SEO Can Be Snake Oil – Part 1


Part 1 Of a 3-Part Series.

So you’ve all gotten that call/email: a search engine optimization (SEO) company promising to place your site at the top of the search engines.  Many Realtors, seeing the potential opportunity for online leads, have already wasted a lot of money on one (or more) of these services and will never see the results they were expecting or promised.  There are a variety of companies with many different strategies, promising to position your site competitively and the majority are illegitimate.

The goal of this article is to give you an understanding of how search engines work and how you can drastically improve your search engine lead generation without wasting another dime.

There are three important steps to optimizing your site, and we will be covering them in depth over the next 3 weeks.

I.  See below
II.  Site Structure (part 2)
III.  Link Popularity (part 3)

I.  Choosing Keywords & Studying the Successful

The most important, and overlooked step in optimization is choosing a search phrase with which you will be able to compete.  The goal is to expose your site to the most searchers, with the least amount of competition.  A perfect example of this is the search phrase “Orange County Home Loans.”  I have a client who wanted to optimize his site for said search phrase and after some research, we found that there are currently 9.7 million other sites indexed for “Orange County Home Loans.”  In addition, only 1,464 searches for that phrase were made last month.  A much better search phrase was “Orange County Home Equity Loan.”  This search phrase had less thank half the amount of sites indexed (4.5 million) and had 2,077 instances that it was searched.  Less competition and more search volume  makes it the sound choice.

1.  Choosing Your Keywords:

a.  How Often Is A Keyword Searched?

The first place I start is by finding out how many people actually made the search last month.  Both Google and Yahoo have keyword selection tools that will help determine these numbers: Google and Yahoo.

Another resource is SEOBook, which will give you an estimated monthly search volumes combining Google, Yahoo and MSN. You might want to also check out SEOLogs, which will help you determine the difficulty of your keywords. And a final useful resource to help you find the right keywords for you site is WordTracker where you can generate a free report for your site.

For deeper reading on Keyword selection

b.  How Many Websites Are Competing for Your Desired Search Phrase?

Many Realtors, seeing the potential opportunity for online leads, have already wasted a lot of money on one (or more) of these services and will never see the results they were expecting or promised.

Every search engine displays how many sites are being indexed for that exact search phrase.  In Google when you do a search, it will read “Results 1-10 of about 49,000,000 for San Diego Real Estate.”  That large number is the total number of websites indexed for that particular search phrase.  Identical search phrases will produce different results in different search engines.  For instance, that same phrase (San Diego Real Estate) in Yahoo yeilds only 25.5 million and MSN, only 4 million.

2.  Studying the Successful

It is very important to take notice of which sites are making the top ten for your desired search phrases.  When trying to compete, you need to understand what is driving the successful to the top.  Their success is not based on the amount of keywords, but rather the density of their keywords and the quality and quantity of their incoming links.

Obviously, the successful are doing something right and if you follow their lead, can be joining them at the top.

a.  What Is Their Keyword Density?

Keyword (or keyphrase) density is the percentage of words on a web page that match a specified set of keywords.  If one of your keywords is “San Diego Real Estate”, the amount of times you actually mention “San Diego Real Estate” in the body of your webpage is calculated and determined to be your keyword density.  It is important to have a high percentage of the words on your site be your keywords.  By studying the successful, you can measure the percentage that has helped them secure their ranking.

You can measure any given sites’ keyword density using’s tool.

b.  How Many Incoming Links Do They Have?

“Incoming links” (a.k.a. inbound links, or backlinks) are links on other websites that link back (or point to) your website.  To learn how many links any website has linking back to it, simply plug them into’s link engine.  A top site under “San Diego Real Estate” has over a 1,000 websites linking back to theirs!

Beware, incoming links are not all equal.  In fact some links will spell doom for your search ranking.  In the third part of this 3 part series (Aug 18th) we will peel back the curtain and reveal the truth in Link Popularity and its affect on search ranking.

After reading this article you should understand how to accomplish two things.  The first: choosing sound keywords (and phrases) upon whish to optimize your site.  The second: investigating the successful and dissecting how they achieved their succees through keyword density and link popularity.  This knowledge will help us establish realistic goals in order for us to achieve our desired page rank.

In next week’s article: Search Engine Optimization Part II: Site Structure, we will dive into the elements that make up our meta tags, (internel)keywords, and HTML tags that are found within the coding of your site.

This article was authored by Jason Benesch, Director of Technology at the Real Estate Tomato.