A Novice's approach to diy SEO: 15 tips to improve your visibility, and observations about the 'industry'

Services for Real Estate Pros with John Henry Masterworks Design International, Inc.

Boy, where should I start...  Let me say first: I am not a pro at this.  In fact, I no longer do much of many of the things you are going to read below because I have lost daily control of my web and not in the latest SEO loops...  I ask the pros reading this to add some insight.


I had been doing my own SEO and actually built my own web using MS FrontPage about 12 years ago.  Things went quite well.  There were a few online SEO blogs and webs discussing the best things to do.  I soaked in as much as possible.  I was constantly changing things to stay on top.  It seemed like I was on the first few results for my keywords.  After the Great Depression (is that what it's called?) I found out that I had many problems with my antiquated web and that I had been flagged by Google for spamming.

Even though Bing and Yahoo continued to show me at the top of their searches, Google had stopped.  And this is due to constantly changing algorithms.

A few weeks ago someone had posted the way Google and other search engines (SEs) decide who is seen and who is not and why.  After trying to go through a third of that information (about 10 -12 detailed pages) and try to understand what was being said, I skimmed the last 2/3ds and threw my hands up.

This is no longer something a rank amateur can do. And like so many other things that seem to get so complicated that another group of newly minted pros have to step in to cure the problems... It is downright infuriating.

My original web was something I could change at a moment's notice.  I could rewrite the text, change out images, redo the metatags, revamp pages, add reciprocal linking partners, redo the format, change the color scheme, etc.  It was great. 

Now, I have given this all over to someone else and the slightest change involves several day's work and a fee.  That's fine as long as there is a positive result.  But I can't see one. At this time.

For those who have 'older' webs or have not updated things in awhile... 


Things You Must Know and Do Now:

1. If your web is not 'scalable' to cell phones and ipads you are docked by the SEs.  You must redo your entire web.  The easiest and least expensive way: find a template that is current and have the designer 'pour' your existing information into that one.  If you want to get sophisticated with your 'image' and need branding and niche work, find a professional to assist.

2. If you do not have social media links to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc. you MUST have these or else you will be docked by the SE's.

3. You should have a blog.  It seems that this is necessary now. You can have one attached to your web or linked to it.  I am not sure which is better.  AR is a great way to link back to your web.  Discussing information that is not related to your primary business apparently distracts from higher rankings.

4. You must have reliable and credible links back to your web.  You should not have automobile repair shops linking back to a real estate web.  Or your brother-in-law's pet grooming service.  You will be blacklisted forever if you have poor quality links.  (I paid for backlinks 8 years ago and had no idea I was blacklisted.  I had to write an apology letter to Google, etc.)

The best links back are from similar industry webs.  The best thing you can do for your site is to have CNN, Forbes, or Atlantic, etc. write an article about you and linking back to your web. 

And do a search and destroy for dead links.  A lot of companies change webs and go out of business.  Dead links are NO GOOD.

5. DO NOT pay for a company to get links back to you.  Do not pay for social media links.  There is a trick to that and the SEs have figured it out.  During the early days of social media linking those who had the most likes back to your web seemed to rise above everybody.  That's been corrected.

6. If you can get local online real estate publications to link back to you, great.  If you can get your name and link back from professional organizations, excellent.  If a university links back to you, amazing.

7. If you are constantly checking your keywords and updated web work on the same computer and IP address... guess what!??  YOU ARE GETTING FOOLED by the results.  Your own web browser and the ingenious way these folks 'help' you find things works against you in this case.   If you are constantly clicking on your web and checking searches using your top terms, then the results will tend to show YOUR web that you keep referring to with higher or top returns than others!!  OH YES.  I was fooled for at least 3 years before realizing this!!  I was in a comfort zone and totally bamboozled.  Use a different computer to check SEO results.

8. Wondering why you are losing out and have dropped on the SE results for your terms?  Why don't you check on your competition?  How?  Well, find out WHO is getting the top search results for your keywords and look at their web.  Examine their web. Notice how many images are being shown, notice what the percentage of text to image is coming up.  Are there any fancy slideshow graphics?  Does music come on immediately? Are there 10 or more social media links, and some you have never heard of?  How many pages does that competing web have compared to yours?  This 'research' will start explaining perhaps why they are showing up before you.  But in addition to this...

9. Right click on their start page or home page and look at the first few paragraphs of their HTML.  You do this by selecting 'View Page Source'.  You should look for three lines which are called title, description, and keywords. These three items once used to be the most important part of the meta tags.  I am not sure if they are right now.  But you should evaluate your content and see if these tags are close to the same as what you purport to do.  If not, change them up.  And do this often until it seems you are getting traction. For a more detailed explanation of this procedure please go here.

10.  Do the same as above to two or three competitor webs to see what THEY are showing in their meta tags.  Compare theirs likewise with their content.  See if there are any glaring issues and try to correct them with your web designer.  Amazing what you learn studying your competition.

11. Check your meta tags, especially keywords, with what people ARE ACTUALLY typing in their searches to see how close your search terms are to what you may think others are searching to find someone like you.  You will be surprised that-- if you seem lost right now to the world -- the reason for low hits is that the search words that are being used to find someone in your profession or business DO NOT MATCH what you have in your meta tags.  So you must fix that too.  There are free online keyword diagnostics for this.

12. Rewrite content and move images around, change meta tags so that your web DOES NOT APPEAR STAGNANT to the SEs.  You cannot build it and expect them to forever show up at your door without change!

13. CONTENT IS KING  As far as I know.  Things may have changed.... Make sure your English is perfect, that paragraphs make sense, that punctuation is correct, etc. But more than that: offer up information that is congruent to what you do and is helpful to others searching for you.  

14.  A slow web is a bad web.  Large image files have to be resized, perhaps your fancy fade-ins, slide shows, moving images, etc. HTML is bogging down your site. Find out why and fix it.  Sometimes you have paid for a low bandwidth hosting service.  Move up.

15. And if any of this does not make sense or you know and have done the best you can, then we are all missing some part of a bigger picture that can only be solved with professional assistance.  I get at least two or three emails a day from people and companies that seem bogus.  Find an SEO web consultant and actually VET THEM, as you do for any other service or product, before engaging them.  Make them show you how they improved someone else's web. A before and after maybe.  Get referrals from those who were satisfied, etc.  



I have invested over $12,000 in AdWords on Google and Facebook.  I can't point to any direct leads.  I am not spending another penny.  Maybe I should invest $50-100 grand?? No idea that throwing more money will work. 

I have created 6 parallel websites.  These newer ones actually get more traffic than my 'home' site.  There is probably an algorithm that does not like this.

I have about 12 videos pointing back to my web.  Two, which have had no promotions, have over 6,000 views between them over the last 3 years.  Two that have had paid promotions have been stuck at over 1,700 views each within a very short period of time.  I cannot attribute any direct leads based on any of these videos.

I have a web blog and this one here on AR.

I am JUST NOW seeing an uptick in traffic.  After 3 years working hard to get back to where I was.  Not sure why this has occurred...

The fact is that the newer generation is using digital technology to find things and relying on it unquestionably.  The old ways are dying.  Is this a fair system, is it equitable and managed so that all players receive impartial recognition and ranking?  Or is the system rigged?


Posted by

JOHN HENRY ARCHITECT  Orlando Florida Custom Home Designs

Beautiful European and American classical period luxury homes and plans created by premier residential Architect John Henry has been a passion now for over 30 years.  Inspired by old world archaeology and medieval to Renaissance architecture -- and having lived in Europe and the Middle East-- John Henry is widely known for the romantic and period details that make his work breathe a certain soul and drama. Striving for world-class results, his award-winning work reflects the details and proportions of luxury real estate plans in historical European and American traditional styles. Attention to detail and continuity mean that the architectural interiors should also be integrated properly.

Portfolio of Luxury Homes: https://www.dreamhomedesignusa.com/


Office on 7491 Conroy Road Orlando, Florida  32835

Tel: 407.421.6647

Email: johnhenryarchitect@gmail.com

YouTube Videos:    https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3c7Jnh5ggwNw0f3fME1joA

Free Home Planning Questionnaire, inquire here.



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John Henry
John Henry Masterworks Design International, Inc. - Orlando, FL
Residential Architect, Luxury Custom Home Design

Thank you Isaacs Team for the great commentary and information shared.  I may go to Wordpress now and simulate the process you have described!  I am not current on any of the links and companies and methods you listed and I suggest readers at this point also familiarize themselves with these tools.

Oct 05, 2018 09:36 AM #17
Rosemarie Rivicci
Barbara Corregano Real Estate - Staten Island, NY
First time homebuyers, luxury homes, commercial!

Where can we find the time to do all of this?? Its probably best to find an expert in the field by way of recommendation.  We can all probably use more tax deductions! 

Oct 05, 2018 10:14 AM #18
Lottie Kendall
Compass - San Francisco, CA
Helping make your real estate dreams a reality

I concentrate on getting the vast majority of my business from my sphere, past clients and referrals. I'm focusing on getting online reviews from them.

However, several people have found me from specific blog posts I've written, and potential clients do check me out online, so it's important to have a good presence there.

The SEO optimization is something I pretty much ignore - probably shouldn't, but that's the way it is.

Oct 06, 2018 09:27 AM #19
Dorie Dillard CRS GRI ABR
Coldwell Banker United Realtors® ~ 512.750.6899 - Austin, TX
Serving Buyers & Sellers in NW Austin Real Estate

Good afternoon John Henry,

Reading your post made my head swim! I agree we are seeing a saturated Internet with millions of sites that actually detract from valuable content. Trying to keep up with all the SEO takes a full time professional to sort through it all. I've bookmarked your post and will probably need to read it several times. Right now I'm off to watch my grandson's soccer game which is more important to me right now!

Oct 06, 2018 10:56 AM #20
Mary Hutchison, SRES, ABR
Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate-Kansas City Homes - Kansas City, MO
Experienced Agent in Kansas City Metro area

Well it sounds like I should take this page and get online and do all of the suggested tasks...need to have a pro take care of this!

Oct 06, 2018 12:58 PM #21
Robin Wells
RAW Chimney Sweep and Inspections - Penetanguishene, ON
Giving Peace Of Mind One Chimney At A Time

Thanks,  very informative and a lot to learn.  Yes, things have changed.  Especially tough today in a competitive market area to get found, or at least on the first page.  Having said that I am very suspicious of those selling SEO who guarantee you on the first page!   Mabye one keyword !

Oct 07, 2018 03:54 AM #22
Matthew Klinowski, PA
Downing-Frye - Naples, FL
Golf Community Real Estate Specialist

John, thank you for the great information! I have definitely found my personal blog has a major impact on my SEO.  Consistency is critical.  So is quality content. I see an immediate dip in my stats if I take a couple of days off.  It really is almost a full time job to keep track of all the changes and maintaining your presence high in Google rankings.  Have a great day!

Oct 07, 2018 05:04 AM #23
faye schubert
Branson, MO
technology and marketing specialist

Fantastic post and I wouldn't exactly call you a "novice" after the details of what works and the prologue of what didn't work.

Oct 07, 2018 06:07 AM #24
Chuck Willman UtahHomes.me
Utah Homes - Alpine, UT
Utah Homes

I have found that there are two extremely important things to do after building your website:

1) make sure you are listed correctly in all the internet directories that are used as a foundation for the internet and voice searches (chief being google maps, facebook page, yelp, foursquare, etc.) 

2) make sure you receive reviews on these sites (highest rating is best) by a) encouraging your clients to leave reviews and b) responding immediately to these reviews.

These two things are so important that I even founded a company to make the process easier. I'll write a post about it later. I don't want to clog your great post with self-promotion. The important thing is to have a strategy for the above two or just about any new comer can jump past us in searchability. 


Oct 07, 2018 06:34 AM #25
Kathleen Daniels
KD Realty - 408.972.1822 - San Jose, CA
San Jose Homes for Sale-Probate & Trust Specialist

What I've learned over the many years is that I do not give myself credit for what I do know and my willingness to learn SEO. My experience and perspective are that all SEO "experts", self-professed or not, believe their way is the right way, the only way, and all others are wrong.  
Some are old hat thinkers, some are new age and some are stuck between the two wondering which is the better way to go. 
I've spent over $20,000 getting SEO help and help with setting up WordPress Sites.  I'm done.  We cannot trust handing over our business (website) to anyone and allow them to do whatever the hell they think is the right thing to do. 

Oct 07, 2018 07:50 AM #26
John Henry
John Henry Masterworks Design International, Inc. - Orlando, FL
Residential Architect, Luxury Custom Home Design

Hi Chuck, I have been wary of the yelp and foursquare sites but I hope to see your process in a soon to be revealed posting!  Thanks.

DMOZ I think is also a site where you should have your web listed.

Oct 07, 2018 07:54 AM #27
Dario Ferreira
Attleboro, MA
Internet Marketing

Wow, MS FrontPage brings back memories, it was the first wysiwyg software I ever used - many moons ago.

Congrats on the blog post, you make some good points.

Oct 07, 2018 12:07 PM #28
Laura Filip
Laura Filip Broker , Opening doors for All Seasons of Life - Whitesboro, TX
What can we do for you today?

Thank you for sharing this informative post. We keep working on the items you stated, but have found that it is a hard task to say the least. Keep working at it is all we can do. 

Oct 07, 2018 12:09 PM #29
Corinne Guest
Corinne Guest, REALTOR® | Barrington Realty Company - Barrington, IL
Barrington Lifestyles

Microsoft Frontpage, yes my software of choice when I first started an online business. FTP'ing my site up after edits. What a comcept but it actually worked well. First place rankings on a website that allowed me to sell the business. Not bad. Now it's a different ball game and constantly changes. What happened to just selling property? 

Oct 08, 2018 11:31 AM #30
Richard Weeks
Dallas, TX
REALTOR®, Broker


Congratulations on your featured blog.  Well deserved and keep them coming.


Oct 09, 2018 04:40 AM #31
Elizabeth Weintraub Sacramento Realtor Top 1%
RE/MAX Gold - Sacramento, CA
Put 40 years of experience to work for you

This is a continual struggle, John, that all of us at one time or another must face. Most of my website I can handle myself but there are a few things I leave to the Pros. They can't help me with SEO, though, even though they advertise they do. They actually said I can do a better job myself, LOL.

Oct 09, 2018 12:38 PM #32
Jerry Murphy, CRS, SRES
Long Realty West Valley - Anthem, AZ
Anthem, Phoenix, and Scottsdale AZ Real Estate

Wow John! This is a lot of work for a simple real estate agent to undertake. It seems like one would just become an SEO technician rather than a real estate agent.  Plus, I have found that the larger companies like Zillow, Realtor.com, Redfin and large brokerages seem to dominate the first page in Google searches for ANY real estate related item.  What's a poor boy to do?  Thank for the info.  Best wishes to you.

Oct 10, 2018 11:18 AM #33
John Henry
John Henry Masterworks Design International, Inc. - Orlando, FL
Residential Architect, Luxury Custom Home Design

Jerry, this is the current unfortunate state of affairs my friend.

The Rolling Stones said it best:

But what can a poor boy do
Except to sing for a rock n roll band
Cause in sleepy London town
There's just no place for a street fighting man

Oct 10, 2018 01:12 PM #34
Josef Katz
Digital and Direct Response Marketing - Manhattan, NY
{Marketing Maestro}


There is a lot to know in the world of SEO and marketing and things changes quickly. Happy to chat with you at any time if you want to talk SEO/Marketing/Lead gen etc. Ping me offline if you're interested.

Two quick tips.

  1. Use an incognito window to do those keyword searchers to see where your site shows up. Better yet...
  2. If you don't already have google search console running on your site I suggest setting it up. You can get keyword search ranking reports as well as address those bad link issues you indicated in your post. Did I mention it is free...?

Good luck

Oct 10, 2018 01:59 PM #35
Kevin Mackessy
Blue Olive Properties, LLC - Highlands Ranch, CO
Dedicated. Qualified. Local.

You had to write an apology letter to Google?  Haven't heard of that before.  Who was there to even read it?  

Oct 19, 2018 12:07 PM #36
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