Are Widgets Draining Your Google Juice?

Services for Real Estate Pros

draining the google juiceFirst, I realize that this article is controversial. There are many people that will disagree with what I'm about to write. Maybe even the majority of people that read this article will disagree with what I have to say- but when it comes to SEO (search engine optimization), if you are doing what the majority of people are doing (for SEO purposes), you're already doing it wrong.

In the social media circles, and on several real estate blogs, I often read about the conspiracy that free real estate widgets will drain your website's power and pass it on to the widget creator's website. (Widgets from Zillow or Trulia for example.)

The rumor going around the world-wide-water cooler is that if you use real estate widgets, you will actually help Zillow / Trulia / Realtor to out-rank your own site in Google!

How could this be? It seems so unfair.

Well let me ease your mind: it's not quite as it seems.

The logic behind the theory goes something like this: Contained in the Zillow (or Trulia or what-have-you) widget, there is a link back to Zillow. You can check out an example here. Therefore, if you use the free widgets, you are unknowingly leaking power (a.k.a. "Google Juice") from your own site, right back to Zillow- who then ironically outranks you in searches for listings in your local area.

I think this is hogwash. I don't believe in widget-drain; I think it's a myth. You are probably getting outranked by the "big boys" but it's not because of a widget conspiracy, in my humble opinion.

I even have nerd-friends who disagree with me on this topic; so you can disagree with me too. But I sincerely do not believe that the Zillow / Trulia widgets will harm your rankings and in fact, I think they will add to the "visitor experience" and usefulness of your site- which could actually help your rankings. If someone really loves your handy-dandy widgets (real estate related or not), they might leave a comment or a plus or a tweet.

Yes. You read it correctly. I believe that these widgets are far more likely to help your SEO than to harm it.

I propose that a real person giving a Google+ to your page has a greater influence on rankings than the supposed loss-of-juice that one may suffer because one has an outbound link on one's page.

Now let me be clear: there is another issue with widgets, which is that people may possibly leave your site when they see the Zillow widget and click on it. That is a major problem. However, that's not what this article is about. This article is about rankings and SEO, not traffic bounce.

Do Free Widgets Really Harm Your Rankings?

I believe that when Zillow created these widgets, the idea of having lots of links back to their site- to boost Google Page Rank- was definitely on the mind of the developers. I'm sure "getting all those links" was thought about in the development process. But like any SEO scheme, if there was even a scheme, the affects are short-lived, as algorithm changes are a constant.

But because Zillow and Trulia and usually rank highly in any type of local real estate search, the logic is proven in the minds of some. Major real estate sites offers widgets, we all fall for it and put them on our site, and the major real estate site laughs all the way to the bank. They tricked us!

Folks, I can't possibly stress this enough: Correlation does not equal causation.

The reason that Zillow outranks your website, first and foremost, is because they have thousands of pages of content that is constantly being updated. On one post I wrote for Zillow, I received 232 Facebook "likes" and over 200 Google plus-votes in about 48 hours. That's a lot of traffic.

My own website has only 23 likes. It took two years for me to get those 23 likes, and I received 10 times that amount in only 48 hours on Zillow! Do you understand why they are ranking better? Google knows that thousands of people love that site (even if Realtors hate it)- and visit it, and "like" it.

It's not because I'm a bad guy or because Zillow is sucking all of the power from my website, it's just that they have a much better website than I do. I write a blog post once per month if I'm lucky and is posting new content by the minute.

Literally, by the minute.

How can you keep up with that?

The Cold, Hard Truth

Google delivers Zillow results in your neighborhood because the Zillow website is just better than yours, overall.

I'm not saying that they have better local information than you, or that you're not the best agent in your town. Your feelings shouldn't be hurt in the slightest. It's just that Zillow is a publicly-held company and they have a website that they've invested millions of dollars into. You might have spent $2500, or you might have just made it yourself. Love Wall Street or hate Wall Street, you are equal to a corporation in the eyes of the U.S. Supreme Court and probably more importantly- to Google.

So does that mean it's hopeless for the individual person to compete with the corporation-person?

I don't think so.

1. Continue to build relevant local content to specifically engage your local audience on social media sites-- Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest-- because that's where search engines get a lot of their signals. Encourage people to share your content by creating terrific content. If a thousand people in your local area "circle" you in Google+ and "plus" your website and link to your website, you will beat the big boys.

Very important sidebar: Do you have a strategy to specifically attract local people to your Google+ circles? Or do you just circle other ActiveRainers and Realtors?

2. Concentrate on highly targeted search phrases for your area. Write about very specific neighborhoods, things to do, and local news items (in your blog), as these are less competitive phrases. In addition, writing about local things- other than real estate- will show you are a local expert, not just a real estate expert. Do you write restaurant reviews in Google? (If not, you should start.) This is where you can beat "the big boys" every time. You are the local expert, so it's up to you to prove it to Google. It's hard work. It's very hard work. But it can be done.

3. Finally, look at the way the major websites (that outrank you) organize their content with parent pages, child pages, grandchild pages...and even great-grandchild pages.

For example: a parent page. a child page

and a grandchild page.

Is your content organized as such? In a drill-down fashion? Are your pages nested? Do you have breadcrumbs that explain the nesting?

It would be better to imitate your competition than wildly theorize and complain about unknowns.

A couple of months back, I wrote a simple post on my website to see if I could get on page one for "Real Estate SEO Expert." To be honest, I didn't think I would do as well as I did, but that post now ranks #1 in Google for that very phrase. (At least, today it does.) When I wrote the post, I added a Zillow widget and a bunch of outbound links. Because, even according to Matt Cutts, for every outbound link you have- you are sending "juice" to other pages and draining it from your own page. Matt Cutts doesn't always tell the truth. If you want to learn more about this, just Google the above term and read my article. (I linked to it earlier in the article where I offer to show you an example of a real estate widget, so I don't want to link to it again in one post.)

You'll easily find my article though. An article that has been utterly drained of all of it's power by 8 or 9 outbound, do-follow links. In fact, the power is so drained, that the post is on page one of Google for: Real estate SEO, real estate SEO expert, Realtor SEO, SEO for Realtors, real estate SEO guru, real estate SEO company, etc., etc., etc.

Repeat after me: "Widget-drain is a myth; I just need better content. Widget-drain is a myth, my IDX system just stinks. Widget-drain is a myth, because we know that Google discounts repetitive keyword backlinks. Widget-drain is a myth because Google is way more sophisticated than that."

I'm not saying you should add the widgets or take them away. I'm saying that whatever your decision about widgets, that decision should be based on sound principles.

The image of the little girl drinking "Google" juice is provided with some rights reserved by Fruit Lush.

Posted by

seo guru

Comments (59)

Lyn Sims
RE/MAX Suburban - Schaumburg, IL
Schaumburg Real Estate

OMG you've drank the Zillow kool-aid!


Agree with traffic bounce.

Like the drill down fashion.

Jul 22, 2013 06:26 AM
Chris Miller Nevada Land with Water Rights
Vegas Grand Realty and Property Management - Mesquite, NV
Land with Water Rights For Sale

I like the widgets, but not the fact they take my viewer away. It would nice if they could be set to open in new window. Glad to hear they are not hurting my SEO, it is tough enough already. Thanks for the opinion.

Jul 22, 2013 06:53 AM
Beth and Richard Witt
Long Island Cash Home Buyer - Center Moriches, NY
Long Island Cash Home Buyer 516-330-6940

I truly can not agree with you or disagree with you because I do not have a clue what they widgets are all about... Yikes... so I'll bookmark this post and add it to my "must learn list"

Thank you for the info...


Jul 22, 2013 07:05 AM
Mitch Muller - Charlotte NC Real Estate
ProStead Realty Charlotte, NC CRS SRES - Charlotte, NC
Certified Residential Specialist

The title definitely caught my attention. Great information to know!

Jul 22, 2013 09:19 AM
Travis "the SOLD man" Parker; Broker/Owner
Travis Realty - Enterprise, AL
email: / cell: 334-494-7846

In a hurry and just skimmed thru the post, but marked for SERIOUS reading later! Thanks

Jul 22, 2013 09:29 AM
Brad MacKenzie
Brad MacKenzie - Duxbury, MA
Turning Houses into Homes on the South Shore

Z&T's business models are to use our content for their purposes. There is no way I get back more from them than I give them when they give me something for free. Besides that fundamental difference in our perception of the dividend split, you make some good points.

You also misspelled principle.

Jul 22, 2013 09:35 AM
Jan Green
Value Added Service, 602-620-2699 - Scottsdale, AZ
HomeSmart Elite Group, REALTOR®, EcoBroker, GREEN

Awesome information.  Thank you loads for dispelling this myth. I've been following the blogs on this since I saw the blog about adding them and wondering which direction to go - add them or don't add them.  Kudos to you for laying it all out there!

Jul 22, 2013 10:46 AM
Chris Brennan
Boston, MA

what you and google seem to forget is that zillow, trulia etc don't have a single listing for sale, they are merely lead fishing.


so if a person enters the search term "homes for sale" in google why would they give them results that don't meet the search term.


the local realtors with the cheap websites are the ones with the listings so google should give them the best placement.


also it is the local mls providers who are selling their members listing information to zillow, trulia etc, kind of like being in bed with a rat.

Jul 22, 2013 11:43 AM
Hella Mitschke Rothwell
(831) 626-4000 - Honolulu, HI
Hawaii & California Real Estate Broker
Just wanted you to know that I read your entire blog. I am working on a blog campaign now using my intuition plus google analytics to see how it works. There's a slow uptick in links that drive traffic to my idx search (where I have pre searched for them. We'll see, early days. But' yes, I need my blogs to rank high in order to get that link through. Thanks for listening to me ramble.
Jul 22, 2013 01:08 PM
Donna & Larry Johnson
Keller Williams Real Estate - West Chester, PA
Chester & Delaware County

On top of everything else that we do it seems there is never enought time to do this on my own. SEO is very complicated and ever changing. I wish I had the time to do more!

Jul 22, 2013 10:46 PM
Gene Riemenschneider
Home Point Real Estate - Brentwood, CA
Turning Houses into Homes

Why would I want to send someone from my web site to Zillow or any other site.  They charge me to do that.  If they want to pay me I will consider it.

Jul 23, 2013 08:40 AM
Sheri Sperry - MCNE®
Coldwell Banker Realty - Sedona, AZ
(928) 274-7355 ~ YOUR Solutions REALTOR®

If you know a little bit about how to read script, you can go in and change the location that the widget points to. 

Jul 23, 2013 09:36 AM
Cheryl Ritchie
RE/MAX Leading Edge - Huntingtown, MD
Southern Maryland 301-980-7566
That was interesting. I read it word by word to digest it all.
Jul 23, 2013 02:00 PM
Bob Miller
Keller Williams Cornerstone Realty - Ocala, FL
The Ocala Dream Team

Thanks for the great post and explanation.  We had heard, but did not know how they were doing it.

Jul 24, 2013 01:49 AM
Paddy Deighan MBA JD PhD - Vail, CO
Paddy Deighan J.D. Ph.D

great blog...really sets the record straight and gives solid rationale behind your position..thnk you for posting

Jul 24, 2013 09:00 PM
Emerald Coast Realty
Emerald Coast Realty - Pensacola, FL

As anyone can Zillow, Trulia and now nominate the organic search results on Google for EVERY city in the country.

They also participate in pay-per-click advertising, which dives up the cost for agents trying to get some internet exposure that further helps them dominate Google search results and crowd out agents and brokerages.

The sad thing is this is all done with our listings, paid for with the advertising we do with these companies and further supported by linking back to them through widgets and other linking they encourage.

We build them free content through the profiles we build and through the use of the blogs they offer. Now they want you to enter your “sold” info for more free content to advance their rankings even further.

We can’t stop them from taking our listing data but we can stop supporting these monopolies. If you don’t like what they are doing stop paying them for advertising, cancel your accounts, delete their widgets and stop linking to them!

Jul 28, 2013 10:18 PM
Rich Cederberg
eXp Realty - Albuquerque, NM
eXp Realty Agent Albuquerque

I wish there was a like button or thumbs up/thumbs down option here in the comment stream. Great to hear MG's take on this. All the same, I hate to see Realtors linking to the big three who just take our data and then sell it back to us. With all due respect to the fine people who work at Zillow...

Jul 29, 2013 01:09 PM
Fred Carver Personal Real Estate Corporation
RE/MAX Camosun Victoria BC Real Estate - Victoria, BC
Accredited Real Estate Consultant

Hi Michael...sorry I missed this post, Congratulations on your feature. Great post in widgets I felt the same as what you are say, in fact one might be adding substance (relevant info) with a Zillow widget on your site.

Cheers, have a fun summer.

Aug 18, 2013 02:22 AM
Kathleen Daniels, Probate & Trust Specialist
KD Realty - 408.972.1822 - San Jose, CA
Probate Real Estate

Let's not confuse the issues of agents (myself included) not liking what Trulia, Zillow and do with our listing data and the topic of this post which is that using the widgets do not drain our own juice. I deplore all of these sites. It is a crime what they are doing to agents. 

Sep 02, 2013 09:01 AM
Cheryl Ritchie
RE/MAX Leading Edge - Huntingtown, MD
Southern Maryland 301-980-7566

That was really interesting. Thanks for sharing your wealth of knowledge.

Jan 11, 2014 09:49 PM

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