Welcome to ANOTHER huge Google update in 2022!
It’s only been six days since the new Google Helpful Content Update started rolling out, and the impacts are becoming clearer. It’s a very serious update that can potentially cause major shifts in organic visibility for real estate sites.
First, I’m happy to report that no client sites have been negatively impacted. It actually appears we may be getting a bit of a lift, but it’s too soon to declare that safely.
Ironically, our own new real estate site HAS been hit! I think this may be because we deployed over 1,000 pages of templated IDX-based community pages without unique descriptions. Which is not something we would ever do on a client site.
For client sites, we’ve always deployed new pages only when we have supporting content and internal linking to apply, and not sooner. This measured strategy has proven to be the way to go moving forward, rather than be tempted to produce hundreds or even thousands of IDX-based pages using automated tools.
But, some dropped pages are returning as the Google Helpful Content Update is still being rolled out. This is likely because Google crawls with multiple bots and may be applying different versions of the algorithm and comparing the crawls. At this point, it’s anyone’s guess where things will ultimately land, but I suspect these pages will rank much lower when the rollout is complete.
A few observations to note:
Price Range Pages
There is A LOT of fluctuation with price range pages, with many dropping out entirely. IDX price range link pages are usually canonical (pointing to the parent page), so it may simply be that Google is now following the canonical directive more often. Or, maybe it’s determined that price links aren’t “helpful” when indexed due to the lack of unique content on the page. It could also be because price range pages come and go due to their dynamic nature (as listings come and go).
Property Style Guides
I’ve seen some highly trafficked local agent sites losing rankings for guides about property styles, such as craftsman and modern homes. A couple of sites I’m aware of have dropped over 60 spots for several of their property-style pages.
Based on Google’s documentation about this update, I would guess this is happening because users aren’t looking for home style listings in a specific city to purchase but are instead searching for pictures and information to define what certain styles mean or look like. Therefore, the content isn’t helpful since it’s not satisfying search intent.
Age and Scope of Content
The big thing I’m seeing is (as usual) sites that don’t produce and/or refresh their content with at least some regularity (at least every few months) are again losing search visibility. These same sites have been hit by algorithm updates more than once in 2022 and 2021. Many real estate sites have lost over 50% of their organic traffic just in 2022. So it’s no surprise they’d be impacted by this update as well.
Blog Content vs. IDX Content
Sites with copious amounts of reasonably fresh blog content and articles continue to do well, and I see a few that have boosted rankings further, many well into the Top 10 results. And what’s surprising is I’m seeing new sites among those, including our own. While our IDX-based pages are bouncing around, all our local real estate blogs are doing fantastic, either maintaining or improving their visibility. I’ve seen the same with a few other new sites I follow. This is also likely because IDX-based information is not unique.
So, generally speaking, independently owned real estate agent sites performing best with the Helpful Content update are those that have robust content that is centered around their local market and who are not relying on automated tools to create IDX pages without supporting content. This really shouldn’t come as any surprise.
What to Do if the Google Helpful Content Update Hit Your Real Estate Site?
First, read Google’s guidelines on this update very carefully.
Is there anything that raises red flags, even remotely?
Second, don’t panic!
Wait several weeks before making any sweeping changes. You don’t want to make assumptions based on something that could be short-term. This is also because Google often reverses the severity of its algorithm updates.
Be objective in determining if you have content that strays outside your real estate expertise. Don’t write about topics just because it’s fun to write, and don’t express opinions that aren’t directly related to your business. Focus on serving your target users’ needs first.
Google states that you should delete content that it deems to be unhelpful. But I think that’s extreme and possibly dangerous depending on the situation. I’d rather try to reframe an article or significantly improve the content to better satisfy search intent first before deleting anything.
That said, if you know you have content that isn’t relevant to your field of expertise or stray too far out of your area, selectively deleting it may be the better option. The one caveat is that if you have heavy internal linking within these pages, you could add insult to injury by deleting a bunch of posts at once.
If you have heavy internal linking from content you plan to delete, then instead try to replace that content with new posts and internal linking over the coming months, THEN delete the old or irrelevant content as you replace those articles with something more relevant and of higher quality.
Lastly, I believe that blogs about Open Houses and New Listings should literally be wiped from the internet. The Google Helpful Content Update may accomplish this for you! <sarcasm> 😂
But seriously, open house and new listing posts have exceptionally low traffic and are too time-sensitive to be considered “helpful” beyond a very short period. Countless real estate sites have hundreds and possibly thousands of these types of posts, and they are not contributing any value. Therefore, save such posts for social media and email blasts and other non-website channels.