By Mark Toppenberg
This term in its most simplistic form is what defines every aspect of Google’s evolution and is the largest determinant in their future success. But how Google measures relevance is not so simple. It is a highly sophisticated and ever-changing model based on complex algorithms named after cute and cuddly things like Penguins and Pandas (two very recent and important updates).
Don’t let the names fool you. Not understanding the impact of Penguin and Panda can seriously limit your ability to be seen as relevant, and can eliminate your ability to generate leads online.
Everyone tries to manipulate and master the algorithm maze, but in the end, very few make it to the first page of Google for any given search term. The algorithms that Google uses to determine relevancy are frequently refined as they are committed to intelligently tuning the search engine to consistently provide the best possible search results and eliminate weak and spammy web pages from the index.
The latest Google algorithm changes have primarily focused on off-site factors like the quality of backlinks pointing to your site. Gone are the days that poor quality backlinks from non-authority sites will support ranking positions that generate traffic.
Let’s take a closer look at some ranking factors in Google’s algorithms that can cause your rankings to tumble, and some improvements that can be made to conquer these challenges to help ensure your Website remains relevant in 2012 and beyond.
1. Make your website an authoritative source for information - Many agents believe that if you build a website, consumers will come. Maybe, if you put your website address physically in their hands in the form of a business card…. Simply publishing a website and then walking away doesn’t work and puts you at a strong disadvantage when compared to your web-savvy competitors. And it certainly doesn’t take advantage of the power of the Internet for marketing. If you must tell consumers your web address, you have already failed.
Developing an authoritative source for localized market information takes a lot of work. It doesn’t happen by buying magical SEO beans that some telemarketer or over-hyping website sells you.
Adding an exhaustive list of local vendors or republishing someone else’s blog posts isn’t going to do it either. However, having a review section for local industry and non real estate-related vendors is a fantastic way to generate unique and user-friendly content for your site.
If you would like to include content that is written by industry leaders, or share “what’s happening” information from a popular local blog, then write a synopsis of that specific article. Whether it is about the local market, a provocative political piece or a post about a new restaurant opening, writing your own rendition of the article is another smart way to generate unique and attention-worthy content. Be sure to cite the original article as many authors that publish on the web are appreciative of the gesture and may even link back to your article from their blog, potentially generating additional traffic to your site.
A word of caution with using the new curation tools out there that simply copy snippets other people’s blogs to your site: don’t do it! Use curation of content to give you ideas for blogging and as a way to be informed about the social conversation taking place about specific topics, but realize that Google doesn’t value copied content on your site.
The other not-so-obvious way to build up the number of pages that feature housing information is to make sure your site features an indexable MLS IDX. For those of you out there that are not familiar with this technology, indexable MLS IDX means that the listings that are searchable on your site are able to be measured and weighed by Google as your listings, and not that of your local MLS.
2. Who’s informing the source? AKA – Who loves you baby? Google is progressively looking at the social graph. How engaged are your Internet marketing efforts within the social sphere? Are you sharing content and more importantly, is anyone sharing, liking and retweeting your content across the web? This is one of the hardest obstacles industry marketers face because the chance of going “viral” in this business is almost nil. This is not your fault or the fault of your assistant or marketing team. Trying to go viral by force is an obnoxious notion that rarely works. The best you can do is to create share-worthy content, whether it is articles, photos or videos. Even a witty meme could get you some very desirable social shares on any number of social sites that Google deems as relevant.
Keeping up social appearances is tremendously important as the word on the street is that Google will begin to devalue strategies that are easily manipulated such as link building via blog networks. If you don’t register a blip on the social graph but have 5,000 links pointed to your site using very strategic anchor text (the words in links that go to your site) Google’s algorithms are going to notice the disparity in weight. How much value this old method of link building will be devalued has yet to be seen. Diversity is the safest way to invest in your Internet marketing future. Don’t depend on any one source to provide all of your ranking cues to Google. If you do buy real estate SEO, be sure to use a company that keeps up with Google.
3. Recency – staying minty fresh - This can easily loop back into including synopses of interesting and geographically relevant articles or general industry-related articles on your web pages. The origin of Google’s algorithm known as the “Freshness” update comes from a relatively old Google patent that scores documents based upon how fresh the content is.
It would be a mistake to make a blanket statement that all pages must be refreshed frequently or Google will score them lower than others, but there is a certain half-life to your web pages. The rate of decay increases over time. Making small changes to your content will not likely have any impact so if you’re going to update your content, do so significantly. Adding a blog to your site will increase the number of pages over time which is a positive thing as this is seen as updated content. Updating on-page content can have a powerful impact on your visitors as well – are you still using a photograph and bio from 1995?
Google’s algorithms will continue to change, so as a website owner, you always need to be aware of what Google is evaluating you for. If your Website’s Google rankings have fallen or are not improving, evaluate your site utilizing the points listed above. Easy, cheap and fast “ranking solutions” may sound good in the short term, but it’s always a better choice to position your site with a successful long-term marketing strategy that will generate a steady flow of organic traffic and leads, and that’s exactly what top performing agents are doing.
Mark Toppenberg is the President of Dynamic Page Solutions. Utilizing patent-pending technologies, Dynamic Page Solutions develops the most sophisticated IDX optimized real estate websites that routinely capture top Internet rankings.
For more information and SEO and social networking tips and strategies, visit www.DynamicPageSolutions.com.
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