Estate agent website SEO in Spain has become a little used marketing tool in the industry, a fact we discovered while compiling a white paper on Spanish estate agent marketing to foreign buyers. This change in marketing strategy has been pushed by and benefited suppliers of contact management systems, property portals and real estate marketing companies and resulted in an increased cost per lead to the agents themselves. In this article we examine how and why this has happened.
An estate agent in Spain recently told us of his experience while trying a website demo for one of the most popular Contact Management Systems (CRMs) used.
He was not happy with the website SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) capabilities offered by the system and asked their support department how the site could be customised to improve this.
"There is no point in SEO," said the support operator. "You should share properties with other agents with our MLS and use property portals, that is how the other Spanish agents do it. SEO costs lots of money."
"But if I share a sale with another estate agent, it will cost me half the commission," replied the agent, "and property portals are expensive, I pay for every listing and it will be a monthly cost forever" he protested.
"SEO is expensive," repeated the support operator, "your site is just a brochure where people will come after they find you on a portal."
This CRM supplier advertises that their website systems are great for SEO, but in reality, the sites created by the system had very basic SEO compliance with no room for improvement, and this has become the norm in the industry.
Companies providing CRMS to Spanish real estate agents have spent the last few years actively discouraging SEO as a viable marketing tool, despite the fact that search engines are by far the best channel for driving visitors to a website.
Real estate websites with good SEO are a bad business model for CRM suppliers
The reasons behind discouraging estate agent website SEO in Spain are simple. In the first place, it makes more financial sense for these CRM suppliers to encourage their customers to use their own proprietary property sharing systems (Multi Listing Services) and property portals.
Creating websites that really are good for SEO is not easy, especially for a multilingual real estate CRM optimising sites for multiregional markets. Almost all CRM systems suitable for estate agents in Spain that we have analysed provide websites that are simply not well optimised for search engines. It takes a combination of expertise and many programming hours to create systems with these capabilities, and that means its expensive.
Creating real estate websites that are excellent for SEO gives no medium or long term benefit to the CRM supplier. But creating reliance upon their own MLS property sharing system does and effectively traps the agent into continuing to use their service over the years to come, despite the fact that this marketing channel has the most expensive cost per lead of all. On the other hand, if the estate agent has a website that can generate its own leads because it is well optimised for search engines, there is not need for that agent to be loyal in the future. Good SEO is not in the interests of CRM suppliers.
The other marketing channel encouraged by the CRM industry is Property Portal listings with companies like Rightmove. These are the next most expensive marketing channel for an estate agent in Spain, but it is easy for CRMs to simple set up an XML feed to them, and charge extra for that service. Again, it is low cost and keeps the monthly revenues coming into the CRM. It’s a nice business model for them. SEO is not.
Fear of estate agent website SEO in Spain has been the weapon of choice and the CRM suppliers have used it to great effect, changing the marketing landscape of the estate agency industry in Spain. But they are not the only ones to benefit from this.
Property Portals don’t want you to optimise your own website for search engines
Property portals are successful generators of leads to real estate agents if they can dominate the search engine results, and apart from each other, their main competition are the websites of their clients, the real estate agents. It makes perfect sense for them to discourage agents from their own SEO.
Every time an estate agent pays for a new property listing with a property portal, they increase the power of that portal’s SEO for the area in which that property is located. This is the hidden marketing cost of the property portal.
Estate agents can even find their own websites are penalised by Google for duplicate content because the same description for the property also appears on the property portal, pushing their own websites further down the rankings
And property portals are now encouraging you to spend even more money with them by paying for your properties to appear first in their own search results. This internal optimisation system costs them nothing but adds further cost to you, the estate agent.
Property portals generate the vast majority of their visitors from search engines, they do not want estate agents to optimise their own websites and compete with them. They would prefer to convince you that it is easier to generate leads through their paid listings than spend your marketing budget on optimising your own website.
Real estate marketing companies don’t want you to optimise your website either
Real estate marketing companies used to sell SEO services as the primary channel for lead generation, but this has changed.
SEO became more difficult to sell to estate agents because there were so many companies providing the service badly that the industry gained a bad reputation.
Now pay per click advertising has replaced estate agent website SEO in Spain as the favoured channel because it is a lot easier to sell to a client and provides a steady monthly income to the marketing company; it’s a good business model for them.
Estate agents can see advertising in Google and Facebook easily and marketing companies can provide statistics that are easy to understand. The results can be instantaneous, whereas SEO takes time. This makes it easier to sell.
Marketing companies have a wide range of software available to them that can place these ads automatically and find the most effective ways to place them. Advertising does not consume nearly as much marketing time as SEO, so its is a preferable business model for a marketing agency.
The problem with advertising for the estate agent is that it is in a cost spiral and getting more expensive by the day. As it becomes more popular, agents compete with each other in online bidding wars to get their adverts placed first. This is why Google and Facebook are two of the richest companies in the world.
Online pay per click advertising is a good short term marketing channel, providing instant results, but it has no medium or long term benefit for the estate agent. As soon as you stop paying, your company disappears. SEO, on the other hand, has both medium and long term benefits and high rankings in search results send a strong branding signal to potential property buyers and vendors.
Back to estate agent website SEO in Spain
The white paper that we referred to at the beginning of this article was revealing. It shows that a very large proportion of estate agent websites in Spain are not being optimised for search engine results.
The upshot of this is that there now exist many opportunities and market gaps within the huge range of possible search terms in estate agent website SEO in Spain, particularly in long tail keywords.
The competition for placement in search results is still high, but is by no means uniform across the board, and long tailed keywords have the power to direct higher quality traffic to your website with better conversion ratios.
Estate agent website SEO in Spain is far from dead, even though the market generally seems to have forgotten it. The estate agents that do optimise their sites receive a constant supply of fresh enquiries for a relatively low investment. Their cost per lead, and ultimately their cost per sale remain low, providing a distinct advantage over their competition.
Getting the marketing mix right
As an estate agent in Spain, you need to use a variety of marketing channels but in doing so you need to keep a careful eye on your cost per lead and eventual cost per sale.
Pay per click advertising and property portals are valid and useful channels, but it lacks foresight to use them exclusively in your online marketing strategy. They provide no medium to long term benefit for your company.
Multi listing services should be viewed with caution because of their high cost per sale, and if you use them, then it is a better idea only to share the properties that you find difficult to sell.
MLS, property portals and pay per click advertising have their place, particularly for new start ups or specific campaigns. Established and mature agents should put less reliance on these channels.
SEO is an important marketing channel and provides a medium to long term benefit for estate agents in Spain. Those who have invested reap the rewards and will continue to do so. Those who do not face spiralling costs per lead in their online marketing.
Estate agents in Spain should review their marketing strategies and ensure that they are investing in their own futures, and creating websites optimised for search engines is the way to do it.
Lastly, think carefully about the motivation behind the marketing advice your receive. Marketing agencies, contact management system providers and property portals all have their own interests at heart and their own agendas. Make sure your decisions prioritise what is best for your estate agency business and ensure that your real estate CRM is fit for purpose.
Remember, everyone wants to make a buck out of your marketing budget and the best way to do that is in trapping you into a cycle of short term spending on adverts, listings and monthly fees that have no real benefit for your brand or the medium to long term success of your real estate business. Fear of estate agent website SEO in Spain has been the weapon used, and it has worked so well that right now, very few websites are well optimised for Google search and opportunities abound.