Monday, June 16, 2014

Multi-family SEO - What Google Says

I'm rebuilding my bestportlandrentals.com site now for responsive (mobile) usability, and to that end, I read the latest version of Google's Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide.   There are a few areas that I find are poorly addressed even by most of the major multi-family companies and listing services:

Microdata:  Google is very big (naturally) on the idea that your site can be parsed in a way the search engine robots will actually understand.  Embedding microdata in a Schema.org (Google, Bing, Yahoo collaboration) format is what Google suggests.  They don't promise higher ranking (they don't promise that for anything), but they do recommend it.    This is an area where Multi-Family companies could seriously use some advice.   Few sites have microdata, and when they do, the choice of schema is inconsistent and sometimes not useful.   Some kind of advice on the best schema choices would be great.  This ApartmentComplex schema is one of the best I found, but it's not complete.  It isn't really for listing a single unit vacant.
Combing that with this Offer schema, recommended by a guy who said his company helped design the schema.org ecommerce subset, would let you add dates and $ for units.  You can also borrow elements from other basic schema like "Thing."  How much of that Google will use or understand, I'm not certain.  

Formatting:  This is one of those moving targets.  H1, H2, H3...   What do they mean to Google now?  In the past there were guidelines like "one H1 tag per page," (or, more recently, "one per section.")   But some research actually shows the presence of keywords in an H1 can sometimes even hurt your ranking (because it's a keyword stuffing technique maybe?).    Having some authoritative word on the state of the Google on this would be interesting.   Google basically just recommends using H tags in some kind of natural hierarchy for the page.   This kind of violates their not-very-sincere advise about pretending there are no search engines and just making good content - since H tag placement is really an aesthetic choice - absent SEO.
If there are other Google visual design gotchas, that'd be interesting...

Speed:  Google ranks fast sites higher.  They've said so.  Use of CDNs and quasi CDNs (cloudflare - a kind of a cache/security/dns more than a pure CDN) can help, BUT multi-family is LOCAL.   The best strategy is to use local hosting (with proper asset caching expiration).    A site I have on a cheap local low tech host outperforms another site I have on Cloudflare.  

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