Many of us in local search have specific verticals we pay stronger attention to. By default, with a wife that's a realtor, real estate is one such vertical for me. This summer's Pigeon update to Google's local search results has left many scratching their heads.
Local Map Results Get Foreclosed
With little optimization effort over the years, my wife Marci Weiche enjoyed a top three ranking in many local searches for real estate, realtor, agent and other terms with city and service involved.
Up until the Pigeon update, her local search visibility was always a top local pack result as shown below.
After the Pigeon update, the results for these various city and real estate term searches look like this -- the local map pack is gone.
The search results pages for these searches has shifted to benefiting the national directories like Zillow, the corporate offices like Coldwell Banker or Edina Realty and maybe just one or two spots for a individual realtor's website. While my wife's website is still on page one for "Buffalo, MN realtor," she is at the bottom of the page with far less visibility than before.
Local Results Triggered By Explicit Terms
To get a map pack in the Google search results, you need to add "nearby" or "near me" to your search. Common sense tells me these additional proximity terms are being searched by no one, so skip holding out hope that this is a sliver of light for you.
Cities big and small are seeing the same thing in the real estate vertical. It's already hard for a real estate agent to get visibility through Google, and this summer it just got harder.
I also find it hugely ironic that Google Insights published this in-depth article about real estate-based searches being on the rise recently: House Hunting Season: 6 Key Trends That Search Reveals. The article even states that "Two in three researched prospective agents extensively online prior to working with them." I can't help but feel compelled to form a conspiracy theory on where and how Google wants to get into the real estate game … but that's for another post!
3 Tips For Realtors To Stand Out in Post-Pigeon SEO
You can't fight the giant in Google, so you need to find the best ways to play within their rules. Here are three tips I'd offer up to help your visibility in real estate-related searches on Google in addition to the many Local SEO best practices you might already be leveraging.
- A dedicated page to the service area(s) that matter most to your business. Don't waste your time building 20 of these pages, but pick the top 1 – 3 markets and make sure you have solid unique content and a well optimized page for this area. If you can, utilize your home page for the top geo area you serve.
- Encourage and foster reviews online. One thing I started doing for my wife right after Pigeon was set her up with the customer feedback platform GetFiveStars and start the process of capturing customer testimonials and reviews. While she is just 30 days into using the platform, she already has rich snippet reviews on her own website that have been indexed with and appear in the search results. As I mentioned above, Google says that "Two in three researched prospective agents extensively online prior to working with them." There is no doubt that reviews and stars in her search results and website will help her stand out and built trust. While her initial feedback requests have netted zero online reviews so far, I know that it's a long term play and they will come with more customers, feedback requests and time.
- Open house schedules and Schema. In the Minneapolis area, Coldwell Banker Burnet does a great job of this and you can see the additional "real estate" they garner in the search results. Find out if your IDX, MLS or Broker offer open house information and times in a feed, get it nicely wrapped in schema and watch your Google search result grow in visibility and size.
While the giant shift in these local search results can be frustrating, it will be interesting to see how things might unfold, revert back to pre-Pigeon or morph another step forward. The three tips above will benefit you regardless of what changes with Google happen, reverse or show up next.
I can't make sense at all on how this is better for the user wanting local realtors or agents in their results, but just maybe it's part of a better master plan (not a master product).