2014 was a year when Google started really taking things away from the local agent in droves. What’s to be done about it? I’ll talk more about what they took away, but first the solution. What can the local agent do to take back some of the territory they enjoyed in 2013 and had slapped from their hands in 2014?
Fighting head to head with the syndicates and brands for page one visibility. In essence, this is the best, although not always affordable, answer. Hire an SEO like me or a better one than me. In other words, if you expect to follow this course, don’t expect to get away with cheap because you will get away with your clothes and skin burned right off. The damage from cheap, offshore SEO can be un-repairable or so arduous as to not be worth it. The gaze of Google on you will be unrelenting even if they release you from specific penalties. Like the Eye of Sauron, they will always be looking for the ring of unapproved link building and the withering effect of that gaze may be too much to ever recover the former glory of your ranking.
Google loves Zillow and all the rest, but there’s not enough Zillow-class stuff to put all over page one so there is room for you and believe me, the people who are still looking around the Internet after the Zillow experience are available in plenty of numbers to provide you with a robust flow of leads and prospects for your business.
Local real estate agents had to try even harder in 2014 for search visibility.
Google Taketh Away and Google Giveth
Here’s a quick list of what Google took away from the local agent in 2014: Authorship (that gave you the photo by your site listing in search results), HTML5 video thumbs (gave you an image for self-hosted videos), Google Local Business results (the 7 Pack went away for most RE queries), overall continued favor to big syndication brands like Zillow, taking away increased visibility on page one for primary search terms.
What’s the big search engine advantage to the local real estate agent now? Free inclusion in the big boys club. It’s not automatic but it is indeed free.
The Panda Misinformation Campaign
Ask anyone familiar with SEO what the Panda algorithm is and they’ll probably express it in terms of how it will penalize your website. Dr. Pete said as much in his Fat Pandas and Thin Content article way back in 2011 and I reflected that sentiment for the next three years with everyone else but no more. Matt Cutts appeared regularly on Q & A videos and forums to talk about Panda penalties and the chase was on to avoid yet another awful bird released by Google that might come and kill your website while you were sleeping or just having lunch.
What happened to change my mind and how do I see it now?
What Is The Panda Algorithm Exactly?
In 2014 Google published what was already a public record- its patent filed with the US Patent office for the Panda Algorithm. You can read it in all its glory at http://www.google.com/patents/US8682892 but below is the Abstract that describes just what Google regarded as important enough for patent protection. The funny thing about a US Patent filing is that you can’t mislead the US Patent office because if you do, someone with a more accurate filing can come along and patent your idea by being accurate in describing it when you weren’t. In other words, there’s no lying or misdirection with the patent office because you might jeopardize your proprietary invention.
Check out the abstract with my highlighting:
Let’s just look at the words that are repeated and understand those but first, let’s look at the opening statement. It tells you in explicit terms just what Panda is. It is a method for ranking search results.
I’ll repeat that for emphasis.
IT IS A METHOD FOR RANKING SEARCH RESULTS.
Now, how it does that involves, as stated four times, a plurality of groups of resources. You can read the abstract and go on and read the patent and associated illustrations all you like and I’m not going to argue too long on the merits of my explanation because the actions I’ve taken on that understanding have transformed my own search results. I’ve used this method to rank pages instantly upon indexing with zero links. Zero.
Let’s look at what the plurality of groups of resources means and doesn’t mean by way of illustration:
Be part of the Plurality
The important thing is that Panda is not page rank. Panda is Google’s new, preferred method to rank websites and pages. In the absence of good strong plural resources from authority groups, Google will step down and use more traditional signals like single inbound links and other signals. Given the chance, Google will go with the group consensus.
Become a member site. The memberships are out there for the joining- mostly free. Engage, create content and make your website a member of that plurality and you’re on your way to aligning with the latest shiny positive ranking Algorithm in Google’s toolbox.
As always, if you need a robust, effective real estate SEO campaign to put your website into overdrive in 2015, contact me. Fill in the form to the right or call 714-924-4422.
Real Estate SEO
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In Like A Lamb
In Like A Lamb… Penguin 3.0? If so, it seems fairly gentle for a Penguin update. Lots of changes in search results for some. Lots of chatter about Penguin 3.0 or Penguin 6 etc. The obvious is that something event-class happened early Saturday Oct 18, 2014. Anyone’s guess what it could be if not a Penguin refresh. That’s my vote but Google hasn’t confirmed. I have seen a few things improved where I knew someone had a Penguin penalty. Waiting for confirmation from Google if it ever comes.
Here’s what it’s not:
These are my observations only. Any of them could end up being off center of what is really happening but one thing is clear, the update seems to have extremely little or no impact on higher quality links.
The weekend has been abuzz with an obvious update in the algorithm. Recovery of websites, including some that I have managed, disappearance of other websites (none of which I have managed) seem to fit within the definition of a Penguin algorithm refresh or update. There are a lot of things this update is NOT (yet) which should be paid attention to until more information can be verified. Here is my short list:
• Not confirmed by Google (Now it’s confirmed)
• Not necessarily Penguin as we know it – far weaker right now than previous updates
• Not necessarily completed. Anything could follow this. It could
roll back, stay the same or get more intensive.
• May not be too strong because of the reported difficulty in distinguishing between negative SEO and intent-to-rank SEO.
May not be permanent. Could be just another test. Previous reports show penguin like recovery followed by repositioning to penalized rankings.
• Seems to more clearly target lowest quality automated link building such as GSA, Magic submitter, SENuke etc. This would certainly be the easiest footprint to separate from the rest and this update has done just that by my observations. This is also the more likely source of negative SEO as well so it’s hard to say what will happen next if a lot of complaints about negative SEO flood Google in the morning.
Finally a Google Penguin Update? Happy Now?
Google, according to one Gary Illyes might maybe be launching a Penguin Algorith refresh next week. We’ve heard a few cries of wolf before but maybe if testing goes well this might be the big one.
According to the article on SearchEngineLand.com, most people will find the new Penguin algorithm “a delight.”
Thinking of a quick rush to disavow links? Forget it. Too late. That index has been built as of a few weeks ago.
Search Engine Land says the good guys at Google are “working hard on making both webmasters and users happy. Last time someone said everyone would be happy was when the writers of the Lost series finale created a flopper that made exactly .0053% of the viewing audience happy.
Get help with Real Estate SEO
This comes down to the truth vs. the PR campaign that, just like the fun at Googoe, never stops. It also comes down to attempts by Google to put everyone’s focus on driving organic search profiteers away while sequestering to themselves an army of non-commercial content providers and paying Adwords advertisers. This is a model that the TV and movie industry could never quite achieve. Let any would-be popular star try their hand at being content producers on the web and see how they fare. Google is shoring up dollars and ad revenue with every algorithmic update and penalty.
Barry Schwartz at SERoundtable says it looks like Penguin 3 is about to roll out. I wouldn’t be too surprised. There has been some unusual volatility in search results over the last couple of days even among my customer base. Spikes in volatility are typical just prior to a major update in the Google search engine.
Penguin updates are real and harmful to a lot of businesses but Google doesn’t mind that as long as they can improve their search results to their liking. It’s our job to make sure we don’t get hammered by an update like this or any.
If your website was hit by the last Penguin update, now is the time to have already done your disavowal’s etc. If you start now it’s probably too late for this cycle.
The advice from Google will probably not change much. If you have been hit by Penguin or get hit this time around, as far as organic search rankings is concerned, it’s probably best to just start over with a new website.
In my own experience, I have, to be largely true. I have struggled for months on end with recovering websites from penalties with marginal results while on the other hand, I’ve been able to rank brand-new domains for fairly competitive markets with hundreds of thousands in population in the real estate niche on two page 1 for market high-volume terms in 60 to 90 days flat.
Need SEO Help? Contact me now using the form to the right, or call 714-924-4422.
Requiem For Google’s Last Honest Dance
In the movie Man In The Iron Mask, the young king spends the night with another in a series of very naïve young women who thinks she is in love by morning. She starts to talk to the king about breakfast and what they might enjoy to which the king replies, “I like to eat alone. By the way, you’re leaving tomorrow.” This in essence, is what Google has done to everyone they drew into the ballroom to dance with them in celebration of Google plus. At the end of the night, we have all been screwed and the illusion is over. One of the biggest incentives to online marketers and bloggers alike to form a new allegiance with Google on their new, if slightly clumsy social network and it’s oddly named similarities to likes and shares, was the promise of increased interactions and click-throughs because of the visibility of authorship images in organic search results.
Now they don’t need us anymore and they don’t want people to see us hanging around the palace. Best to make us invisible.
After two years of apparently feigned courtship to bloggers, marketers and business owners, Google pulled the plug on authorship images in search results.
I am not especially disillusioned and I understand that Google is a business. I am also under no illusion that what I present here is somehow a full representation of the truth about what Google is doing with authorship. The problem it illustrates however is how Google tends more often now, to treat people with disrespect especially as Google grows larger and richer.
What I say here is true, not in the sense that it is true to the exclusion of other truths and bigger truths about why Google made their decision. It is true alongside of those other truths. It well may be that Google’s intent and best effort was to improve their search results but doing so is like damming up the Yellow River in China to get more power. If thousands or tens of thousands of people live along its banks and have lived there for centuries of generations, that’s just too bad. Their homes will now be flooded and destroyed. They will be displaced and forced to live in strange new unwanted environments.
Google CFM “censorship for money” is what is happening. Maybe not from Google’s perspective but definitely from the perspective of everyone they have dismissed and disenfranchised in the course of making their large-scale decision that respects stockholders and profit margins more than they respect the people that helped get them there to enjoy those values.
Google brought all of us into a dance two years ago, promising a world where we had a voice and a means of expression like never before. We could interact with others on the web and retain our identity across search. That was until it somehow got out of their control. Once again, Google decided to take the easy route of censorship in the virtual universe. If you get too visible. If you get too much advantage. If you get out of line. Google will not hesitate to single you out and delegitimize or even punish you as an entity or as an individual. Play by our rules or we will silence you. It may not technically be a universe that they control but it is practically and functionally on a daily basis, an entire virtual universe that they control. It works like a universe and entities live and die there whether Google ever intended that or not. At some point, they began to leverage that reality with Google Plus. The problem is that this is not a universe they created. It’s not really their virtual property but they took control of it anyway. They simply came and took over a very large portion of the World Wide Web. Functionally and perhaps unfortunately, they have positioned themselves as a sole gateway and keeper of this world wide web for the majority of people who go online. They make the rules and enforcement is swift and targeted. They will punish you even if only to make you an example of you to others. They will destroy your entire business just to demonstrate that they can do so to others. This is as if to say “We can’t kill all of you but the next one we see, we will execute. Now, don’t get out of line, the rest of you.”
How many times has Google started out as your friend and turned out to be your enemy or at least your frenemy? Google often starts out promoting themselves as being on the moral high ground but somehow they end up on the strategic high ground only, and then their supporters defend them saying they are just a corporation taking the best course for their business, so morality doesn’t apply. That’s fine as long as morality is on the same level throughout the process from beginning to end and from the start when Google attracts new customers and new subscribers, but that isn’t what they do. They can best be judged not by what they say but what they do next.
In the attraction phase, they naturally acquire and accumulate a small cadre of dedicated defenders. Those defenders are also quick to correct you and are even ready to report you to the authorities if they see you breaking either the old rules or the new ones or even one that they decide are important that they make up themselves. When you get in bed with Google, the end always turns out the same. Just as you are marveling at how cool the king and his palace are, the king says “I like to eat alone. By the way, you are leaving right now.”
As long as we are willing to put up with the behavior of a bad king, the bad behavior we get is Google as it is today. Unilateral, unfettered, unbridled exercise of power regardless of what it does to any or most or even all of us.
Next time Google throws a party, and invites everyone to come in for a great time, I’m at first inclined to say “no thank you” but like most of us, I will probably go, but with my eyes wide open. They have done everything possible to ensure that no other choices are available.