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Does Google hate your real estate website?

For a very short period of time, I was a Google search quality rater. It was an interesting and important gig, at least in my opinion.

A couple of years ago, Search Engine Land summarized the quality rater’s tasks; if you’re curious, click here.

We were given guidelines ― lots of them ― to help us rate various websites. Those guidelines were updated a few months ago and in them you’ll find lots of valuable nuggets to help you when you consider what to do to rank higher in Google searches.

What types of pages does Google want at the top of the results page?

At the top of Google’s list of priorities when it comes to ranking websites is what they call “Your Money or Your Life,” or YMYL for short.

Now, pay attention here, because the following pertains to your agent website.

“Google wants to ensure that the types of pages that impact a searcher’s money or life are as high-quality as possible," claims Jennifer Slegg at Moz.

Since your site most definitely impacts a user’s wealth (Google has changed “wealth” to “financial stability”), your website will be held to Google’s highest standards and, as Slegg says, Google doesn’t want low quality pages to rank well.

Forcing registration? Think again

How about that little box that pops up demanding that I supply my personal contact information before the site will allow me to view listings? It’s called “forced registration” for a reason and many people don’t like being forced to trade information for information.

I bought a house last year and the search process was interesting. For every agent who tried to force me to register to have access to his or her IDX, there was at least one more who didn’t.

Guess who got my business?

I’m not sure, but Slegg hints that if a Google rater feels uncomfortable submitting personal information, then users most likely will too and the site won’t rate very high . . . “and you should take steps to fix it,” she warns.

Then, there is the whole issue of how Google sees those boxes, known as “interstitials.” The guidelines advise raters that interstitial “pages which disrupt the use of the MC [main content] should be given a Low rating.”

Google’s latest guidelines, effective January 1 of this year, slap interstitial users upside the head. Pop-ups of any type that block the page’s main content will get you penalized.

This doesn’t mean you can’t have the forced-registration box if you really want it. “If these are so effective that you can’t justify getting rid of them, try modifying them to take up a small amount of screen space for mobile devices. Otherwise, we recommend removing them entirely,” warns Search Engine Journal’s Aleh Barysevich.

If this concerns you, run it past your SEO guy or gal.

Is the word “content” becoming trite?

Perhaps, like “location, location, location,” the word “content” is overused. But like the former, does that mean it’s any less true? Not according to Slegg:

“This comes back to the whole concept of quality content.

When a searcher lands on your page and they [sic] can easily tell that it's created by someone (or a company) with high E-A-T [Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness], this not only tells that searcher that this is great authoritative content, but they're also that much more likely to recommend or share it with others.

It gives them the confidence that they're sharing trustworthy and accurate information in their social circles.”

And, when content is shared you’ll get more eyes on your website, upping the chances you’ll get a new lead. Slegg’s piece also shows us what constitutes a bad site, at least to Google.

Number one on the list? Low-quality content.

“Whether it’s spun content or just poorly-written content, low-quality content means a low rating. Useless content is useless.”


How’s your home page?

The updated Google search quality rater’s guidelines outlines “the most important factors to consider when selecting an overall Page Quality rating.” At the top of the list is “Main Content Quality and Amount,” explaining this statement as “The rating should be based on the landing page . . .”


All of that blog content that you feel offers value to your readers? Google doesn’t find it valuable if the last time it was updated was 2010.

“High quality financial advice, legal advice, tax advice, etc., should come from expert sources and be maintained and updated regularly.”

Although “real estate” advice isn’t named, you can be sure that your content falls within this category.

Google’s algorithm favors updated sites, “particularly in time-sensitive searches,” according to impactdigitalmarketing.com, which pretty much describes house hunting.

So, post well and post often.

No, it’s not impossible

Ranking on page one of Google’s search results for “homes for sale in [your town]” may seem like the impossible dream and, for many large markets, you would be correct in assuming that. Let’s face it, Google obviously sees the aggregators, despite what we know about them, the most reliable purveyors of real estate information.

At least on the “grand scale.”

Where they fail, and you can succeed, is at the hyper-local level. So, although you may not land on page one when someone searches for “homes for sale in Billings, Montana,” you most definitely can get to page one for “homes for sale in northwest Billings.”

You won’t get to page one for “homes for sale in Minneapolis,” but getting there for “homes for sale in Calhoun Isle in Minneapolis” is quite doable.

I know. I’ve done it for my clients.

So, in your quest for that holy grail known as “organic search results,” concentrate on your content. Ensure that it’s high-quality, keep it fresh and hyperlocal and you’ll be one step ahead of everyone else.

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