If you’re an investor who runs a motivated seller website, this is a comprehensive outline of what you need to do in order to optimize your site, increase rank, and start bringing in more organic leads.
Welcome to SEO for Real Estate Investors. This is a practical guide that will walk you through what you’ll need to optimize your website for motivated seller searches.
We’ll cover topics like:
What this won’t be, is a comprehensive guide designed to explain every nuance or detail. Our SEO team has been in the industry for years, and seen all kinds of changes, helped many clients rank, and knows what they’re talking about. But we won’t be explaining things like “follow” vs “no-follow” links, or step by step optimization tips.
Instead, this article will give you a full picture of every step you need to take to have a fully-optimized website that can start ranking, and over time, bring in organic motivated seller leads.
It’s a done-for-you service where our team will optimize your site, and help you start ranking for your top 5 target cities. It includes white-hat, high-quality link building, custom copywriting, and basically all the other basics covered in this article. Good for investors with higher budgets, and less time. Learn more here.
Jump in a small group style Bootcamp, where our team will walk you through doing it yourself, step by step, including where to find links, how to get them, what keywords to track, and more. Basically, we give all our expertise to you and guide you as you do it yourself. Besides SEO, the Bootcamp will also teach you how to run PPC ads (on Adwords) and do your own remarketing. Great for investors with less money and more time. Learn more here.
Alright, so let’s begin with the pros and cons of SEO as a marketing channel for real estate investors.
SEO (search engine optimization) is optimizing your site to try and rank (or, show up) when your target customer makes searches related to what you do. It’s not a quick checklist of things to do. It’s an ongoing effort to make your site be able to be found when people use search engines.
Its goal is to increase your organic traffic (the number of website visitors you have), and help you improve ranking over time.
It’s not a quick way to make money or gain leads. It takes time, effort, and investment.
No marketing channel is perfect. They all require work, strategy, and perseverance. There is no magic solution where you can simply press a button, and just start increasing leads or printing money.
Each marketing channel has its own pros and cons. For example, PPC is wonderful in that you can start to drive leads and traffic almost immediately. But as a con, it’s expensive, needs to be honed in over time, and once you stop paying, your leads stop.
So what are the pros and cons of SEO as a marketing channel for real estate investors?
If you’re a real estate investor or cash home buying company, you have a lot of marketing options available to you. You could invest in paid ads (like PPC or Adwords), focus on referral marketing, using traditional mailers, network and collaborate with local businesses, etc.
So why SEO?
If you’re a real estate investor, you should be asking yourself, “is SEO for me?” Well, if you ask us, SEO is a good marketing channel for investors who:
A real estate investor isn’t cut out for SEO if he or she…
There is probably no other marketing channel that is so full of myths, misconceptions, and misunderstandings as SEO. It seems like the bulk amount of people looking to employ SEO for their real estate business knows enough to be dangerous.
Maybe you’re that way. You’ve heard buzzwords like “backlinks” and know they’re important. You “know” that SEO involves slapping some keywords on your site. Well, unfortunately, SEO has never been so hard, or complicated, as it is now
And the reason for this is simple: Google is interested (at least, so they say) in delivering the best results to people searching. If they don’t serve up good results, people stop searching on their platform, ad spend goes down, and they lose money.
Hence the infamous (and sometimes hated) “algorithm”. It’s what set Google apart from the very beginning. When other search engines ruled the world (before they went extinct), Google came along and thought of a better way to drive better search results. And over the years, it’s gotten better, and better and better at determining what (at least they think) drives good results.
That said, it’s important to get on the same page and establish fact vs fiction with SEO.
All it takes to optimize my site is sprinkle some keywords in.
Wrong. Google employs over 200 ranking signals to know where your site should end up. Keywords is a small, small part.
More links = better rank.
That depends. Google is much more about quality over quantity – which we’ll discuss later in this article.
I can follow a simple REI SEO tutorial and rank.
Maybe, maybe not. One trend we’ve noticed is platforms like Carrot (who we like btw), holding out sample clients who did some simple steps, for a long time and ended up winning in SEO big time. Because one person did it, they espouse, you can too.
It’s not that easy. It depends on your market, competition, existing ranking, and some other factors outside your control.
I’m going to hire ABC agency, who promises to rank me on position #__.
Bad idea. No professional in this industry should promise rank. Why? Because they can’t. They aren’t in control of your market, competition, or the algorithm changes being made every year. If they are promising a set number of rankings, it may be that they are up to something.
If I wrote 200 blog posts (or get them from my website provider) I’ll rank.
Mmmm… probably not. This answer is too complicated for a thorough explanation, but suffice to say – if it was as easy as buying some articles and pushing “publish”, everyone would be ranking.
With every direct marketing channel, it’s important to make sure that you’re investment is paying off. With paid advertising, this is fairly easy, provided you set up goal tracking properly. But for some real estate professionals, the question is: how do you measure ROI with SEO?
In our view, there are a few specific things you can track on your SEO campaign to help measure ROI:
There are always more factors to measure, but these are the main ones.
Okay, so now that we have some of the basics out of the way, what are the steps to actually ranking your real estate investor website, and increasing organic leads?
As we mentioned, the first thing you’re going to want to do is set up analytics and goal tracking. You’ll want to start with this, because it will help you capture the most accurate picture of the before and after result.
Think about it this way: you don’t want to be trying to set up analytics after you’ve finished optimizing your website, because if you do end up seeing improvements right away, you won’t have a good picture of what traffic looked like before the improvements you made.
To set up basic analytics and goal tracking:
After you have goal tracking and analytics in place, it’s time to set up and optimize your Google Business listing. If you haven’t already, create your business profile on Google My Business.
From there, you’ll want to register your physical address. Having one is crucial to ranking well for local searches, and unfortunately, a temporary address (like from a UPS Store, etc.) won’t fly. We find many investors are resistant to using their home address, but often, this is the easiest and best way to get started. If you have a coworking space that you work in, and they can grant you an address, then by all means, use that! Verifying your address is as simple as receiving a postcard at the address, then entering the verification code into Google.
Besides registration and verification, you’ll also want to describe your services in detail, and begin to solicit reviews (something we’ll talk about later). A few words of warning:
Don’t be spammy with your Google Business listing. Yes, you may see others titling their business name “We Buy Houses Houston – Sell House Fast Houston – ABC Buyers”, but we’d encourage you to stick to your actual LLC or operating business name.
Alright, you’re analytics, goal tracking, citations, and Google My Business are all in place and ready to go. Before you start with any optimization, you need to do some keyword research.
This basically means that you’re using SEO tools (paid and free) and researching:
A great tool to get you started for free is Moz’s Keyword Explorer. You’ll be able to make a limited number of searches to cut your teeth on keyword research and gather some data. Again, the point is to determine what phrases are niche enough that you can actually rank for them and get found, while at the same time, driving enough traffic to be worth optimizing for on your site.
Hint: there are usually always 2-3 primary keywords, and the rest can serve as supporting keywords.
After you find the keywords you want to track, you’ll need to add them to a keyword tracking tool. This will let you measure where your site is ranking at the very beginning, through the end of your SEO work.
The tool should show you where your site is ranking, for each search phrase, both within the target city, and nationally. This will be the main metric you’ll want to track as you go along, because if you aren’t increasing in rankings, then you aren’t going to increase in traffic, leads, or closes.
Once you’ve done your research, and have a list of all the keywords you want to rank for, and you’ve set up reporting to track them, it’s time to create some content for your site. Here are the steps for this part:
First, determine which pages should rank for what terms.
This is really important. You can’t rank every page for every keyword. It doesn’t work like that. You’ll need to decide which pages should rank for certain terms, and organize your site accordingly.
For example, say you want to rank for a few foreclosure-related keywords. You may decide that building a specific foreclosure page, explaining the process, is going to be better to rank than trying to get your homepage to rank for that.
In the end, it’s up to you, and this is where the strategy comes in. The goal is to get a single page ranking for all the relevant terms it can… but then when a term just doesn’t fit, breaking it off into its own page which ranks for its own cluster of keywords.
Next, it’s time to create the actual content.
Now that you have a visual map or layout of what pages should rank for what keywords, it’s time to actually write the content.
Now, many of you may be using a platform where they produce ready-made content for you. And that’s fine, except you’ll still need to write your own (or throw out the stock stuff entirely and re-write from the ground up). Here’s why:
Aim for content that is long enough to be fully-comprehensive, so that each page is fully covering the topic you’re trying to write about, leaving no major questions unanswered.
Once you have all the copy written, you can build out the pages, creating new content, or add the copy to existing pages and enhance existing content. Again, this requires some strategy and planning, and in the end, it’s up to you and your goals.
Now that you’re content is written, and the pages are built or enhanced with it, it’s time to optimize. On-site is basically laying out the page(s) in such a way that all the confirmed ranking signals Google looks for, will be there.
This includes everything from having the right “density” of keywords to the file names of your images, outbound links, headings, metadata, and more. We’ve found there are roughly 13 (depending on how you count) that matter the most.
You’ll want to go through and optimize each page that you’re trying to get to rank. One pro tip is to go down a checklist of all the major signals and check it off one by one to make sure each page has what search engines will be looking for.
Everything up until now is considered “on-site optimization”, making up the 1st half of SEO. Now we’ll move to the 2nd half: off-site optimization.
At this point, all the optimization on your site is done. From the analytics and tracking to the copy, to the way you’ve optimized your pages.
All that is only 50% of the work. The rest comes from building signals that Google looks at off of your site (hence the name, “off-site optimization”).
Truth be told, there are over 200 signals that Google weighs at any given time to know where to rank your site. SEOs don’t know all of them. No one has access to the full algorithm except Google. And it’s impossible to turn the investors reading this article into professional SEOs in 3,000 words.
So here we’re just focusing on two of the most major, change-making off-site signals: reviews and link building.
The first off-site signal to focus on is increasing the number of Google Business reviews you have. Some clients ask us whether or not it’s helpful to get reviews on places like Yelp, or Facebook.
While it does appear that Google is taking note of Facebook reviews for your business, we always recommend that the best use of your finite time is to solicit reviews for your Google listing. After all, the one thing you know for sure is that Google is ultimately only going to want people to use it more and more.
The best way we have found to do this is to find the direct link to your reviews area, and send that to clients every time you close with them, or send it to past clients and ask them to leave you a review. If you tell clients, “find us on Google and leave a review” it’s just not going to happen. People are lazy. So make it easy for them.
A really easy way to do this is to search for your business name and find your business listing. Click “leave a review”. Then copy and paste the URL into an email or text message (however you’re asking them to leave you a review)
If you want to take it a step further, you can use Bitly or another free link shortener to create a nicer looking link. Share this link on social, email, text message, wherever you’re communicating with customers.
The goal here is not to get 50 on day 1 (that would be suspicious), it’s to have a sustainable way to increase reviews over time. If you can get 10 in your first 2 months, that’s great! If you can get 50 in a year, even better! The more, the better.
The second major off-site signal you’ll need to continue building over time is links. A backlink is simply any link, on another website, that when clicked, goes to your website. If you click on a link, on another website, and it takes you to yours, it’s a backlink.
Gaining high-quality backlinks is the hardest part of SEO. Links have always been super important when it comes to ranking, and 2019 or 2020 is no different.
However, link building has evolved, today it’s more about quality over quantity. Google wants to see a diversity of trustworthy links related to the industry you’re in. For example, if you’re a cash home buyer, you shouldn’t have 20 links on obscure websites, bakery websites, or car-salesman websites. You want links on websites that are about remodeling, homes, interior design, etc.
When you’re optimizing your real estate investment site, you’ll want to make sure you get links on high authority, real estate related websites, or websites that are focused on the location you’re targeting.
Again, take a marathon mindset and aim for quality over quantity. And remember that you never want to gain links in a blackhat way that violates Google’s guidelines. Don’t work with any agency that builds links through PBNs (private blog networks), don’t buy links, and don’t build a bunch of spammy/cheap links.
Aim for 10, high quality, real estate related links. If it seems hard, that’s because it is. Our internal SEO team builds anywhere from 8-15 links for our SEO Kickstart clients, all through pure hard work. If you want access to a 1hour seminar on link building for real estate investors, you can check out our Bootcamp where we teach DIY SEO.
Common SEO related questions real investors may have:
We wouldn’t. Google is getting better and better at cracking down and sniffing out bad links out. If you get penalized, you’ll be dropped from the search results until you fix it and have them review your site. Talk about negative ROI and work going down the drain!
Anyone who is willing to put in the work, and can dedicate weekly time to their campaign. If you need guidance, we provide step by step coaching.
Anywhere from 3-6 months on average. We’ve seen clients that are already ranking well go to spots #1-3 in as quickly as 3 months. We’ve also had clients who aren’t ranking anywhere, who Google doesn’t know at all, take 6 months to make it to pages 1 and 2.
Any website will do, but some platforms we prefer are WordPress, Carrot, or potentially Squarespace. Anything that comes with an SSL certificate (https), is fast loading, mobile responsive, and that can be indexed cleanly by Google.
As much as you can! No, but seriously, it depends on your schedule. If you only have 3 hours, that’s plenty! If you can devote 10+, you’ll probably build links faster and get where you want to be a bit quicker too.
Avoid companies who promise results.
SEO is not as guaranteed or mathematical as PPC. With paid ads, you can measure right away that if you put in $x, you can make $x. It’s not that simple with SEO. Any agency that says they can guarantee results (without knowing your unique website, market, or competition) is probably using some shady tactics to get those results.
Avoid companies who buy links or use PBNs.
When vetting a company or SEO consultant, ask specifically how they get their links. Ask directly, “do you build PBN links?” If they use lingo like “we have a proprietary network of websites that link to you” or some BS like that, run. Make sure they build links on real, 3rd party websites, with high authority, that people actually visit and read.
Make sure they do a comprehensive job, not just edit some metadata.
Finally, make sure they provide all the steps we list here, or that if they don’t, they charge accordingly. For example, we charge a premium for our done-for-you SEO service. But that’s because we provide everything we’ve written about here. It’s a lot of work. Some companies won’t write any copy or create content. Others just make page edits or changes to your meta titles. Others don’t build links. So make sure you know what you’re getting.