For the next few hours (UPDATED: by the end it took around 6 hours) I’m going to write up how we work on our sites to research our client’s search engine optimization changes over the past two weeks. You’re going to get the abridged and overly simplified version here but below I’ll cover some of the things I looked at…
- One of our clients reported this week that they had a drop in the number of listings that were indexed on their site. First of all we check how many pages are indexed by Google. It’s easy to do this, simply go to Google and type into the box site:yourdomain.com . You’ll see every page that Google knows about your site. In this case we’ve seen a drop of about 500 pages from Google’s index and noticeably it’s all seem to be listings . When it comes to listings being indexed this could mean a few things.
First of all it could mean that there’s been a big change in the volume of listings of a particular area (which will happen especially trailing the holidays, so on the surface this seems the most likely), it could mean on a particular page that had lots of links to properties on it changed or that a link to this important page went away, or it could mean that there is a change in the competition for the specific area. In this particular instance it’s relative to an issue we battled with a few weeks ago. Someone used a program to copy or “scrape” their entire site. They then posted this content on a site and Google see’s two copies of the same information. This confuses Google and what happens is until it’s corrected the real site suffers. In this case our method to fix the situation was to contact the host with the infringing content and get it removed. They have removed it but it takes some time for Google to come back through and re-authenticate our site as the original content.
- Next we move onto viewing traffic amongst all sites. As expected traffic over the past 30 days amongst all sites is down over the previous 30 days. Traffic from mid-December through mid-January is usually the worst of the entire year. So this isn’t surprising.
What we then look for is any outliers. Is any traffic to sites up right now? Are any down percentage wise more than others? This week nothing is really out of the ordinary except one. One of our clients started blogging on their site again after a 45 day hiatus. Every good stat on their site is up, uniques visitors, pageviews, etc. So now we take a look at a few different things. Time on Site, Bounce Rate, Pages per Visit, and more. Seeing if the bounce rate of a site has dramatically increased or time on site down can be a window into a problem. Perhaps something isn’t working right, people aren’t getting to what they are looking for, there is an increase in the number of people looking at the blog as opposed to searching for properties (blog traffic almost always lowers time on site and increases bounce rate.
For example one of our clients wrote a post about the new medicare / real estate tax, he had thousands of visits to that page, but his time on site and bounce rate both got worse because people only came for that information.), or perhaps it’s just an anomaly. Today we had one site who’s time on site went up by almost a minute over the previous thirty days due to launching a new section of their site. Another client’s bounce rate and time on site got worse after implementing a forced registration after 3 pageviews of the IDX. (Although the % increase in registrations was WELL worth the lower time on site and higher bounce rate.)
- Keywords and Referring sites: I spend a lot of time perusing through this because this happens to be my favorite part. How did people find our sites, what keywords did they type in? Are we getting similar percentages of traffic from Google? If our total unique visitors referred from Google goes up, we’ve done a good job. Across almost every site we have Google is the top referrer. Trulia and Zillow used to be right up there as well until they changed the link placement to get more information to the very bottom of the page. As soon as each site changed the link placement, the traffic went down to around 0.5% of our total traffic generated. On one of our larger sites, these two services combined now generate only 1/50 of 1% of the total traffic to the site.
When I look at keywords I automatically exclude all results that the company or agent name is in… We should be tops for those results always, they aren’t interesting. Interesting keywords always pop up though…When our site ranks higher for a competing real estate brokerage or agent then their own site does, when an My favorites today: the continued countless searches involving a post from months ago one such term: “sup long beach” (it was only after some explanation from the folks there that I realized SUP was an acronym and not someone shortening what’S UP. SUP is a new craze of stand up paddle board for you non Californians like me.)
Others “”under $200,000” “oak glen” yucaipa” which shows the importance of having pages about preset searches like homes under 200k or other things that someone could type. “northern orange county, ca” markets & restaurants open on dec 25″ – get out your crystal balls for this one: “will there be a first time home buyer tax credit in 2011” . Sometimes we get incredibly long searches: “”did you know that if you sell your house after 2012 you will pay a 3.8% sales tax on it?”” (that’s a 90 character search string!) and more. It’s fun to see how people found you, but more importantly here we are looking for outliers.
Did a site suddenly get tons of traffic for a single post or single listing? Did a new traffic referrer emerge? For example one of our clients had a skyscraping rise in traffic from Facebook – one of their posts went fairly viral.
- To finish things up I’m going to check in Webmaster tools to make sure everything is configured correctly. Is Google still getting the sitemaps? Did they find any malware on any of our sites? Do we have any crawl errors that are outside of listing pages expiring? Did a client write a post and forgot to put in a good title? If so we go and fix any of these issues on our own for our clients. For example one of clients spelled houses wrong in a post, so I’m going to fix it the best I can without ruining any inboud links and trying to get Google to see it as houses and not hourses.
So these are just a few of the things that I look at when I run my SEO analysis on all of our sites twice a month. We try to get very in depth to make sure that each of our clients is promoted as best as possible. We’ll do most of the work on our own, but a few sites we’ll be making recommendations to the clients this coming week on some ideas of how to better themselves through the use of keywords, titles, using headline tags and more.