Dominating Google to stand out from your competitors

16th June 2020

Google is a powerful source of information, and with one of the top searched trends being “best real estate agent near me”, it is a tool agents need to know how to leverage if they want to win clients and listings. In this episode of Digital You, powered by LJ Hooker, host Steve Carroll questions how to get the most out of Google with digital marketing expert Valentina Borbone. She reveals the power Google has on influencing a person’s opinion about an agent before they meet, and highlights why Google reviews and recommendations should not be overlooked. Valentina also explores how to get your website at the top of a Google search and what you need to do to ensure Google’s algorithm does not overlook your profile.


Steve (00:01):
So, here’s a big question for you. If you need to look something up, I mean anything, where do you turn to? Now, the answer is not the yellow pages. I bet the answer to that question is Google. Here’s another question. When the list of search results show up after you’ve asked that question, what do you click on first? What grabs your attention? My guess, it’ll be the first link on the list. Am I right?

Steve (00:35):
So, how do you and your business dominate Google? Well, last year one of the biggest trends in the digital landscape, according to Google, was the search for best real estate agent living near me. So, to find out how you capitalize on this, to find out how you dominate digital, dominate Google, I’ve got with me today Valentina Borbone, who is one of the best social media coaches in Australia. She’s the CEO of the Banter Group. She’s the person that I turn to when I need some help around Google.

Steve (01:10):
My name is Steve Carroll. Some of you might know me from my days at I’m now the founder of Digital Live, which is an education program for real estate agents. Valentina, hello to you. So, how do I maximize Google, because by the looks of things, it’s absolutely essential.

Valentina (01:31):
It is absolutely essential and it’s probably the number one go-to that I would talk about when I talk about digital strategy. So, the first thing you should keep in mind before we say the magic word, SEO, search engine optimization, is algorithm. So, Google, again, works off an algorithm just like social platforms and SEO, or search engine optimization, simply means what can I do to optimize content so that search engines can find me and index my content? So, we’ll refer to Google, but this is encompassing Bing and any other search platform that you might use.

Valentina (02:05):
So, when you want to win at the game of SEO, you have to understand how does Google look at content, how does it index it, how does it compete against all your competitors and what people find when they search. So, if we talk about consumer behavior, which really is what are the steps that I take when I need to do a task or complete a task. So, yes, I do start with Google and I use Google to navigate to where I already know I want to go compared to trying to discover where I want to go. But Google is essentially the search result for something that I already know about. You don’t just go to Google and say, “Hey, entertain me. I’m bored.” You need to know what you’re searching for.

Valentina (02:44):
So, search engine optimization, or SEO, essentially comes to about 10 to 15 different factors that Google looks for. So, one of those things is recency. If you’ve had a website and it hasn’t been updated in five years, Google goes bah-bow. Not very recent. There’s got to be someone else that’s more recent than this. And it says, with your content, do you have the same content as everybody else? Because if you’ve got duplicate content, which… A lot of real estate agents buy, let’s say, a blog from a provider and that blog is the same blog that’s been shared by 10 other people. Well, Google can’t decide who’s got the most original content when it’s duplicates, so it looks at date. So, recency. And then it goes bah-bow. You’ve got duplicate content, so you get kicked down in the algorithm, too.

Valentina (03:27):
It then also looks at reviews and rankings. So, the more reviews you’ve generated and have potentially a Google My Business listing, which is the equivalent of a Facebook page for Google… Again, all these things start to add up. So, one of the key parts of SEO and where a lot of people get this wrong is the back end of a website. So, that’s how websites actually built. Now, you might have heard of things like H1 tags or H1 headings, H2 headings. They’re headings that are put into the way a website’s built and that’s what Google reads to say what is this page about, because Google ranks pages, not domain names. And if it’s a match to the content people are sharing, then I’ll show you that. But if you don’t have an H1 heading, Google doesn’t know what it is. So, if your page never actually says Mossman Real Estate Agency, Google doesn’t know that that’s what you are and it’s not going to rank you. So, there’s one of the first things, H1 and H2 headings.

Valentina (04:20):
Next is something called a meta description and they are the first two, three lines that appear underneath a Google search. So, it’ll say, LJ Hooker, Mossman, for example, and it’ll say, “This agency has been around for blah blah blah amount of years.” Now, you define what that description is. If you don’t write that into the way your website’s built, Google will take the first line out of your web page. Now, that might be something like, “Your number one agent.” Agent for what? Agent for where? Agent in what industry? It doesn’t tell Google that, so, again, it can’t index you. So, there’s some certain things that happen in the way a website’s built in the first place that will help SEO and then the rest of it becomes content, and that includes things like links.

Steve (05:05):
Okay. So, let me just stop you there, Valentina. So, I’m a listener of this podcast. I’m a principal and I have no idea whether or not, at the back end of my website, that I’m doing the right things to excite the Google algorithm to reward me accordingly. Is there a way that I can see if I’m at 10 out of 10 or if I’m a lousy one out of 10?


Valentina (05:29):
Absolutely, you can. So, firstly, the score is out of 100.

Steve (05:32):

Valentina (05:33):
And anything over 80 percent is doing relatively well. So, there is a free tool that I’m going to give you right here and now. Write this down. It’s It’s a free domain where you put in your domain. So, and it’ll give you a score out of 100 and it’ll also tell you what’s broken. Now, that’s the wonderful part. It’s a free report and it will tell you where you’re falling down with a big red cross. It uses the traffic light system. Green ticks, yellow is for warnings and red for it’s broken, fix it. Now, you should be able to take that straight to your developer and say, “Fix what is broken in this report. End of story.” Now, 24 hours later, after they’ve fixed it, re-run the report and you should be watching your score increase.

Valentina (06:23):
Now, there are a number of these tools that are for free. That’s just one of them. So, if you have come across another SEO checkup tools or free tools with free reports, definitely run one, and I would run them with frequency because pages can break. Broken links can happen, 404 error pages can occur, which means that things have just dropped off from a website, and you need to stay on top of them.

Steve (06:44):
Wow. So, what you’re saying, Valentina, here, is minimum score of 80 out of 100 or there’s some work to be done. And the piece of advice that you’re giving listeners of this podcast is this: Make sure the back end of your website is coded correctly to enable the search engine to optimize you, to give you the best chance of getting up that list.

Valentina (07:09):
Best chance of getting up there. So, the next thing that you should be doing, outside of just running that report, is driving reviews and recommendations. So, we understand that LJ Hooker’s using the Cube platform, and there are other platforms. You might have heard of Trustpilot, for example, which is more consumer-driven. And what you do need is to be asking your customers, hopefully happy customers, for reviews and recommendations straight to your Google page. Now, doing it through a platform means that you can publish in several places, because the last thing you want to do is ask your customer to post on Facebook and then post on Google and, “Oh, can you [inaudible 00:07:42] my agent, oh, and now can you do this?” So, if you can get on just one platform which populates across all of them, that’s much better way of doing it.

Valentina (07:49):
Now, the Australian psyche is that we are usually happy and we are happy to share positive reviews, but you have to ask. We don’t naturally do these [inaudible 00:07:59] go, “You know what? I feel like a good person today. I think I might just write five or six reviews.” We don’t do that. If someone asks for one, they will go ahead and write that. So, when someone does post a review, respond. Most people, whenever they write even a negative review, simply want to be heard. They just want to know that they’ve been acknowledged. So, if it’s positive, “Thank you so much. That’s awesome. I’m really glad that we were able to help you in this way.” And personalize it. If they’ve used their name, “Hi, Sarah. Thanks for that review. I’ll pass it on to Megan.” Use people’s names. That’s really helpful. And if it is negative, I’d simply say… Firstly, address it to say, “I’m really…” I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m sorry. Sorry is an admission. So, “Thank you for your feedback” is usually a very positive response and also being able to say, “I’d like to resolve this with you, if it hasn’t been, through a direct message.” So, trying to get the conversation off the review platform, but don’t delete the review, okay?

Valentina (08:54):
So, one thing that we feel in the Australian public, we only need between four and six positive reviews to have positive sentiment. So, if I’m going to a restaurant or looking for a real estate agent, as long as there’s four to six positive reviews, I’ll have a positive sentiment towards it. Equally, I only need to read four to six negative reviews to have a negative sentiment. So, you don’t need to have 250 glowing reviews for people to believe it’s going to be glowing, but it does need to be recent.

Valentina (09:20):
So, again, in property, if I have seen that a review hasn’t been posted in six to eight months or more, I’m wondering if that agent is still there and I’m wondering if the agency is still actively engaged in the marketing of their business. So, what you do want to be asking is for reviews on a frequent basis. So, I would say try and get at least one positive review every six to eight weeks to show that you’re active, and they’re just flowing through with consistency.

Steve (09:45):
Yeah, absolutely. So, my name’s Steve Carroll. I’m here with Valentina Borbone. We’re talking all things Google from LJ Hooker’s recording studio in Sydney. Now, I know the team at LJ are really keen on driving reviews and recommendations through their network. Val, why is this so important? Why is it important to have up-to-date reviews, up-to-date recommendations? What advice can you give us on that?

Valentina (10:15):
Well, two things have happened, and the first is that digital has made it really easy to get quick answers. But secondly, we trust the consumer public more than we do any form of advertising. So, your website can be awesome, because it should be. No one is going to put up a really crap social post and say, “Wow, that’s a really terrible interaction that I’ve had.” So, what we’re looking for is true and authentic reviews and recommendations from common people because they also provide context to an experience. So, the digital age has done this for us. We’ve actually gone from seeing a piece of marketing and going and buying a product or service, to seeing a piece of marketing or stimulus and then actually done all our own research. We call our friends. We ask them, “Has anyone had an experience with this person, this business, this product? Could anyone make that recommendation?” This is no different to booking a holiday to Fiji and saying, “Hey, I’ve got a group of six kids and four adults and we want a kids’ club. Anyone make a recommendation for a resort?” I could do that on Google, but I’m going to shortlist my way there by taking trusted remarks from other people.

Valentina (11:19):
So, we’re doing exactly the same thing in property, and in a very flooded market of agents, I want to cut through that noise really, really quickly. And sometimes it’s not just who is going to get me the best value if I’m the vendor. That’s not always what people look for. Sometimes it’s actually I want someone that I can trust that has my best interest in heart, and money might not always be that vendor’s best interest. And I’ve been that person, so I can see why people want to know what a genuine interaction would look like in the property market.

Steve (11:48):
Yeah, absolutely. Now, we both share one thing in common, Val. We both have kids, and have you noticed your children starting to do homework where they’re asking questions or they’re having a conversation with either Alexa or Google. “Hey Google, can you tell me this?” Or, “Hey Alexa, can you tell me that?” And one of the things that we know is that more and more millennials are now entering the workforce and now getting full-time employment. Now, what that means to the real estate industry is more computer literate, digitally-savvy buyers and sellers are now out there in the market. And voice technology is something that real estate agents really need to get their head round.

Steve (12:37):
So, Val, can you explain? What’s the connection with reviews and asking Google this question: “Who is the best real estate agent in the western suburb of Brisbane?”

Valentina (12:49):
Absolutely. So, this is where your content comes into play, and also having your own listing environment within places that Google will search for. So, that’s reviews and recommendations. So, when someone does say, “What is the best real estate agent in the western suburbs?”, Google search and voice is going to be looking for articles that might be talking about those top 10. It’s going to be looking at star ratings that are coming through from Google reviews as well, before it actually speaks out just one option. So, that’s the biggest difference between voice search and Google search on a desktop or on a mobile phone, is that voice is only going to read the number one option out, not give you 10 to pick from or page 55 to pick from. So, you need to have that cut through. You need the reviews to be coming up with a four-star rating, and Google’s only going to show four-star and over ratings as part of their listing result.

Steve (13:40):
Excellent. Okay. I fully understand that. So, I’m here in the LJ Hooker recording studio in Sydney. My name is Steve Carroll and I’m with Valentina Borbone and we’re talking about Google. And Valentina, I want to ask you this question. Google My Business, or some people call it GMB. What’s all that about, Val, and is it important?

Valentina (14:03):
Yeah, a million percent. So, a Google My Business listing, or a GMB, is a free profile from Google, which is competing now with Facebook. So, you can put up, firstly, either map reference. So, just to make sure that you’re clear about what a GMB looks like, when you’re going to search in a Google browser, on the right-hand side… So, on the left-hand side, you’ve got listings that come up, the normal index, and on the right-hand side you will usually see a large box with a map that says directions, website, call, and within that all have posts as well for the individual business.

Valentina (14:34):
So, that listing is free to have. You just have to claim your Google My Business listing and then you have to update it, so this is where your opening hours come in. And what it’s doing, essentially, is Google giving a searcher the answer to their query without having to go to a website to get any of that information. So, that’s the wonderful part about a Google My Business listing, and it is free so you can also put your posts in there, like your social posts, and that’s going to be competing with Facebook.

Valentina (14:59):
So, the more Google can give you the answer to your query as quickly as possible without having to go anywhere, the more you’re going to use Google. Funny that, because that is the competitor to Facebook and Instagram. So, they want you to be doing this. They are going to be promoting and putting in new features into Google My Business listing all the time, and actually having that connected, for example, to your website, is another one of those SEO ticks for Google that says, “Aha. It’s got my GMB listing connected. It’s got my social links connected. That’s another tick to SEO as a whole.”

Steve (15:34):
Yeah. Excellent. So, Valentina, I spoke at AREC three years ago about the digital interview, where people were Googling real estate agents as part of their research, in most cases before they physically met them. They had already formed an opinion as to whether or not the agent was going to be the right fit or not for them. So, Valentina, your three golden tips to make sure that when potential sellers or buyers Google an agent in the capacity of wanting to call them in, what are the things that agents should do to make sure that their profile has a real five-star appearance?

Valentina (16:15):
So, I’d say, in terms of those three things… Really interesting in the way you’ve said it, as a digital interview, is to look at the way the consumers behave. So, if they’re going to do their research, if they’re going to Google search you, what do they find? And if you’re not on page one, you won’t be considered. Our consumer behavior is not to go to page two or three unless we’re desperate. We’re not that desperate to find a real estate agent to have to go searching for them. Page one is it or really, you’re not going to get considered. So, when people search “where are you,” that’s the first thing I’d be looking at as your number one.

Valentina (16:50):
Fixing your SEO from whatever you find within that report. Ongoing content. And it’s, by far, an educational space as well. It’s giving people the belief as to why they should speak or contact you. So, that digital interview that you just talked about, we’re doing 70 percent of our own research before we pick up the phone, so at the moment we have picked up the phone, you’re a pretty warm lead, to be perfectly honest. In real estate, your job’s just to close the deal because we’ve done our research up to the point that we will find you. We don’t want to be on people’s databases for the fun of it, so if the phone has rung and it’s got your name on it, your job’s to close that deal.

Valentina (17:26):
So, from a digital perspective, you’ve got to look at who am I, what do people see and what’s the perception of me? So, you may hear as well in the digital space, your digital profile is only as good as the words that people use when you’re not in the room. So, again, if people are looking for you and they can’t find your digitally, they’ve moved on. They’re going to go somewhere else. Your job in that space is to make sure that when you are found that the content is good, it’s up to date and that you’re personable.

Steve (17:53):
Yeah. Excellent. And one final thing, Valentina, before we finish this great talk on Google. The importance of making sure your profile on portals like and domain are updated, because you were telling me that this is a great way to get picked up and pushed up the ranking. So, why should a real estate professional or principal make sure all the profiles are up to date on these portals? Why is it so key?

Valentina (18:22):
So, recency is what Google is looking for because they want to deliver to a search person the most accurate answer to the question as quickly as possible. So, they’re going to do that based on recency first, because if it was just two weeks ago that you’ve made an update to one of those profiles, Google goes, “They’re active. They’re right there.” Versus someone who did that two or three years ago and went, “Yeah, job done.” It’s not job done. Digital is never job done. It’s a consistent update. It’s as much so that every two years, I have professional photography taken of me so that I look like me today, not me when I was 35 or when I was in high school, because that’s what a lot of people still do. They’re hanging on to disillusion. Let’s just be frank. But it also makes it really hard when I meet someone to go, “Well, hang on. That’s not what you look like at all.” And then instantly, I feel deceived.

Valentina (19:10):
So, for me, even my professional photography is worth every cent of saying, “This is me. This is who I am today.” And I might be a little bit fatter and I might be a little bit older, but I know that this is who I am genuinely, so recency is definitely what Google is looking for.

Steve (19:24):
That’s excellent, Valentina. Thank you so much for your time.

Valentina (19:28):
You’re very welcome.

Digital You is brought to you by LJ Hooker.

How do you connect best with consumers where they are most, on their devices? And how can you use the social media platforms they're on to build your profile, fill your pipeline and win more listings? Digital You is a six-episode podcast hosted by Australia's most respected digital real estate expert, Steve Carroll.

From to founder of Digital Live, Steve’s understanding of the digital real estate landscape is second to none. Join Steve as he discusses with a special guest each episode a social media channel and how it can ultimately win you more business.

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