Yes, it is possible to rank a local IDX real estate website on Google in 2019… but it’s MUCH harder than it used to be! The competition is fierce and the path to get there is complicated.
LOTS OF TALK WITH LITTLE RESULTS
Conversations about ranking local real estate websites never cease in Facebook groups. Everyone wants to do it, but very few ever actually pull it off.
If you Google the keywords “Real Estate SEO Expert”, Google will return 18,000,000 results. Yet there are only 10 spots on the first page of Google’s results for any keyword. Your odds of finding a true SEO expert are slim these days.
In this post, I will keep my opinions about SEO to myself and we'll simply let the data speak for itself.
WHICH BROKERAGES ARE RANKING THEIR SITES ON GOOGLE IN 2019?
I took a deep dive into Google to find which local brokerages are actually ranking today. It’s the best way to determine what SEO practices are working. We can take the top sites and reverse engineer their SEO models to see what made them rank so well.
There is a term used in the SEO world known as “Domain Authority”. This is not a term that Google created, but rather an industry term. If you Google the keywords “Website Domain Authority Checker” you’ll get lots of results for software that pulls in different data points to place a value on a website’s domain name.
The problem with every one of these website checkers is that they are only guessing based off of their own software. Google usually has different results.
The idea of domain authority is for real though. A website definitely has to have some sort of authority to appear on the first page of Google's results for competitive keywords.
To find the current real estate brokerage websites that have good domain authority, I took the two most popular real estate keywords and searched all of the largest 100 U.S. cities to gather as many local brokerage websites as I could find.
The most popular keyword in all of real estate is “Homes for Sale in [City Name]”. This is the toughest keyword to rank for. The second most popular is “[City Name] Real Estate”. These are the two hardest keywords to rank for as a local real estate brokerage.
I spent hours manually searching every one of the top 100 cities using these two keywords and came up with 64 websites that actually rank for one of the two (or both) keyword variations for their city.
You can view my results here. Be sure to click the tabs in the bottom left corner to toggle between the two different keyword results.
KEYWORDS THAT ACTUALLY MAKE MONEY
One thing that many people do not understand is that the keywords mentioned above don’t necessarily make much money. The real money is made in ranking IDX property pages. When someone finds a home on Zillow and wants to verify that it is truly a real listing, they will typically Google the address to find better local results. These searches have high intent and are usually further down the buying cycle.
Ranking for property pages is the ultimate goal of any serious real estate website. The traffic is exponentially larger for property address searches than it is for a few main keywords, especially is large cities. It’s common for someone to find a home, Google the address, end up on a local real estate brokerage site, and then fill out a form to request a showing of that home.
NARROWING THE RESULTS
I took the 64 websites that I mentioned above and manually tested each one of them to determine which ones might be ranking for properties. This took a lot of time. Out of the 64, there were only 11 that ranked for local property addresses. If you’d like to see the data from my testing, you can view the spreadsheet here.
I performed this same test about 5 years ago and there were over 40 sites on this list. Now, there are only 11. These 11 sites rank for one or both of the two keywords mentioned above and also rank for property addresses in their area.
When I performed this test, I used an incognito window within Google Chrome to get the best results. I also only checked for local property addresses that were at least one week old to make sure they had time to index well.
Here are the top 12 ranking real estate brokerage websites in the United States (in alphabetical order):
WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM THESE RESULTS
Here are some interesting facts:
- Out of the largest 100 U.S cities, there were 64 websites that ranked locally for “Homes for Sale in [City Name]” and/or “[City Name] Real Estate”
- Zillow, Realtor dot com, Trulia, and Redfin usually all rank in the top 4 positions for both keywords
- Only 33 local brokerages ranked for the keyword “Homes for Sale in [City Name]”
- Out of the 64 websites found in this experiment, only 11 ranked for property addresses in their city
- 7 of the 11 websites are companies that have over 1,000 agents
- Only 2 of the 11 websites are companies that have less than 10 agents
- 7 of the 11 websites were developed by custom means
I was stunned to see how few sites actually made the list. When I performed this study 5 years ago, there were over 40 companies that made the list.
Real estate SEO for IDX websites is extremely complicated. There are a small handful of industry SEO experts who can actually get results. Most “experts” are just regurgitating ideas that they’ve read in other blogs. It’s easy to talk about ranking a real estate website, but MUCH harder to actually pull it off as this experiment shows.
I took around 20 hours to put all of this information together. I’d love to hear any insights that you’ve had reading through the results. This is a complicated topic that needs lots of minds thinking through it. Your insights and experiences are always encouraged. Let me know what your thoughts are in the comments, or through a direct message on my Facebook page.
Hi There! I'm the founder of Great Colorado Homes and the creator of much of the content on this website. Thanks for taking the time to read this article. Please feel free to leave a comment in the message box below, or to share this article on social media with someone who might benefit from it. I appreciate your time here on this site and am always open to suggestions and ideas from our readers. Feel free to contact me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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