When you hear the phrase “luxury property” what comes to mind? A high-rise in downtown Manhattan? A sprawling French provincial estate in Savannah? A vacation home with a panoramic oceanfront view? A secluded, 6,500 sq. ft. cabin in the Rocky Mountains?
One man’s home is another man’s castle because luxury is in the eye of the beholder. Therein lies the problem for the Realtor specializing in luxury real estate. How does a potential client, currently living across the country, define luxury? Unless your niche is super specific -- historic properties in the Pacific Northwest -- trying to guess what someone will put into a search engine will drive you bonkers.
Thankfully, there are plenty of other ways to optimize a website for better rankings in the search engines.
Keep reading to learn some simple ways to boost your real estate site’s ranking.
Be a Rule Follower, Not Breaker
Have you ever seen a website penalized by Google for trying to cheat the system? No. Of course, you haven't. Because it's buried so deep in search engine results you need a professional search party to find it.
If you put time, effort, and money into your website the last thing you want is for it to get buried, or worse, banned. Breaking Google's rules isn't worth it. And it's not as if their rules are unreasonable or incredibly difficult to follow.
Luxury Home Buyers Expect a Luxurious Website
This does not mean you need to go out and spend thousands of dollars on having a new site built. It doesn't even necessarily mean you need a bunch of bells and whistles.
Here are some of the web design features that I defined as luxurious:
There’s no getting around this one. In today's day and age, a website must be mobile-friendly. Absolutely.
As much as curb appeal is important in real estate, so is the first impression a new user (and potential client) gets from your website. Keep it clean and concise. Avoid large blocks of text on the homepage or a busy design with too many options.
We also know how color choices inside a home make a huge difference. The same goes for your real estate site. With the right combination and balance of colors, your site will draw people in. The choice of color in marketing plays a psychological role in persuading a customer to choose a certain company. In fact, Psychology Today reports “researchers found that up to 90% of snap judgments made about products can be based on color alone.”
UX is web geek-speak for user experience. This refers to how functional and usable the navigation is within a website.
One of the best ways to evaluate your site’s usability is to enlist help from a friend or family member who has not used the site much, or at all. Ask them to report on how easy your site is to use. Is it simple to navigate? And is the architecture of information well organized?
If a customer came to an open house and immediately got lost looking for the kitchen, they’d leave as quickly as they could find their way out. The difference with websites is that there's no need to search for the way out. There's a little “X” in the upper right-hand corner of their screen that gets them out in a millisecond.
Don’t Be Content with Your Content
If you’ve ever read any online articles about digital marketing trends, you may have heard that content is no longer King.
Has content been dethroned? No, and yes.
No, content is not technically been dethroned. It's still King. Yes, because content has a new crown and a new title: Relevant Content.
Over the years, the importance of content as one of Google's ranking factors has steadily increased. If you pay attention to digital marketing trends, this is no secret. But the way Google classifies this content has changed. Most recently, there's been a shift away from content focused on including keywords in every blog post. Pages are now weighted heavier when content is specific to the type of industry -- business, product, or service -- the site is for.
Basically, what relevant content boils down to is comprehensive, helpful information written in natural, easy-to-read language.
The content on a real estate website needs to go beyond the 500-word posts discussing “How to Stage a House” and “5 Things to Repair Before You Sell.” Don't misunderstand. Those are valuable and worth keeping, but they need to go more in-depth. How do you think sites in some of the most competitive industries rank on the first page? They average over 2,000 words per blog post.
Content should establish a real estate agency as the expert in luxury homes in their area. A potential client should not need to go to any other site to get all the information they could possibly want. Some specific examples of content to include:
- Best areas to buy in your area if a person is a first-time home buyer, purchasing a vacation home, or retiring -- and why
- Detailed descriptions of the various neighborhoods
- The type of lifestyles (outdoorsy, golf-centric, laid-back surf bum, sophisticated culture, etc.) that are prevalent in communities
- The average price per square foot of different locations
- Descriptions and locations of schools
- The recreation options and amenities available in or near each community
- The sporting events around the area and where to go to catch one
By making sure your site is a helpful resource, rather than only using it as an advertisement for listings, you can jump way ahead of your competition. Here's a superb example of a property management website that understands the importance (and necessity) of relevant content. (They go as far as offering a guide for commuters with links to various public transportation options!)
The Keyword Conundrum
The beginning of the post described how difficult it can be to get quality real estate leads using keywords. But that doesn't mean it's impossible.
In fact, if you focused on the suggestions discussed in this post, your website is now much more keyword friendly. And not because you stuffed your pages with them. It’s because your site now caters to the ideal audience, not the Googlebot.
What are some other ways you’ve had success in optimizing your website? Do you feel that the real estate industry is behind when it comes to digital marketing? Please share your thoughts with the rest of us.