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Where Do Real Estate Citations Come From?

While doing some research for a real estate client we’re considering taking on, I noticed an interesting trend in Google Maps I felt was worth sharing, in case others haven’t yet been struck by this.
As we have learned, citations appear to be a major factor in Google 10-pack rankings. If this is new territory for you, let me preface my findings by explaining what a citation is in Google Maps. See illustration below:

example of citation in google maps

Number of web pages referencing a business = number of citations for that business, and research has revealed that citations have a big effect on how well you rank in Google Maps.
While doing this search for real estate agents in Santa Rosa, CA., I was seeing some healthy citation numbers. The company coming up at #2 in my search, Century 21 Alliance, has over 100 web pages referencing them. And, the following illustration will show where the majority of those citations are coming from:
example of santa rosa real estate agent citations

As you can see, it is the individual property listings that are referencing back to the main agency again and again. To my knowledge, building individual web pages for each property an agency is representing is a relatively new trend in the industry. In my corner of the world, I’d say I began noticing these less than 2 years ago. Looks like they may be a smart idea in more ways than one.
Of Interest

  • Some property listings are on unique domains, but others appear to be coming from a third party service with multiple listings
  • I saw expired listings (sold properties) still being cited by Google. I wonder if they ever disappear from the web?
  • While the normal SEO protocol is to keep your content on your own website, here is a good reason to diversify and publish your content (in this case, the properties you represent) on unique, multiple domains
  • How much value do these unique domain listings have? There’s something tugging at the back of my mind right now regarding Google’s past policies regarding circular linking, link farming etc. If Google realizes that all of these citations for a business are being published by that business, could that be a problem? It’s one of those stupid things where real life dictates that it’s just good business to do things one way, but Google’s algo disagrees. I don’t know if this could actually be a problem, but I do know that, historically, buying a bunch of domains in order to point links to a master domain has been viewed as spam. The real estate agents are absolutely not doing this with such an intent, but Google’s algo can be a bit unrealistic from time to time regarding intent.

We haven’t had many real estate clients, and if you have, likely this source of massive citations in Google Maps is already well known to you. If you’ve got some information to share on this subject, I’d love to hear from you!