“You were not in control. You had no visibility: maybe there was a car in front of you, maybe not.” - Alain ProstThe next two posts in the Rex Software Social Media in Real Estate series will focus on SEO and social media and how controlling your social media strategy can increase your visibility in search engine results pages.What is SEO?Before I get into the nitty gritty of this blog post, it’s probably a good idea for me to explain what SEO is for those who have no idea. Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the process of improving the visibility of a website or a web page in search engines (Google, Yahoo!, Bing etc.) via the "natural" or un-paid ("organic" or "algorithmic") search results. In layman’s terms, SEO is what you do to make sure your web site shows up when people Google your company or industry.Obviously, if someone types in “real estate agent” into a search engine, you want your web site to appear somewhere in the top 10 results at least! If someone types your agency name into a search engine you want to be the number one result. You’d be surprised (and probably annoyed) at how badly some of your websites will rank when people are searching for you. The good news is, you can improve your SEO by using social media.I won’t be going into a lot of detail about SEO techniques in this blog post, but I hope by the end of it, you will understand a little bit more about why social media is important and more than just “Facebooking and Tweeting”.Claiming your brand = Owning your search resultsThe first step in owning your search results is claiming your brand on social networks. If you’ve read this far through the blog series and haven’t already registered for at least a Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn account – stop reading, go back to the beginning of this blog series and get onto it! Once you’ve claimed your brand by registering your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts, you may continue reading:Information on social media networks is available on search engines. This means that you have some control over what people see in search results about your brand.Your Search FootprintSearch footprint... What the? Your search footprint relates to the number of results that your company or brand "own" on a search engine results page.Say someone does a search for "real estate <your suburb here>" and out of the top ten results, only one of them is for your agency, then you have a pretty small footprint. If three or four of the results are for your agency, then you have a pretty good footprint.So how do I increase my Search Footprint?This one is easy! You can increase your search footprint by using... social media!Let's use our company, Rex Software, as a live example: Three months ago if you typed “rex software” into Google, our company website would not have shown up on the first page of results - we did not own our search results and our footprint was non-existent. Do the same search today and this is what you get:
As you can see, there are four results in the top ten that relate to our company, Rex Software – two of which are social media networks LinkedIn and Twitter.We have an internal project within Rex Software codenamed “Project Mexican” and it is all about better social media and SEO results. This blog series plays an integral role in Project Mexican.Every time we post a blog, we put it on to our Facebook and Twitter accounts. Our Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts all have links pointing to our website, and our website has links to our social networks. This tells Google (and the other search engines) that our three social media accounts and our website are all interconnected and part of the same organisation.Throughout this whole blog series, I have suggested that posting useful content is one of the most important aspects of your social media strategy – and that is exactly what we are doing with this blog series.Now before you get all defensive and say “What? You’ve been posting this blog series to get better search engine results? What about us?” – you have to realise that it’s a win-win situation here. We provide you, our clients, potential clients and people who have an interest in social media and real estate, with valuable and useful information. It helps you because it’s useful and relevant to you, and because you found value in it, you Like it on Facebook and Tweet it on Twitter. This is exactly what you should be doing as part of your social media strategy!The more social networks you are on (and actively engaging in) the footprint you will have in search results.What happens when you don't own your search results?Let's use Amway as an example:Amway is a huge multi-level marketing company, but doing a quick search of "amway" in Google shows that they haven't properly claimed their brand on social networks.This was the result of searching "amway" on Google:
My screenshot can't show the top ten results, but I can tell you not one of them was a social network.The other thing to notice is that three of the top ten (only two are shown and highlighted though) are websites that are negatively-geared towards Amway.If Amway's social media strategy was working, it is likely that at least one of their social media accounts would be appearing in the top ten, giving them more control over what information about their brand is shown to people, and increasing their search footprint.The first sign of one of their social media accounts is on page six of the search results where their Twitter account appears.What does this all mean?Consider this: If we, Rex Software, didn’t have a LinkedIn and Twitter account, we wouldn’t “own” four out of the top ten results in Google. Our footprint in the search engine results pages would be smaller and there would be less chance of people finding our website.The more real estate you own on the search results pages (pun intended) the more likely people are to navigate to your web site, the more likely you will be the ones being called for appraisals and listings!If you don't own the search results, someone else will, and they may be a competitor, or they may be someone saying something negative about you and/or your agency.You have the power to be in control of the search results and to be visible – or you could have no visibility and crash into that car in front of you.What's next?It is important to remember though, that social participation does not equal search visibility. Just because you are blogging, and posting links to Facebook and Twitter, it doesn’t mean that your website will rank higher in search engines. Social success equals search visibility and this comes back to posting quality content.Next week I’ll go into a little bit more detail about all that... Stay tuned!