Redefining SEO in the Real Estate Industry

As I am sure everyone in the entire network is instantaneously aware, the iconic acronym, SEO, stands for “Search Engine Optimization.” Essentially every viable company in the world that operates in the online space is constantly contemplating how they can improve their search rankings be it paid or organic.

As a side note, when I was CEO of and would meet with self-proclaimed SEO gurus, my first comment was always, much to their dismay, “Let’s go together and Google SEO strategists, SEO consultants and SEO companies. This way we’ll be able to see just how high your rank is without you having to long tail yourself.”

Putting aside my obvious disdain for how anyone could profess miracle SEO results in an ongoing battle against a thousand algorithmic scientists at Google, I am sure we can all agree search results matter. Due to literally billions of dollars being invested into third-party portals to dominate buyer flow, the challenge is how to entice buyers. Consequently, for any brand, never mind any local brokerage, to compete in search wars with such online juggernauts is a battle of David and Goliath.

Simply put, regarding controlling where buyers begin their search, I think it is safe to say that the buyer genie is well out of the bottle thanks to Zillow, etc. Accordingly, the present day and equally epic battle over first point of contact with home sellers is the only remaining battle that is yet unresolved. In this case however, if the listing-side battle or listing-side disruption is to be decided based upon search behavior, then be prepared to have approximately a third of the listing side commission be subsumed in the form of a tariff.

Tariff, you say? Oh, I’m sorry. I guess like the rest of the industry I’m supposed to call this a referral. Have you ever noticed how doctors do not give you a referral when you send a client to them? Of course they don’t, as these would not be referrals, they would be tariffs. Unfortunately, in the same way that hunters mimic the sounds of their prey as in “quack quack,” our industry after a million business cards reading “I Love Referrals” is irresistibly complacent to the word “referrals.”

What should we do about it? For starters, we need to redefine not only referrals as tariffs but also the acronym “SEO.” Specifically, by representing this acronym as also meaning “Seek Engine Optimization.” Again, the search engine train has left the station, and although our industry is subsidizing and keeping it on track, we’re not driving that train, we’re the passengers.

When it comes to what I am now introducing as “Seek Engine Optimization,” what I mean is using advanced technologies, specifically digital, to carry our content in a hyper local way to home sellers who are not in a proactive mode. These are consumers who are not searching. “Seek Engine Optimization” is needed to seek out and stimulate potential home sellers so when they are ready to sell their home, they no longer treat the web as an emergency waiting room, but rather contact the top of mind listing/marketing agent that has been strategically and relevantly engaging them.

The significance of “Seek Engine Optimization,” with companies like Adwerx, Chalk Digital or RISMedia being the embodiment of seek vs. search, is that it reminds me of the metrics I studied at Of all of the tens of millions of consumers who came to the site, only 2% clicked to find a realtor, and they were Realtors®, yet 98% clicked to find a home.

What does this search behavior tell us? That buyers search for property before they search for an agent, yet home sellers will search for an agent first. If sellers believe they can go to the same sites to search for property as a buyer as well as for a listing/marketing agent as a home seller, then both genies will be out of their respective bottles. This will lead to tariffs on both sides.

Moreover, since buyers do not determine our fees as much as home sellers do, and since buyers do not generate listings as much as listings generate buyers, then SEO must also speak to “Seek Engine Optimization.” This means that listing rainmakers need to go beyond having a sphere of influence and do more to influence their sphere. In summary, I respectively suggest that when you think of SEO you now think “Seek Engine” and not just “Search Engine” optimization.

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