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In the digital realm of real estate marketing, one term should be at the forefront of every estate agent’s mind: scrutiny.

As businesses, we’re constantly bombarded with data and numbers to woo us into different marketing avenues. REA is a prime example with its recent claims about its “Seller Leads” product. But before we’re swayed by the sheen of impressive figures, it’s imperative to critically evaluate the information presented.

You might recall the last time REA attempted to target a larger slice of the agent commissions pool by selling vendor leads back to agents. The response from the industry was swift, and not in a good way. Make no mistake, REA’s Seller Leads product is a rehashed version of their old product – but more deeply (and smartly) integrated into its other products and with a fresh marketing spin.

Should We Take REA’s Word as Gospel?

Whilst REA’s declaration that “1.6 million sellers visit realestate.com.au each month” might sound influential, we must remember the context. This data is being used to sell a product. Every product needs its marketing spin, and we should always view such claims with a measure of scepticism. Their reliance on Nielsen Consumer and Media View data may seem trustworthy, but when you delve into the metrics, the broad brush strokes of “Australian population 14+” as a base demographic make us question its applicability to the specific real estate selling market.

Internal Data: An Opacity We Should Beware Of

The assertion that “1 in 3 seller leads from realestate.com.au converts to a listing” is another number that, whilst dazzling, needs scrutiny. This is sourced from internal data. However, “internal” is the operative word. Without clarity on definitions and measurement criteria, such numbers can easily be presented in the most favourable light. It’s essential to be discerning rather than dazzled.

The Reliable Behemoth: Google

Contrast REA’s data with the ubiquitous nature of Google. As the world’s dominant search engine, Google is the go-to starting point for countless activities. A study by Ahrefs demonstrated that 68.3% of Google searches end without a click to another site, pointing to users’ trust in Google’s immediate answers or suggestions.

When considering real estate, it’s a natural instinct to begin with a Google search such as “local real estate agents” or “selling my property”. The SEO statistics by Backlinko underline this, noting that 53.3% of all website traffic originates from organic search.

Demystifying Organic Search: The Powerhouse of Website Traffic

To start, “organic search” refers to the unpaid search results that appear on search engines, primarily Google. These results aren’t influenced by paid advertising. They are ranked based on their relevance to a user’s query, the quality of content, and a host of other search engine optimisation (SEO) factors.

This 53.3% highlights a golden opportunity. Instead of pouring vast sums into paid ads on property portals or other platforms, optimising their website to appear in organic search results can drive more than half of potential visitors.

Moreover, there’s an inherent trust factor associated with organic search results. Many users perceive organic listings as more authentic and credible compared to paid ads. It’s seen as an endorsement by Google, indicating that the website offers quality content relevant to the user’s search. In the real estate business, where trust is paramount, appearing organically can boost your credibility significantly.

Intercepting REA’s Traffic: Why Google Offers Real Estate Agents a Competitive Edge

If you have a strong online presence on Google, you can intercept potential sellers, redirecting them to your website.

Similarweb indicates that a significant 36.43% of the traffic to realestate.com.au last month (June 2023) came from organic search. This highlights that even REA leans heavily on Google’s organic search for its traffic.

For estate agents and businesses, this data offers a fresh perspective. By bolstering their organic search presence, agents can tap into a significant pool of potential clients, just as realestate.com.au does, but with a more tailored and focused approach.

The Local Advantage: Why Proximity Powers Google’s Platform for Estate Agents

Google, with its ever-evolving algorithms, has always valued providing users with relevant, timely, and location-specific results. This commitment to user experience has translated into significant advantages for local businesses, especially in industries where proximity and local knowledge are crucial, such as real estate.

1. The Google Local Pack: A Prime Spot for Local Businesses

One of Google’s features that strongly favours local businesses is the ‘Local Pack’. This is a set of three highlighted Maps-based results, appearing at the very top of the organic results. Notably, these results feature local businesses that match the search query. For instance, a potential seller searching for “real estate agents near me” will see a list of agents in their vicinity, complete with ratings, reviews, and a map highlighting their locations.

Being featured in the Local Pack can result in a significant boost in clicks and leads for several reasons:

  • Visibility: The Local Pack sits at the top of the search results, ensuring businesses listed there get seen first.
  • Trust: The Local Pack often includes reviews, which can provide immediate trust signals if a business has positive feedback.
  • Relevance: By showing businesses in close proximity, Google assures users of their relevance and accessibility.

2. Hyper-Local Search Results

Apart from the Local Pack, Google’s general search results also heavily favour local businesses. The search engine understands that when someone is looking for services, particularly in the realm of real estate, they’re often seeking businesses in their immediate area. Hence, a real estate agent in Sydney is far more likely to rank for a search query made in Sydney than one made in Perth.

3. Proximity as a Ranking Factor

Google’s emphasis on proximity isn’t just a quirk of its algorithm; it’s a deliberate choice. Google recognises that for many services, proximity is a key factor in a user’s decision-making process. When selling a property, sellers want an agent who knows the local market, understands local buyer sentiments, and can physically be on-site when needed. This is why Google uses proximity as a ranking factor, ensuring users get results that aren’t just relevant in a broad sense, but specifically tailored to their location.

Furthermore, local businesses inherently possess a deep understanding of their community, its dynamics, and its unique selling points – an expertise that generic or distant competitors simply cannot replicate. Google, in its pursuit of delivering the best user experience, harnesses this local insight by prioritising local businesses in search results.

The Power of Google Reviews: Why Real Estate Agents Should Shift Their Focus

The real estate industry thrives on trust, credibility, and local knowledge. For years, agents have relied on platforms like realestate.com.au and ratemyagent.com.au to amass reviews and testimonials that validate their expertise and service quality. While these platforms are undeniably important, there’s another key player that shouldn’t be overlooked: Google.

Why Google Reviews Matter:

  1. Visibility in Search Results: Google reviews are prominently displayed in search results. When potential clients search for a real estate agent in their area, Google showcases local businesses with their corresponding star ratings. A strong positive review presence can make a business stand out, leading to increased clicks and inquiries.
  2. Influence on Local SEO: Google reviews play a crucial role in local SEO rankings. The quantity and quality of reviews are among the factors Google considers when ranking businesses in local searches. This means that accumulating positive Google reviews can boost an agent’s visibility to potential clients in their area.
  3. Broad Audience Reach: Platforms like realestate.com.au or ratemyagent.com.au are specific to the real estate industry. While they cater to a targeted audience, Google is universally used. Positive reviews on Google have the potential to reach a broader audience, from potential home buyers and sellers to investors and renters.
  4. Trust and Credibility: Studies have shown that a majority of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Google, being a trusted platform, lends added credibility to these reviews. When potential clients see positive feedback on Google, it can be a significant trust signal.
  5. Integrated User Experience: With the proliferation of Google services like Google Maps and Google My Business, users get an integrated experience. They can find a real estate agent, read reviews, get directions to the office, and even call directly from the search results – all within the Google ecosystem.

Balancing the Platforms:

While realestate.com.au and ratemyagent.com.au offer industry-specific credibility, Google offers wide-reaching visibility and influence. It’s not about choosing one over the other; it’s about understanding the unique advantages of each.

Real estate agents should consider diversifying their review collection strategy. Encouraging satisfied clients to leave reviews on Google can amplify their online presence, reaching a wider audience and boosting local search rankings.

In Conclusion: Scrutiny Over Spin

realestate.com.au offers a valuable service, but it’s crucial for agents to critically assess claims made in the realm of marketing. Impressive numbers can easily be part of a product’s spin. By prioritising Google visibility, agents align with the organic behaviour of potential clients, offering a more genuine and potentially profitable connection.

It’s not about dismissing REA’s figures outright but understanding them in the broader context and recognising the persuasive intent behind them. By adopting a scrutinous approach, agents can make informed decisions that truly benefit their business, rather than getting caught up in the whirlwind of marketing spin and become further beholden to the major property portals.

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