Latest Google SEO Changes and How They Effect Aussie Real Estate Agents

8 minute read

Firstly let me say that I have been a little quiet on B2 of late. We opened up an office in Upper Coomera on the Gold Coast and it has really taken my focus as I find myself back at the pointy end of the industry again which has been refreshing.

Google updates its algorithms regularly and the latest update has brought about some interesting changes that are going to effect the rankings for searches on real estate keywords.  The changes have already been discussed in depth here so I will use that post as the basis of my post. Everything in Blue is from André Voget at

Spammers beware! This summer, Google is going after black-hat and link spammers. In a video on YouTube, Google’s Matt Cutts announced 9 things that Google will do within the next months. How do these changes affect the position of your web pages in Google’s search results and what can you do to protect your rankings?

1. There will be more Penguin updates

Google is going to launch the next generation of the Penguin algorithm within the next few weeks. The Penguin 2.0 update will go deeper than the first Penguin version and it will affect a lot more sites.

The Penguin update targets websites that use spam tools to create backlinks. If you’re using tools that automatically create backlinks to your site, stop using them now. If any tool that you use contains the words “nuke”, “dominator” or “brute force” then it’s likely that your website will be affected by the next Penguin update.

More updates coming. No real news there but like always be very careful of using dodgy seo companies to promote your business. You know the ones. They email you and phone you up promising to get you on the first page of Google. They send that same email to millions of other businesses.

2. Google does not like advertorials

Some websites use advertorials to get more backlinks. Matt Cutts said that non-nofollow links from these advertorials violate Google’s webmaster guidelines. If you purchase advertorials just to get backlinks, this might have a negative influence on your Google rankings.

This is not really an issue for most agents.

3. Google will take a closer look at spammy queries

Some search queries such as ‘pay day loans’ tend to attract more spam than other queries. Google’s search spam team will take a closer look at these queries.

Standard real estate terms dont really fit the spammy queries so dont worry too much about this.

4. Link networks might get in trouble

Matt Cutts said that Google is going to go “more upstream” to make sure that some kind of links become less attractive. This probably affects link networks. Google has penalized several link networks in the past.

Some agents and some real estate website providers do participate in link networks. Also called link farms, links exchanges or as sometimes called… a link matrix.   You should not participate in these link networks. The links are unnatural and dont look real so will do more harm than good for you. If you have been added into one of these links and it is negatively effected your rankings you can use the Disavow tool in Google webmasters to remove its negative impact.

5. Google is going to analyze backlinks better

Matt Cutts also said that Google is in the early stages of a much more sophisticated link analysis software that will understand backlinks much better. That probably means that the influence of forum profile links might become even lower while the value of editorial links increases.

Spammers have used forum profile links and blog comments to create links back to their website. Just like the link networks above Google appears to be going after these unnatural links and removing or downplaying their impact.   Given that these are sometimes valid they probably will not attract a negative penalty but spamming thousands of blog comments will probably have little impact.   I run several blogs and can say that there are real estate agents around Australia that are spamming blogs or employing companies that spam blogs.  To give you an idea of how popular this spam is, when I logged in to upload this article there are 218 comments that have passed the primary spam filters on this site  and are waiting for manual approval. For everyone that makes it though to this stage this is probably 100 that get blocked so anything that google can do to stop comment spam is a good thing.

6. Better handling of hacked sites

Google is working on a better system to detect hacked sites. The new system should be available later this year. Google also wants to improve webmaster communication about hacked sites.

Because most real estate sites in Australia are run on real estate specific solutions  they are not really a target for most hackers.  Those that use WordPress and other common CMS software should be feel a little better that Google is going to on the lookout for hacked sites and should notify you if you have registered your website in the Google Webmaster site which everyone should do.

7. Authority websites will get a ranking boost

Google plans to give websites that are an authority in their category a ranking boost. For example, if your website is an authority in the medical space, Google plans to show your website above websites that are not as authoritative as your site.

This is going to present an impact on real estate rankings. and to some extent the other portals would be considered an authority website  for real estate in Australia.  Essentially they will be given an even bigger boost in the rankings over the typical real estate agent.   More than ever you need to ensure your website is the authority for your local area.

8. The Panda update becomes less strict

Matt Cutts said that many of the websites that were affected by the Panda update were border cases. Google is looking at other quality metrics that enables them to make sure that these websites aren’t impacted by the Panda algorithm. The Panda algorithm targets websites with low-quality content.

This will actually help many agents who may have lost significant traffic in recent updates.  Many real estate agency websites have very little unique content. As far as google is concerned you have the same listings as other websites (ie. portals) and therefore your website is often deemed low quality.  Google has no way of determining that your site is the actual source of these listings and that everybody else is a copy and as the portals are considered the authority website they will outrank most agency websites. This meant that previous changes to Panda caused a drop in traffic to real estate agents, especially those with little or no unique content on their website.   This is basically a winding back a little of this setting by Google admitting that they went a bit to far.

9. Less domain clusters

Matt Cutts said that the number of same domain clusters on Google’s first result page should lessen this year. Google wants to make the results on page one more diverse. The second result page might contain more domain clusters.

Ever done a search for a real estate term and found that have 2 or 3 of the top 10 spots, Domain also. This left very little room for other websites to appear on the first page of Google. This change means that Google will start to show only one page per website domain on the first page.  There should create more room for your website to appear  on the first page.

What does this mean for your website?

At the end of the video, Matt Cutts explains that Google wants to reduce the number of webmasters who use black-hat spam techniques. Smaller businesses that use white-hat SEO methods should rank better.

If you want to make sure that your website rankings are safe, avoid spammy SEO methods at all costs. You can get short-term results with black-hat SEO tools but your website will be penalized as soon as Googles detects the spam.

If you want to get results that last, use white-hat SEO methods that play by the rules. White-hat SEO requires more work than spam techniques but it leads to much better results that last. If you use safe SEO methods to promote your websites, you don’t have to worry about Google updates.

In short the changes are probably good news for most real estate agents as long as you have not employed a seo expert who has pushed the boundaries.  There is probably an even higher chance that will be the top result when a real estate keyword is searched on Google but there should soon be more  chance that your website will be on the first page.







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  • Glenn
    Posted May 27, 2013 at 12:08 pm 0Likes

    Good to see Google finally getting their act together on backlinks, Yahoo has been way ahead of them is this regards for years and domain clusters just dilute the value of the results so good that their getting onto that as well.

  • Jason
    Posted May 27, 2013 at 12:10 pm 0Likes

    Glen, have you noticed significant ranking changes for any of your main keywords? We’ve noticed a little fluctuation in some long tail, but not a lot for main.

    • Glenn Batten
      Posted May 27, 2013 at 12:28 pm 0Likes

      Jason, in our own agency websites we have noticed an increase in traffic over the past 12 months. Our Nerang website has always ranked very strongly and consistently generates 400 to 500 unique visitors per day. Our Upper Coomera website is only a couple of years old but because we had some pretty good SEO from day we were ranking for primary keywords before we even opened the office and our traffic has been constantly on the improve. . I think that is due to the investment in SEO generally across both offices. . At Nerang our rankings have remained fairly consistent with the occassional blip during reindexes and the like and Upper Coomera has improved.

      HOWEVER.. I have probably 50 other real estate website in my Google Analytics account and generally traffic is way down on about 95% of them. Most of them would fall into the “low quality” definition so it will be interesting to track these changes.

      I would suggest that if you have not noticed any ranking changes you treat SEO better than the average… the fact that you are tracking the rankings only proves that 🙂

      • Jason
        Posted May 27, 2013 at 1:52 pm 0Likes

        Thanks (other!) Glenn. I’m always curious to see how other sites are affected after each algorithm update. Appreciate your honesty.

  • Glenn
    Posted May 27, 2013 at 12:21 pm 0Likes

    I presume you mean the other Glenn …….but I haven’t.

    • Glenn Batten
      Posted May 27, 2013 at 12:31 pm 0Likes

      I go a little quiet and I am just the “other” Glenn now hey 🙂 I have still been lurking in the background!!

  • Martin Crampton
    Posted May 27, 2013 at 6:05 pm 0Likes

    Thanx for your time, Glenn (Batten) – you have been a good real estate online practitioner resource.for some time.
    It would be interesting to hear why do you think it is important for agencies to gain primary enquiry from their own websites as distinct from the portals? (It is something I believe in but you probably provide a “more valid” agency perspective). (Robert Simeon as well?)

    • Glenn Batten
      Posted May 27, 2013 at 8:41 pm 0Likes


      As far as I am concerned portals are just an enquiry stream and Improving your website creates another enquiry stream allowing you to diversify so you are not putting all your eggs in one basket. Whilst I like to think there will be a day when we dont need them I dont see it coming anytime soon.

      But IMHO it is important to not that a high ranking website delivers much more than increased property enquiry. It increases your brand awareness and exposure. A prime example is Robert’s Blog gets him massive exposure in his market place. He runs his newsletter through a blog on his website and I bet there are not too many people in his area that has not heard about or read his blog.

      We keep our enewsletter more traditional and use the blog for local information, community and news items. A different strategy but also gets great traction locally. This one blog post about Masters Hardware opening probably took about 30 minutes to post back in September 2011 and is still delivering visitors today and during that period has exposed our website and local brand to more than 16,000 people.

      I guess with our Nerang website we were an early adopter and our website has always been a high performer that has evolved over time. We probably take it for granted more than we should though. The Upper Coomera website is different. Even though we had a relatively high ranking website from day 1 it was a brand new business and it has helped us attract new business and appear bigger and more established than we were. It helped us build an office whilst others were closing down around us. I might do up my experiences as a case study in another post if I get time.

      • Dan
        Posted May 30, 2013 at 10:58 am 0Likes is the biggest real estate site in the country. 40mil real estate listing enquiries start there. Every month.

        Glenn I would love to see this case study as well. Some questions if you dont mind.
        1. Do you look at how easy your site is to use and convert?
        2. What would be a google adword spend say on terms like “suburb – property” in your area for a month versus prime portal spend.
        3. How do you rank for long tail? eg “23 sale st suburb”

      • Jhai Mitchell
        Posted June 7, 2013 at 11:55 am 0Likes

        I would love to see a case study on this!

  • Vic
    Posted May 27, 2013 at 7:22 pm 0Likes

    Welcome back Glenn B. You come back on the scene and the comments go wild.

    A seriously great article and has strong vallidation thorugh your own website performance. 4/500 visits perday for a local website proves it.

  • Touch Point
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 2:05 am 0Likes

    Great points, Glenn. It just emphasizes the fact that every business large and small needs to get back to the basics and doing things the white hat, ethical way. Google is getting much better at sniffing out unethical or sneaky SEO tactics, but doing things the right way, even though it may take a little longer to see results, will win in the end and the benefits will be long term. –David

  • Vic
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 9:43 am 0Likes

    Not wishing to promote ourselves but just to demonstrate that penguin 2 is already biting our recently launched portal site into waterside holidays, , has leapt to 300 visits pd in recent days from average 90 since we launched 3 months ago. Our developer does our SEO and we keep away from link farming and other black hat methods.


    • Glenn Batten
      Posted May 28, 2013 at 11:23 am 0Likes

      Vic…. Good to see your traffic on the climb…. but I have just noticed a massive massive mistake on the site.. how can you have a Waterside Holidays website and on the Queensland map not have the Gold Coast??

      I see it is a clickable region but you don’t have it labelled..WTF?!?

      I can only think this is a slight against us Queenslanders for our 7 year reign as the State of Origin Champs!!! 🙂

  • Vic
    Posted May 29, 2013 at 7:33 am 0Likes

    Just over 600 visits yesterday and climbing. This penguin 2 has me really excited and justifies our absolute policy to construct our site to stringent Google rules. based on quality relevant content and quality relevant backlinks.

    I recall having some discussions with a so called “smart” portal owner a couple of years ago who was stressing the importance of gaining as many back links as possible. At the time this owner had well over 2000. On closer inspection, these links had hardly any that had relevance to his content.

    I now notice that this same portal has lost significant page ranking, particularly since application of Panda and Penguin 1.0.

    We have tried social media to some extent and although there is some gain, in all the time spent is not worth the minimal gains. But that’s another story that some expert may post here one day.

    Glenn B, your Gold Coast comment had me checking our key word search and we find that we don’t rank at all for gold coast. Will look into this. However, State of Origin wins have nothing to do with it as most Australians follow AFL.

    • Dan
      Posted May 30, 2013 at 10:52 am 0Likes

      You can run a backlink checker on the bigger portals and see that these sites buy links in farms or low quality blogs.
      Why would sites with the largest media backing in the country buy links on personal travel blogs that have not been updated in years?

      • Glenn Batten
        Posted May 30, 2013 at 10:58 am 0Likes

        I think you may have answered your own question. They built those links years ago when those tactics worked perfectly fine. Link farms was an excellent seo strategy but removing those links years later is next to impossible.

        The portals seo is big enough to take a small negative hit from link farm listings and as they have a professional team to tackle SEO they have probably identified any negative impacting links and have disavowed them in Google Webmaster Tools anyway.

        Unfortunately for individual agencies many that have employed this tactic either themselves or via an seo consultant dont have the knowledge or experience to identify this is even a problem let alone fix it.

  • Jhai Mitchell
    Posted June 7, 2013 at 11:51 am 0Likes

    I have noticed that our agencies have become more prominent and I love how Google have made my Google Plus Business page allows me to put my posts on the first page of Google for our key words. you should check it out, type in “Toongabbie real estate” into Google and see. its awesome! now the next step is reviews. We all need to watch TrueLocal…. they are starting to out rank our friends at

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