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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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If you’re not on Clubhouse, you’re missing out – here’s why

(SOCIAL MEDIA) What exactly is Clubhouse, and why is it the quarantine app sensation? There’s a few reasons you should definitely be checking out right now!

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Clubhouse member hanging out on the app, on a couch with mask on their face.

The new exclusive app Clubhouse is challenging what social media can be – and it might possibly be the best thing to blow up during quarantine.

Developed by ex-Google employee Rohan Seth and Silicon Valley entrepreneur Paul Davison, Clubhouse has only been gaining in popularity since lockdown. Here’s why you need to join immediately:

What is Clubhouse?

Clubhouse is like if subreddit pages were live podcasts. Or maybe if niche, topic-centric Zoom chatrooms could connect you with people from all over the world. But it’s ONLY audio, making it perfect for this period of lockdown where no one truly looks their best.

From networking events to heated debates about arts and culture to book clubs, you can truly find anything you want on Clubhouse. And if you don’t see a room that peaks your interest, you can make one yourself.

Why is it special?

Here’s my hot take: Clubhouse is democratizing the podcast process. When you enter a room for women entrepreneurs in [insert your industry], you not only hear from the established experts, but you’ll also have a chance to listen to up-and-coming users with great questions. And, if you want, you can request to speak as well.

If you click anyone’s icon, you can see their bio and links to their Instagram, Twitter, etc. For professionals looking to network in a deeper way, Clubhouse is making it easier to find up and coming creatives.

If you’re not necessarily looking to network, there’s still so much niche material to discover on the app. Recently, I spent an hour on Clubhouse listening to users discuss the differences in American and British street fashion. It got heated, but I learned A LOT.

The celebrities!

Did I mention there’s a TON of celebrities on the app? Tiffany Haddish, Virgil Abloh, and Lakeith Stanfield are regulars in rooms – and often host scheduled events. The proximity to all kinds of people, including the famous, is definitely a huge draw.

How do you get on?

Anyone with an iPhone can make an account, but as of now you need to be “nominated” by someone in your contacts who is already on the app. Think Google+ but cooler.

With lockdown giving us so much free time that our podcasts and shows can’t keep up with the demand, Clubhouse is a self-sustaining content mecca. Rooms often go on for days, as users in later time zones will pick up where others left off when they need to get some sleep. And the cycle continues.

Though I’m still wrapping my brain around it, I can say with fair certainty that Clubhouse is very, very exciting. If you have an hour (or 24) to spare, try it out for yourself – I promise, you won’t be disappointed.

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TikTok: A hotbed of cultural appropriation, and why it matters

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Gen Z’s favorite app TikTok is the modern epicenter for cultural appropriation – why you as a business owner should care.

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TikTok creator with a phone recording on a stand, but dances can be a sign of cultural appropriation.

Quarantine has been the catalyst for a sleuth of new cultural phenomena – Tiger King, Zoom, and baking addictions, to name a few. Perhaps most notably, TikTok has seen user numbers skyrocket since lockdown. And I don’t think those numbers are going down any time soon.

TikTok is a very special place. More so than any other social media apps I’ve engaged with, TikTok feels like a true community where total strangers can use the app’s duet or audio features to interact in creative, collaborative ways.

However, being able to use another user’s original audio or replicate their dance has highlighted the prevalence of cultural appropriation on TikTok: the app, as wholesome as it may be at times, has also become a hot bed for “virtual blackface”.

The most notable example of appropriation has to do with the Renegade dance and Charli D’Amelio – who is young, White, and arguably the most famous TikTok influencer (she is second only to Addison Rae, who is also White). The dance, originally created by 14-year-old Black user Jalaiah Harmon, essentially paved the way for D’Amelio’s fame and financial success (her net worth is estimated to be $8 million).

Only after Twitter backlash did D’Amelio credit Harmon as the original creator of the dance to which she owes her wealth – up until that point, the assumption was the dance was hers.

There is indeed a myriad of exploitative and appropriative examples of TikTok videos. Some of the most cringe-worthy include White users pantomiming black audio, in many cases affecting AAVE (African American Vernacular English). Styles of dance and music that were pioneered by Black artists have now been colonized by White users – and many TikTokers are not made aware of their cultural origins.

And what’s worse: TikTok’s algorithms favor White users, meaning White-washed iterations of videos tend to get more views, more engagement and, subsequently, more financial gains for the creator.

As you can imagine, TikTok’s Black community is up in arms. But don’t take it from me (a non-Black individual) – log onto the app and listen to what Black users have to say about cultural appropriation for yourself.

Still, the app is one of the fastest growing. Companies are finding creative ways to weave their paid ads and more subliminal marketing strategies into the fabric of the ‘For You’ page. In many ways, TikTok is the next frontier in social media marketing.

With a few relevant locational hashtags and some innovative approaches to advertising, your business could get some serious FREE attention on TikTok. In fact, it’s the future.

As aware and socially conscious small business owners, we need to make sure that while we are using the app to get ours, that the Black creators and artists who made the app what it is today are also getting theirs. Anything short of direct accountability for the platform and for caustic White users would be offensive.

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Promoted tweets getting over-promoted? Time for Twitter backlash

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Twitter has enacted changes to how frequently Promoted Tweets – i.e., ads – are seen by users, and in true Twitter fashion, there’s mixed opinions.

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Smartphone open to Twitter with promoted tweets open on the top of the feed.

Did anyone else ever watch the Strong Bad Emails cartoons from Homestarrunner? One of the running gags there – and subsequently one of my favorite bits – was when he’d just delete a fan’s email outright while insulting the author. Strong Bad was great at laying down the delete hammer and had zero cares in the world about doing it.

The idea that you – as a user, person, entity – can reclaim a little bit of omniscient authority is powerful. Generally, we like being in control of our lives, and the ability to exercise that authority resonates deeply.

Digital companies are still coming to terms with the idea that their users maintain some ability to revolt against their new policies, trying to straddle the line between new features and improved tools while still keeping an existing audience happy. Typing “hate the new” into Google will show results solely around new interfaces and an endless string of abhorrence. The new Facebook layout is bad. The new Gmail is bad and here’s how to revert it.

I’m sure others exist for any widely used app or service. Sometimes even new logos incite rage. I’m not here to make a statement either way, but usually there’s some ground in between pure opinion and justifiable discussions about user interface and experience. Regardless, change can make users upset.

Twitter recently rolled out changes to how Promoted Tweets work. You should know first that a promoted tweet is just an ad, and were originally set to appear only once per timeline. However, recent updates to Twitter’s internal services has resulted in some users reporting the same ad being shown multiple times in rapid succession, and even repeatedly over and over.

Think about Google search results – there are definitely ads at the top of the first page, and they are usually relevant to the topic at hand and only show up in that area. A user can quickly scroll downward past this and look through other results. But imagine how frustrating it might be to have a first page riddled primarily with ads, effectively choking out other results.

Twitter maintains that, “we’re thoughtful in how we display Promoted Tweets, and are conservative about the number of Promoted Tweets that people see in a single day.” This has led some users to believing this behavior indicates some kind of issue with their internal systems. I like to think about the scene in Office Space where Michael Bolton (not the singer) mentions that he may have put a decimal in the wrong place; that is, there’s a configuration error at Twitter instead of some kind of sea change.

However, Twitter has said this is not a glitch. In fact, they stated it was intentional, and further clarified that, “We regularly experiment and deploy changes to our advertising experience. We are constantly innovating and testing, and will continue to adapt as we learn.” Despite worldwide complaints, Twitter has not officially acknowledged this situation as problematic.

As a result, many users have taken to blocking the advertisers involved with the Promoted Tweets. Much like Strong Bad exercising his ultimate authority over his domain, this means that companies are in danger of losing their ability to reach users entirely. As this number grows, the consequences could widespread, and it will be interesting to see if Twitter changes their outlook and/or has potential pressure from advertisers. Twitter has stated that this may simply be temporary to exhaust a surplus of ad inventory, and this remains to be seen.

As users continue to voice their complaints, it will be interesting to see how the situation ultimately resolves.

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