Jan 302009

Question: Will adding content to my Realtor website increase my rank in Google?

Answer: No… and yes.

You know how a story changes a bit with every person that passes it along until it bears little resemblance to the original?  That is what has happened with the concept that adding content to a website helps that website to rank better in Google. This concept has morphed into a belief that adding content to a website helps that website rank better for the main competitive keywords being targeted. In the case of a Realtor’s website, the belief has become that “adding content will help my site rank better for “my city real estate”. Not really true I am sorry to say.

Much like how template site providers encouraged the misconception about frequently updating a website causes it to rank better, those that help provide content to websites are encouraging misunderstanding about the idea that “content is king” because it helps their bottom line.

Back to basics…

Google ranks pages – not sites. A one page site has the same ability to rank well for a single competitive keyword as a 10,0000 page site has. Often though, a 10,000 page site has tons of unique content. The unique content itself does not cause the main entry page of the site to rank higher. The extra 9,999 pages of unique content may cause people to link to the site though because the content is helpful and can’t be found anywhere else – and it is those links that were attracted to the main entry page that give a 10,000 page site the advantage over a one page site.

The reason the main entry page of a website usually ranks higher than the other pages of the site is only because it has more links pointing at it than the other pages. The main entry page of a website has “Page Rank” because of these links and passes some of the PR on to the subpages that it links to and in turn those subpages pass on PR to the pages they link to. If those 9,999 extra pages are about things people search for then those pages may rank in Google and bring extra traffic. Where those pages appear in the search engine results will depend on the page optimization for the keywords, the competitivness of the keywords, and how many good links are pointing at that particular page that contains the actual content.

Any content that you add will only help you to rank for the keywords that the new content is targeting on the particular page. Such keywords are usually called “long tail” keywords as the combinations are usually several words and only searched for once or twice a month. So, If you add 10 pages of new content you may get 10 or 20 more visitors a month – unless the keywords are quite popular – then the pages could get more traffic as long as you develop links to those new pages that contain the keywords in the link text.

The extra pages themselves offer zero help for the main entry page to rank for the keywords the main entry page is targeting (except for the link bait aspect I mentioned previously). There is one little thing that those pages can do to help – sometimes – and that is if they link back to the main entry page using the keywords the main entry page is targeting as the link text it can give a bit of a boost to the main entry page. More often than not though Google looks at this as “overoptimization” and gives the site a penalty were the site ranks at the very end of the search results. (Often called the -950 penalty)

The “link bait” aspect of those extra 9,999 pages does not really work with typical real estate sites though – who do you suppose would link to those pages? The content is rarely unique and of enough interest that good links would be attracted.

More often than not, what is being sold to Realtors today as a way to add extra content to help their search engine ranking – is custom designed search-engine-friendly IDX systems. The idea is that each listing would be unique content because the system is custom designed for each site and a Realtor would have a site with tens of thousands of pages listed in search engines.

This seems attractive on paper but it does not really work that way. These listings are not considered unique content and are soon dropped by Google as duplicate content. The idea of having tens of thousands of new links to the site’s home page from these listings is touted as good for SEO – but in fact may be inviting the -950 penalty.

Adding new content does not generally help your Realtor website rank for the primary keywords being targeted by your main entry page. Content is indeed king for attracting visitors searching for those “long tail” keywords – and the best way to add that new content is by using a blog.

Once the blog is established, those new pages are usually picked up by Google and already ranking within hours of being published. This is because Google considers blogs (and forums) to be “news” and wants the “news” to be as fresh as possible. If you upload the same new content to a regular website it can take weeks or months before the new page starts to rank.

So, to recap…

– adding new unique content to a website may help with ranking – but for the “long tail” keywords and not for the primary keywords being targeted by the main entry page of the website.

– a custom designed search-engine-friendly IDX system is not necessarily considered unique content – so think long and hard about this before committing the thousands of dollars this costs. (for more on this subject – check out the discussion about $20,000 Realtor websites)

– the best place to add new content to target the “long tail” keywords is in a blog.

Happy Blogging!