8 Predictions for Real Estate SEO in 2010
I regularly read the SEOMozBlog posts as they seem to be the definitive source for what is going on in the Search Engine Optimization field. This post was originally posted by randfish on December 16th, 2009 at 1:40 am Online Marketing. I’ve modified it somewhat to fit the real estate SEO industry.
#1 - This Real-Time Search Thing is Outta Here
Microsoft initially beat Google to the punch in announcing their integration with Twitter data in their SERPs (Search Engine Ranking Positions). And in response, Google released what is, in my opinion, an early test version of Twitter integration that's nowhere near ready for prime-time. In other words both Microsoft (say Bing) and Google are now trying to get search results so relevant that they are going for “real-time” searches that come straight of the press of Twitter and other social media.
#2 - Twitter's "Link Graph" is the Real Deal
All that real-time integration bashing aside, I'm a firm believer in my original hypothesis that Twitter is cannibalizing the web's link graph. In fact, I think a rough history of "recommendation sources" looks something like:
Google has always strived to keep up with the latest ways that content is being recommended and suggested. It's how they determined popularity and relevance with PageRank and I think Twitter's data is merely the next evolution.
Today, SEOs want to turn tweets into links so they can get SEO benefit. My feeling is that tweets are going to carry their own weight in helping pages rank in the not-too-distant future.
This is particularly relevant to real estate agents when they tweet using their keyword phrases that link nicely with their blog sites and websites.
#3 - Personalized Search is Here to Stay
Is it merely clickthroughs from the organic results? Does visit history play a role? Or clicks from other vertical search services Google offers? What about clicks from paid search ads - either in the SERPs or from AdSense/DoubleClick?
If it's proven that you can get organic benefits by attracting PPC clickthrough, this may be the new "paid inclusion" for 2010, and could drive bid prices up massively as companies compete not only for paid listing clicks, but for the chance to earn "organic" positioning as well.
Personalization means a few things for SEOs, but it doesn't fundamentally change the game, IMO:
- The Rich Get Richer - It's now truer than ever. If you rank well, and earn solid traffic, you're going to be even harder to unseat. Startups and upstarts are going to have an even greater uphill battle to climb than before. If you haven’t decided to optimize your website yet, it’s still not too late, but there is no time like the present to get started.
- Branding is More Important - you want your loyal visitors and fans scouring the SERPs for your listings, and clicking them more so than anything else. Your visitors like to see professionalized websites, but most of all, they want to see content. The combination of brand identity and a compelling site with widgets that offer “MLS Search” and “Subscribe to New Listings” drip marketing will make the viewer want to give you their name and email.
- There is No Normal Ranking - Or, at least, there's no "normal" ranking that's "average" in a personalized SERPs world. Stop thinking “Denver real estate” and start focusing on targeted searches like “Denver luxury condos” or “Denver short sales”. Rank tracking may still carry some value to understand how non-personalized searchers see your pages, but that data is going to be less useful in comparison to what your analytics report about search traffic and the trends. Win the "personalization" battle, and you may start to care less about the classic/competitive "rankings" battle.
#4 - It's Going to Be a Two-Engine, 80/20 World
I believe that a year from now, most webmasters will be looking at a scenario where Comscore/Hitwise reports Binghoo! has ~25-28% market share, (remember that they count searches on all Microsoft and Yahoo! properties - even internal searches - while Google tends to send the vast majority of their search traffic externally to other sites).
#5 - Site Explorer & Linkdomain will Disappear
The expense of maintaining a web index isn't something Yahoo!'s willing to invest in once they don't have to, and Bing's given no indication that they're going to re-open the portal to link information. The best we can hope for is an acceleration in the functionality offered by Bing Webmaster Tools, but even that's unlikely to offer competitive link intelligence.
#6 - SEO Spending Will Rise Dramatically
Forrester put out a great report on US Interactive Marketing Spend (a little pricey at $1749, but interesting). Two graphics struck me as particularly compelling:
SEO trails only social media and online video as places where marketers (not just search marketers, but ALL marketers) will be shifting dollars.
Meanwhile, SEO continues to outpace PPC in terms of CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate). We've still got a long way to go before balance is established between the share of clicks SEO commands and the fraction of spend it receives, but the gap is slowly closing.
#7 - 2010 is the Year of Conversion Rate Optimization
SEO is so effective that if I were doing another startup today, it would focus on software for conversion rate optimization. I think this is still the most under-utilized and highest ROI activities in the marketing department, but more awareness is on its way. CRO isn't just about testing; it's about building a process for improving conversion over time. Online businesses can generate so much revenue from this, yet few invest. I think 2010 is the year, simply because it's an inflection point for companies to assess their spend and where they derive value.
#8 - More Queries will Send Less Traffic
Google & Bing are both doing more to make their visitors stickier and get their queries answered without ever having to leave the engine. This is a good product practice for both companies, and I'm surprised Google's taken so long to move away from their "get people off Google" point-of-view, but it's definitely happening. Check out some recent examples:
Everything I need to know is right there - the last game score, the record, the opponent, their next match day and time. The only thing missing? What channel it's playing on in my area.
I don't even have to complete my query! Google's got that weather report sitting in the suggest box. They wrote about this feature here which launched last week. Google O/S had another good post on the topic.
Thankfully, I'm not actually headed to Kodiak, but those results are pretty spiffy, and are likely to prevent me from needing to visit Alaskaair.com and get that flight info.
The customer service number is something Bing's started to provide more and more (though there's one company even they don't have that data on). With Fedex, you don't even need to leave Bing to track a package (Google also offers similar functionality).
My perception is that the more the engines can apply "instant answers" to search queries, the more they will, and the less any other sites will see traffic from those queries. It's a better user experience this way, and I'm certain it's one of the biggest things that engenders loyalty and return queries - something both engines are desperately competing for.
The Bottom Line for 2010
The bottom line for 2010 is that if you haven’t already invested into optimizing your website, blog site and/or social media sites, you are already way behind the 8-ball. Like the smart phone, the digital camera and the website, it’s not a matter of if you’ll eventually optimize or market your website . . . but when. The race is on for who can do the best job at servicing the client for website marketing or search engine optimization. The tools are here today. The time to act is now.
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