Organic vs. Paid Search Engine Optimization

Services for Real Estate Pros with Altos Research

You've got a website. You're trying to get visitors to stop by your site everyday, but deep down, you know that you're getting 20 visitors a week, or maybe 10, or maybe 0... You hear that you need to do better search engine optimization.  It's a term that's thrown around, and for some it means spending lots of money, but it doesn't have to work that way. 

Take some time to understand how you can "optimize" without shoveling cash in a consultant's pockets, and read on...

Keyword Search Engine Optimization

With paid keyword search optimization, consultants are going to finely tune your website content to match keywords and search terms so these specific terms are prevalent across your website.  This strategy is based on finding the few terms that you think most home buyers and sellers are most likely to type into Google or the other search engines.  Here's the problem -

These are the same terms that every other paid search clients to use to attract website visitors.  If you're paying to 'Google Page 1 rankings' for "South Kackalackee real estate," do you really think that you're the only person out there trying to optimize for this keyword term? Other agents are doing the same thing (and are probably paying the same consultants that you are....)  This creates an arms race to see how many times you can have the exact term - "South Kackalackee real estate" on your website to beat the next guy.

But for the sake of argument, let's assume you do get make it to the coveted 'Google Page 1' and the web user decides to check out your website.  What is the visitor going to see?  Nothing but the term "South Kackalackee Real Estate" plastered all over your website.  It becomes visual noise. 

You've seen these sites.  It's almost impossible to find any information quickly because the entire website is nothing but keywords generously scattered throughout the navigation bars and down below the fold of the home page.  Yes, it's annoying to view, and often you'll find yourself bouncing from that website faster that you can say "South Kackalackee Real Estate."

Guess what?  That's what many homebuyers and sellers do as well.  They see these sites and leave before getting a second hand on the keyboard.  Now, keep in mind, some visitors do stay - it's a matter of preference. But most consumers are on the Internet because they want to drive - they want to be in charge of their experience.  Sites that are screaming this kind visual noise at them can be a major turn-off for them, and thus works counter to the reason that you paid to have you're site "optimized."

Paid Search: "Pay-per-Click"

Alternately, you can also spend hundreds of dollars per month for "pay-per-click" - ads the run on the top or sidebar of the organic search results in Google or Yahoo.  This guarantees your high placement on the search engine results page.  If the web user clicks on your ad, then you pay Google for that click. Sounds good because you only pay when you're advertisement is clicked?

But what if you don't have compelling information for the website visitor?  What if you spent all of your energy building up the wallpaper but don't have any furniture for your guests to sit on? Then they'll bounce - another reason why pursuing an organic search engine optimization strategy can be the best approach. 

Organic Search

In short, organic search means that your website is found because it best matches the key term.  The difference is that your website is found without the forced matching of only a few key terms.  The more natural content on your website, the better the chance that you'll hit more organic search matches.

It helps you in a couple of ways.

1. Organic Search is free - no consulting fees to fine-tune your website to match key terms and no pay-per-clicks.  Sounds good, huh?  It is.

2. Organic Search forces you to create unique and compelling content.  Because a web user is only going to find your site if a search term matches the content on your site, you need to be sure that the content on your site is interesting. 

Likewise, the ancillary content should also be interesting. A website visitor might find your website because they searched a term like "real estate market information South Kackalackee" but they might stay because you have great information about school districts or other unique local information in South Kackalackee.

(This is why blogs can be so effective for a local real estate market.  Good blogs, by nature, have lots of content added over time and are updated frequently.

3. Organic Search = long tail marketing.  Read about the "long tail" in this classic article from Wired Magazine.

So what do you do now?


Here's an article that describes a study on the effectiveness of organic vs. paid search engine strategies

A more recent article here mentions a Jupiter Media Study showing that 5 out of 6 commercial purchases come from organic search.

Found this article which gives 10 tips for better organic search traffic to your blog.

Or you can search for more articles on your own and see what comes up... ;--)



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Loreena and Michael Yeo
3:16 team REALTY ~ Locally-owned Frisco TX Real Estate Co. - Frisco, TX
Real Estate Agents

I dont believe that this is such an informative post but received no comments. No even an infamous Good post!

Perhaps you could list it in specific groups like Blogging and SEO?

Dec 22, 2008 08:28 AM #1
Scott Sambucci
Altos Research - Mountain View, CA

Hi Loreena - Thanks for the suggestion! I've just added to the Blogging & SEO group.  Didn't even think about it at the time...

Dec 22, 2008 08:47 AM #2
Paul Penner
RE/MAX Little Oak - Abbotsford, BC

Any advise on SEO friendly formats ie. CSS Html Flash etc.

Jan 09, 2009 08:00 AM #3
Scott Sambucci
Altos Research - Mountain View, CA

Hi Paul - Flash and anything in an image cannot be found by Google searchbots.  For example, if you have a graphic that includes your logo and name, that graphic is just a huge block that the Google bots can't see.  Also, avoid framed website designs, as Googlebots see a frame and skip over any content that's contained within that frame.

Here's a link to Google's expanded explanation:



Jan 10, 2009 12:58 AM #4
Cindy Marchant
Keller Williams Indy NE 317-290-7775 - Carmel, IN
"Cindy in Indy" , Realtor, Fishers Real Estate

I think your post speaks to a lot of people searching for how to be a billboard on a highway people actually travel.  I think consistency and linking are the two biggest keys to getting noticed.  I am still in awe of the Google matrix...I can be on page 1 one day and on page 3 for the next week.  And I do the same, change out some statistics on my splash page, ping my site, all the things you are suppose to do.  Baffles me...


Jan 10, 2009 01:07 AM #5
Chris & Karen Highland
eXp Realty - Frederick, MD
Integrity, Experience, Enthusiasm!

I know one thing, pay-per-click costs have steadily risen over the last few years.  Fewer people are going that route because organic searches are much better. Statistics show that less than 20% of people searching click on the ads at the top of the page, the majority go for organic results.  I know I do, I never click on the paid ads in the box.

Jan 10, 2009 09:04 AM #6
Scott Sambucci
Altos Research - Mountain View, CA

Hi Chris & Karen - Great point! This rise in cost is another reason to focus on organic search.  There's a limited supply of keywords that agents/brokers want to buy, so over time, the prices will be bid up and the marginal benefit of each click will shrink. 

Jan 10, 2009 11:33 PM #7
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