9 Local SEO Tips for Real Estate Sites

  •    Tim is a freelance business writer. He writes about the business of innovation, comics and genre entertainment on The Full Bleed.

The days of open houses and leads cards are dwindling. For today's realtors, a good website that's built to be easily found by prospective buyers in search engines like Google — a process known as Search Engine Optimization (SEO) — is most likely to produce sales.

According to data aggregated by Contactually, 80% of all home buyers search for properties online, 83% want to see photos online and 52% used an iPhone for their search. How ca you implement SEO to reach these shoppers at their point of maximum interest?

Start with these 9 tips:

1. Be easy to reach

This should be obvious. Make sure your business name, phone number and a contact email is readily available to every visitor. At the very least, include a link to your email at the footer of every page. You can also have a contact form for visitors who'd rather wait to hear from you.

2. Use plug-ins that enable direct support for IDX-MLS

Odds are you already use an IDX-ready multiple listing service (MLS) to place properties on your site. And that may be all you need if you've hired a professional web designer who can go under the hood and properly implement the code to render listings on your site. For everyone else, a plug-in that pulls all the data directly and handles how listings are displayed is a better bet. (Weebly's Realtyna IDX plug-in is a good example.)

3. Employ local structured data markup

If this sounds complicated, it's because structured data is work that requires writing code. Or at least it can require writing code to describe your site and your services so that search engines display details in what's called a rich snippet. Most modern web builders are built for this sort of structured data, and IDX-MLS tools like Realtyna can show other key elements so that prospective buyers know exactly what they're clicking on.

4. Use listing sites

Facebook, Google My Business, Yelp ... you run into these sites every time you search locally. Why wouldn't you want to have these services working on behalf of your real estate business? It's just one more way for your real estate website to get found. And don't just stop at the regulars: make sure to also list with the Better Business Bureau, Angie's List and YP.com. As a realtor, you may also want to list with MyAgentFinder or UpNest.

5. Ask for reviews ...

Reviews on social media or third-party sites are useful because they'll often include links back to your real estate website and reaffirm your standing as a go-to expert in the local community. Also, these sites may allow for the more enterprising agents to get leads. Say you see a negative review on Angie's List. Engaging in a discussion right there, in the open, could boost your reputation, regardless of the initial complaint. You just have to be willing to lean in and listen.

6. ... And publish reviews

As important as reviews on other sites can be, reviews at your own site are just as useful because they'll be indexed by search engines — especially if you have a sitemap and organize reviews and testimonials as a separate page. You'll also need them to sell your services as a real estate agent. Nine in 10 consumers read online reviews, and 85 percent say they trust those reviews as much as personal recommendations, BrightLocal found. Think about that for a minute: the more reviews you have, especially positive testimonials, the more likely it is you'll gain the trust of a prospect — and trust is the coin of the realm when it comes to selling real estate. (Here's how to add testimonials to your Weebly real estate website.)

7. Don't skimp on the details

Have an "About" page that tells your story, your connections to the community where you sell and what services you're certified to offer. Also include photos and a keyword-rich business description. Say you're an agent in the Los Angeles are but you've had particular success selling in and around Marina del Rey. Your business description should mention that you sell in the L.A. area but that you have intimate knowledge of coastal property in Marina del Rey and the neighboring towns of Venice and Santa Monica. That way, your real estate website will be more likely to come up when a homebuyer goes looking for property in Marina del Rey.

8. Include an FAQ

Product websites will often include frequently asked questions to describe what's being sold. As a real estate agent, you're selling yourself and your expertise, but the format is just as relevant — so long as you're creative. Think of it as an interview and include questions that show your knowledge of and interest in certain neighborhoods. Use slang where it makes sense and provide personal details. The more a prospect knows about you, the more likely it is they'll trust you with selling their home.

9. Link with other local businesses

Finally, make your website part of a community by linking with other local businesses. Be creative here, too. Linking to a preferred mortgage broker or appraiser is to be expected. Linking to a contractor you trust for home repair is less common but hardly unexpected. Linking to the neighborhood pizza place you frequented while growing up, and which you still recommend to new residents, is an unexpected addition and shows passion for where you live and work.

There's no magic formula for getting leads online. If there were, we'd all be real estate agents. Remember, creating a good, engaging website gives you a leg up: 42% of home buyers identified by Contactually started their search online.

Be the real estate agent these buyers go to by improving your local SEO.