This is a guest blog post by Seth Williams at REtipster.com as well as an REI Conversion site owner. Watch here as to why Seth Williams uses REI Conversion websites.
If you’re reading this, you may or may be considering starting your own website.
You probably want more people to see it because more traffic usually translates to more sales – right?
Welcome to the party! You’re one of THOUSANDS of other real estate professionals who want the exact same thing.
Ranking high in organic search results is pretty much the holy grail of internet marketing. Can you think of anything better than getting a TIDAL WAVE of traffic to your site without paying one red cent for it? Think of what you could do with all those new visitors!
I can tell you from experience, it is possible to build a huge and thriving business with a good SEO strategy, but these days – it won’t happen unless your website brings some legitimate value to the table.
And of course, it always helps when you understand how today’s search engines work, how they determine which websites to show at the top, and how you can are serving up the content and resources that people are actually looking for. In this blog post, I’ll give you a quick checklist of the most important ranking factors you should be implementing on your website, and I’ll explain exactly how you can make sure your website measures up to what matters.
A Quick Primer on SEO
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is all about utilizing the algorithm of a search engine so that your webpage ranks higher than your competitors.
Suppose you pull out your phone and search for something like:
sell my property fast
You’ll see something like this:
But here’s the thing… if you look closer, you’ll see there are A LOT of websites on the internet that rank for this search term… but only a few of them actually rank on the first page.
It doesn’t take a genius to know that if your website doesn’t show up on the first page (or more likely, in the top few search results that aren’t ads), most people will never click through to your website.
This is what SEO is all about.
When you understand how search engines measure and quantify the value of a website, it becomes a lot easier to serve up content that will naturally rank higher for certain search terms.
How to Rank Your Website in Search
In the early days of the internet, search engine rankings were determined almost entirely by who had the highest number of backlinks pointing to their site.
Today, things are very different.
At the time of this writing, Google uses over 200 measurements to determine the order in which websites rank for various search terms.
That’s a lot of measurements to pay attention to – and at the center of all this is one simple idea.
Search engines want websites and pages to rank based on how helpful they are to the people who are searching for answers.
This means your website shouldn’t be able to “game the system” and rank higher just by faking value. If your website isn’t actually delivering value and giving users a good experience, you shouldn’t expect anyone to find you through organic search results – PERIOD.
Most Important Ranking Factors
So what does this all boil down to? If you can’t just throw backlinks all over the internet, how can you get traction and organic search traffic to your website?
Ultimately, it boils down to the helpfulness of your website.
When someone searches for something on the internet, they’re typically looking for an answer to a question. As a website owner, you ought to know why your business and website exists, and what problems it was built to solve.
I like how the guys at Income School explain it:
“Create a page that would thoroughly help someone who has searched for that information. This is the ultimate question in SEO. Content helpfulness for the query is the end goal of all SEO efforts. Everything else is just a way to measure that helpfulness.”
In every possible way – pay attention to how a user perceives your website.
I think it’s a good practice to regularly visit your own website and try to look at it the way an outsider (not a website administrator) would.
For example, when you’re creating a page, a property listing or a blog post, use a descriptive title that entices people to click on it. This is HUGE. You can have the best page or property listing in the world, but if the title doesn’t get people to click on it, you have a much harder time getting traction.
It’s also important to format your text appropriately (because the presentation matters a lot). Instead of using GIANT blocks of text (which are much harder to read), use bulleted lists with bolded and italicized text. Show videos, images, and infographics where relevant – and include other interactive tools (example) and downloadable assets, etc.
A beautifully presented page makes a huge difference in the quality of the website. Try to look at your website with the assumption that it will be seen by millions of people and then prepare the content in a way that reflects that.
I love this sample framework from REI Conversion:
What you’re shooting for here is to get people to spend more time on the pages they visit on your site (because Google is tracking this). The longer people spend on your site and the better experience they have while they’re on your pages, the higher-quality signals this will send to search engines on the internet, and they’ll start ranking your pages higher as a result.
Why Seth chooses REI Conversion Websites
Seth Williams is also an REI Conversion website owner for his Land Investing business. Interested in building credibility? Drive leads? And use your website to help you scale and automate?
Content Length and Helpfulness
If people are on your site because they’re looking for an answer to a specific question, don’t waste their time – answer the question quickly and thoroughly.
If you’re going to answer a question in a 2,000+ word blog post… don’t make the reader search around for the answer (and definitely don’t withhold the answer). Just get to the point and answer their question clearly and concisely. If you want to expand on the simple answer, great! But don’t make people do somersaults to find what they’re looking for (because most people won’t, they’ll just get frustrated and leave your website).
It’s helpful to have longer content, but only if it serves the purpose well. If your pages are filled with pointless filler content, it will hurt your site. You can’t fool Google by stuffing your content full of the keywords you want to rank for. If your content isn’t really helping people, your visitors will leave quickly, Google will see it, and your content will rank poorly as a result.
Want to see an example of how I did this? Check out this blog post (note: people typically find this article when searching for the term “perc test”).
In the early days of the internet, search engine rankings were determined almost entirely by which websites had the highest number of backlinks.
Today, things are very different. It’s not just about getting a lot of links, it’s about getting QUALITY backlinks – which means they should be from websites that Google recognizes as quality websites.
For example, a link from BiggerPockets.com, REtipster.com or Landlordology.com will serve up a lot more value than a site you just threw up yesterday for the sake of creating a link back to your target URL (or for that matter, a link directory that is widely known as a spam library).
If you get too many links from websites that Google thinks are spammy or low-quality (websites that don’t provide any real value to the internet), too many of these links could actually hurt your website.
This is especially important to keep in mind if you ever hire a third-party SEO service to help boost your website search rankings… they need to do it the right way because if they don’t, it could do a lot more damage to your website than good.
Site Reputation and Authority
A website’s domain authority is determined by a number of factors, but generally speaking, the longer your website is around, and more quality backlinks it has, the more popularity it builds over time, the better it will perform over the long term in organic search.
Obviously, domain authority isn’t something you can fake, and there aren’t any shortcuts to building this, it simply happens as a website continues to deliver value over a long period of time.
As a website’s reputation and authority continue to grow, the better it will naturally rank in search engines, since this number is sort of a scale for how reliable and trustworthy a website’s content is likely to be.
While this one isn’t a major issue, it’s worth keeping in mind for any pages or posts on your website.
Shorter URLs tend to be easier for users to make sense of. For example, this URL:
That’s pretty short, simple and easy to remember – right?
On the flip side, when you see this URL:
That’s pretty darn long (and unnecessarily so).
It would make any social media post look much more cluttered and messy… so to the extent that it’s practical (and it usually is if you plan it outright), try to keep your page URLs on the shorter side. It could be an easy way to improve your overall SEO.
Internal Links to the Best Pages On Your Own Site
Internal links are important for a few reasons. Not only do they help build backlinks to your site (that’s right, even if they’re coming from your own site, they still count for something), but it also helps users discover content on your site that they otherwise wouldn’t see.
Internal links to relevant pages on your site will make it more navigable and will help breathe new life into content that is either older or would otherwise never be seen by most visitors to your site.
A good internal linking strategy will squeeze more useful life out of your website, which will contribute to the overall quality of your website as a whole.
For a good example of how I did this, check out The Land Flipping Lifecycle.
Outbound Links to Quality Websites
It’s a good idea to include a small number of links within your content that points to other GREAT websites and resources on the internet.
You don’t want to overdo this (or underdo it). The point is to be a good steward of the internet and let search engines know that you’re not just a self-interested website. You’re able to see outside your own platform and help visitors get the most out of their experience (even if that means navigating away from your site for a while).
As usual, don’t go out of your way to link to other websites just because. Simply keep this metric in mind, and when you know of another website that would be helpful to your visitors, let them know about it!
When you start building a name for yourself (and your company) online, it’s important to let the world know that you’re legit.
If you have some relevant experience that gives you credibility in your field (i.e. – if there’s a valid reason why someone should listen to you or work with your company), don’t hide that. People need to know that you’re the real deal!
Give your visitors plenty of valid reasons why they should pay attention to what you’re doing, saying or selling.
Post any relevant credentials or experience in your bio or the About section of your website.
You can also build your credibility by writing guest posts for other sites, going on other podcasts as a guest and building out your social profiles with all the details that build your credibility. You can also do this by posting insanely helpful answers and responses to people who are asking for help in relevant forums within your niche.
Other Important Ranking Factors
Aside from the content, links, and design of your site, there are some other issues you’ll want to pay attention to.
The speed of your site is important, but only to the extent that it’s not painfully slow.
As the guys from Income School explain it,
“Don’t be in the slowest 20% of websites on the internet. Having a slightly faster website isn’t a huge ranking factor, but if your website is REALLY slow, it will hurt you.”
You don’t need to be the fastest website on the internet, but you definitely don’t want to be the slowest.
You can always run a free speed test of your website through a site like GTmetrix to see how your site is doing.
Try to maintain page speed score of B or better – and as long as people don’t have to wait, and wait, and wait for your website to load, you should be fine.
The lion’s share of internet traffic happens on mobile devices these days, so it only makes sense that your website should be mobile friendly.
Most WordPress themes and website builders are designed to do this automatically… but if yours doesn’t, that’s a problem.
Make a habit of visiting each page on your site from your mobile device. If it’s not easy to read, navigate or find what you’re looking for, you might want to fix that.
If you want o check how your website appears on several different sizes of devices, check out ready.mobi – it’s a quick way to see a bunch of different dimensions at once.
For obvious reasons, you don’t want to be sending people to websites or pages on the internet that don’t exist anymore. If you do this, it’ll hurt your website.
Luckily, there are free tools (thanks Google) that will help point out if/where you have any broken links on your site, so you can fix or remove them.
Too Many Ads and Affiliate Links
You probably don’t enjoy scrolling through a website that is littered with ads and promotions between every line of text, right?
Google doesn’t like it either, and if they see that your website is packed full of advertisements and affiliate links on every page, it will clutter up your site and Google will start to see your site as a huge ad directory (because it basically is).
Ads and affiliate links are fine to have in moderation (especially when they’re relevant and add value), but if you have A LOT of them in one place, it can have a negative effect.
Make sure you’re being very selective with where and how you include ads and affiliate links on your site.
Want to see an example of how to list out lots of affiliate links the right way? Check out our Resources page (note: not all of the links on our Resources page are affiliate links, many of them are just there because they’re helpful).
Age of Content
A website that published 3 months ago will almost certainly rank better than a brand new website published today.
Likewise, a website that has been around for years will probably fare better than a website that was published 3 months ago.
Time is something that will work in your favor IF your website maintains its quality and if you continue adding valuable content and resources to it.
If you’re creating a brand new site, it will usually be about 9 months for a new page to reach most of its full traffic potential. Most people will see an uptick in their search rankings every few months for the first year or so (this is assuming your website has some level of domain authority… it might not work as well for a website with one page and nothing else to offer).
An SSL Certificate is what makes your website URL appear with an https:// at the beginning of the web address, instead of just http://.
Essentially, an SSL certificate will encrypt your website so that user data isn’t visible to other people.
It used to be that SSL certificates were only necessary on websites that gather a lot of user data and/or processed financial transactions… but these days, pretty much EVERY website ought to have one.
Simply having an SSL Certificate won’t automatically work magic for your search rankings, but what it comes down to (as always) is the user experience.
If you don’t have an SSL certificate, the user’s internet browser will likely let them know that your page is “not secure”… and this obviously isn’t a comforting thing to see on any website.
Your site needs to have this. Don’t skip it.
Luckily, it’s pretty easy to check this box. All you have to do is contact your hosting company and request one (you can usually do this by signing into your account and clicking a few buttons).
Most reputable hosting companies will offer this for free (Bluehost and WPEngine both do this). Once you have it in place, it will encrypt your website so that the user’s data isn’t visible to other people.
If your host doesn’t offer this for some reason, you can get a free SSL Certificate from LetsEncrypt, which will do the job.
Copyright Violations and Plagiarism
Obviously, you shouldn’t ever copy or plagiarize content from another site and put it on your own. If the content originally appeared elsewhere on the internet, it’s not hard for search engines to track this and penalize you for it.
If you copy and paste the content that originally appeared on some other website, it’s not hard for search engines to track this and penalize you for it.
If you ever do include content on your site that you copied from another source, you should have their permission, and you should always include a link back to the original source. This will work out better for everyone in the end.
Hint: One way to check in this is to use a free website like Copyscape. Try it out – it’s pretty cool!
What Matters Most
At the end of the day, all of these ranking factors ultimately point to one thing that matters:
The User Experience
- If your website is too slow
- If it looks spammy
- If the content is garbage
- If everything is clearly outdated
- If it isn’t helpful
- If people don’t have any reason to stick around and interact with your site…
All of these things will negatively affect the user experience, and thus, they will hurt your search rankings if you don’t put forth any effort to improve them.
In the end, most of this stuff is fairly simple and straightforward, but executing it takes a lot of work and attention to detail (and frankly, that’s how it should be).
The more attention you put into your website and the more you strive to make it a real source of value for your visitors, the more organic traffic you’ll pull into your site.
And by the way, I didn’t make any of this up. You can see Google’s Actual Guidebook right here, in case you want to read the long-form version of it.
Not Sure Where to Start?
I realize all of this may sound overwhelming – but it’s also important to note – your website doesn’t have to look perfect (to be honest, I don’t think any of my websites have ever looked “perfect”).
They just need to present quality information in a way that makes it evident to the average visitors that you have your act together.
“Nothing will detract from your credibility more than having a website that is gathering flies on the net.”
So before you go through the effort of trying to sending a traffic jam towards your website, make sure you actually have something you can stand behind and be proud of.
First impressions are very powerful and if people get the sense that you’re a joke, they aren’t likely to come back.
As you can imagine, Google’s metrics change and get updated from time to time, so this isn’t a “set it and forget it” kind of thing
There isn’t any ONE set of rules you can learn and be done with (if only it were that simple), but ultimately, if you keep your underlying focus on giving your visitors a great experience, I think you’ll always come out ahead in the end.