The Effect of Google’s Mobile Changes on Real Estate Sites

Google is rolling out some changes to their search algorithm today that will have an impact on mobile search results. In a nutshell, Google is attempting to improve the user experience of people searching using mobile devices by taking the mobile-friendliness of sites into consideration. Business Insider went as far as calling this change a headline grabbing Mobilegeddon.

Given a choice between two sites that are similar in every other way, Google will favor the site that works better on mobile devices when someone happens to be searching Google from a mobile device.

It makes sense for Google to do this. For example, who hasn’t visited a restaurant website only to find it unusable on a phone? That’s a poor user experience that Google can help people avoid.

Pragmatically, we’re unlikely to see any major shifts in site traffic since the portion of traffic that even could be effected by this change is relatively small. The news coverage dwarfs the potential impact of small shifts in people visiting real estate websites specifically from Google organic search results who’re using mobile devices.

The good news for WhereToLive.com clients is that all of our clients have been prepared for this change since 2010. That’s when we rolled out mobile-friendly versions of our client’s sites. Our client’s sites receive a lot of traffic from mobile visitors, and we don’t expect Google’s changes to negatively impact that. If anything, it’s possible that we’ll see an increase in traffic.

There are two common ways to create mobile-friendly websites. Mobile-optimized sites (sites that are designed specifically for mobile and often appear at a subdomain like m.domain.com) and responsive design sites (sites where different device-optimized versions of content are served at the same URL). Over the past year, WhereToLive.com has relaunched our broker client’s websites with responsive designs. In the future, responsive designs may provide for additional SEO benefits. Responsive designs also makes rolling out new site features to desktop, tablet, and mobile users faster since there is now one set of public facing code to update instead of unique versions for different devices.

It’s important to understand that not all real estate websites are mobile-friendly. Since Google has many choices for content on a search term like “Homes for Sale in {CityName}”, the street address of an active listing, or any of the thousands of other ways people search for real estate related content from their phones, it seems likely that Google will favor sites that do a good job providing answers to those questions in a mobile-friendly fashion.

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