Real Estate Paradigm Shifts in Keyword Research for SEO
by 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.
you trying to attract to your Web site?
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
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
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.
something that satisfies the reason why the prospective
"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
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
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
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
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
Most SEO related people talk
about "keyword research."
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
So where is the paradigm shift?
Perhaps there is no discontinuity of the original view because
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
based on research data at the time this article was
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.)
Shift - So what could possibly be more powerful than doing
good "keyword research?"
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
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
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)
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.
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
4. Use your Web site ultimately as a lead generator and to
fashion genuine relationships.