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Search Engine Optimization: Learning to Speak Google

Understanding how SEO works is important for commercial real estate pros looking to cultivate networks online.

Think about the last time you needed the internet to find something. Perhaps you were trying to find a restaurant that offers free delivery during the COVID-19 crisis. You decide that you want to some Thai food, or something along those lines. You go to Google and type in “Thai food near me” and within a fraction of a second, Google gives you a very useful list.

While this might not be something we think about when we are conducting a day-to-day internet search online, there was actually a lot of work that went into to creating that list and, just as importantly, delivering it in a very specific order. Though it is incredibly powerful, Google is still just a machine. Even its artificially intelligent components were still designed using some sort of input. Nothing that Google ever does is authentically “random.”

Knowing that Google will be constantly generating search-specific lists such as these, the companies competing for the limited number of spots on the first page of Google will need to find some way to distinguish themselves from their competitors. Each page of search results includes just ten unpaid links. If you are a real estate sponsor, the difference between the 10th and 11th spot can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars or millions even in capital raised. The difference between the 10th spot and the 1st on the first page of Google can also be quite significant. The importance of maintaining a strong Google ranking within the restaurant industry is abundantly clear. The real estate industry, though a bit more nuanced, is no different. Search engine optimization (SEO) is no longer an industry luxury, but an absolute necessity.

Discovering what Google wants to hear

While Google can do many things, it cannot enjoy Thai food but while Google will never literally eat any of this food itself, it is still quite capable of making recommendations and this applies equally to real estate companies syndicating their projects online.

The businesses that Google will be most eager to recommend will be the ones that are willing to give Google what it wants. This process of optimizing for search engines, SEO, is all about identifying the type of content that Google is likely to rank for certain keywords – but there is vastly more to it than just keywords.

Though Google itself does update its algorithms on a regular basis, with some updates being much more significant than others, the platform’s priorities are generally pretty predictable. Simply stated, Google does all that it can to encourage content that effectively answers people’s questions and provides them with information that they can readily use and it does this by calibrating the relationship between several key variables split into two broad categories; content related such as popularity of keywords input by users searching for answers, time spent reading resulting articles based on those keywords, reputation of the target site as measured by its interaction with other sites, and technical, such as site speed and page structure.

In the real estate industry including rich, relevant content that is connected with concepts that are important for investors (keywords) is the first step in a good SEO strategy. For example, suppose you are a sponsor wanting to raise capital online. You’ve built a website using a common tool, such as WordPress but from there, how are prospects going to find you if first you don’t let Google know who you are?

The best way to do this is to examine the language your competitors use online and what keyword combinations are working well for them, combine that intelligence with a detailed analysis of what investors really want to know about by examining their search behavior, and then create article outlines that answer key questions better than anyone else.

You will then have content that attracts investors, keeps them on your website, and encourages other sites to link to you that builds your digital identity and—ultimately—wins the trust of Google. The search engine wants to know who you are and, in doing so, it will be much more likely to refer your firm to the many searchers that are using it on a daily basis.

Google may not have emotions in the same ways that we do, but like us, the platform has an identifiable need for trust. Just as in human nature, Google’s evaluation process as calculated by its algorithms will consider E-A-T—which stands for expertise, authority, and trust—to be exceptionally important. Taking active measures to expand your digital presence, demonstrate your knowledge of the industry, and connect yourself to other reputable sites will all help make your business much more appealing to Google. In essence, running a search engine optimization campaign will be all about learning how to effectively speak Google’s language so, in turn, you can speak the language of your investors by breaking it down into its tiniest component parts—all powered by one of the most powerful analytical tools ever devised by man viz. Google’s algorithm.

The ranking algorithms being used by Google are not available to the general public. However, thanks to some reverse engineering by those involved in the industry, we can still have a general understanding of the kind of things Google wants to hear. Currently, there are an estimated 300 to 500 different ranking factors being used by Google, the world’s leading search engine. Speaking this language is far from easy. It will certainly require quite a bit of hard work. However, with many of your competitors already deeply committed to growing their search engine optimization efforts, your choice has essentially already been made: you need to learn to speak Google’s language or, eventually, you will be left out of the entire conversation.

Adam Gower Ph.D. is an authority in content marketing and online communications for the real estate industry. He has more than 30 years and $1.5 billion of transactional experience in commercial real estate finance and investment. Today he builds best of class digital marketing platforms for private clients so they can raise more capital online and provides online courses for those who want to do it themselves – all at and learn more about SEO here and about how to syndicate real estate projects online, click here.

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