Greetings from inside the SEOigloo!
One of the most enjoyable aspects for me of doing a website redesign is that I know the end product is going to be a resource of far greater value to the public. This is what we stress to new potential clients – the concept of offering more value to the end user (the website visitor). When we were approached recently by East Bay Realtor, Michael Friedman, I immediately had a great feeling about him, his services and his website.
Michael’s site was old. This happens. A site designed five, seven, nine years ago may have been a really good effort at the time, but then time goes by, design trends change, Google refines what it wants, and a site that doesn’t keep up with that tends to fall backwards in terms of its professionalism and relevance.
The good news is…old domains have spent all that time gaining solidity and trustworthiness in the eyes of Google. A redesign and the implementation of new features can build upon the legacy of trust the domain has accrued and the results of the efforts put into freshening and improving the site can be truly terrific!
The Basics of this Real Estate Website Redesign
Michael’s site was built before most folks understood the basics of on-page SEO. Keyword research helped us to better structure the site for relevance based upon the types of searches his desired users are performing. Attending to basics like the site’s title tags, meta description tags and the site text helped us to gain a new vision of the site and how it can best serve the people who need the services Michael provides in well-known East Bay cities like Oakland, Berkeley and Piedmont.
Visually, friedmanrealtor.com needed an update. One of the things I was most excited about when I first looked over Michael Friedman’s site was that, in addition to helping East Bay locals buy and sell their homes, he provides home staging services. You’ve seen the shows on HGTV where an interior designer and realtor work to together to get a home looking its absolute best before it gets listed. This might involve painting rooms, replacing carpets, bringing in exquisite furnishings, adding special touches with flowers and accessories. The talented pros turn ho-hum rooms into showpieces that make you sigh with delight.
Michael’s home staging work, featured on his site, is absolutely gorgeous! So tasteful, classic, elegant. When I saw this, and saw the lovely homes Michael has helped homeowners buy and sell, I determined that this warm and simple elegance needed to set the visual tone of the website. We ended up using one of the photographs of Michael’s home staging work to pick our color palette for the site: deep mocha, cream and a vibrant, inviting red. It was a great pleasure working with Michael on choosing these colors because of his highly developed eye for such things. The end result is a site with a quality atmosphere and a solid, reliable sense of welcome.
SEO Strategies Often Boil Down To Being Helpful
In my industry, I love reading and conversing about all kinds of high-level, complex strategies for improving a business’ presence in the search engines, but at the end of the day, so much of what we do simply involves striking upon the best method of being helpful to the public. A business exists to offer answers and solutions. We determined that Michael Friedman could be using his site not only to feature current local real estate listings, but also to help people understand what it’s like to live in the fine cities and towns of the California East Bay. We worked with Michael to develop a small library of new articles for his website on this subject, mining Michael’s expertise on the architecture styles, housing values and neighborhoods present in the places where he offers his services. Here’s a sample article on Oakland Homes and Living.
Looking for a gorgeous Victorian? Berkeley is a super bet for that. How about a simple, family-style home? Head on over to Kensington. We researched the history of the founding and population of these cities, and included important local statistics about schools, resources for adults and children and recreational opportunities. The result is an individual article for each East Bay city that should be of tremendous use to anyone who is moving to the area, or moving to a different city within the area. This type of information will help Michael’s potential clients determine the cities in which they are most interested in looking for a home. We partnered with this experienced realtor to discover the facts we felt would be most important to his clients, and spent a great deal of time getting these articles into publication-worthy format. And, Michael can add to these over time whenever he thinks of something else that might be helpful to the public.
I encourage small business owners to approach the concept of Search Engine Optimization from the viewpoint that commitment to being extremely helpful to the searching public is the organic, natural way to go about expanding the keywords which you hope to rank well for. No tricks – just effort and good sense!
Putting A Blog In A Realtor’s Hands
The other key part of the redesign of friedmanrealtor.com was to incorporate a customized blog into the website. When the contract has been completed, the blog is what we leave in the business owner’s hands, urging them to commit to making a consistent effort to begin blogging about their topic of expertise. We do our part to get the static site in good shape, yet it’s a small site, limited to ranking well for only those terms that a small number of pages can cover. That’s where the blog comes into play. If Michael begins blogging energetically about the local housing market and other industry issues, every post he writes is a new chance to offer value to the public – a new chance to make headway in the SERPs.
The real estate market is certainly a competitive one, and I think a blog is the best answer to that challenge. It’s the consistent effort that counts here. Believe me, Google is almost certain to take much more notice of a real estate site that publishes 2 or 3 great new pieces of writing a week than one that hasn’t been updated in 3 years.
When I first meet with a new client, I try to get to know them well as I am attempting to determine whether they are going to make a good blogger. My equation for judging that is something like this: special knowledge + passion for a subject + good writing skills = a good potential blogger. Time is also a big factor. The blogger has to realistically be able to find time to write or it’s not going to work out. Fortunately, with Michael Friedman, his experience as a local man, his expert skills and his extremely friendly manner of communicating gave me a very good feeling about his potential as a blogger. Not everybody has these attributes. In such cases, the business owner either needs to delegate company blogging to someone with the necessary time and talent, or the company needs to hold off on making a blog a part of the site. The one thing the business should not do is have a blog built for them and then ignore it. That really makes a site look neglected. Happily, at the close of this contract, I felt very confident that this client is going to take his blog and make it shine.
Who’s Getting It Right In the Real Estate Market?
When doing preliminary research for this project, I visited a number of real estate sites and blogs to see what kinds of efforts others are making. To any realtors out there, I suggest you check out the 2 following entities:
1) Real Estate Tomato has got to be one of the most happening places in the real estate industry. Author Jim Cronin’s top-notch advice to realtors who want to make the most of their blogging and marketing efforts has won him a loyal readership. I’d consider this a must read for any realtor.
2) Want to see what it looks like, first hand, when a realtor makes the most of their blog? My friend and colleague, Matt McGee, is married to Washington realtor, Cari McGee. Check out her real estate blog to begin understanding how a realtor can provide great value to the public with consistent, informative posting.
As our own business has matured, I have discovered that webmasters and clients operate under a special kind of interdependence. I ask you to write some text so that I can create a page for you, the small business owner. I am counting on you to get that text to me. You, in turn, are counting on me publishing that text, and alerting you if there are any problems you should know about, or if there are uses for your content that you may not have thought about. This arrangement is certainly true of the blogging medium. We build the blog for you, to the best of our ability, and train you in the basics of using it. But, in the end, it is up to you to use that blog to bring in the rankings and traffic your business needs. This is especially crucial for the small business, as the blog can mean the difference between visibility and anonymity. So, what are you waiting for, blog owners? Get blogging!