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Aussie Real Estate Brands and How Google Might Be About To Deliver a Knockout Blow

5 minute read

Whilst there has been a great deal of discussion on the Google Real Estate launch here in Australia there may be an even bigger blow by the internet giant about to be delivered to our industry.

In March this year a strange thing happened in the US when searching on Google. Websites that have never ranked on the front page for highly competitive keywords started to climb the rankings and replaced sites that seemed entrenched in the top 10 results. You might think this happens all the time but it doesn’t. Getting into the top 10 results for a competitive keywords takes a significant investment in SEO.

Using our industry as an example, ranking well for such highly prized keywords like real estate, property, homes for sale and other is not a very easy thing to do and the first thing you notice is that realestate.com.au is first for all three searches. However what a lot of people don’t realise is that out of the 30 results across all three searches very little of them are taken up by any of the major real estate groups or their members.

Obviously some of the other portals were on the first pages for all three searches and they fill another 13 of the the 30 positions. This means nearly half of the premium spots are filled with what I call minor sites with very good, or very lucky SEO.

To give this some perspective the private sales website, PropertyNow.com.au ranks a very commendable 4th position for the term “Real Estate” for pages in Australia on Google. This is behind major industry heavy weights that don’t even rank on the first page. In fact only the First National corporate website is the only group that appears on the first page as it comes in at number 6.

Google-Trends-PropertyNow

Using Google Trends to display their respective search traffic (http://bit.ly/qXF0k) we see that Propertynow.com.au is punching well above its weight. In fact it does not even show on the graph against Ray White and LJ Hooker even though they could only manage pages 2 and 5 respectively on the Search Engine Results Page.

In March Google rolled out what has been now called as Google’s Brand Update in the US. What happened was well known and popular brands started to appear high in the search engines results replacing those smaller sites that have elevated their position due to clever SEO work.

In the past week Google has also rolled out these changes to the UK. This article has a great explanation of it all here –  http://www.seobook.com/google-branding and for a recent update on its rollout in the UK you can read this http://www.blogstorm.co.uk/google-brand-update-hits-the-uk/

It seems natural to assume that major brands are going to get a boost in search engine rankings at Google for Australian searches so pretty soon we are going to see a shake up in the traffic generated to the major real estate groups.

This spells trouble for the FSBO sites and other smaller property portals. Those members of major real estate group can probably see the upside of this article… but on the flipside I am sure the independents and those in smaller franchises and groups are probably seeing it in a completely different light.

When you start doing suburb and regionally targeted searches then the impact will really be felt by the independents and those in real estate groups not identified as being an industry brand. If the offices aligned with major real estate groups start to get a boost the traffic to many independent’s website might start to slow up.

In spite of recent pressures on the major portals, something like this MAY make the role of the major property portals even more important especially for the independents which I believe make up the majority of the agencies in Australia….. Well that is as long as Realestate.com.au and Domain.com.au actually get the benefit of this change.

Nobody actually knows what Google is going to consider as a brand and how it ranks those brands. It is certainly possible that Google may not consider portals or data aggregators like realestate.com.au and domain.com.au as brands under real estate at all.

If google determines exactly what is an industry Brand based on what people search then all the portals may be in for troubled waters. Whilst they generate a lot of traffic very little of it would would be generated on searches by the public actually searching for them or about them. This post looks at the relationship to Google Brand Updates in the UK and what people actually search for http://bit.ly/1ap0Iy and if its right then the portals might be getting nervous.

To prove this I used Google Insight for the top two portals of realestate.com.au and domain.com.au and Ray white and LJ Hooker and you can see very view people actually search for the portals by name. See this http://bit.ly/mLNqx

If on the other hand they base it on how many visitors each website gets then you would have to think they will be considered as the industries top brands. One thing is for sure, there is going to be some nervous people at the portals until we find out just which side of the fence this is going to fall because this is the last thing they need.

Major real estate groups seem to be the only guaranteed winners and independents as the only guaranteed losers. With the UK update just released it will be interesting to see if any of the UK portals start losing traffic as this might be the best indicator of how the change will effect us once it arrives, as it surely will.

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26 Comments

  • Robert Simeon
    Posted July 13, 2009 at 3:12 pm 0Likes

    Great article – as I mentioned earlier it is quite amazing watching the massive SEO grabs by agencies on Google Maps to secure these Property Fly By points on Google.

    I agree for those who understand what SEO is all about will do very well with high positionings – for those just starting to understand you have much work to do. Even more remarkable is that in less than one week how quickly mindsets and property landscapes can change.

    Google are playing a most strategic move on our markets – now all the agents need to do is understand how to play – be competitive and win so as to prosper.

  • Greg Vincent
    Posted July 13, 2009 at 4:30 pm 0Likes

    Real estate is about Location, Location, Location & occupying the top ranking spots for real estate search results on Google is the best real estate a real estate agent can secure.

    If the agent’s rankings are dramatically affected by these changes, in the short term they may need to consider a geo-targeted PPC campaign on Google, but with one word of warning. They need to be mindful not to use wording in the ads that will cause them to waste lots of money on tenants clicking their ads.

    Glenn, with Google’s algorithm changing, this another reason why real estate agents should also invest in Social Media marketing & effective email marketing campaigns to expand their database & maintain a balanced approach to the internet.

  • Robert Simeon
    Posted July 13, 2009 at 4:43 pm 0Likes

    Greg and Glenn,

    This should not come as any great surprise as this has been predicted for quite some time now and now is is stark reality. For those who are not exactly sure what we are saying – go to a Google search and type in your suburb and real estate ie Mosman real estate to see how your agency ranks on the Google search.

    As Greg correctly said its about location, location, location. Even just type in your suburb and see where that positions your business – now that is a tough one to crack.

  • Mike
    Posted July 13, 2009 at 4:58 pm 0Likes

    Does this mean that small agencies will have work extra hard to get better results in Google? Does it even mean that even if independent agency does SEO they can’t beat big brands?

    I always thought internet as much fairer playing field where David can beat Goliath. If Google gives advantage to big brands I think that David will never win. It would be interesting to know what Google consider as big brand? Of course we will never know because Google does not provide much information about search engine algorithm.

    It will be very interesting to see what future will bring…

  • Robert Simeon
    Posted July 13, 2009 at 5:06 pm 0Likes

    Mike,

    David can easily beat Goliath just that David need to be smart with a heavy obsession for online adding enormous (relevant) data to their respective websites. They do however need to drive hi-tech websites with all the bells and whistles and of course have Google on their data diet.

  • Glenn Batten
    Posted July 13, 2009 at 5:13 pm 0Likes

    It is certainly the big unknown..

    Actually, in the article I made the assumption that a national brand authority would apply at the local level.. but that may not help either.

    For instance the agencies ranking for “Nerang Real Estate” may be influenced by how many people actually search for each of the individual offices that rank for that term.

    ie.. if we get 5 times the people searching for “Nerang First National” than search for say “Ray White Nerang” then we get the benefit of being placed higher because more people would probably be looking for us.. even though at a National Level more people search for “Ray White” than they do for “First National”

    but.. if that was the case then how are thye going to handle the offices using the generic search as a business name… ie the agency actually called Nerang Real Estate?

    I hope someone in the UK does some research as how it has effected the local market there. Unfortunatley we can’t just try it ourselves because we dont know how they ranked before to compare, and Google changes your result depending upon your location… so even if we do a search on google.co.uk it will give different results than if someone in the UK did the same search..

  • Greg Vincent
    Posted July 13, 2009 at 6:31 pm 0Likes

    In today’s world the Goliaths move too slow…

    Mike, it’s definitely not about having to work harder. The internet done properly can propel a small business faster than you may have thought possible. It’s more about knowing where to start.

    With the right strategies David can leave Goliath for dead, especially with localised SEO.

  • David
    Posted July 13, 2009 at 9:20 pm 0Likes

    Mike/Robert/Glen
    David can indeed have a go at Goliath, as this search shows, David can be No. 1 out of over 8 million pages…..see here for proof – http://3.ly/iGG
    On a side note you may might this article “Goodbye to Google Ranking” topical to the thread.

  • David
    Posted July 13, 2009 at 9:21 pm 0Likes

    Mike/Robert/Glen
    David can indeed have a go at Goliath, as this search shows, David can be No. 1 out of over 8 million pages…..see here for proof – http://3.ly/iGG
    On a side note you may find this article “Goodbye to Google Ranking” topical to the thread.

  • David
    Posted July 13, 2009 at 9:23 pm 0Likes

    Oooopphhs apologies here is the link to that article
    http://3.ly/L74

  • Sal Espro
    Posted July 13, 2009 at 9:25 pm 0Likes

    This causes me to think of Mae West’s famous Broadway play, “Go SEO, small business! Go SEO! (Well, the sentiment was much the same, anyway).

    Sal 🙂

  • Glenn Rogers
    Posted July 13, 2009 at 10:19 pm 0Likes

    I’ll tell you whats going to happen –

    Try a Google search for Melbourne hotels, it gives you a list of hotels and a map, takes up quite a bit of space doesn’t it.

    Now try Melbourne real estate – all there is is links for realestaste.com.au etc

    This will change and the results you see there will change to give a variety of real estate sources in Melbourne and realestate.com.au will lose the top spot.

    This will carry across hundreds of searches diminishing the pull of realestate.com.au and domain, as local business take the top spots.

    Thats how I see it.

    This page loaded ok tonght , hope it stays that way.

  • Glenn Rogers
    Posted July 13, 2009 at 10:33 pm 0Likes

    I think the result for propertynow.com.au is more luck than anything, it only has a RR of 4 and the backlinks are nothing sprecial, only the 2 top portals really put much time into SEO and I can tell you in years past they didn’t know or care why they were at the top, so results after the top 2 are farily ordinary in quality and it wouldnt be too hard to rank there.

  • Glenn Batten
    Posted July 13, 2009 at 11:57 pm 0Likes

    Glenn,

    Actually searching for Hotels is no different for real estate that I can see. 7 of the top 10 results are hotel/accommodation portals and only three are actual hotels.

    The major hotel brands are swamped by the well known portals, such as Wotif and Asiarooms (although I don.t know how popular asiarooms is here in Australia) and other websites punching above their weight class because of good SEO (and a bit of luck as you point out) such as cheaperthanhotels.com.au and aussiehotels.com.au.

    If I was to guess there will be quite a few industries in exactly the same boat such as Employment/Jobs, Cars and Finance/Banks.

    This seems to be exactly why Google is bringing in this change to their algorithm. They are known to tweak whenever the balance of SEO gets out of wack. What they are in effect is saying is that the top 10 results we are serving up is not what people are in the most part looking for. By making a brand adjustment they can tweak the results enough to provide more meaningful results.

  • Glenn Rogers
    Posted July 14, 2009 at 12:29 pm 0Likes

    Yes Google sure have the power these days it’s a little scary, If ever they fall into the wrong hands it could be a disaster.

    A search on – hotels – brings up the usual results but do a search on – Sydney Hotels – for instance and you get the local listings first plus a map, the portals are pushed below that.

    If they extend this to the single phrase or word without the locality in there traffic to the portals would drop quite a lot.

    Google probably consider that the results should first serve the local businesses which is what search is all about, the portals, perhaps in their mind, should come later.

    I think Google will always stay as close to a pure search function as possible without letting the results be too clouded by vested interests.

    It’s all about whats best for the user because without that strong support from the user Google will start to lose their dominance.

  • Glenn Rogers
    Posted July 14, 2009 at 1:24 pm 0Likes

    Just to avoid confusion what I meant to point out was that if you do the same 2 searches for real estate, ie: – real estate – and – sydney real estate – there are no local listings or map at the top for the Sydney search.
    I think that will change to be like the – sydney hotels – search plus the main term – real estate – will be probably be taken over by their new listing and mapping feature.

    I dont see armageddon for the portals just a lessening of their dominance of Google.

  • Glenn Batten
    Posted July 14, 2009 at 3:32 pm 0Likes

    Glenn… re your issues with the site you were having.. I just read a cool trick today if you have the Chrome Browser. Point 4 I think it is http://www.googletutor.com/2009/07/13/6-cool-useful-google-chrome-tricks/

    Might help to identify the culprit if you get it again.

  • Glenn Rogers
    Posted July 14, 2009 at 4:49 pm 0Likes

    Thanks Glenn but doesn’t help, it seemed to load quick when I clicked through from the Crikey story on Google but apart from that it’s still the same old story.

    The home page is ok but any INTERNAL link I try after that just stalls badly.

    It may have to do with the site being hosted in the USA.

  • Glenn Rogers
    Posted July 14, 2009 at 4:54 pm 0Likes

    See where any site is hosted here –

    http://news.netcraft.com/

  • Robert Simeon
    Posted July 14, 2009 at 4:59 pm 0Likes

    What I can’t understand is why REA and Domain have Google on ignore? If you look at all the properties appearing on Google Maps they are doing very well in such a short space of time (and will only get better). The properties are introduced to REA and Domain by the agents who will make sure that they appear on Google – so what does REA and Domain achieve by refusing to play with Google given that up until 3.00 pm last Monday both REA and Domain were all over Google.

    Where the worst kept secret was that Google was entering the Australian real estate market. I think REA and Domai would be well served to send another online quiz to their respective clients to ascertain what they think as it looks to me this Google entrance has left them gob smacked.

  • MC
    Posted July 15, 2009 at 11:28 am 0Likes

    Robert, this may be the first online equivalent we have of old online classifieds media being ursurped by new online classifieds media. i.e. We know the real old classifieds paper model is knackered and now perhaps the same classifieds model brought online is heading the same way (?) i.e. Classifieds are dead, long live classifieds!
    As an old timer, and the original portal man, (even pre Simon B – Gee, that is old! 😉 I think that if I were the current portals I would embrace the enemy and make it a no-additional-cost, value-added offer to agencies. This would blur the lines in a marketing sense of what Google can/is offering and up the value to agents and their clients.

  • Westie
    Posted July 15, 2009 at 4:53 pm 0Likes

    Robert,

    I think both REA and Domain are in shock mode as they knew the big G was coming but had not anticipated it this soon. Says something about their industry counterintelligence which they both used to be good at under Shaun Di Gregorio at REA and Sam Plowman at Domain.

    Both of them used to tap into their customer base via their sales reps to find out from people like you and I what was going on. I see that Shaun is leaving REA and Sam left a while back but both current Management teams at these portals need to wake up and engage us in what we think . Maybe its too late and I’m just as surprised as you are.

    My REA rep reckons REA revenues are flatlining and the majority of the Sales team haven’t made their targets for months. This will be a new problem for the Board who are not used to seeing limited growth. The Google Choo Choo Train could just run them over.

  • Sal Espro
    Posted July 16, 2009 at 3:10 pm 0Likes

    In agreement Westie, just came out of a sales meeting where it was mentioned that Realestate.com.au is going to double the price of our Feature properties! Question 1: Do you think this strengthened ties with them or not?
    Question 2: Do you think this has brought forward our move to update our Google Base tech to include the Google maps API? *L*

  • Robert Simeon
    Posted July 16, 2009 at 3:53 pm 0Likes

    MC, Westie and Sal,

    Interesting points you raise. In the case of Fairfax well it is a media company and Google is the competition and we all know that competition is good. We all make our respective businesses competitive otherwise the alternatives are not that attractive.

    It would be difficult for REA and Fairfax to be paying millions in Adwords only to see Google featuring their real estate roll out on the same page – quite cheeky.

    REA has lost some big achievers from their pay roll so it will be interesting to watch what happens there. Eventually I’m sure that Fairfax and REA will appear on Google Maps.

    There was a great interview on Business Spectator – Google Australia and New Zealand general manager Karim Temsamani. http://www.businessspectator.com.au/bs.nsf/Article/KGB-INTERROGATION-Karim-Temsamani-pd20090710-TSVZ4?OpenDocument&src=is&cat=property-al

    Well worth reading to see where Google are coming from.

  • Westie
    Posted July 16, 2009 at 4:56 pm 0Likes

    Robert,

    Thanks for the article as it really shows how serious Google are about the Real Estate sector moving forward and the planning that has gone on before launch and now post launch.

    They seem to have experienced a better than expected result and uptake in the first few weeks and as with anything it will be intersting to see how quickly the majority of agents in Australia become aware of what Google can do for them.

    As you’d be aware from your own comments over time once agents are confident with a new provider or a new service then they move as a pack. If they are not then they remain with what they are comfortable with.

    The name Google and the word ‘free’ should entice most to have a look at their current options particularly for those agents that do not get Vendor Paid Advertising.

    Linking this in with Sal Espro’s comments about REA potentially raising their premium product price I would have thought the Google option would become even more of a slam dunk.

    Looking forward to the August price rise conversation with your REA sales reps are you Robert and Sal?

  • Sean Wyld
    Posted July 21, 2009 at 5:42 pm 0Likes

    While everyone reading Business2 is aware of the importance of search traffic, it’s easy to forget that 99% of real estate agents are completely oblivious to the the value of search traffic. Even the major real estate franchises like Ray White and LJ Hooker haven’t woken up to the value of search traffic.

    Real estate is NOT a competitive industry in Australia when it comes to search engine results. Yes REA & Domain pretty much have a mortgage on the top couple spots for a lot of the major real estate related terms, however getting on the front page of results isn’t actually that difficult for most real estate related keywords.

    I’m yet to come across an Australian real estate site which ticks off all of the major SEO elements needed. I’d happy to be proved wrong on this point, so if someone out thinks their site is fully SEO compliant, let me know.

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