SEO: What is it and why is it critical to your business?

You’ve probably seen the acronym “SEO” tossed about on nerdy websites and wondered about its meaning. SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimization,” which is a fancy way of saying, “make it easier to find on the internet.”

When you or I use search engines like Bing, Google, or Yahoo, the results we see generated are based on the best site matches for our search criteria—or they are supposed to be.  Usually, there are sponsored advertisements at the very top of the page. Companies pay for top spots on pages because of the importance of web searches and page rankings.

Search engine results are generated by sophisticated, complex, and ever-changing algorithms.  Algorithms are just math formulas that look at your site and decide if your page is a good match for the searched terms entered based on a list of criteria.

The algorithms then order, or rank, the results based on the best fit. Searchers then click on websites based on what they see in the rankings. Top spots are by far the most important and valuable. If you don’t show up in the first few pages of rankings your website simply will not get significant traffic. Period!

So how do you improve your search ranking? How do you improve your SEO? This is a tricky problem without a simple answer.  Oh, sure, there are some easy fixes you can make that will yield small improvements, but in the end, different search algorithms weigh the various aspects of your web site differently. And these algorithms are constantly changing. You’re always aiming at a rapidly moving target.

Algorithms look at specific keywords in your titles and descriptions. Since you control content you have some control on the effectiveness of these factors. However, so does your competition. Gaining a strategic advantage for your website with keywords is very difficult.

Algorithms also look at descriptions and headers and even the color contrast on your site. These formulas measure the length of time content has been available, and they tend to prefer new versus old material. But everything can’t be new because algorithms also look at how long your site has been active. Search engines give preference to established sites.

There are literally hundreds of data points that go into the page rankings on search engines. Here’s a link to a beginner’s guide if you want to see the 35 they list as a mere starting point:  http://www.nea.org/assets/img/pubToday/0804/0804TryThis01.jpg

While it’s easy to get lost in the overwhelming detail, there is one singularly important factor you really need to consider—length of time spent on your site.

Apartment managers all know the importance of high tenant retention, the algorithm programmers apply the same concept to web pages. They know people will bounce out of bad sites and will stay longer when the information is engaging. This “staying power” is an extremely important and critical analytic for search engines.

So how do you improve viewer staying power? The answer is really quite simple: a more interesting site with useful content.

That’s not meant to be flippant or humorous. You can really stand out from your competition and improve your website ranking by making just one change. The hands-down best way to achieve website staying power is by adding a really good Virtual Tour for your apartment website.

It cannot be overstated how dramatically better you will engage with your audience with this type of product. A successful VR tour can raise your page ranking through longer on-site audience engagement.

Every properly executed tour should have a combination of still pictures, property video (especially a fly-over drone), and a robust virtual tour platform. Using a variety of media sustain interest and attention.

When you make a VR tour decision be sure to ask about the number of viewing points, frequently called panos, they plan to include and why they chose that number. Frankly, the answer should be “I won’t know until I see the property.”

To maximize the time a prospect spends on your site, your tour must be in the “Goldilocks Zone.” It may sound silly, but too few viewing points and people leave too quickly. If you have too many, the site will be too cumbersome to navigate. The Goldilocks Zone is just right!

This is as much an art as a science and few companies study the data to make sure they get things just right. A tour company must be willing to customize tours for your specific needs or your results will be disappointing.

If they say, “we do 4 for a one bedroom, 6 for two…” take a pass, because you will not be getting the right combination for maximum page ranking. The tour must organically progress the viewer through the experience. Every space is different and have unique considerations for camera placement and viewing points.

Also make sure to ask about editing out flaws. Quality companies take the time to edit any imperfections. They understand that when people see poor image quality they will leave the site.

Finally, ask to see the data. One of the most valuable aspects of a new VR Tour is to be able to measure audience reactions. Did the tour increase engagement? How did it impact page ranking? Algorithms, no matter how much they change, will always consider engagement time on your site as a critical factor when ranking sites.

Any company you work with should be able to produce reports that show you how your tours are impacting engagement and page rank. Technology is cool but there is always the bottom line to consider. You want to be able to demonstrate that the upgrade was worth the investment. With a quality VR tour,  you should always get detailed measurable results.

We hope you found this information helpful. Our team at Helix Media 360 is happy to help you answer these and other questions about our services. Please like us on Facebook and follow us on twitter for the latest information on this and other topics.