As a real estate investor, you’re savvy about which opportunities are worth your firm’s or clients’ money, but you may feel less confident about where your marketing dollars are best spent. Direct mail, networking events, and other offline marketing methods will continue to be important referral sources for you, but digital marketing allows for better tracking, improvement, and returns. It can also be a very low-cost way of solidifying your reputation and communicating with prospects.
Real estate ranks #1 out of our top 20 industries in generating ROI from SEO. The average real estate investment firm nets $3.6 million per year from their SEO campaign. Unlike a Google Adwords / PPC campaign, which produces leads only as long as you pay for them, every dollar spent on SEO continues to work for you in the future, as SEO continues delivering leads even when you stop supporting it. Though it can take 4-6 months to achieve significant results, a real estate investment firm can expect compounding growth for years after making the investment.
SEO is a proven technique as old as the internet itself. If practiced honestly and consistently, it will work for you as a real estate investor. We feel confident saying that, as our firm has worked with every shade of real estate client, including real estate investment franchises; investment funds managing residential and commercial real estate; direct-to-buyer home selling businesses; family offices; institutional investors; and individual real estate investors.
In this article, I share what SEO for real estate investors looks like, followed by the results you can expect to see from your campaign and steps for getting started. We’ll begin with the basics: what does an SEO campaign for real estate investors look like?
SEO for Real Estate Investors 101
Proper SEO involves connecting with the pain points and interests of your target audience through high-quality content. For instance, if you’re a rehabber, you’ll want your website to be seen by motivated sellers who want to unload their property with minimum hassle. Greeting those sellers with a page describing the ease of the selling process and an assurance that selling is indeed a beneficial idea for them is a good tactic. On the other hand, if you’re a wholesaler, you’ll need to appeal to both sellers and potential buyers, describing the benefits of working with a wholesaler to both parties on different pages.
SEO attracts members of your target audiences by using keyword phrases those people would search in the titles of website pages. The keyword phrases you target can get very specific, tracking back to leads with particular pain points, or in certain locations, niches, or markets.
While you should be writing for people, not search engine bots, on each page, the keyword is a statement of the human searcher’s interests and so must be used thoughtfully on the page. Researching keywords is an art in itself. There are some free tools like Google’s Keyword Planner that can give you some quick ideas for which keywords to target, but the bulk of your planning should be done manually by typing the keyword into a Google search box and seeing which ones autofill, generating a dropdown box of 10 results.
Effective SEO begins with an extensive thought leadership planning process. This process identifies the keywords your target audience uses when ready to buy or invest (or researching doing so), the competitive landscape you’re facing, and the plan of action. Once the initial planning is complete, you’ll want to ensure your website is following technical SEO best practices so that Google allows your site to rank as quickly as possible.
In order to rank on the first page of Google for the most valuable keywords in your market, you’ll need to consistently publish new content on your site. Doing so grants you the Google “News Website” bonus, in which Google promotes websites that are useful for research. Best practices for regular content production involves 3 steps:
- Each page should target a research-oriented or transactional keyword;
- Based on the keyword, create the right type of page to greet the searcher;
- On the page, answer the searcher’s intent better than any other page on the Internet
The second step, creating the right type of page, cannot be underscored enough, as searchers expect certain web pages depending on what they typed in. Here’s a breakdown of the SEO page types we create for our clients during a 12 month campaign:
|% of Deliverables in Year-Long SEO Campaign
|Service-related & transactional; geo-targeted; industry-focused
|Thought Leadership Blog Post
|Big Picture Content (White Papers, Case Studies, Webinars, etc)
|Research keywords that indicate a desire for longer-term reflection before making a financial decision
While not a deliverable per se, one of our most important jobs as a real estate-focused SEO firm is establishing KPIs as well as tracking and measuring them. Doing so allows our clients to see the effectiveness of the SEO campaign for its primary purpose of lead generation.
Measuring SEO Success for Real Estate Investors
SEO is a long-term process, and as such, you won’t see an increase in leads for up to 6 months as Google learns to trust your website. Because of that, you’ll want to focus your initial measurements on leading indicators rather than the ultimate goal of closed sales. Here’s what you should be measuring during the first year of your campaign:
Focus on organic traffic and user engagement. You should pay close attention to:
- Organic traffic. Track traffic both to the website as a whole and to your blog specifically. A slow, steady increase indicates a successful beginning to your campaign.
- Average time-on-page. Your goal is to get this metric above 2 minutes on average. A high time-on-page indicates that your visitors are interested in—and actually reading—your content.
- Bounce rate. The percentage of visitors who immediately return to the search results is a good indicator of your site’s relevance to your target audience’s searches. A bounce between 25% and 40% is good; a higher bounce rate indicates a mismatch between your keywords and the visitors’ search intent, and a lower bounce rate indicates that your marketing team hasn’t been aggressive enough in attracting site visitors.
- Average number of pages visited per session. This number should be 2 or more. It is another indication that visitors are engaged on your site, and that your site’s content is a good match for the searcher’s intent.
Lead generation from SEO begins to pick up in months 4-6 of a campaign, which is when Google begins to reward the site with the “News Website” bonus. During this time, you should notice continued improvements in the above leading indicators, as well as in conversions, which include:
- Website form fills
- Phone calls
- Content downloads
- Email list sign-ups
High Google rankings are nice, but the ultimate success of any marketing campaign is judged by whether it produces a steady flow of qualified sales leads. After 6 months, success should be measured primarily through that KPI.
The best part about SEO is that success compounds year over year. A single blog post can rank on Google search results for years, which means that, as you keep producing high-ranking pages, the aggregate number of lead generation opportunities keeps increasing. In our experience, real estate clients see the most ROI during the second year of their SEO campaigns, where blog posts that were published in Year 1 are working with newer blog posts to produce what feels like a reliable, systemized stream of new leads.
How to Implement SEO for Real Estate Investors
Implementing an effective SEO content marketing strategy takes time, expertise, and investment. It can be cost-prohibitive to add writers, editors, SEO experts, web designers, and project managers to your salaried staff. It can also take a good three to six months of full-time effort to gain significant traction. It can be daunting to tackle on your own—especially while running your core real estate investment business.
If you lack the internal resources necessary to implement effective SEO, it makes sense to consider outsourcing the effort, at least until you assemble an internal team. That is precisely what we do, so feel free to contact us to discuss a real estate SEO campaign.