How Important Is It That Your Real Estate Photography site Has High Google Ranking?

October 22nd, 2014

SEOLast week PFRE reader Aubrey asked the following question:

I wanted to ask you how can I get up in the rankings on the list for preferred photographers in southern California? I’m on the middle of the 2nd page, but would like to be on the 1st page. How can I do that?

There’s a quick and easy way to get higher ranking for your RE photography website and I frequently revisit the subject. Here’s the post from last year that explains how to do it. It certainly doesn’t hurt to do this. If you aren’t in a big metro area with a lot of real estate photographers this will usually get you on the first page for the search term “real estate photographer your-town”. If you are in someplace like Seattle there are a crowd of people that have already done this so it won’t get you on the the first page.

But here’s the deal. Having a high Google ranking for the search term “real estate photographer your-town” isn’t going to get you a ton of business. There are much better ways to build your business than just getting a high Google ranking and waiting for the phone to ring. To build your business you need to actively market yourself to the top listing agents.

It’s better to think of your website as a medium to present your work (your portfolio) and have it at the center of your marketing process where all your marketing materials refer to your site. That way you can present your very best work to people you market.

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8 Responses to “How Important Is It That Your Real Estate Photography site Has High Google Ranking?”

  • The hyper-link “here’s the post” doesn’t seem to work…

  • Your website is just a help, but you should become a member affiliate at the RE Board in your town. The cost at my board is $130 per year. But you are allowed to join all the Board RE meetings, especially the ones presented by Title Reps and Loan Reps. Ask these people if you may use 5 minutes, say during the break, to tell the agents what you are doing and give the agents a business card.

  • @Nathan – Thanks, it’s fixed now.

  • While very true that a high search engine rating won’t make you successful, it can still help you get business. Your ranking is based on numerous factors including, but not limited to:

    1. Website content. Not just keyword strings, but meaningful content that includes those key words throughout.

    2. Website updates. You need to consistently update with new content.

    3. Linkbacks. I’m sure that’s not the technical word for it, but basically it’s the number of websites out there who have a link back to your site.

    And of course your ranking is also dependent on how many other sites have similar content. In a small market, you may be #1 without much effort. Your market however might be a tougher nut to crack. Your best weapon as an independent is to update your content regularly and get active online. For example, reply to this post and include a link to your site!

  • What I find is that a high Google ranking doesn’t do much to attract established re agents, but I have gotten some ByOwner business out of it.

    Certainly not enough to pay some shyster telemarketer (claiming to be from Google) a boatload of money to promise to put you there. Those calls are not from Google. One of those very aggressive telemarketers wanted $20K per year to insure a top ranking…. really? seriously, REALLY!?!? I laughed him off the phone.

  • Thank goodness this post is right on!
    I’ve been fighting with my SEO (search engine optimization) since day one, and the best ranking I’ve been able to get is on page 10! PAGE 10!!

    Getting out there in person or via social media is the real key. Lets not forget good old word of mouth too. If you take your time (within reason) and give the best possible images, other agents in your customer’s office WILL take notice. Give a little nudge to those return customers by giving them a few extra business cards and ask them to hand them out to those interested agents.
    I’ve been in business for about seven months now, and it’s just now starting to take off. I’m working every day. While I don’t have a shoot every day, my “off” days are spent promoting myself in some way. Always carry business cards, and spend any free time on weekends going to open house affairs.
    If you put that old thinking cap on, you will come up with all sorts of ways to get your business name out to the folks who really matter.

  • @Russell – I stay away from “social media” as their business model is to sell all of the information they can glean from their “customers”.

    Google and Yahoo don’t talk about how they rank web sites anymore to keep people from gaming the system to get a high ranking. Remember how in the past it seemed that any search you did came back with a load of porn sites? Some articles I have read suggest that it’s a good idea to keep updating your site with new content and that it helps to have other sites linking to you. Beyond that, opinions differ widely on how to improve your ranking. Larry’s tip on getting a likely search phrase into your keywords is an easy tactic to try. I’ve put the local cities into my keywords and front page text, but I service a large area with many cities and unincorporated communities, so Larry’s idea is a little tougher for me to implement. Purchasing keywords might also be something to look into. The PFRE photographer list comes up fairly high in the rankings I’ve noticed and it’s something that I plan to sign up for soon (money’s real tight right now).

    The past week I have been compiling a list of agents in the area from listings on Trulia. I had previously tried to find a way to identify the top agents, but there isn’t a good resource that I can find that ranks the local agents with their contact information. I haven’t tried the local real estate association as it’s $250 to join and I can’t part with that much coin on a gamble. By building a list of agents with current listings, I am screening out the hundreds (or maybe thousands) of licensed agents in the area that wouldn’t have any interest in my services. I am finding a bunch of non-local agents with listings near me and adding the few I see multiple times to my list. They might appreciate knowing that there is a local professional photographer that they can hire.

    My list is a spreadsheet with: Name, Office (with hyperlink), City, Email (with hyperlink), Cell phone, Office phone, Email sent date, Letter sent date, call date, response received, Suc(ess), Type (Agent, Broker, assoc.) and a notes field. Getting the agent’s email is a key factor for me putting them on the list, but I have a few agents without email address that I am tracking because they had a large number of listings or several high end properties. I haven’t been recording mailing addresses as I’m not planning a mailing and it might be better at that point to use a database or CRM. I am keeping the process simple and in Git-R-done mode so I will stay on it. I had planned something more elaborate earlier in the year and never followed through. I tend to do that and have to watch out for it.

    Some other photographers have discouraged this method of marketing because it has a low conversion rate. The problem is that all marketing approaches have a low hit rate/dollar(hour). My list is at 284 entries now and after a week, I am seeing about a 2.5% response. No bookings yet, but you have to hit them at the right time to make the sale. I had one call, but the job was too far away for me to be competitive. It did give me the chance to make my pitch directly to the agent. The upside of sending out the emails is that the cost is all in time and a little bit of electricity. A mailing campaign might have a slightly higher return rate, but it takes time to create the materials and money to print and mail them. Having a list of working agents doesn’t have a downside. It takes a bunch of time initially, but once it’s up and running, updating it doesn’t take much.

    I too go to open houses on the weekends. Trulia has email alerts that notify me if an agent has listed an open house in the cities I have listed. Often times I find signs for open houses that weren’t listed online while I’m driving around. Freshly minted agents often get called out to conduct the open houses for more senior (lazier) agents. Most of them are young and much more in tune with technology which makes them easier to market to. They don’t have the “I’ve always done it this way and it works for me” attitude. They are also more aggressive.

    One of the issues with my area is that it is spread way out. If I only marketed to the city I live in and shot all of the listings, I don’t think that it would even qualify as a hobby. This means that I have to travel up to an hour to get to the furthest reaches. I have also been sending out emails to some resort areas up to a three hour drive away. I calculate my pricing with travel time as a factor which means that my pricing might be higher than some agents are willing to spend. I had a thought this morning that if one agent books me for a job, I can use my list to send an email out to agents in that area that I will be working nearby and can offer a discounted rate for any jobs they care to book the same day. My initial thinking was to find ways to offer better pricing to the agents in the resort area. The homes there I saw listed hovered around the $1 million mark and the photos posted were horrible but, through the blurry, orange color cast, crooked snapshots, I could see that the properties would be great portfolio material if shot with care. There should be marketing budget for those and if I could find a way to offer reasonable pricing for their more modest listings, I might convince them to hire me. Shooting a full schedule for two consecutive days is another option I threw out for even better pricing (3hours there, 2hours/home, 3 hours back is a helleva day and staying overnight would be easier and the motel could easily be offset with the additional work).

    Spending time learning the technical aspects of the job is fine, but marketing can be even more important. Just look at all of the so-so photographers that are working all of the time.

  • My website comes up really high in the rankings for real estate photography in my area, but I generally fear business calls I get saying they found me on the web – especially if the number shows out of area. Most of the time those calls just waste my time and don’t pan out or become problematic when it’s time to get paid.

    The best thing I ever did was install the Realtor.com app. You can specify an area and price, so I picked a three mile radius from my home and homes over 350 thousand dollars, then looked at them all to see if I could do better than the photography they used on each listing. If I thought I could do better, I sent a message to the realtor with a link to my website and an explanation on the way I could improve their marketing and sell their listings for more money. Most of the info I used for the messages I gleaned from this website – and I referenced this website.

    Most of the realtors ignored my pitch. Some wrote me back to request that I stop “spamming” them and one even wanted to engage me in an argument over how good photos were useless as it is price that sells a property. I got one reply with interest and that realtor just happened to be one of the top ten realtors in the state and he was looking for a new photographer since his current photographer was retiring soon.

    I started shooting for him and he dropped my name a couple times, so now I get a ton of referrals from realtors I have helped in the past. I have several constant clients now and have limited availability for new clients. However, I always try to fit them in because you never know. Just get a few clients, do a good job, do what you promise and try to do better than the next guy and things should follow a similar course as what has happened for me over the past couple years.

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