Getting My Listings to the Top of Google – The Long Tail and Keyword Consistency

Who was it that first said, “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing”? Alexander Pope, I think, although others have borrowed it quite a bit.

Nevertheless, it’s very true, in my case

For a long time, I have been marketing all of the homes I have for sale in Fayetteville, NC on the internet, in a variety of different places–the MLS,,, my blog, Viddler, etc. Each time I would add a new home for sale, I would try to write a description of the home that would appeal to buyers, and would highlight some of the better features of the home. I was very good at making a home sound appealing!

Makes sense, right? Still, in those days, I did not have a well-proven method for getting my listings to rank favorably in Google. All of the homes I had for sale in Fayetteville were pretty much categorized as “Fayetteville NC Real Estate” or “Homes for Sale in Fayetteville NC.” So, despite the great descriptions, the homes I had for sale didn’t always rise to the top of Google. The keyword “Fayetteville NC Real Estate” usually returned a bunch of mega-real estate portals, real estate company sites or newspaper websites on Google. Very generic results for a very generic search term.

Active Rain Real Estate Network
Active Rain Real Estate Network

Then I attended an Active Rain Rain Camp session (in Washington, DC) and learned how to do better.  While it is true that a large number of internet searchers will type “Fayetteville NC real estate” (or any other generic search term, depending on the topic) into Google, many more will type in a more specific search term, like “3 bedroom home close to Fort Bragg.”  That phenomenon is called “The Long Tail,” and the theory is that about 80% of searchers will type a more specific term while searching.  The welcome benefit to me and my sellers is that those buyers tend to be more serious or further along in the home search process. The internet users who are “just looking”  are the ones who use the more generic (about 20%) search terms.

Since I first learned about “The Long Tail” and how I could choose keywords that people use when they search Google for information, I’ve written all of my marketing descriptions to reach buyers who are looking for more specific features; such as, “3 bedroom home close to Fort Bragg,” or “homes for sale in the Terry Sanford School District,” or “homes for sale in Country Club North” (or other popular neighborhoods) here in Fayetteville, NC. Since I’ve done that, the homes I have for sale always rank at, or near, the top of Google when searching by those more specific keywords.

Ah, but it is important to be consistent with the keywords.

Google search results for "3 bedroom home close to Fort Bragg"
"3 bedroom home close to Fort Bragg"

This morning, I did a search in Google for “3 bedroom homes close to Fort Bragg.” I wanted to see how my latest listing, a gorgeous 3 bedroom home that is close to Fort Bragg,  was performing in the search engines. My results showed that my listing was not on the first page! Although I had other homes for sale close to Fort Bragg that ranked on page 1, this newest listing did not. I had checked only yesterday, and it WAS on page 1, so what gives?

Google search results for "3 br home close to Fort Bragg"
"3 br home close to Fort Bragg"

Keyword consistency is what gives. I re-entered my search as “3 br home close to Fort Bragg” and the results showed my latest listing at the top of Google; in fact, 4 out of 10 results were homes I had for sale.

That little change, “3 bedroom” vs “3 br” made all the difference, and I learned a valuable lesson.

Choose your keywords deliberately and then use them consistently. It makes a difference, and it can be quite dramatic.

In this case, I’ve decided that internet searchers are more likely to use the term “3 bedroom home close to Fort Bragg” instead of the abbreviation “3 br” and so I’ve corrected my posts and descriptions to match the keyword.

It seems that such a little thing shouldn’t make such a big difference, but it does.

And the lesson was amplified to me when I entered “3 bedroom homeS close to Fort Bragg” and got a totally different result!

But that’s a post for another day!