Commercial Property Blog
All posts tagged: Google
Back in June of last year Google launched “Google Plus”, its latest foray into social media and a further attempt to build a rival to Facebook.
Initially Google Plus was only available for use by individuals only but in November it was opened up to companies and brands. Very rapidly a whole raft of familiar names and logos have begun to appear including a number of retail brands that would be on the “wanted” list of most retail developers and shopping centre owners, including : H&M, Hugo Boss, TopMan, Burberry and Puma.
Very soon after its launch it was reported that Google Plus had over 20 million users and high profile technology bloggers such as Robert Scoble were praising the new social media platform. More recent estimates have suggested that its use is growing at a phenomenal rate of around 625,000 new users per day and then on 19th January, as part of a quarterly fiancial report, Larry Page, CEO of Google said: “I am super excited about the growth of Android, Gmail, and Google+, which now has 90 million users globally.”
Until Google Plus was opened up to brands its users seemed to be mainly from the technology and creative sectors. This is changing as it is adopted by those in the mainstream, but so far there seems to be only a handful of property professionals actively using Google Plus. Along with our own page, Lambert Smith Hampton, Copping Joyce and IPINglobal also have pages.
There are also some familiar individuals: John Corey (currently number three on the Property Week Twitter 100), Antony Slumbers (number 20) and Andrew Waller (number 83) are some of those that I have found. There are more registered but not active.
So what is Google Plus?
It has been described it as “a cross between Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.” That’s not a bad description, but doesn’t give a full picture.
Being a Google product it has a certain familiarity to its look and feel and it takes some features from its other products, combining them with some clever new ideas that help users follow and view content that friends, colleagues and businesses have posted onto their own profile page.
Users can control what they want to see and what they want to be seen by using Google Plus’s “Circles” – groups of friends, professional contacts, businesses, etc. Security and privacy settings have been beefed-up since the PR disaster that was the launch of the ill-fated Google Buzz. An experience the world’s favourite search engine had clearly learnt from. One of its key features is the ease with which a range of images, videos and links to other web pages can be uploaded and shared.
If you have a Google account then getting onto Google Plus is just a click away as it uses any profile that a user has created as the starting point. Business owners can then add and manage separate pages for their enterprises or brands.
So why is this important? Well - mainly it’s because of who is behind it.
Google still occupies the dominant position in the search engine market and, as such, can have a massive impact on a business by driving web traffic and generating new business leads. It can also impact on a company’s public image by influencing what people can see, hear a watch about a company on line.
To stay one step ahead of its competitors and to retain its market position Google has, for some time, been looking at incorporating human recommendation into the online search process. As part of this process Google has introduced a “+1” button (similar to the Facebook “Like” button), which allows visitors to web pages and sites to recommend it to others, and can be found all around the web.
This process of human recommendation is core to Google Plus which allows users to “+1” and share posts, pictures, videos, blogs, brands that the come across. Each time someone does this you just know that somewhere a Google algorithm is making a note of it and gradually this feedback will impact the search engine rankings of the recommended website or page.
Or a high definition video to promote a new office property in the City fringe.
Or your company blog.
Google is also keen on fresh, regularly updated content and the reality is that by posting content on a Google Plus page you are doing so in the belly of the beast. This is Google and it is inconceivable to think that it will not index its own social media platform as a matter of priority when looking to calculate the relevance of online content.
Basically Google Plus is Google.
A further development has been the recent introduction of Google’s “Search Plus Your World” which, when a Google user is logged into their account, includes the recommendations of those individuals and organisations from the user’s Google Plus ‘circles’ within the results.
In addition to this, content from Google Plus pages is now increasingly appearing in regular Google searches. For example, a Google search for “Fox News” (see below or click here) and you will see the results for Google Plus and the latest news stories that have been posted there.
How long before other broadcasters and media outlets get in on the act?
How long before your competitor’s news releases start appearing on Google Plus too?
Sometime early last year I was asked by a client how they could best improve the return on investment for his website? My reply was simple: “Use social media to drive visits.” He took my advice and is now concentrating all his online PR effort on social media. My latest advice to him was to set up a Google Plus page.
It’s the same advice I would give anyone who is remotely interested in improving their online reputation.
I look forward to adding you to the circles on my Google Plus page.
In the past week Google, the world’s favourite search engine, has made some “pretty big” changes to its search algorithm in a move targeting “low quality” websites and punishing them by reducing their search engine rankings.
A blog posted by Google’s Amit Singhal and Matt Cutts provides more detail about the update, saying that it is “designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites—sites which are low-value for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful”.
Singhal and Cutts also explain that the changes to Google will: “provide better rankings for high-quality sites—sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on”.
The changes have been seen by many commentators as move against what have become known as “content farms” - websites that are specifically built and populated with content aimed at gaining high search rankings in order to generate adverting revenues through page visits. To achieve this, such sites employ writers to generate content which is often of poor quality and, in numerous cases, simply copied from other sites.
But Google has not openly said it is targeting content farms – simply those that are “low value” and “not very useful”.
The question is – how “useful” will Google consider the average website in the property industry? Has it got “research”, “in-depth reports” and “thoughtful analysis”? Or will its content be considered poor and of low value?
Does the information it contain regarding properties constitute “original content”? Or will it be punished because of the use of estate agent clichés, which have been repeated a thousand times around the web? Does the fact that it contains identical content (about this business park or that shopping centre) to that found on the developer’s website or those of the joint agents mean that its ranking on Google fall?
Singhal and Cutts’ blog concludes: “We can’t make a major improvement without affecting rankings for many sites. It has to be that some sites will go up and some will go down. Google depends on the high-quality content created by wonderful websites around the world, and we do have a responsibility to encourage a healthy web ecosystem. Therefore, it is important for high-quality sites to be rewarded, and that’s exactly what this change does”.
It is estimated that there are around 200 factors that can impact on a web site’s ranking with search engines – some more important than others. This move by Google places more importance than ever on “high-quality content”. Something worth thinking about next time you copy and paste some joint agent’s particulars onto your website.
Have you noticed anything new about Google?
The world's favourite search engine has today (Wednesday) rolled out an enhanced service named "Google Instant", which suggests search terms (and results) as you type - much like the predictive text on a mobile phone.
Google suggests that this will result in users getting to “the right content much faster than before because you don’t have to finish typing your full search term, or even press 'search'.”
It is also suggested that Google Instant "can save between 2-5 seconds per search" and that its predictions will "help guide your search".
Google Instant is being rolled out over several days and initially to users signed in with a Google Account.
There has been quite a lot of online chatter in the past few hours regarding what this means for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and online marketing with some brave souls even predicting that Google Instant will "be the death of SEO" - on the basis that users will begin to "alter their searches in real-time".
I have to disagree (it might be the death of other search engines – but that’s another topic).
Search Engine Optimisation is not about stuffing a web page with key words, it’s about well structured and well written web content that the search engines can find and index. Google Instant does not change this - it simply displays possible results and presents the results of searches much quicker - leaving the user to get on with what they were trying to do that much sooner.
And I'm all for that.
In a blog last month, the BBC's Rory Cellan Jones gave is thoughts concerning how money could be made from social networking and suggested that the answer is "in mining the vast flood of data now produced by hundreds of millions of people sharing information over these networks". He went on to suggest that users of such networks making recommendations about online content and businesses via services like Tweetmeme were producing "a kind of supercharged social search engine". Rory finished his blog with the statement: "The battle between the old and new models of search is going to be one of the biggest business stories of the next decade".
What is this "new model” of search that will be at the root of this battle? Will it be of any relevance to the commercial property sector?
The idea is that as users of social networks wade through the internet and all its countless pages, they will highlight and suggest interesting content to others. This might be done by using Facebook's "like" buttons, Tweetmeme's "retweet" service or indeed Twitter's own "share" button which it introduced very recently. Twitter (and others) clearly expects that our everyday comments and the (public) conversations we have online as we interact with other users about the news, products, services will, if aggregated, prove valuable as a way of searching the best of the web, with the input of countless humans. Effectively the results of searches could potentially be generated by the collective power of the crowd.
But, to put it into the context of the commercial property market, would an occupier in need of new premises search for real estate based on what they found on Facebook or Twitter? Would a landlord or developer instruct an agent or surveyor based on a search conducted on social networks?
However - such business decisions are often influenced by the experience (good or bad) and recommendation of trusted friends, contacts and colleagues. Social media platforms are, at a very basic level, just virtual talking shops and places to converse with others. How often have deals or instructions been won or lost as a result of a conversation in a wine bar or a chance meeting at a networking event?
Ultimately it's all about reputation. And as Rory Cellan Jones' "search battle" rages over the next decade - the management of online reputations will become vitally important to businesses and their brands.
The battle will be fought on many fronts. Google will be fighting off its traditional rivals such as Yahoo and Microsoft's Bing and at the same time it will be taking on Facebook, Twitter and relative newcomers like Foursquare at their own game and there is an increasing focus on geolocation (Facebook has very recently added “Places” – a feature that allows users to tell other where they are using GPS enables smartphones). The importance of geolocation in the property sector is becoming increasingly apparent with Google Maps being integrated into various websites and applications - particularly in the residential sector but also in the commercial sector.
What does this all mean for those involved in publicising and marketing property? Which platform or search strategy is the right one?
I might be accused of sitting on the fence but my advice is not to put all your eggs in one basket. Facebook might be the daddy of social media today, but it might simply slip out of favour in the future. Do you remember Myspace, Bebo and Second Life? Where would you be today if, three years ago, you had piled all your online marketing and PR spend into creating a presence on one of these platforms?
In the short term though Google reigns supreme and the use of well crafted web content remains, and will remain, a vital component of any online marketing. Even when (and if) we become more reliant on the recommendation of others to find what we are looking for on the web, it will be the relevant and interesting content that people find interesting and relevant and worthwhile that will get their vote. Images and videos will continue to prove interesting but in the b2b context, written content will continue to be highly relevant. Content will still be king - regardless of the search engine being fed.
So what are people currently searching for? Well – in August the volume of online searches conducted on Google in the UK relating to commercial property fell slightly. This is what would be expected during the summer – but the fall was only slight and the figure revealed by the Property Search Index report but has remained fairly steady over recent months. There were some unexpectedly high levels of searches relating to warehousing and distribution property at the end of the month which certainly goes against the trend. If anyone has any ideas why this was – let me know.
Having read King Sturge’s recently published “Office Occupier Trends” research for Q2, which reported the lowest quarterly take-up of office space since Q1 2009 and the “third lowest since survey began” (2003), I was interested to see if this correlated in any way to the volume of searches conducted on Google, relating to office property.
The overall level of Google searches concerning commercial property has stabilised over recent months, although there have been fluctuations in the volume of searches for specific sectors of the market – particularly in those relating to the office market.
Trawling back through our records of search levels on Google relating to this sector (which we compile as part of our monthly Property Search Index) it can be seen that, on a quarterly basis, there was a distinct low point in Q4 of 2009.
This would have been a fairly critical time for businesses looking to make a decision about relocating in the Spring of this year. This period included the party month of December, when online searches for commercial property dipped across the board, so a lower level of online activity would be expected. However, ignoring December and looking back earlier in 2009 it can be seen that the levels of searches were below average during the whole of the last four months of the year.
Is this just coincidental? Search levels on Google for “office space” fluctuate on a daily basis so it is often difficult to link peaks of interest with deals done months later.
I started to look around for some noticeable peaks or troughs in the market. The most obvious being the peak of the market in 2007.
Many consider that the peak of the office market was reached in that summer. If you are one of them, then you might be interested to know that searches relating to office property on Google peaked in April of that year - two or three months before the peak of the market.
Here’s something to ponder - so far in 2010 the volume of Google searches regarding offices in the UK were at their lowest in April and May then subsequently picked up again in June and July. What will happen in September?
I am already looking forward to seeing the King Sturge report for Q3.
A copy of the Property Search Index Report can be downloaded from http://www.revolution-pr.co.uk/psi
As predicted on this blog in April, Google has today launched its Real Estate search facility on Google Maps in the UK.
By visiting Google Maps and by ticking the "Properties" option on the "More" tab - visitors will see a rash of spots appearing on the map before them. These are all properties that are available to buy or rent.
By clicking on an individual property users can find out further information regarding its availability. The power of Google's mapping is such that searches can be limited by post code and, if their vans have driven past, images of the property will be viewable instantly on Google Street View. Whilst mainly residential - there are a few commercial properties appearing too.
This is a milestone for the property market in the UK as anyone can add details of properties directly, for free, onto the world's favourite search engine and it will transform the way in which homes and commercial properties are advertised. This move by Google will challenge the established players in the property portal business and will bring new opportunities to agents, landlords and occupiers.
By offering this service for free the business models of many established property businesses will need to be re-examined as Google has just changed the dynamics of the property market in the UK.
Google has in the past week announced the launch of its new search engine, which it is calling “Caffeine”.
In its official statement Google said that Caffeine: “provides 50 percent fresher results for web searches than our last index, and it's the largest collection of web content we've offered. Whether it's a news story, a blog or a forum post, you can now find links to relevant content much sooner after it is published than was possible ever before.”
Whilst Google will look and feel the same to the user, the real changes will only be noticeable within the results of searches. Clearly this is another step by Google towards the real time web and bringing its users the newest content possible as quickly as possible (a topic on which I blogged about last year on these pages).
What will become apparent will be that SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) will begin to change much more frequently than before and, as a result, search results will become dominated by web pages that are regularly updated.
There are important implications here for anyone that wants their services to be found via the search engines or is concerned with their business’ online profile. This is because, to appear at or near to the top of the search results, it will be necessary to ensure that websites are regularly updated along with other online content. The alternative will be to pay more to Google in advertising to maintain a visible position in the search results. Cynics might suggest that Google’s new search engine has been introduced simply to make good rankings more difficult to achieve - boosting advertising revenue!
The big winners out of this (other than Google) will be those organisations who generate new and relevant content, on a regular basis, which can be indexed by Caffeine. In the context of the property industry you would expect this to be those firms with the large publicity and marketing budgets, but this need not be the case.
The property industry has a huge number of small and medium sized firms - whether developers, investors or agents - who operate in niche areas of the market. Historically, by highlighting their market knowledge and expertise, they have been able to compete with their larger rivals. Google Caffeine does not change this but it does mean that in order to maintain their market profile smaller firms will need to be highlighting their market knowledge and expertise on a more regular and repeated basis. There is no doubt that for some this will be a culture shock.
The degree of importance placed upon maintaining an online profile (or not as the case may be) by some in the property sector was highlighted recently in a blog by Pauley Creative titled “How are the top 15 house builders using social media?” It makes an interesting read and highlights that many firms are missing a trick, whilst others, Miller Homes in particular, are praised for their online strategy.
The obvious difference between the residential and commercial property sector is that the house builders are using their online publicity and marketing to target consumers and the general public in a fashion that is often unnecessary for those of us in the commercial market.
Could this change and are there any lessons the commercial sector could learn from the house builders?
The retail sector could is one area that could benefit from looking at such online strategies – not necessarily in terms of marketing vacant shops – but how about when it comes to communicating with the members of the public that might visit a shopping centre or retail development? Are websites alone enough these days?
A number of well known retail developments now have presence on social media platforms and some clearly have communications strategies in place. But this cannot be said for all of them who have been brave enough to dip their toes into social media. It is not enough just to have a blog or a Facebook page – these things need to be maintained and updated.
A quick search around on Facebook revealed a number of shopping centres with Facebook pages, some of them such as Queens Arcade in Cardiff , Hempstead Valley in Gillingham and Eden in High Wycombe are being updated on a daily/weekly basis with news and offers for their thousands of fans and followers. Others though, including Lakeside, appear not to have been updated for several months.
Whilst I applaud all those who have made the effort to engage with their customers in this way – and there are many who have not – there needs to be a policy and a strategy in place. If there is not then your Facebook page, Blog, Twitter account or other digital channel of choice will soon be neglected by customers and search engines alike.
Time to wake up and smell the coffee?
Back in January I wrote on these pages about reports that Google was turning its attention to the UK property market and the rumours that it was looking to bring its “Real Estate Search” to these shores following its introduction in the USA and Australia.
Around that time it was reported (by the BBC) that Google had briefed “30 of England's top estate agents” at the end of last year. However, Google’s Head of Property, Ben Wood, has subsequently been quoted as saying that this was actually a talk on how properties could be promoted on Google and that he was “giving some market insights based on our property search data”.
In the same article he was also reported saying that Google does not have any “concrete plans to launch a UK portal or mapping facility”.
In response to enquiries made this week, Google in the UK said: “We've had the ability to search for real estate listings on Google Maps in Australia and US for months, and we're interested in bringing that to other countries, but we have nothing to announce right now.”
Despite this non-committal statement it does seem that the world’s favourite search engine is moving towards launching its Real Estate Search service in the UK.
The first clue that leads me to this conclusion is that users of Google Maps on the .com site (not the .co.uk variation) can search for property in the UK – with the results displayed in Pounds Sterling.
Why would this happen if there were no plans to launch the service in the UK?
The search interface also includes the option to select a price bracket, the type of property (detached, semi, etc) and the number of bedrooms. Whilst the pricing option filters the results for properties in the UK, at the current time users cannot refine the search by property type or size, a feature which is available for locations such as New York.
The following link to Google Maps shows the results for a property search for central London.
Properties are pinpointed on the map with each result featuring a photograph and, if it is available, the properties benefit from Google’s Street View, allowing users to take a virtual look around the neighbourhood.
The second clue that a UK launch of Real Estate Search may not be far off is that the helpful people at Google have created a page of instructions on how to create a data feed of property details that can be indexed by the search engine - and they’ve even titled the page “Housing UK”. The page provides a list of attributes that should (or could) be included in the data feed.
Interestingly “agent” is optional.
What might be of greatest interest to the readers of Property Week is that, as part of any data feed, Google asks that the type of transaction is listed, and it provides five alternatives:
- Residential for rent
- Residential for sale
- Flat share
- Commercial for sale
- Commercial for lease
As clear an indication as needed that Google is looking at the property market as a whole and not just the residential sector. And just before all the commercial agents reading this dismiss the idea – there are already industrial and shop properties to be found via a simple Real Estate Search. Here's an example.
Whilst it is not necessarily a third clue, on the 11 March the Google announced an extension to what will be a cornerstone for Real Estate Search – an extension of its “Street View” service. Street View now provides pedestrian level views of around 230,000 miles of public road in the UK – with close-up views of homes and commercial premises.
In summary – users can search for property in the UK on Google's Real Estate Search service and can load details to Google Maps for inclusion within its database of residential and commercial property.
Will the arrival of Google’s Real Estate Search see the end of the estate agent as some commentators have suggested? I don’t think it will. There will be some individuals who choose to advertise their own home on the site for free but selling a home is a stressful and time-consuming activity – and there will always be a role for professional advisors. If the question is “Will Google Real Estate Search change the way estate agents operate?” I think the answer is unquestionably “yes” - as they will have to adapt to dealing with a very powerful marketing tool and route to market.
With its power to allow users to zoom into specific towns and neighbourhoods, and to then search for properties that are available within their budget in specific streets, school catchment areas or even industrial estates, it is quite difficult to imagine that Google Maps will not become the first place that people go to when looking for property.
The entrance of Google’s Real Estate Search to the UK market will mean that online marketing and publicity will become even more important to property professionals and, as illustrated above, it will not be restricted to the residential market. Its influence on the commercial market will grow as those buying and selling their homes will see the benefits and will increasingly expect to be able to find and dispose of commercial property using the same tools. Ensuring that property assets can be located easily online will be an even more fundamental part of property marketing.
Which brings me neatly to the results of this month’s Property Search Index.
The Property Search Index examines the level of online searches undertaken on a week-by-week basis for a selection of the most popular and most commonly used search terms recorded by Google in the UK relating to commercial property. The report looks at the changes in the volume of these searches, providing an insight into market sentiment by reflecting levels of interest in commercial property from potential occupiers, occupiers, property professionals and advisors.
The Property Search Index for March saw a fall when compared to February, with an overall score of 165 (down from 174). The individual scores for the office and investment sectors rose over the four weeks since the last report, whilst the scores for retail and the industrial sectors fell.
Despite falling back the overall PSI score does remain above the average figure for the previous twelve months.
A full copy of the report can be found by clicking here.
We have also produced a fact sheet regarding Google’s Real Estate Search, which includes useful links and further detail. Please e-mail me to request a copy: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Over the past few weeks every man and his dog seems to have been speculating on what we can look forward to in the New Year and even the next decade. Those who know me well would tell you that I often have difficulty foreseeing what I am going to have for lunch, let alone predicting the future - so I'm certainly not going to try and compete with Giles Barrie's predictions on his own website.
One thing that can be said with some certainty about the next decade is that technology will play an even greater role in the way that we conduct business within the property industry and the way in which we interact with our peers, competitors, clients and customers. The Internet of today is so different from the “Information Super Highway” of ten years ago; the dial-up modems, the slow connections, the websites that said more about a company's ego than they did about its services or products. Imagine the changes the next decade will bring.
Ten years ago Google was a hardly known, start-up company - yet a decade later it has transformed online advertising and marketing and enables us to find and access business critical information instantaneously. And if the reports are to be believed the world’s favourite search engine is now turning its attention to the residential property market in the UK. There have also been strong rumours in the US over several months that Google is discussing a possible purchase of Trulia, the States’ equivalent of Rightmove.
What is clear is that Google sees the property market as being a sector that is a natural fit for its services.
Whilst I do not expect a Google commercial property portal anytime soon, the influence of Google Maps and Google Street View is already being felt in our market with these, and similar tools, being regularly embedded into websites and used as part of marketing and publicity campaigns. This is in addition to Google’s continual domination as the search engine of choice, which exerts a powerful influence on our market with thousands of searches daily regarding commercial property.
Revolution Public Relations’ research into the search terms used by Google users when looking for information on commercial property is published in our Property Search Index, which this month reveals a seasonal slowdown during December as the party season gathered pace. This pattern is a mirror of what has happened each December since Google started to record this data in 2004 - and it has always been followed by a surge of activity at the end of the month that has continued into January.
This upturn was once again evident in the last week of December 09 and so far seems to be following an identical pattern to the preceding six years. What was unexpected was that the increase in search activity regarding the retail sector began before Christmas itself and then accelerated, reaching a peak of activity for the whole year on December the 27th.
I wondered if the similarity between the search terms such as “shops for sale” and “shop sales” could be the cause of this surge. However a closer inspection of these and other related phrases indicate revealed that whilst searches for “Sales” and “January Sales” were very popular, peaking on Christmas Day, the maximum number of searches regarding retail property was 48 hours later. In addition, over this 48 hour period, these property searches had been increasing - whilst the number searches by users looking for bargains in the shops had been decreasing. It will be interesting to see if this interest continues through January. Watch this space.
As an aside, this additional exercise also revealed the power of branding (and some interesting trivia): the number of searches for “Next Sale” (which peaked on Boxing Day) was 25 times higher than searches for “January Sales”, three times higher than “Debenhams sale” and, despite those irritating TV adverts, 33 times higher than “DFS sale”. It would seem that, as far as the bargain hunting public is concerned, it is the Next Sale that is most anticipated.
The levels of online searches regarding the investment, office and industrial sectors also saw a pick-up between Christmas and the New Year and their performances for the remainder of January will be a good indication of market sentiment. In past years this has been one of the busiest periods of the year and could set the pattern for the next twelve months.
One other anomaly of note occurred on Tuesday December 8th when, for no apparent reason, there was a spike in Google searches relating to office space. The fact that this was also the date of the Office Agents Society Annual Dinner must surely be pure coincidence?
On that note may I wish you a happy and prosperous New Year.
A copy of the Property Search Index Report can be downloaded from www.revolution-pr.co.uk .
Harold Wilson was once attributed with saying: “A week is a long time in politics”. Over the past week this could also be said of the world of search engines - as first Google and then, just days later, Yahoo announced that they were both launching “real-time” search features.
These launches by Google and Yahoo follow a similar service that has been offered by Microsoft on its “Bing” search engine since October.
These real-time search results are now beginning to appear within those we are used to seeing produced by the search engines and allow users to see what is being said about any particular topic, at the very moment of the enquiry, on blogs and other social media sites such as Twitter, FriendFeed and MySpace.
An example of real-time search is shown below where comments (not all of them flattering) have been appearing from Twitter, YouTube and other blogs about Silvio Berlusconi being assaulted in Milan yesterday (13 December). (It is interesting to note that the Twitter and YouTube results are found after the BBC’s coverage but before all other news websites).
It is generally expected that real-time search will mean that organisations which regularly update their websites and blogs with news items, research, market commentary - and those that generate content via social media - will have an online advantage over their competitors who do not. It certainly seems that the most recently updated content will become the most prominent (and therefore the most visited) in search results.
One commentator went so far as saying that Monday 7th December 2009 will “long be known as the day that Google forced B2B companies to tweet.” Whilst I’m not sure that I agree with that statement, such is the expected impact of real-time search that it does suggest that the provision of new content on websites and corporate blogs will become even more of a priority to those businesses that are interested in maintaining their online profile.
“So what?” I hear some of you saying. “What relevance is this to the property industry?”
Well – there is an obvious advantage in the residential sector where the competition to attract members of the public to marketing and database websites is fierce. The use of Social Media Marketing (SMM) has been grasped with enthusiasm by some of the more forward thinking residential firms and agencies where the potential of having an ongoing dialogue with potential buyers and vendors is obvious. These firms will now begin to have an advantage over their competitors with regard to search engine performance too.
An agency in The Netherlands has recently taken the next step along this path, by making its database of properties available for integration into Google Wave – a real-time online collaboration tool that is touted as the search giant’s next “big thing” (it is yet to be made widely available as it is still being tested by global community of geeky guinea pigs).
Real-time search could, however, be a double-edged sword for corporate reputations.
Take, for example, the “estate agent fired for watching hundreds of hours of porn” story that was all over the tabloids and Twitter earlier in the month. Had real-time search been live a week previously – it might well have been a story brought to the attention (and read) by anyone innocently looking online for a local “estate agent” to entrust the sale of their house with! Maybe Mr Stewart was lucky that this news story was, at the time, more difficult to stumble upon. This is less likely to be the case in the future.
Should we take it seriously? After all - “Social Media is only really popular amongst teenagers and the IT department isn’t it?”
This statement might have been true a couple of years ago but another relevant event occurred in the past week – and it concerns Property Week’s own social network - which passed the 500 members milestone. Proof, if proof was needed, that property is a very 'social' industry. This milestone (and the numbers are increasing daily) also indicates that "Social Media" is now a serious form of business communication within property. (You can even play spot the celebrity” on the Property Network if you want to!)
Further evidence of the potential for Social Media (and real-time search) to drive the news agenda within the property industry can be illustrated by looking at events of just a few weeks ago.
On November 24th the news broke that Nakheel, the Dubai state-owned developer, and its parent had made a request to suspend debt repayments. The news sent reverberations around the globe and the markets took a heavy blow to confidence. Property development and property investment were, once again, headline news and as you would expect, the number of online searches recorded for the term “Dubai” spiked dramatically – as illustrated by the graph below, supplied by Google.
At the same time, the number of references to “Dubai” made on micro-blogging site Twitter also spiked – as shown below in the Twibuz graph for “Tweets per minute”.
Had real-time search been active on Google at this time – it is quite probable that some of the news that we read regarding Dubai and its property market could have been straight from the public debate that went on in the blogosphere.
Real-time search is now a reality and it will increasingly become relied upon by those looking for the latest business information; including property and the property industry. We can either embrace it, adapting our marketing and online publicity strategies or hope that things will stay the same.
While you think about the implications for your business – I’m just going to check on Twitter to get my real-time news fix.