Google Plus for Realtors: Who Needs It? You Do!

Google Plus For Real Estate

Google Plus For Realtors Not long ago I was talking to a local real estate professional about her social media presence. Of course, she was active on Facebook, and had even made a reasonable stab at Twitter.

Then I asked her about Google+. She looked at me like I had just hatched a Twitter bird out of my forehead.

“Why would I bother with Google Plus? I need to be where potential customers can see me.”

I couldn’t agree with her more. That’s exactly why she needs to be on Google Plus for her real estate business! Realtors should be using Google Plus to enhance their online visibility.

Google Plus is without a doubt the most misunderstood social network ever introduced. And in a strange twist, that gives you, the lucky readers of Bill Gassett’s blog, the opportunity to break ahead of your competition and get in front of more prospects they’ll never see.

But how can that happen with a network that so-called social media gurus have written off as a “ghost town”?

The Hidden Power of a Google Plus Network

Most of you reading this blog are real estate professionals. Your lifeblood is in finding prospects and communicating to them, before any of your competitors can, just how awesome you are and why they need to engage you to buy or sell their next house. Let me ask you a question. If I gave you a choice between having a tiny booth in a huge exhibition hall full of other Realtors all after the same prospects wandering around, or the ability to go right into the homes of every one of those prospects, which would you choose? You’d be crazy to not choose the latter. And I’m going to show you how to do just that.

The reason most business people and even social media consultants write off Google+ is that they don’t really understand how different what Google has created is from every other social network in existence. They assume that Google Plus is just a too-late-to-the-game Facebook wannabe. They couldn’t be more wrong. Using Google Plus for real estate should be an important part of any Realtors social media game plan.

Very Lively Ghosts

First of all, the ghost town rumors couldn’t be more untrue. The last numbers Google released (in December 2012) claimed 135 million active users (users actually doing something on the Google+ interface). An independent global survey in January 2013 by Global Web Index claims over 300 million active users. Whatever number you believe, that’s a very impressive showing for a social network only 1-1/2 years old.

Those of us active on GooglePlus have always scratched our heads at the ghost town perception. In just 18 months I have over 30,000 followers on Google plus and more engagement than I can keep track of. I’ve been on Twitter (and worked it hard) for over 2 years, and have just under 2000 followers there.

I think much of the ghost town perception came from users who never quite got how to work Google+. Facebook made it easy to find and connect with your family and old friends. But people came to Google+, set up profiles, posted a few things, and then got discouraged when nobody followed them. Twitter had a similar problem in the beginning because it has a similar follower-following model. On both networks, you won’t see anyone until you follow them (“circle” them in G+-speak), and even if you do, they won’t see your stuff unless they follow/circle you. So on Google+ you can’t just put your shingle out and expect people to show up. You’ve got to go out and find them. More on why that’s an advantage later.

SEO Benefits

If people have heard anything positive at all about Google Plus, it’s usually the “SEO (Search Engine Optimization) benefits” that are being touted. Very early on people noticed that public Google+ posts were indexed for Google search. Then webmasters found that if they created a new site and submitted posts to Google+, their site could be indexed almost instantly (compared to the weeks to months it usually took).

Being a social media consultant in an SEO agency, I was intrigued. I began carrying out experiments of my own, seeing how far I could push this intriguing power to directly inject things into Google’s search results. Unlike other social media posts like tweets, I found that some of my Google+ posts could rank at the top of search results and stay there for months and months. For example. a G+ post I did about “Google+ Page Analytics” has been at #1 for that keyword in logged-out Google search for over a year now.

google-page-analytics-result

Google Plus even helped my agency claim 8 of the 10 first page results for a few days for a new product we introduced!

But as impressive as those SEO tricks were, we hadn’t yet seen the real power of Google+ in Google search. Not until January of 2012.

Introducing Search Plus Your World

In January of 2012 Google introduced a new version of Google Search: Search Plus Your World (S+YW). This was Google’s personalization of search taken to the next level. Now if you are searching on Google while logged in to Google (say, for using Gmail), your results by default are strongly affected by your Google network. Your Google network is all your Google contacts plus anyone you’ve circled on Google+. And there is almost certainly some influence from your “extended network” (people who have circled you and people in circles of people you’ve circled).

What does this look like in the search results?

Let’s say I’m searching for “top real estate agents on twitter.” Here’s what I see if I search logged-out of Google:

google-result-personalized-search-off (1)

 

Fine, but not exactly what I was hoping to find. Now let me do the same search logged in to my Google account:

google-result-personalized-search-on (1)

 

Hey look! It’s Bill Gassett, owner of this blog! Bill and I are friends on Google+. I’ve come to know and trust him, so his recommendations will be far more meaningful to me than those of some strange web site. Without S+YW, I might not have ever known that my trusted friend Bill had made a post relevant to my query, for it would have been much further down in the search results.

So here’s what really excites me: the larger your Google/Google+ network is, the more people whose search results your are influencing. And that’s how Google+ can help get you in front of more people who never would have found you otherwise.

Now most real estate agents work in a local market. Combined with localization, the S+YW effect becomes even more powerful. That’s because in most cases Google can see the general location of a searcher, or the location she is searching for. When localization is in play for your area, Google will boost your search result even more for in-network users. Are you starting to see the power of Google Plus for Realtors yet?

Using Google Authorship

Did you notice in the screen captures above that both Bill and I have our handsome faces next to the search results? That didn’t happen just because Google likes showing off handsome men. (OK, that’s not even in play). It’s because both of us have hooked into something called Google Authorship.

Google Authorship allows content producers to connect all their content on the web with their Google+ profiles. This qualifies us to get the “author rich snippet” on our search results. Not only does this rich snippet show the author’s profile photo, but a series of important links are added as well.

google-authorship-links

 

Notice the line in the red box above. From left to right, the Authorship rich snippet result adds:

  1. A click-able byline that goes straight to the author’s profile.
  2. The number of people who follow the author on Google+ (a nice trust mark if you’ve built up a good following)
  3. A “More by…” link that leads to search results pages that show just that author’s content.

There’s more! If someone clicks through an Authorship result and stays on the content for at least two minutes, Google takes that as a sign that the searcher liked what she found. If the searcher hits the back button to return to the search results page, the original result has now expanded to show three more links to that author’s content:

google-authorship-expanded-search-result

 

Why would anyone turn down getting that much extra real estate in Google search? That’s something people pay SEO agencies like mine thousands of dollars to get, and Google is giving it out for free!

But as they say on late night TV, wait, there”s even more!

Google Author Rank: The Future of Search

Shortly after Google introduced Authorship, they released a YouTube video about it featuring Google “spam czar” Matt Cutts interviewing Authorship project head Othar Hansson. Hansson indicated that one of the things Google might do with Authorship is eventually use it as a ranking signal. Savvy Google followers immediately made the association of this idea back to a series of patents owned by Google going back to 2005 for something called “Agent Rank.” Agent Rank would be the ability of a search engine to track the social signals around a particular “entity” and score it by its authority in various topics. That score would be used to influence search results associated with the entity. Among the entities named were authors (individual online content producers). Google+ profiles and Google Authorship put in place what Google needed to move toward Author Rank.

While there is no indication that Author Rank is yet in play in any strong manner in search results, Hansson made clear in the 2011 video that Google would begin collecting data to be used toward Author rankings. So anyone who has their content hooked up to Authorship now is accumulating authority that will put them way ahead of their competition once Author Rank kicks in.

But there are benefits right now. Studies have shown that having an author photo next to a search result can increase click-through rate (CTR) on that result by up to 30%. That’s because the human eye is drawn to human faces. In addition, a face next to a search result probably triggers a subconscious trust in the result. We like things that we think come from real people. Those factors can significantly boost the CTR of a result down the page from the coveted #1 spot.

How do you get qualified for Google Authorship? Here’s Google’s basic instructions. If you need more help, I recommend joining the Google Authorship and Author Rank Community I started on Google+. There are lots of helpful people there who can answer your questions.

Building a Powerful Google Plus Real Estate Network

By now I hope I’ve convinced you that there is much more to Google+ and its effects on Google than most people know. But what can you do to put that to work for you and your real estate business?

Here’s a brief action plan to get you started:

  1. Start with a completely filled out Google plus profile, including a good, clear face photo. People will decide whether you’re worth following by the appearance and info on your profile. Use your main keywords throughout your profile, as those will make your profile more likely to be ranked for those things in both Google Plus search and Google search.
  2. Use the powerful search in Google+ to find people, pages, and communities talking about your specialties. Use the drop down filter after you initiate a keyword search. Google+ allows you to add anyone to your circles, whether or not they follow you back.
  3. Begin to enter into conversations where you can contribute. This will start to get your name recognized as a helpful authority, and people will start to follow you.
  4. At the same time, make sure to keep good content regularly posted to your profile. Do this even if you have few followers and not much engagement yet. Not only are you building up posts that can be found in search, you make a better impression on potential followers who are scanning your profile.
  5. Join Communities relevant to your field and become a valued contributor there. Communities are the best way on Google+ for people who like discussing the same topic to discover each other. Certainly join Bill Gassett’s Real Estate Community at a minimum!
  6. Use gplusdata.com to find influential, engaging people in your area and target demographics. As Bill Gassett pointed out in a recent post, in Author Rank it is likely Google will judge you by how influential the people who engage with you are in your topic areas, so you want to try to build relationships with key people of influence.
  7. And of course, implement Google Authorship as indicated above.

There is so much more to do than those steps, but those should get you started toward establishing a valuable Google Plus network. And feel free to follow me on Google+ for lots more tips and info on using G+ for business. Google Plus for Real Estate is here!

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About Mark Traphagen

Mark Traphagen is Senior Director of Online Marketing for Stone Temple Consulting, a digital marketing agency located in the Boston area. Mark is responsible for building the brand and reputation of Stone Temple, as well as consulting with STC clients as needed. He writes for several major marketing sites and speaks regularly at major national conferences. Mark, with over 75,000 followers on Google+, is a recognized expert on Google+ and Google Authorship.

Comments

  1. Great post Mark. The amount of Realtors that dismiss Google+ as a valuable network is mind blowing. What is even more disturbing than that though is the amount that don’t even know it exists. Like I said on the G+ post for this article, a few Realtors this weekend asked me about my authorship photo and how I got that. Clueless as to the relationship with G+. I ask all my internet leads how they found my site and one lady told me that she clicked on my result because of the photo. I was not ranked #1………

  2. Thanks Mark T. for your guest post here. I’ve always wished you were writing directly to Realtors, and now you are. Cool deal. Please do it again soon!

    • Mark & Annie – thanks for your compliments on the article. Mark did an absolutely incredible job explaining why every Real Estate agent should be using Google+ in order to help their business grow!

  3. Thanks Annie and Rich. That’s an awesome story, Annie, one I hear over and over again.

    I’ll be glad to try to answer anyone’s questions here in the comments. Thanks for reading and sharing!

  4. A great post about Google+ for us REALTORS®. Thanks for the http://www.gplusdata.com tip. Just a question, what about Google+ business pages? I’ve been using that too but have more interaction with my Google+ personal account. Thanks again Mark.

  5. Oh Mark, you’ve done it again. Very generous share of your knowledge and so appreciated. Proud to share this out to everyone I know in the industry.

  6. Thank you both for this great article. I have a few questions. We have many agents, but not many blog or create content. We ask them to share the content the company creates and share it on their social networks. They need a blog to set up authorship, right?

    Also, I am the author on the corporate blog (do not have a personal blog) and I set up authorship to the corporate blog on my personal g+ profile. I also run the corporate g+ page. Can I also set up publisher markup on that or is it one of the other?

    My personal interests (SEO & social) are different from the corporate interests (promoting Wisconsin real estate)

    Have circled you both! Confused about how to best use authorship acting as 2 different entities.

  7. Great post! Very informative! I’ve been using for a few months now, and it is a great tool for increasing web traffic through visibility on search results!

  8. Super article Mark Traphagen, and smart Bill to have this guest post. My new learning for the day is that those that have a gmail acct are also influenced by their gmail connections. It makes sense, and I have a hunch I knew this before…but my new “a ha” is that we also have a business gmail acct (we have a few email accts) and this is linked to many of our customers/potential customers.

    So, I just did 2 things. 1) went to see which of our local customers are on G+ and I found a few and connected w/ them (they do not appear to be active…but who knows, maybe they will be later or maybe just the notification in their email will help trigger ideas (e.g. future projects or friends that need flooring.

    2) I just created a new profile on G+ for that acct and followed ME and started to +1 some of my posts on my site (and a few on G+) so that maybe these posts will have higher priority for their future searches. I have a new asst starting the week, so I may give her this as one of her new projects for next week to fully optimize our presence here.

  9. Good article; this should be required reading for realtors.

  10. Thank you for this eye opener. I am a Real Estate Agent in Nigeria. I have never heard of Google+ before now have seen the sign a couple of times. Am definitely going to join immediately. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Mark – You are right about people who write off Google+. They probably don’t understand it, nor do they feel that they have the time to devote to another social network.

    I’ve heard some people say, “I just got used to using Facebook.”

    At first glance, I think some of these people might be intimidated when first signing into Google+. There are so many cool tools, but at first glance, it might look overwhelming to some even though it’s pretty easy to navigate once you jump in the pool.

    +Guy Kawasaki has a book called, What the Plus.” I think it cost me 99 cents when I ordered it through Kindle. Anyway, the book is a fast and easy read, and explains all of the features available in G+.

    Any realtor who has been reluctant to get involved with G+ should read his book. He breaks down walls of resistance by showing how easy it is to navigate the G+ social network.

    • John – last night I taught a class about Google+ for local business people. For the first half hour I didn’t even mention G+, but instead challenge them to go back into the entrepreneurial spirit that caused them to start a business in the first place and not get stuck into the “I’ll just do what everyone else is doing mode.” That combined with a little pulling back of the curtain to show what Google is up to with G+, and they were hooked!

  12. Those of us using G+ regularly are all shaking our heads up and down because we know the power of G+ and how it can help take our business to the next level. You are spot on with your analysis, Mark!

  13. Thanks for the information Mark! Wish I could have been at the class but was out of town.

  14. One of the biggest things I try and tell my clients is Facebook does not get indexed for posts… GOOGLE DOES! Everyone is on Google once in a while and listings, information, local tips and stuff will always come up. Google loves it when we use their tools.

    • Steve there is no questions that Google Plus is head and shoulders above Facebook in terms of a platform to get business. Facebook does not have the power to make you visible online like Google Plus does. Further you are not going to learn at Facebook other than maybe some local gossip. Google Plus offers and outstanding amount of information to grow your business.

  15. I have been espousing the need and importance of google+ and how you also need it on your web site. You are right, when you speak about it, people just look boggle eyed.

    • Paul it is very easy for a Realtor to say they don’t have time for social media. It is those same Realtors who are wondering why they never are top producers as well.

  16. I love how my status posts get indexed before the actual page. it really helps boost our page and get it out there faster than waiting for Google to “find” it on their own.

  17. I’ve been onboard Google+ for a while now, and really appreciated your article. One question – how long does it take for Google authorship to show up in the search results? I added the tags to my site and blog about 2 months ago, and so far, no changes in the SERPs…is it at Google’s discretion whether they add the info, or do I just need to be patient?

    P.S. Mark, I just joined the Google+ Authorship and Author Rank Community you mentioned, thanks!

    • Hi Randy, glad you liked the article, and thanks for your question. There are a couple of preliminaries to get out of the way first.

      1) Copy the URL of one of your content pages and check it in the Google Structured Data Testing Tool http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/richsnippets. If you’ve set Authorship up correctly it should tell you so in the Authorship section of the tool.

      2) Make sure you have a clearly identifiable face photo. Yours looks fine, so I don’t think it’s a problem.

      But even if you’ve got all the mechanics in place, showing of your author photo in the SERPs isn’t automatic or guaranteed. As with all rich snippet search results, the Authorship snippet is controlled by an algorithm, and we don’t know all the criteria for triggering it. Our best guess is that Google wants to see some positive signals pointing at your content. We recommend posting new and unique content on a regular basis and working to build up your social network, particularly on Google+. It’s possible that the more people reshare, comment on, +1, link to and otherwise engage with your content, the more likely Google is to show your author photo.

      • Hi Mark, thanks for your reply….I checked the Structured Data Testing Tool, and see the following: “Authorship is working for this webpage”…also, “rel=author markup has successfully established authorship for this webpage”….however, there may be a problem with email…I use a different email for my real estate site than I use for Google….so when I enter my Google+ profile for Authorship Email Verification, I am seeing that the email is not verified…here is the error response…”Email verification has not established authorship for this webpage”…….hmmm…not sure what to do now…

  18. I’m teaching Social Media Marketing to Real Estate Agents, and knew I needed to include G+ because of it’s high numbers of use (as compared to other social media outlets). This article was an awesome overview… Its making me want to start using G+ for my consulting business, too!! Thanks!

  19. Sharleen Kneeland says:

    Thanks for this article Bill & Mark. I’m finding the gplusdata site very helpful in finding people to connect with!

  20. This seemed like several articles. I do agree – using Google+ for SEO is crucial . What do you think of some of the new younger social sites – instagram, things like that. where are the young people really going.

  21. Thanks for the tips on google+ and other social media Mark,i am learning quite a lot from you and Bill too…pls connect on Google+ and Facebook too
    Glenn Joseph Francis

  22. You are absolutely right about the benefits of Google+ authorship and having the enhanced SERP with picture and byline. Unfortunately, around December last year (2013) Google confirmed that it was scaling back the number of Google+ authorship SERPS by around an estimated 10-15%. In my area I notice only 2 real estate websites that still show the authorship picture (both Real Geeks websites coincidentally). Many, like myself, lost our picture in authorship but the by line and number of circles remain in the SERP. This is very frustrating, much has been written about this but the answer is usually that Google has a tiered authorship system now: full authorship (including picture) a sort of tier-2 authorship with the by line and circles number but no picture and a tier-3 authorship which is “working” but does not display any info in the SERP. Furthermore, the explanation is that Google is trying to ensure highest quality content as always so the answer is to have more good-quality content around the web so that Google will reward you with “tier-1″ authorship benefits. I have researched the content of the two authors in our area who do have the photo in SERP but I see no difference to their quality content and that of my own (http://homesbysasha.com). In fact I have posted much more original content than the other two authors combined. If site age plays a factor then the other two sites definitely have me beat as my site is about 1 year old compared to their 11-12 years. Does anyone have any input specific to the real estate industry and improving the quality to have the full tier-1 authorship?

    • Sasha sometimes it is frustrating the way Google works. I have some really good articles that frankly are much better written in-depth articles that should be showing higher in search but don’t. I do happen to have the tier one status as you mention but I do not see any correlation with claimed authorship having an affect on SERP. I wish that was the case!

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  2. [...] being a realtor will begin to sound a lot less demanding than it currently is. The time for using Google Plus For Real Estate is here! If you are a Real Estate agent reading this article don’t get lost in the shuffle! [...]

  3. [...] Google+ for Realtors: Who Needs It? You Do! [...]

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Massachusetts Real Estate exposure is a marketing site designed to give Massachusetts home seller’s a dominant online presence. Massachusetts Real Estate Exposure is owned and operated by RE/MAX Realtor Bill Gassett, who covers the Metrowest Massachusetts area and beyond including Ashland, Bellingham, Blackstone, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston,, Hopkinton, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Northborough, Northbridge , Shrewsbury, Southborough, Sutton, Wayland, Westborough, Worcester, Upton and Uxbridge MA. Bill Gassett was the #1 RE/MAX Realtor in all of Massachusetts in 2013.