A guest post by Joe Dawson, PrintingPeach.ca, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
If you run your own property management company's website, you have likely heard of search engine optimization (SEO). One popular scheme that low-rent SEO companies use is to add blog comments or send unsolicited emails to website owners claiming that they can get your site hundreds or thousands more visitors every day by optimizing your page for search engines. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true ...
So what is SEO and why does it matter to you? SEO determines how search engines categorize you in terms of what search terms are relevant to your page and how far up the list of search results you belong. The text clues on your page should let a search engine know that you belong in the search results when someone Googles "property management in Anytown." It should also specifically let the search engine know whether or not you belong on the page when someone searches for "condos to rent in Anytown" or "pet-friendly rentals in Anytown."
Search engine programs called "spiders" scan the Internet constantly (they "crawl" all over the web, so they're "spiders"). When search engine spiders look at your site, they determine what you're all about. The spiders read all of the content on your site that they can, looking for groups of words that put you in the same category as other sites. If you have a lot of instances of the words "dog," "treats," and "chew toys," then it's safe for the spider to assume that your page is related to dog treats and chew toys and that your page might be relevant for similar searches like "dog bones" and "rawhide chews."
This is why SEO matters -- making sure your site is search engine-friendly is one of the best ways to find people who are trying to find you. People searching on the Internet for "rental properties" are likely very interested in what you have to offer. Make it easy for those people by taking simple steps to optimize your site. The returns on SEO investment are usually much better than advertising to get your company's name out to the public as a whole.
The first step to optimizing your site is keyword research. You want the terms that are highly relevant to your site that lots of people search for to appear a lot on your site. The first step of keyword research is thinking about your company -- what you do, what you would search for if you were looking for your own kind of company, and if you have any unique qualities that similar companies don't have. If you have a specialty, like if your properties are the only ones in town that are pet friendly, you should likely think of keywords to include on your site to reflect that. There are lots of tools on the Internet to help you with keyword research (Google's keyword tool is a good one to start with) and plenty of information if you want more on the topic.
Now that you have keywords in mind, go through your site and make changes if you need to. Also keep these rules of thumb in mind if you create new content or pages:
- Emphasize those places on the page search engines think are important. Make sure you include the really important keywords in your page titles, headings, and URLs.
- Sprinkle keywords into the text on your pages. About three times within the body text on your pages is enough.
- Add information to your objects, images, and videos. Search engines can't read through information that's included in a block of Java code or interpret images or videos. Give them a hand by adding description tags to objects on the page, making a descriptive name for media files, and adding a transcript of video files that are heavy on spoken information.
Most of the tips presented here fall into the category of "on-page SEO." There is a whole realm of SEO not mentioned here, "off-page SEO," that deals with the other job search engines have, like ranking related pages on the results page. Off-page SEO's scope is much bigger than on-page SEO's, and professionals make careers out of it. We're not going to tackle it here, but a good primer is available on SEOMoz. For now, implement these tips on your site and you will be well on your way to a better search engine experience for your property management company's website.