Google’s recently released an update to the way its search algorithm works, dubbed “Panda 4.0″ aimed at discriminating against websites that publish duplicate or spammy content. It has long been a conundrum as to the SEO value of real estate website listings which are imported from and exported to third party sites. So how will Google”s Panda 4.0 update affect real estate websites?
And if Panda 4-0 is looking to penalize duplicate content it stands to reason that it is perfectly conceivable that Google might interpret property listings which are duplicated across several sites or portals as spam.
Each listing is a ‘page’ within a website, and if the text, titles and images are duplicated they could quite easily be ignored by Google’s algorithms.
The million dollar question is: who gets the benefit for the content of a listing once it has been imported and exported across numerous websites?
It has long been the aim of Google to solve this question fairly, and it is one which it is actively trying to solve with mixed success.
Here are some scenarios:
Scenario A – Google picks the site with the highest authority/page rank and ignores the others (even penalizes them) – if this were to happen. Therefore if this was to happen you would lose the SEO value of your listings if you were to export your properties to a major portal, as it will have far superior authority than your site.
Scenario B – Google ignores all – so you carefully scripted descriptions, which are the backbone of your website’s signals to search engines suddenly has no more value than a static 5 page website?
Scenario C – Google penalizes you for duplicate content – worstcase scenario, you are penalized for what Google considers to be spammy content which is duplicated elsewhere. And your site is banished from the search results.
Scenario D – Google gives you full credit for all your listings and the more you optimize them the better you perform on the search results.
It is hard to tell how to play it as there is no conclusive data to suggest which scenario is the prevalent one, if any. There is no evidence we’ve seen or experienced prior to Panda 4.0 to suggest Scenario A or C is occurring with our real estate clients.
From a purely SEO point of view it would suggest that you would benefit from either not exporting your properties at all (madness!) or finding a way of writing basic descriptions for the listings which you export and then optimizing the listings on your site only.
If neither of the above options is a realistic solution, the lesser of the evils will be to ensure your listings are properly optimised, even if it does mean you’re sharing the (SEO) love with whomever you export them to.
If the bulk of the listings on your real estate website are not your own, then this is a bit of a moot point, as it is likely that if you optimise the text of the listings you are importing, these will be overwritten the moment the originator of the listing makes a change.
On some systems, such as Voodoo’s VRES websites, you can add a bespoke SEO title and description to a listing which will not be overwritten if the listing owner makes a change.
Further research we’ve carried out within the real estate industry of the Costa del Sol in Southern Spain suggests that individual listings rarely show up on competitive search results on their own.
What we are seeing are three types of results: homepages (generally for more localised agencies); content pages within websites about a particular area; and pages containing multiple listings results for a given search term.
Unlike the furry kind, Google’s Panda is not an endangered species. Let’s hope the same applies to your website…