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Search Engine Optimization consultant touching SEO button on whiWith constant changes and updates to search algorithms and SEO best practices, it can be tough for real estate agents to ensure their websites are optimal for both search engine visibility and users searching for their next home. While SEO started as a desktop user and desktop search engine-focused solution, recent shifts have pushed user search behavior in other directions. How can agents keep up with the newest trends? Below are three areas where agents should interact and invest.

Social
Facebook handles over 1.5 billion daily searches. This is dwarfed by Google’s 3.5 billion, but still significant when you consider the opportunity it presents. Many of the searches on Facebook are focused on people, but a growing number are also hoping to connect with locations and local businesses. Not only is this a Facebook-centric behavioral change, but users are also looking for a great place to interact and engage, creating the potential for brands to inspire loyalty by providing entertaining, educational, informative and/or inspiring content and engagement on multiple social platforms.

So why the need to focus now? Social networks are facing the challenge of finding ways to monetize their traffic, so they’re looking for ways to get more stickiness and interaction on their platforms. It used to be that consumers visited a company’s social page to click-through to a destination website. Now, Facebook, Twitter, and others want to keep these consumers on their pages, so they’re giving companies the tools to better engage their customers within the social platform itself, creating additional opportunities for ad revenue.

Examples abound, but the most obvious are longer articles on Facebook, Twitter “Moments” and Pinterest’s “Rich Pins.” As social platforms evolve into destinations themselves, it’s important for agents to interact with consumers on social media, maintain a valuable presence within these networks, and integrate their social accounts into their marketing campaigns.

Mobile
2010 was the “year of mobile.” But so was ’11, ’12, ’13, ’14, and ’15! Marketers dubbed them as such, expecting a tipping point where mobile traffic would outpace desktop traffic on the web. 2015 was when it finally came to fruition, and in 2016 we’ll see that trend continue. It’s been a push by Google to ensure the mobile experience for users is “mobile-friendly,” demonstrated by their ultimatum, nicknamed “mobilegeddon,” where Google began to highlight mobile-friendly websites with a tag on mobile devices, and potentially devalue websites who are “mobile unfriendly.”

Google’s push appears to have created the desired effect, and was at just the right time to support user trends. According to a recent update, 60 percent of Internet usage took place on mobile devices, and while desktop usage hasn’t plummeted (most people still use a desktop PC at work), it’s definitely flatlined.

And although mobile traffic continues to grow, reports also reveal that 85 percent of a user’s time on their mobile device is actually spent using apps. The largest chunks of those apps involve social networking (14 percent) and communication (7 percent).

Apps are perhaps Google’s biggest fear in their search empire. When users turn to Google.com less (or use a mobile default that’s not Google – e.g. Apple’s Safari), the search giant’s revenues are impacted.

App visibility and availability is key. App search and discovery is a fast growing frontier of non-traditional “SEO” called App Store Optimization (ASO), where showing up on either a phone or in the iTunes or Google Play app store can make or break a mobile strategy.

App indexing is a recent change search engines have facilitated, which means an app’s internal content is accessible to search engines. For now, the best app search tool is via Spotlight on iPhone. The indexing of apps can actually allow other services to bypass Google, but it also helps Google uncover internal content that they can then leverage in their search results.

Voice
For those who remember Star Trek, Star Wars, or any other Sci-Fi series where the primary computer interface is voice, the introduction of voice search into the major search engines should be no surprise. Google has included the microphone icon for desktop voice search since 2011, but more recently with the evolution of Google’s ability to better *understand* voice queries (through their Hummingbird update and RankBrain machine learning), both desktop and mobile voice search have become more practical – at least in certain scenarios.

And Google is not the only company who realizes the potential of voice-driven interfaces. Personal assistants are available for Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon too, giving consumers many options—and varying degrees of success—in finding almost anything with just the power of their voice.

Today’s voice-activated searches can be smarter than a traditional web browser search as well. Connecting a search query to many other data sources, proprietary information and / or user history, allows companies like Amazon with their Alexa platform to pull data from their user history and provide better context to results. Ask Amazon’s Alexa to reorder paper towels, and she’ll find the exact brand you ordered last month. Ask her “what’s up,” and she’ll read you the news highlights and weather in your area. If you’re about to leave for work, Google Now automatically shows you how long it will take you to get to the office.

With this kind of technology, we’re not using key search terms or a structured query. It’s smart enough to predict with some certainty what we’re likely to ask, understand us when we do ask, and present relevant answers that give us the confidence to ask the next time we need something.

(Recent updates are telling us even more about the future of voice search. Here are three articles for additional reading: Google Reveals the Future of Search, The Future Of Search, and How A Designer’s 3-Year-Old Daughter Is Humanizing Google.)

So now what?
What does this mean for the future of SEO? Intent is king. Whether through a search engine, a mobile app or a voice-activated platform, the key to delivering better answers and satisfying users is understanding them beyond the simple keyword. When every device, app and search engine out there seeks to fill a specific need or answer a question, search-marketing strategy needs to be more about providing content that does exactly that, than chasing just keyword visibility.

Final thought
When search engines, apps and voice-activated platforms are all seeking to better understand user behavior and user intent to address user needs, why do we continue to try to outsmart search engines, when all we really need to do is think more like ourselves?

What can you, as an agent, do?
According to a recent online real estate performance study, organic search traffic to real estate websites was responsible for more lead conversions than all other traffic sources combined. Get found on search engines with Homes.com’s new SEO Fuel! Let us improve your website’s organic traffic, so you can get back to what you do best—selling.

For more information, visit connect.homes.com.

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