The majority of buyers and sellers start their buying or selling process online, and 87.76 percent of that search is done on Google, according to Statista. Our ability to position ourselves as the local expert on Google is vital now and could be even more so in the future.
What if I told you Google offers a free tool where you can frame yourself as the local expert and that this tool helps your ideal client have confidence that you are the perfect agent for them? That free tool exists — and it’s Google My Business.
I interviewed Heidi Harris with Home Sweet Heidi Realty in Raleigh, North Carolina, about optimizing her Google My Business page to see consistent growth in her business. In this article, we’ll go through how to:
- Set your page up
- Build it through photos and testimonials
- Optimize it to position you as the local expert
Claiming your business and building your profile
Begin the process by Googling the phrase “Google My Business.” Click the “manage now” button. If you are setting your account up, click the “add your business to Google” option. From there, begin building your profile. Add your business name, address and any other contact info you’d like for your potential customers to see when they search for you.
The address will help Google identify agents near a specific location, and Google will reward you if you have a unique address that isn’t common to others. (So if, for example, you work in a building with many other agents, you might find you’ll get better results by using a home address instead of a work one.)
Google will also authenticate your address by sending you a postcard in the mail with your GMB pin, so your address must be legitimate.
Your service area will indicate the areas you’re focusing on in your business, so you’ll likely want to include more than one specific area here. It will also help you rank for searches related to those areas.
Enter your hours of availability according to your own boundaries, but keep in mind that customers might search for agents with more availability if you limit your hours. Consider that if you mark yourself as open 24 hours, customers can call or email you anytime. And if your availability becomes an issue, you can always edit your profile later.
Also, be sure to include a phone number and a website where customers can find you.
Optimizing your profile
Think of your Google My Business page as your resume. When people search for you, this is the first thing they will see. Make sure your profile is complete, including your bio, phone number, email address, hours of operation, and links to your website and social media accounts.
Also, think about the things that will bring them confidence in your ability to provide them with the best real estate experience they have ever encountered. What is it that will bring them confidence that you are the perfect agent for them?
Also, realize that Google is looking for specific criteria to rank you in organic search results as the authority for real estate in your area.
The following are items that will help you rank high on Google and provide your ideal client the confidence that you are engaged, active and professionally qualified to assist them in buying or selling real estate.
There is a reason Google posts the photos tab right at the top of your profile. It’s important to Google and to potential clients to be able to check you out visually.
This section includes both photos and videos, and a good rule is to get more than 100 photos and videos on your profile as soon as possible. That might sound daunting, but here are a few ideas of photos that will engage and interest potential clients.
- Photos of your team
- Photos of happy clients at a closing
- Photos of you in the community at parks, attractions or event venues
- Photos or videos showing your favorite places in your town or farming community with a brief description
- Photos or videos of schools in your area with a short description of the schools
- Photos or drone shots of your targeted farm neighborhood with a brief description
- Photos of you at your favorite restaurants in your area
The options are endless, but think about your Google My Business page as an organic search tool for Google to find the most engaged person in the area. The more photos and videos you have titled with keywords for your area or neighborhood, the more likely the Google algorithm is to identify you as the expert and rank you higher in search.
According to Testimonial Tree, 89 percent of people now trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. Stockpiling Google reviews is the best way to increase your trustworthiness for your ideal clients who find you on your Google My Business page.
Reviews on Google My Business pages are not verified sales reviews. In other words, you can receive reviews from clients and people who you have not done business directly with on the sale or purchase of a home. The priority is clients, but you can also receive reviews from vendors you use, like lenders, inspectors, title companies, etc.
You can also receive reviews from real estate agents in other markets who you might have referred clients to or who have referred clients to you.
Think about it this way: If you are going to a new city and looking for a restaurant to eat at the first night you are in town, will you go to the restaurant with five reviews or the one with 50 five-star reviews? It’s the same with potential buyers and sellers. Be diligent in adding as many reviews as possible to your Google My Business page.
To streamline the process of gathering reviews, consider asking your clients at closing whether you can send them a link for them to share their reviews. You’ll likely get a resounding “yes” because of the emotion of the closing, but you can always explain that these reviews help you grow your business and earn the trust of potential new customers.
As part of their process, Harris’ team sends a follow-up email in the initial hours after closing, including the settlement documents from the transaction.
In the email, they include links to their Google My Business page and invite the customers to post their reviews there. The team sometimes even sends a summary of the transaction details to help the customer write an effective review.
Whatever it looks like for you, create a systematic process for requesting reviews from your current and past clients.
Ask a friend or client to post a frequently asked question about your area on your page that you can then answer. Google places the question-and-answer section right below your contact details because potential buyers or sellers in your area are likely to look there.
Here are a few great questions for you to answer:
- What are the most popular neighborhoods in (your area)?
- Is there a place I can go to find school district maps or school performance numbers for (your area)?
- What is the average price range of a home in (your area or farm neighborhood)?
- Why does (your farm neighborhood) seem to be so popular?
- If I am considering selling my house in (your city) what should I do first?
By answering these frequently asked questions on your Google My Business page, your responsiveness and trustworthiness will go up.
Your Google My Business page is your digital resume, and it will help your potential customers begin getting to know, like and trust you. Use it to help people learn more about you and get a sense of who you are.
The profile won’t cost you anything, and by investing just a few minutes each week to update it, you’ll continue to grow your online presence and improve the odds that new customers will find you. The result will be new relationships, a more extensive database and ultimately business growth.