There is an old song by Jesus Jones that says, “I saw the end of the decade when the world changed in the blink of an eye.” They sang about the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of communism in Europe. But the novel coronavirus is also changing the world – including the way Americans buy and sell real estate.
While the shutdown will hopefully be over soon, the newly acquired hyperconsciousness for social distancing isn’t going to go away anytime soon. As a result:
• Salespeople will not be looking to let crowds trudge through their homes at open houses.
• Agents, in turn, cannot market directly to people who write their names on open house registration forms (or enter them on tablets).
• Local network events will recede for at least a while, removing another potential source of leads.
• Buyers don’t want to be exposed by going to sellers’ homes unnecessarily.
• Video or computer-aided virtual tours will become more important when looking for a house.
• Offers that are not internet or mobile friendly do not attract buyers.
Many independent real estate agents have relied on billboards, referrals, and mailing “only listed” and “just sold” real estate postcards as their primary form of marketing. Direct mail and branding are always a great way to make sure people know who you are. However, as we move to new business methods, internet marketing will become even more important. And the first thing residential and most commercial real estate agents need to do is maximize their visibility in local search traffic.
How to Maximize Local Search Results
Local search is already vital for all types of businesses. According to a Google presentation from 2018, almost half (46%) of all search engine queries come from people looking for local information.
Almost every adult in the country (97%) uses the internet to find local businesses and service providers. And these are serious questions: 76% of people doing a local search for a business or service will get in touch with us within 24 hours.
To maximize local search results, your website should be mobile friendly. Almost half (48%) of all house hunts start on a mobile device. Is your website slow to load on an iPhone? Are some of your website features not working? After a few seconds, visitors will click on your website and do something else.
Claiming your Google My Business account is also helpful. If your company is not listed, you will need to enter it manually. Detailed instructions on how to edit your Google My Business listing can be found here.
Request your company on real estate websites as well. Not only do you want the standard generic list on sites like this one, but go to them all and make your claim. Request your business listing and make sure the information is up to date, your logo is clearly visible, you have good photos, etc.
You should at least submit your listing on the following websites:
Have your company registered in Internet directories
It is also important to post your company name and details in relevant internet directories. I’m not talking about link farms, scrapers, and spam vendors – links from these can count against you. I’m talking about reputable corporate directories that are actually in use that link to your website and hopefully increase traffic.
Common examples are:
• Angie’s list.
• Better business office.
• Business Journals (your local edition).
• Yellow Pages.
Even if your clients aren’t using them to find brokers or view homes, they can still use them to view reviews. In addition, Google rewards websites that get lots of backlinks from high quality websites. Make sure your listing information is exactly the same in all directories. Deviations can confuse search engine algorithms and hurt you.
Perform an SEO audit of your website
Go through at least each page to check each link for functionality and remove any that no longer work. Also, check how fast your site loads. Are there a number of redirects? Too many can slow down your website and scare users.
It is also important to use tags appropriately. For example, make sure to use H1-H6 tags to organize your page instead of just bold headings.
To improve local search results, complete your website meta titles and descriptions and include the name of your city and the parishes you are targeting.
Lastly, test your site on mobile devices.
Local SEO tips and best practices
Use a local number to start with, not an 800 number.
Also, publish new content frequently. Newer content gets an SEO boost. Stagnant content is encountered from recently updated websites. So update your blog regularly. Uploading videos can also be beneficial. Based on data from HubSpot users, blogs that are updated three times a week or more see more traffic on average than websites that are updated less frequently.
Mention local topics when blogging. Even small brokers can get great search engine results by focusing on local issues in their niche.
Overall, you want to use the same images and different branding elements in Google My Business that you use in any other context. Don’t forget to create and add your social media profiles wherever you can. These are trusted links that should be updated regularly and are indexed by Google. Creating consistent content that is valuable to your followers and gets them engaged is a great way to send social signals to the search engines.
Be careful what kind of things you share and what content you post. It should be as unbiased and politically correct as possible so you don’t offend anyone who might be a potential customer. Most of all, remember to have fun and keep it authentic.