Understanding the ins and outs of Search Engine Optimization helps property management professionals improve their online presence to reach more prospects and grow their business.
To understand search engine optimization, as every business should, it helps to know a little about the cat-and-mouse game that’s been played out between businesses and search engine companies like Google.
Not long after search engines came into their own around 20 years ago, it became obvious that a high position in search results was a valuable prize. If you were a property management company in Phoenix and appeared at the top of the results when an owner searched on the term “Phoenix property management,” you had a distinct edge over your competition. And unlike with advertising, you didn’t have to pay for these “organic” or “natural” search results.
As the Internet exploded over the following 20 years, the competition for top position became increasingly heated. And today, when almost 90% of searches for business services happen on the Internet, competition is fierce. Many businesses have been built almost entirely on the back of their high positions in search results.
So how are rankings determined?
Google and others determine the rankings through a formula or “algorithm” that has changed constantly over the years, in an attempt to stay ahead of businesses and SEO experts trying to game the system to gain higher positions.
Important ranking criteria have included “back links,” which are links between the company’s website and other websites or listing services; keywords and language on the website that are relevant to the term being searched for; the freshness and quality of the content; longevity of the site, and more.
The goal of Google is simple: to deliver the most relevant, useful results when people search on a particular term. The goal of SEO professionals is to help their customers’ websites gain a high position in these results for as many popular search terms as possible.
A Phoenix property owner looking for management might search for “Phoenix property managers,” “property management,” “AZ property managers,” or other terms. Some of these terms will be far more popular than others, and not surprisingly, they’re the hardest fought for in trying to rank highly in the search results.
That’s why many SEO strategies focus on lower-tier search terms, where it’s more realistic to achieve a decent ranking in the results. Since you can’t win them all, you have to know which search terms you’re optimizing for and apply the latest techniques to do so. Here’s what works today:
1. Search terms
Start developing your SEO strategy by researching the search terms you’ll pursue. Search engines provide tools for this research, and ideal are terms that are highly trafficked, but less competitive. For example, if you’re the new kid on the block in Phoenix, it’s unlikely you’ll achieve a high ranking for searches of “Phoenix property management.”
Longevity matters, and there will be companies that have been around a long time and doing SEO for years. But you might find that “Arizona property managers” gets pretty good traffic, and the competition is a lot tamer. Put enough of these secondary search terms together and you can generate impressive website traffic.
Remember also that although Google dominates, the other search engines can also generate plenty of traffic. Together, Bing and Yahoo control almost 30% of the search market, so you don’t want to ignore them.
Next, you’ll want to be sure your website is “search engine optimized” according to Google’s latest algorithm. This starts with using the right titles and meta-descriptions on each page and adjusting the content and keywords for relevance to your target search terms. The practice of “keyword stuffing” – repeating the same target keywords many times on the same page – is frowned upon by Google and is now counter-productive for nationally-targeted websites.
Another distinction of locally-targeted websites is that even though Google has dialed up the importance of fresh content, it isn’t quite as important for local companies. Google realizes local businesses simply don’t change their website information as often as national ones. The conventional wisdom is that web pages should include at least 500 words of high-quality text. Google’s site-crawling “bot” is intelligent enough to read the text on each page and judge quality and readability. Gone are the days when it paid big dividends to use a “text spinner” to simply rearrange someone else’s content, or have offshore content factories crank out verbiage.
Finally, consider your website’s “crawlability”. This is the extent to which Google’s bot is able to find the relevant information it’s seeking in order to judge your site worthy of a high position in its search results. Crawlability is mostly a matter of the proper design and labeling of tabs and menus, clear site structure and the right internal links.
3. Back Links
Once upon a time, creating thousands of links from random websites could help your rankings. But not anymore. Google’s bot can now distinguish meaningless links from those that count, and has all but eliminated websites that exist only to generate links and post ads.
However, the right links do matter – more than ever. Particularly for local businesses such as property management companies, links to legitimate organizations such as the BBB, the local Chamber of Commerce and NARPM are highly regarded by Google in rankings.
So how do you create a link? It depends on the website or organization. Sometimes, as with the Chamber, it’s a membership that gets you listed on their website; that’s a link. In other cases, you simply fill out your company’s name and information. Some companies will even add your company to multiple important listings for a fee.
As you’ve guessed, SEO can be daunting for newcomers, especially since they’re competing with digital marketing professionals. That’s why Propertyware staff consists of experts whose sole function is providing SEO to companies like yours. Interested in learning more? Visit us online today.