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Why real estate agents rarely rank highly in search engine results

As the listing syndication debate remains contentious, brokers are battling for consumer eyeballs. A new study reveals that it is a major challenge for real estate agents to be found in search engine results.

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listing syndication

listing syndication

Realtors and search engine results

The long running real estate listing syndication debate has been heated and resulted in brokers across America evaluating the final destination(s) for their company’s listings. It has been contentious for many reasons, but the underlying reason the industry remains in upheaval is search engine rankings, leaving real estate professionals to analyze whether syndicators are helpful or hurtful when it comes to connecting with consumers.

After reviewing results, brokers are coming to different conclusions to this same question, which is why Real Geeks IDX Provider studied the current state of real estate SERPS (search engine result pages) to examine how a real estate professional’s listing is showing up in search engines and why so that brokers can make more informed decisions.

In the first part of Real Geeks’ series on the topic, they point out that when consumers search for terms like “Tampa Real Estate,” it is no longer likely that an individual agent or even brokerage is at the top of the search engine results in the first, second, or third page, rather the results are dominated by large syndicators or national brands.

This is the very reason that some brokers have opted out of syndicating, as they don’t seek to help syndicators to outrank them individually, while others continue to syndicate as they continue to garner most of their business through the large sites.

Current state of real estate SERPS

When Real Geeks did a search with “[city] real estate” (while logged out of Google, of course) with the top 50 metro areas by population, they logged the first three pages of Google results. Of the 1691 individuals collected from the first three pages of the top 50 metros, 30 percent of page one listings were local sites, 8.0 percent of which were Google Plus pages.

Fully 58 percent of page one listings were traditional organic pages rather than paid listings or ads, 47 percent of which were root pages (homepages), and 53 percent of which were interior pages (not homepages). Further, 5.0 percent of all page one results were for news organizations.

Real Geeks offers that this is a challenge for individual real estate professionals, because when you consider the number of independent agents in a given city, of the three local listings on page one (results that are not syndicators, big brands, or news), the odds are stacked against a single agent making the cut to be one of those three on page one.

Graphic depicting full study results:
real estate SERPs

The American Genius is news, insights, tools, and inspiration for business owners and professionals. AG condenses information on technology, business, social media, startups, economics and more, so you don’t have to.

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29 Comments

29 Comments

  1. Joe Loomer

    December 6, 2012 at 9:07 am

    Looking forward to more in this series.  Our own success has been more closely linked to focusing on the long tail than attacking the #1 keywards.
     
    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

    • 904living

      December 8, 2012 at 2:22 pm

      @Joe Loomer I need some tips from you…  I do okay in the city/area level searches but would like to be generating more organic traffic from neighborhood and street address searches…

      • Joe Loomer

        December 10, 2012 at 10:36 am

        @904living  @Joe Loomer drop me a line at jloomer@kw.com and I’ll send you some info!  Thanks! 
         
        Navy Chief, Navy Pride

        • thejorygroup

          December 12, 2012 at 12:39 pm

          @Joe Loomer  Joe, would you mind sharing your info ,re: organic traffic?  
          Thanks in advance…..Jory Blake, jory@joryblake.com

  2. MattThomson

    December 6, 2012 at 10:32 am

    Will you be continuing their series or should we be following their page from here out?

  3. MTrewe

    December 6, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    We’ll be continuing the series @MattThomson . As for visiting them, go for it 🙂

  4. AgentGenius

    December 6, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    Real Geeks did a great job 🙂

  5. drewmeyers

    December 6, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    I really don’t believe syndication has much at all to do with brokers/agents getting outranked.

    • bobwilson

      December 6, 2012 at 3:51 pm

      @drewmeyers I dont think anyone said that.

    • maloney75

      December 7, 2012 at 10:27 am

      @drewmeyers Maybe not for the City real estate terms but it DEFINITELY does for all the long tail search results.

    • bdmanson

      December 7, 2012 at 1:38 pm

      @drewmeyers One of the ranking factors is content. The big portals are using the brokers/agents listings as a big part of their content. The brokers/agents have empowered them by letting them use their (content) listings plus are unknowingly building their authority to help them outrank for their own content.. The brokers that are pulling out are probably sick of empowering the portals so they can sell them traffic back to their sites… That’s something to think about..
       
      The next series will cover in more detail how the brokers/agents are helping the portals like Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com outrank them… Stay tuned 🙂

  6. maloney75

    December 7, 2012 at 10:30 am

    @drewmeyers  Syndication may not affect brokers/agents being outranked for the [city] real estate terms but it definitely affects the serps for all the long tail stuff.

  7. TobyBarnett

    December 7, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    I bet many have fallen to the syndicator’s suggestion of “let me help you ad our badge to your website” that conveniently includes a link back to the “city real estate” page of the syndicator. Also, the big money in which large syndicators have over the local broker is largely unrivaled. Individual brokers don’t have an in-house SEO department or the skill level to implement current and emerging SEO techniques. Why? Most brokers are doing what they know; selling homes.

    • drewmeyers

      December 7, 2012 at 3:53 pm

      @TobyBarnett You mean most agents are selling homes. Brokers are recruiting agents 😉

      • TobyBarnett

        December 7, 2012 at 4:13 pm

        @drewmeyers  Nope, in Washington State real estate agents are now referred to as brokers, associate brokers are now managing brokers with every firm still retaining a designated broker. Real estate brokerages recruit brokers. Technicalities 😛

  8. RobertaMurphy

    December 7, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    Have wondered if SERP battle is with ZTR, Google–or our own lack of foresight?  Mostly the latter, I would guess. Kudos to RealGeeks for interesting infographic; looking forward to more.

  9. AndyPiper

    December 8, 2012 at 9:24 pm

    Big players have gained and small players have lost ground with recent Google algorithm changes.

  10. AnitaKoppens

    December 10, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    Top competition keywords are good but long tail still means targeted and more serious buyers. I know lots of consumers will still click on the 1st result for head keywords but the user experience on many of the portals leave something to be desired. I haven’t seen any of our more authoritative sites suffer profoundly despite Penguin and Panda so there is still a lot of opportunity out there.

  11. thejorygroup

    December 12, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    Either way, this is great information for local agents hoping to promote their online presence / lead capture abilities. Since efficiency is part of our program, knowing where to focus our efforts helps avoid wasted personnel hours.
     
    Jory Blake
    Riverside,CA Home Sales

  12. bdmanson

    December 17, 2012 at 1:14 am

    The 2nd infographic should be posted here on Monday… Stay tuned and get ready to spread the word. The more agents that become aware of how they are unknowingly helping the competitors (Z,T & R) out rank them the better.

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Business Marketing

How Instagram’s latest redesign is more sinister than it seems

(MARKETING) Instagram’s latest updates have all but repurposed the app into an online mall – one that tracks everything you see, say, and buy on it.

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Woman in hijab taking photo on her smartphone for Instagram, affected by the redesign.

Instagram started the new year off with a makeover in their latest redesign. The notifications button teleported to the top of the screen in the app’s new design, and now the “Shopping” button is in its place.

It’s a subtle yet insidious switch. You’re much more likely to select the marketplace out of habit, by accident, when searching your next dose of online validation.

The app has always been a vital tool for artists, craftspeople, and small businesses to promote their work — including myself. And the new redesign is intended to boost the visibility of those groups. At least, that’s Instagram’s argument.

In an article for The Conversation, Nazanin Andalibi of the University of Michigan School of Information provides a glimpse of what’s going on behind the scenes.

“By choosing to make the Shop tab central to its platform,” she writes, “Instagram is sending its users a message: This platform is a business, and interactions on this platform are going to be commodified.”

As an advertiser, Instagram’s popularity has exploded in the last decade. Even big pharma is in on the surge, with seventy pharmaceutical companies purchasing ads on the app in 2020. (That made it the fastest growing pharma advertiser of the year.)

As we know, Instagram not only runs ads, but also uses user information to filter who sees what advertisements. Now, shopping is explicitly a central function of the app. It sometimes feels like a digital mall… And that’s not really what people signed up for.

I’ve had my account for since I was a teenager, and the experience I have using the app today is totally different from what it once was. For one, it’s increasingly difficult to differentiate paid ads from regular user content on Instagram.

And second, I use Instagram to promote my work, but I don’t feel comfortable sharing personal details about myself anymore.

Because, to use Anadalibi’s words: “Sharing or seeking information about a difficult, personal experience on a social media platform and then having the platform capitalize on an algorithmic understanding of the experience–which might or might not be accurate–is problematic.”

That goes doubly so for youth, who may not be fully aware of that engineering.

For instance, a teenager searching for body positive posts might receive personalized ad results for weight loss programs. A human would probably realize that’s an inappropriate, even triggering suggestion. But algorithms don’t think that way.

Alongside the redesign update, Instagram has also faces recent criticism for their Community Guidelines, which prevent suggestive and explicit images and speech.

And whether you agree with the guidelines or not, don’t be fooled. Instagram isn’t concerned with uplifting its creators, or protecting its young users. Their only goal is protecting their new bottom line, and staying as ad-friendly as possible.

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Business Marketing

Ghost Reply has us asking: Should you shame a recruiter who ghosted you?

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Ghost Reply will send an anonymous “kind reminder” to recruiters who ghost job candidates, but is the sweet taste of temporary catharsis worth it?

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Stressed woman at a laptop with hands on head, considering if she should send a Ghost Reply.

People hate to get “ghosted” in any situation, personal or professional. But for job seekers who may already be struggling with self-esteem, it can be particularly devastating. Ghost Reply is a new online service that will help you compose and send an email nudge to the ghoster, sending a “kind reminder” telling them how unprofessional it is to leave someone hanging like that.

Ghost Reply wants to help you reach catharsis in all of this stressful mess of finding a job. Almost all of the problems and feelings are compounded by this confounded pandemic that has decimated areas of the workforce and taken jobs and threatened people’s financial security. It is understandable to want to lash out at those in power, and sending a Ghost Reply email to the recruiter or HR person may make you feel better in the short term.

In the long run, though, will it solve anything? Ghost Reply suggests it may make the HR person or recruiter reevaluate their hiring processes, indicating this type of email may help them see the error of their ways and start replying to all potential candidates. If it helps them reassess and be more considerate in the future and helps you find closure in the application/interview process, that would be the ideal outcome on all fronts. It is not likely this will happen, though.

The Ghost Reply sample email has the subject line “You have a message from a candidate!” Then it begins, “Hi, (name), You’re receiving this email because a past candidate feels like you ghosted them unfairly.” It then has a space for said candidate to add on any personal notes regarding the recruiter or process while remaining anonymous.

I get it. It’s upsetting to have someone disappear after you’ve spent time and energy applying, possibly even interviewing, only to hear nothing but crickets back from the recruiter or HR person you interacted with. It’s happened to me more than once, and it’s no bueno. We all want to be seen. We all want to be valued. Ghosting is hurtful. The frustration and disappointment, even anger, that you feel is certainly relatable. According to several sources, being ghosted after applying for a job is one of the top complaints from job seekers on the market today.

Will an anonymous, passive-aggressive email achieve your end? Will the chastened company representative suddenly have a lightbulb go off over their heads, creating a wave of change in company policy? I don’t see it. The first sentence of the sample email, in fact, is not going to be well received by HR.

When you start talking about what’s “unfair,” most HR people will tune out immediately. That kind of language in itself is unprofessional and is a red flag to many people. Once you work at a company and know its culture and have built relationships, then, maybe, just maybe, can you start talking about your work-related feelings. I believe in talking about our feelings, but rarely is a work scenario the best place to do so (I speak from experience). Calling it unprofessional is better, less about you and more about the other person’s behavior.

However, it’s unclear how productive Ghost Reply actually is. Or how anonymous, frankly. By process of deduction, the recipient of the email may be able to figure out who sent it, if it even makes it through the company’s spam filters. Even if they cannot pinpoint the exact person, it may cast doubts on several applicants or leave a bad taste in the recruiter’s mouth. It sounds like sour grapes, which is never a good thing.

There may be any number of reasons you didn’t get the job offer or interview, and they may or may not have something to do with you. Recruiters answer your burning questions, including why you may have been ghosted in this recent article in The American Genius.

Ultimately, you will never know why they ghosted you. If it makes you feel better or at least see the issue from both sides, the amount of job candidates ghosting recruiters after applying and even interviewing is equally high. Some people simply either have awful time management skills or awful manners, and at the end of the day, there’s not much you can do about that.

Focus on your own survival while job hunting, instead of these disappointing moments or the person who ghosts you. It will serve you better in the long run than some anonymous revenge email. There are other ways to deal with your frustration and anger when you do get ghosted, though. Try the classic punching your pillow. Try taking a walk around the block. If it helps to put your frustration into words, and it very well may, then do so. Write it on a piece of paper, then burn it. Or type it all in an email and delete it. For your own sake, do NOT put their email address in the “To” line, lest you accidentally hit “Send.”

The sooner you can let it go, the sooner you can move on to finding a better job fit for you.

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Business Marketing

Free shipping is everywhere… how can small businesses keep up?

[BUSINESS MARKETING] Would you rather pay less but still pay for shipping, or pay more with free shipping? They may cost the same, but one appeals more than the other.

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Person standing over pacakge, sealing with masking tape.

When it comes to competing with huge corporations like Amazon, there are plenty of hurdles that smaller businesses have to cross. Corporations can (and do) undercut the competition, not to mention garner a much larger marketing reach than most small businesses could ever dream of achieving. But this time, we want to focus on something that most people have probably chosen recently: Free shipping.

How important is free shipping to consumers? Well, in a 2018 survey, Internet Retailer discovered that over 50% of respondents said that free shipping was the most important part of online shopping. In fact, when given a choice between fast or costless shipping, a whopping 88% of those surveyed chose the latter option.

Part of this has to do with the fact that shipping costs are often perceived as additional fees, not unlike taxes or a processing fee. In fact, according to Ravi Dhar, director of Yale’s Center for Customer Insights, if it’s between a discounted item with a shipping fee or a marked up item with free shipping, individuals are more likely to choose the latter – even if both options cost exactly the same amount.

If you’re interested in learning more, Dhar refers to the economic principle of “pain of paying,” but the short answer is simply that humans are weird.

So, how do you recapture the business of an audience that’s obsessed with free shipping?

The knee jerk reaction is to simply provide better products that the competition. And sure, that works… to some extent. Unfortunately, in a world where algorithms can have a large effect on business, making quality products might not always cut it. For instance, Etsy recently implemented a change in algorithm to prioritize sellers that offer free shipping.

Another solution is to eat the costs and offer free shipping, but unless that creates a massive increase in products sold, you’re going to end up with lower profits. This might work if it’s between lower profits and none, but it’s certainly not ideal. That’s why many sellers have started to include shipping prices in the product’s overall price – instead of a $20 necklace with $5 shipping, a seller would offer a $25 necklace with free shipping.

This is a tactic that the big businesses use and it works. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, right?

That said, not everyone can join in. Maybe, for instance, a product is too big to reasonably merge shipping and product prices. If, for whatever reason, you can’t join in, it’s also worth finding a niche audience and pushing a marketing campaign. What do you offer that might be more attractive than the alluring free shipping? Are you eco-friendly? Do you provide handmade goods? Whatever it is that makes your business special, capitalize on it.

Finally, if you’re feeling down about the free shipping predicament, remember that corporations have access to other tricks. Amazon’s “free” prime shipping comes at an annual cost. Wal-Mart can take a hit when item pricing doesn’t work out. Even if your business isn’t doing as well as you hoped, take heart: You’re facing giants.

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