SEO Search Intent Research: Housing Industry


  • 8 search terms tested across every town and city in the uk
  • Housing development company almost never appear in search results when the word ‘new’ isn’t used
  • ‘Houses for sale’ is the most popular terminology used
  • Having a Google My Business listing for housing developers is critical
  • Rightmove, Zoopla, Onthemarket and Primelocation together take up 39% of all organic search results

At Space & Time we are constantly trying to understand the intricacies of how search results appear in the unpaid for, organic listings. There are many factors at play, but a key one is often ‘search intent’. This can vary significantly even in what is presumed to be a small niche e.g. ‘what is a new build home?’ will return very different results to ‘buy a new build home’. From our depth of knowledge in this industry and examining the results regularly we were able to detect a further trend with housing development companies underperforming for search terms that don’t include the word ‘new’. We therefore decided to do some further digging.

What does the study involve?

Our research used the tool Ahrefs, which takes Google’s estimated search volumes alongside a snapshot of the search results at a time. The study reviewed all 1,074 towns and cities in the UK across 8 different search terms. This would mean, for example ‘Houses for sale Glasgow’. The searches used were:

  • Houses for sale
  • Homes for sale
  • New homes for sale
  • New homes in
  • New builds in
  • Houses in
  • Homes in
  • Property in

In total this gave 8,592 different search results with the top 10 of each being examined to understand the trends. The websites were then grouped by whether they were either:

  • Estate agents
  • Search portals
  • Housing developers
  • News sites
  • Affordable house schemes e.g. sites focused around Shared Ownership or other schemes
  • Government sites
  • Student housing
  • Residential care
  • Other/unclassified
  • Featured results (more details on this later)

Housing developers need to use the word ‘new’ in their content

The first thing that stands out is the difference in the sites appearing when using the word ‘new’ in a search term. When looking at ‘houses for sale’, ‘houses in’ and ‘homes for sale’ housing developers appear in under 1% of all the results shown. However, when looking at ‘new homes in’, ‘new built in’ and ‘new homes for sale’, these terms most commonly show housing developers in fact they are more common than the estate agents and search portals put together.


Search intent graph


What does this mean for a housing developer?

The take away here is it doesn’t matter whether a site has a really strong SEO presence, it is very unlikely to appear for terms like ‘houses for sale’ if a site is a housing developer. Therefore the chosen use of keywords in areas such as meta titles and main headers of pages should be dictated by the search intent rather than purely the search volume.

The biggest cities don’t always have the highest search volume

Another finding from looking across every town and city is that those cities with the highest population e.g. London, Manchester and Birmingham don’t have the highest search volume.  The most commonly used terminology consistently was ‘houses for sale’ with +18 million searches a month!

Housing related terms monthly SEO searches

When looking into this search term, the most commonly searched areas aren’t the most populated (Glasgow being the exception as it has the 5th biggest population in the UK).

Search term Monthly search volume
houses for sale swansea 17,000
houses for sale glasgow 15,000
houses for sale leicester 15,000
houses for sale carlisle 13,000

Though it is impossible to get into the mind of each user, a possible reason for this is that the larger towns certainly like Manchester and London will mean people will search more precisely e.g. ‘houses for sale in Peckham’ or ‘houses for sale South Manchester’.  Whereas smaller cities, the individuals searching are happy to live anywhere within the city.

What does this mean for a housing developer?

Much like considering the search term, it is also important to consider the area.  If a development is being built in South Manchester for example, then make this clear in the content rather than trying to broadly target the entire area.  This will also potentially give better converting queries.

Also useful are more broadly targeted regional pages e.g. ‘Manchester developments’.  This would show all nearby developments in the Manchester area, and be more likely to appear for these broader terms.

Local packs are being shown regularly for housing developers

It is also important to consider what kind of ‘featured results’ appear in search.  A featured result is any type of search result on Google (excluding paid results) that are not simply the link and a description, examples include:

Local pack

A featured result that shows a list of locations and a map such as below

Local Pack Google Maps Housing Industry



People also ask

A featured result that shows a list of questions that can be expanded upon as shown below:

People also ask new build houses

There are many different types of these results in Google now and they have full guidance and examples here: Google Search Gallery


When looking at the use of these features across the all 8,592 results the large difference is the prevalence of the ‘local pack’ for the terms ‘New builds in’ and ‘New homes in’.

Search features housing industry SEO


‘Homes for sale’ and ‘New homes for sale’ did not produce any featured results

The reason the local pack usually only appears for these types of searches is because a housing development is a set location, within which there is usually an office that can take calls, receive customers etc.  This means a Google Business Profile (formally Google My Business) listing can be created.  The value of these listings is they allow users to easily navigate, call and find more information about a development.

Comparatively, when estate agents sell houses, they may still have physical locations, but when searching for houses for sale, the user does not want to see the office, but instead houses they have that are available in the area, this is even more relevant for search portals, as showing Zoopla’s head office for example wouldn’t be useful for a user at all.

What does this mean for a housing developer?

The main takeaway here is that a Google Business Profile listing is essential for housing developers.  It should be created as a development starts to get marketed via other channels, even if the site isn’t live yet, so long as there is a page on the website saying ‘coming soon’.  They should also be SEO optimised, considering all the options available as even on these local pack listings, there is competition for the top 3 places (usually only 3 results are shown directly on Google).

A small proportion of search portals dominate the market

A final takeaway from this data is in how a very small proportion of search portals are dominating the market across all areas.  Specifically:

  • Rightmove
  • Zoopla
  • Onthemarket
  • Primelocation
  • Place Buzz


Search Portals in SEO


In Rightmove coming up on 11% of the search results it means that they are appear, on average, more than once on every single search term tested!

These sites are performing particularly well in this industry as they can appear for both new build related searches and other housing searches, essentially allowing them to cover the entire market.

What does this mean for housing developers?

While there are many factors to consider when deciding whether or not to join a search portal site that are outside the realms of SEO.  However, when considering potential referral traffic via organic search, the data shows this is worthwhile.


The research shows that relying on keyword volume alone is not enough for SEO to truly benefit, a keyword strategy should seriously consider search intent.  Furthermore, it shows the value of Google Business Profile’s for housing developers.

For access to the full dataset please contact [email protected].