One of the best pieces of advice we can give to real estate professionals, especially to ones that are just now starting up their online marketing, is this:
Pick a niche. Specialize in it. Make this niche the central point of all of your online marketing. Do these things and you WILL see results much faster.
We see way too many Realtors trying to rank or get exposure for something like “Los Angeles Real Estate”. For those of you familiar with Los Angeles you know that this is a HUGE area. There are tons of communities, from high end to low income, that make up the area. This scenario applies to just about any county or state as well, but we continue to see Realtors and brokers insist on targeting their marketing campaigns to these broad, general phrases. Don’t make the same mistake – follow our advice below and your marketing will be much more cost effective and will be poised to convert at much higher rates as well.
What is Local Search Marketing?
Simply put, local search marketing is a form of online marketing where very specific geographic locations are targeted in marketing campaigns. For example, instead of optimizing your website for “Real Estate” you would optimize your website for something like “San Francisco CA Real Estate”.
Some real estate professionals are wisely optimizing their websites further by utilizing what is known as hyper local search marketing. This is the same concept as local search marketing, but targets even more specific locations in key phrases. For example, instead of “San Francisco CA Real Estate” a hyper local campaign would target something like “Pacific Heights San Francisco Real Estate”.
Local, and hyper local, search marketing applies to search engine optimization, paid search marketing, blogging, video marketing and just about every other form of internet marketing out there. All of these forms of online marketing can be optimized for local search and as a real estate professional you MUST be integrating this into your online marketing campaigns. Due to its importance, we are going to show you how to effectively market your business for local search.
Facts About Local Search
A few important things to remember about home buyers, sellers and investors that may help you realize the importance of local search marketing:
1) Most real estate transactions start online, but the average sales cycle for a real estate transaction that starts online is usually about 6 months.
2) People who use general phrases like “Los Angeles Real Estate” are usually less likely to be further down the sales cycle, than someone who might use a phrase like “luxury condo for sale in santa monica”.
How does this pertain to your marketing?
If you are able to focus on more specific key phrases, that are said to convert at much higher rates than more general phrases, then you could possibly be reducing the sales cycle of your prospects by months.
Local Search for Real Estate Websites
Before you can implement the following recommendations, you MUST define what niche you specialize in. Perhaps it is the community that you sell the most homes in or know the most about. Or maybe it is the community that you are trying to get into to re-brand yourself as a luxury agent. Whichever it is, make sure you know it, stick with it and focus all of your marketing around it.
Knowing your niche, and the area(s) that you specialize in, will allow you to use the following methods to effectively market your real estate business for local search.
Local Search: On Page SEO
Your search engine optimization campaign should already be targeting specific key phrases, but in this case your SEO campaign should also be targeting hyper local key phrases. More specifically, your website should have the following:
1) Optimized title, meta and image tags with hyper local key phrases in them.
2) Optimized pages of key phrase specific content.
3) Optimized images of hyper local photos for the area(s) you specialize in.
4) Optimized videos of hyper local content for the area(s) you specialize in.
REMINDER: Do NOT stuff keywords into tags and elements of your website. Make them natural so they sound and look authentic, not like you’re trying to court a search engine.
For more specific instructions on search engine optimization and how to achieve first page rankings, then check out our post on Best Practices for First Page Rankings from our sister blog, Business Marketing Blog.
Local Search: Off Page SEO
Off page search engine optimization is often forgotten in many online marketing campaigns, especially with local search marketing. One thing that many marketers don’t realize is that off page SEO for local search can often times be much easier of a process than on page SEO. Here are some things you can and should do immediately to gain proper local search exposure:
#1 Setup a Google Local Business Ad
WHY: Having a Google Local Business Ad will increase the chances of your business listing showing up in the small maps that sometimes show above the natural results in Google’s search results pages and also on Google Maps. These maps typically show most often for terms like “los angeles realtors” or “los angeles properties”.
HOW: Go to Google’s Local Business Center, submit your business info, address, contact information, photos and details. Google will call you for business verification or send you a postcard to the physical address provided.
TIP: Use the same geo-specific key phrases that you have optimized your website’s content and page tags with. Also, make sure the address you use on your Google Local Business Ad is the same as the address you are displaying on your website.
#2 Setup a Bing Local Business Ad
WHY: Like a Google Local Business Ad, having a Bing Local Business Ad will increase the chances of your business listing showing up in the small maps that sometimes show above the natural results in Bing’s search results pages.
HOW: Go to Bing’s Local Listing Center, submit your business info, address, contact information, photos and details. Bing will call you for business verification or send you a postcard to the physical address provided.
TIP: Use the same geo-specific key phrases that you have optimized your website’s content and page tags with. Also, make sure the address you use on your Bing Local Business Ad is the same as the address you are displaying on your website.
#3 Submit your website to local business directories
WHY: Quality local business directories will provide your website with a great link building source for your real estate site. Links are highly valued by the search engines, especially when they come from authoritative, legitimate websites like local, niche directories.
HOW: Read our post on How Search Engines Value Links to find the best directories to focus on, which you will need to pay for (i.e. Yahoo Directory and Business.com) and which you will not (DMOZ and ZoomInfo).
TIP: When selecting a page / category within a business directory make sure to check (1) the PageRank of the page that your listing will be on and (2) how many other business listings are on that given page. Pages with low PageRank or too many other listings will not be as valuable as the opposite.
#4 Setup accounts on local business review websites
WHY: Like business directory submissions, local business review sites like Yelp and CitySearch, are basically other ways to build links back to your website for local, targeted keywords and phrases. Review sites will not provide the same link juice as an authoritative directory, but they will help to build your exposure online.
HOW: Go to the following top business review sites (Yelp, CitySearch, Yahoo Local, InsiderPages, Local, Merchant Circle) and setup an account just as you would for any other service by providing your business info, address, contact details, photos, etc.
TIP: When setting up your accounts on these websites, make sure to complete your profiles 100% by adding informative bios, useful photos and other details or specialties about you and your real estate business. These things will help people find your account and will also help the search engines to index them properly.
#5 Setup accounts on large real estate websites
WHY: Like business directory submissions and local business review sites, accounts / profiles on large real estate sites like Trulia and Zillow can be great ways to establish valuable links and exposure for your business and listings.
HOW: Go to the following top real estate sites (Realtor, Trulia, Zillow, FrontDoor) and setup an account just as you would for any other service by providing your business info, address, contact details, photos, etc. More importantly, you will want and need to interact on these sites by providing listings and interacting with other users through question and answer forums.
TIP: If you cannot participate in all of the recommended sites consistently, then at least make sure to spend the time up front to complete your profiles 100%. Then, choose one of the sites listed above and spend at least 20 minutes per day interacting with other users and professionals.
Although this all seems like a lot to do, it is actually quite simple once you do one. If you are fortunate enough to have an assistant or intern, then by all means allow them to do this work for you. One thing to remember though with these accounts is this:
DISCLAIMER: You are opening yourself up to reviews, questions and feedback of all kinds – including the negative kind. Don’t be scared off by this. Instead, embrace it as all types of publicity can be good if managed correctly. If someone posts something negative, just respond with an intelligent, accurate statement. Failure to respond or firing back with an attack will get you nowhere. Transparency is a good thing for your business and your clients and prospects as it will force you to conduct business to the highest standards.
Local Search: Paid Advertising
One of the quickest and most consistent ways to build your brand and its exposure on the search engines for local phrases is to take advantage of paid advertising platforms to market your business in the sponsored results on the search engines. Here are some of the top platforms that you should get started with:
4) Facebook Ads
Platforms like Google AdWords and Facebook allow you to target your ads to specific locations only. This is a fantastic way to limit your ads to the areas that you know will respond the best. For example, if you are in Western North Carolina and you know that a lot of Florida residents inquire about second homes in your area, then it would be smart to setup a campaign that specifically targets people in Florida.
TIP: Make sure to use location specific landing pages to send your traffic to so that your visitors know they clicked on the most relevant ad for what they searched for. Your conversions will go up as a result.
RECOMMENDATION: Hire a PPC Professional to setup, manage, maintain and optimize your campaigns on a consistent basis if you are not familiar with these platforms or do not have the time to invest to learn them appropriately. The fees you will pay will actually save you money in the long run as pay per click marketing is one of the fastest ways to burn marketing dollars if campaigns are not run correctly.
If you need references or recommendations on reputable search marketing companies or professionals to manage your online marketing, then please leave a request below in the comments or email us [email protected].
Local Search Marketing Works
We have helped many readers re-evaluate their online marketing campaigns by giving more attention to more hyper local strategies and we are yet to hear of any failures with these campaigns. By defining a specialty throughout your website and marketing materials you are giving yourself a much better chance to gain valuable exposure in the search engines in much less time and for much less money.
Just remember, the search engines want to yield the most relevant and specific results for what people search for. Anything less can possibly push someone to have a bad experience, thus resulting in one less loyal user. So, if your website is properly optimized for very specific, geo-targeted phrases then the search engines will be that much more inclined to rank you higher in their results.
To get better search engine exposure, higher conversion rates and ultimately, more business from your website, use the recommendations listed above to start establishing your local presence online. If you need more specific instructions on any of the suggestions above or have questions please let us know by leaving a comment below or emailing us [email protected]ingblog.org.