One of the most common questions agents ask after building their websites is if real estate search engine optimization (SEO) is still an effective lead generation strategy. The answer may surprise you. While getting your content to rank on search engines is harder than it used to be, you can easily outrank your competition by investing some time and effort and using basic SEO strategies that most Realtors either don’t understand or don’t bother with.
We put together this guide to help you get started. We’ve included nine real estate SEO strategies to help your content rank better in Google (and other) search results. We’ll also cover the most frequently asked questions and common SEO mistakes to avoid.
What Is Real Estate SEO?
Real estate SEO is the strategy agents, team leaders, and brokerages use to improve their websites’ rankings on search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing.
What Are the Benefits of Real Estate SEO?
The higher your website ranks on a search engine, the more people will see it and hopefully click on it. This translates into more site visitors and—if your website is optimized for lead capture—more buyer and seller leads in your CRM.
9 Steps to Perfect Real Estate SEO
Ready to start your SEO journey?
1. Run an SEO Audit on Your Website
The first step to any SEO project is to audit your current website to see if there are any technical issues that might cause Google to rank your content lower (or ignore it entirely).
The easiest way to do an SEO audit is to hire someone to do it for you. I’d recommend looking into freelance SEO auditors on a site such as Fiverr, which should cost about $50. You’ll get a report showing any issues that might be holding your site back from ranking on search engines. Some SEO freelancers or companies will even do this for free, but they might try to upsell you to paid services without explaining the actual issues with your website.
If you’d rather DIY your SEO audit, you will need to invest in a few free and paid tools. Here is a quick rundown of the tools you will need, and a great in-depth guide from Semrush on setting up and running your audit.
|SEO Site Audit Tool
|What It’s Used For
|SEMrush Site Audit Tool
|Runs detailed SEO audits for your website, tracks ranking on Google, performs competitor research
|$130 per month
|Google PageSpeed Insights
|Tests how fast pages on your site load on desktop and mobile
|Google Search Console
|Determines if your site is indexed properly on Google
2. Fix Issues Found in Your SEO Audit
Now you can start fixing any problems your audit uncovered. Here are a few common issues found in an SEO audit:
- Meta descriptions missing or not optimized for SEO
- Image alt text missing or not optimized for SEO
- Wrong image size and resolution
- Poor keyword usage
- Improper or missing heading structure (H1, H2, H3, etc.)
- Duplicate content
- Broken links
- Using HTTP protocol instead of HTTPS
There might be some easy fixes, like deleting duplicate content or fixing broken links, or more complex issues like upgrading your security protocol to HTTPS. Fix what you can and hire out for the rest.
One of the easiest improvements you can make on your website is to help it load faster for visitors. If you got low scores from Google’s free PageSpeed Insights tool, try removing or reducing the size of large images, GIFs, or infographics. You can also try removing WordPress plugins or IDX widgets from pages that load slowly.
If all of your pages load slowly, you might need to upgrade your web hosting plan from a shared plan to a dedicated or virtual private server (VPS). VPS plans run around $20 per month and will offer significantly faster loading times than shared hosting. Dedicated hosting plans are around $100 per month and offer significantly faster loading times than VPS plans. If your website gets a lot of traffic, you might want to consider dedicated hosting. If not, VPS hosting should do the trick.
3. Set Up Your Google Business Profile Account
After you’ve run your SEO audit and fixed any issues that arose, the next step is to claim your Google Business Profile account. This is Google’s tool for indexing local businesses for search on Google Maps. The reason this is important in 2023 is because Google Maps results are almost always at the top of search engine results pages (SERP) for searches related to real estate. For example, when I search “real estate agent” from a device in New York, Google puts a map of nearby real estate brokerages at the top of the SERP:
While this won’t guarantee your site shows up at the top of the search results, if you don’t fill out your Google Business Profile, you may not ever show up!
4. Research Keywords You Want to Rank For
After you’ve completed your audit, fixed SEO issues, and set up your Google Business Profile, the next step is to research the keywords your local audience is searching for. Once you know this, you can create content to address their questions and concerns. For example, if your audience is searching for “affordable condos in Miami,” you can write an article or create a video explaining how to find exactly that.
Seek Out Some Keyword Expertise
The best way to do keyword research is to use a keyword research tool like Ahrefs. Ahrefs isn’t free but is a worthwhile investment to help plan what content to write for your website. You can also hire a freelancer on Fiverr to do basic keyword research for you.
Research the SERP for Your Keywords
Once you have a list of keywords you want to target, search for each keyword in incognito mode to see what kind of content is ranking for those keywords. Are they articles or videos? How long are the articles? What kinds of websites are ranking for these keywords? What other content is your competition creating? What other keywords do they seem to be targeting? Finally, how can you improve on the content currently ranking on the first page for your keywords?
To learn more about keyword research, check out our in-depth guide:
The 117 Best Real Estate Keywords (+ How to Use Them & Find More)
5. Create a Content Cluster Strategy
Generally speaking, search engines rank content created by subject matter experts higher than content created by amateurs. For example, when people search for “best cancer treatments,” search engines will display results from top oncologists before your cousin Jeff who thinks crystals and herbs cure cancer. (Sorry, Jeff!) Search engines determine your expertise in a subject by looking at how much expert content you have on your website and how well organized that content is.
This is where content clusters come in. Content clusters are groups of articles organized from top-level subjects like “condos in Miami” that then drill down to more specific related topics like “Condos in Brickell” or “How to qualify for a condo in Miami.”
Pillar Content, Subpillar Content & Cluster Content
Creating content clusters is simple. Start by identifying your most general local keywords. These will be your pillar pages. Then organize more specific content related to that pillar page underneath. Once you have your cluster mapped out, start writing the content for your pillar pages and plan to create content for your subpillars and cluster content. Once you write your subpillar and cluster content, link to them from your pillar page.
Here’s what a cluster map might look like for an agent who sells condos in Miami:
Pillar content: Condos in Miami
Subpillar content: Best neighborhoods to buy condos in Miami, how to get approved for a condo in Miami, most affordable condos in Miami, waterfront condos in Miami, etc.
Cluster content: Condos in Brickell, condos in Miami Beach, Coconut Grove neighborhood guide, etc.
6. Craft Useful & Compelling Articles, Videos & Infographics
Now that you have a cluster strategy mapped out, the next step is to create the content for your website.
Create Pillar Content First
Your pillar content should address general topics that you will expand on in your cluster content. For example, a pillar page about condos in Miami should be a high-level overview of buying condos in Miami. Try to think of questions your audience might have about the topic and answer them in your article. What are the general price ranges by neighborhood for condos in Miami? How competitive is the market? What should buyers look out for? What should sellers be aware of? Stay focused; answers that require more detail should be addressed in your cluster content.
How Long Should Your Content Be?
There is no hard-and-fast rule for how long your content needs to be to rank on Google, but studies show longer content tends to outrank shorter content. Research from Semrush shows that the best-ranking articles on Google were over 3,000 words. Just do your best to answer the questions you think your audience will have about the topic and remember to address more specific answers in your subpillar and cluster content.
Article vs Video Content
While articles usually rank better than videos, for some keywords at least, videos will outrank articles. This is why researching SERPs before you start writing content is so important. If a SERP for a keyword you want to rank for has videos ranking at the top of the page, then making a video for that keyword is a no-brainer. The best approach is to embed a video in an article. For example, after you finish writing your pillar content for “condos in Miami,” record and embed a quick YouTube video summarizing the content. Note that if you want to track your video’s performance, it’ll need a specific video page in order to rank.
15 Real Estate Videos Top Agents Use to Generate & Nurture Leads
Use SEO Best Practices as You Write
There are a number of SEO best practices for creating content for your website. They include using structured data like H1, H2, and H3 headings and numbered lists; using keywords in the first paragraph of your articles; writing in simple language; and focusing on answering readers’ questions in the most direct way possible. Getting creative with your writing can be tempting, but for most articles, a bare-bones “just the facts” approach will work better for SEO. Plus, people are busy! They just want to learn what you have to teach them as quickly as possible.
💡 If you’re using WordPress, a free SEO plugin like Yoast will make following SEO best practices much easier.
7. Work on Getting Backlinks to Your Content
Although this has waned a bit in recent years, another way search engines decide where to rank your content is by the number and quality of other websites that link to your homepage or directly to your blog posts. This is why getting other sites to link to your website is helpful for SEO.
Link Quality Counts More Than Quantity
Generally speaking, a link from a well-respected site like the New York Times might be worth 100 (or more!) links from smaller websites. It’s not easy, but putting in the work to get high-quality links to your website will have an unbeatable return on investment (ROI) for SEO.
Links from websites that are related to your pillar content are also more valuable for ranking than more general sites. For example, if you’re writing about condos in Miami, then a link from the Miami Herald might be more valuable than a link from the New York Post. Since you are writing about real estate, a link from Realtor Magazine or your state’s Realtor association would be even more valuable.
One of the best ways to get links from high-quality websites in 2023 is to use HARO. Standing for Help a Reporter Out, this is a forum where journalists submit questions when they need expert quotes for articles they are working on. Getting quoted as a real estate expert along with a link to your site is actually much easier than you might think. Journalists are almost always on tight deadlines, which means they sometimes scramble at the last minute to get good quotes from experts.
To get backlinks from HARO, subscribe to their email and pitch journalists when they need quotes from real estate experts. If they accept your pitch, ask them to link to your website. Easy, right? The key is to respond to journalists’ quote requests as soon as they get posted. This will greatly increase your odds of getting your quote accepted.
To learn more about getting links from HARO and other sources, check out our in-depth guide to strategic PR below:
5 PR Strategies Any Agent Can Use to Get Free Press
8. Update Your Best Performing Articles on a Schedule
Since your local real estate market can change from quarter to quarter or even month to month, search engines generally rank up-to-date content higher. So once you have your content written, create an update calendar to make sure that content stays fresh.
For pillar pages, try to schedule updates at least once per quarter. For subpillar and cluster content, you can get away with updating once or twice per year. When updating your articles, spend a few minutes researching what changed since your last update, and then address those changes in your article.
The Complete 2024 Real Estate Marketing Calendar & Holiday Guide (+ PDF)
9. Regularly Audit Your Website for SEO Issues
Even if your content is ranking well, you still need to regularly audit your website to look for any issues that might affect your rankings. For example, articles or videos you link to might change their URLs, leaving you with dead links, or your articles might start to load slowly if you install a new plugin. Scheduling bi-yearly or quarterly SEO audits can help you find these issues before they start to affect your ranking.
How Much Does Real Estate SEO Cost?
Like most great lead generation strategies, you can tackle real estate SEO yourself, for free. Writing great content that puts the reader first might take up a lot of your time, but there are no real upfront costs.
That said, if you are serious about using SEO as a lead generation strategy, investing in some basic tools or hiring freelancers will be a huge help. Here is a quick rundown of some SEO tools and services you might want to consider to help your rankings grow:
DIY SEO Tools 2023: Recommendations & Pricing
|Type of SEO Tool
|Cost per Month
|Keyword Research Tool
|$99+ per month
|Upgraded Web Hosting
|$30+ per month
|WordPress SEO Plugin
Hiring SEO Freelancers
Since getting your website to rank on search engines can take years of hard work, you might be tempted to skip the line and just hire a freelancer to do SEO for you. Having hired many SEO freelancers in the past, I don’t generally recommend this strategy for individual Realtors. Like any good freelancer, SEO experts can be extremely expensive. The best may charge more than $5,000 per month! And beware of “affordable” SEO freelancers. Some use dishonest tactics that might help you rank on Google for a week or so, but can also result in your site getting blacklisted from Google’s search results.
That said, there are many individual SEO tasks that you can and should outsource to freelancers on a site like Fiverr as the need arises:
How Long Does It Take to See Results?
This is kind of like asking, “How long will it take until I can speak French?” You might see some results right away, but there are many levels of proficiency. Here are two basic factors that determine how quickly you will see results from your SEO efforts:
1. The Competitiveness of Your Target Keywords
If you’re trying to rank for “Beverly Hills Mansions for sale,” your chances of seeing results right away are very, very low. This is because there are many real estate portals like Zillow and well-established real estate brokerages that also want to rank number one for those keywords. Your chances of outranking Zillow or Compass here is virtually zero. These companies spend millions of dollars to get their content to rank on search engines.
However, if you’re trying to rank for “best neighborhoods in Elmira New York,” you will see results much faster since you will have significantly less competition on the SERP.
2. The Quality of Your Content, Website & Backlink Profile
Let’s tackle these criteria one by one:
- Content: If your content does not offer useful information related to the topics people are searching for, you might never see results.
- Website: Even if you have great content, if your website loads slowly, is not optimized for mobile, or uses complicated code, you will have a hard time ranking.
- Backlink profile: Part of the way Google and other search engines judge the quality of your content is by looking at how many other websites link to it. More high-quality links = better chances of ranking highly.
How Google & Other Search Engines Rank Content in 2023
Google uses advanced artificial intelligence (AI) to decide which websites and pages should appear on the first page of the SERP. Since Google wants to deliver the best and most relevant results, they continually tweak their AI to make sure the most helpful results rise to the top.
Of course, publishing content that answers common questions that your target audience is asking on Google is not enough to rank well in 2023. After all, thousands of websites are likely to publish content similar to yours. As a result, Google also considers factors like the expertise of the person writing the content, the quality of the website, how easy the content is to read, and other factors.
Do Real Estate Agents Need SEO?
As long as you’re willing to put in the time and effort to audit your website, research keywords, create content clusters, and produce great content, then SEO can be an effective way to generate leads and raise brand awareness with your website.
Have comments? Questions? Let us know below!