Real Estate SEO Advantage
Using Structured Data Markup
If you are a real estate company you know that your exposure in the search engines is vital to success. What can be better than search exposure? It makes everything easier. It is easier to have buyers contact you and easier for people thinking about listing to find you.
Moreover, when home owners can easily find your site it provides them with more confidence that you are the one to list their property. Home owners crave exposure for their home when it is on the market.
With Google changing to new search technologies that make the process of finding what seekers want more precise, it’s necessary to be aware of what can help you gain position in search.
You may have started noticing that some sites stand out from others in the search engine result pages. They often have multiple pages presented, perhaps pictures show up and they always seem to rank at the top of the search engine results for a variety of search terms.
You might think that search engines charge a premium for these “special” site descriptions. You would be wrong. It costs nothing but a little time and understanding of data tagging to incorporate the data tags necessary to make your site stand out from the rest. Web designers now use structured data markup to specifically remove any doubt and instruct search engines exactly how to display their sites in the search engine results. Google likes these specific instructions and ranks these sites higher than sites without specific instructions.
These special instructions make is easier for Google and the other major search engines to understand the content of the site and anything that makes it easier for the search engines is typically rewarded with more and better exposure. It makes sense – you make it easier and better for them and they make it easier and better for you.
What Is Structured Date Markup?
Structured data means information formatted in a manner that is universally understandable by the search engines. Structured data resides in fixed fields within a database or a file. Real estate MLS database is a perfect example of structured data. IDX vendors use those databases to create listing searches and listing detail pages for real estate websites. However, when the data is combined in HTML pages, it becomes much more difficult for search engines to recognize the original structure of the data, and therefore recognize that the page contains real estate listings information.
As a solution to this recognition issue, Google, Bing, and Yahoo! have united to provide a shared collection of schemas (that is, a shared vocabulary) for real estate webmasters to use.
What Are Schemas?
Schemas are the HTML tags used by real estate web developers to mark up web pages so they are recognized and fully understood by search engines. The shared collection of these HTML tags is provided by the big search engines and is available at www.schema.org. You can also view the structured markup hierarchy for real estate on schema on that site at: http://schema.org/RealEstateAgent.
Adding structured data markups (or schemas) to a website (which appears behind the scenes, not on the viewable page) helps search engines like Google refine and filter search results to reflect greater accuracy. The thinking behind this is that the search engines will provide better and more accurate information to their customer (the searching public). This all makes it easier for seekers to find the information they’re looking for. Happy searchers make for happy search engines.
The primary benefit of utilizing schemas in your website is that critical data relating to your real estate business found on your website—name, location, specialty, phone number, listings information, etc.—is easily identified by the search engines based on data hidden in the html code and remains invisible to humans.
For example, if someone is trying to find real estate agent in Woodstock, Vermont, what do the candidate websites offer to the search engines to convey this information? Typically it is a vague or cryptic mish-mash of information and some of it may even be contradictory. If your website does not make it easy and your competitors’ websites do then you will be at a disadvantage.
Without schemas, it can be much more difficult for a search engine to find the information that the real estate company is associated and located in Woodstock, Vermont. The search engines may be confused and confusion does not lead to business success.
Using schema, your webpage source (code) will identify that information with special HTML markups which have been approved by the search engines.
With the special markup HTML tags, there is no question that the page content is about a real estate company in Woodstock, Vermont. All guesswork by the search engines has been removed with the specific “instructions” in a language readily understood by the search engines. Your site will be returned in the results for a search query looking for Woodstock, Vermont real estate companies.
In addition, another significant benefit of using structured data markup on your real estate website is the ability to have rich snippets appear directly in the search engine results. Rich snippets are short summaries of what a visitor can expect to see on your site and are very powerful for getting searchers to click through.
Structured data markup is the future of SEO, and real estate companies who utilize it today will have a definite edge over their competition. While there are few real estate industry specific schemas available on schema.org that is sure to change as more agents and real estate professionals begin to use structured data markup on their websites.
You can use Google Webmaster Tools to test if your website has structured data markups: http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/richsnippets