Fake news has become the popular catchphrase of a certain orange-tinted president in recent years. And everyone, from tech giants like Facebook to major national newspapers, is regularly talking about how to go about eliminating it from modern life.
Recently, it’s something that has directly affected one of our companies, The ValPal Network, with misinformation being spread about subdomains being harmful for an agent’s Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Google ranking.
Craig Vile, Director of The ValPal Network, recently wrote an excellent, myth-busting piece to answer what some of our critics have been saying. It can be read here.
And now, with the help of Ben Marley from online reviews site Feefo and Alex Evans from digital creative agency Estate Apps, this Natter will seek to outline why subdomains are highly beneficial, how they affect Google rankings and whether or not SEO is still important.
What are the benefits of using a subdomain?
Ben Marley: Having a subdomain allows the site owner to have extra flexibility when it comes to targeting, layout and user interactions. Subdomains are often used as dedicated hubs/platforms to expand on a topic. Having a set area providing comprehensive information on a subject makes the subdomain contribute to the brand’s exposure.
Subdomains can have a different look and feel to the main site as they may target a slightly different audience. This means that changes can be made to the subdomain without affecting the main site and vice versa. The subdomain can rank on its own; if a page from the main domain and the subdomain are ranking for the same query, the overall brand is occupying more of the search results and so getting more exposure.
Subdomains are also used for geographical targeting and lead generation campaigns. Either way, they can benefit from the brand’s name and current exposure whilst getting their own visibility and traffic.
Alex Evans: Subdomains are free. If your hosting plan allows, once you have bought a domain you can add subdomains for no cost. Subdomains are very simple to add and you use them like you would any site. Unless you have a large amount of subdomains on one domain Google will not penalise a site.
Another advantage is the ability to use a keyword for the subdomain name for clarity, search engine and promotional purposes. For example mail.google com describes exactly what its purpose is. They’re also useful where you want to keep your main site informational but also want to sell products or services.
How do subdomains affect Google rankings?
BM: Subdomains are treated as separate entities. They can benefit from the authority of the main domain if the latter is linking to the subdomain. To have a successful subdomain presence in search engines you need to treat it in the same way as the main site. Add unique and high quality content, reach out to third party sites for collaboration, ensure a good user experience for people visiting the site, etc.
Relevance is one of the key elements of success in today’s organic results. Having a subdomain presents an opportunity to target a specific area and have most, if not all the content on that subdomain targeting those topics. A subdomain can be used as a knowledge hub where people can find all the information they need on a subject.
AE: Your subdomains will be treated as entirely separate websites in the eyes of Google and this means subdomains can actually be beneficial to your SEO efforts as the following couple of examples explain:
1. Subdomains can insert keywords into your URL
Sometimes it just doesn’t make sense to fit certain keywords into your main URL. But, with subdomains you have another chance to insert hard-to-rank keywords into your domain, which will never be a bad thing for your rankings.
2. Subdomains can improve user experience
If you have a large and confusing site that’s hard to navigate, you’re going to provide a poor user experience. A poor user experience means your users will spend less time on your site, which can lead to lower rankings.
How can agents make sure visitors stay on their websites?
BM: Data is at the core of many marketing decisions nowadays. Analysing the user behaviour is the easiest and most efficient way to find out how to keep people on the site. Metrics in Google Analytics allow you to see what pages people are dropping off at, which can give you an insight into what should be done to keep people on the site. For example, if most of your visitors leave the site after they have visited the blog, make sure that each blog has a call to action (CTA) that encourages people to read more blogs or to get in touch.
If you find that people are dropping off during the purchase process, you can consider adding trust elements like reviews or star ratings. You can also work with Google Optimize to run A/B tests and see whether changes in the content, in wordings of CTA buttons or in layout are likely to keep more people on the site. The overall rule of thumb is to provide unique value to the user.
AE: Keeping visitors on your website can be done in a few simple ways. The two major ones consist of look and usability. If the site looks bad or doesn’t appeal to the user, then they’re more likely to look somewhere else.
One of the other major factors is the usability of the website. If it’s not easy to navigate and quick to get to the information required, then users will leave in search of something easier. A user’s journey through your site is paramount.
You can include other useful resources as well to enhance the user’s experience, which will not only keep them but get them to come back in the future, for example a stamp duty or rental yield calculator. You can also incorporate interactive content - videos and property tours are good examples of this.
Is SEO still important?
BM: SEO has evolved in recent years and is still a key part of every digital marketing strategy. Today’s SEO is a lot more than keywords and backlinks. Today’s SEO focuses on the overall user experience: it incorporates on-site elements, it addresses the technical aspect of a site – checking and improving site speed, site structure and indexation to provide search engines with the relevant information in the best possible way.
Local SEO is vital for businesses targeting specific geographical areas. Having presence in Google Maps can make or break a business. There’s also an increased demand for “near me” searches, which if the site is not optimised for, might mean you’re missing out on an opportunity.
SEO is also the marketing channel that is most likely to bring traffic to your site from voice search. More and more people are using their home assistants like Alexa and Google Home to perform searches.
AE: The better your SEO is, the more relevant the traffic you bring to your website. Considering over 90% of online sessions start with a search engine, having a strong SEO performance is more important than ever. You simply can’t afford to miss out on so many potential visitors.
Your website is the first point of contact for your clients, and plays a prominent role generating leads in attracting new ones. That being said, if it can’t be found then what’s the point in even having it? This is why SEO is so important - it helps make your website more opulent and gives it a strong cutting edge. It gets your website found, noticed, and brings in clicks.
SEO also helps give your website a more trustworthy impression. The higher you appear on the search engine, the more likely someone is to trust your website and presence. It makes your brand stronger and better recognised.
The desired goal for your agency should be to top the search results when people are entering key phrases relevant to your industry and location. So if you’re an estate agent in Preston, you want to be high up there when people search “estate agents in Preston”. When you’re on page one, people will consider you the best option.
Great, informative answers chaps. Thanks very much.
Remember, at The ValPal Network we’re experts in digitalisation and help over 4,000 branches to generate leads, nurture data, drive website traffic and increase revenue.
Until next time…
*Nat Daniels is the Chief Executive Officer of Angels Media, publishers of Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today. Follow him on Twitter @NatDaniels.