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Realtors, Google’s new search algorithm changes how your website comes up in results

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Major changes in how Google indexes search results

Google is a common starting point for consumers’ home search which frequently leads either to you directly or to a third party like Realtor.com that features your listings, either way getting you in front of consumers.

Google is in the process of changing how search works with their new changes to the algorithm that serves results to users. The new algorithm is referred to as “Google Panda” which seeks to punish content farms or scraper blogs.

SEOBook.com summarizes[1] the updates as Google saying, “Trust us. We’re putting the bad guys on one side, and the good guys on the other.”

SEO experts are crying foul as Google’s definition of “low quality” is undefined and inconsistent- some content farms are not being “punished” by Google whereas others are.

“After all, if Google want us to produce quality documents their users like and trust, then why not just tell us exactly what a quality document their users like and trust looks like?” SEOBook.com asks[1].

How Google Panda could help and/or hurt

One of the elements that is oft overlooked in Google Panda is their punishing of scraper blogs. As a site that is frequently scraped (aka stolen from), it is personal to us when the hard work of all of the writers here shows up on another website that get paid per page impression. We applaud Google’s taking a stance against what we agree are illegitimate websites and the mounds of scraped junk passing for legitimate websites.

On the other hand, Steven Levy at Wired.com said to Google executive Amit Singhal in an interview[2], “Some people say you should be transparent, to prove that you aren’t making those algorithms to help your advertisers, something I know that you will deny.” Singhal said, “”I can say categorically that money does not impact our decisions,” to which Levy responded, “But people want the proof,” a line that is echoing across technology sites across the world.

HubPages which is seen by some as a content farm, calls itself the anti-content farm claiming they improve search results rather than dilute them. CEO Paul Edmondson said[3], “We are concerned that Google is targeting platforms other than its own and stifling competition by reducing viable platform choices simply by diminishing platforms’ ability to rank pages. Google is not being transparent about their new standards, which prevents platforms like ours from having access to a level playing field with Google’s own services. We want to comply with and exceed Google’s standards.”

Further, SEO insiders are questioning Google Panda in light of Google’s filing for a patent on their own Demand Media-like content farm.

Where do YOU fit into this debate?

Realtors, your individual websites are not the target of Google Panda, it is the Demand Medias and eHows of the world Google is after, but could it leave collateral damage along its path toward pure intuitive results?

Where Realtors most benefit from knowing about the changes from a macro perspective is in understanding what consumers see when they search for real estate from Google which is where many begin their search. Are your consumers searching for “Miami real estate” and getting an arbitrary, keyword packed content farm article written by a $10 a post intern in Newark that is about plumbing and simply mentions Miami real estate? Google aims to fix that, but in the meantime, the crux of the negative sentiment from the SEO community is that they believe Google is making changes to pave the way for the success of their own content farms.

We’re not SEO experts, nor giving SEO advice, rather noting that you should be aware of what is happening on a broader scale. We believe the ultimate questions will be- (1) when Google’s new Demand Media-esque product rolls out, will consumers see you or Google’s articles when they search for “Sacramento real estate?” and (2) will the SEO you’ve been investing in matter in coming months or years?

Resources on Google Panda:

[1] SEO Book’s outline of Google Panda
[2] Wired interviews Google Engineers
[3] HubPages CEO guest posts on Tech Crunch

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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97 Comments

97 Comments

  1. Joe Loomer

    May 6, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    The impact on how Panda affects IDX-fed sites (the vast majority of real estate sites)is something of particular concern to me and my team – given our success in web-driven traffic is what has allowed us to thrive during the housing crunch.

    On another note – this is the caliber of post I've grown used to seeing on AG – truly relevant content of great importance to us in the community of real estate professionals.

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

    • SEO Upset

      May 13, 2011 at 8:50 am

      I just wanted to thank agentgenius.com for this article, and the summarized version appearing here on https://www.floridarealtors.org/NewsAndEvents/article.cfm?id=259721.

      Thanks to these articles, I have had 2 brokers abandon their SEO campaigns and stop any and all SEO marketing.

      Through SEO, I have consistently ranked my clients within the first page and within the first 5 results for the terms "CITY real estate" and "CITY homes for sale".

      I understand you want real estate professionals to be proactive, but the fear-mongering and unsubstantiated speculation is good for nobody.

      Ending the article with "will the SEO you’ve been investing in matter in coming months or years?" is in poor taste.

      Do you ask this same question for magazine, television, radio, print or mailings?

  2. web optimization consultant

    May 7, 2011 at 1:56 pm

    A few weeks ago, Google announced the beta launch of Caffeine, the company's next-generation search infrastructure. At that time, Google said that most of the changes in this update were under the hood and that users wouldn't notice a difference in search results. At its core, Caffeine is basically a major overhaul of the Google File System. There have been some discussions about whether this update will bring any other major changes to page rankings or the importance of certain categories in the search results. Summit Media, a UK-based digital marketing agency, compared search results for 9,000 keywords (PDF) in Caffeine and Google's default ('vanilla') search and, interestingly, didn't find any major differences between the two.

  3. John Perkins

    May 7, 2011 at 5:12 pm

    I think SEOBook has a very good point. Personally I have held off on paying for any SEO. I think as an agent you should focus on your personal farm and continue to post blogs, tweets, CL posts, and especially full motion videos off YouTube to gain traction. Second to this is watch for the Google Plus 1 as you may have to start asking clients to click the + to keep you relevant. https://blekko.com is a newer search engine that is actually looking better than google but google has the strong position while the public pays attention to it.

    • SEO Upset

      May 13, 2011 at 8:57 am

      The things you describe you do (post blogs, tweets, CL posts, and especially full motion videos off YouTube) is SEO.

      These are the type of SEO activities I provide for brokers who are too busy handling clients to post on craigslist, write blogs, comment on Trulia or ActiveRain, and video marketing (onsite hosted, Youtube, and Vimeo).

      There seems to be alot of misinformation stemming from this article.

      Keep up your efforts, they will pay off, it is not a waste, but an opportunity for those not afraid to dedicate some time to SEO.

      SEO is not dead!

  4. Ruthmarie Hicks

    May 8, 2011 at 3:49 am

    I share the concern about IDX elements. Personally, scraper sites have been grabbing my data and squeezing agent sites for the past year or so in my area. This has impacted my business – so I would be thrilled if some of the useless junk that comes between agents and the consumer would take a hit.

  5. Mississauga Realtor

    January 26, 2012 at 1:12 am

    As much as I don’t like it, I think Google’s approach to SEO is a correct one. I see too many realtors having top ranking websites which haven’t been updated since 2005.

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Social Media

Facebook releases Hotline as yet another Clubhouse competitor

(SOCIAL MEDIA) As yet another app emerges to try and take some of Clubhouse’s success, Facebook Hotline adds a slightly more formal video chat component to the game.

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Woman forming hands into heart shape at laptop hosting live video chat, similar to Facebook's new app Hotline

Facebook is at it again and launching its own version of another app. This time, the company has launched Hotline, which looks like a cross between Instagram Live and Clubhouse.

Facebook’s Hotline is the company’s attempt at competing with Clubhouse, the audio-based social media app, which was released on iOS in March 2020. Earlier this year, The New York Times reported Facebook had already begun working on building its own version of the app. Erik Hazzard, who joined Facebook in 2017 after the company acquired his tbh app, is leading the project.

The app was created by the New Product Experimentation (NPE) Team, Facebook’s experimental development division, and it’s already in beta testing online. To access it, you can use the web-based application through the platform’s website to join the waitlist and “Host a Show”. However, you will need to sign in using your Twitter account to do so.

Unlike Clubhouse, Hotline lets users also chat through video and not just audio alone. The product is more like a formal Q&A and recording platform. Its features allow people to live stream and hold Q&A sessions with their audiences similar to Instagram Live. And, audience members can ask questions by using text or audio.

Also, what makes Hotline a little more formal than Clubhouse is that it automatically records conversations. According to TechCrunch, hosts receive both a video and audio recording of the event. With a guaranteed recording feature, the Q&A sessions will stray away from the casual vibes of Clubhouse.

The first person to host a Q&A live stream on Hotline is real-estate investor Nick Huber, who is the type of “expert” Facebook is hoping to attract to its platform.

“With Hotline, we’re hoping to understand how interactive, live multimedia Q&As can help people learn from experts in areas like professional skills, just as it helps those experts build their businesses,” a Facebook spokesperson told TechCrunch. “New Product Experimentation has been testing multimedia products like CatchUp, Venue, Collab, and BARS, and we’re encouraged to see the formats continue to help people connect and build community,” the spokesperson added.

According to a Reuters article, the app doesn’t have any audience size limits, hosts can remove questions they don’t want to answer, and Facebook is moderating inappropriate content during its early days.

An app for mobile devices isn’t available yet, but if you want to check it out, you can visit Hotline’s website.

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Brace yourselves: Facebook has re-opened political advertising space

(SOCIAL MEDIA) After a break due to misinformation in the past election, Facebook is once again allowing political advertising slots on their platform – with some caveats.

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Facebook open on phone in a wallet case, open for political advertising again.

After a months-long ban on political ads due to misinformation and other inappropriate behavior following the election in November, Facebook is planning to resume providing space for political advertising.

Starting on Thursday, March 4th, advertisers were able to buy spots for ads that comprise politics, what Facebook categorizes as “social issues”, and other potentially charged topics previously prohibited by the social media platform.

The history of the ban is complicated, and its existence was predicated on a profound distrust between political parties and mainstream news. In the wake of the 2016 election and illicit advertising activity that muddied the proverbial waters, Facebook had what some would view as a clear moral obligation to prevent similar sediment from clouding future elections.

Facebook delivered on that obligation by removing political advertising from their platform prior to Election Day, a decision that would stand fast in the tumultuous months to follow. And, while Facebook did temporarily suspend the ban in Georgia during the senate proceedings, political advertisements nevertheless remained absent from the platform in large until last week.

The removal of the ban does have some accompanying caveats—namely the identification process. Unlike before, advertisers will have to go to great lengths to confirm their identities prior to launching ads. Those ads will most likely also need to come from domestic agencies given Facebook’s diligent removal of foreign and malicious campaigns in the prior years.

The moral debate regarding social media advertising—particularly on Facebook—is a deeply nuanced and divided one. Some argue that, by removing political advertising across the board, Facebook has simply limited access for “good actors” and cleared the way for illegitimate claims.

Facebook’s response to this is simply that they didn’t understand fully the role ads would play in the electoral process, and that allowing those ads back will allow them to learn more going forward.

Either way, political advertising spots are now open on Facebook, and the overall public perception seems controversial enough to warrant keeping an eye on the progression of this decision. It wouldn’t be entirely unexpected for Facebook to revoke access to these advertisements again—or limit further their range and scope—in the coming months and years.

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Social Media

Twitter to start charging users? Here’s what you need to know

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Social media is trending toward the subscription based model, especially as the pandemic pushes ad revenue down. What does this mean for Twitter users?

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Twitter and other social media apps open on a phone being held in a hand. Will they go to a paid option subscription model?

In an attempt to become less dependent on advertising, Twitter Inc. announced that it will be considering developing a subscription product, as well as other paid options. Here’s the scoop:

  • The ideas for paid Twitter that are being tossed around include tipping creators, the ability to pay users you follow for exclusive content, charging for use of the TweetDeck, features like “undo send”, and profile customization options and more.
  • While Twitter has thought about moving towards paid for years, the pandemic has pushed them to do it – plus activist investors want to see accelerated growth.
  • The majority of Twitter’s revenue comes from targeted ads, though Twitter’s ad market is significantly smaller than Facebook and other competitors.
  • The platform’s user base in the U.S. is its most valuable market, and that market is plateauing – essentially, Twitter can’t depend on new American users joining to make money anymore.
  • The company tried user “tips” in the past with its live video service Periscope (RIP), which has now become a popular business model for other companies – and which we will most likely see again with paid Twitter.
  • And yes, they will ALWAYS take a cut of any money being poured into the app, no matter who it’s intended for.

This announcement comes at a time where other social media platforms, such as TikTok and Clubhouse, are also moving towards paid options.

My hot take: Is it important – especially during a pandemic – to make sure that creators are receiving fair compensation for the content that we as users consume? Yes, 100%. Pay people for their work. And in the realm of social media, pictures, memes, and opinions are in fact work. Don’t get it twisted.

Does this shift also symbolize a deviation from the unpaid, egalitarian social media that we’ve all learned to use, consume, and love over the last decade? It sure does.

My irritation stems not from the fact that creators will probably see more return on their work in the future. Or on the principal of free social media for all. It stems from sheer greediness of the social media giants. Facebook, Twitter, and their counterparts are already filthy rich. Like, dumb rich. And guess what: Even though Twitter has been free so far, it’s creators and users alike that have been generating wealth for the company.

So why do they want even more now?

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