3 Top SEO Lessons For Realtors From SMX Advanced


Danny Sullivan & Gary Illyes at SMX Advanced 2017

Jacob and I just got back from SMX Advanced in Seattle and wow! It exceeded my expectations and we have so much information to share with you in the upcoming weeks.

We'll be covering a lot of the lessons and concepts learned at SMX right here in the REW Blog, and I want to get us started with three major takeaways that our real estate clients can start applying to their websites, starting now:

3. A Mobile-First Index Is Coming

We talked a lot about Google's upcoming Mobile-First Index, because it is a complete game-changer for the index. Right now, Google has a desktop-first index, which means it crawls the web and views websites the way a user would on a desktop.

But with the number of mobile users increasing and even outpacing desktop users, Google recognizes this doesn't make much sense anymore. In the future, Google is going to start viewing the web the same way a mobile user does. The good news for REW clients is that Google's Gary Illyes said this:

"If you have a responsive site, you don't have to think about this."

In fact, he said that twice, for emphasis. And since REW has only built sites responsively since 2014, that's phenomenal news for the vast majority our clients.

But if you do have a mobile site, know this: it will become your only site. Maybe not literally, but it's all Google will look at. In the case where a site has both a desktop and a mobile version, the mobile version will be crawled and indexed, while the desktop version will be ignored entirely. It may as well not exist. So if you are in that minority of people still creating a different experience for your mobile users, it's time to cut that out.

Despite what Gary says, I also think it's short-sighted to assume all responsive sites are automatically golden. Sure, you're not going to disappear from the index, but is your site displaying in its full glory? My recommendation is to carefully review your sites from a mobile-only point of view and ensure the experience is exactly what you want it to be for your users.

The good news is you do have time to adjust:

"It's probably several quarters away," said Illyes. "We want to communicate a lot with developers [before switching to the mobile-first index]."

2. You Need Longer Content

There's been chatter and suspicion about this for awhile, and it was confirmed at SMX West in March, but reiterated again a couple days ago: domain authority doesn't exist. Not according to Google, anyway.

This was confirmed by the same Gary Illyes of Google mentioned in the section above. He explained that there are no site-wide signals taken into consideration when ranking pages.

"Individual landing pages and URLs are what matter," said Illyes.

Assuming this is entirely true, it means that a popular site isn't going to win a SERP position just because it's a popular site. It has to earn it. Likewise, this also means that a relatively unpopular site can take the SERP positions from a popular site—by earning it. You can compete with Zillow and win.

Now, the way you earn it is by having better content. Going back to our SEO basics, we know that means it has to be high quality and relevant. But recent trends are indicating that length is also an increasingly important factor.

In fact, according to Marcus Tober, founder and CTO of Searchmetrics--the company that writes the infamous Periodic Table of SEO Ranking Factors--told us that the average length of content from pages in the top 10 slots of Google have 1,900 words.

Leslie To, of 3Q Media in San Francisco, saw a similar trend in her own data analysis, which indicated a need for 2,400 to 2,800 words to dominate in the SERPs. The average for the top spots in Google were:

#1-2: 2,415 words
#3-6: 2,139 words
#7-12: 2,221 words

And for Bing, those averages were even higher.

Marcus also talked to us about how the exact word count you need to succeed varies significantly by industry and unfortunately, real estate was not one of his examples. But, to give you an idea of the fluctuation, the top 10 average word count in finance was 1,800 words, while in travel it was 2,700 words.

Hot Tip: Word counts within the real estate industry is something we will be looking into in the next few weeks and we'll share the results of our findings on the REW Blogs.

1. Linkbuilding Is Dead

There seemed to be one common theme with linkbuilding among the top SEOs: they don't do it.

In fact, it's so off the radar they barely talked about it. The reason for this is simple: when Google doesn't know what to think of a link, it devalues it. And Google doesn't know what to think of most links. The link currency that used to be so valuable has turned into funny money, and it's not doing much for most websites out there.

But link building did come up a couple times and I know that we still have clients who put significant effort into links, so I paid attention.

Leslie To's data research debunked the idea that more links guaranteed better positions, and also concluded that an average page could make it into a top 10 position on Bing with as little as 2 links. Two.

For a quick check, I looked into the number of backlinks for the top 10 pages returned when I searched "east austin homes for sale", which averages a decent 100-1000 monthly searches. Here are the results:

#1 0
#2 11
#3 1
#4 Unknown
#5 0
#6 0
#7 458
#8 Unknown
#9 1
#10 0

So, if domain authority doesn't matter in page ranking, and your competitors aren't even trying to build links to individual pages... is it the best use of your time? Probably not.

It makes a lot more sense to put your time into the one thing we know does make an impact (content) and let those links build themselves. Because that's something we've known for awhile now too: if your content is great enough, people will link to it. And if they aren't linking to your content, then it's time to try something else.

The mobile-first index, content length, and linkbuilding were just three of the ideas I wanted to share right away. Between Jacob and I, we have at least 10 more articles coming your way in the near future, so keep an eye on this space!

Questions in the meantime? Ask them in the comments below!


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