Did Google Slap Trulia’s Hand? Trulia Search Rankings Drop!

While on a client call yesterday, I was conducting a review of their search positions and their competitive landscape. When I pulled up their search results I noticed a major player that was notably missing – Trulia. I looked back at my ranking logs and verified that Trulia had consistently ranked at the top for this search term. After the call, I decided to test a few more keywords. Every search that I tried yielded the same result – Trulia missing from Google’s search results.

Here are a few:
Raleigh real estate – Google rank (not in top 200) – Yahoo rank #4
Houston real estate – Google rank (not in top 200) – Yahoo rank #4
Dallas real estate – Google rank (not in top 200) – Yahoo rank #5
Ann Arbor Real Estate – Google rank 159 – Yahoo rank #2

Of course Google ranking and Yahoo ranking can vary, but these dramatic differences in ranking leads me to think that Google may have placed a penalty on Trulia.

Clients Started Asking

Earlier today I received emails from Kevin Tomlinson of Miami Beach and a few other clients asking what happened to Trulia. I explained that Trulia hasn’t always been spotless when it came to their SEO strategy.

Trulia’s SEO Tactics

Some of you guys may remember Trulia was caught back in June for cloaking pages. This is obviously against Google’s TOS but I wouldn’t think that something that happened last summer would just now result in a penalty.

Trulia’s PR Problem

The cloaking incident wasn’t the only issue that turned out to be a PR problem (Public Relations not PageRank). Last March Trulia made the call to nofollow links to real estate agent listing pages. Granted they still follow links within an Agent’s profile. But this did cause an uproar in RE.net. In May, they were also accused of Hidden Text, although to be fair, it was simply a usability issue and not an attempt to trick the search engines.

Has Trulia finally pushed the SEO envelop too far for Google? If so, this could be a huge opportunity for Agents and Brokers to regain their positioning in the search results.

A Glitch in The Matrix

I messaged @trulia on Twitter to get his thoughts. He simply said Glitch in Matrix? We’re looking into it… I’m curious to see if this is truly just a “glitch” and how much information they will disclose.

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Update: Eric Baramlett looked into this a little more. It turns out that Truia had a WordPress on a subdomain that was hacked. You can read the full story here

24 thoughts on “Did Google Slap Trulia’s Hand? Trulia Search Rankings Drop!

  1. Saw something about this yesterday but Trulia was still in the top 10 for one of my keywords. Just checked again- not showing up in top 200. I definitely think there are changes in how the search engines are looking at/indexing listings, hard to know if it’s a penalty or just normal search engine changes.

  2. Just used Raven SEO Tools API tie in to SEMRush to check Trulia rankings and it came back with 975 keywords ranking on page one of Google and another 25 keywords on page two of Google.

    I blindly checked some of the terms I felt were probably super competitive and show that Trulia is still ranking for these terms. Here is a short list of keywords Trulia is still ranking for at this time:

    Orlando real estate
    Los Angeles Real Estate
    New York real estate
    Miami real estate
    Brooklyn real estate

    Now on the flip side, it is very obvious that they have indeed lost rankings for some other major keywords such as San Diego real estate which they were #1 for last I checked which was just two days ago.

    Hopefully they will get this fixed soon!

  3. I am sure they are emailing Google right now, but knowing Google they will not reply to their emails and they will be wondering what they did wrong and will start making large changes to their site.

    My guess is that Google might have discounted their widget bait since they do not clearly tell people that their widgets will contain a link. Matt Cutts has talked about Google cracking down on this if disclosure is hidden deep within the terms of use.

  4. Trulia has been packing in the keywords as of late. They still use the keyword “homes” for sfr’s, but they have been double tagging “condos” as “houses” in an effort to take over the “houses” keyword. It was obnoxious and is misleading to say the least; a condo is not a house. It would not surprise me if Googles human editors busted them for this or anything else.

  5. Hi Brad!

    A couple of updates. The Hindsight blog was hacked. We took it down and all is ok on that front – http://www.hindsight.trulia.com. Good news is it did not affect trulia.com. In a totally separate instance, some of our Search Results Pages are not indexing as they previously were. We’re still looking into it but have submitted an inquiry via Google Webmaster tools. Nothing suggests that it’s a penalty so we’re waiting to hear back from Google.

    I’ll keep you updated.

    Rudy
    Social Media Guru at Trulia

  6. One of the risks webmasters run when they venture to the dark side *of Google TOS* is they can only guess at what specifically they were penalized for. Given what I’ve read about this particular TLD, they’ve got any number of items that may have led to their being Google slapped.

  7. Brad wrote: “this could be a huge opportunity for Agents and Brokers to regain their positioning in the search results.”

    Exactly. Ssshhh…don’t tell Trulia how to fix it.

    Sorry Rudy but I think most agents would rather rank higher than your company…so we can generate our own online consumers and help them buy and sell real estate.

  8. I think it might be an issue of their tagging and the way they stack keywords so aggressively. It’s no secret they’ve tried everything possible to completely take over SERPS and box out the brokers and agents so they become a necessary partner.

    I’m glad to hear that Google is evaluating these tactics. Whatever is the cause- some brokers may be able to take advantage of their new rankings…

  9. Hi Brad!

    Most of our search results pages are back. Over the weekend we noticed the de-indexed pages start to get re-indexed. No changes were made on our end so it really looks like it was a technical issue and not a penalty.

    Thanks,

    Rudy
    Social Media Guru at Trulia

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