Guest Blog: Unlocking SEO in the Residential Property Market

Louis Venter, founder and CEO of MediaVision

In the wake of the pandemic, the property market has experienced a wave of disruption, innovation and increased competition.

And amongst the shifting trends, one thing is clear: the most successful property businesses are now utilising some very sophisticated strategies online, particularly around search. And for those who are not, the risks are set to grow over time, making it harder to secure online visibility.

There are various factors at play here, and while it’s true that digital marketing and high performing SEO can be difficult for any business, the regional office structures that are the hallmark of the estate agent industry can make centralised decision-making extremely challenging. There are different priorities and different teams to keep happy, and this often causes tension in local marketing, particularly online, and is therefore a common weakness.

In my view, too many estate agency groups that are otherwise successful businesses are neglecting a channel that is key in driving a first conversation with a customer. It’s the equivalent of pulling down the shutters on a physical shop. And it’s certainly costing them business.

However, to be clear, the largest franchises are generally not making these mistakes – signalling that other businesses can and should learn to recalibrate and emulate similar successes. So let me outline what that entails.

The first thing to consider is basic coordination across a franchise. For example, does your website content marry up with content on your Google My Business (GMB) page? Too often I find that it does not. Yes, they are separate resources, but they need to deliver to the same objective; driving business to a local office.

Many people search directly on Google Maps, so it’s key to understand different (and often evolving) consumer behaviours and plan accordingly. Likewise, ensure tailored website and GMB pages for every local office. That might number 40 or 50 offices, but agents will lose a lot of local business if they fail to tailor the entire portfolio.

For anyone in any doubt about this, investigate Foxton’s own strategy, and you will see they absolutely nail this fundamental building block for high performing SEO.

Once this step is covered, the next task should be to build out those pages with interesting local content to make someone stop and read. Consider what keywords work best to drive online traffic for that specific location, and never stop optimising, both at a regional and street level.

Additionally, consideration should be given to how an estate agent’s inventory is optimised programmatically for a street level search. This is becoming increasingly important with the dominance of the portals around location-based search, as local agents can outperform the portals street by street.

Moreover, when combined with GMB, it can both unlock steady search traffic flow, whilst also helping drive valuation requests as it’s a key differentiator between agencies.

All of this should form a ‘hyper-local’ strategy which, when integrated with analytics and CRM, can be taken one step further to analyse audience behaviour and holistically optimise the performance of broader marketing campaigns, taking in key data sets, demographics and user behaviour.

Indeed, it is knowledge of audiences that should also come under deeper scrutiny. Estate agents are, naturally, local experts, but audience profiling is becoming very nuanced and requires necessary keyword research to build out an effective SEO and marketing strategy.

It is this type of intelligence that can be used to create a website architecture that ensures landing and property pages are extremely specific to both the location and the user – and it is that specificity that produces the sorts of conversions the top players handle.

Skills check

Consolidation has been a feature of the industry in recent years and the businesses that come together often work on different technology platforms, making integration costly and difficult. Compounding this, however, is a skills gap, and marketing departments in the sector now tend to lag behind other industries in digital capabilities.

Yet the right skills combined with the right online strategies means the difference between strong and weak performance.

The reality is, the market has changed in recent years, and serious businesses need to have a plan. That starts with auditing what skills you do and do not have at your disposal, whether in-house or via an agency.

With a skills audit complete, the next step is to ensure your marketing budget adequately covers SEO, and does not overspend on other components of an external communications strategy. Every marketing plan should be fine-tuned for an optimal mix, and although businesses differ, broadly SEO should account for 10-20% as a basic consideration.

From here, a business can sensibly use paid media to effectively maximise reach and penetration across channels and platforms at the lowest possible cost per acquisition.

Test and learn

Since the start of the pandemic, buyer and renter behaviour has shifted enormously, and today it’s arguable that working in property has never been more competitive. Technology and digital innovation are helping to drive that, and while there is growing disparity in the market, it should still be viewed as an open playing field for all businesses.

Our own demand tracker shows which estate agent franchises secured the largest share of search in the last year, and the top performers all did the same things: they continuously optimised their websites, included a huge amount of backlinks and had strong brand awareness.

They also took SEO seriously – with many bringing it in-house as a full-time function – and used it as part of an integrated digital marketing strategy. It was never an afterthought or outside consideration. Other businesses, with the right information to know where to start, should feel empowered to follow suit.

And the beauty of many modern marketing strategies is their inherent measurability. So for businesses exhibiting any trepidation, rest assured that investments can be fine-tuned and optimised until the results you require are visible.

Online marketing is not always easy. But with some straightforward auditing within the marketing function of your business, it is a simple enough task to identify what you’re missing and how others might be beating you at the game – and to use that as the starting point to take a fairer slice of search for yourself.