In response to feedback from search engine users, Google took a major step in improving the quality of sites listed on Search Engine Result Pages (SERP) with its Panda/Farmer Update. Since then, I’ve heard from many real estate professionals who feel that this algorithmic change actually made it increasingly difficult to rank well for competitive terms. With that in mind, here are a few actionable steps for those looking to stay ahead of the pack:
* In an industry on which webmasters rely so heavily on IDX data for the majority of their content, it is even more critical to provide unique content that others with the exact same IDX feed do not have. The key emphasis being on UNIQUE, which can translate into providing local area/neighborhood information from YOUR perspective, YOUR analysis of statistics and market trends, real estate advice from YOUR view point (this could be easily achieved with Q&A section, driven by questions from visitors). There is a plethora of methods by which to generate unique content, the only limit would be lack of creativity.
* Help the search engines decipher the relevance of your content by performing on-page optimization for your IDX listings. Many IDX providers feature customizable meta data, yet this is often overlooked by many real estate webmasters who do not fully understand all the capabilities offered by their service provider. Using appropriate command modifiers and dynamic meta tags (titles/description) makes each listing individual and unique, plus it can have the added benefit of increasing click through rate.
* The team at Google made it a point that the Panda update was meant to increase the rankings of high-quality sites at the expense of those with low-quality content such as content farms (hence, it was also known as the Farmer Update). With that in mind, it is important to purge or merge low-quality, shallow content on sites as it is very possible that it could decrease SERPs for the entire site, not just pages guilty of infractions.
And although this post is in response to the Panda Update, always be mindful that optimizing for specific algorithmic changes will not result in long-term success. Instead, focus on providing a good user experience to visitors and use sound SEO principles, the search engines will reward appropriately.