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December 17th, 2018 | By: | Category: content marketing | Digital Marketing | Search Engine Optimization
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Real Estate SEO: How to Compete With Big Brands in Your Area (updated and expanded)

Real estate SEO presents a unique challenge.

If you are in a competitive niche, like real estate, it is going to be difficult to rank highly and get traffic for the common and competitive search terms in your nice. You can get around this, however, with useful tools and the right real estate SEO strategy.

Allow us to explain.

Google uses a variety of factors to rank website pages and there are a few key factors they use that make it hard for smaller businesses to rank for competitive search terms.

Some of those factors are:

  • Authority – SEO authority is measured by many factors including backlinks, citations, content, site architecture, and much more. Big brands check the boxes across the board.
  • Brand recognition – Google shows preferences for businesses and websites with high brand recognition
  • Service and product type – Certain types of services and businesses make it difficult for small businesses to rank because of the way they choose to display listings on the search engines results page (SERP)

Let’s take a look at each factor one by one.

Authority

While Google doesn’t share its ranking recipe with us, many smart SEOs have created useful metrics. Moz uses domain authority and page authority to help show which sites have more authority than others.

  • Domain authority – This measure calculates the authority of your domain name (your website as a whole.) They use the number of inbound links, otherwise known as backlinks, the age of your domain name, your internal linking profile, and more to create this score.
  • Page authority – This measure calculates the authority of a single page on your website. They use the same factors above to calculate your score, but on a page by page basis.

Let’s take a look at the DA and PA of some of the websites that rank well for competitive search terms like “Homes for sale in Minneapolis” and “Homes for sale in Minnesota.”

These are very valuable terms, as they receive a combined total of 15,000 searches per month.

Here is a screenshot from the Moz analysis tool that shows the DA and PA for a website page that ranks highly for these terms:

authority scores

Zillow.com

 

 

Domain Authority and Page Authority

The website example has a high domain authority score.

Scores of 90 and above are reserved for major brands like the companies above, CNN, Facebook, Twitter, and Google itself.

Page authority scores of 50 and above are also very difficult to achieve

The odds of a smaller real estate company achieving those scores are slim to none.

Linking Domains

The website page example shows hundreds of different linking domains to the page. The more sites that link to an individual page, the better. Big brand website pages have no problem receiving links from various domains because they’re well known and established.

The website also has a high number of individual links pointing to each page.

In our example, we’ll use a score pulled from a realtor website in the area (that doesn’t have proper SEO yet):

business-domain-authorirty

This score is typical for an individual realtor website and it’s no match for the big brands who rank for these terms.

In fact, the entire first page of the search engine results page for these terms feature big brand companies with very high scores:

real-estate-seo-SERP

According to most SEO data, if you’re not in the top 3 results on a SERP, you won’t receive much traffic:

click-through-rate

Via – Smart Insights

While ranking on page one for these terms would help you gain a large amount of traffic, you’d need to spend the same amount of money, time, and resources as these big brands and it would take a very, very long time to do so. These brands have been established on Google and other search engines for decades.

Real estate SEO requires you to find unique opportunities to rank in search through long-tail keywords, which we’ll discuss later on in the post.

Other search engine results page factors 

By looking at these results page examples, you’ll notice the following:

  • Brand recognition – For competitive terms, big brands get special treatment. Why? Because they know they can trust the credibility of big brands. Oftentimes, their name recognition alone will push them to the top of search results, even if they’re not actively using the type of real estate SEO techniques we’ll show you.
  • Service and product type – Google also knows people searching for homes in large metro areas want to browse lots of listings. Industries that exhibit this behavior from searches, like real estate, will always show preference to aggregates like these.

Fortunately, there are techniques to help you rank highly for a number of medium and lower competition phrases.

For small businesses in competitive industries, targeting a large number of medium and low competition phrases gives you a better chance of gaining more traffic as a whole.

A real estate SEO expert realizes a little extra thinking is needed and the right techniques can help any real estate website get the traffic it needs to grow their business.

Let’s take a look at some of our best real estate SEO hacks.

Step 1 – Find Long Tail Key Phrases

The question is, if you can’t rank for the phrases you think are best suited to your business, what do you try to rank for?

If you think outside the box, you can find dozens, hundreds, and even thousands of keywords with decent traffic volume.

First, you want to find key phrases related to your business based on the main topic, but not directly targeting it.

Here are some low to medium competition real estate SEO keywords we found based on the topic “Homes for sale in Minneapolis”

  • Twin Cities real estate (220 searches per month)
  • Central MN homes for sale (220 searches per month)
  • Minneapolis lots for sale (800 searches per month)
  • Northern mn lake homes for sale (170 searches per month)
  • Lake homes for sale MN (4400 searches per month)
  • Lake homes for sale southern MN (170 searches per month)
  • Lakefront homes for sale MN (320 searches per month)
  • Lake property MN (320 searches per month)
  • Houses for sale south Minneapolis (480 searches per month)
  • Lake cabins for sale in Minneapolis (1000 searches per month)
  • Mansions for sale in MN (480 searches per month)
  • Minnesota lake homes (880 searches per month)

These are a selection of hundreds of terms we found by using just one search in a suggested keyword research tool.

Step 2 – Google Each Term and Test Viability

Notice how each term listed above didn’t attempt to compete for direct variations of the main term “homes for sale in Minneapolis,” like “homes for sale in Eagan, MN”

Why? Because these variations [competitive keyword] + [suburb] are all dominated in real estate SEO by the same big brands above. They have an infinite number of listings and variables to create pages that rank.

What you’re looking for are terms that feature individual small business on page one.

Type each researched phrase into Google. If you see an individual small business appear, you have a shot at ranking.

Notice the insights from our research. The low to medium competition phrases we found didn’t mention the main phrase head on, but rather niche topics surrounding the phrases like:

  • Home types
  • Regions of the state instead of the exact city names
  • Nicknames in the industry/state people are familiar with like Twin Cities

The big brands usually focus on competitive terms only, because they can. They dump tons of data onto their websites and, voila, they rank.

The lower to medium competition phrases contain topics as opposed to overt key phrases.

Bonus Real Estate SEO Techniques

If you get even more outside the box and double down on your research, you can find tons of awesome related topics people are searching for on Google.

Think outside the box. What are some topics people might search that aren’t competitive keywords?

Look at more of our research findings:

  • Best neighborhoods in Minneapolis (880 searches per month)
  • Best schools in Minnesota (880 searches per month)
  • Best neighborhoods in St. Paul (140 searches per month)
  • Best places to live in Minnesota (1300 searches per month)
  • Cost of living in Minnesota (1300 searches per month)

Benefits of Using Long Tail ‘Topics’ over High Competition Keywords

When you create content around long tail topics instead of high competition keywords, you stand a much higher chance of getting traffic from search engines.

Also, you are getting a much more targeted and qualified searcher.

Think of someone looking for “homes for sale in Minneapolis.”

They could be ready to buy a home or they could just be casually browsing. They’re also reaching results pages with tons of results, which can be too overwhelming for some.

Now, imagine you’re the person searching for phrases like “Minnesota lake homes” “best neighborhoods in Minnesota,” and “best schools in Minnesota”

Someone who performs all these searches might be seriously thinking about buying a home in the area.

If your website pages rank for these topics, you’re giving the searcher exactly what they want.

They don’t have to sift through mountains of data and content to get the answer they’re looking for.

These topics also signal a very valuable factor — search intent. Search intent is the reason behind the user’s search. Targeted searches mean a higher level of search intent, which means you’re getting a more qualified lead.

Imagine this same user not only searching for multiple topics but continuing to find your business at the top of the results pages for each topic.

Supply them with very targeted, informative, and useful content and your business will be top of mind.

Even if they don’t engage with you right away, where do you think they’ll visit when they’re really ready to buy?

The big, bland, uninformative aggregate which may or may not have a Minnesota lake home in a great neighborhood with a good school — where even if they do find this perfect home it will be a needle in a haystack — or your website that’s already proven to give them the exact answers they were looking for?

Step 3 – Create Content that’s 10x Better than the Competition

Long tail key phrases, or topics, aren’t anything new.

Hundreds of SEO’s, marketers, and agencies talk about using them.

Many people do try ranking for long tail key phrases, but they stop short of what they need to do to reach the top of the results.

Here’s what a typical marketer would do:

  • Find a long tail key phrase
  • Create a piece of content around that key phrase
  • Wait for the rankings to skyrocket and traffic to roll in

A real estate SEO expert would take it further. These techniques might work for non-competitive industries, but to do well in competitive industries, you need to do more.

This is where the power of content marketing comes in.

Content marketing is the process of creating content to engage, educate, and persuade readers..

The rules for success are the same in content marketing as they are for … anything else.

You have to work harder than your competition and provide more value. The idea of content marketing sounds nice, but when it comes to doing it well, most won’t put in the required effort.

This is why this real estate SEO technique works so well. Most people aren’t willing to do it. The competition for low-hanging fruit — results anyone can get — is ten times higher than the competition for results that require effort.

This is the most counterintuitive aspect of content marketing, the higher you aim, the easier it is to compete.

At MLT Group, we provide real estate SEO services and can create a real estate SEO strategy just like this. If you’re curious to learn more, send us a note.

Here are the steps you can take to create ‘10x’ content to blow your competition out of the water.

Visit your competitors’ pages and analyze them

Let’s look at the top result for “Lake Homes in Minnesota.”

It has strong authority scores, but these can be overcome:

Here’s a screenshot of the top ranking web page:

real-estate-seo-example

Let’s analyze what it does well:

  • Focus – you can tell the entire site is focused on one subject
  • Search filter – while they list thousands of results, they provide an easy to use search feature
  • Authority factors – as stated above, the site is pretty authoritative

To outdo this result, do everything it does well and then add to it. Fill in the gaps and do what your competition isn’t doing.

Some ideas for this are:

  • Homepage results – This result is a homepage. As it stands, many home pages still rank well, but topic-focused pages with great content marketing are trending up
  • No content – Google uses content length as a ranking factor
  • Lack of related topics – This website mostly shows listings. It doesn’t contain much of the useful and informative topic information we discussed earlier

In the next step, we’ll show you how to create a page that Google loves to compete with this result.

Create 10x Content With Tons of Rankings Signals

Let’s say we’re creating a page for “Minnesota Lake Homes.”

How can we create a page Google loves?

Increase Content Length

Studies show Google prefers long-form content. One study showed the average page one results have 1,800 + words of content.

One way to outrank your competitors is to simply double or triple the amount of content they have on their page.

You don’t just want to create content that rambles on. You want to make it both useful and relevant to the search engines. The next step will show you how to do just that.

Find Related Phrases

Take the main topic you’re creating the page on and type it into Google. Scroll to the bottom of the results page to the ‘people also searched for’ section:

LSI keywords

These related searches are known as LSI keywords. If you add these keywords to your content, it helps Google better understand what the page is about.

Bonus tip: take each of these LSI keywords and put them into a keyword suggestion tool like Ubersuggest to find even more related keywords to your related keywords. Then, you can map out the LSI keywords as topic headings and use their related keywords for the content within those headings.

Create a Page With Solid SEO Structure

The main topic of your page is “Lake homes in Minnesota.” You’ll want to mention this phrase a few times in your content. 

Then, you can use the LSI keywords to create an outline for your 10x content page. Here’s an example of how we might do it.

Page Title – Lake Homes in Minnesota

In the opening section, you can create an introduction for the entire page. Make sure to use the main target keyword in the first sentence of the page because it is a ranking factor for Google.

Add heading – Lake Homes by Region

In this section, you can mention that you service regions across the state of Minnesota. Then, you can add subheadings for each major region.

Examples:

  • Lake Homes in North Central MN
  • Lake Homes in the Twin Cities
  • Lake Homes in Southern MN

Each of these regional sections could include featured listings from the are and a brief introduction for each region discussing what’s awesome about living there.

Then, for each regional listing, you can display all the individual cities within the region. You can add links to each city that takes users to a page displaying listings narrowed down to each city.

Example:

  • Lake homes in Wayzata
  • Lake homes in Minnetonka
  • Lake homes in Wabasha

Bonus tip: when users click on each individual city, what should they find? Another page with awesome content, featured listings and sub-topics. In the future, when your site is more authoritative, each page could rank for a long tail keyword.

Add heading – Lake Homes by Type

In this section, you can write a paragraph about the different types of lake homes you provide. You can show a featured listings section with one home of each type to explore

Also, you can create sub-topics based on your research, list them, and link them to pages with full listings for each type of lake home. Again, these pages will feature their own detailed, informative, and useful content.

You can repeat this process for every variable of region or type based on “lake homes in Minnesota.” Also, you can create headings around other useful and relevant topics like “best Minnesota neighborhoods” “best Minnesota schools” and “cost of living in Minnesota.” Each of these sections will have content tailored to areas near Lake homes.

Doing this will create a ‘resource hub.’

See this video from Moz for an explanation:

 

Google likes pages that layout information neatly and tell users exactly where they need to go for more detailed information.

Also, Google’s robots ‘crawl’, or scan, the pages of their website. If your content and link structure is too confusing, Google will stop crawling your pages, meaning your results won’t get indexed and rank on Google.

You can create these ‘resource hub’ pages for medium competition topics like “Lake Homes in Minnesota.”

Double Down

Over time, you can add unique individual pages for each LSI keyword and subtopic, giving you many opportunities to rank.

Here’s an example of a niche page a realtor created that ranks #1 for “Historic homes for sale mn” and “Victorian homes for sale mn” – http://www.minneapolisrealestate.com/historic-homes-for-sale.php

Again, even for these little niche pages, you want to 10x the content on those pages compared to your competition.

Underneath each of these niche topics, you can repeat the process and add more useful content, e.g., writing unique blog posts and linking to them from your niche page

This entire process will help your website cover a broad range of topics.

The cool part? The more you do this, the more opportunity each page of your website has to rank for dozens or even hundreds of keywords.

For real estate SEO, creating topic-based pages and subpages works much better than trying to rank for competitive terms. And, it creates a multiplier effect. Once Google crawls your page enough times, it’ll realize you’re a go-to resource, and it will start giving you preference over other websites.

Instead of wishing you could capture a share of the 15,000 searches for “homes in Minnesota,” you can get double the traffic by avoiding the strategy altogether.

Optimize Your Content on Each Page

After you’ve created your ‘resource hub’ page, make sure you still follow the basic on-site optimization steps:

  • Use your target keyword in the content
  • Use your target keyword in the meta description
  • Use your target keyword in headings
  • Save all images you add to the page under names that have keywords in them (Google can’t read images)
  • Link to other credible resources from your page, e.g., local newspapers, trusted local bloggers, Wikipedia, .gov and .edu websites.

Bonus Tips

You can use media, tools, and content structure to make your pages more useful and entertaining. This serves a major benefit.

These strategies keep users on your site longer and Google tracks time spent on your site as a factor.

It also helps you avoid a ‘bounce’ – when a user visits your site and leaves quickly – which is a negative ranking factor.

Use the following strategies:

  • Write short sentences
  • Use headings and bullet points to make your content easier to follow
  • If your page is very long, create a hyperlinked menu so users can pick and choose which sections to read without having to read
  • Add Google maps to your page
  • Add videos from your Youtube channel to your page (Google owns Youtube and prefers sites who display Youtube Videos)
  • Add visuals like images and infographics

Step 4 – Promote Your Content

This is the last leg of the race.

If you want to guarantee your pages will rank high, you want to promote your content and build relevant links from high-quality sources back to your pages.

Although backlinking isn’t the only SEO strategy you need in 2018, it’s still important

If you want high-quality links, you have to reach out to other websites and ask for them.

There are a few ways to find quality links.

Get Links from Your Competitors

You can enter your competitors’ website URLs into backlink research tools from companies like Moz, Ahrefs, and SEM rush. Find the websites who link to your competitors’ websites and present them your new, improved, 10x better version of content on the same subject.

A few of the sites you reach out to will link back to you.

You can repeat the process for each of the pages that rank on the first page.

Source Local Bloggers

You can reach out to local bloggers in the area and reach out to them.

Some good examples of types of local blogs you could reach out to:

  • mom blogs
  • tourist blogs
  • teaching blogs

You can reach out to each blog and attempt to get links in the following ways:

  • Find a related blog post and suggest one of your pages to link to as a bonus resource
  • Offer to write a guest post that relates to their blog topic and link it back to your website
  • Offer to pay for a sponsored post by the blogger themselves for a link back to your website

Use Google Alerts to Find Easy Linking Opportunities

Google Alerts is a tool you can use to get notifications whenever a site mentions a certain phrase.

You want to set Google alerts for your business time to get a link whenever someone mentions your business.

Also, you can enter some of your topics and related phrases. Whenever someone mentions the topics as part of their content, you can reach out with your useful resource to link to.

Promote Your Work On Social Media and Forums

You’ll want to share each piece of content you create on all your social media platforms. You can also use tools like Buffer to schedule multiple posts at once and share them repeatedly.

Find relevant forums surrounding your topic and post your content there as well.

Use Retargeting Facebook Ads to Follow Up With Visitors

If you install a tracking code on each of your ‘resource hub’ pages, individual topic pages, and blog posts, you can send them retargeting ads to bring them back to the site.

Step 5 – Wash, Rinse, Repeat

If you perform this process repeatedly you can start to rank for many topics and keywords in a matter of a few months.

If you continue to do it, your site will start to become more authoritative as a whole, making it possible for you to start ranking for competitive key phrases.

This strategy takes a lot of work. As a real estate business owner, you might not have the time to do it yourself.

That’s where our digital marketing agency comes in. We can implement the entire strategy we just showed you to help you dominate real estate SEO and SEM in your market and location.

Call us at 507-281-3490 or fill out this form and we’ll get back to you right away.


 

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