As Google continues to evolve its algorithms in order to provide the most relevant search results (and maintain its dominance of the web), real estate professionals must adapt if they are to contend in the highly competitive world. Up until recently, for many SEO’s the mantra was ‘links, links, links’. Although there were many different factors that would make measurable differences (i.e. anchor text, linking domain diversity), the underlying concept remained simple:  The more incoming links, the better. Many of us know numerous examples of low-quality sites ranking for competitive terms with the only merit being the amount of high-PR links, even if those links were questionable in nature (possibly paid) and from irrelevant sites. But now, there seems to be a very marked shift in Google/Bing/Yahoo’s algorithms, putting more emphasis on links from user-generated sites and social media interaction.

The last update from Google was anything but subtle, having a far-reaching effect that was meant to reduce ranking of low-quality, generic sites. The metrics used by the search engines will always be open to speculation by the SEO world, but what is clear is that the search engines are intent in rewarding credible sites with original, unique content. It could be further theorized that links from user-generated review sites (i.e. Yelp) will gain importance, as (up to an extent) it could be presumed that sites reviewed well contain high quality content that provide a good user experience. This aspect of SEO will prove to be more difficult to manipulate than straight backlinking, as there is a level of involvement from end-users and will give more credibility to recipients of positive feedback. Also, it had long been suspected in the SEO community that some algo metrics derived from social media; these could include number of retweets, the quality of followers, number of FB friends and ‘likes’, LinkedIn engagement and so on. This was further confirmed by Danny Sullivan’s interview, which went more in-depth as to what social signals are being weighted in the algos of the Google and Bing. Involvement in social media can have a two-fold effect: Better engage in contact with potential clients (which agents are able to do on  a more personal level than big brokerages) and have a marked effect on SERP’s.

By placing more weight on metrics that measure heavy involvement with consumers, the new changes are meant to reward high-quality sites (well reviewed sites with original content, linked to a strong SM presence) at the expense of  low-quality sites (generic in nature, with mostly duplicate content). Real estate professionals who want to maintain/establish a competitive advantage on the SERPs will face a choice: embrace the new shifts or perish into oblivion.