Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a widely misunderstood process that is often deliberately made more confusing by people trying to sell you something. The point of SEO is to make sure that you appear on the first page of Google’s search results so that people will see the link to your content and click on it. But before we can talk about how to optimize, we have to talk a little bit about what exactly we’re optimizing for. Want more articles like this? Create an account today to get BiggerPocket's best blog articles delivered to your inbox Sign up for free Keywords and Keyword Research Whenever someone goes to a search engine and types in some stuff and hits enter, the stuff they typed in is called, in the SEO world, a keyword. It can be something as simple as “property management” or something as ridiculous as “property manager specializing in foreign investments with low fees and quick turnaround Macomb and Oakland Counties.” You never just generically optimize a piece of content. Instead, every piece of content is optimized for specific keywords. The closest you can get to a ‘generic optimization’ would be to optimize for “property management” or some other super-generic term, but there are significant disadvantages to doing so. To understand why, you have to understand the search economy. The Search Economy Every keyword has a supply and a demand associated with it. The demand is the number of people who type that keyword into Google each day. The supply is the number of existing websites that are fighting for the top seven (approximately) search-result slots for that keyword. In order to be valuable as a target for SEO, a keyword needs to combine a relatively high demand with a relatively low supply. Generic terms like “property management” have a significant demand – but the supply is just insane, making them poor choices to optimize for. Really specific terms, like “property manager specializing in foreign investments with low fees and quick turnaround Macomb and Oakland Counties,” have near-zero supply, which is great, but they also have literally zero demand, which makes for a lousy target for optimization. Once you find a keyword with good search economy, there is one more factor you have to take into account in order for your chosen keyword to have the kind of power you want. Related: 10 Killer Tips For Getting Unlimited Leads For Your Real Estate Business Through SEO Matching Content to Intent People who are looking to do something search differently from people who are trying to learn something. And you have to match the type of keyword you’re optimizing for to the type of content you’re optimizing. Keywords that include terms like “how to,” “need to know,” “guide,” or “101,” and any keyword in the form of a question, are best attached to informational content. Keywords that include time-sensitive terms like “today,” “now,” “available,” “open,” or “help” are indicators that the person searching wants to take action. These are best attached to content that encourages or allows them to take action. If you’re specifically trying to motivate a sale, however, you should keep an eye out for keywords that include tire-kicker terms like “free,” “download,” “obligation,” “trial,” and so on. How to Get Started Doing Keyword Research There are a vast array of tools out there that can help you perform keyword research – that is, they can help you look up what any given keyword’s supply and demand are. So rather than go into detail about how to do that, let’s talk about generic, easy ways to come up with keywords to research in the first place. Geography – The difference between “property management” and “Metro Detroit property management” is huge – and the latter tends to have significantly better search economy. But don’t stop there – you can narrow down to “Oakland County property management” or even “Birmingham MI property management,” or expand out to “SW Michigan property management” or even “Lower Peninsula property management.” Every one of those layers has the potential to have a meaningfully better economy than the ones above or below it. Industry sector – The same goes for “residential property management” vs. “commercial,” “apartment,” “multi-family,” or any other adjective that could narrow down what specific kind of properties the company in question manages. Target market segment – This one can be tricky, because oftentimes your target market segment would never search for itself. So you have to figure out what words and phrases they do use that sets them apart. For example, a foreign investor won’t search for “foreign investor looking for Detroit property.” But they will search for “Detroit turnkey property management.” As a final note on keywords, keep an eye out for longer ones that contain one or more shorter, still-useful keywords – these are gold mines! For example, if you discover that “Multi-family property manager with good reviews in Hamtramck” has good economy, take a moment to search “Multi-family property manager with good reviews” and “Property manager with good reviews in Hamtramck,” and maybe even “Multi-family property manager” and “property manager with good reviews.” Every optimization you make for the larger keyword will also optimize for each of those shorter searches, which can give you extraordinary value for a quite reasonable effort. Most keyword research tools will have a feature that suggests longer keywords for you to try out, so don’t let anything but time constraints hold you back. How to Use Links to Create SEO OK, so we’ve finally covered everything you should know about keywords – it’s time to get into actual optimization. In order to really grasp this, you should have already read our article from last week on the sales funnel. Because the core concept of SEO is the intersection of keywords and sales funnels. The basic idea is that every page on the Internet has some amount of ‘juice’ that determines how high up on the search engine results that page appears. Every page that gets linked to by that page gets some fraction of that juice passed along to it. So there are three factors to keep in mind: The number of different pages that are linking to the page you want to optimize, the amount juice each linking page has in the first place, and the juice ratio (how much of the linked page’s juice is getting passed along). Remember, juice translates directly into a higher spot on the search results, so lots of juice is what this whole exercise is all about! What Makes a Page Juicy? There is, again, a massive list of things that contribute to a page’s juice, but there are only a few that really matter. These are: Authority: How trustworthy, accurate, well-read, and informative is the page (which takes a large part of that from the domain it’s on)? Sites like the BBC, Snopes, Wikipedia, and WebMD are high-authority. Blogs and message boards? Not so much. Age: A page that has been around a long time is juicier than a page that is newer, and a domain that has been around a long time has a higher “base juice” for newly-spawned pages than a new domain does – with one IMPORTANT exception: For the first week or so of its lifespan, every new piece of content gets a significant “freshness boost” — we’ll talk about why that’s capital-letters important in our next post about social media. Traffic: A page that gets a lot of hits has a lot of juice, plain and simple. Engagement: A page that keeps people on that page for a while once they land on it – as well as a domain that keeps people clicking around on different pages with that domain – is juicier than one that people glance at for a few seconds and then bounce off of. Incoming Links: Obviously, the principle we’re talking about here is that incoming links give a page juice – so the more pages that link to the page that is linking to you, the better. What Determines the Juice Ratio? It doesn’t matter if you have an inbound link from the juiciest page on the Internet if your juice ratio is near-zero. There’s no exact science for figuring out what the juice ratio between a linking page and your page is, but here are the factors you need to pay attention to: Relevance: If you get a page all about trout fishing to link to your property management sales page, you're not going to get any meaningful juice from it. Getting a link from a relevant site like the business page of a popular nearby general contractor will be way more valuable. Ownership: Pages that are not obviously of your own creation have a greater juice ratio than pages that you obviously made yourself. For example, if you go to Facebook and create a business page for your business and then link to your business’ website, that’s not a juicy link. Again, that link from a relevant local business is going to be significantly more substantial. Links from multiple pages on the domain: The very first time that a given domain links to a given page on your site, you get the full ratio of juice from that link. But if a second page on the same site links to the same page on your site, the ratio is meaningfully lower – and it continues to get lower with each successive different page that links to the same page on your domain. Special: Nofollow links: Many major sites that allow the public to post content (even just comments on a news article) use a special kind of link called a nofollow link, which instantly cuts the juice ratio of every link on that site to 0 percent, no matter what. You can usually Google “Does X site use nofollow links?” and figure out if you’d be wasting your time posting there or not. The Juice Funnel So getting links from frequently-linked-to, high-authority, relevant old pages owned by someone other than yourself is the holy grail of SEO. But for most property managers that are just getting started on Internet marketing, we don’t need to check all those boxes. It’s more effective to put your effort into creating a juice funnel – and in fact the sales funnel of content we wrote about last week is designed to do just that. By linking each branch of the funnel to the one below it, you not only create a reasonable ‘link trail’ for a customer to follow to reach your sales page, you also create a concentration of juice on the pages that you most want to rank highly – the ones that get owners to sign up! The secret here is that by creating a wide variety of high quality content on all levels of your Content Funnel, you will entirely naturally get relevant sites to link to your content without even being asked – and every time that happens, some fraction of that juice will get passed down the chain to your sales pages. It takes time – SEO is definitely a long-term effort – but the end result of a steady stream of new interested owners at no immediate cost per signup is invaluable. Related: BiggerPockets Podcast 138: Self Storage, Systems, and SEO with Michael Rogers Bringing the Keywords and the Juice Together: How to SEO So you have a bunch of keywords with great keyword economy, and you have a content funnel waiting to be filled in. How do you bring the two together? Start by getting out that list of great keywords, and dividing it up into a “subject tree,” where each keyword has a few-to-several other related keywords ‘above’ it on the tree. For example: Property Management in Metro Detroit Metro Detroit Real Estate Investment Metro Detroit Real Estate Market News Metro Detroit Economic News Midwest Real Estate Market News (Insert suburb here) Development News Metro Detroit Real Estate Investment Advice General Real Estate Investment Tips (Insert neighborhood here) Investment Viability Analysis Property Management 101 How to Landlord How to Market Rental Property How to Screen Tenants How to Maintain a Good Relationship with your Tenants How to Run a Property Management Business Challenges of Property Maintenance Internet Marketing for Property Managers Property Management Tools Comparing Property Management Software Platforms (PMSPs) PMSPs For Smaller Businesses/Single Apartment Complexes PMSPs For Residential Property Managers PMSPs For Commercial Property Managers Property Management Services Rent Collection Apps Showing Scheduling Software …and so on. The key here is that each of your base-level keywords should directly correspond to the subject matter on one of your market-segment-targeting sales pages (callback to our previous post again), and each keyword on each higher level should correspond to one or more pieces of content you plan to create on one of the higher levels of the content funnel. That way, you guarantee that each level of your funnel has an economically-viable keyword and that each level of your funnel is relevant to (and thus passes juice at a good ratio to) the next level in the funnel. All that’s left once the core content funnel is in place is making sure that your content gets seen, which isn’t always as easy as it feels like it should be. That’s the entire purpose of the final part of the puzzle: social media. Pop back in next time for all that crazy magic! Do you have any SEO tips you’d like to share? Tell us in the comments below!