Get ready to care about "EdgeRank" more than SEO

Services for Real Estate Pros with Roost

You've probably never hear of "EdgeRank." But if you're serious about online marketing, you need to get your mind around it quickly. It's more important than SEO and will make or break you on the most important place on the web: Facebook

SEO as a marketing strategy for Real Estate is dying.  Here's why:

#1) For the the vast majority of Real Estate agents and brokers it is already dead on arrival, and has been for several years.  

Let's face it, only 5-7 players consistently win on any local keyword string.  Are you one of those?  Long tail you tell me?  How much traffic is that really sending you?  And how much business is that traffic really turning into?  For the vast majority of agents, business is done the old fashioned way through networking.  Not through SEO optimization and lead generation.  How much mindshare have you put into SEO?  And what has your return really been?

#2) Google's only making it tougher.  

Have you done a search for CITY, Plumbers on Google lately?  Look at the results that get returned.  Google Local is taking over (those are the small results with phone numbers).  Can you get in Google local?  Sure.  How?  Who knows.  Checked out Google Maps lately?  It is already a robust place for consumers to search for listings.  Why do they need to go to your site?

#3) Google's losing its position as the gateway to the Facebook.

Facebook has surpassed Google in traffic and crushes them in engagement and customer relationship.  Yes there is a lot of hooplah around privacy, etc.  But if you think Facebook's momentum is going anywhere but're in for a surprise.

What is EdgeRank & why should I care? (skip this section if you don't care & just want a tip on how to optimize...)

EdgeRank is the algorithm that Facebook uses to decide what goes in the "Top News" feed.  You can learn more in this great write up by TechCrunch, but at a high level, Facebook provides its users two "streams" of information.  The default Top News Feed, and the Most Recent feed.  

It's easy to understand the Most Recent feed.  That's where all posts from your network go (friends' status updates, posts from pages you "like", etc).  Here's the problem with that feed - it's overwhelming (kind of like the Twitter feed IMO).  So Facebook created the Top News feed to attempt to filter content/posts in a way that they think will make them more meaningful to you.

The Top News feed is the default feed everyone sees and that's where you want your content posts to end up.  As an end user it's a subset of posts from your network - essentially it's what Facebook feels is going to be most interesting to you.  And so to determine what goes in that feed they created an algorithm called Edgerank.  

Before we get to the algorithm - what you need to understand is what an "Edge" is in Facebook parlance.  An Edge is what's created when anyone interacts with a piece of content ("Likes", Shares, Comments, etc).  Creating a content post itself the first time also creates an Edge.  

Let's pause there...

The fact that the algorithm is called EdgeRank, and that an Edge is all about interaction - tells you something very insightful about what Facebook thinks matters to users.  While Google cares about relevance of content and external popularity via links...Facebook cares about interaction and engagement.  This tells you a lot about how to leverage Facebook - create engagement and interaction.

Back to EdgeRank...

Now, remember that creating a piece of content in and of itself creates an Edge.  But how much more EdgeRank that content gets (and therefore how likely to make it into the Top News feed) depends on three things according to what Facebook shared at f8 - a) affinity between creator of the Edge and viewer b) some weighting by the type of Edge (like, share, comment) c) How long ago the Edge was created.

Any math guys out there?  Don't worry if not - you don't need to understand the equation below.  You just need to read the last part of this post).. 

If you're confused, TechCrunch did a great job of summing this up.."In other, hopefully less confusing words, an Object is more likely to show up in your News Feed if people you know have been interacting with it recently."

The good news - EdgeRank optimization appears to be an order of magnitude than search engine optimization...

Does this sound familiar?  To be good at SEO you need to do effective keyword research, optimize unique content for the keywords you're attacking, structure your pages and optimize them for google crawlers, avoid duplicate content, drive one way anchor text links, avoid obvious linkbait, and so on, and so on.  

Meanwhile, it appears that to be good at EdgeRank you need to create content that people want to engage with (by sharing, liking or commenting) and do it with some frequency.

Let's compare the pay off of SEO (assuming you're one of the few who actually get to the payoff) to that of Facebook EdgeRank optimization.  SEO is going to drive random eyeballs to your website/blog which you'll hope to create to a lead someday and eventually turn into a deal.  Facebook is going to create relationships with friends of friends, partners, previous clients, and so on.

Which would you prefer to spend your time on?

Comments (194)

Virginia Hepp - Mesquite NV REALTOR
Desert Gold Realty - Mesquite NV Homes For Sale - Mesquite, NV
Mesquite NV Homes and Neighborhoods - Search MLS

@Billie - I pay a small amount of money for my internet marketing - less than I used to pay for a print ad in the newspaper. 

80% of my business now comes from my AR blog which links to my website for lead conversion.

You have to learn how to blog properly to make it work - I don't have to do open houses, work FSBOs, do floor time, etc.

Buyers and sellers call or email when they are ready.

Internet marketing is networking - online.  The best way to get new business.

May 25, 2010 05:41 AM
Alex Chang
Roost - San Francisco, CA

Jay, thanks for weighing in.  I respect your opinion a lot, and at the highest level, I agree with you - they are totally different animals and it is a bit of apples to oranges.  But I think a useful discussion.

So let me clarify, I'm by no means suggesting that Facebook optimization is going to drive you more website visitors who then turn into deals..then SEO optimization could.  Especially for someone like you who is at the top of the game for quality content and SEO.   And in your case I suspect it will be a long time before you should deviate because you have a system that works.

My point is that Facebook is going to quickly prove to be an order of magnitude more meaningful and effective marketing vehicle than SEO for the average Realtor precisely because it's not all about driving website traffic.  

In my experience of pounding the streets, the average realtor does not get meaningful business from SEO (or SEM, cpc, leadgen programs) compared to the business they get from word of mouth/referral.  Because frankly - it's competitive, resource intensive, and way outside their skillset.   And to be good at it, not only do you have to crack the SEO nut consistently to acquire the visitors, but you then have to turn those visitors into relationships and then into deals.  Compound risk.

Even for those who are good at it - it typically represents a small percent of their deals each year compared to word of mouth referral business.

Facebook is a platform (admittedly a new one) for driving more word of mouth business.  E.g. it is a platform for getting a friend of your friend to see something insightful you post and then ask your friend if they had a good experience working with you.  This is right down the power alley.

There's no question that it's still early with Facebook and clearly the tools aren't clearly defined yet.  So I recognize I'm preaching hypotheticals here a bit - but hopefully that's what makes it interesting to consider. 

Two last thoughts for why I believe agents & brokers would be well served to start paying attention to Facebook now:

a) Facebook is only going to become more important/powerful at Google's expense.  Think back to Google pre adwords/adsense.  Facebook is in a similar position in that they haven't tapped into their true ad platform/syndication power yet and it should be way bigger given that they know about you the individual rather than just trying to extrapolate from what's on the page.  This unlocks a much bigger $ opportunity

b) Yes, it's an unpopular stance on ActiveRain but I do believe SEO as we know it is dying.  That is not to say that many people won't continue to have success with it (the VHS business was hugely profitable for Wal-Mart for many years after DVD's became prevalent). It is also not to say that everyone reading this should give up on SEO.  But it is to say that it is becoming harder, not easier and more competitive, not less.

- Google's share is decreasing and I wouldn't be surprised to see actual traffic declines in next year (they are basically flat now y/o/y) which means the pie is getting smaller

- Core search results are getting displaced with Local, Maps, etc and, auto complete in the one box is severely impacting the long tail which also means the pie is getting smaller

- SEO is very very well documented and understood now.  There are wholesale companies that allow you to auto gen and publish SEO pages which means the barriers to new competition on those keywords are very low


May 25, 2010 05:52 AM
Andrea Geller
HOT PROPERTY® The Chaz Walters Group at Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Chicago, IL


You said what I was thinking but as always, so much better

May 25, 2010 06:02 AM
Alex Chang
Roost - San Francisco, CA

Billie A - thank you for that comment #181.  That is exactly the dynamic I'm talking about.  And IMO Facebook is going to be an incredibly powerful platform to help you do more of that client/friend networking.

May 25, 2010 06:16 AM
Lou "That Realtor Guy in Shorts" Farris

Ironically, though the Internet is a great place to learn things (one of the top two priorities for its creation), and share ideas (its primary use when it was still DARPANET), what rally makes my business work is that people refer me to others with sticky real estate needs. Whether I am doing a short sale, or preserving a legacy in a sale for a client, the real marketing is done from my sphere. Even people who have never bought or sold with me have referred others to me, becasue they know my work ethic, my dedicationg to completing what I start, and that will not stop until the deal is closed. 

They like my sites, and joke with me about some sometimes humorous quips on Facebook or tiwwer. What actually sels them is me. They kno we to be somone who will do the uncommon to produce positive results. People know I care about them, and that I care about meeting their needs. It is a part of who I am as a person, and not some skill set, or marketing bullet. I care deeply about clients and customers, and want the best for them. THey see it, and watch it work in action for them.

It works a lot better than SEO, and Edge whatever. I blog and network to have fun with others in my profession, or friends, family, and people who may want to get to know me. Still, i am not someone who is going to live or die by the Internet or a blog or website. 

I could care less how many hits my sites get. I care a lot more about how many helps I get to offer, and that is what makes it work for me.



May 25, 2010 07:54 AM
Max Chirkov
Phoenix Homes Team - Scottsdale, AZ

I think, Alex, you're jumping a little bit too far ahead of where social media, search and real estate business is. And I doubt we'll get there any time soon when agents will be generating substantial business from online social networking. And if there is a person to ask, Jay Thompson would probably have the best answer, since he has one of the most prominent presence in SM.

First of all social media channels like Twitter and Facebook are not looked at by consumer in the same way agents look at it. From the business stand point we're trying to cater our services to the masses that  interested in discovering things shared by their friends and like-minded people they follow. Most of them will find real estate irrelevant. That's one of the reasons agents don't have masses of home buyers following them, but rather other realtors and businesses in the industry + friends and family.

Personally, I think, social media is a great channel for larger businesses and brands who can create a real following of their customers and people that care. For a single agent it's almost impossible. Yes you can create a substantial following of like-minded people, but not a mob of raving fans and former customers that will help you to generate new business. Plus a single agent would never be able to handle this kind of volume by him/herself.

Be realistic, if you outline a specific strategy to stay connected with your past clients and commit to it, then yes - you can have referral business generated that way. It doesn't matter which tools you're using - letters, cards, phone calls or Facebook. But again, I doubt you can make a leaving from the volume of this referral business - it's just a part of the bigger strategy.

Social Media became and overwhelming distraction filled with noise. And when it comes to finding the right tools for the job - we're turning to specialized channels that provide highly targeted and quality content. You could shop on Facebook, but would you? You can search for real estate on Facebook and Twitter, but do you? To find something worth your while, you'd have to filter out a lot of noise, and rather use ebay, Amazon etc.

Social media is good for distributing ideas and discovering something new - social media is an opportunity channel if it's used right, but in no way Facebook will substitute specialized tools like search engines i.e. Google.

I totally agree with Jay that comparing Google and Facebook is silly. Since you compare traffic, why not compare the time spent on Facebook and Google as well? Would that be relevant? If people spent as much time on Google searching for something they really need, as they spent on Facebook posting photos of their cats and venting, I'd be concerned, because I expect to find what I need in Google in seconds and be on my way. Social media tools are time hogs on the other hand.

You're saying "Facebook has surpassed Google in traffic and crushes them in engagement and customer relationship." What if Farmville will have more traffic than Google or Facebook? It probably has quite an engagement rate already. There is a difference between traffic and targeted traffic.

You say "Let's face it, only 5-7 players consistently win on any local keyword string. Are you one of those?" In business school they teach that only 5% of their graduates will become successful - are all realtors among of them? No one says it's easy - the "idea of easy" is what screws real estate industry in the first place. Nonetheless, there is approx. 1 Realtor per every 275 people in the US, not counting non-NAR members. Success demands diversity and ability to adjust. VHS rental/sales businesses didn't fold, CDs/DVDs and now Blue-Rays are just next generation of the same product and many of the same businesses come up with new strategies like online rentals and rentals on demand. Agents shouldn't look for an easy way - they should look for a way that works and figure out how it can work for them.

You say "For the vast majority of agents, business is done the old fashioned way through networking." I'm must be too young, since all I can remember - agents soliciting their family, friends, neighbors, cold-calling, door knocking and farming - in the old days. Today, we have a great advantage of not sifting through the masses, but delivering our messages directly to those who are in the market. Yes there is a competition and it will probably grow, since technology give more opportunities to those who can take advantage if it.

I agree that Facebook has too much of personal information from their users, which definitely can give them selling power, but again, we have to see that working for the real estate industry yet.

As far as SEO being dead... just because "SEO is very very well documented and understood now" - it doesn't mean that it doesn't apply anymore. Optimization techniques are quite simple and being implemented via plugins and directly into the systems, which makes things much simpler to maintain, but it doesn't mean it's dead. Producing quality content is what most important - giving people what they are looking for is the most important.

You say - "Long tail you tell me? How much traffic is that really sending you? And how much business is that traffic really turning into?" You're in business of referring business - volume is important to you, because that's what you sell. Agents, on the other hand, want to cut down the unnecessary volume and produce more sales. I've seen long tail brining real estate sales within weeks from site lunch. If long tail didn't pay off, search engines and e-commerce sites would never target (and especially didn't buy ads for) book names, ISBN numbers, model numbers and other detail oriented searches.

Last, but not least - how creating relationships via social networking, that later lead into business transaction can be less time consuming and result in more business than converting targeted traffic from search engines?

I think that SM is a huge misconception by many real estate agents. You guys are following and listening to companies whose targeted audience you're. They like it and it works for them because you're their buyers and you follow them... Until realtors can generate as much business as Real Estate Connect, by organizing their open houses via Facebook and Twitter - SM will be outplayed by targeted search in generating direct sales.

May 25, 2010 08:33 AM
Jay Thompson
Zillow - Seattle, WA

Alex -

To be blunt, I'm not overly concenred with the "average agent". We hire great, well above averge agents. Those, and our clients, are who concerns me. You, as a real estate vendor, have different concerns.

Personally, I think "owning the SERPs" is over-rated. Yeah, it's a matter of personal pride for me that I've managed to get my blog to Page 1 of Google for the search term "Phoenix Real Estate". And that does indeed drive a significant amount of traffic. But you know what? It's terms like "Power ranch homes for sale", "MLS #xxxxxxx", and "I want to sell my Phoenix home" that really make the email and phone light up.

Those search terms are not all that difficult to rank for. SEO mastery, link backs, meta-whatever tags are not needed.

I built a highly local WordPress based neighborhood site about a year ago. Within a week, I had a contact from it. It only gets about 15 unique visits a day (compared to 2000 - 3000 a day on TPREG). But it makes the phone ring. 

THAT is the power of "SEO". Find a term a few, serious, buyers and sellers search for, and build a site - or a series of posts -- around it. I think I could Facebook that term to death and get nowhere. Google on the other hand, loves it.

Traffic is nice, and there is a "numbers game" to this Internet thing. But **focused** traffic is far more important.

Facebook isn't going away, Google isn't going away, and who knows what some 20 year old kid in a dorm room is cooking up as we type. It's a never ending battle to stay on top of these things.

The interesting thing to me, is it is entirely possible to be wildly successful in real estate doing NONE of the internet/social media/blogging/next big tech thing. There are people out there who geo-farm by postal mail, door knock, and attend the Rotary Club and are insanely successful too....

There is almost an infinite number of ways to skin the real estate cat.

Max - *great* comment!!



May 25, 2010 10:42 AM
Brenda Singletary

Thank you Alex, this is great info whether others use or not.  I am hooked on both.  You gotta love America, still the land of the free to each agree to disagree.

Thanks again until next great blog, take care.

May 25, 2010 12:02 PM
Eileen Begley
Coldwell Banker, DelMonte - Carmel, CA
Monterey Real Estate

Interesting. Have not been using Facebook to any degree for business. Got a Blackberry though so I can more easily access Facebook. (One reason). Will start thinking about facebook more and take a closer look.

May 25, 2010 12:09 PM
Alex Chang
Roost - San Francisco, CA

Makes sense Jay.  And again, for someone who has succeeded on the short tail or long tail, I get it.  You come up first for that "I want to sell my phoenix home" search so you're going to kill it.

And you're right Google certainly not going away.  

But I truly wonder if most agents out there would see any material difference in their business if they just stopped worrying about SEO entirely.  For every Jay Thompson, I suggest that there are 100 folks who "paid a guy to help me, got zero good leads, not even sure I need a website any more"...all my business comes through word of mouth.

Granted you don't concern yourself about those agents for good reasons (and ActiveRain is a more sophisticated community than that) - but that's the 90% I'm trying to talk to.

And is Facebook potentially more snake oil?  Sure, but the difference I'm trying to call out is that Facebook is a networking tool and a referral tool.  Very very different from SEO and I like the average agent's chances for success with it much more.

Great topic!  Thanks for spending cycles on it. Should be interesting to see how it evolves.

May 25, 2010 12:09 PM
Jirius Isaac
Isaac Real Estate &TriStar Mortgage - Kenmore, WA
Real Estate & loans in Kenmore, WA

Ok, It is amazing that everybody is so upset about this.  SEO is not and will not be dead for a long time if ever.  Facebook is growing like mad and is the future we are going in.  15-20 years ago who knew what the internet was?  7 years ago, who cared about Google rankings?  Today, most professionals are ignoring Facebook & Twitter.  In 4 years, it will be as important, or more so then SEO.  I am spending more time on Facebook now then doing blogs.  The switch is important, but it would not make sense to drop SEO.

May 26, 2010 01:37 PM
Robert T. Boyer
FHA Loan, VA Loan, Jumbo Loan,FHA Loans,VA Loans,Jumbo Loans - La Jolla, CA
San Diego Real Estate & Mortgage Loans, Ph.D. | VA Home Loan

Yes, but should I be doing this on a Mac or PC?

Unix or VMS ?

emacs or vi ?

firefox or IE ?

iphone or laptop?

May 26, 2010 09:14 PM
Chris Brunner
GreatFX Printing - Springfield, MO
GreatFX Printing

Please take this man's advice and stop partaking in SEO.  You will leave less competition for the guys who know better, and we will enjoy our new found wealth in the real estate sector.

Google will be used for a long time to come.  It was the first most intelligent and still is the ultimate "magic mirror", one which you can ask any question in to and probably find an answer within seconds.   Google maps connections made between websites, creating a sort of social network similar to Facebook's social networks.  That's SEO in a nutsell. 

Facebook is a social network for people, not a search engine to find topics on web pages... two very different services to be comparing. Yet still you submit to ActiveRainers advice that they should ignore SEO?  Alex, you lost me at... "Google Local, how to register? WHO KNOWS?!?"


Er... I mean "ignore Google it's worthless".  Doubt you could have found ths information on Facebook.  Edgerank information is great, but telling folks here to ignore SEO is wrong in my opinion.

May 27, 2010 05:04 AM
Dave Singery
Triinity Realty and Investment - Whittier, CA
Friendly Hills Homes - Whittier Ca

Billie, #181 I agree with your accessment that we should never give up on walking and knocking, reaching out to our COI's and networking where ever we can. But, I also (at least for now) think that social media is here and its here to stay. I have found that it allows me to keep in contact with my COI in an ADDITIONAL way beyond the calls and email. I was surprised how many of them were willing to "friend" me for example. I will never give up the aforementioned ways of maintaining my customer base but will and have added social media as an addition to and not a replacement for.

May 27, 2010 07:41 AM
Mary Davidson

I always wondered what the difference was between the Top News vs. Most Recent. Thanks for enlightening me!

May 29, 2010 01:02 PM
Chris Walters
Edisto Realty Edisto Beach,SC - Edisto Beach, SC

Great Post, I think I have a grasp on it now that I have read it about 5 times.  I am putting together my plan to take advantage of it.

Jun 02, 2010 03:25 AM
Brad Patshkowski
Heritage Home Loans a division of Mann Mortgage LLC - Spokane Valley, WA
Home Loans Spokane, WA

Very nice...I think we all need to re-evaluate our time spent advertising on the internet and possibly shift to creating relationship instead...keep it up!

Jun 08, 2010 06:05 AM
Brian Schulman
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, Lancaster PA - Lancaster, PA
Lancaster County PA RealEstate Expert 717-951-5552

Alex, this is an eye opener!  Thanks for the insight.

Jul 21, 2010 12:46 AM
Margaret Woda
Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc. - Crofton, MD
Maryland Real Estate & Military Relocation

Thank you for this information... I've been doing Facebook, but don't remember ever hearing the term Edge Rank. 

Jul 21, 2010 02:37 AM
Nelson fernandes
I am with chris brunner on this. Just like SEO delivers the highest quality of website traffic and hence more cost effective conversions, Edgerank will also bring abt genuine Optimisation in Social Media Marketing and lessen the junk on FB.
Mar 18, 2011 07:51 AM