The decisions made by Abbott Realty Group, Edina, and some local boards across the country have sent shock waves across the real estate landscape. And while some of the industry giants such as Jay Thompson and Kris Berg have already discussed in length what syndicating to aggregators means to the industry as a whole, this post is not about the merits/flaws of sending listing data to aggregators but rather to discuss the SEO ramifications of syndicating. As Drew firmly argued in his post “for any given search term entered into Google, their algorithms strive to return the result with the highest PageRank, focused on the exact keyword searched” and even if large brokerages stopped syndicating their listings “you’d see zero SEO impact on the aggregators”.
I’m not as SEO savvy as Drew clearly is, but even to an SEO newbie it would seem that that taking listings (i.e. content) away from the big aggregators (for the sake of brevity, we’ll refer to them as ZRT) would have a SIGNIFICANT effect on how they rank. First, let’s debate Drew’s point that internal Page Rank is the key metric that algorithms weight in delivering search engine results page (SERP). According to SEOMoz’s CEO Rand Fishin, “Do things with higher PageRank tend to rank better then things with lower PageRank,” the answer would be yes, but only barely. In fact, the correlation is around 0.11, 0.12. It is pretty darn low…” and goes on to conclude “PageRank is probably a very small part of the algorithm.” But keep correlation is not synonymous with causation. So instead of focusing on PR, which many SEO experts would argue has little if any effect, let’s talk about factors that DO help in the SERP’s.
Again, as I’m not a SEO savvy agent, I prefer to rely on what industry leaders see as algorithmic metrics that can have positive/negative effects on how well a page/site ranks. SEOMoz biannually conducts what many in the SEO community view as the most comprehensive study of ranking factors by polling SEO industry leaders such as Aaron Wall, Jill Whalen, Justin Briggs, etc. (it really is a Who’s Who list of the best minds in SEO). Take a brief moment and look at the 2011 Search Engine Ranking Factors and watch the video introduction – warning, this is a rich-data set of very insightful information and will easily kill a couple of hours of your day.
For example, as has been said by many, link-building is a crucial part to a successful SEO strategy but it is by no means the only factor. Looking at the overall 2011 Broad Algorithm, link-based factors account for 42% (declining from 46% in the previous edition), but keyword-based factors such as domain-level keyword usage and page level keyword agnostic features account for over 37%. Can ZRT put as much emphasis on keywords (i.e. Austin Real Estate, Manhattan Condos) on a page and domain level as can be done by dedicated local sites? Of course not, a Seattle condos site can dedicate itself completely/entirely to covering Seattle condos from a hyper-local perspective that simply cannot be replicated by the ZRT’s of the world. Google et al are moving from algorithms heavily based on links to ones in which sites with unique, relevant, insightful content will be rewarded. Google’s Panda/Farmer Update was an indication of their intent and it could be reasonably argued that it is only the first step in that direction.
In addition, what I found most interesting is that under Future of Search, the factor most likely to increase in algorithmic weight was “Analysis of a Site/Page’s Perceived Value to Users’. This could be measured by click-through-rate, bounce rate, time on page, etc. Now, I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed but I fail to see how a person looking for properties to buy would find value searching on a site that does NOT list properties for sale. Oh, yes, ZRT can provide property tax data (nothing unique about that, many locally-based sites already integrate that with other listing information), other automated valuation models (Zestimates are super accurate, right?), mortgage rates (can ZRT do a better job than dedicated mortgage sites such as BankRate.com?) and other fluff to attract visitors. If you are looking to buy shoes, do you go to a website that doesn’t have shoes for sale?
So for those who want to give the ZRT’s of the world the SEO equivalent of a whooping, stop syndicating your listings and stop naively linking to them. Can ZRT dominate without any content? Let’s find out.