What does SEO mean in today’s world?
For years there has been a lot of talk about the value of SEO and what it can mean for an agent. Many agents have happily touted the fact that their name appears on the first page in search results for real estate-related searches in their area. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s actually pretty awesome and when people are using search to find an agent, you’ve caught their attention.
The only problem is that SEO can be a bit like trying to catch lightning in a bucket. The rules are always changing, the algorithms used by the search engines are forever being tweaked, and the looming danger that someone with more search power will grab your terms is always there. It can be a bit crazymaking and there is no real guarantee that it will really bring more clients to your doorstep.
Over the past year you’ve probably also heard more about social search. Lately Google has been including more and more social search into their search experiences. Partly for them this has been self-serving. Google saw the rise of Facebook as a self-contained universe and realized that something big was happening. They made a few false starts with Google Wave and a Twitter-like service called Buzz before rolling out Google +. Response has been mixed and engagement seems to be lower than Facebook’s. As one of my friends put it, “every time I go on there, all I see is tumbleweeds.”
But engagement may not have been their end goal. While Facebook touts the amount of time that users spend on the site as one of its main draws, Google seems to have a different agenda, to have Google+ itself included in everything you use Google to search for. Facebook has created what is often termed a walled garden. They do whatever they can to keep you there. But Google+ is different, they want you out in the world, adding to search results and changing the way traditional SEO works. There will no longer be one solution. Instead, every search will bring different results depending on the person’s network.
It’s unclear if Google’s strategy will work or how people will embrace social search. One thing we know is that Google will measure everything, as Gahlord Dewald points out in his brilliant post, everything that can be measured will be. Google’s biggest search rival, Microsoft’s Bing already includes Facebook likes in its search results and is now adding a layer of social search that brings in multiple social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and Google+.
What does this mean for you as you struggle to get seen on the increasingly idiosyncratic internet? I like to think it means that it’s time to stop chasing Google’s search engine spiders and bring the focus back to what really drives real estate: relationships. This has always been and will likely always be a relationship business. The relationships that Realtors form with clients, with other agents, and with other real estate professionals are what power this business. Realtors should definitely be involved in social media, to share, to communicate, to help, to advise, and yes, to showcase the great properties they have listed.
But instead of trying to appeal to the whims of a search engine, let’s try to appeal to the human side of the internet. As my friend Jeff Turner says, “SEO is great, but YEO is better.” So create great pictures that draw the eye, compelling words that inspire the mind, videos that entertain and inform. Listen and share your knowledge, your caring, and your style with others. Technology is a fantastic tool but it isn’t and shouldn’t be the heart of the industry. Social search is an opportunity to put the human factor back into the center of what we do online if we let it.
Audie is Head of Social Media for Realtor.com / Move, Inc., establishing and guiding strategy and operations for the company’s community building features and social media programs. In the past year, Audie was named one of Inman News’ 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders and helped Realtor.com win DigiDay’s Social Advertising, Media and Marketing Award (SAMMY) for Best Socialized Business.