Sorry, what? Bing Webmaster Tools? … Bing? Really?
Yes. That’s what we said.
Now, Bing gets a lot of bad press: Google is, of course, the daddy of search engines. But take a look in your Google Analytics. We had a glance at TheMoveChannel.com recently and 5.22 per cent of our traffic comes from Bing. That’s not a lot – but it’s still thousands of visitors each month. So it’s worth paying attention to Bing too. Even if it does have a silly name.
How do you do that? Bing Webmaster Tools. Any SEO expert worth their link juice will recall that Bing recently introduced a whole host of new updates to their free service. And to demonstrate just how useful it can be, here are five cool things we like in Bing Webmaster Tools:
1. SEO Reports
SEO Reports scans your site once a fortnight and gives it an SEO health-check using 15 different best practice techniques. A tool that lists (some, not all of) your webpages and tells you how to make them rank better? That’s a useful thing to have.
Does your image tag have ALT text defined? Are you missing an <h1> tag? Do you have too many? Those last two are what Bing ranks as “High” severity. How well do you know the code on your site? It never hurts to double-check.
2. Link Explorer
Head to “Diagnostics” and “Tools” and you’ll find the equally handy Link Explorer. It does exactly what it says: explores links to help you find where backlinks are coming from. And not just for your site: for your rivals too. Planning to sell property in Spain? Look at the big Spanish real estate portals and see who likes to link to them: learn what link building techniques have worked. Then beat them.
3. Disavow Links
Of course, if you’ve been a naughty SEO boy (or you’ve been a victim of a negative SEO attack), there’s always a chance of some bad backlinks coming to your site. Now this is where Bing Webmaster tools has beaten Google to it: head to “Configure My Site” and you can disavow inbound links that you don’t want, a vital way to cancel out shady associations.
4. Submit URLs
There’s nothing quite as annoying as waiting for a search engine to re-crawl your site and update its index. Luckily, Bing feels your pain: you can now submit URLs of new content to get it crawled as soon as possible. You can submit up to 10 pages each day – or 50 per month.
5. Schedule Crawling
No one likes it when a website stops working – especially a property website. One bad image or delayed loading time is enough to stop a lead going through. And leads cost money.
At the same time, you want search engines to crawl your site as regularly as possible. How can you limit the impact the crawling traffic has upon your non-robotic users? Bing lets you name the time of day when you have the least visitors – and then its robots won’t stop those leads coming through. After all, every little helps.
Have you used Bing Webmaster Tools? What’s your favourite thing you can you do with it?
Once upon a time, blogging was seen as just a hobby, a way that people could express their personal feelings on topics they cared about but in today’s property marketing landscape blogging has taken on a bigger role, becoming one of the most important and cost effective ways for companies to promote their brand.
It is estimated that there are now over 200 million public blogs in existence and unlike other social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook; published content on a blog can be far superior. On a corporate level, blogs humanise a company, educate clients, aid meaningful social interaction and separate brands from competitors and when it comes to the property industry, one that is fiercely competitive and relatively unpredictable, blogs can hold great power in achieving effective results.
Nigel Lewis, renowned property journalist and editor as well as prolific blogger for FindaProperty.com comments,
“Many people and businesses shy away from blogging because it’s a time consuming and a creatively taxing process, often opting for the seemingly obvious routes of Facebook and Twitter but in my view they are missing a substantial opportunity to get their website higher up in Google’s results rankings as well as attracting an audience that would otherwise would pass them by.
“Blogs are a win-win from several perspectives. Firstly, it is the easiest way to publish content regularly with free and easy to set up services such as WordPress and Blogger. As well as this, blogs are also more likely to be trusted by users because they have an ‘editorial’ look and feel to them compared to more traditional copywriting or posted press releases. Another point to remember is that good content will attract readers on a long term basis and create an informal but strong bond that can be difficult to otherwise generate. Lastly, remember that blogs have a lot of social potential where readers can post their reactions to your entries allowing you to gain greater insight into your audience.
“But be warned – blogs also need a lot of thought and hard work to make them successful. All of the advantages of blogs come to nothing if the content is dull, copy-cat or infrequent. I would suggest a minimum blogging rate of once a week, and that the content needs to have at least an element of exclusivity – republishing in-house or third party press releases more or less verbatim (as many people do) is almost pointless. You want people to read your blog regularly because it’s interesting and offers a new perspective on (or information about) a subject.”
In spite of the obvious advantages, research conducted by The Group has discovered that only 16% of FTSE100 companies have a corporate blog, compared to 73% using Twitter and 55% using Facebook.
Ray Withers, Chief Executive of leading property investment company Property Frontiers, client of property pr company AB Property Marketing and avid blogger remarks,
“Blogging is an essential component of our social media strategy and has really helped build our company brand. We wanted a different way to communicate with our clients and by creating what is essentially a company diary of news, market comment and activities, our clients have built a greater awareness of who we are and what we’re about. To give some insight into how well our blog has done, we receive on average 500 blog visitors each month with 32% returning month on month. As a result, not only do our clients know us better but they trust us – you can’t put a price on that!”
For more information on the power of blogging and social media, a service which AB Property Marketing offers exclusively for the property industry contact Charlotte Ashton on 0845 054 7542via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or at www.abpropertymarketing.co.uk
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“How do I create a high quality content farm?”
That’s the billion dollar question eHow answers. More than changing a fuse or installing an operating system, the knowledge database, full of instructive articles targeted at specific Google keywords, tells the world how to build a network of SEO-designed content – without suffering at the hands of Google’s ever-changing algorithm.
Indeed, Search Engine Watch points out that eHow attracted 54 million unique visitors in May 2012, higher than their 49.8 million visitors from March – an increase that spanned the arrival of Google’s Penguin.
Demand Media describes their work:
“Our innovative studios listen closely to millions of consumers, then create the relevant content they’re asking for.”
But if a site can use a team of freelance writers to create a massive infrastructure of interlinked articles to generate traffic, which critics allege are of “low quality”, does that mean we can all get away with it?
Long before joining Lead Galaxy’s team, I myself tried writing some content for eHow. Since then, users have been prevented from submitting their own articles to the site, leaving the content creation to a (very large) pool of experienced writers, of which I am presumably still a member. Each piece of content is then revised and edited multiple times to ensure the quality is good – or, at least, good enough to satisfy Google.
As a result, the traffic figures keep pointing upwards. So is eHow pointing the way to a new SEO approach?
SEW did some interesting research into the area:
Web search interest in “how to” has doubled in the past five years, while web search interest in “news” and “reviews”, by comparison, has remained relatively flat, according to Google Insights for Search. And web search interest in “how to” is forecast by Google Insights for Search to continue growing over the next 12 months.
Whether or not you believe that “content farms” can have high quality content, it’s certainly worth thinking about writing a few more “how to” articles – and eHow have already got the first one all sewn up.
Welcome back to Lead Galaxy’s blog. We’ve had a bit of a reshuffle and, rather than give you something good five times a week, we’re now going to give you something great once a week.
On the first Thursday of every month, we’ll put our search engine hats on and bring you a column dedicated to SEO. We’ve cunningly called this monthly SEO feature… SEO Monthly.
May has, inevitably, been dominated by the arrival of Google’s much-feared update: Penguin. A short while after Panda terrorised webmasters, the search engine’s latest black-and-white animal is stomping through the internet, weeding out the good sites from the bad (or, “unnaturally optimised”).
Of course, there have been calls of unfairness from various quarters, with many small to medium businesses worried that their sites will suffer after resorting to SEO workarounds to try and compete with the big brands.
Worried that your links look “unnatural”? Hoping to take advantage of a supposedly more level playing field? How do you feed the penguin?
Start a brand
As we’ve discussed before, brands take a lot of time and money to build, but once your reputation is big enough, you beat Google where it counts: your ranking doesn’t matter for targeted phrases and related terms. The only keyword you need is the name of your company.
If your ranking starts to drop, then be sure to make friends: shares between users make social networks more relevant than ever when it comes to generating traffic and awareness. Improve your social activity too: tweet more, post on Facebook more, pimp out your social network page using apps, such as YouTube for pages.
Finally, while looking at PPC ads for specific Google keywords, why not consider Facebook adverts to build up your presence away from the search engine?
Spread your content
You may have great written content on your site, with strong keyword density and carefully chosen headers, but do you have a podcast? Are you producing videos? What about infographics? These are not only easy to share outside of search engines and can bring you a new community to interact with and advertising within, but they also have the benefit of dedicated Google SERPs: we’ve noticed, for example, that TheMoveChannel.tv, our dedicated property video portal, is being featured more and more in Google’s video results. Why? Because the content isn’t on other sites.
Targeting local users is a great way to cut out half the competition. If you’re targeting buyers in the Costa del Sol, create a specific sub-domain and tailor it to Spanish users. Ever heard of Real-Buzz? They worked on their overseas presence since launching this year and now they’re in the top 10 results for major US cities on international versions of Google, Bing and Yahoo. Compare it to those big brands, such as Zillow, Trulia and Realtor? “They were rarely among the first 100 search results,” reports Property Portal Watch.
Expand your circles
No, normal people may not use Google+, but with the influence of those social circles upon searches increasing with every update, it’s worth joining just for the boost to your page rank. Although, as always, the condition to joining a new network is this: you actually have to use it.
Google may drive most of your traffic, but ever since Pinterest become the third-most-used social network in America, it’s become even more popular for people and businesses alike. Don’t forget that every share on Pinterest is another inbound link: and while the Penguin’s appetite may be more selective than the Panda’s, those black-and-white animals still gobble down links for breakfast.
For a good illustration of how to feed Google’s penguin properly, read on for an infographic collating various reactions to Google’s update from webmasters around the world…
A recent survey may have found that 45.4 per cent of Google users do not want SERPs to become more personalised, but the search engine is pushing ahead with the changes anyway. Previous searches, locations, Google Instant and Google+ are all increasingly impacting upon the way that Google picks the right search results for the user.
But what does that mean for SEO? Can pages optimised for keywords and phrases still work? Yes, says this insightful piece from Search Engine Watch, but content must be designed differently. Indexing is still important, but content needs to generate attention. If a friend shares content via a social network and you search for something related in Google, that content is more likely to turn up. Spam is out; social content is in.
“Be the “owner” of a keyword theme. Build your brand around that theme and picture your internal pages as support for that overall theme,” suggests Josh McCoy.
But also build your brand around your social media presence – make it personalised, informative and interactive. McCoy concludes: “Today’s search engines are matching intent with interests. You must be found at the point of adding context to content.”
Read his full tips for personalised SEO here:
An evolving relationship – Search Engine Watch
Once your property portal is being regularly crawled by search engines and you are successfully retaining visitors to your site, where can you go to keep improving your SEO?
Authority. Improve your authority and Google will see you as more important than other sites, essentially ranking you above your industry rivals. When people search for property, it’s important to be one of the first portals they see – and, moreover, a portal that they can recognise as being reliable, or of having authority.
Here are seven simple steps to improving your property portal’s authority:
1. Be Trustworthy
This is perhaps the most important step on the list. Being trustworthy is the quality that will convince people not to just visit your site, but also use it – either as a potential lead, or as a client looking to spend money on advertising.
Remain consistent in your editorial stance, be natural and honest in your content and people will learn what to expect from you – and will trust you for sticking true to that.
2. Be Useful
Statistics and data are valued by industry colleagues. If you can provide respectable, trustworthy analysis of data that genuinely contributes to market discussions, your expertise will earn you authority.
Don’t stop producing useful content after one successful attempt – keep doing it on a regular basis. For example, try releasing your statistics in a monthly press release. The more that people link back to you as a useful resource, the more your authority increases.
3. Help People
Helping people will justify your authority. Do they have a question about a particular region or country? Are they uncertain about investing in a new real estate sector? Much like providing useful information, it’s good to prove that your portal is about more than just selling property.
A good example is Marks and Spencer, who responded to a customer complaint with some information, a refund – and a handdrawn picture of a dinosaur. By taking that extra step, the company proved they could be helpful to their customers – and received a lot of publicity in the process.
4. Promote Others
Being generous to other property portals can only benefit you. You can build up relationships with them, opening up potential deals and partnerships, and also provide useful information from them to your existing audience. If the people you promote are considered authorities already, some of that authority will rub off on you.
5. Socialise (online)
Tweeting, posting updates on Facebook, and other interaction through social networks will engage your audience and also allow for easy promotion of other websites. Stay active and top of mind and people are more likely to consider you ahead of your rivals – when that starts to happen, you’ve successfully acquired that elusive authority.
6. Socialise (offline)
Of course, socialising can occur in the real world too – at property expositions, such as A Place in the Sun Live, or industry events. Getting to know people in person is an important step in establishing the reputation (authority) of your company.
As well as releasing useful data online, speaking at industry events or writing for trade magazines can again boost your property portal’s profile. Contributing knowledge and expertise, especially in a format that relies upon in-person networking, will reinforce the reputation you have worked to build.
Following these simple steps will help your real estate company to become an established authority in the industry – and once your property portal is recognised by people as an authority, the search engines will swiftly follow suit.
For an overseas property portal, your international presence is a large part of your success. But once you start targeting a certain country or market, your search engine optimisation is automatically affected. Keywords and strategies must be tailored to fit your chosen destination, but you may also want to maintain your existing domestic users. What should you change and what should you keep?
Here are five essential things to consider for international SEO:
Search engines vary between each country. In America and the UK, Google is very popular, closely followed by Yahoo. But in other countries, this may not be the case. Google may be the most widely used search engine in Europe, but what about Russia, where Yandex is common? Or China, where Baidu leads the market?
Indeed, when choosing your keywords to prioritise, it is important to consider the local language variants. Should you target keywords found on Google.fr or stick to English phrases? This depends on your buyer profile. If you feature French property but your clients are predominantly British, you should still focus on English as your main SEO language.
Sub-domains or sub-folders?
If planning to spread your site across several property markets, sub-domains and sub-folders are a big decision. Should you go for France.PropertyPortal.com or PropertyPortal.fr or PropertyPortal.com/France? There are benefits to each approach, but the simple way to decide between them is by looking at your own site profile.
Are you receiving lots of inbound links or do you struggle to get them? If it’s the latter, creating new Top Level Domains (TLD) will require a new set of keywords and a new SEO campaign. Starting from scratch only to divide your links between your domains may not be very effective. Alternatively, splitting your existing TLD into sub-domains (e.g. France.PropertyPortal.com) or sub-folders (PropertyPortal.com/France) can share your Google ranking between your different sites without requiring new resources.
Interacting with the locals
Once you’ve decided upon the structure of your international portal, it’s time to attract some inbound links. But not just any links: you want links from local sites in your target region. Trackback to French newspapers for France, or interact with German blogs for property in Germany. Keep your content interesting and new to ensure that those links continue – and Google will see your site as locally relevant.
Optimising your page
Fortunately, page optimisation tactics are the same in all countries. Once you have determined the relevant keywords for your target region, use them in header tags and alt-text for images, in addition to captions and your general page content. The important step here is to ensure that the keywords you use are the right ones, through Google Keywood Tool – or an equivalent service for other localised search engines. The only other thing to consider is how your content looks; words are longer in some languages, so if you’re aiming for a consistent template across your sites, you’ll need to frame your text and images to allow more space for flexibility.
Speaking in tongues
Translation is a tricky business – and it pays to get it right. While Google Translate and similar automated services are useful and, in many cases, surprisingly powerful, they’re not perfect. And every incorrect sentence your users encounter will harm your site’s reputation. Then, once your page is translated, you can start inserting those keywords.
For an overseas property portal, international SEO is vital. And once you’ve considered the above factors, you can begin targeting property in specific countries – and get a little help from Google on the way.
You’ve followed our SEO advice, your property portal is popular with search engines, but your traffic isn’t converting. What can you do? Keeping people on your site for longer can make a big difference.
Here are some simple steps to retain visitors on your real estate site:
The landing page your visitors reach should be as close to your details on the search engine results page as possible. It sounds obvious, but if your meta description and title don’t bear any relation to your lead paragraph and first internal link, then you’ll lose your visitor straight away. After optimising your tags for search engines, make sure the rest is optimised for the user.
Keep the reader reading
It’s not enough to have a keyword on your page – you have to provide content that builds upon it.
While your content should be relevant, it should also progress and steer the reader towards your call to action. If your property portal provides news, try to tell a story, or ask questions that will draw the reader on. This will reinforce the time a visitor spends on your site, and encourage them to stay longer in the future.
Target new windows
Always open new windows with your links – particularly when directing your users to external sites and social network profiles. If not, you’re only encouraging people to leave the site.
Mobile browsing is becoming increasingly common. While a mobile website may not be your aim, your site should be compatible with mobile internet devices – the size of the screen people use to view your site can affect how it displays. They may the see the whole page, or just the first paragraph, but if it isn’t relevant or doesn’t display correctly, those mobile browsers will keep on moving.
Don’t just tell them – show them
While a page of well-constructed copy can steer a reader to a strong call to action, it can be easy to skip over an article in a matter of seconds. Introduce a video to the page, which lasts for five minutes, and your visitor will watch the whole thing. In one step, you’re increasing the interaction between your audience and your content, but also keeping them on your site for a guaranteed amount of time.
Include internal links
In addition to opening new windows for external links, include internal links in your article – if you think another page is relevant, suggest it to your audience and they could keep clicking through your site for hours. A great example of that is YouTube: by placing a link to a relevant video at the end of each clip, people are encouraged to stay on the site for twice as long. You can do exactly the same thing.
Correct broken links
Finally, keep an eye on your broken links via Google Webmaster Tools. Updating your site’s directory with a well-placed 301 redirect will minimise the number of dead-ends your users see – they should only leave your site when they want to, not because you give them no other option. So if your page dedicated to a certain region of Spain no longer exists, redirect them to a national page for Spanish property. They’ll keep browsing your real estate listings for some time to come.
With new property portals launching all the time, the world of online real estate marketing is becoming increasingly competitive. But there’s a useful weapon that you can add to your marketing arsenal to make you stand out: content.
With emails and banners and cost-per-click Google AdWords, why should you consider content for real estate marketing?
Content is simple
Firstly, content is simple to create. Images, words, videos – everything on your property portal is content. Try to put thought into it. Make it interesting and dynamic. Would you want to read or look at it? Just because content is simple, it doesn’t mean it should be lazy.
Content is clickable
Content is great for SEO. Phrases, keywords and links can be placed within content, gradually boosting your site’s ranking, while a well-chosen headline or topical video can be picked up instantly by search engines. The more content you create, the bigger your site footprint becomes, and the easier it is for people to find you.
Content connects with your customers
Content allows you tell to stories or share opinions – and these are the things that connect with people. Push marketing techniques, such as emails, are useful to send out messages to others, but content pulls an audience towards you. Whether it’s through Google or an email newsletter, you’re likely to have a more engaged database of customers, which will translate into more leads.
Content encourages communication
Not just between you and your audience. Content also encourages communication between your customers and their friends. With social networks becoming a predominant way of sharing news between groups, content that encourages sharing can bring wide publicity for free, without having to spend money on a marketing campaign.
Content creates a company image
Logos and taglines are important for brand identity, but the content you produce can subtly alter the image of your company. For example, if you are sending dull, near-identical emails every day, your customers will lose interest. Tell interesting stories with your content and your property portal will appear interesting.
Likewise, authoritative content on a certain subject can position you as an expert. For example, a property buying PDF guide to Spain will mark you out as a well-informed source for Spanish property and can attract buyers during their initial research phase.
Content is creative
You can do anything with content. Posts on a blog are a great way to interact with visitors to your site, but don’t limit yourself to one format. Video, infographics, quizzes, polls – the opportunity and diversity that online content provides is endless. Even that downloadable PDF guide about Spain is more interesting than a standard written piece about the Costa Blanca. And of course, downloads (and other forms of interaction) are a useful sign of customer engagement.
Content is king
Content is king. It’s a phrase used by many online marketers, but goes back to a speech by Bill Gates in 1996, in which he laid out in a nutshell why content is such a valuable (and, indeed, essential) part of an online business:
Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet, just as it was in broadcasting. The television revolution that began half a century ago spawned a number of industries, including the manufacturing of TV sets, but the long-term winners were those who used the medium to deliver information and entertainment.
When it comes to an interactive network such as the Internet, the definition of “content” becomes very wide… But the broad opportunities for most companies involve supplying information or entertainment. No company is too small to participate.
(Bill Gates, 1996 – via Craig Bailey)
Whether you want your property portal to supply indispensible information or amusing entertainment, content is the way to do it. It can be used in email campaigns, picked up by search engines, and syndicated by your customers for free. Content is an essential part of all forms of online marketing, and can set you apart from other real estate sites.
Why should you consider content for your property portal? You don’t need to: you’re already using it.