Search engine optimisation (SEO) for estate agents is tough.
But the rewards of well-executed SEO are huge.
This is why more and more estate agents are actively investing in SEO services in order to achieve higher search engine rankings and generate more automated organic leads.
From our experience in local SEO, estate agent-related keywords are up there as one of the most searched services in towns and cities across the UK.
So, SEO is a vital component of your digital marketing strategy.
What is SEO for estate agents?
SEO for estate agents is the process of increasing the quantity and quality of organic (non-paid) traffic to your estate agency or letting agency website. Estate agent SEO increases the visibility of important web pages (like house listings) in search engines such as Google.
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Google has over 200 ranking factors, but we can boil SEO down to three main components: technical, on-page and off-page (more on this later).
Customers that are looking to buy, sell, rent or lease property will automatically start their research by opening a new tab on Google.
So by having a well-optimised website, you will be able to capture these users on their search journey and convert them into customers.
Why is SEO important for estate agents?
Your website is a 24/7 salesperson.
It can attract buyers, sellers, tenants and landlords whilst you sleep. And it doesn’t require a salary (apart from the hosting bill).
But if your customers aren’t finding your website, it’s unable to generate quality leads.
Higher rankings = more customers. More customers = more revenue.
Let’s make a very basic calculation:
At the time of writing this, the average house price in the UK is £230,292.
And in 2018 the average estate agent fees were 1.42% of the final selling price (inc VAT).
Lancaster, where we (Stride Digital) are based, receives 2,400 monthly searches for the keyword “estate agents in Lancaster”.
Let’s say your website is positioned in the top three results for this keyword and generates a measly one vendor-customer in one month.
This customer is potentially worth £3,270.
What if you received 5 customers? 10 customers?
The opportunities for a high ranking estate agency website will increase exponentially.
SEO strategy overview
There are a million and one articles covering basic search engine optimisation strategies and tactics.
In this article, I’m going to cover more advanced strategies that will generate real results for your estate agency’s SEO efforts.
But first, I need to briefly cover important aspects of SEO that you NEED to optimise in addition to the main strategies in this post…
Technical SEO refers to optimising your website to help search engines crawl and index your site more effectively. It also refers to any technical processes meant to improve search visibility.
- Site speed
- Duplicate content
- Redirects (301s)
- Structured data
On-page SEO refers to optimising individual web pages in order to increase rankings and earn more relevant traffic through aspects of your own website.
- Meta descriptions
- Heading tags
- ALT tags
Off-page SEO refers to taking action outside of your website to impact rankings. In general, this means promotional methods to improve your website’s popularity, relevance, trustworthiness and authority.
- Social media activity
- Online coverage (press and blogs)
- Brand mentions and searches
- Link building (more on this later)
User experience (UX) refers to the overall experience of a person using your website in terms of how easy, pleasing and user-friendly it is.
- Site navigation
- Information accessibility
- Broken links
- Contact information
- Call to actions (CTAs)
- Searcher satisfaction
These topics are all over Google, so for more information make a quick search. You can also use the links provided above.
Now, let’s move onto what they’re not talking about…
- Keyword research and selection
- Ideal site structure
- Backlinks and internal links
- Estate agency local SEO
Click a link above to jump to each section.
Keyword research and selection
As I said at the beginning, search engine optimisation for estate agencies is incredibly competitive.
However, estate agents can compete by targeting keywords that big sites aren’t, utilising local SEO to rank above competitors and by understanding user intent.
First, let’s look at the different types of keywords to choose from…
Types of keywords for estate agencies
There are two main types of keywords in SEO: short-tail and long-tail.
Short-tail keywords are three words or less, broad searches and competitive keywords.
For example, “sell my house”.
Long-tail keywords are four words or over, more specific searches and less competitive keywords.
For example, “sell my house in Lancaster”.
As well as understanding the different types of keywords and phrases related to SEO for estate agents, we need to understand the different types of keywords within the industry: buyer/tenant, vendor/landlord and informational.
Buyer and tenant keywords are used by people looking for a new home (or window shopping).
For example, “houses for sale in Lancaster” and “houses in Lancaster to rent”.
These keywords are highly competitive and cluttered by Rightmove and Zoopla listings due to their authority and site structure, which most estate agents don’t have.
However, all is not lost with targeting buyers, as we will discuss later.
Vendor and landlord keywords are used by people looking to sell and rent their home.
For example, “sell my home in Lancaster” and “estate agents in Lancaster” (we are seeing that most people who search for “estate agents in…” are looking to sell/lease rather than buy).
These keywords are a lot less competitive but still require advanced SEO to compete with other local estate agents.
Finally, we have informational keywords. These keywords are people searching around your topic.
For example, “best schools in Lancaster” and “best places to live in Lancaster”.
We choose these types of keywords to compete with the property portals and target buyers as the big sites aren’t going after these keywords.
It’s important to map all types of keywords to different stages of the keyword funnel and customer journey.
For this, we need to understand search intent…
Understanding search intent is crucial when choosing keywords to target.
It’s important to put yourself in the shoes of your ideal customer(s) and brainstorm a range of searches they are likely to make before moving home and hiring your estate agency.
The best way to illustrate keyword selection is with a funnel…
NOTE: For this example, we’ll look at buyer and tenant keywords but the same applies to vendors and landlords.
Top of funnel: Awareness
Keywords that are more related to your target audience than property-related topics.
These are less likely to drive a lot of leads but they are used to drive traffic to your website and capture the awareness of your target customer.
Middle of funnel: Discover
Keywords that your target audience are likely to search for before looking for your services.
These keywords and pages do more than drive traffic and awareness, they build trust with your target audience and present your company as true authorities for your specific location.
Bottom of funnel: Action
Keywords that people are likely to search for in order to take action and become customers.
These keywords are the real ‘money’ keywords and subsequently are the most competitive keywords in the funnel.
The buyer/tenant keywords in this section are dominated by property portals and take a long time for local estate agents to compete and rank for them.
How to find keywords
There are many ways to find keywords and again, there are many articles on this topic.
But, by far the simplest keyword research method is to use the Google search bar and the results page itself (along with a browser extension).
Here’s the process:
- Install the browser extension, Keywords Everywhere. It gives you useful data such as monthly search volume.
UPDATE: When this article was first written, Keywords Everywhere was completely free. Unfortuntely, this has now changed and you have to buy credits. That said, $10 worth of credits (100,000) gets you pretty far, so it’s worth the investment. Another free tool you can use is Google’s Keyword Planner or a paid tool like Ahrefs or SEMrush.
- Search relevant keywords in Google and record the monthly search volume. For example, “estate agents Lancaster”.
- Analyse the ‘related searches’.
- Use the search bar to get more ideas by typing parts of keywords and analysing what Google is suggesting based on past user searches.
- Repeat this process and record all of the keywords in a simple Excel document.
Ideal site structure for estate agent SEO
The way you structure your estate agency website is important for both SEO and user experience (UX).
- It helps Google to easily crawl and understand your website.
- It decreases the chance of keyword cannibalisation (more than one page targeting the same keyword, this reduces the likelihood of you ranking for your targeted keyword at all).
- It helps users navigate through your website and find all information with ease.
- It develops a better internal linking structure (more on this in the next section).
- It helps you prioritise your website’s pages.
Without any structure, it’s just a random collection of pages and blog posts.
Typically, there are five types of pages on your website: company, locations, listings, categories, and blog.
Let’s explore these…
These are the pages that you should have as a company:
- About page
- Contact page
- ‘Why choose us’ page
- And so on…
In terms of SEO, these are the least important to worry about as customers navigate to these pages to learn more about your company once they are already on your website.
Just ensure customers can easily find this information (in your navigation bar).
TIP: On estate agent’s websites, the ‘About’ page is the third most viewed page. So, don’t neglect this page.
These pages are just that: location pages.
Location pages are very important as they will be optimised for the most searched keywords in your area.
For example, “estate agents in Lancaster”.
As they are some of the most important pages, they need to be high in your website’s structure and hierarchy.
Here’s an example of the structure:
Locations (this will be an overview of all locations you serve)
So, the URLs should look something like this:
Each location page should target the most relevant and searched keyword in that specific area (identified in the keyword research process).
These are the pages that list your properties.
In terms of SEO, these pages are rather problematic.
Let me explain…
Listings are turned over quickly.
Most of these pages are published and become irrelevant before Google has had the chance to rank them.
And if you have published hundreds or even thousands of listing pages, it will cause bloating and affect your website’s crawl budget.
Listing pages are of low quality in Google’s eyes.
Hundreds of similar listing pages across the web and on your website are at risk of negative search engine optimisation practices such as duplicate content.
These pages are worthless in terms of SEO and it’s incredibly important that every page on your website is unique and valuable, especially if you have a smaller, newer website.
We recommend blocking these pages from being crawled, by using your robots.txt file.
This will keep these pages live on your site but will instruct Google NOT to crawl or rank these pages.
It does seem counter-intuitive but by blocking low-quality pages on your website, you are assisting Google to focus on the pages that matter, thus increasing overall performance.
These are pages that categorise all of your property listings.
In terms of selling your listed properties, these pages have the most SEO value.
Category pages are how you can target ‘bottom of funnel’ keywords like “houses for sale in Lancaster” and compete with the property portals.
The URL structure should look something like this:
You can go further with this structure by also targeting long-tail keywords, like “3 bedroom houses for sale in Lancaster” by using the following structure:
This is the exact type of structure that property portals follow. And to compete, so should you.
We regularly see two main issues with category pages on estate agency websites.
The most harmful in terms of SEO is that their website doesn’t support this category structure.
If we search ‘Lancaster’ in their property search bar, it takes us to all the properties in Lancaster.
However, their URL structure looks something like this:
This is a search string, rather than a real, indexable URL and page. Meaning, Google doesn’t index (or rank) this page, they just index the page: /search-results/.
How can you compete with the property portals with this URL structure?
We suggest speaking to your web developer to get this fixed.
The second issue we commonly see is estate agents that have the correct category structure but NO content on the page.
These pages should be built with a lot of text, images and information specific to the category (i.e. the location).
Creating content for each category page will help Google see that you are the authority on that particular topic and will help push you up in the rankings.
This is KEY when competing with the property portals.
These are pages that contain content that you want to share with your audience.
Blog posts are used to target ‘middle’ and ‘top of funnel’ keywords and don’t have to be property-related but do need to be targeted to your ideal customers.
So, you should focus on the searches they are likely to make before they are ready to hire you.
Site structure is still important for your blog posts.
It’s similar to how the category pages are structured, but for content.
After all, blog posts do fall under clear categories.
When publishing content about buying a home, it should be categorised under the ‘buying a home’ category.
Let’s say the topic is “How To Buy A House”.
The URL structure should look something like this:
- /blog/ = the blog page with all blog posts.
- /buying/ = ‘buying a home’ category page with all ‘buying’ related posts.
- /how-to-buy-a-house/ = the blog post for that particular topic.
And do the same for ‘selling’ topics.
Then there’s the hyperlocal content that’s crucial to your local rankings and attracting local customers.
There are many ways of categorising these topics depending on the amount of content you’ll be publishing.
For most sites, we recommend the simplest structure.
Let’s say the topic is “Best Restaurants in Lancaster”
The URL structure will look very similar to the example above.
Something like this:
Backlinks and internal links
Now we have discussed the ideal structure of your estate agency website, let’s get into how links work with the site structure and can skyrocket your SEO efforts.
Let’s understand the two different types of links…
Backlinks (or inbound links) are links pointing from one website to another website.
Inbound links are the number one ranking factor in SEO.
Think of it as a ‘vote’. A link to your website from another website counts as one vote and the more votes you have, the more Google will reward you (rank you higher).
However, there are low-quality and high-quality backlinks.
- A low-quality link would be a backlink from an unrelated, non-established website.
- A high-quality link would be a backlink from a highly authoritative website, linking to your website from a property-related article (Rightmove, The Guardian, Forbes etc).
- And then there’s everything in between.
It’s key to focus on quality rather than quantity.
A consistent stream of quality and relevant links will most likely boost your rankings if you have sound site structure and foundations.
We have found that property-related and localised blog websites have the highest success rate in generating consistent links for your website.
Think interior bloggers and local city bloggers.
We have a well-established link building and outreach system to achieve quality backlinks.
However, I’m not going to get into how to build links in this article.
Again, this topic has been beaten to death online; start here if you’re interested in learning more.
Internal links are links that point to other pages on the same website.
Thanks to our site structure, internal linking is MUCH more efficient and yields great results.
In fact, websites with a good backlink portfolio have the potential to massively increase their SEO results from this strategy alone – without building many more links.
The strategy has been coined as the ‘reverse silo’.
The idea here is that you create a topical silo around your ‘money’ pages which are targeting ‘bottom of funnel’ keywords.
You build backlinks to the topical content and pass ‘link equity’ through to your important pages by utilising internal links.
Think about it:
Would websites link directly to your services page?
I doubt it.
Would they link to great content about a highly relevant topic to their website?
Estate agency local SEO
Basic search engine optimisation and strategies we have discussed all fall into local SEO in some way.
But let’s focus on aspects that I haven’t yet discussed in great detail but that is very important when ranking your estate agency website for local search terms.
Google My Business
Google My Business (GMB) is essential if you want to appear in maps and in the local pack listings that show for local queries like “estate agents in Lancaster”.
As the local pack takes up a large part of the search engine results page (SERP) real estate (no pun intended), especially on mobile devices, it’s vital for your estate agency to be ranking in the top three.
Well, the local three-pack appears in the number one spot of the SERPs 93% of the time when a local search is performed.
This means that with a well-optimised GMB listing, you have a better chance of ranking at the top of the SERP almost every time.
And if you have a web page ranking in the top three results too, that’s double your SERP presence and double your chance of being clicked.
So, how do you optimise your GMB listing?
It all boils down to the following:
- Verify your listing with Google.
- Fill in the basic information about your business.
- Add logo, cover photos, phone number and address.
- Fill in as much extra information about your business as possible.
- Push for reviews from your customers.
There are further optimisations you can make in between…
We find that clients find this roadmap very helpful to visualise (contact us if you want a high-resolution copy):
Estate agent citations (NAP)
As you can see towards the end of the roadmap, we create citations.
What are citations?
A citation is an online reference to your business’s Name, Address and Phone number (NAP).
Like links to your website, Google uses them when evaluating the authority of your website and business online.
When creating citations, it’s important to focus on two things: accuracy of the data and the quality of the platform they exist on.
Google collects data about each business and if the data is inconsistent in terms of NAP information, it can harm your local rankings.
Consistency is key.
In terms of the quality of the platform, you should build citations on high authority websites and websites which are relevant to the estate agent industry.
- Bing Places
- Prime Location
- And so on…
Website schema markup
Schema is microdata that you can add to your webpage’s HTML, or by using Tag Manager, to improve the way search engines read and represent your page in the SERPs.
There are lots of ways schema can benefit your website, like showcasing review stars in the SERPs to increase visibility:
But to enhance our local SEO efforts, we want to implement ‘LocalBusiness’ schema.
This schema tells Google that this particular page represents a physical branch of the business in this location.
As you can see, the NAP is also present here, so make sure you input the correct data before implementing the schema.
Improve your estate agent website rankings
As I have said a couple of times in this article, estate agent SEO is tough.
But if you follow basic search engine optimisation strategies AND you follow the advanced strategies in this article, your estate agency website will more likely dominate your local market in the search engines.
I realise that a few of the strategies discussed in this article are relatively technical but if you need any assistance, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Schedule a free SEO for estate agents strategy session and see how we can help your estate agency.