How a Local Real Estate Group got a #1 Google Ranking in 2 Months

From almost nothing to ranking in 2 months

How long does it take to get a #1 ranking on Google for a site with minimal backlinks and almost no organic traffic?

In the case of Gateway Realty Group, we got our first top-ranking result 2 months after starting an SEO campaign.

We started doubling down on written content in February 2023. And in April, the site ranked #1 for the keyword “St. Louis Suburbs.”

This case study is a detailed look at what the last 2 months have looked like to get the website where it is now.

Here’s what this case study covers

Implementing SEO on an existing IDX website

I’ve been a partner of Gateway Realty group for 2 and a half years now, and we’ve been crushing it with YouTube content.

The YouTube videos have brought in over $30 million worth of leads.

But what about Google traffic? Well, we didn’t have much.

Prior to focusing on SEO, the website had been up for about 3 years, but its purpose wasn’t to generate business.

The site was averaging 30-40 visits per month, and over half of those visits were team members going to the site to share a link with clients. The other half was typically clients who wanted to look up the team. 

The website was mostly used to show listings, introduce each team member with a bio, and show client testimonials.

The site was more for social proof that they are a professional group for current and future clients.

How we got the first #1 ranking

On February 21 2023, we shifted gears and wanted to generate inbound business from the website just like we did with YouTube.

And on April 26 2023, we got the first #1 ranking on Google.

Ranking #1 position on google for St. Louis suburbs

There had been 3 buyer leads come through the website from February to April prior to this ranking, so we knew the content was working. But the new ranking was even more proof the content was working. 

SEO takes a while, so it’s always a fair question to ask: how long exactly? 

In this case, it took just over 2 months to get the first #1 ranking. 

And if you’re wondering what effect a #1 ranking had on traffic? In this case, about a 4x increase

And when it comes to backlinks, the website had some, but not many. They were mostly automatic links from MLS sites and other real estate brokerages that publish information on real estate agents and teams. 

So this #1 ranking came prior to any of our backlink outreach. 

Now I know those high DR sites probably contributed to our ranking quickly, but we only had a DR of 1.7 so we weren’t crushing it with backlinks quite yet. 

TheSTLrealtors domain rating

Initial focus of content efforts

In order to get the #1 ranking, we focused on 2 content strategies before trying to get backlinks:

1. Improve existing content: 

  • Add relevant keywords on existing pages
  • Insert relevant internal and external links to neighborhood pages
  • Compressed images and eliminated fancy animations on bulky pages to load faster

2. Add brand new content:

  • Created over a dozen new neighborhood pages for areas the team serves
  • Published 18 blog posts with original photos, maps, and graphics

How we used original graphics:

Example of original content and infographic on Cottleville, Missouri

Here’s an example of an original illustration we created. We later used this article for backlink outreach and got it shared all over Facebook and social media.  We reached out to every local business mentioned on the map and sent it directly to the City of Cottleville (and they put it on their Facebook page) 

How we used original photos:

Example article of original photos on Ladue, Missouri

 

We had high-quality images and videos taken of the areas we talked about. Since a lot of these suburbs already had limited photos available on Google, we started showing up in Google Images by making sure each photo had alt text and a description using the town name and explaining exactly where and what the photo shows.  

How to do Keyword Research for Real Estate SEO

The great thing about our keyword research process is that almost all of it revolved around the names of towns and neighborhoods.  

Here are the main keywords most blog posts targeted for different suburbs:

  • Living in [x]
  • Moving to [x]
  • Best neighborhoods in [x]
  • Things to do in [x]

Competitor research

For almost all of these keywords, the top ranking sites were usually:

  • The official city website
  • Wikipedia
  • Moving companies
  • Real estate websites like Niche, Livability, Trulia, Zillow
  • Travel sites like Expedia, Mapquest, and TripAdvisor

Most of the results for “Living in [X]” and “Moving to [X]” were from large sites that covered the entire U.S. The content they put out for the suburbs we wanted to target was very fluffy, generic, and surface level information.

It was also a lot of statistics like median income, crime rates, and school ratings. But not very much info on what the area is like in terms that real people would actually use in conversation.

And anytime there was a ranking from a city website or Wikipedia, the content was mostly facts about the town and links to resources and public departments.

So here’s where we set out to create better content. 

Writing differentiated content for real estate 

For most of the ranking articles, it looked like you could replace the name of the town with any other area and it would say the same thing. 

This was the #1 ranking site for “Living in Chesterfield, MO.” Notice how they’re saying so much yet so little?

So we decided to do the opposite. In order to rank for the term “suburbs in St. Louis,” we created a long-form ultimate guide discussing 15 of the best suburbs in-depth using real words. 

We pulled this list from a public Niche to avoid any potential accusations of steering.

We explained what each one is like, why it’s unique, and what the people are like. We wrote this piece like we were talking to a good friend who wanted the real scoop on the good and bad of each area.

A little humor. No BS. And no fluff.

We wanted to write so that a reader would actually know what we’re talking about instead of just listing out the same statistics everyone else used.

Keeping SEO content organized

At the time of getting this #1 ranking, we had about 31 pages that we created from scratch with a decent amount of written content and images. These were either neighborhood landing pages or blog posts written in-depth about a certain area, development, or list of areas.

Here’s an example of one way we organized content to stay on top of keywords, content status, and indexing. 

Having a sheet like this for content also makes it very easy to add internal links on new blog posts and revisit old posts to add internal links.

Now don’t get me wrong, with one #1 ranking and 31 published pages, we’re just getting started!

We’re very early in the SEO process with Gateway, but I wanted to write a little bit about what we’ve done and give a realistic idea of what progress looks like at the 2-month mark with real estate SEO.