SEO = Waste of time for Estate & Letting Agents?

“What about SEO Chris ?”, to which I replied back to the well established estate and letting agent, ”David, don’t waste your time”

In estate agency and lettings, there is so much out there about Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). There are SEO gurus who will say it’s the most important thing since sliced bread. They talk in a foreign language, talking about Google algorithms and how they can optimise and manage your SEO to get people to your website. Entire companies make thousands of pounds on convincing estate and letting agents that their whole plan should be about SEO. No SEO = No houses to sell or landlords. You would think that if you are not doing SEO all the time, you are going to absolutely fail at anything you do online as an agent

.. but let me tell you what I believe, as an estate and letting agent, SEO is a complete waste of time.

Many people in the IT world are going to read what I wrote and declare instantly that I am nothing but a total lunatic and they are the real expert in SEO and know exactly what is going on.

But before you ring the nice men in the white van to take the Big Chris from Grantham away to the asylum, just hear me out. If you are a letting agent, your tenants don’t surf the web, inputting into Google, “Letting Agents in Guildford” or “Letting agents in Kingston upon Thames” … and go to 10, 20 or even 30 different agents websites. No, they go to Rightmove or Zoopla, because that is where the properties are .. one Stop Shop …that is all they are interested in. Now landlords, how many landlords swap agents? Not many, why, for the same reason you don’t swap banks .. too much hassle, cost, better the devil the know, CBA (cant be ar$….). When was the last time you typed in to Google “Swap my Electricity Supplier”? Landlords don’t swap agents on a whim, just like people don’t swap banks or swap electricity and gas suppliers each year. Landlords do not swap agents and they have better things to do with their life than type into Google “Letting Agents in Guildford”. So instead of spending thousands and thousands of pounds on SEO to get yourself to the top of a Page One in Google, for hardly anyone to see you (and the ones that do are mostly tenants), give me five minutes of your time and consider another way to attract new landlords to your lettings and estate agency…..

On a weekly basis I know many agents who have some expert sending them an email , telling them what they are doing wrong about SEO, and how their website is completely mucked up from an SEO standpoint, hell, I even get it for my website. I am told (as i sure you are Mr(s) letting and estate Agent) I am not getting any traffic whatsoever from search engines and they are happy to tell me how I should be running my business.

If you want lots of people to come to your website (the raison d’etre of SEO), you as an agent need to do basic things right, to ensure your site is optimised to the best (nice layout, good keywords, Google friendly etc etc. You all tell me you have enough tenant enquiries and buyer enquiries .. you want stock. Yet the big thing you should focus on should be on making great content that drives visitors and makes homeowners contact you for a free valuation/market appraisal for sale purposes or landlords to swap agents . If all you focus on is SEO ‘algo-whaters-names’ from the start instead of creating a real site with real quality content, then you are going to have a site that your fancy SEO will get people to your site, but if there isn’t a reason for them to revisit your site (content).. all the SEO in the world won’t make them come back.

The other matter you need to consider is that Google seems to change the rules almost every other month when it comes to SEO. What will show up in a Google search seems to change every day. However, if you have a website that is content focused, the punters will keep returning to the site and Google will love it for fresh content …organic SEO (which is the best… becuae dont get me wrong, SEO is very important .. uber important)

It’s all about content .. but it has to be the right content. You can fool Google in writing an article each day, but if it isn’t interesting, the punters won’t come back. People say Content is king … for which I would say, so it was 10 years ago, 20 years ago even 50 years ago. No agent worth their salt would dream of doing Social Media and marketing without mailChimp or my favourite Brief our Market … and once you have them, you need a whopping big database of email addresses and Twitter followers powered by Hootsuite, none of those IT solutions are going to get us more houses to sell or landlords to swap agents, if you don’t have incredible content to power the engine.

Content is what ultimately connects you with punters (landlords and house sellers) and prospective punters. It is what builds trust, especially as some data driven marketing pushes punters into very personal and customized experiences. No one cares what award you have won or how big your network is. You have to think the stuff we chuck out, would the prospective landlord or house seller miss it if it wasn’t sent out (remember the story of the letting agent from Kent, after posting out 300 newsletters to 300 local landlords. He had these 300 contact details of 300 landlords that he had amassed over the years, but never spoken to them or done anything with them. After sending the newsletter, he got 30 phone calls in one day from 30 landlords, just checking he had the correct postcode for them, as the last newsletter, about the local property market, had the wrong postcode on it (and they were worried they wouldn’t get it next time) ( …there was an issue with Mail Merge and address labels)).

It all comes down to creating those precious moments of truth for a prospective landlord or property seller and how what you say makes a moment of truth come alive? Content that resonates in that moment will always win and get you trust and empathy.

What should you write about? This content writing stuff is not simple or easy. It takes a commitment to understanding the landlord or home owner attitudes, their thought process and most importantly, their interests and where you Mr or Mrs Agent, can become the most interesting person about that matter, they the landlords or home owners and thinking about and are interested in.

So what should you do?

The main thing that you need to do is have the right contentfor landlords and potential property sellers

– ideally content that your landlord (for letting agents) or prospective house seller (for our estate agency cousins) want to see and read …. and will be useful to them! But here is the truth, most agents fall at the first hurdle when they are unable to realise the subtle difference between content (the same old rubbish about landlord and tenant law or what awards you might have won) and content marketing (the preparation of producing interesting or useful editorial content which isn’t salesy and adds value to a punters (landlords or house sellers life).

So, let us say you have grasped the finer points of content marketing and are already producing a lot of great stuff. That monthly article you write is nowhere near enough to be relevant to every one of your potential punters . To make sure you have content in your arsenal that is right for everybody, you will need a large volume to draw upon. I coach my client’s that they need to post every day. .. but they don’t have the time .. of course you don’t.

My clients post each day, and it only takes them 8 to 10 minutes a day. .. trust me, you have unlimited content that will have landlords hanging on every word you say. …and does it work … well look at the Linkedin Recommendations from other agents … one agent in Buckinghamshire has tripled new rental market appraisals in six months and gone from No.22 in the City to No.8 or No. 9 for new listings on Rightmove Plus. Then for you estate agents, how about the agent who has bagged four properties from only dropping two leaflets on a housing estate of 629 properties.

Write the content, good content and the SEO will sort itself out. …and before I go, think about this …… All of you have some form of landlord database, landlords with other local agents that you have come across over the years (bought lists, info from referencing, land registry trawling etc etc.. the source is irrelevant … BUT would 10% of all the landlords you sent a flyer/leaflet to be bothered to pick up the phone to you to ensure you had their correct contact details, because the last leaflet you sent them had their name and address but the wrong postcode and they were concerned they wouldn’t receive your next marketing flyer? …and for our estate agency friends, when was the last time you bagged four properties on an housing estate of just 629 properties with two leaflets?

If you want to see examples of the content that produced these results, email me on [email protected] .. and I will email you back so many examples, your download limits might just be maxed out!

PS .. if you want to be at the top of the Google rankings, just use Google Adwords

Photo Credit … Photography by Tatsuo Suzuki

Christopher Watkin

I teach, guide, support, mentor, consult, counsel, partner many hundreds of UK Estate and Letting Agents in their quest to grow their estate and lettings agencies business. Old school techniques of touting, landlords wanted leaflets, ring us for a free valuation, we have sold this in your street leaflets don't work anymore. There are too many competitor agents .. meaning cheap fees are epidemic, overvaluing is almost a norm to get the stock and don’t even mention about the online/hybrid threat. So a few years ago, I set about looking around the UK and spotted that certain agents (not many mind you) in certain towns were still seen as the ‘go to person on property’, the person the newspaper editor rang up every week for a comment and I looked at what they did and they were doing some thing quite remarkable…. Only one thing but they were doing it so well .. and reaping the reward in terms of decent listings and decent fees, happy staff, decent sales pipeline and exchange income, managed lettings portfolios in the many hundreds .. but more importantly, they really enjoyed the job… they enjoyed getting up in the morning and people looked up to them Over 400 agents around the UK are on a mission to change the way our Estate and Lettings agency profession is perceived and looked upon, doing it town by town, city by city. I guide these 400 agents, teach them, mentor them and support them to be seen in a different light, to be seen as the ‘go to person for property’, actually be the ‘local property expert’ and prove it. Christopher Watkin 07950 147 572 [email protected]

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