Dealing with agent sub domain duplicate content

With the recent release of the Google Helpful algorithm update, it is now more important than ever to be able to ensure you can control what content Google is indexing.

Take the case of agent subdomain websites.

Typically an agent subdomain is a free or cheap website provided to the agents via the brokerage technology package.

Agent sub domains provide the agent with the following benefits:

  • A landing URL that looks nice and is mobile-friendly (if you pick the right vendor of course).
  • An entry point for traffic to search homes, be captured as a lead and injected into the CRM
  • A sandbox, a learning environment for agents to become familiar with web technology before they choose a full website vendor.
  • A place to write content (blogs or pages) that may be interesting to their visitors

What an agent subdomain is NOT good for. (and this is 98% of the time true)

  • Pay per clicking landing pages. Google does not allow double serving (and considers the subdomain part of the root domain from this perspective
  • Agent subdomains are NOT GOOD FOR SEO (I’ll explain why below, that is the purpose of this article)

First of all, the reality is, that nearly 100% of agent subdomains get installed with default (canned) content, and the agents never go in and update it (replacing canned content with unique high-value content).

Second, agents who do try to update the content don’t know how to produce high-value content, or worse, they steal content (not knowing they are stealing) from other sources like Wikipedia or other agent sites and paste it as their own. Not only is that not ethical, but it is an absolute no-no for search engines.

Third, subdomains do not inherit the authority of the main domain. So even if your brokerage is a powerhouse from a PageRank perspective, you do not get the same benefit on a subdomain. So you need to build backlinks and authority anyways, thus you might as well do it on a domain you own and control it vs a subdomain.

Fourth, sub-domains functionality is often limited compared to a full website (it’s always limited) so at some point of your SEO journey on a subdomain, you will hit a wall where you need to get more advanced with WPO (Page speed) dynamic optimization or some other customization that is simply not available to you.

There is a whole list of other reasons, but just trust me - Agent subdomains are NOT GOOD FOR SEO. Period! (Brokers you need to stop telling your agents they are, it hurts your credibility)

Avoiding a “Google Helpful Update” penalty (technically not a "penalty, but a severe reduction in your ability to rank, so let’s call it a penalty, ok?)

Here’s what I think brokerages should do.

First of all, read this article and recognize that subdomains suck for SEO.

That way you can make the decision I am about to make (@Aayaam take notes)

What I am going to suggest is that you go ahead and “block” Google from indexing subdomains in the first place. That way you are never in danger of having duplicate, poor quality, or stolen content on an agent subdomain affecting your root domain.

How should you do this? Use the Google "No Index’ tag (I recommend the meta tag is it is technically easier to implement)

You however get a bit more advanced than just a “block all” - if you did want to provide agents the ability to actually try to get their subdomains to rank for some phrases.

This is how I would do it (and I’m actually going to have the team do this)

By default, I am going to have all default subdomains block Google with No Index Meta tag.

I am however going to have my team build a toggle in the backend where they must “confirm” that a specific page is unique content. (this is active opt-in, not passive opt-out)

By clicking the “Confirm unique content” it would remove the Noindex tag from that specific page, allowing Google to index it normally. (everything else would still be blocked)

This way you have the best of both words:

A: You have (by default) protected yourself from duplicate or garbage content on agent sites
B: You still have the flexibility for the keeners who want to try SEO on a subdomain to do so.

For agents reading this and you are on subdomains, please take note: If you are planning on doing SEO, do NOT start with your subdomain. It will never work well, and you will waste a tonne of your precious time and/or money.

If you want to do SEO property, you need a fully realized, SEO-friendly web platform such as the Renaissance website platform in order to rank well.

It costs hundreds of hours (your time or ours) and tens of thousands of dollars to do SEO well

If you’re not ready for that - still get a Renaissance site, and do PPC instead. You can do that for like $500 per month + Ad budget.

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