Years ago, when most realtors were still making the transition to online, getting found on the internet wasn’t that hard. Now, however, there’s a lot of competition, and a lot of competition makes for a lot less visibility.
This is where picking the right real estate keywords comes in. Keywords are the words or phrases that your potential buyers and sellers search for, and having the right ones can increase traffic to your site.
Whether your goal is ranking in Google or writing the perfect listing descriptions, I’ll walk you through the basics.
What is search engine optimization?
First things first.
Search engine optimization (or SEO, as you’ll see it more often) is basically what it sounds like—optimizing your page so that search engines will know how to find and recommend it.
While there are many search engines out there, Google is the one you’re going to want to focus on. It has the largest market share, and other search engines tend to follow its example.
High search volume isn’t always your friend
While a lot of resources out there for realtors will give you a list of keywords with impressive monthly search numbers and send you on your way, that isn’t exactly how this whole SEO thing works. In reality, monthly search number give you only a part of the story.
Let’s look at the search term “realtor.”
According to Google keyword planner, it is searched about 3.35 million times a month. That sounds pretty great, doesn’t it? But a closer look at a show you two things
First, despite the large number of searches, the competition is low. There’s a disconnect there–none of your competitors want this keyword. While low competition is ideal in most situations, this is not one of them. (Sidenote while we’re on the subject: you almost never want to go after a keyword with high competition. That would put your odds at ranking on Google’s first page for this term at pretty much nothing.)
Second, what would you say the average person searching “realtor” is looking for, exactly? Someone to sell their home? Realtor.com? The definition of a realtor? Job opportunities as a realtor?
Only one of those is good for you—but even then, what are the odds the searcher is located near you? This and the lack of competition all point to the fact that “realtor” is not a high-intent keyword. That means that it is too general to consistently drive quality traffic to your site.
Choosing the right keywords for your website
So general keywords don’t work. But which ones do?
Your best bet is to focus on what those in the SEO industry call “long-tail keywords.” These are longer, multi-word search phrases that describe more specifically what the searcher wants, like for instance, “real estate agent in Milford Connecticut.” Maybe it only gets 30 searches a month, but odds are much better that you will be exactly what those 30 searchers are looking for.
One of the best ways to add high-value long-tail keywords to your site? Start a blog. This gives you an opportunity to not only find and target a wider variety of keywords, but to share your expertise with potential buyers and build credibility.
For more a more in depth (but still beginner-friendly) guide to optimizing blog posts, take a look at this blog post we created on the subject. It was originally intended to be a resource for loan officers, but many of the same points still stand.
Search engine tools
As you’ve probably already guessed, finding keywords requires a little help. Here are some good (and free) tools you can use to feel out your keyword options.
Google Keyword Planner. If you have a Gmail account, you already have access to this workhorse. Though it was intended to be used for Google adwords advertisers (these are the ads you see at the top of Google search results) it provides a lot of general information that can be used almost anywhere. It offers three main tools: one that helps you come up with new keywords, one that gets you search and competition data on those keywords, and another that lets you create lists of potential keywords from keywords you already have.
Keywordtool.io. While there is a more robust premium version of this site, the free version is a great way to get keyword suggestions quickly.
Google autofill. Surprisingly, this simple trick is a another easy way to find keywords suggestions. You know how when you type something into Google, they provide you with a list of things you could be typing? That’s because Google collects a lot of data and is able to suggest search terms based on it.
Mozbar. Moz is one of the most respected SEO programs out there, and this free Chrome extension offers you a few of its most helpful tools for free. It’s great for investigating a keyword you’ve chosen and can, among other things, show you the domain authority (DA) and page authority (PA) of current Google rankings for your keyword. The lower those competitors are, the better chance you have of beating that page and ranking.
Picking the right listing keywords for buyers
Now, on to a different kind of keyword: the listing keyword.
While the programs we’ve just discussed won’t apply directly to writing your listings, there is some crossover in strategy.
Buying a house isn’t the same thing as investing in stocks and bonds. There’s a lot of emotional baggage that comes with a home, and buyers don’t always make their decisions rationally.
That’s why it pays to really think hard about what kind of buyer you’re trying to attract.
Say a potential buyer is looking to narrow down their search for their dream house and adds the term “granite countertops.”
Could it mean they just really have a thing for granite? Sure.
But because of what granite signifies in most peoples’ minds (upscale, in a new development, recently renovated) and what you often find along with it (high-end fixtures, custom cabinetry, neutral tones), a search for granite countertops is also likely shorthand for something hard to describe or fit in a search bar, whether buyers realize it or not.
So what does that get you? A good idea of who these people are and what they want to see upon finding your listing—and your blueprint for keeping them hooked.
Whenever you’re writing a listing, remember to have a clear picture of your desired audience. Like with website keywords, that audience may be narrower, but it will be much more motivated to take the next step.
Keywords for upscale or move in ready properties
Though the properties maybe very different in reality, buyers of upscale and move-in ready homes tend to have similar tastes. Both are swayed by amenities and turned off by potential projects, and you’re going to want to stay aware of that as you write.
These 20 words, for instance, came from a study conducted on the listing descriptions of NYC homes that sold faster than the average. For the full list, check out the pdf.
- hardwood floors
- stainless steel appliances
- washer dryer
- closet space
- brand new
- high ceilings
- wood floors
- city views
- home office
Keywords for homes that could use some love
Not all homes are (or can pretend to be) upscale, though. And in some cases, they shouldn’t try to be.
Homes that need a little work often attract a different set of buyers—investors and bargain hunters willing to put in a little sweat equity. Disguising your listing with careful wording can make it more difficult for the right buyers to find, keeping it on the MLS for longer than it needs to be. Just take a look at this Biggerpocket forum thread where users discussed how they search for investment properties.
Here are some of the words they like to see in listings:
- short sale
- bring all offers
- must sell
- investor special
- deferred maintenance
- do not disturb tenant
- owner will carry
- foundation issues
- structural issues
- engineer report
- price change
- contractors special
- handyman special