Real Estate SEO: Get in Google’s “Local” Search Listings
Do you want to have a page one listing for your real estate company in the “local search” results on Google? You can read quite a few articles about local SEO, but I’m going to be the one guy who tells you the truth:
Anyone who guarantees to get you to rank on page 1 in the local search (a.k.a. “the 7-pack“) either doesn’t fully understand local search, or they have a false sense of accomplishment because they got lucky a few times.
In my opinion, after working with it for literally thousands of hours– for multiple clients with multiple locations– Google Local Search is very buggy and even the best SEO people will have trouble with it now and again.
The algorithm seems to be out of control. Legitimate reviews disappear sometimes, and bogus reviews stay. Sometimes, brand new businesses rank on page one with zero reviews, and businesses with 10 reviews drop to oblivion.
But that doesn’t mean we still can’t succeed. It’s just not as black & white as your standard SEO practices. You have to approach it with a different mind. A local mind…
When you want a page to rank well in Google, good content is king, right? If you want to rank well in the local search, you have to realize it’s a different algorithm and it’s looking for a different kind of content. It’s still looking for strong content- not with words- but for strong proof of your address and the quality of your business.
How To Rank On Page One For Local Search (Maybe)
1. First, find your Google Places listing in the “maps”. Copy that address and paste it exactly the same in every place that you have a profile on the web. Don’t try to edit your listing if you don’t like the way the address is presented. Often, this will create duplicate listings. Like I said, it’s buggy.
If Google Maps says you are in “#500″ and you would rather be in “Suite 500″, I suggest you acquiesce and go with what Google says your address is. Then, go to your website and anyplace else that you have a profile (Zillow, as one example), and make sure your profile address also matches the address that Google maps assigns you– Facebook, LinkedIn, everywhere.
Address consistency is very, very important.
In the example below, Kathleen Daniels may not like the way her address looks (aesthetically), but you can’t fight Google. She is officially out of Suite 500 and into #500.
2. Create a Google+ page for your business. I’m not going to ramble on about how important this is. If you don’t understand that you need to be on Google+ by now, you’re already dead in the water. Start swimming!
You need Google+, period.
Once you set up your Google+ page, make sure you follow the instructions to add a link to your website and verify it under the “About” tab. Instructions to verify your website with G+ can be found here.
3. Use one phone number and make sure the area code matches the area that you live. For example, in Phoenix, we have 3 primary area codes: 623 is generally the West Valley, 480 is the East Valley, and 602 is Phoenix. If your office is in Phoenix, for example, you would want to get a 602 telephone number.
Do not use 800-numbers if you are a local Realtor; and if you really must, make sure it’s in your header image and only put your local telephone number on your website’s contact page.
4. Reviews! This is a tough one. Reviews help, but not the way you would think. Having 20 reviews used to guarantee good local search result positioning. However, people have been gaming the system for a long time and fake reviews have become the norm, rather than the exception. Now a review isn’t weighted heavily, and may not be posted at all, if Google isn’t sure that the reviewer is a real person.
Ask your real clients to write real reviews; this is very important. But if everyone rates you as “perfect”, it’s going to look suspicious.
Yes, I am actually suggesting that you will do better with a couple less-than-perfect reviews. It is important to ask everyone to review you, even people that were slightly dissatisfied (the key is “slightly”). Those more believable reviews will actually help your ranking.
If you have fifty perfect reviews, it’s going to look odd. It just doesn’t work that way in real life. You can’t make everyone happy and Google knows it. Nothing tells Google that you are legitimate more than the occasional, less-than-perfect review.
5. Respond to every review: Login to your Google account, and respond to each and every review you have. Thank good reviewers and apologize publicly to bad reviewers. Here is an example of that. When you respond, Google takes that into consideration. Owner responses are an awesome way to boost local SEO, and yet, you rarely see it!
Of all the 5 items above, you will see the best growth from #5. However, if you take my advice on all five, you’ve got a pretty good chance of ranking on page one– at least, a far better chance than most people.
Good luck! Questions and comments are always welcome. You can contact me here for more SEO help.