Firstly let me say that I have been a little quiet on B2 of late. We opened up an office in Upper Coomera on the Gold Coast and it has really taken my focus as I find myself back at the pointy end of the industry again which has been refreshing.
Google updates its algorithms regularly and the latest update has brought about some interesting changes that are going to effect the rankings for searches on real estate keywords. The changes have already been discussed in depth here so I will use that post as the basis of my post. Everything in Blue is from André Voget at SEOProfiler.com.
Spammers beware! This summer, Google is going after black-hat and link spammers. In a video on YouTube, Google's Matt Cutts announced 9 things that Google will do within the next months. How do these changes affect the position of your web pages in Google's search results and what can you do to protect your rankings?
1. There will be more Penguin updates
Google is going to launch the next generation of the Penguin algorithm within the next few weeks. The Penguin 2.0 update will go deeper than the first Penguin version and it will affect a lot more sites.
The Penguin update targets websites that use spam tools to create backlinks. If you're using tools that automatically create backlinks to your site, stop using them now. If any tool that you use contains the words "nuke", "dominator" or "brute force" then it's likely that your website will be affected by the next Penguin update.
More updates coming. No real news there but like always be very careful of using dodgy seo companies to promote your business. You know the ones. They email you and phone you up promising to get you on the first page of Google. They send that same email to millions of other businesses.
2. Google does not like advertorials
Some websites use advertorials to get more backlinks. Matt Cutts said that non-nofollow links from these advertorials violate Google's webmaster guidelines. If you purchase advertorials just to get backlinks, this might have a negative influence on your Google rankings.
This is not really an issue for most agents.
3. Google will take a closer look at spammy queries
Some search queries such as 'pay day loans' tend to attract more spam than other queries. Google's search spam team will take a closer look at these queries.
Standard real estate terms dont really fit the spammy queries so dont worry too much about this.
4. Link networks might get in trouble
Matt Cutts said that Google is going to go "more upstream" to make sure that some kind of links become less attractive. This probably affects link networks. Google has penalized several link networks in the past.
Some agents and some real estate website providers do participate in link networks. Also called link farms, links exchanges or as sometimes called... a link matrix. You should not participate in these link networks. The links are unnatural and dont look real so will do more harm than good for you. If you have been added into one of these links and it is negatively effected your rankings you can use the Disavow tool in Google webmasters to remove its negative impact.
5. Google is going to analyze backlinks better
Matt Cutts also said that Google is in the early stages of a much more sophisticated link analysis software that will understand backlinks much better. That probably means that the influence of forum profile links might become even lower while the value of editorial links increases.
Spammers have used forum profile links and blog comments to create links back to their website. Just like the link networks above Google appears to be going after these unnatural links and removing or downplaying their impact. Given that these are sometimes valid they probably will not attract a negative penalty but spamming thousands of blog comments will probably have little impact. I run several blogs and can say that there are real estate agents around Australia that are spamming blogs or employing companies that spam blogs. To give you an idea of how popular this spam is, when I logged in to upload this article there are 218 comments that have passed the primary spam filters on this site and are waiting for manual approval. For everyone that makes it though to this stage this is probably 100 that get blocked so anything that google can do to stop comment spam is a good thing.
6. Better handling of hacked sites
Google is working on a better system to detect hacked sites. The new system should be available later this year. Google also wants to improve webmaster communication about hacked sites.
Because most real estate sites in Australia are run on real estate specific solutions they are not really a target for most hackers. Those that use WordPress and other common CMS software should be feel a little better that Google is going to on the lookout for hacked sites and should notify you if you have registered your website in the Google Webmaster site which everyone should do.
7. Authority websites will get a ranking boost
Google plans to give websites that are an authority in their category a ranking boost. For example, if your website is an authority in the medical space, Google plans to show your website above websites that are not as authoritative as your site.
This is going to present an impact on real estate rankings. Realestate.com.au and to some extent the other portals would be considered an authority website for real estate in Australia. Essentially they will be given an even bigger boost in the rankings over the typical real estate agent. More than ever you need to ensure your website is the authority for your local area.
8. The Panda update becomes less strict
Matt Cutts said that many of the websites that were affected by the Panda update were border cases. Google is looking at other quality metrics that enables them to make sure that these websites aren't impacted by the Panda algorithm. The Panda algorithm targets websites with low-quality content.
This will actually help many agents who may have lost significant traffic in recent updates. Many real estate agency websites have very little unique content. As far as google is concerned you have the same listings as other websites (ie. portals) and therefore your website is often deemed low quality. Google has no way of determining that your site is the actual source of these listings and that everybody else is a copy and as the portals are considered the authority website they will outrank most agency websites. This meant that previous changes to Panda caused a drop in traffic to real estate agents, especially those with little or no unique content on their website. This is basically a winding back a little of this setting by Google admitting that they went a bit to far.
9. Less domain clusters
Matt Cutts said that the number of same domain clusters on Google's first result page should lessen this year. Google wants to make the results on page one more diverse. The second result page might contain more domain clusters.
Ever done a search for a real estate term and found that realestate.com.au have 2 or 3 of the top 10 spots, Domain also. This left very little room for other websites to appear on the first page of Google. This change means that Google will start to show only one page per website domain on the first page. There should create more room for your website to appear on the first page.
What does this mean for your website?
At the end of the video, Matt Cutts explains that Google wants to reduce the number of webmasters who use black-hat spam techniques. Smaller businesses that use white-hat SEO methods should rank better.
If you want to make sure that your website rankings are safe, avoid spammy SEO methods at all costs. You can get short-term results with black-hat SEO tools but your website will be penalized as soon as Googles detects the spam.
If you want to get results that last, use white-hat SEO methods that play by the rules. White-hat SEO requires more work than spam techniques but it leads to much better results that last. If you use safe SEO methods to promote your websites, you don't have to worry about Google updates.
In short the changes are probably good news for most real estate agents as long as you have not employed a seo expert who has pushed the boundaries. There is probably an even higher chance that Realestate.com.au will be the top result when a real estate keyword is searched on Google but there should soon be more chance that your website will be on the first page.