3 Types of Real Estate Search Engine Marketing (And Which Ones to Use)

Summary: There are three primary types of real estate search engine marketing, or SEM. In this article, we will examine the pros and cons of all three types.

Statistics show that home buyers and sellers are spending more time looking for real estate services online, while paying less attention to traditional marketing techniques like print ads and direct mail. Welcome to the web-driven world!

How does this relate to your real estate marketing plan? For one thing, it means you must incorporate a variety of web-based marketing techniques to reach an increasingly web-savvy audience. Real estate search engine marketing (SEM) is one of those techniques. Actually, SEM is a collective term used to describe three different strategies. So let’s break it down into parts…

3 Types of Real Estate Search Engine Marketing

Real estate search engine marketing comes in three “flavors.”

  • Search engine optimization (SEO) is a technique used to improve a website’s ranking within the natural or “organic” search engine results. SEO combines website optimization, content development, and various promotional techniques used to acquire links from other sites. Every real estate marketing plan should have an SEO component built into it. It’s too valuable to ignore.
  • Pay-per-click (PPC) is the paid approach to real estate search engine marketing. With this strategy, you bid on certain keywords and phrases that are related to your business. You only pay for the people who click through your advertisement to reach your website and/or landing page. The primary benefit of PPC is that it delivers instant results in terms of website traffic. You could start attracting visitors within minutes of launching a campaign.
  • Local search is when you submit your business address to Google, Yahoo and/or Bing. Google’s “Places for Business” program and Bing’s (identically named) “Places for Business” are two example of local search programs for real estate companies. After you submit your address online, the company will send you a letter by mail with a verification code. You would then use this code to verify your address. After that, your real estate company would begin to appear within the local results of that particular search engine. Local search is mostly beneficial for individual agents who have a local service area, as opposed to national companies.

Here’s an annotated screenshot that shows the difference between sponsored search results (resulting from PPC), and the organic or “regular” results (resulting from good SEO).

Austin SERP screenshot

Interestingly, there were no local results displayed for this particular search. Local search results used to come up all the time when searching for real estate topics. This is an example of the perpetual evolution of the major search engines (and especially Google). They are constantly changing their results pages!

Which SEM Strategy Is Best for You?

Let’s move on to the next logical question. Should you incorporate all three real estate search engine marketing strategies? Which type of SEM is better suited for your business?

This will depend on your marketing goals and your audience. For instance, if you have a brand-new website that’s not yet established in the search engines (and therefore doesn’t bring in much organic traffic), you might want to use PPC. With a pay-per-click campaign, you can start driving traffic to your site immediately. But you have to know what you’re doing. Running a real estate PPC campaign could be a boon for your business … or a complete waste of money. The difference lies within the execution (which is the subject of another article entirely).

At a minimum, I recommend using local search and SEO for your real estate search engine marketing program. These should be the foundation of your SEM campaign. Why? For one thing, they are both free to use. You can list your business for local search display for free. You can optimize your website for better search engine visibility (SEO) for free. You can publish blog articles on popular topics for free, in order to bring in more traffic. So why wouldn’t you?

Real estate SEO also brings long-lasting benefits. With a PPC campaign, your ads will disappear the second you stop funding the campaign. Not so with SEO. In contrast, the efforts you put into a search engine optimization campaign today will bring you results for years to come. Unlike the “on-off switch” of pay-per-click, SEO is a cumulative process with lasting benefits.

Need Help With SEO?

We are experts with real estate SEO, having practiced it for more than a decade. We use the best practices of SEO on a daily basis, across a large network of real estate and mortgage websites (and also for our clients’ websites).

Our specialty is to combine blogging with search engine optimization. In short, we can help you boost your web traffic and visibility by publishing high-quality content tailored to your local real estate market. Learn more on our services page, or contact us with any questions you have.

About the author: Brandon Cornett is a full-time real estate blogger and creator of the Home Buying Institute. He provides blogging services for mortgage and real estate professionals across the U.S.