Comment by Michael Sahlman:
Hi I just added you as an associate. I am looking for possible alternate SEO companies or experts to help me. I am not too pleased with my current one. Also am trying to avoid paying an upfront charge for services not yet proved. Thanks for the post.
Michael, I've decided to answer you in a new post, because I have a lot to say about this.
In my opinion, the real estate industry is one of the most difficult for a search engine optimization specialist to tackle. Some reasons:
- Fierce competition.
- More real estate agents daily are realizing the Internet is the place to be, and there are hundreds if not thousands of people selling real estate in most locales.
- Old, sometimes spammy, domains that are grandfathered into the SERPs
- Google is taking a closer look at these when they are poorly designed and slow to load, but it's still hard to knock them off the first page.
- Limited number of keywords available.
- How many ways can you say 'homes for sale'?
- Dynamic templated sites that don't allow for proper optimization.
- Some of these companies are making their templates more SEO friendly, but they are still usually cumbersome and make a difficult goal even harder, if not impossible, to achieve.
- Lack of money, especially now with sales down.
- The more you can spend on link building and advertising, the easier it is to get rankings and traffic.
With most web sites, especially national ones, I can hit a home run pretty quickly. When it comes to real estate, it's a struggle every time. Not only that, when and if it comes, it takes a long time...often 6-12 months of dedicated hard work.
The following is what I stress, and Michael, make sure this is what your current SEO is doing:
- First: extensive keyword research on how buyers search in your area
- Your site should be impeccable:
- Clean code
- Proper navigation - no broken links
- Keyword targeted titles - no duplication within the tag
- Original titles on every page
- Meta description that includes keywords and draws visitors to your site
- At least 5 pages of original content with targeted keywords
- Proper keyword density (run your content through a density checker)
- H tags and alt tags that include keywords
- Photos that are named using keywords
- Contextual links to deep pages within the site
- Footer links
- Unique IP address if at all possible
- Domain name registered for at least 5 more years
- No invisible text, cloaking, or anything else that Google frowns upon
- Listings in all local directories.
- Submission to Yahoo! Directory, Business.com, Best of the Web, and other paid directories that are smiled upon by Google.
- Submissions to niche directories.
- Regularly updated blog (at least 3 posts per week): on-site if your web site is hosted separately, off-site if you are with a templated site. This is in addition to posting on Active Rain.
- Submission of your blog to blog directories.
- Participation in Social Media networks.
- Buy text links from the demographic you're marketing to, for traffic (if you get link juice from it too, so much the better).
- In an extremely competitive market, like Miami, consider Pay per Click ads. They work.
There are no guarantees when it comes to getting on the first page of Google. An SEO specialist can do everything right and still not get there; after all, in reality there are only 5 slots for each keyword. PPC takes hard cash, but there aren't many types of advertising that don't cost money.
Michael, I would never take a job without upfront fees, because of the uncertain nature of the Internet and Google in particular. However, many SEO's will make part of their fee results-based. At the very least, review this list with your SEO, ask them to de-spam your title and meta description, and I strongly suggest that you get yourself an original website hosted with a unique IP address.
Some of the SEO's reading this may not agree with everything I've laid out here, although I'm not sure what it would be. I don't have time these days to enter into debate on any of this (no offense intended). We all have our own ways of optimizing sites, these are my guidelines, and this is all pure white hat advice that can only help a web site.
Al, thanks for encouraging me to continue posting on AR once in awhile.
Whew - now I need to go take a nap!