Search Engine Workshops - Intensive hands-on search engine marketing training during a 2-, 3-, or 5-day workshop Search Engine Workshops Home PageRegister for onsite search engine marketing workshopsContact us for more information about our onsite search engine marketing workshopsLost? Find it in our site map.

Search Engine Workshops . . . the premiere onsite search engine marketing workshops in the world! Click here to go back to the index of SEO articles.

Topics covered at our search engine marketing workshopsDates for future search engine marketing workshopsRegister for onsite search engine marketing workshopsArticles on search engine marketingTestimonials from our search engine marketing workshop guestsSearch Engine Workshops PartnersCommonly asked questions about search engine marketing and our workshopsLinks to useful sites and search engine marketing informationAbout Search Engine Workshops


Real Estate ParadigmShifts in Keyword Research for SEO

John Alexander

As a Real Estate Professional, how important is keyword research in search engine marketing to you?

If you are a Real Estate Broker or a Realty agent that has a Web site, then you probably already know about specific keywords that you think are important to attract the right visitors to your Web site. 

But what I want to talk about today are the important shifts that you need to understand in your audience's searching behavior and once you understand, you can take tremendous advantage of and attract much more targeted traffic than you may have experienced in the past. For the sake of any new real estate professionals who have never experienced top rankings for important keyword searches, I'm going stop and back up and begin right from the start. After I share with you a few basic tips, I'm going to talk about important shifts in your research technique, that will open up huge windows of opportunity and allow you to compete in one of the most highly competitive markets, the real estate market.

My name is John Alexander and I have been conducting live SEO skill building workshops over the last several years with my partner Robin Nobles. Although we help businesses from all different specific industries, over the last few years it has been a pleasure to work with quite a number of Real Estate Professionals and help them grow their visibility to the extreme on the search engines. 

For this article though, let's start by giving you some very basic, easy to implement tips to think about in researching your home buyers search behavior.

Who are you trying to attract to your Web site? 
  • Home buyers?
  • Home sellers?
  • Other Realtors?

This may sound like a no-brainer, but you need to create your Web content and particularly your Web site copy (or readable text) specifically for the audience you are trying to attract. When we talk about focusing on a specific keyword phrase, it should be a phrase that you have researched and (know for a fact,) that your ideal audience is actually using in a search. After all, coming up even in number 1 spot for the wrong phrase will not help you. 

Five common errors that we often see within real estate Web sites.

a) Don't use a lot of real estate jargon.
If you are going to dialogue with visitors using real estate related "jargon" then don't be surprised if you attract more real estate agents to your Web site than home buyers or home sellers. It is amazing how many real estate Web sites make the error of thinking that the whole world is searching for "MLS Listings." Unless you are a real estate person, you are not going to be searching in this fashion. Ordinary, every day home buyers do not generally search using industry jargon. However, they are doing some pretty sophisticated searches in an intelligent fashion. Some are looking for their ideal "dream home" with very descriptive terms. Other are doing "cost of living comparisons" by City using the Internet as a true research tool. One of the biggest points is in how you communicate with your visitors.

b) Is your real estate Web site content "self focused" on your services and achievements?
Of course it's good to let your visitors know what makes you unique and different (not better) than the competition, but many real estate Web sites are far too "self focused." Most readers will be searching for information that is "important to them" the homebuyer and will not be impressed with pictures of you shaking hands with the Mayor or looking at the latest "award" you have won. 

Instead, offer something that satisfies the reason why the prospective homebuyer "searched" the Internet in the first place. For example, detailed community statistics, location maps for specific types of churches or local schools, perhaps community employment statistics or even community crime rates and various directional maps of the area would be appropriate. In place of long and boring self focused dialogue, you need to provide engaging and useful content that is 100% customer focused and full of genuine value to the reader. 

c) Educate yourself sooner - than later. From a technical point of view, watch out for content management systems that are sold with a slant towards the Real Estate Industry. If someone is going to sell you a Web service or system, ask to see examples of how well it actually performs with the search engines. Many real estate people are surprised to find that a good content management system that is "SEO friendly" is extremely hard to find. This is not to say that all systems are bad, but many automated content managers tend to generate a horrendous "code to content ratio" so that search engine robots simply cannot properly do their job. 

Before investing any money in a Real Estate related system, no matter how good the functionality sounds, use wisdom where a service is not willing to show you examples of high-performance working solutions that are easily found on the major search engines for important generic but competitive phrases. Beware of "advanced looking" systems that require some kind of "long term commitment" or services that try to force you into "special hosting arrangements." Beware of the real estate system that is offered for "free" in exchange for a portion of your sales commissions. Take some time to educate yourself on search engine marketing before spending your money or use wisdom and hire an SEO professional who has been structurally trained and can demonstrate a proven track record for getting their clients genuine results. A little due diligence can save can save you a lot of money and wasted time.

d) Beware of companies that claim they can artificially inflate your link reputation and link popularity "overnight." When it comes to linking and link building, there are specific strategies that you can learn and employ, but use caution when it comes to "link exchanges" that promise miracles over night.

Rule of thumb: Build links very naturally based on what makes sense to your visitor audience. Remember that someone linking to you from an un-reputable Web site can never hurt you (because you cannot control who links to you.) Where the damage can be done, is when you link to somebody (because you do have control of who you link to.) We do not recommend reciprocal link building. 

e) Do not dilute the focus of your researched keyword phrases.

These days, some real estate sites simply have diluted the focus of their topic too much. Remember that you will do far better creating high quality content that reads well and delivers some value to the reader. Avoid things like keyword stuffing in the Title tags or Description and Meta Tags.  

Try and work with your important topics and stick to one focused topic per page. Don't use too many different keywords in your Meta tag on a single page. Think of your Meta tags as a mini index for each of your important pages. No two pages should be using the exact same Title, Description or Meta Tag because no two pages on your site should be identical. Search engines want each page in their index to contain useful, well written content that serves a useful purpose.

For more information on how to conduct good keyword research, behavioral research and keyword forensics, please visit this index of articles, tutorials and tips of some of my favorite keyword research techniques.

Would you like me to e-mail you little, short, fresh e-mail tips each day for free? Check out our Free SEO Tip of the Day. These are just a few easy tips to get you thinking, but now let's talk a little about "paradigm shifts" in keyword research for real estate. 

What is a paradigm shift?

Thomas Kuhn in his book "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" first used the phrase to describe the process and result of a change in basic assumptions within the ruling theory of science. A
paradigm shift is a significant change from one fundamental view to another although it usually includes a discontinuity of the original view.

Most SEO related people talk about "keyword research."

Conducting "keyword research" is typically trying to determine what specific phrases your audience might be putting into a search box on a search engine like Google or MSN or Yahoo. Is that not the way most of our SEO minds tend to work? If we know what keywords people are entering into the search box and optimize for those specific words, then our Web site may show up in the top ranks and we get the traffic. Right? Up until now, most of us have all recognized keyword research is "essential" in SEO work.

So where is the paradigm shift? Perhaps there is no discontinuity of the original view because in this case, I think there will always be people wanting to do "keyword research." The truth is, although most people talk about doing keyword research, most of the time our brains tend to want to "guess at keywords."

Is a number one ranking for a highly competitive search term all that you need for success? 

I learned very early, that despite what people tell you, that this is not true. You need to be more than number 1 in the rankings. The other essential element that is a must, (if your Web site is going to pay off,) is that you also must be able to compel the visitor to take action and "respond" to your page after they find it. 

Example: Of what value is it if you increase your traffic and visitor count by 4,000% but every new visitor simply hits the back button (without filling in the form, placing a call, placing and order or taking whatever action your objective is.)

Typically, most Webmasters think about building a Web site around the ideas of the real estate professional and many times, the real estate agent tends to be guessing at what important search behaviors might be performed by his home buyers or home sellers. After all, it is only natural to guess at what your customers are doing. Our mind is already filled with real estate related keywords and so we tend to want to guess, instead of perform research.

Let's look at some example data that I pulled up within a few minutes and the number of competing pages:

*Example based on research data at the time this article was written

Assuming you had houses for sale in California, you can see (below) how minor search variations in terminology can give you a huge advantage by reducing the number of competing pages you are up against.

There are huge advantages in doing quick but accurate research for the exact "sequence of words" that people are searching with. The trouble is, that many real estate Web sites have never actually done their keyword research so they may be competing for much more competitive terms, or terms where they are actually going to be attracting the wrong audience or shall we say a different audience than the one they need to do business. 

(For example: Optimize for an acronym like MLS listings and see how many other real estate agents you attract by writing with REALTOR related jargon.)

Paradigm Shift - So what could possibly be more powerful than doing good "keyword research?"

Try exploring your audiences recent search behavioral trends! It's just a little different approach. Listen to these free audio tips on how to research "search behaviors."

Think about the Internet in this fashion. 

Everyday, there are millions of future home buyers and home sellers who are using the Internet as a tool to conduct their research. Every time that someone does a search, it is really much more than just putting keywords into a search engine. The truth is that people are searching the Web, based upon certain conditions that exist in their life. Depending on what those conditions are, determines how they search and what information it is, that they are really after. Thankfully, there are trails and trends that are left behind that can be researched long before you ever even build your Web site. 

The smartest real estate professionals are the ones that understand the value of doing behavioral research and offering their prospective customers the highest quality information that meets the searcher's need first, then they can offer other assistance or services that also tie in to fulfill their objectives second.

In Summary: 

I'll drop in a few examples of behaviors based on exact specific phrase clusters on the cost of living type searches. 
(These examples won't last long once I publish this article, but there are many others for you to discover)


Example: "Cost of living"

"Cost of Living"                             3, 620,000 competing pages

"2006 cost of living"                         Only 763 competing pages

"cost of living by state"                    Only 188 competing pages

"cost of living comparison by state"  Only 21  competing pages

"lowest cost of living in usa"             Only 3   competing pages


Stop guessing at keywords. There are ways you can actually research and understand the huge windows of opportunity that will set you apart from millions of competitors. Performing "behavioral research" to explore established data for trends and behaviorally related topics that your prospective customer is interested in, will often illuminate new ideas for your Web site based on what your audience is truly interested in as opposed to publishing what "you think" they are interested in.

Search engine marketing is a process of several elements combined together. As you shift your focus to serve the searcher's need first, before going after your own "business objectives," you are accomplishing and implementing one of the most powerful uses of a Web site, ever. You are creating a Web property that ultimately will be used to assist you in forming genuine, relationships with your ideal buying or selling visitor audience. Look beyond hunting for keywords. Look beyond SEO and look beyond top rankings. Life is all about forming relationships with your customers and helping them with solutions that make a difference. If you invest early in your own education then it'll save you hundreds of hours of time, learning the hard way. 

Learn how to use your real estate Web site for 

1. Gaining genuine visibility with solid rankings in the top results of the major search engines.
2. Satisfy the reason why the visitor searched.
3. Learn how to compel your visitors to respond to what they experience.
4. Use your Web site ultimately as a lead generator and to fashion genuine relationships.

 Would you like a Free SEO Tip of the day sent to you each and every day by e-mail? It's free!

Check out the agenda for our next upcoming SEO Mastery Workshop?

Check out the SEO Workshop Registration Details here. 

About John Alexander
John's articles can be read in publications like REALTOR Magazine, Search Engine Guide,WEBpro News, SitePro News and many others. John Alexander is Co-director of Training at Search Engine Workshops offering live, SEO Workshops with pioneering SEO educator Robin Nobles, author of the very first comprehensive online search engine marketing courses. John is author of an e-book called Wordtracker Magic and has taught SEO skills to people from 87 different countries world wide.  

Click here to go back to the index of search engine marketing articles

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed
under a Creative Commons License.

We'll keep you advised on all of our future training dates the moment things are firmed up.
Simply enter your name and e-mail in the box below.

See what other dates and locations are still available

Sign up to receive our NEWSLETTER, PLUS free SEO strategies 
and tips and notification of future SEO workshops by e-mail.


Your Name:

Your E-mail Address:

John Alexander



Click here to go back to the index of SEO articles

Search Engine Marketing Workshops | Site Map | Affiliate Program

Privacy Policy | Terms of Service