This is a special holiday series to get you ready for the new year! This is part 1 of a 3 part series covering real estate SEO for commercial real estate professionals. We are so grateful to Michael Hayes for providing this special series for our audience!
Part 2, “Finding Your CRE Audience with Keyword Research”, will be publishing on Tuesday, December 12, 2017. Sign up to our “Blogs of the Day” email list to get notified when it goes live!
Part 3, “Leveraging Image Search for Commercial Real Estate SEO” will be publishing on Wednesday, December 13, 2017. Sign up to our “Blogs of the Day” email list to get notified when it goes live!
Anyone who has performed some Google searches for commercial real estate related terms has probably seen many of the same sites come up. Loopnet, Showcase, CBRE maybe a few others. These mammoth authority sites have taken over the SERPs for the real estate niche. How is it that the “little guy” (i.e. an independent broker) can compete?
While it is difficult, it’s by no means impossible. In this article I’m going to detail the main strategy I recommend for competing with SEO in a real estate sector dominated by authority brands.
Step 1 – Niche down
This is a tactic used throughout SEO, not just in real estate. In order to compete against a dominant competitor, you must find keywords that they don’t target specifically, so you can outperform them on relevance. Find a grand niche, in this case “real estate”, and then pick a sub-niche of that. Perhaps it’s “commercial real estate”, or even more of a subniche “commercial retail for rent”.
Same principle goes for location. If your target location is “New York City”, consider targeting smaller sections of that city. It could be outer boroughs (Brooklyn, Queens, etc.), or it could even be neighborhoods within Manhattan (Chelsea, Harlem, Kips Bay, etc.).
The advantage to this is: What you lack in authority, you make up for in relevance.
The disadvantage to this is: Every time you niche down, you are targeting a smaller audience.
That being said, you are also targeting a very relevant audience, one that is likely to need your services.
Do your thorough keyword research and develop a full plan for targeting a wide net of sub-niches/keywords. Lay these all out in a spreadsheet and begin development of the content to target these topics.
Step 2 – Build Better Pages
Once you’ve decided on your niche keywords, now you have to outperform your competitors. Hopefully you are sneaking through the cracks in their defenses by targeting keywords they aren’t targeting directly, now you have to hit it out of the park by building out these pages that are better and more valuable than your competition.
Here is your checklist:
- All the on-page SEO fundamentals of a standard web-page.
- Images that are geo-tagged, include neighborhood and keywords in filename and alt text.
- Unique text (i.e. not copied from any listings).
- Links to all the nearby neighborhoods, both for SEO crawlers and for users to navigate through.
Since this is a tactical SEO post, I haven’t touched on user experience much, but that isn’t to say that UX isn’t important for SEO. In fact, when competing against the big boys, chances are they will have trained designers and enough resources to consistently test.
You should strive to do this as well. There is always a way to marry perfect on-page SEO with the perfect user experience, you just might have to finagle it a bit. Keep in mind that in order to truly win against the big boys, you can’t just rank, you have to impress the user (otherwise they bounce, don’t share, don’t come back). Get yourself an outstanding designer with experience in SEO to guide you through this process.
But I digress, let’s get back to SEO.In order to truly win against the big boys, you can’t just rank, you have to impress the user. Click To Tweet
Step 2.A – A Note on Listings Pages
Listings pages might be what people think of when they think of real estate content. Unfortunately, they cannot be the foundation of an SEO strategy, even if they do serve a good user purpose.
Those listings are available everywhere, they are fed straight from MLS listings or other listing sites. There is a problem here:
- They are duplicate (everyone has them)
- They expire and must be deleted quickly (old irrelevant content builds up quickly)*
- As a smaller website, you won’t outrank the big players for those pages anyway.
I’d recommend not exposing any of your listings pages when you are starting out. Of course, this is open for testing, but listings don’t play a part in this strategy I’m outlining today. I’d recommend waiting until you have built up somewhat comparable authority to bigger brands to expose listing pages to search engines from your website.
Step 3: “Real Company” Press and PR
Now that you’ve done your keyword research, picked your sub-niche(s), and build out outstanding pages, it’s time to promote and get some backlinks to help drive ranking.
Link building is something that could warrant an entire book, so I won’t be able to cover all possible variants in this post. However, in this particular situation there is a distinct advantage you have over a large national competitor. You have “boots on the ground”, so to speak.
Step 4: Exploit YOUR Boots on the Ground
Being a real, legitimate company that is located in your target city, you can have leverage that your competition does not. For instance, you can:
- Leverage Local Organizations
Local chambers of commerce are great places for business support and development, and they can be good places for exposure for your website as well. In addition to getting listed on their website’s business directory, try to provide them content for a blog or article on their website.
- Leverage Local Events for PR
Throwing and/or hosting events in your local city or town is a great way to network, but also leverage the power of local press for coverage. Issue press releases about all your events and your property as a potential venue, and be sure to send pitches to all local newspapers. You’ll be sure to pick up some coverage, some nice links, and some nice exposure.
- Local Bloggers
In any given city there are dozens or hundreds of bloggers that write about the city they love. You should seek to build relationships with them, here’s a couple of ideas:
- Photographers – take them on tours of unique, historic or interesting listings. They get content, you get exposure and backlinks.
- Neighborhood Blogs – there’s a ton of them, especially in cities like NY. Reach out as a source on insights into real estate developments or the real estate market.
- Niche organization Blogs – These blog types are usually very active and open to pitches and ideas. Consider ideas like: giveaways, sponsored posts, or promotion of your spaces or sites in town.
- Meetups – The digital world is exploding the area of high tech and high touch. Sites like Meetup.com have thousands of users looking for locations to host meetups. hint hint: Why do you think WeWork and Meetup have partnered?
Even though this was just a short intro into a potential SEO strategy for real estate, it provides a solid foundation on which to build, draw inspiration and ultimately take action. Hopefully it has provided some insight into what it takes to be tactical with your online publishing. If you keep in mind the fundamental principles of this “David v. Goliath” scenario, you can win out in the long run.
About the Author:
Mike Hayes is a veteran SEO and Internet Marketer based in New York City. He founded Darby Hayes Consulting in 2015 to help business of all sizes better compete in the digital landscape. He can be reached at mike (at) darbyhayesconsulting.com.
*On theBrokerList your listing links live on forever if you convert your listings to Closed Transactions. The listing link redirects visitors to your closed Transaction!