Google is big – and disproportionately important at the start of a househunter’s lifecycle
Google is like the sun that warms Planet Earth. It’s much, much bigger than Rightmove. And even if you focus solely within the domain of property search, where conventional wisdom has it that Rightmove rules the roost, you’ll find Google owns the customer first.
After years working in the industry, you would be forgiven for assuming that everyone is aware of the Rightmove brand, however the unprompted brand recall of the portals are nowhere near strong as you might think. People only move house every 8 years or so on average, and they aren’t paying that much attention in between times as we are, working in the trade. It’s a fact that as people START their property search, they often turn to Google first, right at the beginning of their search for an agent or a property. This opens up an opportunity for you to build your brand, capture them into your email alerts database, and win their instruction, before they settle down into regular portal usage.
Of course, once they settle into their search, they’ll discover Rightmove, and the other major portals. And once they work out who has the inventory in their area, and choose their favourite, and they start depending on portals almost at the exclusion of Google. But that doesn’t happen until a month or two into a typical new househunter’s search.
What’s even more interesting is that, on average, they never abandon agent’s websites, despite many agents worrying that they do. When they find a property they like, they are so hungry for any extra scrap of information on it, that they’ll often travel unprompted, to the agent’s own website, and search to find the same property, just to see if there are more photos, a better description, a scrap more information, a better map, bigger floorplans or whatever. This latter fact, gives us some very interesting opportunities to withhold data on your own site, which we’ll come back to later.
Crucially, Google is also disproportionately important for Vendor traffic
And Google has a disproportionate grip on Vendor traffic. People use Google as a phone director, or as navigation. You probably do it yourself if you think about it?
Vendors and Landlords, turn to Google even more so, than applicants, as they are looking for an agent, not a property, and Google provides a more useful response, (faster, easier, more familiar) than the portals for a quick list of agent phone numbers. And it’s vendors and landlords that we are most concerned about of course.
If you can be in the top 2 or 3 agents on the results pages for Estate agent in XYZ town, then you’ll get a disproportionate volume of calls from the 10-20% of vendors who come without a pre-conceived impression of which agents they are going to use. If you’re great on the phone, then you may even capture their attention and stop them from ever calling number 3, 4 and 5. This will win you more instructions. Not amongst those who live in town and have pre-determined who they are using (your long term brand equity and local presence ensures this), but amongst the waverers or out of town vendors, there is an open opportunity.
So, we accept that Google is important, but just how much so?
All told, if you check your Google Analytics, (if you don’t have Google Analytics installed on your site, this is a key first step), the chances are that 30%+ of your traffic will be coming from Google SEO. If you have a lot more than that, either your SEO is working very nicely already, or perhaps you don’t have the other channels of email alerts, direct usage and usability, social media, and offline marketing, driving your website as efficiently as they might (in which case there are other guides in our resources library you may want to explore).
So, what next?
If you’ve done that, you might want to understand why Homeflow sites are a better foundation for your SEO. And if you’re looking for detailed advice and ideas, there’s no better place to start than our SEO benchmarking or advanced guide. You’ll also find lots more in our resources library. If you’ve read lots of this and you are trying to follow through a broader read about search engines, then the next step would be to explore the types of traffic you can expect from Google as an estate agent.