2 in 5 independents ‘living in the dark ages’

Many offices could start losing business from tomorrow because they’re unprepared for a major change Google is making to its rankings.

Google has announced that it will change its rankings algorithm from 21 April to give greater weight to mobile-friendly websites.

Real Estate Business conducted a mobile-friendliness test of 100 random agency websites and found that 65 per cent were mobile-friendly and 35 per cent were not.

Of the 20 franchise websites tested, 80 per cent were mobile-friendly and 20 per cent weren’t.

Of the 80 independent websites tested, 61 per cent were mobile-friendly and 39 per cent weren’t.

The results were a shock to Douglas Driscoll, chief executive of Starr Partners, which was named Best Innovator at last year’s Real Estate Business Awards.

“How on earth, in this day and age, can you not have a mobile-friendly website? If you haven’t, you’re living in the dark ages,” Mr Driscoll said.

He said half of the approximately 30,000 people who visit the Starr Partners website each month are using mobile browsers.

Starr Partners has a mobile-friendly website so won’t be affected by tomorrow’s algorithm change – but if it didn’t, all those mobile browsers would struggle to find the agency because it would be pushed down the Google rankings.

Agencies can get a mobile-optimised, off-the-shelf site for about $5,000 or a customised version like the Starr Partners site for about $20,000, according to Mr Driscoll.

Mr Driscoll said having a mobile-friendly website isn’t needed just to keeping Google happy – it’s also essential to stop potential buyers and sellers closing an agency’s website in frustration when they find it hasn’t been designed to function on their mobile devices.

“If you think $5,000 is a lot of money, think about all the lost business and what that’s going to cost you,” he said.

Rex Software managing director Anton Babkov said agencies should realise that Google’s change is not an arbitrary decision but a response to a growing trend.

Mr Babkov said the share of mobile browsers is only going to increase, with most people already using mobile devices to view real estate EDMs and social media marketing.

That’s why agencies would benefit from investing in a website that isn’t just mobile-friendly but also ‘responsive’, or able to be consistently viewed across a variety of devices, Mr Babkov said.

“Web is such an important space, yet some of the agencies we speak to seem to have a low appreciation for the fact that their digital presence is the first point of contact that virtually every customer is going to have with their brand,” he said.

“It’s as important at least as the dollars that they spend on their physical premises or any physical marketing they carry out to get listings in their local area.”

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