For those of us in the web engineering and marketing business, 2017 is going to be a memorable year as far as Google search goes.
For real estate agents without websites that stay compliant with Google's changes? They may well be forgotten altogether.
Well, only Google really knows.
But, when they change the criteria they use to rate and rank your site for how it shows up when customers search for things you sell? Well, you feel it fast.
Or maybe you don't.
You see, most real estate agents are paying good money for bad websites. Most pay a national or local hosting company to put up something that looks good, then they assume everyone can see them. In fact, many agents put up a website and don't touch it again for years.
And therein lies the problem.
If you - or someone you hire - isn't constantly tuning and optimizing your site to keep up with Google's changes, well you might as well not have a website.
Think about it this way: If Google constantly changes the way they value the features of your site that make it show up in search and you haven't touched your site in years, how many home buyers and sellers do you think are landing on your site?
And that brings us to this...
The Big Year Ahead
Over the course of this year, Google will continue to change the way it ranks and rates your site based on its features. This is especially important this year because Google has already made some very big changes that leave 99% of agent sites out in the cold.
- Google's index is now mobile-first: That's right, more people are searching the web and visiting sites from their phones than desktops now (and doing so from Android than iPhone), so they've begun favoring websites with "responsive" features. That means they look - and act - the same on mobile devices as they do on desktops. In fact, if your site isn't also built with "AMP," or "Accelerated Mobile Pages," you're soon going to be like a Ford Model-T at in a race with a Ferrari. Not only will you suffer when customers get frustrated they can't use your site on their phone, they won't ever even see it from a search at all because Google's going to factor this feature heavily into their new index scoring. Even if you're site is brand new, chances are it's not compliant.
- Page loading speed - If your site isn't fast, it's going to drop way down in Google's index. It's just a fact. That is if it's in the index at all yet. Most bargain-basement hosting such as GoDaddy, Real Geeks, Placester and the like don't optimize for the speed of your site or spend valuable resources making sure your site is on the fastest hosting. It's just economics. If you're paying $19.99 a month, do you think they're going to make it a priority your site gets blazing speed? Nope. Not happening. Get fast or get gone.
- Mobile display and AMP - How your website displays and acts on mobile are vitally critical now for good search visibility. Even if your site is brand new, I can almost guarantee you it isn't built with "AMP," or Accelerate Mobile Pages. It's an emerging standard now for Google that ensures a good user experience when viewing a site from mobile. Why? Well, as of last year, internet traffic from mobile phones and tablets has now exceeded that from desktops - and it's growing. Don't have AMP and good mobile display? Well, you won't show up anymore.
- Your content matters even more than before - The writing on your page, your page titles, headings and other technical SEO writing has always been huge, but now it's getting kicked up another notch. You see, Google relies in part on artificial intelligence technologies to actually "understand" in human-like terms what your site is saying and what that means. It uses this kind of semantic processing to categorize, rank and rate you based on what say you are and an automatic ability to understand that. If your site writing is bad (and writing for the web is an art and a science, folks!), Google doesn't know what you are - and you lose out in their search.
- Get social or become a "shut in" - To put it simply, sites without relevant social content linking back to their site won't rank as highly as the ones who do. Don't think taking the time to post to Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus or Instagram is worth it? Think again. It's kinda like your health. Working out sucks, sure. But, if you don't do it regularly, you get fat, slow and you'll die sooner. It's the same with social and searches. "Work out" your social regularly or, well, you get the idea.
Simply put, web search is changing. Largely, for the better of us all. Google's aim is that people find exactly what they're looking for as quickly as possible. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it), that means if your site doesn't keep up, you can forget customers finding you on the web through search.
Find out if your site is "up to speed" with a free scan and stay visible on search.
Realtors: want a site that has all of the above (and stays that way each month) for just $999?
Get a custom site in just a week with MLS listings. No strings attached, just a great site built just for you by a team of practical, talented software engineers who have been at this for over 20 years.
Stay "searchy," my friends.
About the Author
Jason Polancich is founder and lead architect of HomePocket, a data-driven, residential real estate marketing and listing network. Polancich also founded SurfWatch Labs, a cyber data analytics firm founded in 2013 that provides highly accurate, timely and actionable information to businesses regarding the cybercrime threats they face. Polancich is a serial entrepreneur focused on solving complex internet security and cyber-defense problems. Novii Design, a company he co-founded in 2005 with Rebekah Lewis-Polancich, was based on his contributions to cloud architectures, distributed computing, data analysis and systems integration. The company assisted the U.S. Intelligence Community and Department of Defense in building some of the largest data warehouse and analysis systems ever put into operation within the government and defense contracting sectors. Novii Design was sold to Six3 Systems in 2010.Follow on Twitter More Content by Jason Polancich