Driving high-volumes of traffic to your website is imperative in generating quality leads. In South Africa, Google currently accounts for 90% of all search traffic and up to 60 – 70% of all traffic to real estate websites – making Google, by far, the single largest source of website traffic. Therefore, the greater your organic visibility on Google, the greater the number of visits to your website and the greater your chances of converting those visitors into high quality leads.
There are three ways to boost your website’s visibility on the Google search engine result pages (SERPs). Firstly, Google AdWords allows you to sponsor property and neighbourhood related keywords and phrases that are relevant to your listings and then display text ads in the Google search results. As a Pay-Per-Click advertising campaign, you set an advertising budget and only pay when a visitor actually clicks on your text ad and visits your website. The second option is to list your real estate office on Google Places – the world’s biggest online business directory- and make all your business information and contact details available on Google Search and Google Maps.
However, the best way for buyers, tenants, landlords and sellers to find your real estate business and website on Google is via the organic search engine results. These listings appear in order of their relevance to the search term and are more trusted by users as the results are determined by Google’s algorithm as opposed to being paid advertisements.
Presence and Visibility
Your website’s search engine visibility and rankings depends on whether or not Google understands what your website is about. To achieve this, your website needs to be:
- Present – Knowing the incredible popularity and reach of Google, it is important to ensure that your real estate company is present online. This is the first-step and it requires you to have a real estate website, as this will be the central location for Google’s traffic to be directed to. Remember, a great online presence starts with a great website hosted on its own domain.
- Relational – Your real estate website should be clearly focused on property with interlinking pages defining what each page is about. By ensuring your pages are all related to each other, refining the focus as you get deeper into your website, you will not only be relevant for broad match searches but also for long tail searches on Google. All links on a page should be relevant, if a link appears to have little value to a page, ask yourself if it is necessary.
- Reachable – Google needs to be able to reach all of your pages, as this will ensure that each and every page is indexed and subsequently eligible to return a related search. Ensure that your pages are included in a HTML sitemap that’s easily reached from your home page. Similarly, your listings should be included in the sitemap so that they can be found by the search engine bots. These sitemaps should also be included in your robots.txt file as well as submitted through the various search engine toolsets.
- Easy to Navigate – It is important for Google to navigate your website with ease. This can be done by ensuring that every page is reached through a simple text link in your website navigation, the footer of every page and within the content of your pages. Websites that are easily navigated are also easily indexed. Sites that use fancy forms of navigation are often not crawled by Google. Similarly, using images to navigate offer little context as to what they are linking to with many images unrecognised by the search engine.
- Useful – A useful website offers both the users and search engines something that cannot be found elsewhere, and this can be achieved by publishing original real estate content that is geographically specific to your areas of operation, on a regular basis. Both original content and the regularity on which it is published will help boost your search engine visibility and drive high quality traffic to your website.
- Secure – Privacy and security is of utmost importance to Google, as it values both the protection of your online presence, as well as those visiting your website. Secure websites require an SSL (secure sockets layer) certificate, and this is ultimately the foundation for a secure internet connection between your website visitors’ browser (e.g. Chrome, Internet Explorer etc…) and the servers that host your website and data. The important point to note here, is that Google prefers websites with an SSL certificate, and such a preference boosts online visibility.
- Mobile Friendly – Google also values user experience, therefore as more and more devices are able to access the internet on a multitude of platforms, there is an added importance to make your website easily accessible and usable on all desktop, tablet and mobile devices. The user’s experience should be tailored to the device making use of device specific functionality. By doing so, mobile friendly websites will achieve higher rankings in Google’s mobile search engine results.
- Reliable – Websites that are regularly down due to technical issues or for maintenance are often dropped from Google’s search results. Google wants to offer their visitors (the searcher) the best possible user experience by delivering the most accurate and reliable results. Websites that are routinely inaccessible would be considered a bad experience. Therefore, be sure to partner with a host that is reliable.
Google’s organic search results should be the number one source of traffic for your real estate website. By checking off each of the above points, you will better optimise your website for search engines and thereby improve your website’s visibility and rankings on Google and ensure that your business can be found when and where buyers, tenants, landlords and sellers are looking for you.