Search engine optimization (SEO) and social media expert Jason McDonald talks to first tuesday’s Carrie Reyes about directing traffic to your real estate website.

If an agent new to creating their internet presence had to start in one place, would it be SEO or Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising?

Search engine optimization (SEO) should be your main focus.

PPC, or AdWords, is like alcohol. It has a place on the table but should not be the main meal. That is, it should only be used in moderation and should not be the first thing you turn to. It can also get very expensive.

Why is SEO important for brokers with a website?

The internet is where the customers are. When people are looking for a home, they look online first for pictures and reviews of agents. They look at Google, Yelp and Facebook, so this is where agents need to spend their time gaining clients. It’s the most important thing brokers can do for their website.

How can a broker make their website SEO-friendly?

First, the minimum condition is that you need your own website. This website shouldn’t be attached to a parent website, like your brokerage. It should be something like “”

Riches are in the niches on the internet. So, be sure to distinguish yourself on your website by clearly stating your specialization, such as condos, foreclosures, etc. Here’s an old Nigerian proverb: “A man who goes after two mice catches none.” So decide what your special sauce is going to be and stick with it. Don’t try to specialize in too many things.

Second, online reviews are extremely important. Yelp and Google+ can be especially helpful. Yelp is a form of stranger marketing, in which people searching for a real estate agent rely on the reviews of people they don’t know to direct them to a good agent. Facebook, on the other hand, is a form of e-word of mouth marketing, where someone posts that they’re looking for an agent and their friends can respond.

Nudge your buyers (or sellers) to review you online. Don’t expect them to do this right after buying the house, because they are going to be in homebuyer mode. Come by a week later with a gift basket and ask them to review you online if they were happy with your service.

How can an agent direct traffic to their website?

This is where keywords come in. This is basically how your website talks to Google. You have to get the right tags in the right places. The on-page SEO is what you can control by using the right keywords (highlighting your specialization and specific location). And the off-page SEO is something you cannot control. But you can influence the off-page SEO by requesting reviews from prior clients. These reviews are worth their weight in gold.

It can get a little technical, but Google has a free guide you can read to get started. I always recommend starting with the free stuff, but you can contact me for further consulting.

Have you consulted for real estate companies in the past? 

Yes, I have worked with realtors and various listing services. I also teach SEO online and in the classroom throughout the Bay Area.

What harms SEO performance?

Avoid inbound link schemes! If someone contacts you from a different country about sharing links, stay away from it.

Also, soliciting reviews goes against Google’s terms of service. So, you can still nudge your prior clients into leaving reviews on Yelp and Google+, but don’t pressure them or offer them money or other incentives to review you, because this will blow up in your face.

How can a broker measure how effective social media is in gaining business?

Google Analytics can measure where your inquiries are coming from. This will let you know whether people are reaching your website through, say, Facebook or Google.

Another easy way to measure social media effectiveness is to set up a simple feedback form to allow visitors to request more information from you. Measure how many inquiries you get a week and see if this number goes up or down.

How much time should successful brokers spend on their social media presence?

The first phase – the transformation phase – will take a while, probably about 40 hours. This involves making over your website, building Google+, Facebook and Yelp accounts.

The second phase is maintaining your website, posting and responding to reviews. For this, you can usually spend about 3-5 hours a week. Getting plenty of reviews will really help this ongoing process!

Is there anything else our readers should know?

Have the right attitude. Make a mental commitment: I want to learn how to do this. The people who succeed have a positive attitude.

Think of it like learning karate. You’re not going to go straight for your black belt. But over time, as you work harder, you’re going to get better and better.

Jason McDonald is the Senior SEO Director at JM Internet Group. He teaches and consults on SEO, AdWords / Pay-per-click Advertising and Social Media online and in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Visit Jason McDonald’s website at for more information!