ValPal, subdomains and SEO – it’s time to eliminate the fake news
by Craig Vile, Director of The ValPal Network | 5th September 2018
As The ValPal Network has grown to represent over 4,000 estate agency offices and established itself as the market-leading provider of instant online valuations, more copycat competitors have emerged and some suppliers with vested interests have become detractors.
In a world of misinformation and fake news, it’s time to set the record straight and put right some of the myths that are being circulated.
Most commonly we are becoming aware of agents being told – predominantly by a website developer (which conveniently has its own valuation tool) – that using a subdomain to host a ValPal tool is harmful for an agent’s Google ranking and overall Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
This is fundamentally not true. And before we explain why, here is some context around subdomains and the reasons we use them.
Subdomains and why we use them
A subdomain is formally defined as a domain that is part of a larger domain and is used as an easy way to create a more memorable web address for specific or unique content within a website. For example, many members of The ValPal Network host valuations tools on a subdomain following the format of valuation.'agentname'.co.uk.
This subdomain of your own website – not the ValPal Network's website - allows us to host your valuation tool without you losing any traffic or SEO benefits.
We use subdomains because it allows you to effectively monitor the results of your ValPal tool as well as amend your landing page design quickly and easily via our members' area. It also allows you to experience all the developments of The ValPal Network and any new features we launch automatically with no additional development costs.
We do also offer a ValPal API - which uses one piece of software to make use of the functionality or data of another. This option allows your developers to have more input on the user journey of your valuation tool.
An expert’s view on subdomains and online valuation tools
To provide a technical overview of what really happens when you create a ValPal subdomain, we spoke to Mike Smithson, managing director of The Property Jungle, an affiliate of The ValPal Network which has built over 1,800 unique websites and is the UK's most experienced provider of bespoke and template websites for property professionals.
“To say - as some suppliers have been saying - that using a subdomain attracts a penalty from Google is inaccurate. The truth is that Google does not penalise a site that use subdomains - it can work perfectly well with both. Google's John Mueller explains how and why it all works in this video.”
“It is true to say that there is a small - and I mean tiny - ranking difference between main domain-based content and subdomain-based content, but this is in no way a penalty. Something naturally has to come first and as a consequence something else has to come second.”
“The best way to demonstrate this is to generate some Google search results. If you search 'Lawrence Rand Valuations', you'll see that its main domain-based valuation page ranks top. You can also see that its ValPal subdomain-based instant valuation page ranks second and that further main domain-based pages containing information about valuations rank below it.”
“I can't think of a clearer example of showing how Google has not given a subdomain-based page a penalty and further that it has correctly ranked the ValPal page slightly higher than slightly less relevant, but still topical, main domain-based pages, but slightly less than the main domain-based page explicitly on valuations.”
“There are of course advantages and disadvantages to using subdomains and subfolders. It can be more difficult to differentiate stats and figures for subfolders. Therefore, if you need granularity in your visitor reporting, a subdomain will automatically isolate that traffic.”
“Equally, if everything is hosted in the main domain on one server, then it makes control and maintenance easier as everything is in one place.”
“It really is a matter of choosing what is right for you. There are strengths and weaknesses to whatever route you decide to go down, but there is no penalty given to ValPal content because it is hosted in a subdomain.”
“As we can see, ValPal pages hosted in subdomains are less likely to achieve the top ranking than main domain pages on the same subject, but the difference is negligible and is definitely not attracting any kind of penalty.”
More myths to dispel
Alongside the misinformation around ValPal subdomains and SEO, there are several other myths being circulated which we'd like to address.
The first is that ValPal is 'not trackable' and doesn't allow for integration with the Facebook pixel. We are actually one of the few valuation tools that offers a different URL on the valuation results page, meaning you can easily set up tracking and custom conversions using the Facebook pixel. You can either log in to the dashboard and integrate your Facebook pixel or Google Analytics code yourself or email firstname.lastname@example.org and our team will be on hand to assist.
Some of our top performers including Sam Ashdown and Paul Long who both run Facebook training courses for estate agents are members of The ValPal Network and achieve brilliant results on their ad campaigns.
Secondly, some agents have been told that ValPal 'doesn't integrate'. This couldn't be further from the truth as ValPal fully integrates with Reapit, Jupix, Qube, DezRez, LetMC, Gnomen, Acquaint, Zapier, Drip, MailChimp, Fragra, and many more of the industry's leading providers.
We are aware that being the market leader puts you in a position where competitors want to bring you down. And we are, of course, all up for healthy competition as ultimately this will see agents provided with a better service across the board.
As a Network, we are always trying to improve our offering to agents and help them to generate more leads and ultimately more instructions and that's why it's important to put to bed various pieces of misinformation which have been circulating recently.
If you'd like to speak to a member of our team about any of these issues - or anything to do with The ValPal Network - please don't hesitate to get in touch with us!