Stop what you’re doing and Google yourself. We’ll give you a pass just this once. What do you see? Does your website come up? Blog? Twitter? LinkedIn? Any news articles? Are the links positive or is anything negative showing up? Or, is nothing showing up at all? Do you have a common name and are search results for you being overshadowed by other Rachel Smiths?
Now try typing in your city and “realty” or “real estate” or “realtor”. What comes up? Is your company showing on the first page? Is your name anywhere in the search listings? What companies or individuals are being displayed? These results are referred to as Google’s PageRank, which measures a web page’s importance relative to the term being searched for.
Google is a key tool for home buyers and sellers when researching who to do business with. Eighty-eight percent of home buyers used the internet in their search for a new home and you can bet that one of their biggest resources was Google. So how do you increase your PageRank and maximize your chances of showing up on the first page of a potential client’s search results? How can REALTORS® dominate Google?
Start a Blog
A personal blog with your name and professional information should rank high for people searching for your name and, depending on the sophistication of your content and search engine optimization (see SEO) could help you climb the ladder for local or specialty searches. Blogs allow you to constantly add content to Google’s database, meaning that not only might someone find you by searching your name or your city, but they might find specific blog posts as well, especially anything that is “evergreen” (“Top 10 Reasons to Live in Evanston, Illinois”). Tilt the odds in your favor with a frequently updated blog and you’ll see your Google rank rise.
Create a Personal Web Site
Next to a regularly updated blog, a personal web site is also a powerful way to get your name and information out there. A personal web site can be set up as an infrequently updated outpost for information about you with links and information on how to contact you. Your personal web site can be indexed and flooded with key words as well, including your territory, specialty, full name, company name, etc. Google scrubs the html code of your site and will index it accordingly. Make sure your web site is optimized for search with this handy guide to html improvements.
Create Social Media Profiles
If you’re not on Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn, not only are you missing out on valuable opportunities in social media, but you’re missing out on having those channels listed on Google. If you’re still not sure about adding social media to your marketing plan, consider the impact it has in search. Potential clients will likely research you before and during your work together, so have a professional online presence they can trust.
Claim Your Google Place
According to Google, 97% of consumers search for local businesses online. One of the most graphic and visually appealing results for businesses is Google Places. Any business can claim a Google Place and add information, photos and video to the listing to give searchers as much information as possible. If your company hasn’t claimed its Google Place or if you run a brokerage, do this today and you’ll see immediate results in PageRank and hopefully business. Here’s additional information on Google Places.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Once you have your channels in place – your blog and web site set up – it’s time to make them search engine optimized. SEO is a tactic that helps improve your search rank in Google’s algorithm by telling the engine what your content is about and how relevant and valuable it is to the person searching. The “better” your content and the more “optimized” it is, the higher it should rank. Keyword phrases are important to use in blog posts or on your blog or website itself, and adding links to your posts tells Google that your page is legit and potentially valuable, increasing your rank as well. Bolding key terms or using <h2> tags to make subheadlines bigger also tell Google’s algorithm that you are a legit source of information, not a waste of time. There is such thing as being too optimized, so don’t stack keywords all over the place if they don’t fit. Create valuable content but keep search in mind when writing and editing. Here’s Google’s guide to search engine optimization with additional tips and tricks.
Another way to get your name out there is to partner with another blogger or someone with an online presence and do a guest post, arrange for a media opportunity or swing an interview. Guest posts will get your name on another site, adding another piece of content to the web, and interviews or expert opinions in media articles will lend you credibility so that not all search results for your name will be content that you created.
Optimize Social Media Profiles
Having social media profiles isn’t enough. Optimizing them with valuable biographical information and links will not only make them more valuable to potential clients, but will also improve your Google rank. Be sure to fill out your entire Twitter bio, including key words (REALTOR®, your city, specialty) with links to your website or blog. Be sure to do the same if you have a Facebook professional page, including all pertinent information in your About section. On LinkedIn, there are a number of tools you can use to optimize your profile, including skills, awards and a deep employment history. Optimize all this information to help your LinkedIn page rank on Google as well. Give potential clients as many contact points as possible to find you.
Optimize Your Photos and Video
A surprising number of people find blogs and websites through Google image and video searches. People Googling homes in Clearwater, Florida, will be served up the most relevant images or videos from the most reliable sources. Make sure your titles, descriptions and tags are optimized for any videos uploaded to YouTube and be sure to name your photos before you upload them to your blog or social media accounts, keeping key words and city names in mind. Google also includes photo names in its page rank considerations, so avoid using “pic1” or other generic descriptors and be specific.
Whether or not you’re showing up on the first page of Google, sometimes paid ads are the right way to go to increase business. Google AdWords allows businesses to advertise on Google at the top of the page or on the right rail, ensuring that your name and links are prominent in local, national or international searches. AdWords aren’t cheap, but they’re a proven and effective way for businesses to cut through all the other search listings and ensure that clients find you. Learn more here.
What’s the top result when Google yourself or search for REALTORS® or real estate in your territory? Share your Google stories with us in the comments (especially if you’ve used AdWords).