Move over Panda!
Since I teach classes on this at our brokerage every week, I thought I'd do a little article on what the new Google Penguin algorithm could mean to Realtors and their websites.
Many people could care less about what an algorithm is. Totally understandable! However, if your website drops from page 1 on Google to page 10, you'll care.
Most Realtors will not be effected by the Penguin algorithm if they are using third party sites. Chances are, you have a site that doesn't rank anyway. No offense! The only real estate sites that do rank are ones that are worked on daily, have relevant content, and are attended to. To learn more about this, read my article Websites Are Like Children.
So, what is an algorithm exactly? Well, in my terms an algorithm is a set of rules meant to minimize abuse. Believe it or not, developers and companies find any and every way to augment and maximize the holes in the system to get their pages to rank higher. Chances are, even the legit company you work with on your website is engaged in such activity to a certain extent.
One good example of abuse early on was the use of completely irrelevant information at the bottom of a page in a size 1 font, the same color as the background. This was called stacking in my neck of the woods. We would stack pages with information to get traffic to them, but we would hide the content by shrinking the font size and blending it into the background. Well, companies began to figure this out and write code to penalize us.
Small fonts would be one penalty. Same color as the background would be #2. All this info at the bottom of a page would be #3... and after a certain amount of strikes... you're out! It's called being black-balled.
Today's web world, in some ways, is a little more civilized thanks to Google. It's not as much fun, and certainly not as interesting as "them days" when we wouldn't know where we were going to wind up. Part of the fun of being online, back in the day, was the experience of "surfing". I used to enjoy finding the "gems". Sites linked to other sites, and things were simpler. Now it's a game of Frogger online! I just feel like I'm doing my best to avoid scams and ads. In this sense... it's become more annoying.
The algorithm, and what to focus on.
As an agent, what do you need to do to get your "billboard in the desert" noticed? OK.... There's only two ways to do this. Either pay for traffic, or roll up your sleeves and get busy.
- Stop and think. I know this is hard... but do it anyway. Start with your home page and determine what it's going to be about. What ever that is, this is your "subject". Think of each page like a high school book report.
- Keywords. These are your "subjects". (I.E. My main page is about "searching for homes in "whatever" area")
- Use these keywords several times through the content you're about to write. But not too many times. If you get ridiculous with it, you'll be penalized. (I.E. If you Realtors get ridiculous with Realtor-isms, Realtors will be Really penalized and go to Realtor jail.)
- Keywords in the Meta Data, Keywords in the Title Tag, and Keywords in your Anchor Tags. Don't overuse, but make sure Google knows what your site is about, and make sure the data in page reflects this. Don't cheat, or you'll have 60 PhD's on you.
- Link internally. If you reference other content in your site, link to it. I did this with my other article above.
- Put your contact information on the page. (not email address unless you like getting spammed.)
- Are there paid ads running on your site from 3rd party PPC vendors? This is bad. This means you're trying to make money by getting people to your site for "impressions". Don't even bother arguing with me if you think you have a case against this.
- Images. Use them. Alt-Tag them, Title-Tag them, and make sure they belong to you. Or at least be smart enough to rename them.
- Do you use site-cloaking? If you do, stop. Don't stealth your URL. This is black-hat stuff and it will get you spanked.
- Is the bounce rate below 75%? If it's above 60%, you should start paying attention.
- Are there more back-links to the site than pages in it? If so, you need to ad more content.
- Does your site have legitimate social media links?
- Does your site have a logo? On every page? Is the logo Title-Tagged? Is it in all your email correspondence?
- Are there broken links in the site? If so, fix them.
- Do your outgoing links work?
- Are you backlinks over a year old? If so, you need some new ones.
- Is your content relevant for your site's "subject"?
- Do you redirect people using the "redirect" code snippet? Don't.
- Is your site mentioned in other places? How about you as the Author? It should be.
- Is your content original, written by you? If not, you're probably copying and pasting content from other sites... not good.
These are just some of the over 200 signals that Penguin looks at.
Bottom line... work on your site, or pay someone else to do it. It's not worth the headache. If you've found that your site has dropped rank significantly in the last few weeks, you may need to overhaul it, and resubmit to Google for a check up.