Katherine Tarbox is a senior editor with REALTOR® Magazine. Formerly, she was editorial director for Washington Life. She is the author of the international bestselling book A Girl’s Life (Dutton, 2000) and has made hundreds of media appearances including The Today Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and CNN.
6 Weeks to Better SEO
Boost your visibility on the Web by optimizing your site for search engines.
February 1, 2010
After investing time and money to build a spectacular Web site, you'd probably like to sit back and watch those online leads roll in. Not so fast. You still have a very important job ahead of you—ensuring that prospects and clients can actually find your site. And one of the best ways to see results quickly, experts say, is to optimize your site for search engines. Even if you did this when you developed your site, there may be room for improvement.
Focus on one task per week, and in six weeks you'll be well on your way to better visibility on the Web.
Week 1: Write Better Page Titles
At the top of every Web page, there's a title that appears in the browser bar. Make these titles very specific, as search engines scan this data when indexing Web sites, says Lisa Udy, a tech-savvy real estate practitioner with Logan Utah Real Estate Immaculate Homes in Providence, Utah. Rather than a generic page title, include targeted keywords such as "Dallas, Texas Home Foreclosure Expert, Jane Smith." Always write your location and specialty before your name, Udy says. This makes it easier for the spiders that crawl the Internet to grab the most important keywords and sort pages.
Week 2: Broadcast Your Links
Develop a campaign to get other Web sites linking to yours. Focus on social networks and trusted real estate Web sites. One way to do this is by making thoughtful comments on real estate blogs and leaving your link as part of your blog post. You don't need thousands of links to your site. What you do need are relevant links to your business from reputable Web sites that are trusted by search engines. This helps search engines deem your site as trustworthy, too.
Week 3: Use Keywords Generously
While it might seem like overkill to repeat certain keywords heavily throughout your site, the strategy really does work, says real estate and technology blogger Matt Rains, a practitioner with Keller Williams Atlanta Partners in Loganville, Ga. He suggests incorporating the top phrases that you want associated with your site—"St. Louis Historic Homes," for example. For strategic ideas, try the Keyword Tool on Google AdWords. Using the tool, you can type a phrase that's relevant to your business and immediately find out how many people search for that term each month. Your main keywords should appear at least 10 to 13 times per 700 words on a page, says Mark Menzella, who runs RE/Advantage, a real estate Web design company in Fairfield, N.J.
Week 4: Reword Outgoing Links
Take a look at all of the links on your site that lead visitors to a different site. The hyperlink text should be specific and include phrases that search engines can index, says Menzella. "Stay away from using terms like 'click here' or 'read more' as anchor text," he says. Instead, the link should clearly spell out what information visitors will get—"Statistics on the Fort Lauderdale Market," or "Listings of Single-Family Homes in Seattle," for example.
Week 5: Develop a Site Map
"Site maps are now a major component for search engine indexing," says Jim Crawford, ABR®, e-PRO®, of RE/MAX Greater Atlanta. He's talking about special site maps that are made just for search engines, not for your site's users. These index pages help electronic Web crawlers find the content that lives on your site and make more accurate rankings. Crawford recommends visiting XML-Sitemaps.com, which generates a site map for free.
Week 6: Tweet About It
"Now that tweets are indexed in Google, Twitter has become an important part of SEO strategy," says Misty Lackie of Go Smart Solutions, a technology consulting firm in Grover Beach, Calif. So get a Twitter account if you don't already have one, and create useful tweets that happen to include your business keywords and links to your site.
If it sounds like search engine optimization is a never-ending job, that's because it is. But don't let that deter you—the important thing is to be aware of your rankings and continually seek improvement.
Is It Working?
There are many other factors that could affect your search engine rankings, including how fast your site loads. If you're not a Web expert, it's helpful to consult someone who is to make sure you're doing all you can to optimize your site. To measure your progress, regularly test out the top search engines to see how you rank. Web analytic software also can help you determine if traffic from search engines is increasing.