Agents know that being found online is crucial for their business. David Conroy, an R&D engineer for CRT Labs at the National Association of Realtors’ headquarters, has some best practices for SEO implementation on agent websites.
“Real Estate is one of the most competitive industries when it comes to keywords and search engine marketing, so the more specific you can get, the better,” Conroy says.
Agents can mine their marketing plans for the niche, target customer, and the neighborhoods or home types in which they specialize. To optimize their website for their target audience, they will need to develop an understanding of that target market’s search behavior and how they will search for the homes they are looking for. Conroy suggests agents use tools like Google’s Keyword Planner to vet the keywords used to optimize their website. Agents can install Google Analytics and Google Search Console, both free tools, to monitor website traffic and search rankings on an ongoing basis.
There are a few basic elements of website structure agents should know:
Title tag: Every webpage has a title tag. It appears in search results and tells users – and search engines – what information the webpage contains. Agents should include their targeted search terms in the titles of their posts or pages, so users will know what the page is about when they encounter it in search results.
Alt text: This alternative text is inserted as an attribute to describe images on a website (which can be useful for visually impaired users, or users encountering image load problems on a website), and can be indexed by search engines.
“Every image on your website should have alt text, and you should do your best to accurately describe what is featured,” Conroy says.
IDX: Internet Data Exchange, or IDX, allows content to be inserted into another document on a website, and it’s how many agent websites display MLS listings. This can be tricky, according to Conroy. If a website provider uses iFrames or long and cluttered URLs, or if a website loads slowly, then it is time to search for a replacement. “Ideally, you should be able to fully integrate the IDX pages into your site with customizable URLs,” he says.
In its “U.S. Smartphone Use in 2015” report, Pew Research found that 44 percent of Americans reported using their smartphone to look up information about where to live and access real estate listings. Mobile design matters, and its importance is growing. Agent websites and listings will need to be accessible and easy to use for increasing numbers of consumers on mobile devices.
Mobile SEO involves some additional usability considerations. The optimal way to prepare a real estate website for mobile users is by employing responsive Web design, which means the site is built to display its content optimally for the device used to access it. This ensures that a website renders correctly across devices, but has other SEO benefits. For example, it is well documented that Google favors mobile-friendly websites in its rankings for mobile searches.
When agents’ websites are optimized for the consumers who need them, everyone wins.