For the 406th episode of Mail-Right Show, Robert Newnan and Jonathan Denwood explore and discuss the common SEO misconceptions for real estate websites. Robert Newman is the CEO of Inbound REM, an inbound marketing firm, and has been in the real estate SEO business for over a decade. Meanwhile, Jonathan Denwood is the joint founder and CEO of Mail-Right, a platform that builds WordPress websites and provides digital marketing tools in a streamlined, user-friendly package. This episode busted SEO myths that were believed to affect SEO ranking and provided real estate agents with strategies to improve websites’ visibility and position on search engine results.
The First Myth: SEO is Dead
There’s a lot of hype about AI because of its two distinct types: One is an AI that is based on language recognition software, and the other one is a general AI that mimics intelligence. An example is OpenAI, which has shown a very impressive technology, but note that it is not a general intelligence.
Unfortunately, because of that fundamental misunderstanding, several so-called experts on YouTube spread exaggerated information about SEO being dead, which is unlikely to happen in the next 2-to 5 years. There are similar concerns about the impact of voice search on normal search a few years back, but it didn’t pan out as some predicted. The situation with AI is different, but it does carry some of the same exaggerations and hype that are driven a lot by YouTube.
SEO won’t die unless the global economy and the internet infrastructure collapse. Moreover, the term “SEO” stands for Search Engine Optimization, and the only potential threat to SEO would be platform optimization, such as Facebook or Amazon, creating a tool that can answer every question people have so that they do fewer searches. But, fewer searches do not mean SEO is dead; it is just that search will trend differently over time, but it always does trend differently. And a true SEO expert is going to trend with the trends.
SEO has gotten bigger, broader, more comprehensive, and more intelligent, and more searches and information are being found online. Furthermore, Google remains the dominant player in this field, offering various search services and tools, even collaborating closely with Apple. So, the claim that SEO is dead is quite the opposite. In fact, it continues to thrive because more people are used to using search engines to find answers to their online questions.
The Second Myth: Google Only Ranks “Fresh” Content
The myth that only fresh content gets a high ranking is entirely untrue. Google’s primary goal is to show users the most relevant content that matches their search, and this relevance isn’t solely determined by how new or old the content is.
Google’s ranking process isn’t based on the age of the content. While there are algorithm, like the Caffeine or Hummingbird algorithms, that gives a slight boost to new content, it’s what happens next that matters. Once the content is pushed, Google measures the user engagement to decide whether or not the content will be kept on top of the search engines. Do people click on the search results? Do they engage with the content by reading it and returning for more? If these answers are yes, Google has no reason to derank content.
So, it’s all about user engagement. If people find the content valuable and keep returning, Google will continue to show it prominently in search results. It’s not about favoring new over old; it’s about the quality and relevance of the content to users.
Only a few people are making huge strides to produce something noticeably better than others. To create something better than what’s already out there, you must conduct thorough research, understand what worked well in the past, and then enhance it meaningfully to outrank and keep outranking previous content.
Great content marketers understand that it is a “skyscraper” game. They started with a 1,500-word article that performed well and ended up with 5,000, which is 10 times better than they started. This approach is crucial, especially in highly competitive niches like mortgage rates, home refinancing, and financial investments. Top players also often have authoritative domains with a network of related support content, all aimed at a central piece. By creating a more comprehensive and detailed answer on their website, supported by multiple relevant pages, they continually outshine their competitors and maintain high search rankings.
The Third Myth: Duplicate Content Will Get You Penalized
In the real estate space, template websites are popular. These website templates come as static pages like how to buy a home or how to sell a home. Real estate agents often use these templates because they find it convenient and do not bother to create something unique for their sales process. While these templates are meant to be helpful, the problem is there are thousands of copies on the internet of the same page.
Search engines, like Google, notice this duplication and give no credit to agents who use these templates. Moreover, these templated websites with no customization get almost no user engagement. They can’t compete with websites that offer a customized experience designed specifically for their audience, provide additional support pages, and avoid using duplicate content.
There are instances when it’s possible to tell providers not to look at these duplicate pages. However, this needs to be done manually for each duplicated page on the site, and very few website providers bother to do this. Some well-known providers also offer content that appears to be unique but fail to disclose that it’s essentially duplicate content, which won’t add any value to your website and may even have negative consequences.
But overall, the good news is that you won’t be penalized by Google for duplicate content since they don’t even read or see the duplicate pages.
The Fourth Myth: Social Shares Help You Rank Higher in Google
Many SEO experts have long-held belief that social interactions matter in SEO. However, major social media platforms, such as Instagram, WhatsApp, and Facebook, are controlled by large companies. Particularly, Facebook does not allow Google to access its website. So, when talking about whether social interaction impacts Google’s ranking, the answer is no.
This belief is rooted in Google’s development of a unique algorithm several years ago. This algorithm monitors user engagement and behavior based on branding assumptions. Basically, it tracks when users enter and exit websites because Chromium runs most of the web, the browser that Google created. The underlying idea is to track if the user connects with the brand, gets excited, and visits the website to consume its content. It is believed that when somebody does that, there’s a small bonus on search engine rankings, which is why Google developed this technology.
The Fifth Myth: Pay-Per-Click Advertising Won’t Help Your Search
Google has two main platforms for driving traffic through paid discovery: Search and YouTube. These two work similarly to how social media works; you drive traffic to your website, but what matters is what users do once they’re on the website. Is there anything on that website that would keep them? Is the IDX search functionality appealing? Is there evergreen content? Is there video content?
You can also direct people to a landing page and use email and text messages, but does this affect how Google views your website? It depends. Google’s stance on whether paid traffic impacts organic rankings is a bit unclear— a resource from Google that you will hear will either get cagey or deny it.
But the clear thing is Google doesn’t care where your website traffic comes from. Suppose you get high-intent searches; for example, someone searches for homes for sale in Beverly Hills or area 92010, and the person hits on your landing page and then searches for 50 homes on your website; Google may see it differently than someone who found a general blog post and only briefly visited the site.
Simply put, how paid advertising affects your organic ranking depends on how you target your traffic. If you do it right, paid advertising can significantly boost your organic rankings, but it requires careful planning and creating a unique user experience.
One effective strategy for paid advertising is to focus on specific niches or neighborhoods and offer filtered real estate search sites, like breaking searches down into neighborhoods, advertising on the search engines for paid search or Facebook, and directing people directly to a listing you announced. This approach can work well for user behavior-based rankings, especially when users spend a lot of time searching for properties on your site.
In summary, if you craft your website carefully and combine paid advertising with user behavior and content user behavior, you can achieve faster organic ranking improvements compared to not using paid advertising.
The Sixth Myth: Ranking is Always About Number One
About 35.1% of search results aren’t dominated by the top-ranking website; instead, they are “featured snippets.” The featured snippets often include a single website as the top source, but right below or above it, you’ll find additional info in the form of “people also ask” sections and dropdown menus. Google has also introduced an “infinity scroll” on all results so that the difference between numbers one and five doesn’t make that much difference.
That 35.1% mentioned earlier represents a significant portion of the internet. Most searches related to lifestyle, neighborhoods, or cities will be featured in snippets. Big players like Zillow, Realtor.com, and Redfin secure the top spots, while smaller companies like Sotheby’s and Coldwell Banker often find themselves below the snippet.
This changed search behavior significantly. People aren’t fixated on clicking the number one result; they’re after the place and page that will answer their specific question. Furthermore, when you appear in those “people also ask” sections under a relevant topic, it creates a lot of credibility, even if you’re not the number one website.
Featured snippets are positioned right in the middle of the page. Getting into featured snippets requires specialized adoptions on your website—essentially, it’s an SEO strategy. The size of your brand no longer drives the ranking to get into featured snippets since blog posts are now part of the response to the questions people ask. Google figured out a way to get deeper knowledge outside big brands onto major number-one hits on the page.
When you’re having a conversation with yourself and other people, can you theoretically talk about number one? Sure, you can, but should you be focused on it? The answer is no because featured snippets are what drives many the most.