June 10, 2016

Do the Basics of Apartment SEO Still Matter?

Posted by Jake Meador

 

If you've not read it yet, this post over at the Distilled blog is a must-read for anyone working in SEO and marketing.

The post is worth reading in full, but here's a brief summary: By making simple changes to the title tags and H1 tags on client websites, Distilled saw major improvements in search visibility and traffic. In this post we are going to talk about those findings and specifically how they might apply to the multifamily industry.

The first thing we need to do is define some of our terms. So let's start of by talking about the "basics of SEO" before we move on to discussing how those basics work in search optimization today.

What are the "basics of search engine optimization?"

When we talk about the basics of SEO, we're thinking of classic SEO elements like the following:

  • title tags
  • header tags
  • keywords
  • site speed

It can be easy to think, given how complex SEO has become, that these sorts of elements are no longer as influential. But the Distilled blog suggests that they still can have an enormous effect on search rankings. So let's talk about each of these elements in order and explain why it is still a significant part of good SEO work.

Title Tags

Title tags do a couple things for your page.

  • First, they identify the main subject of the page to search engine spiders.
  • Second, they provide the primary text that most search engines display when your page shows up in organic search listings.

So this is what the title tag looks like on the search result page:

serp-title-tag-markup.png

In the Distilled study in particular, changing the title tags was one of the primary changes that led to the improvements in search visibility. The key was finding the most frequently searched terms and building title tags to hit those terms. So, in their case, changing from "(City) Hotels" to "Hotels near (city)" led to a major boost in traffic.

Finding those sorts of small adjustments is difficult, of course. But there are tools out there that can help you do the same kind of research that the Distilled folks did for their client. You can use tools like the following:

There's no shortcut here, unfortunately. But, then again, if there were everyone would be taking advantage of these fine marginal changes and they would lose their value. So put in the leg work to find the small advantages you can and trust that the reason those advantages exist in the first place is because no one else is putting in the work to exploit them.

Header Tags

Header tags are not as significant as title tags, but are still an important part of effective SEO work. They help to break down the content on a single page into more easily discernible chunks that human users and search engines alike can use to better understand an individual page. You can see examples of header tags on a multifamily website in the screen capture below:

header-tags.png

Header tags, as the above image illustrates, are helpful to highlight important information on the page to make it easier for human users to find when scanning (which is how people actually read online anyway).

It isn't necessarily clear to what degree (if at all) header tags directly influence search rankings. That said, header tags do have a clear impact on the general usability of a web page for prospects, and as user experience factors typically correlate with search rankings, you will want to think carefully about your header tags. They may or may not have a direct impact on search rankings, but they almost certainly have a strong indirect effect on them.

Keywords

Keywords are a tricky thing to talk about in ways that are helpful. On the one hand, keywords are still important for SEO if only because search engines are not yet advanced enough to handle rankings based primarily on search intent, although one suspects they are closer to that point than they were 3-5 years ago. On the other hand, however, the way that keywords matter has changed dramatically due to other updates made by Google.

In the early days of SEO work, keywords mattered because they were one of the only factors that mattered for search rankings. So you wanted to find high-frequency search terms and then cram those keywords into your site in as many ways as you can. Post-Panda, that strategy no longer works.

tumblr_lnenq9aQOO1qey6nyo1_500.gif

That said, identifying high-frequency search terms is still important. But now you need to build content that is the best possible content someone could find when searching for that search term. Far from throwing up some sort of hacked-together mess of a page that just says "keyword keyword keyword keyword" you actually need to put in a lot of time and effort into building creative, relevant, original content related to the search terms you're targeting.

Site Speed

Site speed correlates with high search rankings for a simple reason: Human users hate slow-loading sites. 47% of consumers expect websites to load in two seconds or less. 40% will abandon a site that takes three seconds to load. So you need to pay particular attention to this issue. We have a free tool you can use to check site speed, as well as a variety of other important factors for search rankings.

FREE TOOL: TEST YOUR WEBSITE'S LOAD TIME WITH RENTPING MEDIA'S SITESCORE TOOL

If your site is loading slowly, talk to your developer or web team about what you can do to address the problems. Things like properly optimizing images, making sure code is efficient, and setting up things like CDNs (content delivery networks) can all make a difference. (NOTE: If you are a Rentping client, we take care of all this for you.)

Conclusion

Far from passing into irrelevance as a new era of SEO begins, traditional SEO basics are still very much part of successful SEO work today. They aren't the whole thing as they once were, but neither are they irrelevant ghosts from a bygone age. You do need to be thinking about other SEO questions, such as user intent when entering a search term, mobile-friendliness, sub-domains vs sub-directories if you have a corporate site, and a number of other more advanced SEO questions. But the basics are still relevant, even today.

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