Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a minor art, science and dedication all-in-one, making it not at all surprising that there are a lot of SEO specialists offering services to help you with your website’s organic performance, all of which range from the cheap and unhelpful to the expensive. Before engaging an SEO specialist, the easiest thing for the non-tech savvy to take a look at is identifying any issues you have with your on-page SEO; these are must have things that any specialist is going to point out to you immediately (and charge you for the gesture).
Generally you want to aim for a boost in your organic performance from making sure you have the basics covered. This boost can come after a few days, or sometimes months – it is up to search engines, such as Google, to come back to your website and take a look at the changes you’ve made, and then re-calculate your ranking for different search terms.
On your journey, you’ll want to avoid any dodgy or black-hat related ‘boosts’ to try and improve your ranking. Google has been perfecting their search algorithm since 1998 and see right past attempts to trick their bot – which can lead to your website getting penalised and in rare cases dropped from the search index altogether.
How to avoid getting penalised by Google
The easiest thing you can do is treat your website as if you were a member of your audience, or a consumer. Make appealing content that is mostly on-topic, include call-to-actions that are targeted to your markets specific needs, and check in with your real estate website provider to make sure the basics (our list below) are covered properly.
When it comes to these basics, we believe they should be part of any real estate website, and be setup correctly for you from day one. If you’re real estate solution provider wants to charge to set these up for you, it might be time to look at a new provider and a nice new website design.
Organic vs. paid performance
Organic results are the bulk of the results that appear on Google when you do a search, and this is what we like to focus on with our SEO efforts. You can’t pay Google to appear in their organic search results – the only time you would pay Google is to place an advertisement, which usually appear at the top and bottom of the results page. Be wary of any companies promising to get you onto page 1 for relatively loose or generic search terms, such as ‘real estate’, as this is essentially impossible to achieve.
Let’s cover the basics that you need to look at when it comes to optimising your website for Google
This is the simplest way for Google to determine what key information is associated with your website and the current page. The title predominately appears as the result header in Google and on the tab in your visitors browser. For your title tags to be effective, you should consider avoiding:
- Duplicate title tags: this refers to one title appearing on multiple pages, or in some lazy cases every single page of your website. Duplicate tags aren’t helpful to a search engine and can prevent it from correctly identifying the most important pages of your site.
- Long title tags: ideally, you should aim for your title tags to be around 60-70 characters in length. This isn’t a hard or fast rule, but just a general guide.
- Missing title tags: the instant tell-tale sign of a poorly developed website, you need to ensure every single page of your website has a title tag.
The meta description is found below the title of the search results presented by Google and usually describes what page is about for that particular website. A great meta description helps users identify how important the page is to their search query and must be compelling enough for users to click the link and go to that page. The ideal length is around 150 to 160 characters and should contain keywords relevant to your business and the page. Don’t do this: “real estate, selling, buying, vendors, we sell”, do this: “We specialise in selling real estate and helping buyers find their dream home”.
Keywords often get confused with the out-dated keywords meta tag, something that Google has not looked at or considered part of their algorithm for years. Today, we when talk about keywords we are referring to ensuring your sentences and headers have the appropriate words (or keywords) to summarise your website and content. The most common keywords you will want to incorporate are words specific to real estate and the areas you service.
Setting up the correct type of redirect for moved or removed content is critical as it allows Google to figure out what happened to the old page, and if the index should be updated to point to a new location. An example of this is a 301 redirect (moved permanently) which tells Google that a page has moved to a new perminant location.
Redirects can also be helpful when you change website providers, helping to ensure old links still work. For example you may have had /about on your old website for your company overiew, but on your new website it is now at /company-profile – it is important that Google knows the page has moved, and helps your audience find content instead of been greeted with a “Page Not Found” error.
This relates to the frequency of words appearing in an article but should be limited to not more than 3% of the entire word count. Having too many keywords showing up too many times in an article is often referred to as keyword stuffing and could result in a penality from Google.
Internal linking and anchor text optimisation
While this is a constantly changing aspect in the search engine landscape, what is consistant is that having several links to other websites and other websites on your page is good for your ranking: think of it as humans referring to each other amongst friends, that link helps drive referral.
Anchor text, images and links that are used as a hyperlink (clickable object on the page or website) should include keywords, alt text or title text where possible, that relates to either the existing content or where the visitor is going to.
Commonly shown as a 404 error or “Page Not Found”, you’ve most likely ended up on one of these pages in the past because you clicked on a link to content that no longer exists. You should keep broken links in mind when making major changes to your website’s content, such as removing out-dated pages. Periodically, you should also conduct a full review of your website to find any hidden broken links, which can be done using a broken link checker tool.
URL / Domain
Having a readable and easy to understand URL is critical for when visitors type it into their browser manually. Focus on your business name, and if needed incorporate the one main keyword that covers your business activity.
The number one thing you’re taught at school and university: don’t plagerise. Copying and pasting large chunks of text from other websites is lazy, and can be harmful to your search engine ranking with Google.
Search engine crawlers, or robots (bots for short), will often first check the Robots.txt file to see what they can and can’t do. These days your robots.txt file should be mostly empty, but its good practice to still include it.
Image Alt Tag
Images on your website should include an image title and image alt tag. This helps search engines identify the key concept of a photo or image. Side note, you should also ensure you resize and optimise images before uploading them to your website, as original images are often large in size and can slow down the loading of your website.
Heading tags range from H1 through to H6, with H1 having the most weight or importance, generally every page in your website should have a prominate H1 heading. You should aim to have a single H1 tag per page, then rely on H2, H3, etc, to highlight or sub-header parts of your page.
Another hotly contested topic of SEO is the time it takes for your website to load. Varying tools will offer up varying results, with some looking ‘scary’ and others providing helpful advice on how to improve your speed. Generally, from a human experience perspective, try to aim for a page load of no more than 2 seconds.
If you have an SEO company telling you that people don’t wait a few seconds for a page to load, we would recommend looking for a different partner: when was the last time you thought to yourself “gee this website took 3 seconds to load, I’m clicking out and going elsewhere!” – we’re pretty sure the answer is never.
Google Analytics helps provide data and intelligence regarding your page performance, and visitor engagement. You should take advantage of event tracking so you can track performance of common call-to-actions, leads and conversions (i.e. something as simple as how many people looked at a contact form vs. how many people filled it in).
Mobile Optimisation and Responsive Design
Optimising your website for mobile ensures your website, it’s layouts and your content can be viewed correctly on mobile or tablet devices. This is crticial in an industry where more than half of your site visitors are coming from mobile devices.
Schema Mark Up
Schema is code that is included in your website, behind-the-scenes, to help Google understand your site content better. An example of this is ‘events’, where websites built by iDashsites can share open for inspection information directly with Google, helping your website to rank better and make your results on Google more feature-rich.
Call to Actions
Carefully crafted call-to-actions (CTA) will help boost your page’s functionality and generate more leads and conversions. Consider your CTA headline, usually a question, and keep it simple and to the point. The idea is the visitor needs to click to get the answer, usually via a form. Keep your forms simple and brief, only requesting name and phone OR email.
Keep at it…
Always keep in mind that there is more to launching your website than just making it go live. You need to invest time, effort and resources in your basics and ongoing content if you want it to be a helpful marketing tool for your business. With the right strategies and perspective your website will continue to grow, attract new visitors and rank better every day on Google.