Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) Overview
These days it’s not controversial to argue that a large and growing proportion of your customers are going to find you via a web search engine, most likely Google. And, by implication, most of us would agree that getting our agency as near to the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs) as possible is a very important commercial task.
We’re going to argue that some 40% of your business is now driven by the web, and within that, some 30% of this internet challenge is your performance in Google. It should be your biggest single source of traffic, and hence inbound enquiries, especially on the vendor / landlord side of your business. You can argue those numbers if you like, but, broadly speaking, 10% of your business is (or could be) driven by your performance in Google search results.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the art of getting yourself as near to the top of those results, for as many of your target terms; typically town area, estate agency searches, as you can. We’re not going to be covering SEO’s twin sister Search Engine Marketing (SEM) in this guide, as we’ll cover the art of buying traffic through Google pay-per-click campaigns elsewhere.
Our Advanced Guide to SEO
We are in the process of assembling a full advanced guide to all of the SEO thinking and work we have done at Homeflow over the last 3 years. This report is in the final stage of compilation, and will be available for download here. If you are interested in an early copy, please contact our customer service team who will be delighted to send you a copy as soon as it is complete.
The report covers the following topics, and draws together material from many of the articles in our resources library. You can also read some of this material today, linked from the summary structure below.
Before reading our full guide, you will want to have read our basic guide to SEO, and be looking for a deeper more detailed understanding. You may also want to have a read of our introductions to SEO in general, compared yourself on our SEO benchmarking project, and read the overview of why Homeflow sites perform better in SEO. If you’ve got to grips with all of that material and are looking for something more comprehensive and advanced, then the full report is for you.
Report Sections and Summary:
(1) Why Google is so important to Estate Agents
This section covers exactly how big and influential Google is for estate agents. You can learn more about why Google is so important; because it is disproportionately important at the start of a househunter’s life cycle before they settle down into regular portal usage, and because the traffic is disproportionately skewed towards vendor and landlords.
(2) Understanding the search volume is on Google
Before you can begin SEO – you need to start by understanding the traffic volume on the various combinations of target search terms that your customers are typing in. Only by understanding this can you determine what you should be optimising your site for. There are varying search types that affect you, but the big categories are:
- People looking for you specifically “search as navigation” – 30% of the problem
- People looking for your houses “applicant search” – 40% of the problem
- And people looking for local agents in general – 30% of the problem
We examine each of these categories of search traffic in more detail in the report.
(3) Anatomy of search results pages, and how you can play in each section
The report goes on to examine how the layout of the search results pages (SERPs) vary from search to search, and user to user, and it explores the three broad types of results on these pages:
- Paid for advertising slots at the top: So called Search Engine Marketing (SEM) or Pay-per-click (PPC) marketing is a whole separate topic from SEO.
- Places or Google+ results – (the ones linked to results on a snippet of map)
- Organic results – the regular listings that you are SEOing for.
(4) The first (and only) rule when doing SEO: Don’t do SEO
The report then turns to the guiding principle which should govern all our activities in SEO, that of looking after our users, and not doing anything which is aimed specifically at “optimising for Google”: in other words, the best SEO, is no SEO!
This is a relatively new, and over-arching trend in SEO which it is vital to understand before thinking about any specific SEO tactics. We need to consider all specific SEO tactics mindful of this principle. In summary, there is no point in tying to out game Google at SEO, as they will inevitably catch up with you, and indeed punish explicit optimisation behaviour. That’s not to say we can’t do lots to optimise, it’s just saying that the lens we should consider all optimisation strategies through first, is whether they are good for our end users. That’s the acid test.
(5) Overview of the challenge
So, once we’ve established the basics and framework. The question becomes what you should do about it, specifically. The report begins it’s main body of advice with a summary of the things you need to do in order to appear higher in Google results.
In overview you need to address the following, in the following order:
- have a well structured website on a sound technical platform
- make it run fast
- have great content, including branch and staff pages, and local information
- build natural links into your website
- do social media well
- sort Google Places
- begin to work systematically and steadily through a list of the more advanced techniques
(6) Specific SEO tactics and topics
The report then goes on to cover a variety of more advanced ideas and topics, including:
- Paid and natural search balance
- Disproportionate traffic goes to the top links
- How what you see and what I see are two different things
- How the playing field is tilting in favour of agents, over the portals
- A quick checklist for your current site
- The quick win: Optimising your Local places / maps / Google+ results
- The importance of clean, unique, human readable URLs
- The importance of domain integrity: keeping your whole site in one, clean place
- Benchmarking your key metrics
- The huge importance of blazing fast speed
- Indexed pages
- On site and Off site SEO
- Solid basics
- Driving Connectedness
- Move towards Quality
- Google Authorship
- Delaying data
- Withholding data
- Degrading data
- Targeting search content
- Working Webmaster tools
- Ping servers
- One more click
- No-indexing no results pages
- Breaking social media down, and integrating it deeply
- Working image search, video search, etc.
- Staff Profile pages
For now, please register with our Customer Services team – who will send you a copy of the guide as soon as it is published. If you are interested, the team can also organise a free SEO review (we can talk you through the results having performed some basic benchmarking tests as discussed above, and taken a quick high level look at your website).
Thanks for reading.