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Did your real estate site used to rank top 20 in Google and now it ranks 120 or worse?

The client

  • Numerous sites on the same server (shared IP)
  • All the sites are built in template fashion
  • All the sites have unique content and domain names
  • All the sites are real estate lead generation
  • All the sites had participated in reciprocal link building

Where they used to rank

  • 4-6 months after launch the sites ranked top 20 for their most competitive term "city real estate"

The Problem

  • Around the end of April 2007, all their sites disappeared from the top 20 and re-appeared in the hundreds (usually 110-150)
  • Many of the sites lost pages to the supplemental index

At SMX in Seattle I heard both Matt Cutts (Google) and Tim Mayer (Yahoo) openly discussed real estate websites and over optimization techniques (reciprocal linking). Both said they were taking a more proactive look at this industry and we're bothered by excessive linking.

Solutions we tested – using individual sites we tried a number of tests to see what would work

  • Deep linking
  • De-optimizing
  • Using the robots.txt to block similar pages or folders
  • New design
  • Breaking the site out of the template
  • New hosting
  • Buying a unique IP for the site
  • New titles and descriptions
  • New file structure
  • Removing all link pages
  • Cleaning the link pages (limiting the number of links)
  • Deleting the link pages all together
  • Changing the nature of the links (locally based)
  • Removing duplicate links

The winning strategy

  • Change the nature of your links
    • Put links into the content
    • Make your links locally based
    • Remove excessive linking from your reciprocal pages
    • Remove duplicate links
  • Offer links to reputable local businesses and top competitors
  • Place links to your site on local boards – links with value
  • Tweak your copy to make sure it is locally based
  • Make sure that your site is properly themed to your city

Note: don't panic, your problems can be fixed, it may take some time, but your site still has value. Change the way you optimize, take a much more local approach.

The results 60-90 days later – the sites started to reappear in the top 1-20 of Google again.

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