There’s no question that having your website show up at the top of Google’s search results can be extremely valuable. In a previous article, I showed you to rank #1 for your chosen search terms immediately using paid advertising. To rank high organically, however (that is, without ads), you have to focus on two factors:
- On page ranking factors – things like how the website is setup from a technical standpoint, and whether or not the title, text, images, and link of the page contain the keyword you are trying to rank for.
- Off page ranking factors – The primary off page ranking factor is the quantity and quality of other websites that link to your website.
In this lesson, which is also our 8th and final installment of 8-Step Guide to Build and Market a Killer Real Estate Website, we’ll focus on off-page factors. If you want to learn more about on page ranking factors, you can follow a previous lesson here. Otherwise read on and I’ll show you how to build links and citations for your small business website that will help you climb the Google rankings.
Before we dive into the details on this topic, we suggest you check out Zillow Premier Agent, an advertising platform for Zillow and Trulia. While both sites allow you to post listings for free, becoming a premier agent has two major benefits: Exclusivity and Wider Reach. Visit Zillow to learn more and generate more leads.
Why Links And Citations Are Important For Your Business
Google and other search engines use a wide variety of variables to determine where a website ranks in their local and organic search results. However some variables are given a lot more weight than others. For small business websites, two of the most important things that will determine how highly your website ranks are:
- The quantity of links to your website from other sites, and the quality of those sites.
- The quantity of times your business is mentioned on other sites, and the quality of those sites. (This is what is known as a citation)
If you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. Like a book that is referenced by many other authoritative books, a site that is linked to by many other high quality websites, is likely more important than one that is not. The same is true if people are mentioning the name, address, phone number, or other information about your business on other websites, forums, and social networks.
How do you get links and citations for your website so you can rank higher?
The easiest place to get links and citations for your small business website is the major online business directories.
Directories like Yelp.com, Yellowpages.com, and Citysearch.com are used as an important reference for Google and other search engines. If your business is listed accurately and consistently in the major business directories, then your website will rank higher than if this is not the case.
Surprisingly, while this step is an easy one, many businesses have no listing in the major directories. Even worse, many businesses have listings that are inconsistent, or just plain wrong. By taking the time to update the major directories with the correct business information, you put yourself one step ahead of the competition.
How To Start Listing Your Business In Local Directories
There are 3 primary ways to start listing your business in the major online directories.
Option 1: Do it yourself
Listing your business in the major online directories is not rocket science, and can easily be done by any small business owner. If you want to do it yourself, then simply go through and list your business in all of the directories found here. That list, which is from my buddy Phil Rozek at LocalVisabilitysystem.com, has the primary national directories that you want your business listed in.›
If you decide to go the DIY route, make sure that your are using the same business name, address, and phone number that you have on your website, in all the directories. No P.O. boxes, or any other type of address besides the actual physical location of your business. Also it helps to use a telephone with a local area code and not a 1800 number.
Option 2: Use Software Like Yext
If you don’t want to take the time to list your business in all the directories 1 by 1, then Yext is a popular option. After signing up for Yext, you simply list your information with them once, and they make sure it is up to date and accurate across all the major networks.
Another advantage of Yext, is that your listings go live faster. If you go the DIY route, it can take weeks or even months for your business to show up. With Yext it generally happens instantaneously. If you plan on updating your information in the future, or running special promotions on your directory listings, then this can be especially beneficial.
For more on how Yext works you can read our review here.
Option 3: Hire Someone To Build Citations For You Manually
A nice middle ground between taking on this project yourself, and paying $500 a year for a service like Yext, is to hire someone to add your business to the relevant directories manually. If you know what you need done and just want to tell someone to do it, then you can likely get someone to do it for less than $100 on Elance.com. This is what I am doing for my father’s site, and you can read the process I use to hire freelancers on Elance here.
If you want a professional citation builder, it is going to cost you a bit more, but it is likely to be worth it. The firm that we recommend for this is Whitespark.ca.They charge $200 to list your business in the top 50 large business directories. For $500 they will list company in 100 large business directories, and 20 hyper local very targeted directories. They also have do-it-yourself software, called the Whitespark citation finder, which is a bit more comprehensive than Yext at finding new link opportunities for your business.
If you are in a competitive market it’s definitely worth going for the $500 package. Remember also that this is a one time charge. As long as you do not need to update your business info you are set.
A Note On Local Directories
While your local small town business directory may not have millions of visitors a month like Yelp, that doesn’t mean it is not important. Having your business listed in smaller directories that are hyper targeted, sends strong signals to the search engines as well.
As discussed above, WhiteSpark.ca takes care of this for you. If you prefer to go the DIY route, then they also have a great local citation finder tool that you can use for $20 a month. That’s what I use and can tell you it’s well worth the cost. Keep in mind that if you use Yext that they do not offer local citation building so you will need to do that separately.
Make Sure You Have The Right Foundation In Place
If the search engines cannot read your website’s pages, or if it is hard to determine what your pages are about, then the search engines will not know which terms to rank your website for.
This is why you want to make sure your website is setup correctly, before you start building links. I show you how to do this in a previous lesson here.
For those of you who have been following with our 8-Step Course to Build and Market a Killer Real Estate Website, this lesson marks the end. By now you should have a top-notch website designed via Weebly or Placester that’s optimized to rank highly in Google. You should also be on a good footing with Google Adwords and be in the throes of promoting your real estate business on Facebook or LinkedIn.
So take a breather… you’ve earned it. But not for too long. Though our lessons are now over, you’ll continue posting enticing content to Facebook, managing your pay-per-click campaigns and (as of this reading) building citations for your website. Not to mention buying and selling homes, of course.
For more real estate marketing you can always refer back to Fit Small Business’ Real Estate Section for product and service reviews, tips from the pros and marketing guides covering everything from postcards to Zillow, lawn signs, photography and more. As always, feel free to leave a comment with any questions that arise. Good luck!
We asked 50 experts for their best real estate marketing idea. Click here to see what they told us!