If there is one big thing I've noticed from real estate sites, it's that a lot of them look great but are very, very poorly optimized for search engines and for users. Pretty pictures can sell if you get a user on the site but images alone won't drive users in.
It's just as critical to stage your website for viewers as it is to stage your house for a sale, after all. Your site should be easy for anyone to use, not just someone who is tech-savvy.
If you invest the time and money in bringing people to your site through the ways we go over below, don't immediately turn them off with poor usability. Invest in your site and you'll realize that building links for the real estate industry is fairly easy and best of all? It's actually kind of fun.
Capitalize On Your Existing Clientele
At first thought this might sound a bit silly. After all, if you've just bought a house, you probably aren't going to immediately buy another one unless you're in the real estate or rental business yourself (or you're exceptionally wealthy).
However, think word of mouth. Most of my friends who've bought houses have asked us who our realtor was.
If you're about to sell your house, I'm sure you'll be asking for good realtors, which is what makes word of mouth massive in this industry. Keep your existing clients happy, happy, happy!
One of the coolest email newsletters I receive is from a friend who's a realtor in town, and here's a snippet of one from last October:
He lists his URL, some info about him, and has content that isn't just about selling his houses. I get another local realty newsletter that's just the opposite, with nothing to interest me if I'm not about to buy or sell a house (and I'm not) but Michael's is interesting for people who live in our area, not just potential buyers. I'm on his list so whenever he sends a newsletter, he's again fresh on my mind in case someone asks me for a recommendation for a realtor.
The good thing about the real estate industry? Doing local SEO is easy.
The bad thing about the real estate industry? It's so easy, a lot of realtors forget to do it.
- Local search: In Google's Places for Business, Yahoo Local, and Bing Local. Get some Yelp reviews from satisfied customers.
- Local city directories: Get listed in local city directories (if there are any) and your Chamber of Commerce.
- Event Promotion: Find out who lists events and get your events listed there. Most towns have at least one newspaper and many have alternative weeklies that have an online version, and these make for amazing links.
- Email newsletter: Our neighborhood has an email newsletter that's kind of sporadic but still, it's there. When we moved from our first house we stayed in the neighborhood and moved only a few blocks away, and we were lucky enough to hear about the house from a friend who'd seen it. The neighborhood newsletter would have drawn my attention to it much faster.
- Donate: Since you're all about local, put your money where your mouth is and make a few local donations. Help fund a local community theater and get listed in their playbills. Create a scholarship to help a family send their child to a dance studio for a year.
- Volunteer your time in some way: Serve on a company's board. Write a real estate column for a local city blogger. Offer to answer real estate questions at the library for an hour one night.
- Piggyback on local events: If there's a big event happening in a college neighborhood and you're selling a house there, make sure that the people attending know about your open house. You never know if there are out-of-town parents looking to buy a house to be closer to their college kid. If you see a flyer for a big college festival, get in touch with the organizers to see if they can write something about your open house on their website. You probably won't get an actual text link out of this but hey, if you sell a house, who cares?
- Meetups: Just like with restaurants and the idea that everyone needs to eat, everyone needs a place to live, so local meetups are great ways to get involved and let people know who you are for when they need you. Some people may not actively be looking to buy a house but if they do get a crazy idea and they know you, they might be more likely to ask you questions and actually end up buying something from you.
Twitter can be a great way to let everyone know about an open house, a reduced price listing, a new listing – anything at all.
If you have an open house and you've brought in wine and cheese and one person shows up, tweet to specific people nearby and ask them to come out.
Tweet out questions and ask people what's the most important thing to them when considering moving to a new neighborhood. These answers can be incredibly beneficial in helping you know what to promote, and they can make for great content on your blog (which can then be socialized).
As you can see, she has a lot of followers and is tweeting about upcoming sales. In her Twitter feed, she's responsive to people who tweet to her and isn't just there to tweet out links to her own houses for sale. That's the key for successfully using social media. Respond! Interact. Don't be completely self-absorbed.
Facebook is good for interacting with people on a more personal level, so it can be very useful for real estate. Berkshire Hathaway have a nice Facebook page and you can see how they do more than just push photos of houses for sale. They're posting about housing industry news, community awards, and they even have a selfie hashtag they're pushing as you can see below:
Facebook is good for some direct targeting, also.
For example, let's say you have a few friends that live in a great neighborhood and you're selling a house there. You can easily message your friends and let them know that you have a house for sale near them and ask them to pass on the info. Maybe one of them has a coworker who would love to live there and your personal message, on the back of your friendship, seals the deal for you.
The Chariff Realty Group in Miami have a nice Instagram account as what they showcase isn't just houses; it's the lifestyle. There are photos of expensive cars, crazy tattoos, expensive watches, and designer storefronts mixed in with the photos of houses. I like the way they do this as it's very personalized so if you followed them on Instagram and other social networks, you'd get something different here.
The Corcoran Group have a lovely Pinterest account where they aren't just pushing a sale. They're showcasing different styles of houses and features, promoting their advertising from other avenues, promoting their other social campaigns, and of course showing pictures of the houses you can buy.
Anything related to a house would work here. DIY tips, new paint color combinations, gardens, etc. I just read the actress Diane Keaton's latest book and she's apparently a big Pinterest fan. Her Pinterest account is superb and she pins a lot of house-related imagery. Any realtor could learn from her.
Locally, the Allen Tate Company has some good videos for first time home buyers, for example. Buying a house is one of the most stressful things that I've ever been through and a lot of my freakouts were over things that were apparently very common for most first time buyers. You have some truly great video content potentials if you're a realtor and that doesn't even include showcasing the houses.
Speaking of showcasing a house, a video home tour is a much more personal way to show off a home than simple photos.
Here's where you can really stand out, as I can't imagine running out of ideas for a real estate blog. When people buy a house that is far outside of their previous residency zone, they usually immediately need the following:
- Information about local schools, daycares, universities.
- Information about summer camps.
- Information about prospective employment.
- Information about entertainment.
- Information about sports, music classes, art, and dance.
The great thing about that kind of content is that it's also something that other people in the area need. Maybe a mother who has a 3-year-old son needs info about magnet schools and local primary schools so she can start planning. Maybe someone has a daughter who just decided that she hates gymnastics and wants to try fencing. Maybe some people are simply too busy to ever search for something to do on the weekend but would do it if they found out about it easily.
Think about the kind of information that you search for with regards to where you live and what you do around there, and write about it. Think about questions that people have that deal with where they live:
- Which restaurants have outdoor seating? Which ones are within walking distance?
- Are there any good outdoor camps for my kids this summer? What's the transportation situation for them?
- Where can we see a professional ballet performance or a play that's geared towards preschoolers?
- What are the options we have for my children when they go to high school? Are there early college programs available?
If you have the opportunity to showcase individual houses by doing more than just reposting the listing as a blog post, you have some great potential.
For example, our house was built in 1899. On the day we moved in, an elderly lady who had lived here as a child actually stopped by briefly. I wish she'd stayed longer, but it prompted my husband to do a lot of digging on who lived here before us and who built the house. We learned some freaky things but the coolest thing about our house is that the window in my daughter's room is the emblem of the neighborhood and has a lot of architectural significance.
Unless a house is brand new, chances are there's some cool history or trivia surrounding it, even if it's recent. It makes for really nice content.
A Few Other Things To Consider
- Your title and description should look good in the SERPs.
- If you have other social platforms that you use, put that on the home page.
- Make sure your site works on mobile! If someone drives by a house you have for sale and looks it up online, that person should be able to easily find out information and be able to get in touch with you immediately.
- If you have an open house advertised on your site, list the hours for it where they can be found without searching. List your contact information so no one has to dig for it. (How many times can I emphasize having easy-to-find contact info?)
- If you only sell houses in one area, list it in the title and description of your site. Don't use other locations that you don't represent and be misleading as that just wastes everyone's time.
- If someone has given you a bad review on Yelp or any other site, respond to it. Make things right if you can.
- If you sell houses in 1,000 different cities, don't list links to those 1,000 cities in the footer of every single page of your website.
Just like with food, houses are something that people (usually) want to buy. You aren't trying to sell a product that no one wants. You're trying to make sure that the people who want to buy something are finding you and buying it from you.
Making heavy use of visuals without forgetting the basics or neglecting social media is key – visuals alone won't be worth much when your competitors are doing all the other stuff better than you.