Google’s algorithm update – you need to know!

Do estate agents really need to know about Google’s algorithm update? Absolutely, says digital marketing expert, Nelly Berova of Art Division.

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This June, Google will make changes to the way it ranks search results by adding three new measures to its algorithm. If this sounds a bit techie, that’s because it is. But if you want your estate agent content to be found by buyers, vendors, landlords and tenants, you need to understand core web vitals and how they might affect your site.

Nelly Berova image
Nelly Berova

The addition of core web vitals is, according to Google, about improving users’ experience of the search engine; helping people find the answers to their questions without having to wait too long or hunt around to get them.

Basically, core web vitals measure how quickly your pages load, how soon they are ready for users to interact with and how they appear when loading. If your site isn’t great in these respects, it’s likely to irritate your users and see you penalised by Google in your ranking.

Core web vitals issues can be a problem for estate agents…

The change was announced last year, in an unusual move for Google – the dominant search engine rarely speaks in detail about how its algorithm works. That all this has been talked about so openly indicates Google is pretty serious about the core web vitals change.

Put technically, core web vitals refers to three things:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) – this measures how long it takes for your website to appear on a browser.
  • First Input Delay (FID) – this measures the period of inactivity before a visitor can click, scroll or do something else on the page.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) this measure how stable your site is; whether it is still while loading or shifting around unexpectedly.

Core web vitals issues can be a problem for estate agents because beautiful, glossy images – and lots of them – are your stock in trade. Homes are sold and rented on the lifestyles suggested by quality photography and video content, but if they are slowing down your site, they could see you falling down the Google rankings. That said, the important thing to remember about the Google algorithm is that it uses more than 200 factors in deciding whether your page will rank and this won’t change.

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When creating a new site or improving your existing one, you need to be mindful of a whole range of things, whether users are clicking through to your site from Google, how long they are spending there, how your pages are structured and whether all your tags and meta descriptions are added and correct. Even more crucially, Google is looking at the quality of your content and whether it answers the questions people are going online to search for.

In the case of estate agent websites, this means your properties and service details. But it also means your blog content, covering the things people are asking right now, such as whether they should put their properties on the market with demand at a high and what to do about a tenant not paying rent in the current climate – as well as those evergreen blog topics: how to buy and sell at the same time, the steps to getting a mortgage and what new landlords need to know.

The key message is that while core web vitals are important, they aren’t the be all and end all of optimising your site for search. So, if you have a site which hasn’t been well optimised, great page load speeds won’t necessarily help you rank better. Conversely though, if you have a site which ticks all the boxes SEO-wise, not attending to your core web vitals could see you slipping down the rankings.

According to Google, the change will be introduced mid-June, and be fully operational in its ranking systems by August. That gives you roughly three months to get your website up to scratch.

While improving your website experience can be a complex business, here are a few areas that you might wish to look at:

  • Choose the right content management system. We recommend WordPress for estate agency sites and we’re not alone. WordPress powers 40 per cent of websites worldwide from small personal blogs to the sites of major global corporations.
  • Check your host – make sure your website is hosted by a quality service that prioritises speed.
  • Use caching to reduce load speeds dramatically – you can do this by adding a plug-in.
  • Reduce image sizes – when it comes to file size, photos are usually the culprit so check you’re using low resolution images designed for the web.

Remember too that if this isn’t your area, it’s probably time to bring in the experts for the right advice you about ways to improve your site speed and reality check your SEO.

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