3 Powerful Google Review Hacks for Realtors to Rank #1

How Real Estate Agents Can Use Google Reviews
Founder of InboundREM an inbound marketing lead generation company focused on SEO. Blogger. Real Estate SEO expert. Real Estate Lead Generation expert. Real estate online marketing fanatic. Podcaster. Occasional public speaker and frequent vlogger.

Table of Contents

You could probably guess that reviews are the biggest factor in determining the rank of a Google Business Profile. I’m sure you also understand how a wealth of social proof inspires prospects to get in touch.

Beyond these two foundational points, there’s so much to learn about what Google values in GBP reviews.

Lean in close because this article is about the biggest algorithmic aspect of the best hyperlocal marketing strategy for real estate agents in 2024.

Why GBP Is The #1 Hyperlocal Strategy

As a real estate marketing expert with decades of experience, I’ve reorganized a significant portion of my business to actualize the potential of optimized Google Business Profiles.

Everything about it is win-win-win. The only downside is that it can take time to build a strong set of optimized reviews.

But even that can be considered a benefit because your competition will have to do the same. If you start now and continually use my techniques, they won’t be able to catch up to you. It’s my educated guess that 80% of agents don’t have a profile at all, and 95% of agents don’t have well-optimized profiles.

Check out my other articles to learn everything you need to know about leveraging GBP into massive success.

Google Business Profile Official Guidelines

The official Google guidelines for setting up a GBP purposely avoid giving deep information on how to rank well. That’s standard practice to prevent people from gaming the system. Fortunately, I have a strong technical understanding of how to optimize your GBP.

Let’s start with what the Google guidelines share about the role of reviews.

GBP advice for reviews

The main two advices Google provides is making sure you respond to customer reviews and the general statement that high-quality, positive reviews help you rank better. My experience leads me to say these reviews make up about 35% of the total ranking factors for a Google Business Profile.

The fact that they specifically encourage businesses to respond to reviews is a clear indicator that it’s an essential practice for optimizing your GBP. We will get into responding perfectly to reviews later.

Google also has the following to say about the role of reviews.

How reviews affect a Google business profile

Again, they are pretty tight-lipped about what’s going on behind the scenes. However, they make one revealing statement. “Your position in web results is also a ranking factor, so SEO best practices apply.”

This last statement applies to the landing page you list on your profile. In most cases, this will be the homepage of your website. However, it’s also a good indicator that SEO best practices also apply to the content of your Google Business Profile.

This is not equally true across the board for all aspects of your profile. Google ignores keywords found across different parts of your profile, such as the business description, Questions and Answers, and Google posts.

The most important places Google checks for keywords are the business title and reviews. The clearest indication of this is how Google highlights reviews that include the keywords of the search query.

The Importance of Keywords in Google Reviews

Let’s check out exactly how and what kind of keywords Google pays attention to for real estate professionals, specifically in the reviews.

Here’s an example from the search “best real estate agents in Myrtle Beach”.

Local pack search results case study

As you can see, Google highlights a review and bolds the keyphrase “the best agents”. When I recreate the same search with the new search term “real estate agents in Myrtle beach”, the results are different since I have omitted the word “best”.

Google reviews for real estate agents in myrtle beach

Now Right Find Homes has dropped off the Local Pack Top 3. In fact, they fell all the way to Rank 9.

Or to put it differently, Right Find Homes jumps from Rank 9 all the way to Rank 2 for the modified search “best real estate agents in myrtle beach” because it has a single review including the word “best agent”.

But that’s nothing. Read on to find out how crazy things get.

“Best Realtor” Keywords in Google Reviews

Best realtor keywords

Real Estate AgentCity“Best Realtors in (City)” Rank“Realtors in City” RankRank DifferenceHighlighted Comment# of Reviews with “Best”# of Reviews with “Best Realtor”
Brook Gardner Real Estate BrokerBend, Oregon26+4“Brook is the BEST real estate agent!”163
The Eisenhauer TeamVancouver, WA319+16“It will be the best decision you’ve made!!!”91G
Lux Properties Hawaii – Michelle Wood RealtorHonolulu314+11“I cannot imagine a better realtor anywhere.”81
Jill Robinson REALTOR® Century 21 CircleSouth Bend, IN15+4Best realtor we’ve ever had!”101
George Maynes – Berkshire Hathaway HomeServicesPhiladelphia211+9“Not only is he a great realtor, but he has a wonderful personality.”172
Norm Pullen, REALTORRoanoke, VA211+9“Norm and Julie Ann are the best!”112
Brad Long Real Estate GroupLouisville, KY2300++300“She was the best of the best.106
Laura Kaan, The Platinum GroupColorado Springs2300++300“It was the best decision of our lives.”124
Faith Harmer, REALTOR | Faith & Team – Urban Nest RealtyLas Vegas3300++300“She’s by far the best realtor I’ve worked with.”183
Julie Liles – Best Coast RealtyJacksonville, FL1300++300“Julia is the best realtor/broker I’ve ever worked with.”54

There’s so much to unpack from this data, so let’s jump in.

1. “Best Realtor” Keywords Can Greatly Expand Your Geographical Range

The first thing I want to draw attention to is the four agents at the bottom: Brad, Laura, Faith, and Julie.

Their GBP addresses were too far outside the city center to rank in the Top 300 for the keyword “realtor in (City)”, but they managed to rank in the Local Pack Top 3 for the same exact area when the search became “best realtor in (City)”. To put it mildly, that’s insane.

These realtors jumped 300 ranks and appeared in the Local Pack for city centers located far away from their offices because they had 3-6 Google reviews with the phrase “best realtor” or “best real estate agent” in them.

  • Julie’s offices are located 20 miles away from the Jacksonville city center.
  • Brad’s offices are located 13 miles away from the Louisville city center.
  • Faith’s offices are located 12 miles away from the Las Vegas city center.
  • Laura’s offices are located 7 miles away from the Colorado Springs city center.
second grid

These are not cherry-picked examples. In fact, they are random. Yet 40% of the metropolitan areas I checked had agents (probably unknowingly) leveraging this ranking hack.

It’s important to note that Julie’s (Jacksonville) GBP business name contains the word “Best”. So that’s certainly giving an additional boost.

But it’s important to emphasize that physical proximity to the IP address (where the actual search was made) is one of the top three factors for determining ranking. The other two are the primary business category and keywords in the business name.

For the most part, the business names of these four agents are no better optimized than their competition. Plus they all have the same primary business category, leaving physical proximity as the most influential ranking factor.

Because I completed these searches without physically being in these cities, my IP address is irrelevant. Google uses the city center coordinates instead.

These four agents completely bypassed the physical proximity ranking factor and outranked 250-300+ agents with better locations, simply by having several instances of “best realtor” in their client reviews.

Again, that’s for the specific keyphrase “best realtors in (City)”. Still, it’s probably the most astonishing GBP hack I’ve ever encountered. It’s certainly the most powerful one I’ve personally discovered.

2. “Best Realtor” Keywords Can Cause Huge Rank Jumps

These case studies represent a HUGE hack for outranking literally every competing agent in your market.

Once you have 25-40+ reviews, a 4.8+ Star rating, and a decently optimized profile, you just need to collect at least 5 reviews with the phrase “best realtor” for a strong chance at jumping to the Local Pack Top 3 for that respective search.

The data also shows that agents and agencies with decent GBPs who received only 1-2 reviews with the phrase “best realtor” jumped from Page 2 and 3 to the Local Pack Top 3 for that same respective search.

That said, I want to make our conclusion here very clear: Exact match keywords in Google Reviews can cause huge rank jumps for keyword searches with language outside business category names.

These agents didn’t rank at all for the keywords “realtor in (City)”. This is a groundbreaking case study, but it has limits. It mostly applies to these four keywords:

  • Best (Insert City) realtors
  • Best (Insert City) real estate agents
  • Top (Insert City) realtors
  • Top (Insert City) real estate agents

As far as I can tell, you cannot replicate these insane results for individual real estate niches, like “luxury realtors” or “commercial real estate agents”. In these cases, Google relies heavily on GBP business categories, including secondary categories.

However, agents close to cities can use this hack to appear in the Local Pack Top 3 for hundreds to thousands of prospects each month. We break down the potential inbound leads and commissions further below.

3. Reviews are the Most Important GBP Section for Keywords

This case study is also a HUGE indicator of how much importance Google places on keywords found in Google Reviews when ranking GBPs. It’s far and away the most important part of your profile for keywords to appear.

The next most important part is the GBP business name. You can see this in Julie’s data set. She only has 22 reviews, yet the combination of her business name “Best Coast Realty” and the 4 exact match keyword reviews pushed her to the Local Pack from 20 miles away.

While we recommend naturally incorporating keywords into your business description, Questions and Answers, GBP Posts, etc., these areas will not be weighted nearly as much as the reviews.

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Potential Leads and Commissions from “Best Realtor” Searches

We’ve broken down the potential prospect pool sizes for different sized cities:

Profit comparison for Google Business Profile review hacks for different cities

CityPopulationGeo-Modified “Best Realtor” SearchesNon Geo-Modified “Best Realtor” SearchesTotal Monthly Searches
Los Angeles∼ 4 Million260013003900
San Diego∼ 1.5 Million16008002400
Seattle∼ 750,0007503251075
Honolulu∼ 325,000300150450

Here’s a screenshot demonstrating the “Top/Best” keywords totaling 1600 per month in San Diego.

number of google searches for best realtors in san diego

For the table, “Geo-Modified ‘Best Realtor’ Searches” refers to searches like “Best Los Angeles Realtor”. Non-Geo-Modified searches refer to searches like “Best realtor near me” for devices located in LA.

As you can see, every 100,000 people in your city creates loosely 100-150 monthly “Best Realtor” searches. This only includes local searches with phrases like “best real estate agent” or “top realtor”.

By harnessing this hack, a San Diego realtor could appear in the Local Pack Top 3 for 2400 searches per month, or 28,800 searches per year.

According to Web4Realty, 5% of Google Business Profile visits result in some kind of conversion, whether a website visit, phone call, etc. That equals to 1440 inbound leads per year.

If you convert a modest 1% of your inbound leads (or 0.05% of the annual searches) to clients, that’s about 15 commissions. Taking a modest commission estimate of $30,000 for San Diego, that equals $450,000 in total commissions from this single hack.

That’s basically the ideal scenario. But even a fraction of that success is still an enormous payoff for generating around 5 reviews with the phrase “best realtor”.

Limitations to Consider

Of course, this hack won’t pay off unless you have a decently strong GBP. You’ll want a minimum 4.8-Star rating and 25-40+ reviews for most cities.

While this hack can boost profiles well outside the city center, proximity still helps. Ideally your business address is located within 5 miles of the closest city center.

In addition, agents serving smaller cities should expect respectively smaller payoffs. For rural areas, agents may not see much difference at all.

Regardless, this case study is a powerful indicator that it’s worth investing in your GBP through our clever optimization hacks ASAP.

How InboundREM Can Help

Based on developments for hyperlocal search, the Google Local Pack, and Google Map Pack, we have pivoted our entire business to offer services dedicated to actualizing this potential for our clients. 

By combining our hyperlocal expertise with powerful tools like BrightLocal, we’ve hit the ground running with insane success. Here’s a little snippet of the powerful Before and After results we achieved for Bret Wallace in Fort Bend, Texas. 

Hyperlocal Search Results (July 2023)

BrightLocal data on the success of a real estate agent for hyperlocal keywords on Google Business Profile

That grid represents how Bret ranked for the keyword “Fort Bend Realtors” across his farm area. On average, he ranked in 14th place. 

Hyperlocal Search Results (October 2023)

Successful data of a realtor ranking better with Google Business Profile page

A short 3 months later, Bret dominates the Local Pack and Map Pack results for the same keyword. Basically every person located in his area who searches for a Fort Bend realtor will see his impressive and high-conversion GBP.

I’d love to chat with you about how these results are possible for your business. Schedule a free, no-strings-attached consultation below! 

Let's have a talk

Schedule a Meeting

Let’s chat about how an SEO-focused website that YOU OWN, Google Business Profile Campaigns, or Custom Email Campaigns can generate high-quality leads and exceptional long-term ROI. If my services aren’t the best move for you, I’ll gladly point you in the right direction

HyperLocal Keywords in GBP Reviews

Beyond the case study for “Best Realtor” keywords, I dove deeper to analyze how Google ranks hyperlocal real estate keywords in Google reviews. In this case, I used the names of various neighbohorhoods, suburbs, and communities.

For example, I started with a Google Maps search for “Mira Mesa realtors”. Mira Mesa is a popular neighborhood north of San Diego with about 80,000 residents and about 13 real estate agents/agencies located with its borders.

Per usual, about 15 real estate agents appeared in the initial Google Maps search results. The first two were real estate agents located within Mira Mesa. Next was Mike Iufer, whose offices are 10 miles outside of Mira Mesa. The next two agents were located within the community limits.

I’ll give you one guess what hyperlocal place name the top review for Mike Iufer included. That’s right:

“Mike is definitely on his A-game when it comes to finding your perfect home :). My sister is a realtor licensed in Maryland so I couldn’t use her so Mike was referred by a friend who just purchased his home in Mira Mesa.” – Giao Bui

As you can notice, the reviewer didn’t even buy a home in Mira Mesa. The algorithm doesn’t seem nuanced enough to make that differentiation, but the keyword’s presence still made a huge difference.

Beyond the 13 agencies within the borders, there are dozens of agents and agencies within a 10 mile radius of Mira Mesa with stronger GBPs. But a single keyword won the day for Mike.

Let’s take a deeper look at this trend across the US.

Case Study of Hyperlocal Keywords in GBP Reviews

Below is a list of 10 Google Maps and Organic Google hyperlocal searches. These are all neighborhoods, suburbs, communities, etc.

I checked all of the reviews on the Top 3 GBP results for language including the hyperlocal keyword.

I expected at least a few exceptions. But in every case, the Rank 1 agent had more reviews with the target hyperlocal keyword than the Rank 2 and Rank 3 agents.

Case Study of Hyperlocal Keywords in GBP Reviews-100
KeywordAgent/AgencyLocated in Target AreaGoogle Maps RankLocal Pack RankReviews with Place Name Keyword (Rank 1 Agent)Reviews with Keyword (Rank 2 Agent)Reviews with Keyword (Rank 3 Agent)
Mira Mesa RealtorMike Iufer – You First RealtyNo1N/A100
Palo Alto RealtorDeLeon RealtyYes11513
Beaverton Portland RealtorEleete Real EstateNo1N/A200
Custer RealtorLewis Realty/Keller Williams BHNo11200
Decatur RealtorKeller Williams Realty Metro AtlantaYes11302
Miramar RealtorMarlin RealtyYes11100
Gilbert RealtorNewman RealtyYes111233
Oak Park RealtorLaurie Christofano, RealtorYes1N/A101
Brookfield RealtorBuyer’s VantageYes1N/A200
Grandview RealtorAUI RealtyYes1N/A100

This case study took longer to find examples that were clear indicators that hyperlocal keywords in the reviews made a difference in ranking. That’s not because I was searching for examples to prove my point.

Actually, I was expecting that hyperlocal keywords might not make a big difference at all. I thought that for two reasons. First, hyperlocal searches have more precise coordinates than “best realtor” searches.

Second, hyperlocal keywords almost never appear in the highlighted Google reviews. Here’s the only exception I found after dozens of searches.

Example of local keywords in Google review highlighted text

Case Study Analysis for Hyperlocal Keywords in Reviews

I had 3 requirements before I considered the search a pure experiment that could prove or disprove the hypothesis that hyperlocal words in reviews are a major ranking factor.

  1. At least one of the Top 3 GBP results must include at least one instance of hyperlocal language in the reviews.
  2. The Rank 1 result must not have any hyperlocal language in the business name title.
  3. The Rank 1 result must have fewer reviews, a worse rating, and greater distance to the area’s center than the Rank 2 and Rank 3 competitors.

When I found this exact scenario, I checked the reviews for relevant hyperlocal keywords. Only in these cases was it possible to determine if hyperlocal language in reviews could be at least as strong a ranking factor as number of reviews, overall rating, and proximity to the area.

In every case listed on the table, at least one of the next ranking competitors had significantly higher ratings, more reviews, and closer proximity to the city center.

In some cases, both the Rank 2 and 3 competing agents had better ratings, more reviews, and closer proximity.

That was true even when the Rank 1 business address was outside the target area. It was also true when the Rank 1 result had only a single hyperlocal keyword in the reviews.

GBP Review Keywords vs. Primary Business Category

To me, the most amazing example from this entire case study was AUI Realty in Kansas City. AUI Realty has a relatively awful rating of 3.6 stars from 33 reviews. The next two results have perfect 5 star reviews from 81 and 22 reviews.

Just as wild is that the review with the keyword “Grandview” is a 1-star review. But most astonishing of all, AUI Realty is a property management company!

Full disclosure, the Rank 2 and Rank 3 agents are located farther away. But there are still other agencies within Grandview that have more and better rankings than AUI, not to mention the fact that they are actual real estate agencies.

Case Study Conclusions

In conclusion, this case study presents clear evidence that hyperlocal keywords in reviews play a dominant role in GBP ranking for hyperlocal searches.

The case study actually demonstrates that it can be the most important factor. However, I’m going to refrain from saying that much because the sample size isn’t large.

You may be asking, “But how many people actually search for realtors in a particular neighborhood?” And that would be a great objection.

I’m not suggesting you should lightly coach reviews to include hyperlocal language in order to capture search queries like “Miramar realtors”. Because you’re right, in most cases there will be very few searches to capture.

This case study still demonstrates strong evidence that when people physically located in specific neighborhoods or suburbs search for “realtors near me” or “realtors in (Local City Name)”, Google will boost Google Business Profiles that include that local place name in the reviews.

In addition, the example of AUI Realty shows that hyperlocal keywords in reviews can even override the main business category in rare cases. That further suggests their ranking power.

Finally, the biggest conclusion I discovered is something I haven’t covered at all. In order to find these 10 examples with a single instance of hyperlocal language in the reviews, I had to do hundreds of searches.

In other words, NOBODY is using this hack. If you’re reading this, you’ve got a rare opportunity to leverage powerful knowledge that none of your competitors know about.

You also have the opportunity to discuss this with me personally by scheduling a consultation below! I’d love to chat about your unique situation.

If the InboundREM Hyperlocal Campaign is a good match for your needs, great! If not, I’ll still give you my time for free to discuss how to boost your business to the next level.

Let's have a talk

Schedule a Meeting

Let’s chat about how an SEO-focused website that YOU OWN, Google Business Profile Campaigns, or Custom Email Campaigns can generate high-quality leads and exceptional long-term ROI. If my services aren’t the best move for you, I’ll gladly point you in the right direction

What Makes for a Perfect Google Review?

Reviews must be high-quality in two ways. First, they should be optimized to help you rank better. Second, they can be effective social proof that encourages outreach from prospects.

Reviews as Ranking Factors

According to a 2021 Whitespark report, reviews can influence rankings on all four places you want to rank:

  • Google Local Pack
  • Local Finder
  • Google Maps Results
  • Organic Search Rankings

If you need a reminder, here are what these individual pages refer to:

first grid

The Local Pack (Bottom Left) comes at the top of the Organic Search (Top Right) results when someone makes a standard Google search. The Local Finder (Bottom Left) appears when someone clicks “More Businesses” on the Local Pack. Finally, Google Maps (Top Right) is when someone searches directly from the Google Maps search bar on the app or website.

Now let’s talk about the ingredients to a SEO-friendly review.

Elements of SEO-Friendly GBP Reviews

1. Ideal Length

There’s really no maximum length, but you should encourage reviews of at least 100 words.

In fact, I found that GBPs that outranked competitors with an equal rating and double the amount of reviews often had several 200+ word reviews.

First, this length provides plenty of opportunity for keyword-rich reviews. Second, long reviews are much more likely to remain at the top of the reviews for significantly more time. That results in better conversion rates and more inbound leads.

2. Keyword-Rich Reviews

As discussed in the case study, some of the most powerful keywords include some version of these four options:

  • Best realtor
  • Best real estate agents
  • Top realtors
  • Top real estate agents