What is SEO? Your no-BS answers here

PropTech Tips

Good SEO = good web leads, and easier sales. Who doesn’t want that?!

However… SEO, like car repairs or dentistry, can be dangerous on the wallet. You know that feeling you get with a car mechanic? You’re out of your depth, both parties know this, and you have a sneaking suspicion that you may be getting fleeced.

As with all things tech and CRE, it’s easy to get BS’d. Trust me, we are tech people, and we’ve been on the receiving end, and bought the t-shirt! Reading this article will help you in two ways: a) make better decisions around how you spend precious money, and b) give you the tools to get more web leads.

If you’re going to take one thing away, here it is: Very simply, SEO is like a car engine. And SEM (or PPC or Adwords) is like the fuel. SEO spending happens, generally, once off. SEM spending happens monthly or weekly – depending if you need, or want, your engine to work harder.

SEO 101

Getting good results on Google is influenced mainly by you paying for TWO things, in order:

  1. Building your site to be Google-friendly (SEO) – the “engine”
  2. Spending money with Google (SEM) – the “fuel”

Like some car engines are built to go far on little fuel, while other engines suck lots of fuel to go short… Same with SEO: spending money on Google, without first making your site Google-friendly, is “throwing good money after bad”.

In other words, if you are competing against businesses who have built their site to be Google-friendly, for every Dollar they spend, you need to spend five Dollars. Who is the loser here? Clue: not the companies who get your AdWords spend! Answer: the loser is the business whose website SEO is not Google-friendly.

So… How can I score my website and marketing efforts? And how do I win in the world’s most competitive race (i.e. Google Search)? And specifically, how do I win in commercial property marketing, where the stakes are high, the space is hyper-competitive, and every website is in a race against every other website.

1. Building your site to be Google-friendly (SEO)

Some context: Google is a search engine. To come up in search results, you want to optimise your website for this search engine. I.e. make it easy for the search engine to do its job. Thus “Google-friendly” = search engine optimised.

Google begs for websites to be built Google-friendly: (and even hands out the “how to” guide)

But for some reason (we don’t know why, we are not experts in building websites) Google’s guidance is ignored.

If you can help Google crawl and read your site in the “language Google understands”, then Google can help you with a great ranking. If you don’t, then you will be out-punched by those websites who are Google friendly. It’s as simple as that.

So, like Tom Cruise said in Jerry Macguire: “help Google, to help you”.

How can I check how Google-friendly my site is?

Google-friendly test 1

Here are two (free) online tools that you can use to test your own website. Simply copy paste your website’s address (URL) in. Warning: the results may astound you! (Wait right up until the analysis finishes running – it goes up and then down)

Another option for you… On a website in Google Chrome, click F12. On the screen that pops up on the RHS, look at the top menu bar (clue: it starts with Elements, Console etc.). On the right hand side of the menu bar select “Audit”. Click “Run audits”

Google-friendly test 2

While the above tools are most accurate, the below is an easy-to-see example of a website that is not Google-friendly:

(Note: a website can look good like below, but still not be search engine optimised for your business, so please don’t rely only on this “look test”)

CRE SEO - visual symptoms

What if you don’t score well compared to your competition? If you are not technical, you will need someone technical to make your website Google-friendly. If your website is built correctly (i.e. good SEO / engine), it may not require a website rebuild or changes to how your website looks. However, it will, at minimum, require someone skilled to “get under the hood” of your website and reconfigure your website.

So assuming websites are built equally Google-friendly, is there now an equal playing field? Not so. Here is the next SEO lever…

Search keywords

Just as we search for info on the web by typing specific words Google, so do our customers. Therefore the next step is to make sure your website’s key words talk to the words your customers search on. You can have the most Google-friendly website selling safaris. However, if you have configured your website’s key words around tomatoes, you will only connect with customers searching for tomatoes.

Please see the example below: customers are searching for safaris, guess what comes up (clue: it’s not websites with tomatoes as a key word:))

SEO example CRE

(On above we count 4 websites with 24 key words among them hitting on the searched-for word safari)

Tip: organic search is when users search on a term, and click through to a website appearing in search result (where the website is not appearing as an ad). More on this below…

So what happens if 1) your site is now built Google-friendly, and 2) your keywords (on your Google-friendly site) are talking to what your specific customers are searching on. Do you now sit and wait?

Next up.

Linking

In simple terms, if other good websites link to you, then it means you score higher in Google’s eyes.

So reach out to your friends (friends with high-ranking websites are even better), and see if you can help each other.

The clicks flywheel

Thirdly, you want people actually clicking through to your site. Clicks are the oil that Google works on. This can feel a bit unfair, because the higher up on search results you are, the more people will click on your site. In turn, the more people who click on your site, the higher up you get on search results.

In summary, the websites who are already ahead, get further ahead (…an SEO version of the saying: “the rich get richer”).

You can drive these clicks using one, or a combination, of:

  • inbound marketing (emailers with links back to your website),
  • social media (like posts on Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter that, on clicks, bring browsers through to your website) and
  • presentations (like property brochures with links) that link readers back to your website

The good news: these solutions are free, don’t feel salesy, and they work.

But what is the most “quick fix” solution to break the top-sites-stay-at-the-top self-reinforcing cycle? See below…

2. Spending money with Google (SEM)

SEM stands for search engine marketing. One part of SEM is SEO. But another part is paying for clicks. This is where Google makes most of their money (a staggering $90B-odd annually in fact).

Paying for clicks means you pay to “own” (for a defined period of time) certain searched for terms on the web, so when certain people search, your site comes up first. (This is called Google Adwords or Pay-per-click (PPC))

Paying for clicks is explained in the graphic below: (here someone is searching for cars)

SEO vs SEM
Summary

So hopefully now you feel a lot more confident about SEO, and all the jargon seems less daunting and intimidating.

You are now empowered with:

  1. An example to understand what you get and pay for: SEO (“engine” / generally once off) and SEM (“fuel” / recurring)
  2. Four simple levers to pull to improve your SEO (build your engine right, be linked to powerful websites, drive clicks for free through your marketing efforts, pay Google for clicks)
  3. Some tools to self-investigate

Forgive us if we have made this all overly simple and it’s not technical. But I have been patiently explained this a couple times, and didn’t get it. Hopefully by making this less technical it “lands” for you. If you want more technical info, the web has a treasure trove of many more articles on this fascinating topic.

Image credit: Business photo created by rawpixel.com – www.freepik.com

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