Realestate.com.au Slip in the Google Rankings

Back in August last year Google allowed the public to take a peak at the upcoming changes to their search engine algothrim. The update was named Caffeine and although it has yet to be released rumours of its rollout in the UK and US markets indicate it may be imminent.

That article looked at who out of the main real estate portals would be the winner and who would be the loser. Generally the comparison showed that Domain might lose a little ground and Myhome might gain a little ground but market leader Realestate.com.au would show very little change.

Like alot of things on the net search engines rankings never stand still and it’s interesting to compare the Search Engine Results Pages (SERP’s) from that article to those of today. When you do something stands out  and that is the dramatic drop in Realestate.com.au rankings.   In one case they are have dropped off the front page entirely and in other examples they have dropped pages from the front page.

The same searches conducted 7 months apart show Realestate.com.au have slipped positions as well as 8 front page placements which have just fallen off the results altogether and Domain has been the major beneficiary of this slip. Now they still hold good positioning on the Sydney and Melbourne keywords but everywhere seems to have gone backwards with either lower positions or less pages on the front page.  Queensland in particular was effected very badly with a massive 6 our of 20 possible positions filled with links leading back to realestate.com.au reducing down to just one solitary link.

As Realestate.com.au prepare for the release of their new website this cant be good news for the design team. The SEO in the new site appears much better so it will be interesting to see if the new website can claw back what they have lost. They are certainly still the best placed portal on the search engines but the gap has reduced in the past 6 or 7 months. With search providing about 30% or more of the traffic to the portals these changes should correlate to significant changes to the overall traffic to both portals but I dont suspect that the “fantastic” stats will ever show anything but positive numbers.

Realestate.com.au Rankings on Google’s First Page for the following keywords

Keyword Google on the 22/03/2010 Google on the 18/08/2009
Real
Estate
2nd

3rd

1st

2nd

Brisbane
Real
Estate
2nd 2nd

3rd

8th

9th

Sydney
Real
Estate
1st

2nd

1st

2nd

Melbourne
Real
Estate
1st

2nd

1st

2nd

Perth
Real
Estate
1st

2nd

1st

2nd

9th

Adelaide
Real
Estate
1st

2nd

1st

2nd

6th

7th

Gold
Coast
Real
Estate
No entry on the first page 1st

2nd

These SERP positions cannot be underestimated. The search volume on just the exact Keyword “Real Estate” on Google is reported by the Google Keyword tool to deliver 550,000 just for the month of February in Australia. Whilst more than  11,000,000 searches had the word “Real Estate” in the search term (ie.. brisbane real estate, sydney real estate etc etc )  there was  over half a million people that still searched for the fairly generalised term “Real Estate”.   That slip in just one position of such a traffic magnet can be costly.

From leaked data in 2006  covering  9,038,794 searches and 4,926,623 clicks SEO specialists have known exactly what different front page positions result in traffic wise. The front page receives 89.82% of all clickthroughs which is why it is vitally important to be on the front page.

The breakdowns from that leaked data resulted in the following:

  1. 42.13%, 2,075,765 clicks
  2. 11.90%, 586,100 clicks
  3. 8.50%, 418,643 clicks
  4. 6.06%, 298,532 clicks
  5. 4.92%, 242,169 clicks
  6. 4.05%, 199,541 clicks
  7. 3.41%, 168,080 clicks
  8. 3.01%, 148,489 clicks
  9. 2.85%, 140,356 clicks
  10. 2.99%, 147,551 clicks

Now these sort of percentages should only be used as a guide as they are an average across  all searches rather than a particular niche subject but they are the best indicator of what a slip in position can translate to in real traffic.

These numbers show a slip from 1st to 2nd could result in 3.5 times less clicks for the search term and when just one search term can generate 500k+ searches per month thats a loss of a lot of eyeballs. Translate this to the other city based searches and an endless supply of other search terms and I suspect that the traffic changes have been quite  noticeable to the top 2 portals.

Similarly dropping the extra results off the front page  can also have a dramatic effect. The Brisbane example would mean that even though they still hold the 2nd position their overall traffic would be well under half from losing the 3rd, 8th and 9th results.

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24 Comments

  • Craig
    Posted March 23, 2010 at 3:32 am 0Likes

    Glenn, even just 301 redirects may not be enough. I have seen previously where page structure (HTML) had major changes then it had an effect on the Google ranking even with exactly the same url. It is something they need to be very careful of. I think this is what Stuart was alluding to.

  • Michael
    Posted March 22, 2010 at 10:29 pm 0Likes

    What is Domain doing better than Realestate to get better SERP?

  • Robert Simeon
    Posted March 22, 2010 at 11:06 pm 0Likes

    Great article – amazing data. Makes one wonder what the true portal positions would be if they didn’t have such a Google saturation of AdWords?

  • Glenn Batten
    Posted March 22, 2010 at 11:06 pm 0Likes

    Michael,

    Domain may have been a beneficiary of this movement but its hard to say if they did anything different or not. Domain certainly have a talented SEO team at Fairfax digital but they have to handle all of the company’s stable of websites.

    Realestate.com.au have lost so many pages off the index it is probably more likely a combination of them taking their eye off the ball as they tweak here and prepare for the new site, domain constantly tweaking their SEO and maybe even Google making changes. Having 4 of the top 10 results going to one site was IMHO a bit our of whack but the loss has been across placements and total pages in the SERPS so it is probably not just one thing causing it. What so many placements on the front page does is shut out the competition from even getting a look in.

    There are plenty of keywords that REA still dominate but these were interesting because we have a past snapshot to compare them to and identify the changes. Whilst the trend is clearly evident there is still no need to panic for the REA team as I expect that the new website will quickly reverse the damage done… but time will tell 🙂

  • Glenn Batten
    Posted March 22, 2010 at 11:14 pm 0Likes

    Robert..

    Interesting you mentioned Adwords.. see if you can find realestate.com.au on any adwords at all.. I can’t.. I have searched about 30 suburbs across three states and I cant find a trace of them.

    My bet is they are pausing the campaign till April and the launch of the new site.

  • Robert Simeon
    Posted March 22, 2010 at 11:26 pm 0Likes

    That would explain why all the online enquiries we once received from REA have all but evaporated. Domain online enquiries now beats them by a ratio of 10:1 and it once was 3:1.

    More interesting will be to see now that they have dropped Google if next month is another record breaker which simply can’t be achieved! They have shot themselves in the foot with this one – although I always considered it a limp property portal!

  • Rachael Lord
    Posted March 22, 2010 at 11:34 pm 0Likes

    Our experience is so different!
    For one of our properties for example, we received 800 hits in one week from realestate.com.au compared to a mere 80 from domain!

  • Robert Simeon
    Posted March 22, 2010 at 11:37 pm 0Likes

    Furthermore, once upon a time REA would send us an Activity Report which also passed away sometime ago too. The only activity we appear to get is when one of our staff goes there to upload a property – quite amazing when one thinks about it to see just how much they (REA) simply no longer care!

  • Stuart
    Posted March 22, 2010 at 11:38 pm 0Likes

    It’s our experience that new websites don’t always hit the ground running and retain their position in the SERPS. They may over time regain that position but there’s no guarantee that time will be short.

    But it will certainly be interesting to watch and see what happens.

  • Glenn Batten
    Posted March 22, 2010 at 11:45 pm 0Likes

    How the different portals rate for your office will depend upon your location. In Queensland it is all realestate.com.au by a long way although Domain is trying to stage a comeback.

    In New South Wales Domain certainly comes into it’s own and is a credible competitior with Realestate.com.au and then in certain pockets of New South Wales particularly the more affluent areas are dominated by Domain.

  • Glenn Batten
    Posted March 23, 2010 at 2:45 am 0Likes

    Stuart,

    When changes are handled correctly relating to proper redirects of each page and the like then there really should be minimal impact.

    I know that is easier said than done. It’s when designers just cut off one site and insert another without proper planning that things can go wrong..

    Are your comments regarding loss of position about all web changes in general or do you believe that most even when planned correctly still result in a loss of ranking?

    If so we must have been one of the lucky ones when we changed our website recently. In fact our new url’s were picked up in days before our old ones were dropped and since the old ones were 301 redirected we actually seen a slight increase in traffic in the short term.

    You would think that the team at Realestate.com.au would be doing everything in their power to retain their rankings. If they let that slip their traffic will drop sharply so its very important for them.

  • Aryan
    Posted March 23, 2010 at 3:14 am 0Likes

    Domain and REA shutdown the ad-words campaign after Google launched the real estate portal

    Looks like REA is now talking to the old friend msn (shareholder at one point) regarding a good coverage for the new site.

  • Robert Simeon
    Posted March 23, 2010 at 3:27 am 0Likes

    Aryan,

    Domain are still using Google AdWords as at 30 seconds ago.

  • Glenn Batten
    Posted March 23, 2010 at 3:38 am 0Likes

    Craig,

    I can only guess in that example the on page SEO was worse than the previous version. If the page itself did not lose its “juice” because of a 301 redirect… such things as incoming links, page rank etc etc.. then you would think the only thing left that could effect it would be the current seo on the page at that specific time that google refreshed the page… A page title change, missing headings, bad description etc etc.. Visually it might look the same but if the revamp did not include SEO allowances then it could still go backwards..

    If Google would only give us a manual to follow it would make life much easier 🙂

  • Nick
    Posted March 23, 2010 at 4:08 am 0Likes

    Glenn you’ll notice that ads on RealEstate.com.au have evaporated as well.
    They havent stopped using Adwords. They have just paused their campaigns for the moment and are waiting for the new site.

    Aryan, neither of them stopped because of Google Maps Real Estate.
    Their ads are plastered all over Google Maps to try and lure people away.

    Its too soon to speculate about the Caffeine results.
    Not only is Caffeine under construction still, but so is REA.
    We need to wait a couple of months to see if the new results will stick.

  • Stuart
    Posted March 23, 2010 at 7:25 pm 0Likes

    Glenn I think Craig explains what I was alluding to fairly well but I think you may have identified the hidden cause why that may occur although there was a time a few years ago when you could almost guarantee that a new site design … even if you did use the same URLs … would take a hit in the rankings.

    I guess I’m rather conservative in my dislike of dynamic urls and it will be interesting to see just what effect they will have on REA’s rankings when the new site appears.

    Having said that I do know that Google seems to be making some amazing changes in the way it handles it’s listings.

    On Monday we were approached by a local business that had been ranking well for some very competitive terms but they had crashed out of the rankings thanks to a terrible blunder made by the web designer who was handling their business.

    We suggested a minor change that involved a few lines of code in their htaccess file and the business reported that 12 hours later their phones started ringing again.

    I had told him to expect no change in their rankings for at least a week.

  • Nick
    Posted March 23, 2010 at 8:47 pm 0Likes

    Stuart I’ve seen new pages appear in under 4 hours.
    It happens for some websites but not others. Google Sitemaps are a must as well.

  • Stuart
    Posted March 23, 2010 at 9:50 pm 0Likes

    Yes I’ve seen that happen for new pages on established sites too Nick and I agree with you – sitemaps … even for realtively small sites … are important.

  • Glenn Batten
    Posted March 23, 2010 at 10:29 pm 0Likes

    Blogs are always indexed very quick.

    The quickest I have seen on any site was just 6 mins.. That was a popular US blog site who made a big deal of it at the time but I cant recall who it was.

    The quickest I have seen a site I have had anything to do with was a little over an hour and it was this website. I was not actively looking for it.. just happen to do a search and new article came up. I had not read it and thought it was in the archive so I clicked on it to find that it had only just been posted.

    Regular pages of normal websites never seem to be updated as quick.. at least with my experience.

  • PaulD
    Posted March 27, 2010 at 5:43 am 0Likes

    I notice Nestoria http://www.nestoria.com.au have slipped quietly in and seem to be getting amongst it. Domain features heavily along with Agent websites etc, however REA is nowhere to be seen. Could it be that there is still a bit of animosity between S.Baker and REA ?? and what will that do to the REA rankings ??

  • John
    Posted March 27, 2010 at 10:57 am 0Likes

    What you should find interesting is http://www.nestoria.com.au/help/about
    Which has a working in partnership with Classified Ad Ventures
    So http://classifiedadventures.com is run by Simon Baker (the former CEO and Managing Director of the Australian listed online real estate company

  • wayno
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 11:14 am 0Likes

    Hi Glenn, can you tell me as to why this happened. I searched google real estate for one of my listings suburbs and found one and it had a link straight to my web site Searched another listing suburb and found one of my listings (different one) and it had a link to Homehound. why is this so ?

  • Glenn Batten
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 11:22 am 0Likes

    Wayno..

    Read this article from last October that should answer your questions.
    http://www.business2.com.au/2009/10/how-to-improve-your-results-on-google-real-estate/

    In a nutshell Homehound is uploading your listings on to Google Real Estate too because you have not asked them to stop. Homehound do not know that you upload your own listings that has listings back to your own website.

  • HenryOctopus
    Posted August 13, 2010 at 2:18 pm 0Likes

    To put another perspective on this, try USING the REA site now.
    The new site is just atrocious, pretty close to utterly unusable.
    I cannot comprehend who it is that companies think that a dominant position in the market means they can compromise on usability.

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