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August 16, 2010

posted by: Carissa Drohan-Jennings

What Landlords Need To Know About Search Engine Optimization

Search engine optimizationIt is common knowledge that renters are looking for apartments online in rapidly increasing number.  That’s why rental websites have become such powerful marketing tool.  They give you the ability to market and sell your product 24/7.

All landlords know that they need to have an online presence, but many are often left frustrated once the website is launched.  They often feel as though their website is just not performing the way they expected it to.  It’s not ranking with the search engines and not up to par with the performance they had planned for.  I’d like to look at why this is happening and provide some tips on how to fix the problem.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the volume or quality of traffic to a website from search engines via changes within the website that are natural and un-paid.  Over time it is the cheapest form of traffic generation and if done properly it can pay for itself in no time.


Consider SEO Before Designing The Website

It’s not enough to go out and design a nice looking website.  Pretty websites without SEO don’t necessarily rank in the search engines.  You need a website that is functional and one that can generate traffic.  That’s why you should always consider SEO before building or re-designing any website.

Take it from an industry leader.  When I recently spoke to Trish Macpherson, Marketing and Sales Manager at CAP REIT, and recent winner of FRPO’s MAC award for Corporate Website Design, she commented that, “Even before we began redesigning our website, we had search engine optimization in mind.  We knew that at least a third of all of our traffic had to come from the search engines.  That is why we took great care in designing our website to be search engine friendly.”

Case in point, taking that extra time before diving into a redesign allowed CAP REIT to develop an effective marketing tool.


Understanding SEO Terms and Jargon

Search engine optimization sounds a lot more complicated than it actually is.  Let me be the first to say that it is easy once you know and understand what you're doing.   It's all about giving the engines what they want. 

Let me explain some of the terms and jargon you’ll encounter when discussing search engine optimization with an expert or a web designer.


Google Bots

"Google bots" are what crawl (scan) your website and read the text.  Yahoo uses them, Bing's got them, so on and so forth.   “Bots” follow every link and read every word on your website.  They track how your content flows and they see what keywords are used on your website.  They also follow every link that leaves your website to see what content you're directing people to.  Basically, they work to figure out what your website is all about.

It's important to know that they are not only reading what a reader sees, but they also read the code that's behind the text and images on your website.  They're looking for specific things like meta tags and alt tags to determine what you've created this site for.


Title Tag & Header Tags

Title tags and header tags are important references for the search engine bots.  They put weight on these tags to tell them about your main content and the keywords you're targeting.  Make sure that your keywords appear in them.  The bots give them more relevance if the keywords appear towards the beginning of the tags.



Keywords are simply a word that you’re trying to be ranked on or recognized for in the search engines.  Google will search the text of your site to see how often certain words appear.  Take for example the sentences, "Apartments for rent in London.  You'll love renting these apartments."  The words that appear most often are "apartments" and "rent".  Google would read those and determine what your keywords or content is about "apartments" and "rent".


Keyword Phrases

These are a series of keywords that your website displays.  For example, "We have an apartment for rent in London, Ontario.  So if you're looking for a luxury apartment for rent, look no further."  The keyword phrase "apartment for rent" appears in several sentences.  The "Google bots" will read those strings of words and index the site as having an "apartment for rent".


Keyword Links

Keyword links are also important with SEO.  They are hyperlinks that contain your keywords.  The "bots" read these links and follow them to additional pages.  They place value on the text of the link.  So when placing links try to place them on important keywords as opposed to the classic "click here".

Well, I believe I’ve covered the basics of search engine optimization.  Let me be the first to say that it’s not something to be feared, it’s something to be embraced.  The more I’ve learned about SEO over the years, the more I’ve come to love it.  It’s a race to the top and it’s a journey that lasts a lifetime.



Backlinks can also be referred to as incoming links or inbound links.  In a nutshell they are any link that points to your web page from a third party website. Backlinks from authoritative sites on a given topic are highly valuable. If both sites have content geared toward the keyword topic, the backlink is considered relevant and believed to have strong influence on the search engine rankings of the webpage granted the backlink. it's also relevant to note that backlinks should be composed of keyword targeted anchor text.  Here is a great article focused on backlinks and why they are important for apartment websites.


Anchor Text

Anchor text is the clickable, visible text that appears in a link.  The search engines read the anchor text and then follow the link to see where it goes.  For this reason it's important for the keyword used in the anchor text to reflect the keywords that are being targeted on the landing page of the website.