Writing content #101

My name is Lindsay Connell, and I’m the head of the search engine marketing department at Diverse Solutions. My job is to work with our software engineering team and our clients who have purchased our marketing services in order to achieve top rankings in the search engines and ultimately drive more web traffic to our clients’ sites.

REALTORS® come and go, right? People go into real estate thinking it will be cake. Those who actually ‘make it,’ though, realize there is a lot of hard work and marketing of one’s self to actually become a successful real estate professional. Fifteen years ago, marketing consisted of only offline venues such as newspapers, business cards, real estate magazines, and passing out flyers in assigned farm areas. However, if you want to make it in real estatein this day and age, it is imperative that you not only have a website, but that your website ranks well in search engines.

There are many different things that must be done in order to help your website achieve top placement in Google, Yahoo! and MSN for various phrases. However, the single most important thing that you can do is add unique pages of content. Why is content so important? When you purchased your site it was built with pre-written pages of content for buyers and sellers. You may have thought to yourself, “This is all I need” and you couldn’t have been more wrong. If your website has the exact same content as 10 websites, 100 sites, 1000 other websites, or 10,000… what makes yours stand out? Nothing!

The content of your site is its vocal chords. Without vocal chords, your site can’t talk to its audience… it can’t sing… it can’t draw the necessary traffic to make your site a success. Without content, your site is mute ,and Google, Yahoo!, and MSN will find no reason to offer your site coveted real estate on page one of their SERPS (search engine results pages). And if your sites vocal chords are spewing out the exact same information as your competition, your vocal chords will be drowned out. Your’s will be one in a choir full of competitors. If you want to stand out, you must be the soloist.

Search engines actually READ the content/text of each page of your site. They offer each page a score based on a number of different things. The most important thing that they score is the actual content.

Is the content unique, or is it duplicated from another source?

Google will compare your site to the millions of other sites in its index to see if your content is the same as anyone else’s. If it is, your page scores less. If it’s unique, you will secure a higher score which will help your site achieve higher rankings for phrases relating to that page.

Each time I begin the “content” discussion with a new client, two things are almost always brought up:

  1. I am a REALTOR®, not a writer.
  2. What do I write about?

Okay, so you are a REALTOR® and English is not your favorite subject. Well, you have two options. Hire someone to write content for your site or write it yourself. If you’re on a limited monthly budget, you could hire an aspiring writer at a local college or even from your local high school to write new pages each month. If your monthly budget is non-existent, well, get out your laptop and get to work. If you want top placement in search engines, forget that you are not a professional writer. The only person who will work for you for free is yourself. Whether you are writing the content yourself or are paying someone to do so, you still need to figure out exactly what topics to cover in each page.

The first step that you should take is to create an outline. Organize your thoughts and ideas into an outline to help determine what each page will be written about. It’s a lot easier than you might think! The main topics of your site consist of two things:

  1. Real estate
  2. Your areas of service

Combining these two topics, you get pages that discuss real estate in each area that you service. Most REALTORS work more than just a few cities. In fact, in Southern California alone, an agent might work more than 30 cities crossing multiple counties. The idea of writing content for 30 or more cities will probably overwhelm you. Don’t think on such a large scale. START SMALL. Think about all the areas you service and make a list. Put them in order of importance. These can include city names, neighborhood names, counties, or even an area that encompasses something as large as Southern California. Once you have your list, take the first area and create a simple outline for it (see example).

Make a simple outline of your favorite neighborhoods, entertainment venues and recreational opportunities within your main area. Why should you add info about entertainment and recreation? Well, people WITHIN your area are not the only ones that will visit your site. Someone across the country may be contemplating a move to your area. Show them the differences between each community to help lure them in. Once you’ve created your outline you can use it as a guide to begin writing your pages of content.