Technology

Is Google about to bury your real estate website?

Find out how to test and fix your site

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Realtors spend millions of dollars every year for their websites and online marketing. On April 21, 2015, Google will begin using “mobile friendliness” as part of its algorithm for determining search results. If your website is not mobile-friendly, you need to take immediate steps to make it so now.

According to a Google blog post on Feb. 26, 2015, “Starting April 21 (2015), we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high-quality search results that are optimized for their devices.”

Although it’s still unclear about exactly what Google will do, some experts have speculated that Google might not display sites that aren’t mobile-friendly in its mobile search results.

Does your website make the grade?

If you want to know if your site will be hit by the changes at Google, there’s one simple way to find out. Take Google’s “Mobile-Friendly Test.”

I tested one of our sites that I knew was not mobile-friendly. The results came back with the following comments:

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  • Text too small to read.
  • Mobile viewport not set.
  • Links too close together.
  • Content wider than screen.

What’s powerful about the Mobile-Friendly Test is that it tells you what parts of your site passed the test as well as where it failed. To obtain this information, click on the “Page Speed Insights” tab below the test results.

The page that appears allows you to evaluate both your mobile and desktop site views. Factors that Google evaluates include the legibility of your fonts; plug-ins; how you use JavaScript; image optimization; whether compressions are enabled; landing page redirects; server response time; viewport configuration; and prioritization of the visible content.

If you’re like most agents, this is way too overwhelming. If your current site failed the test, here are some simple solutions for fixing the problem.

Let the pros do it for you

The simplest way to make sure you have a mobile-friendly site is to sign up with one of the companies that specialize in creating sites for real estate professionals. Choices include Dakno, Placester, Point2, Virtual Results Agents Plus and Zillow Premier sites.

In selecting a site, be sure to choose one that allows you to customize it with your own pictures and look. Moreover, if the company provides a mobile app, this is a huge benefit for both you and your clients.

Create your own site using a WordPress template

If you are already blogging or have a WordPress website, usually it’s simple to shift it over to being mobile-friendly. We’re in the process of upgrading our website and are using one of the themes from StudioPress.com. The challenge with this approach is that you will have to create most of the content and select the photos or hire someone to do this for you.

In addition to shifting to a mobile-friendly platform, here are some additional guidelines to help your site rank more highly and be more appealing.

1. More pictures, fewer words

Because text size is an issue on mobile platforms, use pictures with a minimum number of words to tell your story. For example, instead of saying “home search,” “properties for sale” or “contact us,” reduce those fields to the following: “find,” “list” and “contact.”

2. Follow “the rule of three”

One of the principles you will see at virtually any store that sells digital devices is the “the rule of three.” Although some women might want to see every dress in the store, men usually will not purchase if there are too many choices. Consequently, most retailers provide their customers with three choices. Two excellent examples of the use of the rule of three are the Santidrian site and Glendale and Beyond.

Some things to note about the Santidrian site include its use of the simple directions, “find,” “list” and “contact.” Also, note how the second tier of its home page links also follow the rule of three. Moreover, the photos all illustrate the lifestyle in this luxury community.

Kendyl Young’s site, Glendale and Beyond, also utilizes the rule of three. Her site illustrates the Glendale lifestyle and is on trend with its color palette of orange, turquoise and green.

3. Voice search

An important part of mobile is voice search. When people search using voice tools, such as Siri, they do so by asking a question. This type of optimization is quite different than using keywords. For example, “What is the price on 202 Elm Street, Austin, Texas?” or “What properties are for sale in 78759 for $250,000 to $300,000?”

Two important points to note here. First, the old wisdom was to list a home at $249,000 rather than $250,000. The new wisdom is to list it based on the parameters that most people use to search using voice — either $225,000-$250,000 or $250,000-$300,000.

Second, because Google can now translate the audio from your videos into searchable text, be sure to include a voice track on your videos, not just music. The research from Oodle, the company that powers many of the major real estate searches, shows that people search by three things — city, street and ZIP code. Be sure to include this information, as well as the state, your name and your contact information, so Google can read it both visually and from the audio track.

Like it or not, if you want clients to find you on the Web, make the move to mobile now. Best of all, you’ll be leaving your competitors who failed to upgrade wondering why you’re getting the client leads that they used to get in the past.

Bernice Ross, CEO of RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, author and trainer with over 1,000 published articles and two best-selling real estate books. Discover why leading Realtor associations and companies have chosen Bernice’s new and experienced real estate sales training for their agents at www.RealEstateCoach.com/AgentTraining and www.RealEstateCoach.com/newagent.

Email Bernice Ross.