By Bill Gassett
There is no question that using Google Plus is important for a real estate agent looking to capture business from social media. What is often overlooked – and probably even more important – is using Google My Business (formerly Google Local) to tie your business in through search.
When someone does a search for a local business using Google, the search engine will often deliver what is called the “7-pack,” which includes seven local businesses based on geographic location. Google chooses seven lucky business websites that have been optimized to appear in these kind of searches. The 7-pack is grouped together, slightly separated from rest of the search results.
Hopefully bells are starting to ring in your head, telling you that this kind of search is important. In the real estate sector, you want your information to come up in a local search like, “Realtor Portland OR” or “real estate agent Miami FL.” Keep in mind that getting into the 7-pack is free, you just need to know how to do it.
Are you interested in how an agent or broker can get themselves into the Google 7-pack? I am sure you are all nodding your heads as you’re reading this.
Let’s use me as an example. I’m a real estate agent from Hopkinton, Mass., and you can see what I’m are talking about by going to Google and entering the search term “Realtors Hopkinton MA.” You are more than likely going to see my websites, massrealestatenews.com and maxrealestateexposure.com, in the 7-pack. As a real estate pro, this is a very valuable position.
Here is what you need to do to increase the odds of appearing in the 7-pack. First, you need to get a verified business page with Google. Once you have followed the steps and created your business page, then you will need to create a foot print around the Web. Local SEO is similar to traditional SEO in that there are a number of factors that will determine how high a website will rank in search results. It’s a little less difficult, however, to achieve high local SEO.
While links online are still really important in local SEO, citations are also vital. Citations are mentions of your business online. A citation is formed by having the name, address, and phone number (NAP) of your company appear on other websites. The quality of your citations is especially important. For example, you want to see your citations coming sites that everyone is familiar with, such as Facebook, Yelp, Merchant Circle, Manta, Bing, Yahoo, and others. The more quality sources where your website and NAP appear, the better.
One thing I cannot emphasize enough is that your NAP needs to be identical to what you have on your website. When I say identical, I mean identical! If the address of your business is 50 Main Street, Lubbock, Texas, when you add your business to Facebook it has to match that address exactly. The address is not identical if you’re using “50 Main St.” instead of spelling out the word “Street.” This would work against you appearing in the 7-pack. The same holds true if you use a different phone number. Your NAP must match perfectly.
You may be wondering how to find local online directories where you can add your contact information. Here is a list of some of the most important local directories to help your business appear in the 7-pack. If you add your site to these directories, not only will you have picked up 55 new links pointing to your website, you will also receive local citations from important sources.
Why would a real estate agent want to be in the Google 7-pack?
If you are a practitioner who gets their website and contact information into the 7-pack, I guarantee that more local customers will be calling you to potentially interview you for business. Sellers who are not already connected to a real estate agent will commonly search Google to find someone they think can help them. While these types of inquiries are not high volume, they are “money searches.” What I mean by money searches is that the person who is doing research is ready to do business. They are seeking out the services of a real estate agent who can help them immediately. When your information comes up in the 7-pack, your odds of being called by those motivated sellers increase. This advice works whether you are an agent, mortgage broker, lawyer, electrician, or any other business for that matter.
Why you should be use Google Plus.
What most people don’t realize is that Google Plus is not just another social channel like Facebook. Google Plus is a social site that is integrated with Google search. When you share content on Google Plus, people who follow you are more likely to see your content in search results when they are logged into Google. Keep in mind that most people stay logged into Google all the time. What this means is if you gain a large following, the content you produce is more likely to be seen.
Additionally, the posts you create and share on Google Plus can be found as standalone search results in Google. So when you share an article or post from your own website, not only is that article itself getting a boost in SEO from Google Plus, but the post you create has the potential to show up in search results as well. Like any other site, the more you use your profile, connect with other people, and share content on Google Plus, the more likely your information will appear in search results.
There is no one who explains this better than Mark Traphagen from Stone Temple Consulting in his article on why real estate agents should be using Google Plus. Mark carefully provides all the benefits a broker or agent receives when they take time to become a well-engaged authority on the Google Plus platform. If you are a real estate agent, I would highly recommend taking the time to read this article and bookmark it.
Similarly, it is important to understand how Google Plus profiles gain search authority. This is yet another excellent contribution by Mark over at Search Engine Land on how the strength of your profile influences your visibility on the Web.
As a real estate agent, mortgage broker, lawyer, or any other businessperson, you should be taking the time to learn how to gain more visibility online. We live in a world where people utilize the Internet more and more to find what they are looking for. Social media is an avenue many businesses are not utilizing to its fullest potential.
What should be made clear that there are no magic bullets in social media. There is quite a bit of misinformation being passed around on how social signals can boost your position in an online search. For example, there are some SEO pundits who will claim that having a lot of Facebook shares or likes will put your business higher in Google search results. There is no evidence that this actually occurs, but you will see all these fancy infographics along with correlating studies that cite Facebook (and others) as a driving force for SEO. Unfortunately, a couple people write about it and then the next thing you know it becomes truth on the Internet. Fortunately, there are some renowned SEO experts who will actually explain that not everything you read on the Internet is true. Eric Enge, owner of Stone Temple Consulting, is an SEO expert I trust. He took the time and did a carefully designed analysis showing that Facebook does not increase your SEO. Take a look and you be the judge. Correlation does not equal causation, my friends!
One of the amazing things about the real estate industry is that there is a low percentage of repeat business. In other words, many real estate agents will not be hired again when a past client is ready to sell their home. There are so many reasons why this happens, but the bottom line is that many of these people will use the Internet as a tool to find their next agent. Don’t be left off the train! Take the advice here and use Google My Business and Google Plus to become the next highly visible real estate agent on customers’ radar.
If you liked this article on how to use Google as a real estate business builder, then be sure to also read my piece on mastering real estate social media marketing where you will learn more tips on how to use the top social networks properly for your business. I provide guidance on Google+, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Linkedin. This is one you won’t want to miss.
Bill Gassett is a nationally-recognized real estate leader and one of the top RE/MAX salespeople in New England. See all his real estate articles at www.maxrealestateexposure.com.