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US Real Estate SEO Ranking Report

Which real estate website will give you the most traffic to your listing? That depends on how good their SEO is. This report does not purport to tell you which company gives you a better service or value for money. There are thousands of localities not tested below – use a search engine and make up your own mind. All this report tries to convey is that some websites consistently rank in the top 10 and many more don’t.

The US real estate local search landscape is different from the Internet Yellow Pages (IYP) scene. Dedicated real estate classifieds sites such as Trulia and Zillow pop up in the search results, pushing down the static IYP entries from Yellowpages.com. They compete with affiliate marketer sites that are nipping at their heels.

I studied the performance of 26 nationwide real estate sites, including a small number of other sites that showed up in the SERPs. I was looking to find:

  • Which cities are served well by the big real estate portals?
  • Which search engine delivers high ranking real estate portals to a given city?
  • Which portal delivers the highest ranks?
  • Does the search term alter the ranks significantly?
  • How much SEO appears to have been done?


I took the top 274 cities in the US with a population of 100,000 or more. All searches were conducted on Google.com and Bing.com from Australia, using the abbreviated state in the search term to eliminate any confusion for a similarly named locality elsewhere in the world. Sample searches were conducted using a proxy server in Chicago and the rankings were nearly identical. Yahoo search was not used.

The search terms were (one example):

  • Akron OH homes for sale
  • Akron OH real estate
  • Akron OH homes for rent


General classifieds sites such as Craigslist and Oodle pop up now and then but they are not strong performers for top-10 rankings for all three keyword sets.

Every locality has its local contenders. Some are individual real estate agents; some are local aggregators. In the larger metros the local search sites had a strong presence.

Some sites appear to be well-known but don’t do well in the SERPs. Roost.com has been featured in major publications, which is just as well, because it was rarely seen on page 1 in this test. Remax.com is another well-known brand, but is not in the top rankings.

The search term also plays a big part when trying to find the best directory for real estate. To make it more interesting, Bing and Google also favour different directories (click the image below to enlarge).

real estate table

When it comes to the most top-10 rankings on Bing, the best performer is Homes.com for all three keywords. We can’t compare the “rentals” keywords with the “homes for sale” kind, because different websites enter the mix.

Real Estate Rankings (Google)

  1. RealEstate.Yahoo.com
  2. Homes.com
  3. Realtor.com
  4. Trulia.com
  5. Zillow.com

It’s not possible to rank 6 – 10 because the two main keyword sets have different sites coming up. Only RealEstate.com and HomeGain.com are common to both but at different ranks.

Real Estate Rankings (Bing)

  1. Homes.com
  2. Trulia.com
  3. Realtor.com
  4. Yahoo.com
  5. HomeFinder.com
  6. Zillow.com
  7. RealEstate.com
  8. HomesByOwner.com
  9. HomeGain.com

All the above ranked in the top-10 for both phrases in the 274-city test but two that appeared for only one keyword were AmericanHomeGuides.com and Rentals.com.

Rentals Rankings (Google)

  1. Rentals.com
  2. Craigslist.com
  3. Homes.com
  4. House.info
  5. RealEstate.Yahoo.com
  6. Oodle.com
  7. Trulia.com
  8. Realtor.com
  9. NationalRelocation.com
  10. Zillow.com

Since I only tested one keyword here, all 10 made the grade.

Rentals Rankings (Bing)

  1. Homes.com
  2. Rentals.com
  3. Craigslist.com
  4. NationalRelocation.com
  5. House.info
  6. Olx.com
  7. RealEstate.Yahoo.com
  8. Realtor.com
  9. Oodle.com
  10. Trulia.com


(The rest of this 23-page report can be downloaded as a PDF file around 365 kB here. No registration is required.)

23-page full report of US real estate online marketplaces

Click image to download

<Locality> Homes For Sale <Locality> Real Estate <Locality> Homes For Rent
Bing Google Bing Google Bing Google
Homes.com 295 Yahoo 378 Homes.com 268 Yahoo 298 Homes.com 367 Rentals.com 303
Trulia.com 207 Homes.com 291 Realtor.com 149 Homes.com 226 Rentals.com 214 Craigslist 177
Realtor.com 147 Realtor.com 270 Yahoo 128 Realtor.com 202 Craigslist 113 Homes.com 165
Homefinder.com 116 Trulia.com 229 Trulia 116 Trulia 189 NationalRelocation.com 30 House.info 152
Zillow.com 86 Zillow.com 226 RealEstate.com 47 Zillow 173 House.info 19 Yahoo 103
Yahoo 57 Homefinder.com 142 Homefinder.com 35 RealEstate.com 161 Olx.com 7 Oodle.com 100
RealEstate.com 56 Homegain.com 122 Rentals.com 18 House.info 53 Yahoo 5 Trulia.com 31
HomesByOwner.com 32 HomesByOwner.com 79 Zillow 16 Homegain 31 Realtor.com 5 Realtor.com 29
American Home Guides 18 DirectHomes.com 63 HomesByOwner.com 12 AOL 10 Oodle.com 2 NationalRelocation.com 12
Homegain.com 16 RealEstate.com 53 Homegain 11 Roost.com 10 Trulia.com 1 Zillow.com 4

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Andy @ FirstFound 24 May 2010, 7:09 pm

    Excellent post, and great methodology.

    I might have to repeat your experiment in the UK. Thanks.

  • John - Vancouver WA Homes 10 June 2010, 2:43 am

    Thanks for the nicely done report. In my local market of Vancouver WA, USA there is a strong battle for the top ranking spots and your report is quite consistent with what I’ve seen here.

  • John Jones 15 June 2010, 5:08 am


    Excellent research! I work with Realtors every day so this report is a nice step away from the general SEO conversations I see every day.

    I have two questions for you if you don’t mind taking a moment to answer. The first got me hung up for a moment and something I respectfully disagree slightly with, the second question is one of curiosity.

    #1. In your report you wrote: “Again, almost all 274 localities had a major real estate portal showing in the top 10 for both search engines. But this keyphrase is not as visible as ” homes for sale”.” This is for ” real estate”.

    What keyword tool / metrics are you using to make the statement of homes for sale being more visible than real estate? I’ve been doing this for five years now and the only two instances that I’ve found far out weighing ‘real estate’ is ‘homes’ and ‘foreclosures’.

    #2. Loved the HTML screenshot of Zillow and Trulia. What are you using that highlights what’s missing in the hierarchy?

    Thanks for the amazing amount of time you’ve put into reviewing this particular industry!

    – John

    • Ash 15 June 2010, 8:19 am

      Thanks for the detailed comment, John. I am only looking at your quote and not the whole post as I type this, but I was trying to say that the SERPs showed more results from these portals (as opposed to results from other kinds of sites). These terms included the locality, e.g. let’s take a thriving metropolis Peoria, IL.

      Compare real estate peoria il and homes for sale peoria il. The former brings up a lot of local agent sites at the top relative to the other. When I looked at 274 of these phrases, one term was more favourable than the other for the large portals while the other favoured the local offices.

      I use Firefox for most SEO work and it lets me add Chris Pederick’s Developer Toolbar add-on. It has many great tools within including the one called View Document Outline.

  • Julie Pickens-Livermore 14 July 2010, 2:25 pm

    I really enjoyed this article and found it to be very informative as I am trying to increase traffic to my websites. I too use most of the sites mentioned. Thank you!