At my company, WebsiteBox, we recently surveyed 342 real estate agent site users in Canada and the United States about their search engine optimization (SEO) attitudes and activities.  Here is a summary of what we found and our interpretation of the results.

Where leads come from now:

* A whopping 61 per cent said their primary source for leads is referrals.

* Only five per cent said SEO provided their primary source of leads now.

* Two per cent stated that pay-per-click (PPC) marketing is their main lead source.

* 7.8 per cent said they are paying for leads from one or more sources.

Other lead sources, such as print, were also lesser contributors, though only outdoor ads use (at three per cent) was lower than SEO.  This isn’t unexpected, as real estate professionals who provide good service and ask for referrals almost always do well.

Which lead source could be No. 1 in the future?

* SEO jumped to 31 per cent, while referrals dropped to 45 per cent.

* PPC doubled to four per cent as a lead source they think could be much better.

The response to this question indicates a shift in perceptions.  While a majority considers referrals their best lead source now, many see the potential of lead generation from their websites.  The doubling of the PPC percentage may tell us that they would even consider paying for clicks to generate traffic.

We asked, which SEO activities do you spend time on now?

* Keyword research – 54.3 per cent

* Content, website and blogging – 45.9 per cent

* Website code, meta-tags, URLs  – 35.9 per cent

* Multiple other activities were each below 20 per cent, but “I haven’t tried anything” came in at 23.3 per cent.

Real estate agents responding to this survey say they’re spending time on activities they know work for SEO, so it must be frustrating to continue to be buried far below the first page in results. With the majority all saying they spend time researching keywords and creating content that uses them, the next set of results is telling when it comes to how much they get done.

We asked, what is most challenging about content creation?

* 42 per cent say they can’t think of good content topic ideas.

* 31.6 per cent know blogging is effective, but they don’t know what to blog about.

* 33.1 per cent think that it’s just too big a job to create a great website.

* 17.5 per cent are thinking about hiring writers, but they don’t know what it will cost.

So, responding agents know that relevant and well-written content is crucial, but many are just overwhelmed when they try to figure out how to create that content.  They don’t know how to come up with content ideas – a separate problem from actually creating it.

Is it mostly a case of not seeing the forest for the trees? Perhaps. Simply making a note of client questions, such as, “What’s a good first-offer strategy?” to “What does title insurance cover?” can generate titles for dozens of articles or blog posts. Agents have answered these types of questions over and over throughout their careers. Now they need only start with the answers as content titles and create content that will work for SEO and for site visitors with those questions.

The survey responses that define the job:

* A whopping 90 per cent agreed with the statement: “I really should spend more time learning and doing SEO.”

* 77 per cent want to be in charge of their SEO, not farm out the task.

* 52.9 per cent want to spend less than five hours per month on SEO.

* 27.4 per cent would be willing to spend from six to 10 hours per month on SEO.

* 84.4 per cent want to spend from zero to $500 per year on SEO.

* Now for the kicker: 69 per cent said, “The current SEO tools available just don’t get the job done.”

It’s clear that SEO is a priority for agents who understand the value a website can bring to their businesses. It’s equally clear that they’re frustrated with the tools and resources they have tried so far. They don’t want to spend a lot of money or time on SEO though.

There is plenty of interest in better SEO and recognition of its value. But, there is also frustration and disenchantment with results. There isn’t a single “silver bullet,” but the tools that agents need do exist. It’s a matter of research and adopting best practices wherever they’re found.

Peyman Aleagha is founder and CEO of WebsiteBox, a Toronto-based company that offers real estate websites and tools. Email peyman.aleagha@websitebox.com.



  1. Wow what a great article, and the stats are amazing and very useful information.
    Can you tell me how to increase SEO with least amount of inconvienence and cost?
    My usual routine is to post my website on every correspondence and marketing materials.
    Thank you.
    Rita Giglione, Broker
    Royal LePage Exceptional Real Estate Services., Brokerage

  2. SEO is a continuing effort. Its success depends not only on your own efforts but mostly on the efforts of others – your competition. For instance, when there are many good SEO jobs in competition, it’s still possible to land on a low spot. On top of that, the parameters change all the time. SEO might be a job best left to the professional optimizer. However, if we all did that, it’s a level playing field again and you can STILL end up on page seven – even though your SEO was optimal. I know, I’ve been roller-coastering in and out of the rankings for years. Greetings from Victoria BC. http://www.lotuslandrealestate.com

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