I’m glad you've made it through the first and second part of this SEO guide for Real Estate. We've already covered a lot, but don't worry, the road to landing on the first page of a Google search is coming to an end.
In this third and last chapter of our SEO guide we will cover many different things: backlinks, site speed, mobile pages, the importance of your analytics, etc.
Before we go any further, I must warn you that if you haven't read the first two sections I strongly recommend you to do so!
Part 1: The basics, from sitemaps to page titles and meta descriptions.
Part 2: Content and on-page optimization.
Now that we’ve got that covered, let's get started, shall we?
"In search engine optimization (SEO) terminology a backlink is a hyperlink that links from a Web page, back to your own Web page or Web site." - Vangie Beal - webopedia
A backlink is simply an incoming link to a web page. So why are they so important? Backlinks are one of, if not the most important search engine ranking factor because they allow you to receive traffic from other websites, increase the authority of your domain, etc.
To make it easy to understand, think of backlinks as the word of mouth of online marketing. You can see it as a recommendation from one person to another. Just like in real life, not every backlink/recommendation has the same value. Depending on the authority of the source, the backlink will have a bigger or lower value to you and search engines. What recommendation would you trust: one from an expert or one from a shady person in a dark alley? That's exactly how search engines treat them.
There are many different factors that determine the value of the backlink from the authority of the source domain to topic specific factors. What is important to know is that it's not only about the number of backlinks but rather about their quality.
Referrals can send a lot of traffic to your website. Here is an example from this blog's analytics over the course of 2 months.
The question becomes: how do you get backlinks? There are many different techniques: some I recommend and some I strongly disagree with.
1) Press releases. News outlets are great sources for backlinks. They are generally popular and trusted. If you have a newsworthy story to share, send it over to some outlets with a PR pitch and a press release. Discover how to get featured in the press without having to pay a PR agency via this amazing guide
2) Partnerships. Partnerships with governmental, educational organizations or private companies are a great way to generate backlinks. Although time consuming, backlinks coming from ".gov" or ".edu" domains usually carry a high value. Here is an interesting article about ".gov" links.
3) Blogging. We’ve already covered the many benefits of blogging in some of my other articles. However, did you know that having a blog is a great way to generate lots of backlinks? If you write great content it might, at some point, be referenced by other blogs or websites. This is a long-term strategy, but it can pay enormous dividends.
4) Guest Writing. Some blogs or outlets are continuously looking for contributors. So if you are confident about your writing, it might be a valuable option.
There are many other techniques you can use to build backlinks. If you want to know more about it check out this great guide.
"In search engine optimization (SEO) terminology, black hat SEO refers to the use of aggressive SEO strategies, techniques and tactics that focus only on search engines and not a human audience, and usually does not obey search engines guidelines." - webopedia
The end of this definition says it perfectly, "tactics that focus only on search engines and not human audience." That is exactly the opposite of what you should be doing.
For example, you might have seen ads or offers on websites like Fiverr, where people tell you they will get you thousands of backlinks for a couple of dollars (I've seen an ad offering 300,000 backlinks for $50). I'm not going to get technical, but that is absolutely not something I recommend doing. Just like I said earlier, it's all about building quality backlinks. Unfortunately, it takes time and dedication to build these links and $50 for 300,000 links sounds like a scam.
Not to mention such tactics could mean serious penalties from search engines and even being potentially unindexed. At the end of the day, when it comes to black hat SEO techniques, you should ask yourself if the juice is worth the squeeze. I think we both know the answer to that question.
In 2010 Google officially announced that site speed was taken into account in its ranking algorithm. As always, they didn't give many explanations beyond that. What did they mean by that? What's the benchmark? To what degree can it affect your ranking? All these questions were left unanswered.
You might have heard that term many times. But what does it mean exactly? Site speed can be divided in two parts:
Back-end site speed or time to first byte, is the time it takes for your browser to receive the first response from a web server when you request an URL. In other words, it's the time it takes for the first piece of information (aka the first byte) to appear on your screen when you click on a link.
Front-end site speed is the time it takes for a web page to be completely rendered once the first byte has been loaded. In other words, it is the time it takes for all the images, blocks and parts of a web page to appear on your screen once the server has answered your request.
Now that we know exactly what it is, the question becomes: why is it so important?
First of all, because it is used by Google in its ranking algorithm, meaning it will have an impact on your ranking on search engines. Secondly, because it has a huge impact on website visitors' experiences, conversion rates and so forth. Amazon has estimated that if they were to slow down their page load time by 1 second, it would cost them $1.6 Billion per sales year. When seconds turn into billions of dollars, it's a clear sign of the importance of site speed.
How can you improve your site's speed?
Before answering that question, it is important to first determine which site speed you want to optimize: back-end or front-end?
Optimizing front-end speed is the easiest of the two. We’ve already covered what you have to do in the second part of this guide. As a reminder, it's all about optimizing your content and compressing your images.
Back-end speed optimization is a whole other ball game. Contrary to its front-end counterpart, it is way more complicated. If you created your website with a provider like Wordpress, Weebly, Squarespace, etc you shouldn't be worried about it.
If you want to test the speed of your website use the tool Google provides: Google Speed Insights.
Officially, since 2016 there have been more people browsing websites on their mobiles phone than on their computers. As I have said many times in this SEO guide for real estate, it's crucial to keep a customer-centric approach when it comes to search engine optimization. That means that you have to take into account the dominance of mobile web browsing.
Google has split its index of search results into separate versions: for desktop and for mobile. That is a clear sign that the famous search engine intends to prioritize mobile over desktop. More importantly, knowing that more users browse the internet on their phones, not having a mobile friendly website simply means you are going to miss out on the majority of your potential clients.
How to make sure your real estate website is mobile friendly?
If you've created your website with Squarespace, Weebly, Wix or an equivalent website builder, it should be mobile friendly by default. If you created it with Wordpress, make sure the template you are using is mobile friendly as well. It is not always the case so keep an eye out!
Finally, if you developed your website with a company or your own IT team, it is something you are going to have to ask for specifically.
The factors that impact the ranking of a webpage have not officially been made public by Google. That means that there is room for interpretation and speculation. SEO is a discipline that is evolving quickly and there is no definite consensus about every ranking factor.
I wanted to cover two factors that have been widely discussed in the SEO community over the years. This last section is more of an open conversation and should be seen that way!
It's been a question that has been discussed with passion over the past years and even extensively researched to determine if there is a correlation between the number of shares of a page and its ranking.
I think the question we should be asking is whether or not social signals have an impact on rankings? Personally, I think the answer is yes, but indirectly. Popular pages tend to be linked back to more often (it's a numbers game), which we know has a direct impact on the ranking.
Yes, pages that rank high on search engines tend to be shared quite a bit, but is it really surprising? Pages that rank on the first page of Google are naturally going to be shared more often and the people behind that type of content also have a social media strategy when it comes to sharing. That doesn't mean that social signals are a factor in the algorithm. What's your opinion?
Before we discuss this subject, I think it's important to define "analytics." In this case, by analytics, I mean the data used to measure the performance on your website. More specifically, I'd like to discuss the impact of bounce rate and click through rate (CTR).
"In web analytics, the bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who leave after viewing a single page" - MarketingTerms.
Here is an example of the bounce rate of our website here at Drawbotics.
I personally don't think it does for one simple reason: there is not one ideal bounce rate. The bounce rate is going to depend on a variety of factors, from the industry to the type of website. For example, blogs usually have a higher bounce rate (on average 80%). Also a high bounce rate can be positive; for example, it could mean that the user found exactly what he was looking for on your page and didn't need more information.
"The click through rate (CTR) is a ratio showing how often people who see your link (ad or organic) end up clicking it. Clicks ÷ impressions = CTR. For example, if you had 5 clicks and 1000 impressions, then your CTR would be 0.5%." - Google
It is also an important indicator for search engines. Indeed, it can show them whether or not your page is relevant in respect to certain keywords. At the end of the day, search engines want to ensure they match search queries with content that is useful and relevant for their users.
Whether or not it does impact SEO rankings, CTR is important and it is a metric you should care about. We talked about the importance of meta descriptions in the first part of this guide and it's impact on CTR. I believe you should take it into account in your SEO strategy.
The whole goal of this step-by-step SEO guide for real estate was to make it easy to understand and actionable. I wanted to show the important steps you have to take to rank higher on search engine results and attract more leads to your real estate business.
SEO is a very extensive discipline that is constantly changing as new discoveries are made, techniques developed and as search engines adapt their algorithms. I obviously couldn't cover everything, but tried to summarize the most important subjects and make them relevant to the real estate industry. If there is a subject you want me to cover, explore more in-depth or if you have a question, make sure you ask me via the comment section below.