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Have you noticed your local SEO rankings are jumping up and down for some time now for no obvious reason? Don’t be quick to blame yourself because it seems something bigger is happening underway. The real estate local SEO landscape is getting shaped by the new phenomenon – proximity to a searcher. 

According to Whitespark’s 2017 Local Search Ranking Factors, the proximity of a business address to the point of search is becoming one of the top local SEO factors. This has enormous implications for real estate businesses working their way on top of organic search results.

First of all, does this mean traditional local SEO factors like online reviews, links, and citations are dead? Second of all, is local SEO as such dead?

No way – it’s just getting even more competitive than it used to be. You can still rank on page 1 and get loads of organic traffic, even if you don’t make it in the 3-pack:

local pack results

Why is Google doing this?

As far as we know (or can guess), Google did have proximity-related search algorithms on its agenda for quite some time. Proximity factor manifests itself best of all on mobile, of course. It’s much easier for Google to identify location on a mobile device (though it’s attempting to do the same for desktop) and then push results that are closest to the searcher’s location.

Bringing relevant results

One reason for this is Google probably tries to deliver the most relevant results to people. In a way, it does make sense. Most people would love to quickly find the local business in their neighborhood and not spend time on driving and traffic jams.

But the fundamental drawback is that the quality of results inevitably shrinks. What everyone wants is the top quality customer service, even if you have to drive another 20 minutes to get to meet that agent.

So the question is: quality vs. proximity? Do people want the best agent or the closest agent? The answer may be obvious to all of us but the search trends showcase the opposite with an increasing frequency.

Selling more ads

The 3-pack local search results used to be the ultimate aspiration for local real estate agents. It’s instantly noticeable and gets the most views and clicks. But now it’s getting a lot more challenging to get there because search results vary depending on the searcher’s location.

One way to get there is to buy ads which Google already displays in the Local Finder after you click on Load More from the 3-pack:

Local real estate ads in map results

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Since it’s getting much harder to work your way into the top positions and local packs organically, real estate businesses will often have to spend their marketing dollars to buy those ads.

What should agents do to enhance their real estate local SEO and rank high?

It might be hard to come to terms with the fact that your business reach is made smaller by the system you can’t control but there’s still plenty of room for growth.

Get even more serious about organic local real estate SEO

The search radius defined by Google may leave you out of the local search results, even if you’re a credible and trustworthy brokerage with a long online history. Local pack results might get out of reach if the searcher is not located closely enough, but organic local results aren’t affected. This means you can still rank in top 10 for locally relevant queries and that means plenty of lead generation opportunities.

[Related post: Get on the Map: 23 Brilliant Ways to Ultimately Master Local Real Estate SEO]

Ramp up your real estate local SEO plan

Traditional local SEO factors like reviews, citations and local backlinks to name a few won’t go anywhere. You can still benefit greatly because they’ll help you get in the top 10. Besides, these factors will also define if you can get into the local packs eventually. You need them to outrank the competition.

[Related post: 10 Nifty Ways to Maximize the Value of Your Real Estate Reviews]

Build your digital presence beyond Google

Relying solely on one tool can backfire. It’s obvious that Google is a natural source for any kind of information but if people are disappointed with the quality of the results, they’ll go elsewhere – Yelp, Tripadvisor, Facebook, etc. So what you need to do is to diversify your local real estate SEO strategy and build a presence on other places like the ones just mentioned.

[Related post: Struggling with Your Real Estate SEO? Ramp It Up with Citations]

What’s next?

Search algorithms are constantly evolving and it might be confusing to grasp the changes and adapt to them. But the truth is that doing local real estate SEO work systematically is always a winning strategy. Earning more reviews, building your presence on third-party platforms and becoming a trustworthy local expert will never cease to be as important as it is now.



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