SEO for real estate is it a good investment?

With #renaissance heating up and a lot of new account managers on the team, we are spending a lot of time talking about search engine optimization and when/if it is a good investment for Realtors as compared to say AdWords or other lead generation.

I am going to share my own experience with SEO on Renaissance, having recently started (early December) doing SEO with the team on www.carlycarey.com

Now I’d like to preface this by saying that SEO works best if you already have an aged domain with some authority. Carly’s domain is relatively new but had been live for about a year with a placeholder site before moving to Renaissance in December 2020. If you have an aged domain that ranks “ok” (but not great) this is a far better spot to be in for SEO than a brand new, just purchased domain as it takes time to build up trust/authority and PageRank.

Alright so here we go:

The following screenshot shows the traffic growth (organic only) over the past 30 days.

As you can see, there is a steady climb of traffic from sub 30 visitors a day to now double that at over 60 visitors per day (again organic only)

We’ve created this traffic by developing out the content on the site, and also doing custom programming to augment the IDX details pages and some other foundational work. I’d say between content, and programming we’ve probably invested $10k but this is including work we only need to do once (like the custom dynamic IDX programming, and other creative internal link building optimizations as well as on-page listings details enhancements).

On a go-forward basis, I imagine we’ll spend about $4k in REW SEO budget. So call it $50k per year.

So the first thing that should stand out is that SEO is EXPENSIVE!

And my first bit of advice is, if you are on a budget and don’t have $50k+ in marketing budget per year for online, then it’s probably best you start with PPC. But we’ll get to that later.

Now let’s do the math:

The first month’s results are great, (an extra 1,000 visitors per month) but compared to the $.79 cost per click in Adwords if we only looked at “this month’s gains” those same visitors would have only cost us $790 (not $10k)

But here is where SEO shines.

That work is ALREADY DONE and as I said before, the programming does not need to be done again. So if we factor in just this traffic over say 36 months, an extra 1,000 visits per month is 36,000 visits. Use the same $.79 cost per click and that would have cost you $28,440 to buy via pay per click.

All of a sudden SEO is not sounding so bad $10k vs $28,440 for the same amount of traffic?

But the story gets WAY better!

This is just the first month. We’re laying a foundation, and had to do a bunch of heavy lifting. Just the work we did will grow in traffic and end up likely a factor of 3-5x (meaning it will likely end up being 3,000-5,000 visitors as authority grows. That means (even at 3,000 x 36 months) it’s 108,000 visits in 36 months which at $.79 is $85,000 via pay per click.

And now the story gets WAY, WAY better!

As I mentioned, SEO is ongoing. So now we’re investing $4,000 in SEO a month, so call it 1 month at $10k and the rest at $4k so on a 36-month term our “all in” SEO budget is around $150,000 so the dollar cost average absorbs the $10k up front and you end up at $4,166 per month.

Over the next 36 months, we will continue to develop content, write pages, tweak keywords, start writing blogs, build backlinks, develop authority etc.

The monthly traffic will “compound” much as interest does, and we can end up with tens of thousands of visitors. And who does not love compound interest?

Now there is a warning here:

If you are a single agent you can only handle so much business. As such, you may only need 2-4 deals per month (and that is likely all you can handle) as such, you might only need to pay $1,000-$2,000 per month (average $1,500) for those deals if you work your CRM well.

So if that is your case (and you don’t want to grow) don’t let the appeal of massive traffic lure you, because unless you have referral partners or are planning on growing a team can mean a lot of extra overhead and even hurt your reputation if you don’t follow up with all the leads. So “too many” leads is not always good.

The math on that: $1,500 a month x 36 months in PPC is only $54,000 (instead of the $150,000 in SEO from this example) so if I’m a single agent and I don’t want to grow past that, I’m actually PPC all day long.

Now let’s talk about what SEO is NOT (at least not for most)

SEO is not a way to rank #1 for the most competitive keywords such as “area real estate” those keywords are generally dominated by portals such as Zillow and those rankings cannot be taken from them, not because we can’t do the job in terms of on-page SEO, but because the disparity of authority (PageRank, inbound links etc) that those sites have (not to mention multi-million dollar SEO budgets) means that it is not a great strategy to try to go after those top terms.

But here’s how we win: We go after the “long tail”

The fight we want to fight is over keywords that have less traffic and competition but are actually much higher in value because they are far more “targetted”

Case in point:

“Vancouver Island Real Estate” - I have no idea what kind of buyer this is. It could be a luxury buyer, or it could be a mobile home. It could even be a newspaper doing research on stats. It is not very “targetted”

Compare to “Vancouver Island Lakefront Homes For Sale” - I automatically know they are actually looking for “home for sale” and because it’s Lakefront the likelihood it is a high price point buyer is much better.

I’ll take less traffic with GREAT leads, vs more traffic with generic leads all day long!

And over time we go after THOUSANDS of these phrases (that is why SEO is so expensive) our professional writers create content for all the little nooks and crannies. We do the research that the big portals will not. We ask the clients what is good to sell, and where do folks want to sell it.

To demonstrate this using again our Carly Carey example and real work data, check this out:

These are phrases we already rank for, and it’s just a sample of over 1,000 phrases that are already bringing organic traffic.

Take a look at those phrases. If you lived here and were selling homes, would you want traffic from those searches?

Of COURSE, you do!

Because this is the result:

I think it’s pretty safe to say that doing SEO is a highly valuable exercise for the “right” fit customer.

It’s expensive, and it takes time to build up your organic rankings (and won’t get you the big “ego” keywords)

But in today’s Google, there is still a tonne of opportunity out there for savvy marketers, and these days it’s actually easier than it has been in the past, because so many brokerages and agents have given up doing SEO because they don’t think they can “beat Zillow” meaning this is your opportunity to lean in and drive huge traffic.

So my question is this: Was organic SEO part of your strategy? Is it going to be now?

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Appreciate and really helpful for all small real estate agents and brokers like us.

Organic has always been part of our strategy and it is 100% worth it. We’ve grown from 1 agent (my partner who did not need or want leads because he had a steady referral based business) to 40 agents - 65% of our business comes directly from our website, and most of our repeat referral business comes from those leads. We’ve never done pay-per-click other than re-targeting.

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It’s a lot of fun too! (Watching the rankings increase)

In this thread a month ago (first screenshot) this keyword was 4.6 :slight_smile:

And REALLY interesting - at position 4.6 the CTR was 7% at position 3.7 the CTR is nearly 22%

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Update just over 2 months later :slight_smile:

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wow, amazing results. i believe there is literally NO SECTOR that won’t use the help of SEO. it is just the main dynamic of nowadays.

thank you for sharing this!

Updating this SEO thread with new results (1 year later) :slight_smile:

You CAN get great rankings with SEO + Renaissance, it just takes investment and hard work.

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Also YOY traffic (organic only)

Last Year 3 month period:

This year 3 month period

Organic traffic is 2.6x year over year, and this is with us being extremely targetted on specific luxury-related terms (not high traffic generic terms)

Compare to PPC value - these same terms (on average) cost us $.78 per click which means those 23.6k worth of visitors save us having to buy $18k worth of traffic

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I have been having doubts about trying SEO coz it is quite expensive.

Thanks for helping me in my decision making process.