In terms of marketing best practices, real estate agents — and businesses across any industry for that matter — are told they need to build a strong online presence on Google. But does it mean to have a “strong online presence?” Why does it really matter?
Let’s demystify the buzzword-y phrase.
What is an “online presence on Google”?
Simply put, it refers specifically to the ability to be found on Google — both how easy it is to find you, and how often you show up in search results. If it’s difficult for consumers to find information about your business on Google — whether it be through organic or paid search results — then you don’t have much of an online presence at all.
The easier it is to find you on Google — whether searching for your name, your business’s name, or something broader like “real estate agents near me” — the stronger your online presence is there.
Why it’s important to be “findable” on Google
If you want to continue to grow your business, you can’t hide in the shadows. Visibility is key, and it’s accomplished through marketing. In the same way that you put up yard signs and A-frames to draw attention to your listings in the offline world, you need to create similar visibility online so that it’s very, very easy for prospects, leads, and clients to find you.
With well over 90% of all real estate searches starting online, the best place to achieve that visibility is on Google. It is by far the number-one used search engine in the United States. The others, like Bing and Yahoo, are barely used in comparison and therefore simply aren’t worth your time or effort.
When it comes down to it, if you aren’t on Google when prospects search for you, you’re creating friction during their research phase, which could result in a lost potential client. If they don’t find you, they’ll find a different agent instead.
What prospects think if they can’t find you
Google’s large market share and reputation of being the go-to search engine shows that its users have a high level of trust in it. Consumers also trust that Google will serve the most relevant search results high up on the page. The proof is in the numbers.
One study looked at users’ behavior over billions of search results to understand how they engage with content on Google. What they found was that 28.5% of clicks go to the very first organic result. For just the second result, that number dropped to 15%. The third result’s click-through rate was only 11%. By the end of the page — page one, remember! — the result in the tenth position only got a 2.5% click-through rate. It’s well-known that users rarely go onto subsequent search result pages.
These numbers make it incredibly clear that you need to not only be visible on the first page of search results, but you need to be close to the top to attract attention. Prospects equate you being at the top of the page with you being a credible, trustworthy agent.
How to make sure you’re easily discovered
So how do you get on Google, and specifically as high up on the first page of search results as possible? There are three things to focus on.
1. Get your website to rank high
Achieving a high-ranking website is no easy feat. You’ve probably heard the acronym SEO, which stands for search engine optimization. That refers to the more technical things you do to your website that make it easy for a search engine like Google to understand what topic it covers, where the business is located, and when to show the website as a relevant result in particular search queries (and how high up in the results).
There is a lot that goes into SEO, from the way your website is coded to the words you use to describe your business. That’s why so many SEO professionals recommend that businesses seek professional help in building and maintaining their website.
When it comes to getting your real estate website to rank high on the first page of Google, it is not something you have full control over because of how Google’s algorithm decides to rank potential search results. Still, that is not a reason to dismiss having a website. It is very important to have one for visibility. It will still show up in search results, and you can link to it from your digital ads and your Google business profile, which we’ll discuss next.
2. Verify and maintain your Google business profile
A Google business profile gets top billing on Google, and it’s where prospects can learn all about you. It houses your bio and contact information, links to your website, allows you to publish photos and original content, and — importantly — is where your Google reviews and star ratings are displayed. On desktop, the profile appears as a large box in the top-right of search results. On mobile, it’s right at the top!
Our research shows that you cannot just complete your Google business profile and expect it to always show up on the first page of search results. Google rewards businesses that are active, get reviews regularly, and post content weekly by showing their Google business profile in more search results.
A Google business profile is one of the best ways to be “findable” on Google, because it’s an endorsement from the search engine itself that you’re the best agent for the job. And if a prospect is doing a little sleuthing to see what your reputation is like, they’ll see your many five-star Google reviews from happy clients. Studies show that most people trust online reviews as much as personal referrals, so this is key.
3. Buy a well-positioned, relevant ad
Finally, we get to paid advertising. Search ads (the ones with all the text and no images) are not where we’ll focus because they are more complex and really do require a knowledgeable marketer to successfully execute. We want to talk about Google’s new Local Services Ads. They are the new gold standard in making you findable on Google. Here’s why:
- They are prominently displayed above all other content—paid and organic—at the very top of search results on page 1.
- The ad has a frictionless click-to-call feature that prompts high-intent consumers to get in touch with the agent by phone. That means live, direct phone call leads for agents.
- Ads pull in your Google rating, so prospects can instantly see you’re a well-reviewed, credible agent.
- Local Services Ads are currently only available to a select few professions, with real estate agents being one of them. Getting into any new advertising vehicle early will net you better results at a fair price.
- Agents can get vetted through Google and earn the coveted Google Screened badge. It requires a more in-depth screening process, but signals to consumers that the agents who earned it are above their peers — and earns those agents more calls and leads.
You might be wondering why Google would want to prominently display an agent’s Google business profile or Local Services Ads above other results. Frankly, it’s good for their business, too.
Google wants to give its users the most relevant search results so that they have a good experience and remain loyal to the search giant. By keeping your business profile updated, you’re showing Google that you are still in business and therefore relevant to related search queries.
To earn the Google Screened badge for your Local Services Ads, you have to allow the company to run a background check to confirm that you are indeed licensed. The vetting process creates trust with Google, which makes the company happy to promote your business above organic rankings that it cannot verify in the same way.
How Homesnap Can Help
It’s clear that Google’s users trust the search results it delivers and, more so, trusts the results that appear highest on the page. As such, buyers and sellers who find you at the top of Google and decide to contact you are typically higher-intent leads.
Getting to the top of Google takes work. If maintaining a website, Google business profile, and Local Services Ads feels like a mighty large task to accomplish, Homesnap can help. Our Concierge program will set up your Local Services Ads and facilitate the Google Screened badge process so you can start getting direct, live phone call leads as quickly as possible. Plus, Concierge includes our premium Homesnap Pro+ service that includes a customizable website and Google business profile that will make you easily findable on Google.
Remember: You don’t want prospects to have a hard time finding you. A strong online presence makes it easier for leads to reach you, and makes it easier for you to get more business.