laptop with Google search bar

Pardon the long introduction, but I think it’s necessary for me to tell a little of my story regarding real estate marketing before I get into the How-To stuff.

When I first started Crown Listings I was a brand new real estate agent with more marketing experience than real estate experience.

My game plan was to stay away from traditional marketing as much as possible, and focus on driving leads to my website.

Sounds like a great idea, right? Just sit back and watch the leads start flowing in.

Well, yes and no.

Building and optimizing my own website taught me a lot about online real estate marketing.

Yes, I was able to outrank even my largest competitors for terms like “homes for sale in Santa Clarita”. No, it didn’t turn into a ton of leads like I had hoped for…

…However, I’m pretty certain that had more to do with my focus switching to seller leads over buyer leads. Here’s what I mean.


Initially, my focus was to go after a high trafficked keyword like “homes for sale in Santa Clarita.” So, I optimized my site accordingly. Through my onsite, and offsite optimization I was able to compete with even Zillow.

But, I started thinking about how much time you have to take to work buyer leads, so I decided that I didn’t want to rank for anything that had to do with people looking to buy homes.

So, I re-optimized my site to focus on seller leads. I started to rank really well for terms like, “listings agents in Santa Clarita”, outranking even long time, highly successful agents.

I was, and still am at the time of writing this, ranking first in Google’s local pack, and showing on page one of Google SERPS for the same term.

The thing is, I’m no longer an agent! I help other agents, builders, etc. with their marketing.

Why was my move a bad strategy? Because, there’s not nearly as much online traffic for people looking for listing agents, as there is for people looking for homes to buy. However, I learned both a valuable lesson about real estate marketing strategy, and how to beat my competitors in rankings.

So, how did I beat my largest competitors in search rankings? Let’s take a journey.

Optimize the Right Way

“Optimizing” your website is important.  But, what is more important is that you optimize your website the right way.

Simply changing your title tags and meta-descriptions to “homes for sale in such and such” or, “such and such city homes for sale” isn’t going to give you the lift you need to compete with the large companies that are doing the same.

real estate title tag snippet

Here are some questions to ask yourself in addition to “what are my title tags and meta-descriptions?”

  1. Are my alt-tags optimized for local search?
  2. Do my headers make sense for this page?
  3. Am I giving people as many details about this city or community as I possibly can, in a way that’s easy to read?

Why are these questions important?  Here are some examples:

  1. When you have a page that shows a bunch of homes for sale in Prescott, Arizona, and your title-tag says “homes for sale in Prescott, Arizona”, it helps improve your rankings to have some photos  with alt-tags that say, “Prescott, Arizona | Downtown” or, “Prescott, Arizona | Inn at Ponderosa Pines” etc.
  2. Furthermore, if you have headers that say “Things to do in Prescott, Arizona”, or, “Tourist attractions in Prescott Arizona”, to go along with those pictures, you will probably get another bump in your rankings.
  3. To top it off, if you write about those “things to do in Prescott”, and give more information about the “tourist attractions” that you have photos and headers for….I think you’re starting to understand what I’m talking about.

Share Your Expertise with Others

It’s usually not enough to “optimize the right way” when it comes to competing with sites like Zillow, Redfin, etc.  You need more of what they have.

What do they have?


How do you get authority?


The way I was able to compete with these mega sites was by sharing my expertise with others.


I did some outreach to local news publications, as well as some national ones, and pitched myself as an expert in internet marketing.  I told the editors that I would share tips and trick with their readers to help them learn how to do their own marketing.

Not all of them said yes, but not all said no either.

When you share your Real Estate expertise with others, they are willing to link back to your site which helps boost your site authority.

It’s a win-win because they get amazing content that will keep their readers coming back, and you get to boost your site authority which helps you in search rankings.

Build Citations

In order to rank well in Googles Local Pack you need a solid Local SEO strategy.  Citation building is a vital part of Local SEO.  I used Moz Local to find the most important citations in my niche, and built out those profiles.


I know that sites like Zillow, and Redfin have an oligopoly over search terms related to homes for sale.  But that’s because real estate pro’s aren’t giving Google enough incentive to show their sites instead.

If you want to compete with these sites you need to give the end user better experiences then the other sites are giving them.  And, you need to back up the better experience with some authority.

Hopefully this helps you on your quest to take down your largest competition and bring more leads to your website.

Do you have any success stories regarding boosting your rankings?  Please share them below.

Michael Johnson on Linkedin
Michael Johnson
William "Michael" Johnson is a digital marketer and founder of Crown Listings. He's also a contributor to Inman News, where he teaches real estate agents digital marketing tips.

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