After reading the headline, I know what you’re thinking… “we don’t have near the budget to compete with the portals. You must be smoking something!”
Well, you’re probably right (except for the smoking part).
In 2019, our two major portals did over $1.2 billion in revenue collectively and even if 5% of their revenues were spent on advertising, you’re already up to $50 million. Yes, $50 million spent on advertising.
But here’s the thing, you have something they don’t… a local business in your local market. And when it comes to ranking highly on Google for your company name and the phrase ‘real estate agents YourSuburb’, this gives you the upper hand.
There’s a very good reason that all of the major portals and third-party websites want you to ‘beef up’ your profiles on their platforms – they want your name, your business, your listings, your address, your bio, your contact details and your data on their website. This makes it appear, at least to Google, that this is the place you want people to find the best and most up-to-date information about you.
The sad reality for many real estate businesses is that when someone searches Google for their business, an agent’s name in their business, their listings or ‘real estate agents YourSuburb’, the major portal websites are in pole position on Google.
It’s simple. Because most real estate businesses aren’t putting enough focus into their own website.
Most real estate businesses treat their website as something akin to a business card – a piece of stationary. For many, “it’s a thing we have to have so we have one”, and they put very little effort into optimising it.
Many real estate businesses put zero effort into their website after it’s launched, apart from maybe updating a photo every once in a while, and this is costing businesses thousands of dollars every month in potential lost commission. We know this because Google Analytics tells us.
I’m not suggesting you should stop building your presence on third-party websites, but with a little bit of effort you can (and will) put your website, your brand and your name above those companies, on Google, who have much bigger advertising budgets than you.
And the best part is, I’m not talking about ads – the Google rankings you have to pay for.
This is all about winning the game of organic search results on Google. It’s a game that you absolutely should be playing. And it’s totally winnable if you’re prepared to invest a little bit of time in understanding how this basic system works.
First things first…
You probably already know that Google’s search results are highly personalised to each user and based on your geographical location.
If you’re standing in Double Bay, Sydney and you search for ‘best croissants near me’, you’ll get different results than if you were standing in Fitzroy, Melbourne and typed the exact same query.
Even if you’re not logged into Google, you’ll get different results, based on where you are in the world, in your country, in your state and even in your suburb, because Google knows where you are – based the network your device is connected to.
It’s important to note that there are two types of local results — the ‘local pack’ and the ‘one-box’. Google produces one or the other in response to a query.
Most of the time, you’ll see the ‘local pack’, which is a listing of three local businesses.
If the query is specific enough, the user will see a ‘one-box’, like this:
And if you’re really lucky, you’ll also appear at the top of organic search results when someone types in a more broad term such as ‘real estate agents YourSuburb’, like these guys…
This is where you have a fighting chance against the big boys
If you want to earn more clients but reduce your advertising dollars at the same time, Google’s organic search results are where you need to be.
There is no shortage of businesses who will tell you “give us your money and we’ll put you at the top of Google” but what they’re not telling you is that, in most cases, your money is going to towards Google Ads – the results at the very top. When you stop paying them, your ads stop and your rankings vanish.
What they’re also not telling you is that, on average, 96% of Australian’s skip past Google Ads and, instead, they click on one of the first three organic search results.
“Fact: 96% of Australian’s skip past Google Ads and, instead, they click on one of the first three organic search results”.
Take a look at this search for ‘real estate agents double bay’. Only 14% of people who searched for this phrase last year clicked on a Google Ad. The other 86% clicked on a result below the ads and below the local-pack (Organic CTR stands for ‘Organic click-through-rate’).
Google’s organic search results are where you have a fighting chance against the major property portals because Google favours local businesses. It’s here that you will win business you didn’t know you could get, for a much lower cost-per-lead than paying for Google ads.
If you’re spending money on Google Ads right now, I’m not suggesting you stop – if they’re converting to actual listing appointments. I don’t care how many ‘clicks’ you get on your ads, if it’s not putting your agents in the lounge room of prospective vendors, those clicks mean nothing. Zilch. Nada.
People searching for ‘real estate agents YourSuburb’ are in the consideration phase of selecting an agent, or at the very least, starting their search. And there are hundreds (possibly thousands) of people in your local market searching the phrase ‘real estate agents YourSuburb’ on Google each month.
“Fact: There are hundreds (possibly thousands) of people in your local market searching the phrase ‘real estate agents YourSuburb’ on Google each month”.
If your website appears in the top three organic search results for this phrase, there’s a high probability these people will visit YOUR website.
Imagine that… possibly thousands of people in your local market searching Google each month for ‘real estate agents YourSuburb’ and they’re landing on your website instead of the portals.
The million dollar question: “How do we get to number #1?”
There are certain things you will need a specialised SEO consultant to help you with, but there are three things you can do yourself to give your business the very best chance of getting to that number #1 spot.
1. Setup and optimise your Google My Business account
Although most of this information can likely be found on your website, Google My Business indexes the content you provide for consistency across Google Search and Google Maps.
So when your customers search for you, it will be waiting for them.
But it’s not just a place to find basic information about your business.
When used correctly, Google My Business is a powerful tool that can increase your revenue and provide valuable insights about your customers.
IMPORTANT: If you are a multi-office network, make sure you create a Google My Business profile for each location. If a user doesn’t specify a location in their search, Google will calculate distance based on what’s known about their location. The closer one of your offices is to the user, the more likely your business will appear.
2. Prioritise Google reviews over all other review platforms
Google takes into account the number of reviews your business has when it comes to where they rank you – including in the organic search results as well as the ‘local pack’.
Google does not take into consideration the number of reviews you have on other websites, only theirs. Meaning, all of those 5-star reviews you have collected on other websites have no impact on your Google search ranking. But Google reviews do.
It doesn’t matter who your Google reviews are from, only how many you have.
Consider asking landlords, tenants, buyers, sellers, sponsorship recipients and tradespeople to review your business. You’ll be amazed at who will actually leave a Google review if you ask them.
When your next prospective client is searching ‘real estate agents YourSuburb’, your Google reviews will serve as instant social proof, or, if you have put more effort into getting reviews on other platforms, and you’ve let your Google reviews slide, it could serve as a reason not to call you.
3. Publish fresh content to your website (and promote the heck out of it!)
Your website is the only platform on the web where you are not competing for attention. The. Only. One.
Your website should be where your best content lives – your blog articles, videos and listings. Every email you send or Facebook ad you promote should be sending people back to consume that content on your website.
More traffic to your website + more time spent on your website = the more Google will reward you with higher rankings.
It’s that simple.
Note: Paying for traffic, through ads, will NOT directly impact your organic search rankings.
One way to INSTANTLY boost your website traffic
People will have no reason to visit your site if you’re giving everything away in your emails or Facebook ads. Instead, give them only a small ‘taste’ and a reason to come to your website.
If you’re using a third-party email platform and they’re using dedicated landing pages for your listings or articles, consider changing to a provider that sends the traffic to your listings and articles on your website.
What a specialised SEO consultant can (and should) do
A trusted and dedicated SEO consultant should be well versed in the latest technical SEO practices. These include, but are not limited to, implementation of Schema, on-page and off-page SEO, page speed optimisation, conversion rate optimisation and content marketing, just to name a few.
Combined with the above, these more advanced SEO strategies will put a few cherries on your SEO cake. But alone, they won’t nearly be as impactful.
Based on the data available to us in Google’s own tools, we believe more homeowners visit Google first when starting their agent search. The websites that appear in the top three organic search results are where they go second.
In other words, most homeowners start their agent selection and review process on Google, so you should be doing everything you can to win the race to number #1 here rather than waiting until they visit a website you don’t own to find you among a sea of other agents.
It’s not enough to be in position #1 on Google. Your website needs to optimised and set up correctly. You can drive a tonne of traffic to your website from Google but you could lose it just as quickly if you’ve got a sub-optimal website.
In a market where listings and buyer enquiry is a little bit tougher to come by, it’s not about outspending your competitors on advertising. It’s about outsmarting them at the digital game. It’s about winning the game of attention online without increasing your costs.
Are you going to get started before your competitors?
I hope you are, or you will.