywords. Optimizing is fun when you start seeing results. But manually searching for your website in search results is labor intensive and a task best left to an automated program.
After going through the basics, read web forums and a couple of books on SEO. The field is constantly evolving and we can learn a lot there.