Here is a fantastic post by our CEO that explains what this might mean for the Real Estate Industry.
Let me first clarify the title of this post. It could have just as easily included: Movie Websites, Sports Websites, Fashion Websites, Food Websites and just about any other kind of information site on the internet.
To understand where I am going with this, let me explain what Google’s Knowledge Graph actually is.
Since they were created (at least going back to the mid 1990’s) search engines have tried to match your search query words to words on web pages. When Alta Vista, early Yahoo, et al tried to do this their systems were almost immediately, and easily ‘gamed’.
Website creators would simply insert the keywords you were searching for on their web page as many times as possible – some even hid the words on their pages by making the text and background color the same. These tactics became known as “keyword stuffing”.
While these early search engines figured the more often these keywords appeared on a page, the more relevant that page was to your query. The fact is they just as often led a query, say, for Brittany Spears to web pages about golf. Not a great user experience.
Around the same time Google emerged with what it believed to be a solution to this problem: ‘PageRank’.
PageRank basically gave pages a score (ranking) based on the number of incoming links that the web page received from other website pages. Google deemed the action of another site linking to yours as a sort of seal of approval (i.e. thumbs up). Still, it’s important to note that this wasn’t the only factor Google looked at when ranking a page, but it was certainly at the top of the list.
But over the years, tech savvy individuals learned how to ‘game’ this system too. Website creators began doing some less than savory things to get as many ‘backlinks’ to their sites as possible. Many added 10’s of thousands of these a day through automated services, thus bumping its pages up in the search results.
These tactics naturally lead to search results not based on the best content relative to your search, but instead, who had gamed the system best.
Of course Google’s core product is search. Its business therefore depends on the quality of the results it serves us up. Without meaningful results, however, Google (and Bing as well) would lose eyeballs, and revenue sustaining ad dollars along with them.
So Google sprung back into repair mode in April/May of 2011 by introducing #Panda and then #Penguin this April. I won’t elaborate on these here, but know that Google’s updates (which are ongoing) were implemented to clean up ‘web spam’ and penalize the gamed sites.
Enter the ‘Knowledge Graph’
It’s where Google search is going for both desktop and mobile devices. Google made this big announcement on May 16, 2012 but, the Facebook IPO eclipsed it so many people missed it. Google is rolling out the graph slowly across the US and then into other countries shortly after. Here is a link to Google’s official release video:
Introducing the Knowledge Graph
Here’s how Google describes the Knowledge Graph:
“When you search, you’re not just looking for a webpage. You’re looking to get answers, understand concepts and explore. The next frontier in search is to understand real-world things and the relationships among them.”
“So we're building a Knowledge Graph: a huge collection of the people, places and things in the world and how they're connected to one another. This is how we’ll be able to tell if your search for “mercury” refers to the planet or the chemical element – and also how we can get you smarter answers to jump start your discovery.”
Attached is a screen grab of the search results page for Tom Cruise – the Knowledge Box Appears on the right.
So now you’re wondering what the heck all this really means to me?
The Knowledge Graph is also known as ‘Semantic Search’ – a concept that’s been around a long time but hasn’t gained much traction until Google bought a company deep into the concept called Freebase last year. Google now has the ability to understand the words you’re searching for – and no longer tries to match words on a page – but instead give you results based on the truest meaning of the words in your query.
#Google is able to do this by collecting data on a number of elements. For example, it has begun using data to conclusively figure out what other people have “meant” when searching for the same thing (i.e. do more people mean #TajMahal the palace or Taj Mahal the casino?).
Again, the system is looking at what you personally searched for in the past, as in, do you typically search for ‘weather in Seattle’? Google is further integrating signals from social networks (it’s mission critical to get on the Google Plus train folks!).
But probably most important of all (at least relative to this post), Google is using semantic markup language, which basically allows you to give detailed information about specific content on your web site (e.g. a property listing) that can easily be read by a search engine and help them understand the meaning of that specific content.
What does all of this have to do with the demise of real estate sites?
To clarify, I mean all of the real estate sites that offer only property listing information. Specifically, the #knowledgegraph may have big impact on the listing #syndicators that don’t offer much beyond property details.
First, let’s use the example of Tom Cruise. In a recent blog post, Google’s search boss, Amit Singhal, stated that, “the information we show for Tom Cruise answers 37 percent of next queries that people ask about him.”
So what does this mean?
Well, let’s say you run a website that sells Tom Cruise dolls. Odds are you have some Tom Cruise information on your site and use this information (birthday, movie list, Katie Holmes, etc.) to create unique content that helps you get listed high in the search results and therefore drives traffic to your site. And once people are on your site you can now sell them your dolls.
You indeed provided an answer to a Tom Cruise question(s) on your site and then offered a Tom Cruise product to an engaged audience.
Based on what Amit is telling us though, you may have just lost a huge chunk of that audience (37%) because of the Knowledge Graph.
Ultimately, people will no longer actually need to click through to a website to get their questions answered – the answers will be right their inside the search results page. The only reason someone would need to click through is to take a much deeper dive into Tom Cruise content or to specifically buy your doll.
So, let’s apply this same rationale to the syndicators and other sites that only serve up property details.
Some syndicators are currently using semantic markup for all of their listings. On the surface this is a good thing because Google will certainly give preferential treatment to those that are creating content built for the graph. Even so, despite giving Google what they require the syndicators may be caught between a rock and a hard place.
Syndicators make their money from having people visit their site. More traffic means more ad revenue.
Because the Graph is not yet rolled out to #realestate listings, you’ll have to use your imagination here…. Do a search for the Taj Mahal and then envision the knowledge box instead displaying property information details. All aspects of the property details can be marked up so they will display in the box, i.e. Address (with a map), Bedrooms, Bathrooms, Square Footage, Pictures, Schools Close By, etc, etc.
For example, a search for ‘Homes For Sale In Seattle’ would return a short list of the homes available with the ability to click on related searches at the bottom of the box (still keeping you inside Google) that would take you to next group of 5 homes for sale that relate to your initial search.
So, if a home shopper gets the answer they need from the knowledge box in the search results why would they need to click through?
Basically Google becomes the defacto website (across all verticals) for this top-level view of information.
So, why exactly may syndicators be caught between a rock and a hard place?
If they do not use the markup language for their listings they’ll probably be left out of the knowledge box results.
If, on the other hand, they do use markup language on their listings, these may show up in the knowledge box, however, this will be tantamount to providing home shoppers with all the information they need without them needing to click through to their site.
As a home searcher I will be able to get all of the information I need right in the search results, again, including the agent’s name and contact information. Which brings up a very interesting point...
Because the markup language also allows you to connect a specific property to a specific real estate agent, it will be interesting to see if the syndicators use the actual listing agent’s information or if they will use the sponsored agent’s details.
Many refer to the syndicators as “scraper” sites, which means they are ‘scraping’ the MLS’s information to create pages on their own site that contain property details. Depending on the varying perspectives of each of the stakeholders in the real estate value chain, scraping isn’t necessarily a bad thing – and it’s definitely the practice of some of the largest most popular websites out there.
Regardless, the Knowledge Graph may have just made Google the biggest scraper site on the Internet. Did all of the scrapers just get scraped!?
Why is Google doing this?
As I noted at the beginning of this post, the Knowledge Graph will not only affect real estate. It will affect all sites. The end goal of the Knowledge Graph is to clean up the search results and to provide a better user experience to Google users. Plus, the more time we spend on Google the more ad revenue it generates - a nice little bonus for them.
The old system of writing content based around keywords isn’t dead (yet) but definitely less important. The meaning of the keywords you choose and their relationship to other keywords is what matters most moving forward.
What can you do?
Now more than ever before, you need to write engaging, unique and valuable content. You want to write about stuff that goes beyond what Google will include in its knowledge box information. You want to build around what homebuyers are really searching for – neighborhood character, great restaurants, local parks, local politics, schools…. All of these and more compose the rich information that will require searchers to click through to your site to get more.
Next, use semantic markup to let Google and Bing understand the important and relevant words/images on your pages. Our company, has already begun to implement this for our clients, and we are currently building the necessary markup into the Clikbrix 3.0 mobile platform.
It’s also time to get social and then get more social. More and more Google is incorporating ‘social signals’ into its search algorithms. In our view, social is imperative and specifically #googleplus – if you’re not on it yet, now is the perfect time.
Finally, take a breath. At this point no one really knows exactly how this will play out. Keep in mind, your end goal is to ensure that if your property listing does show up in the knowledge box that your name, contact details, even your profile pic, show up right along side it. This will help ensure that when people do a search, and land on a property they love, they’ll contact you directly from the results page.
Time will tell whether the Knowledge Graph may not be the best thing for your personal, professional website. On the other hand, it could end up being the absolute best thing to happen to your real estate business in quite a while.
Search Engine Optimization – including keyword research – has dominated the headlines for the last year or so. The fuel behind the SEO fervor is due to the recent changes Google has made to its ranking algorithms a.k.a. Panda and Penguin. And for good reason.
As website owners yourselves, you may have seen your site get knocked down (or out of first page results), on the other hand, you may have seen your results improve. Hopefully it’s the latter, but regardless, understand that basic SEO principals remain as important as ever.
Talking about SEO strategy, most people assert that “content is king”, and they’re absolutely correct. However, before diving head first into your blog posts and developing site content, it’s fundamentally critical to start first with keyword research.
But beware the so-called “SEO Gurus” out there hocking their services or products promising you a first page result. Some are good, some pure snake oil. But what continues to dumbfound me – whether intentionally misleading or simply uninformed – when it comes to keyword research what I see is typically dead wrong.
Keyword Research: The Wrong Way
Some SEO experts will urge you to find keyword phrases with massive traffic (monthly searches) and low levels of competition (other people trying to optimize a page for that same phrase). They tell you that if you do this, you’ll rank on the first page of Google results for your phrase.
To accomplish this, they’ll say to use (or they will on your behalf) the Google Keyword tool, and enter the phrase you want to rank for in order to find out how many people are searching for this phrase per month.
In the second image attached to this post you'll see I’ve searched for ‘San Diego Real Estate’. This keyword returned 110,000 monthly searches (bottom left red box). Seems pretty good in terms of possible traffic for that phrase, doesn’t it?
Let’s come back to this in a moment.
You’ll typically be instructed next to make sure your heavily searched keyword has very low competition. To determine this, it was likely suggested you do a Google search for your phrase and look at the ‘Results’ number that was returned under the search box. A high number means that it’s a very competitive phrase and therefore you should probably stay clear of it.
Note the third image attached, our phrase ‘San Diego Real Estate’ resulted in about 34,100,100 results/pages with this phrase. UH OH, that seems like pretty stiff competition so I better ditch this keyword right? WRONG!
This approach to key word research will lead to only one thing: your competitors will get all of the web traffic (and therefore prospective clients) that should really be yours.
You’ll notice in our keyword tool search that I had the ‘Broad’ phrase option selected (red box on the left). What does this mean? By selecting this option you are asking Google to give you the approximate amount of monthly searches that contain the words ‘San Diego Real Estate’. But you’re also asking Google to return results that contain other words that someone may likely have used in their search query.
In addition, by using the Broad match option, you are also asking for results of queries that use the words of your phrase in any order.
Here are some examples of Broad match results: ‘I love San Diego and Real Estate’, ‘Real Estate homes for sale San Diego’.
These results are useless if you want to rank for your specific phrase.
Further notice, that under the Broad match selector that I could have chosen ‘Phrase’ as my option. When you select Phrase, you are asking Google to give you results that contain ‘San Diego Real Estate’ in the proper order but also results that include other words.
Here are a couple examples of Phrase match results: ‘I Love San Diego Real Estate’, ‘San Diego Real Estate Is Hot’, etc.
These results are also useless for your purposes.
Let’s move on to the search results number of 34 million.
This number tells you approximately how many web pages contain the words San Diego Real Estate. It’s a misleading number because it could mean that the words San Diego Real Estate appear on the page, however may not have any connection of any kind to each other.
To illustrate this, a page could be talking about Texas Real Estate and refer to a vacation the author of the post took to San Diego. Further, the author of this page could be trying to optimize for a keyword that has nothing to do with these four words – maybe this page is really about ‘family vacations’ and in the copy the author refers to ‘San Diego’, and separately mentions ‘Real Estate’ in Texas.
34 million is only telling you the number of pages that have these four words on them and therefore has nothing to do with competition levels for a keyword or SEO in general.
Another thing to note about this number is that it fluctuates in a big way. Do a test for yourself. First make sure you’re logged out of Google and type in any search term and record the number returned. Then, perform the same search a few days later. Odds are the results will be very different. This obviously indicates that this number is unreliable, and therefore you shouldn’t base your keyword research on it… IGNORE IT!
When the SEO expert tells you that ‘low competition’ is mandatory in order to rank for your keyword, they’re also wrong.
This is why…
In the world of SEO the only thing that really matters is ranking as the number one spot for your keyword (ok, maybe number two) because this is where the traffic will come from. Site traffic falls off dramatically by the time you get down to the third result and beyond.
Here’s a perfect analogy that really underscores this given to us by, ...
Let’s suppose you’ve entered a car race where you’ll get to drive a brand new Porsche. In this race you have 50 competitors and they’ll all be driving Chrysler K-Cars (not to knock K-Cars of course). Although you have 50 competitors, odds are almost guaranteed you will finish in number one spot.
Now, you have a second race coming up, this time with only two competitors. You’re still in your Porsche but the other two are driving Formula 1 racecars. In this race you’re pretty much guaranteed to finish dead last.
As mentioned above, the only thing that matters in SEO is that you rank number one or two on the results page for your keyword. Therefore, it doesn’t matter if you have two or 2,000 competitors. The only thing to care about is if you can beat out the number one ranked page and take over that spot for yourself.
The RIGHT WAY To Do Keyword Research
1. Use ONLY the exact match option in the Google Keyword tool. Notice below how many results the tool is now showing for my phrase. Although 12,100 is much smaller than 110,000, it is the only number that matters when the objective is to optimize for ‘San Diego Real Estate’.
2. Notice in the fourth image attached it says the competition is “high”. Before running from this phrase you need to ask yourself “What factors are making the competition so high?” By looking deeper, you may find that the top results are not optimizing for your phrase as perfectly as they possibly could be. Which may give you the edge to win the second race after all.
3. Do a deep competitive analysis on who is ranking at the top. Look for things like:
a. How well written is their Title tag. Does it include their exact keyword phrase… in its proper order?
b. Look for Youtube videos in the top spots. These can be knocked out with a dynamite blog post or an even better video than what currently exists.
c. Find out what their Page Rank and Domain Rank is. Anything under 4 (possibly a 5) might leave a big door open for you to reach number one.
d. Research their back-links from authority websites… only! If they don’t have a ton of them, you can easily work to get these type of links for your own content.
e. Look at their page to see who they are linking out to. If they aren’t, this is another opportunity for you. Google is now looking for pages that link out to authority websites and this tactic will also help you insert your content into the online ecosystem.
4. Get ready for the Knowledge Graph! - This is a subject for another post.
What worked in the past in SEO isn’t likely to work today in terms of ‘gaming the system.’ Google has come down hard on website owners that us deceptive and spammy techniques in order to rank high in search results.
Today it’s vitally more important than to write and create engaging and original content that capitalizes on what people are looking for via good keywords. Finding great keywords means doing great research… properly.
Have some fun with this: next time an SEO guru approaches and claims he can rank you number 1 for a keyword phrase that has 30 million monthly searches ask them if that’s “broad or exact?”
Until then good luck – We can’t wait to see you make that victory lap!
#seo #keywordresearch #realestatemarketing #knowledgegraph
I am no techy but my company is well underway with the development of re-building a large component of our mobile service offering for Realtors and Brokers.
One of the debates that surfaced while planning our mobile web design strategy was whether we should be building a standalone mobile website for our clients or a mobile website based on #responsivewebdesign .
Different Approaches - lots to think about!
1. Responsive - basically this will automatically format our desktop site to adapt to the different screen size that exist in the world of mobile devices. Many Wordpress themes have this functionality out of the box.
2. Standalone Mobile Site - build a completely different site from our desktop site that is built with the mobile device and as important the mobile user in mind. Perform a device detect when someone visits us and serve them up this standalone mobile site.
3. Combo - build a stand-alone #mobilewebsite that then also uses responsive design to tailor our mobile site to all of the varying screen sizes and device types out there.
Depending on your business needs, your decision would likely be affected by many factors...there were for us when we went through the process.
We based our decision on one main factor - USER EXPERIENCE. After that, the approach we would choose end up choosing was crystal clear.
Responsive websites don't allow the design flexibility we can get by building a stand alone mobile site i.e if you main nav is on the top of your page it will be on the top of your responsive mobile site - typically stacked on top of each other.
As we know, most mobile sites and apps have the navigation at the bottom. Achievable but not easily achievable with responsive design.
Videos, Images and other files
Another factor in user experience is page load time...especially with dealing with a potential homebuyer on the front lawn of a property.
Responsive sites don't cut down on the file size of your page. For example - you may have a picture on your desktop site that is 200px by 200px and 150k. When someone views your responsive mobile site they will see the image at a smaller size but the image loading is still 150k.
We build mobile site for Realtors® and Brokerages and let me tell you...they have a lot of property pics.
Have you ever noticed that some sites offer only a bit of content and functionality in comparison to their desktop versions? There is a reason for this.
The mobile user is typically pressed for time and they usually only want to perform a specific task or access specific information while using their mobile device.
For example, does a #homebuyer really want to access a mortgage calculator while standing in front of a house? Probably not. These widget type tools have extremely large files sizes that slow down page load times and therefore impact user experience.
By having a standalone mobile site you can serve up the content and functions that specifically target the mobile visitor's needs and make accessing those requested pieces of content much quicker.
We can tailor or search engine optimization specifically for our mobile pages.
There are also a number of other factors that have helped us determine that our approach is to build a standalone mobile website (that uses responsive design to help specifically tailor our standalone mobile site to many more device screen sizes.
As I mentioned, I am a marketer not a technical person, so if I was unclear or slightly off in my descriptions please forgive me.
If you are interested in this topic (if you're not, you probably should be considering how important mobile is and is going to be) you should read this blog and specifically this article - http://www.lukew.com/ff/entry.asp?1390 - it helped me tremendously.
Thank you very much to for providing us technically challenged people with such clear and concise information!
I truly feel understanding how your site is going to be built for the booming mobile web is imperative in order to give your users the best possible experience.
cc - very important for mobile SEO
#realestate #realtors #realestateagents
#realestatemarketing #realtors #realestateagents
Google Plus Local is live folks. I will not give a complete breakdown here because has done a great job explaining it on here -
And here - http://www.virante.org/blog/2012/05/30/google-local-full-integration-of-google-places-into-google-plus/
I will say that this will have huge implications on your Google search results as it seems Google is indexing all local pages, not to mention the social signals this will give Google in terms of the reviews your business gets.
The implications for Realtors will be massive. Just take a look at my local searches for "Homes For Sale In Austin, Texas."
Wouldn't you like to show up in the top 3 or 4 for this term?
I will follow-up with more once I play around with it.
#realestatemarketing #homesforsaleaustin #googlepluslocal
What is interesting to us is the massive growth of #qrcodes and the amount of mobile traffic that is generated by a mobile website vs. native mobile apps.
#Realtors should think about this as you decide how to launch your mobile presence. Not only is a mobile website less expensive than developing multiple native apps but it also appears as though the mobile web is where you will get most of your traffic.
In this Shop.org/Forrester study a few things are apparent:
1. Tablets are driving larger sales orders than desktop and smartphone
2. Tablets accounted for 3.2% of all web sales
3. Mobile Ad budget account for less than 4% of total ad budgets (WHAT?!)
4. 75% of retailers said they use QR Codes for in-store marketing
5. QR Codes are number 1 mobile marketing tool for retailers with less than $10mil in sales and over $100mil in sales
6. Search is number 1 mobile website driver
7. 73% of mobile web traffic is web-based vs. native app based
8. 49% of retailers surveyed plan to invest in QR Codes in 2012
#mobilemarketing #qrcode #mobileseo #smartphone
This post and the articles attached to it is a must for #realestateagents / #realtors looking to include Google Plus into their #realestatemarketing .
We can't recommend Circle Plus enough. If you're a #realtor and you're investing in developing Google Plus as part of your Real Estate Marketing mix - CircleCount is a must.
Follow your posts to see how well they did and correlate them with how many users you gained...or lost as a result. You may see a particular post helped you get 10 followers or you may see that a post caused you to lose 10 followers. You can also see what day of the week or time of day gave you the best results for your posts.
If you have a business page you can add it to your personal account Circle Count dashboard so you can track both from one spot.
If you don't know about #circlecount here is a quick video to get you started. You can add your profiles to the circle count website here...
#realestatemarketing #googleplustips #googleplusforrealestate
Hey I'm Canadian, naturally I would love #blackberry to pull out of this.
I also run a mobile web company and we have just completed a mobile web app project for a large multinational brand.
Let me just say that building this web app for Blackberry was nothing short of a ridiculous experience. Simply getting the BB Map App to work with our web app was near impossible and slowed down the release date by weeks not days.
For development companies this is unacceptable and our only solution is to tell clients that they can have what they want on iPhone and Android but it simply isn't possible on BB.
Did you know that most (not all of course) BB's DO NOT come with GPS? Did you also know that some BB's (the ones that do have GPS) do not come with that feature activated out of the box and that you have to pay additionally for it per month?
It is near impossible to design one App and have it worked across BB devices - those that tell you otherwise are pulling your leg!
It would be nice if this 3rd option for development simply dried up completely. Because that will not be the case most likely, we can only hope that the new operating system offers mobile marketing firms much more to work with. In the meantime, depending on the needs of our clients, we are not going to offer BB web development.
I'd love to hear what some of your experiences been with the BB as a developer and as a user of their mobile web browser?
Clikbrix...go beyond the property walls.
Thank you for visiting us on Google Plus. Here's a little about us...
Today’s homebuyers search for authenticity, expect dialogue and want far more than basic MLS data. Clikbrix easily and affordably equips agents and brokers with a turnkey, mobile website system of content-rich features and tools that beautifully captures listing details plus speaks to the lifestyle and emotional needs of homebuyers—leading them on interactive, mobile journeys that go beyond the property walls.
Our Mobile Real Estate Solutions…Easy. Stunning. Free.
Whether you’re a Real Estate Agent or a multi-agent Brokerage, we have an affordable solution for you—each fueled by our powerful Mobile and QR Code technology platform.
Here are some of the Clikbrix 2.0 features:
- Custom Branded Mobile Websites
- Social Network Ready
- One-Click Phone Number Dialing
- Designer QR Codes
- Seller's Story
- Neighborhood Insider
- What's Nearby
- Google+ Virtual Open House
- Full Screen Picture Galleries
- Mobile Video Support
- Real-Time Reporting