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

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.

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“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.

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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

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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.

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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