With COVID-19 on everyone's mind, home buyers and sellers have many questions right now. What’s happening in the market? How are prices, rates and availability being impacted? Of course, people are curious about the broad trends, but what really matters to home buyers and sellers is what's happening in their areas. That's why it's more important than ever to establish yourself as the local expert and ‘go-to’ agent in your community.
Here's how agents can set themselves apart and build a successful local presence.
1. Put Yourself on Local Directories
When someone searches for a real estate agent in your city or neighbourhood, your name should come up first. And while setting up local directories doesn’t ensure you’ll rank at the top of Google, not setting them up is a great way to ensure you don’t rank at all. Getting properly set up on your local home search directories is part one of your search engine optimization (SEO) plan.
Google My Business (GMB) is a free tool that lets you manage how your business appears on Google Search and Maps. That includes adding your business name, location, and hours; monitoring and replying to customer reviews; adding photos; learning where and how people are searching for you, and more. GMB is a useful tool and a powerful local directory.
Make sure your GMB profile properly displays your name, photo, office location, phone number, and reviews. Here are the specifics from Google. To really ensure you’re taking over the first page of Google when your name is searched, fill out your directory listings in Apple Maps, Facebook, Waze, Yelp, and Yahoo as well.
Another professional agent profile we recommend setting up is right here on REW. Our Market Pro solution is a great way for agents to highlight their skills, branding, and client reviews to local homebuyers and sellers every day. It includes a listing in the REW National Agent Directory, which can also help provide a boost to your search engine results.
2. Setup a Client Recommendations Strategy
Setting yourself up in local directories is part one of your SEO plan, and part two involves soliciting reviews for your business in those directories.
Google rarely lets businesses know what will help them rank higher in search in order to keep people from manipulating results, but one of the things they’re fairly open about is that more reviews, and more positive reviews, lead to better search rankings. In your My Business account, Google provides you with an easy to share URL that links to your review page. Share it with as many past clients as you can and respond to their reviews with gratitude. In Google’s words, “High quality, positive reviews from your customers will improve your business’s visibility and increase the likelihood that a potential customer will visit your location.”
You can’t have too many positive reviews on REW, Google, Facebook, and Yelp. We recommend setting aside time every month to email clients and ask them for a quick review of your services so you don’t forget. It’s crucial to rank high locally in search results.
3. Local SEO (Off-Page)
Setting up local directories is what’s known as “off-page” SEO. The term basically applies to any actions you take outside of your actual website that still helps it rank higher in search.
Other forms of off-page SEO can help you build a local presence as well, especially if writing is one of your strong suits. We’d recommend pitching articles and editorials to REW’s blog, local newspapers and online publications that link back to your website to help with search rankings. A few links from local sources back to your website will help you rank higher within your community, providing you with a boost in search for years to come.
It’s important to always keep in mind that links back to your website will help you rank higher and build a local search presence. Link building strategies like writing for local publications will help you immensely.
4. Local SEO (On-Page)
On the flip side, “on-page” SEO is used to describe any work you do on your website itself to rank higher in search engines. Develop a local on-page SEO strategy that includes adding keywords like your neighbourhood and city to your website’s title tags and meta descriptions, add alt tags to your website’s images that mention your city, and create individual community pages that offer valuable information to your site visitors.
Creating community pages on your website is one of the best ways you can impress potential clients and up your local presence. Take the time to create pages full of interesting information that will help your clients, and keep it updated regularly. This information could include school catchment areas, median home prices and how they compare to other local areas, percentage of vacant properties, a breakdown of condos, townhomes, and single-family properties in the area - or any other information that’s relevant to the community. Link to these pages from your REW Market Pro profile and in the footer of your homepage and watch your local search results for these communities take off.
5. Create Topical Content
To create a strong local presence, you need to offer your local community things that speak to them. There’s no getting around this. If you want to get calls, stay top of mind, and pull clients into your circle, you need to be useful.
One way to be useful to your local community is by staying topical and offering insights on local happenings and events, particularly now with the COVID-19 crisis. Write blogs, make videos, or create social media posts that comment on local happenings and offer your community feedback on things that matter to them. Here’s a quick example:
Recently Canada’s big banks announced that they are offering delayed mortgage payments for homeowners affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. To build a strong local presence, real estate agents could share articles like this and offer information on local bank hours, updates on what local credit unions are offering their customers, and what the general implications of policies like this are on the community at large.
Make the national story a local story and you’ll grow a local presence quickly.
6. Always be a Good Guide
Social media is a great place to establish a local following, and showing off the best of your community is always a winning strategy. What are you doing to support COVID-19 efforts? Do you support any charities throughout the year? Take the time to post about it on social.
Tag other businesses and charities on Facebook and let your followers know why and how they should support them. It’s not only informative and educational - if the businesses themselves share your content you’ll be opening yourself up to an entirely new local audience.
7. Advertise Locally
Last but not least, advertising locally is a great way to reach potential buyers and sellers in your community. You’re not without options here, as print, outdoor, and digital ads can all reach your intended audience.
That being said, 90% of home buyers and sellers start their real estate journey online, and with 4 million visits per month and listings throughout Canada, REW.ca is a great place to establish a local presence and introduce yourself to new clients. Location Profile and Local Expert are our solutions for agents that positions you as the top agent in your local area, limiting your competition and putting your face and branding in front of searchers in your community, in a cost-effective way. It’s a great way to capture local traffic from people with high intent.
Building a local presence as a real estate agent can seem daunting, but if you follow the 7 steps above, you’ll be well on your way to becoming the go-to realtor in your area. Now's the time to truly immerse yourself in your community - they may need you more than ever.