For agencies in competitive locations staying on top in Google has always required attention and commitment. For other agencies in areas where competition is less focused little has needed to be done to maintain top rankings. Whichever category your business falls into changes introduced by Google recently will shake up up your local search presence...
Google moves the goal posts
In August 2015 Google introduced changes to local search results which have made a real difference to the visibility of many estate agency websites.
On desktop results pages 'local pack' results reduced from seven entries to three followed by organic search listings.
In less competitive areas this will mean that agencies previously able to ignore website and search optimisation may find their listings have dropped from Google's all important first page. In competitive towns and cities getting a visible first page listing will be considerably more challenging.
It is more important than ever for estate agents to understand what it takes to rank well and look good in Google's search results and to take steps to address their own website's performance.
Googles new search results now consist of three distinct areas:
- Local Pack Results
- Organic Results
- Adwords Advertising
Why Estate Agents need to link up with Google for local pack success
Clicking on a result in the Local Pack section no longer links to the agent's website but takes the searcher to a map page with other local agents listed and the chosen agent's result displayed in a Local Card format.
At this point the full local pack results become visible with rating summary, address and opening times shown where available.
Clicking on entries in the list show the local card presentation for the agency with the possiblity of enhanced image, contact, rating and review information being available to the searcher.
While there is a correlation between local and organic search performance local results are influenced more significantly by location and review signals and information from your Google MyBusiness account.
For those with a deeper interest Matthew Barbey's article on Search Engine Land is good reading.
There are some immediate ways for agents to interact with Google which may improve their search ranking and will certainly improve their local search appearance:
- Set up a Google MyBusiness account
- Set up a Google+ page for your agency
- Start asking your satisfied clients to review your service on Google
Additionally it will be important to take a critical look at your website to ensure it is performing as well as possible in the organic search results (more below).
Getting your website fit for organic search
The factors that Google uses to decide where your website ranks in relation to other estate agencies for any particular search term are changing constantly. While the SEO industry has turned understanding this into a pseudo-science it is important for agencies to get a grip on the factors that will influence their own success.
The authoritative Search Engine Ranking Factors 2015 Expert Survey and Correlation Data from Moz provides some up-to-date guidance.
Key factors to consider:
- Links - the number and quality of links to your website from other sites and the text used in those links.
- Content - the content of the information, articles etc. used in your site including the way they are formatted for example use of appropriate headings and tags.
- Other on-site factors - things like structured data markup, page load speeds, readability, content length, and HTTPS certificates.
- Engagement and traffic data - visitor traffic and usage signals such as click through rate, bounce rate, etc. are also considered by Google.
The emphasis here has changed in recent years and months to focus much more on content and website structure. This means that it is vital that your website properly reflects your agencies geographical and market position and does so in a way that Google can understand.
Your site should:
- Contains good levels of appropriate content with relevant local keywords - this needs to be presented in a way that Google will understand
- Load quickly and score well in Google’s Page Speed Insights test - give your site a quick test and see how it gets on
- Work on both desktop and mobile devices - Google mobile searches now prioritise mobile friendly websites
If all else fails there’s always Adwords
We've looked above at 'free' Local Pack and Organic listings. A properly sorted website should enable you to rank highly in both these sections. However, if you need to get to the top of Google's first page quickly there is always the option to use Google's pay per click advertising. Depending on where you are it may be expensive but then perhaps an enquiry leading to a new instruction is worth it.
I hope this inevitably cursory overview of the current search situation for estate agents has been helpful and has shed some light on what is important for your agency’s website to succeed in search. If you are concerned that your website is not making the grade then does please call me for a chat.