I have a template real estate site and need serious help driving more traffic. I know that I need "keyword-rich content," but I'm worried that the template isn't ever going to do what I want it to. Should I have a custom site done, or can I get high search engine rankings with a template?
Real estate is such a competitive online market, that I'm drowning in ridiculously vague keywords as well. Any advice?
Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Like most questions in SEO these days, the answer of course is a big, fat "It depends." Not all template sites are created equal, with some being okay and others being much less than okay. Most of the template real estate sites I've seen in the past are not very search-engine- (or crawler-) friendly. A good percentage of them simply frame some standard content and listings that are provided by a real estate marketing service.
If I've basically just described your real estate template site, then you are correct that adding keyword-rich content probably won't help you much.
You may have a home page that you can create original content on, but the days of simply optimizing a home page and that's it, are long over. SEO is all about being found for the hundreds of phrases that relate to what your site and your business offers. Without plenty of original pages full of information, it would be impossible to support all the phrases necessary to bring highly targeted search engine visitors to your site.
If you're allowed to build new pages outside of your template, that is, if they don't have to be framed or anything like that, you might be okay. But you'd also have to be able to change and add to your site's navigation as well. So much of SEO today is in the structure of the site. You need some control over that in order to do well, especially in the highly competitive real estate market. Those that do well with online real estate sites are usually those that have become a true resource for their customers and potential home buyers. Your template site may provide a lot of decent info, but if it's the same info that 90% of the sites in your area are also using, then it will be fairly useless.
You'll want to think about how you can set your site apart from the rest, both in form and function. How can you make yours look different, sound different, and actually be different? When you talk to your prospects on the phone or in your office, you probably have a little routine you go through with them. You don't just poke them in the face with home listings as soon as they walk in the door. You may sit them down, have a nice chat with them, learn about their wants and needs, and perhaps even discuss the weather. In other words, you try to make an emotional connection with them.
It's the same online, albeit a bit harder to do. In order to set your website apart from all the others that are a quick click away, you need to put your personality into it, and you need to figure out how to make an emotional connection through the words and graphics on your pages. Writing keyword-rich content sounds good in theory, and it is certainly important, but only if you're making a connection and setting yourself apart from everyone else when you do it.
So I guess my answer to you is that if you can do all of the above with your template real estate site, then go for it! If the constraints of your system aren't flexible enough to allow your creativity and personality to shine through, then I would strongly suggest spending the money to hire a really good website design firm that also understands how to create search-engine-friendly sites. Your money will be well spent, as just a few house purchases that you wouldn't otherwise have gotten should provide you with a positive return on your investment. It may not happen overnight, but if you hire the right people, and invest a good amount of time and energy into it, it will eventually pay off. The good news is that once it does start to pay off, you won't have to spend as much time and money working on the website, and can instead spend it doing what you do best -- selling real estate!
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CEO and founder of High Rankings®, Jill Whalen has been performing search engine optimization since 1995 and is the host of the free High Rankings Advisor search engine marketing newsletter, author of "The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines" and founder/administrator of the popular High Rankings Search Engine Optimization Forum. In 2006, Jill co-founded SEMNE, a local search engine marketing networking organization for people and companies in New England.
High Rankings is an internationally recognized search engine optimization firm located in Framingham, MA specializing in search engine optimization, SEO consultations, in-house training, site audit reports, search marketing seminars and workshops. High Rankings has a 100% success rate for substantially improving client rankings and targeted traffic.
Jill speaks at national and international conferences and has been writing about SEO and search marketing since 2000. She's been quoted in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, U.S. News & World Report and The Washington Post. Her articles have appeared in numerous print magazines and online websites including CIO Magazine, CMS Focus, The Internet Marketing Report, ClickZ, WorkZ, Inc.com, Entrepreneur, Lycos Small Business, WebProNews, SiteProNews and others. Jill has also appeared on many online and offline radio programs such as Entrepreneur Magazine's E-Biz Radio Show, SearchEngineRadio and the eMarketing Talkshow.
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