Google recently made search ranking algorithm changes that will influence how easily potential buyers and sellers can find you online. Whether you are a brokerage or an agent who markets your real estate business online, staying on top these changes may require that you adjust your Web marketing strategy.
For the last two years I have been reluctant to touch our home page content, since RealEstateCoach.com was normally coming up in the No. 1 or No. 2 position on the three major search engines (Google, Bing and Yahoo) for our primary search term: "real estate coaching."
Although we still hold the No. 1 position on Bing and Yahoo for this term, we have dropped to the bottom of the second page on Google. Needless to say, this is not an acceptable situation from my perspective, so I set out to uncover what strategies can be used to improve one’s Web placement regardless of whether you are a broker or an individual agent.
1. Did Penguin eat your Google ranking?
Google says it designed its new Penguin search ranking algorithm to combat Web spammers. It specifically targets sites that have large numbers of links that are not relevant to the users’ searches. If you have been working with a Web company that uses "link farms" or "reciprocal links," Google’s Penguin will send your search engine ranking plummeting.
Another issue is what is known as "keyword packing." This means using the same term repeatedly on the site to make it look more relevant. For example, how many times can you pack the term "real estate" and the name of your city on your home page or in an article?
The bottom line here is that Google wants relevant Web content. As an agent, this means having a very specific focus by neighborhood or property type.
For example, if you are the Scottsdale, Ariz., golf property expert, your website should include information on the various golf course homes in Scottsdale, facts about the local lifestyle, and, most importantly, video.
Google appears to rank video, especially video testimonials, higher than just about anything else. Get in the habit of shooting quick 60-second videos with your smartphone at least two or three times per week and posting them online.
2. Google’s "Knowledge Graph"
Erik Goldhar has a great post explaining Google’s new strategy using its "Knowledge Graph" as well as what it means for real estate websites. In short, the Knowledge Graph is designed to give people searching Google the information they want on the Google search page without having to click through to another website.
This could have a profound effect on listing syndication, especially for those who promote "buyer’s agents" next to another agent’s listing. Google will evaluate who has the listing and will probably return the best match for the search: the listing agent.
Companies that take information from other sites and use it on their own sites are known as "scrapers." Goldhar asks a compelling question about Google: "Did all the scrapers just get scraped?"
In other words, unless you have a wealth of compelling content about the listing that gives Web visitors a reason to click through to your site, they will be able to get all the information they need from Google. To make your listings more likely to be clicked upon, provide plenty of photos, videos, as well as commentary about the lifestyle in the area.
3. Social media presence is now part of the mix
If you haven’t done so recently, search your name, the words "real estate" and the area where you work. If you have a Facebook, LinkedIn and/or Twitter account, Google is now returning those links along with your name. If you haven’t done so already, setting up a profile on these sites is probably a smart move. Even better yet, set up a separate business page on Facebook for the specific subdivisions/markets where you work.
4. Like it or not, it’s time to get on Google Plus
If you’re serious about maintaining a high placement on Google, it may be time to add Google Plus to your social media strategy. The Google search engine is now using social media with preference, of course, for its social media site, Google Plus.
5. But will it work?
Around March 1, I began a different strategy in terms of what I linked to in my blog posts. In the past, I linked to articles in our article archive on our website or to our radio shows on RealEstateCoachRadio.com. I also linked the posts from my Typepad blog back to our main website as well. As the saying goes, "If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it."
I failed to follow that advice and I began linking to the demo for our new training program that resides on a different website. Two months of that strategy may have dropped my Web ranking considerably. Fortunately, our new site will launch soon and it will be better optimized to fit the new Google requirements.
So here’s the bottom line: Focus your online marketing in a very narrow market niche, and when you do your posts, use as many pictures and video as possible. Link that information across your Facebook business page, Twitter and Google Plus. Otherwise, Penguin may eat your Google ranking.