How will Google’s Latest Search Changes Affect You?

SO WHAT IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING?

As of April 21st 2015 Google changed its search algorithms to favour websites that are ‘mobile friendly’. This means that mobile optimised websites will begin to rank better in searches than those that are not.

WHY IS IT CHANGING?

This change by Google is a response to the changing way in which users are increasingly searching for content via smartphones and tablets. It is a move to improve the user experience and ensure users are directed to mobile-friendly sites as a preference when searching for content on Google.

WHAT ABOUT MY WEBSITE?

If your website doesn’t have a responsive design or mobile specific site it is likely that your search rankings will suffer. This can send your website tumbling down Google’s search results and potentially cost you deals.

BRIGHTFOX IS HERE TO HELP…

Although this change has already taken effect there is still time for businesses to act. Google can recognise newly optimised sites quickly and will revise your search ranking accordingly. Contact Brightfox now and ensure your website is ‘mobile friendly’ and you’re not losing sales as a result!

It is time for you to get a smart phone optimised website

1

ImageAnyone reading our Blog (or those of you who talk to us directly) will know that we have been saying for a long time now that everyone needs to build a smart phone optimised website – well everyone that is that is in the retail space in any event.

Smart-phone usage continues to rise as a very impressive rate, and yet we don’t need to see any statistics to confirm this phenomenon. You only need to look around at your home, your workplace or take a walk down any street and you can easily see that almost everyone these days seems to have a smart-phone – and to be constantly using it.

By 2016 more searches will occur on smartphones than on PC’s. By that stage the ‘horse will have bolted’ so to speak. The opportunity exists now to easily grab eyeballs for your business simply through developing a coherent smartphone strategy. By virtue of the large % of business still not recognising the need to have a smartphone enabled website and web strategy, there is a real opportunity for businesses to take market share from their competitors in this space. It simply requires a willingness to move, sound strategy and ultimately commitment to the mobile space. And I guess this is where the difficulty presents itself to most businesses as it is another website, another strategy  and accordingly, another expense. Difficult yes, time consuming yes, an added cost yes, but we would say that the time to ignore it has past!

Changes to Google Search Algorithm – will it affect real estate

Google have just announced a major change to the way they their search works. Basically the changes are designed to ensure more current information is given priority in search results.

Sounds like a good idea, particularly if they can deliver updates (as they suggest in their article) within minutes of publication on the web.

So what relevance would this have for real estate online?

I immediately thought of Auctions. I wonder is this is smart enough to grab upcoming Auctions only and display the relevant page data.

So I went and did some simply searches a few minutes ago. Below you can see the results from a search on keywords ‘property for auction in bulimba’.

As you can see the first line item is a realestate.com.au link with a heading refering to Sat, 8 October. Not a good start. The link itself works fine. The REA site is smart enough to link me to Auctions coming this Saturday, but that is not the point here. The point is is that the Google Algorithm change was not smart enough to figure out that the data in their data (the heading and summary) was less relevant by date them other data.

Going further down the results we get bettter results though. See the www.domain.com.au record for the auctiopn due on 24th November.

Further down the results though you can see another entry for 18th June.

So all in all what has changed? Hard to say as I did not run this search yesterday before they ran the upgrade but certainly from an Auction search results perspective not great results.

Raine & Horne + QR Codes – An Evolution or A Revolution . . .

Some years ago on this very Blog we talked about QR codes and their possible use in real estate. Here in Australia they are finally starting to get a little traction (and I mean a little – the vast majority of Australian’s still don’t know what a QR Code is let along know how to use them).

Raine & Horne, a large real estate franchise group, have recently gone through a complete brand revamp, and as part of this have included the overhaul of all of Raine & Horne’s digital media platforms. An interesting inclusion in their new media platforms is the use of Quick Response (QR) Codes across their entire media.

What are QR Codes?

QR Codes were originally developed in Japan by Toyota to track vehicles through the manufacturing process. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background and were designed to allow its contents to be decoded at high speed.

Ver. 3 QR Code

QR Codes have seen wide usage across Japan, Europe and the U.S. with smartphone users able to take a photo of the barcode which is placed onto traditional static media such as flyers and billboards. Users are then typically directed to further interactive content such as a plain-text message, website url, video url, enquiry registration form or email address. Though not as popular in Australia at this time, many local media agencies are beginning to see the potential for the use of QR codes to not only interactively communicate from what was a traditionally static channel but to also effectively track these offline user interactions.

Where is the potential for the broader real estate industry?

The primary potential for this technology in the real estate industry is to provide prospects with the ability to interact online with property listings after reading a traditional mail-out, sign-board or window card. In this way multiple images or interactive tours can be viewed after seeing coming across a simple static advertising piece.

The typical usage scenario involves a potential purchaser driving through a suburb investigating different streets and neighbourhoods. After seeing a ‘For Sale’ or ‘For Rent’ sign the purchaser would normally have to remember the address (along with 10 others); visit an agency website and search for the listing from their phone (very time consuming); or call the agent for more information (which can be daunting). With a QR code printed onto or attached to the sign, the purchaser can simply take a photo of the barcode and be redirected directly to the property listing online or to an online enquiry form to submit their details or to ask more questions.

An underlying advantage to QR codes is in tracking consumer interactions with your static media. By utilising unique URL’s for the various static media types (eg. Flyers – estate.com/flyer; Window Cards – estate.com/wc) redirecting to the appropriate content, entry points can be tracked back to the offline media that directed the traffic. A much more accurate way of tracking user interaction compared to the classis, Where did you find out about us . . . ?

QR Codes; the next big thing?

Will QR codes be the next big thing in real estate? Probably not. But is there a fantastic potential for tracking offline marketing and greater consumer interaction – Definitely! Only time will tell . . .

Google Analytics Website Benchmarking Newsletter

Google have just sent out the first Analytics Benchmarking Newsletter. This is a monthly newsletter seeks to analyise the statistical log data taken from hundreds of thousands of websites from around the World.  There isn’t a huge amount of data in this newsletter, however one itel of interest is the decline in the average no of page views per site visit, with a reduction from 4.9 pages per visit in 09 – 10 to 4.5 pages to visit in 10 – 11. This is probably simply a reflection of the ever growing depth of content on the web, making it increasingly more competitive to get a visitor and then to keep them.

Here is the Newsletter itself:
Google  Analytics Benchmarking Newsletter2011, Volume 1, July 2011

1. Introduction

Welcome to the first volume  of the Analytics Benchmarking Newsletter!

This month, we are replacing the standard “benchmarking” report in your Google Analytics account with data shared in this newsletter. We are using this
newsletter as an experiment to surface more useful or interesting data to Analytics users. Data contained here comes from all websites which have opted-in anonymous data sharing with Google Analytics. Only those website administrators which have enabled this anonymous
data sharing
will receive this “benchmarking” newsletter.

You may be wondering, how  many websites are in this “anonymous data sharing” pool? Currently, hundreds of thousands, and we’ve endeavored to make all of the metrics here statistically significant.

The date range of  comparison for this newsletter is from November 1, 2010 – February 1, 2011.
Comparison is done with data from November 1, 2009 – February 1, 2010.  Absolute metrics such as total # visits, pageviews, or conversions for all
opted-in websites are not reported.

To simplify the prose, the phrase “websites” will represent “websites which have opted into anonymous data sharing with Google Analytics” for the rest of this
newsletter.

2. Site Metrics

Compared to a year ago, websites have seen reduced pages / visit, average time on site, as well as
bounce rate.

11/1/09 – 2/1/10

11/1/10 – 2/1/11

Difference

Pages/Visit 4.9 4.5 -0.4
Bounce
Rate
48.2% 47.0% -1.2%
Avg
Time on Site
5:49 5:23 -0:26

2.1 Breakdown by Geography

Our anonymous database has aggregated geographic breakdown at the country level. Here are a few representative countries and their respective aggregate metrics. The first number in each cell represents the metric for the date range 11/1/10-2/1/11.
The parenthesized number is the Year over Year delta compared to a year ago.

Country

Pages / Visit

Bounce Rate

Avg Time on Site

United
States
4.7
(-0.1)
42.5%
(-6.1%)
6:06
(-0:10)
United
Kingdom
4.9
(-0.3)
41.5%
(+0.2%)
5:38
(-0.27)
France 4.4
(-0.4)
49.7%
(+1.4%)
4:40
(-0:08)
Brazil 4.1
(-0.1)
47.8%
(-2.9%)
5:20
(+0:03)
China 4.1
(-0.1)
58.2%
(+1.0%)
3:46
(+0:37)
Japan 3.9
(-0.1)
48.6%
(-9.0%)
3:47
(-2:59)

For bounce rate, the distribution by country is plotted below:

The distribution above is annotated with some countries — which seem to indicate a story of leisure and stage of economic development.
For a related metric: average time on site, the distribution by country is  plotted below:

The type of countries  annotated in the average time on site graph above seem to be in reverse order  as those in the bounce rate distribution.

2.2 Breakdown by Traffic Sources

Traffic sources below are  identified by how the “source” and “medium””” parameters are received by the Google Analytics collecting servers. Here is
an article  describing what these designations refer to.

Traffic Sources

Pages / Visit

Bounce Rate

Avg Time on Site

Direct 4.0
(-0.5)
47.2%
(-4.0%)
5:21
(-0:07)
Referral 5.0
(+0.1)
43.1%
(-1.1%)
6:36
(-1:48)
Organic
Search
4.9
(-0.1)
47.9%
(-1.1%)
4:43
(+0:06)
CPC
Search
5.6
(+0.0)
41.4
(-1.7%)
3:57(+0:07)

2.4 Conversion Rate Distribution

Many marketers’ favorite  metric is conversion rate. Here is the worldwide distribution of Google Analytics “goal conversion rate” by country.

Would anyone have guessed that states which are known for conversions are also high for their citizens’ goal conversion rate? Note that for some states with few population, the statistical significance of the conversion metric comes into doubt.

3. Traffic Sources

Traffic sources below are identified by how the “source” and “medium” parameters are received by the Google Analytics collecting servers. Here is an article
describing what these designations refer to.

% Visits from Sources

11/1/09 – 2/1/10

11/1/10 – 2/1/11

Difference

Direct 36.5% 36.8% +0.3%
Referral 21.0% 19.4% -1.6%
Search
Engines
27.0% 28.0% +1.0%
Other 15.5% 15.8% +0.3%

4. Operating Systems

Browsers and Operation Systems (OS) are identified by the “referrer” string sent by users’ browsers.

% Visits from OS

11/1/09 – 2/1/10

11/1/10 – 2/1/11

Difference

Windows 89.9% 84.8% -5.1%
Macintosh 4.5% 5.2% +0.7%
Linux 0.6% 0.7% +0.1%
Other 5% 9.3% +4.3%

5. Comments

This is the first volume of our Analytics Benchmarking Newsletter. We hope that it provides useful isights. If you have specific comments or suggestions on how to improve this newsletter, please send your feedback to: analytics-benchmarking@google.com.

Happy analyzing,

Google Analytics Team


Email preferences: You have received this
message as part of the Benchmarking feature in Google Analytics. To stop
receiving the Benchmarking report, you can turn off Anonymous data sharing in
Google Analytics account settings. Google Inc.

Copyright
2011. Google is a trademark of Google Inc. All other company and product
names may be trademarks of the respective companies with which they are
associated. 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway Mountain View, CA 94043

Your website is hurting you.

When is the last time you looked at your website?

I mean, really looked at it.

Not just opened a page with one of your listings, so you can get the link to send through to a potential buyer.

I speak with companies who have not touched their website since it was set up in 2004 or 2005!

It’s pretty much a given that most real estate companies, have had a website for the past few years or longer.

As you focus on the day to day activity of selling and listing, it can be easy to just take the attitude of “Oh, we have a website up and it is working, so I will leave it be.” The problem is, after a while a website, like many things in life, starts to look a bit outdated.

More importantly, your website can be hurting your business without you knowing!

You could be losing potential vendors to other local agents, simply because your website is not as nice as theirs, or because theirs has more information on it. Buyers may also not contact you, as they cannot find the listings that strike their fancy.

This is how your website can be hurting your business RIGHT NOW!

It is recommended that clients revise their websites about every three years (if not sooner).

I bet you are thinking that this sounds like a ridiculous and costly exercise.
But I can promise you that you will reap the benefits of a site revision.
To make things really clear & easy to follow, here is a list of straight forward reasons why you should look at revising or redesigning your company website.

  • A redesign can help to improve your website’s search engine optimisation
  • Believe it or not, a revamp of your online tools can actually SAVE YOU MONEY.
  • Google likes sites with new &/or regularly updated content. It ranks them higher.
  • Users expect to see location maps of properties these days. You can lose sales based on the lack of the ability to see where a property is located. This is especially important for out-of-area investors.
  • Google also prefers sites with maps in them, as the information is deemed are more usable and relevant.
  • Technology is changing so rapidly that you want to be sure your site meets the newer standards of web design and interactivity
  • Your website should be representative of your company in every way. If your website looks tired and outdated, what will prospects and vendors think about your entire organization?

Many offices tell me that they feel their website is not as important anymore, because most views of their listings occur via Property Portals sites, such as realestate.com.au, domain.com.au, etc.

Whilst it is true that the portals get exposure for your listings, your website is now more import than ever.

Your website is what potential vendors use to judge who to list with.

Your website is where buyers end up when they have done enough general looking on the portals and are at the purchasing stage.

Your website is what potential sales people judge your business on, when deciding if your organisation is the one they want to work with.

Don’t take your website lightly. Take a good long look at it today.
Scroll through all the pages.

  • Is it fresh? Is the content valid?
  • When was the last time you added something new about the company? A new photo? A press release?
  • Do your listings have multiple photos and maps?
  • Are there listing categories that you no longer sell in, still showing on the site?
  • Can users get automatic alerts about new listings?

In a tight market like the one that a lot of real estate agents are experiencing today, your website is the key to your company – as much as your sales and customer service staff are.
Treat it well and it will deliver the world to you.

Speak to a Brightfox website consultant today, and stop your site from hurting your business.


How Google’s New Algorithm will affect your real estate website

Very recently, Google made significant changes to its search engine algorithm.
This algorithm is basically the formula that Google uses, when determining which sites should appear at the top of search results, and which ones should not.

Very few people, except for hardcore search and tech literati understand precisely how these changes were set up or exactly how they work, but the changes are pretty evident already.
The long and the short of it, is that you will need to take a good look at your website to determine if it is still “search engine friendly”.

Here are some items that now need to be understood in regards to this new Google algorithm:

  • Faster Indexing
    Google has a new thing called “Google Caffeine”. This means there is no more “sandbox” or long waiting times, before your website can be indexed by Google. The indexing time is now down to around 15 minutes (if you have a dynamic site map submitted to Google Webmaster Tools).
    This means that unique, steady content such as news updates, blogs, etc, will take even more precedence in search engine rankings.
  • Google Analytics Data
    In a fairly controversial move, Google has suggested that they may use the analytics data of sites in their algorithm, since it provides a huge amount of information about user interaction of a web site. This makes a lot of sense, but there will be many that do not like this idea.
    This one is a pretty easy fix though, as Google Analytics is free and does not take much to add into a website.
  • Paid Links
    Buying links to push ranks up in a short period of time is a technique used by some marketers. Many of these are added for short periods of time due to the cost of purchasing them.
    Google now says that the age of links matter, so these short term link arrangements will no longer help you. They prefer stable links that have been there for a while, so work on building naturally occurring links that matter to your business.
  • Page Load Time is now important
    Very simply, the time it takes a web page to appear in your internet browser will directly affect how it ranks in Google.
    Make sure that your images and all page elements are optimized and that your sites load fast. Don’t lose rank due to slow loading images or other web elements.
  • Flash animation and Flash websites
    Flash websites and animations created in Flash, can take forever to load up. Based on the information above, this is bad news for your site ranking.  Avoid full flash websites, large animation files & splash pages. Use HTML5 where you can.
  •  

There are other changes still to come from Google. They like to rearrange things periodically just to keep the SEO experts, tech guys and online marketers on their toes.

Trying to play the game and work out how Algorithms work, can be a real waste of time. These Google Algorithm Changes, don’t really change the core message and approach of a good website though – it still is all about CONTENT.
The best thing to do is ensure the basics are covered and that you have good, solid content on your website.
This means:

  • clear information on your site, that is relevant to what your website visitors are looking for (Such as search-able listings, interactive location maps for listings, locality information, clear contact information & staff profiles for example)
  • the consistent addition of unique content (latest news, etc)
  • site promotion through syndication, aimed at generating quality back links through to your site

Brightfox is aware of these changes, and we regularly advise our clients on the best way to manage their online presence, to be the most search-engine friendly that it can be.

If  you are seeking to improve your website rankings, traffic and sales, then feel free to contact us here at Brightfox.

Building Smart Websites for Smart Phones (and Ipad’s!)

We blogged recently about the amazing growth of smart phones. Smart Phones and Tablets (think IPad and the upcoming Android and Windows Tablets you will see next year) are going to be the dominant platform for accessing the web in the short to medium term. More people will access the web using these devices than PC’s. Let me assure you it is going to happen.

So what does that mean for websites? Well pretty much every single one has been designed for viewing on a PC so this means a lot.

We have long been pushing the importance of building mobile friendly websites and have been doing so as far back as late 2007. As mobile phones and tablets simply become more and more powerful, and 3G and (coming 4G) internet speeds faster, it is simply more convenient to use them to access websites and web services. The huge growth of social networking is also a strong driver of this user adoption. People start using their mobile to access Twitter or Facebook, and as they become increasingly comfortable with the medium, start using their phone to access all manner of content.

The future for real estate on the web is to provide a true cross platform experience to the customer. Whether it is via a PC, a mobile phone or on the ‘about to explode’ tablet and touch screen devices, users simply expect a great experience. This means delivering an experience optimised for that specific environment.

To explain a little further, the experience of accessing the web via a mobile phone is very different to accessing it via a PC. The screen resolution and functionality is vastly different, not to mention the environment in which it is done. This results in large useability variation between the two, which in turn requires a different design to your website or services and often a modification to the service itself. One simple example is sending an enquiry on a listing. On a PC the most common action is to complete a register interest form and send an enquiry via email. Mobile phone users are far more likely however to want to send an SMS.

We have just launched a website that demonstrates the difference in design for a PC to a Smart Phone.

Visit www.precinctpropertygroup.com This is a standard website when viewed on a PC however if you visit this site from your phone you will be automatically taken to a mobile friendly website at the following URL: www.precinctpropertygroup.com/mobile

You will note significant differences with the design and if you are using a smart phone, integration with your GPS, call and email functions – all making the website user friendly and actually useable!

To effectively target this every growing market we now recommend that our clients build a website for these very different user platforms. The additional cost really is not that great and the benefits are significant.

How to become more efficient – online and offline!

In this age of instant transactions and having almost everything available to us at the click of a button, more and more people are working longer hours and simply don’t have the time to complete real estate transactions the way they used to.  People are increasingly expecting to be able to speak to someone straight away or, at the very least, be contacted within a few hours of making an inquiry.

For this reason, it is essential for you, as a real estate agent, to make yourself available to your target market as much as you possibly can.  This will often mean that you need to be available to meet with clients after normal work hours and on weekends but this is not the only way you can be more accessible.

Here are just a few ideas on how you can make yourself more accessible to your clientele, even when you’re not available!

  • Use your website to its maximum potential.  Make sure you include up-to-date information about all of your listings and that they are as detailed as possible.  If you can narrow down the options for potential buyers they will have a much better idea of what they are looking for when they actually get to speak with you.  If you are an individual salesperson you might consider spending the money to build your own website so that customers can come directly to you and view all of your listings in the one place.
  • Use social networking sites to interact with your customer base.  Update your Twitter account with new listings and open house times and encourage your clients to “follow” you.
  • Use your mobile when you are mobile!  Take the time to update your voicemail message with a direct message on days when you know you won’t be available. By putting in the effort to record a message that includes the date and advising callers that you will be in meetings/unavailable that day, you are showing your customer base that you care that they are calling you and will take the time to call them back when you actually are available.  Make sure you keep it up to date though as an out of date message of this kind will have the opposite effect!
  • Use your “Out of Office Assistant” when you are going to be away from your desk for long periods of time so people who email you know why you haven’t replied to them.
  • Consider getting a BlackBerry or similar mobile device, if you haven’t already got one, so that you can check and respond to emails while you are away from your desk.
  • Use SMS as a way for clients to contact you.  You can set-up direct SMS functionality on your website so that potential clients can send you an SMS direct from your website to request a call back. Similarly, it is a good (and simple!) idea to have your office Receptionist or Administrator send you messages for call-backs via SMS rather than send you an email as you will get it immediately, as opposed to getting the message the next time you check your email; which could be up to 24 hours later.
  • Start your own Blog – this is an easy way for you to make yourself more accessible and approachable to clients on a virtual level.  Use your Blog to post your ideas on current market news and talk about situations you have been in that are relevant and useful for both vendors and buyers.

These are all simple and extremely effective ideas that you can use to make yourself available and accessible to potential clients when you are on the run.  In the fast-paced age of technology that we live in, it is imperative to stay ahead of the pack when it comes to communication and utilizing one or more of these suggestions in your day-to-day dealings will help you to do just that.