Realtors’ uphill search engine battle
Real estate technology company, RealGeeks is asserting in a three part series that large real estate search companies are ranking at the top of all search engine result pages (SERPs), last week releasing a graphic outlining why individual real estate agents rarely rank highly in search engine results, empowered by small changes in Google’s algorithm in recent years. Search engine optimization (SEO) and social media efforts have increased on the part of real estate professionals (Realtors, real estate agents, and brokers alike) as they slip in the rankings, despite their efforts to appease the search engine deities.
Today, the company says that real estate professionals are actually helping Zillow and Trulia to outrank them. “Usually, it’s a matter of other sites simply doing something better than you,” RealGeeks writes on their blog. “Maybe they’ve built more backlinks. Maybe they’re better at marketing. That’s the nature of any business—fair competition. But what if you were unknowingly helping another site to outrank you?”
They outline a “scheme” on the part of Zillow and Trulia, who offer a “widget” offering anything from mortgage calculators, maps, photo slideshows, home value estimators, or even a contact form, driving traffic from independent real estates to the widget’s originator, helping them to rank more highly in the search engines.
Analyzing one such Zillow widget
RealGeeks shows an example of a Zillow home value widget wherein the last line of code has “three areas of concern.” The backlink, inclusion of the city, and the microformat data markup are all said to be a real estate professional’s inadvertent aiding of Zillow’s rankings in search engines to ultimately outrank their own.
First, RealGeeks points to the backlink to Zillow. “Well, you think, that’s only right considering they’re providing me with this free widget. One little link won’t hurt anything. But there’s something you must understand. A link coming into a site—more commonly called a backlink—gives that site a boost in authority and rank. The more backlinks a site has, the better it looks to Google and the other search engines. Every backlink is a boost to Zillow’s rank, and an anchor on independent agents’ sites competing to be found.”
Second, they say inclusion of the city is concerning, as “Zillow is basically horning in on your local search action.” The anchor text is optimized to target people searching “homes for sale in [city]” online, which is how the widget contributes to a real estate professionals’ being outranked locally so that Zillow pops up when someone searches that term, rather than the local agent.
Third, the company looks at the microformat data markup, noting that the widget is telling Google that there is more information available than just text (see “span” in the code), like a map or something visual, which Google has an affinity for microformats because it implies interactivity and additional information, “drowning out your small, text-only link.”
Just alter the code, right?
Further, you agree to allow Zillow to change the content returned by the widget, so at some point in the future, they may not get the information they’re looking for, says RealGeeks, adding that Trulia offers widgets with terms users must agree to as well, also helping Trulia to outrank agents in search engines.
So how do individual real estate professionals fight back?
“The first and best action you can take is to immediately and completely remove any Zillow and Trulia widgets from your independent real estate website,” RealGeeks advises, offering that custom widgets can be created, or there are free widgets that are not as concerning.
RealGeeks calls these widgets “predatory linking practices” on the part of Zillow and Trulia, but as they opine in the beginning, it is a fair business tactic as they offer a free service to real estate professionals via useful widgets, but through extensive explanation, imply that real estate professionals are unaware of the consequences of using these widgets.
San Diego broker Roberta Murphy asks if the battle between independents and “ZTR” (Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com) is a matter of real estate professionals’ own lack of foresight.
The linking practices have been in place for years, and Zillow and Trulia have been offering free tools for real estate professionals since their inception, which is quite a brilliant business move, and although it has led to thousands upon thousands of links from agent websites telling Google that Zillow and Trulia are high quality and relevant, it is not exactly the fault of Zillow or Trulia, rather agents who like shiny widgets that don’t read or understand the implications of terms of service they agree to.
Malicious? Not really. Taking advantage of ignorance? Sure. Smart business for Zillow an Trulia? Absolutely.
Graphic outlining RealGeeks’ assertions:
TINA.org is helping the FTC crack down on Kardashian-esque influencers
(MARKETING NEWS) The Kardashians are just five of the seemingly endless amounts of influencers companies are using for marketing but TINA.org is over their tactics.
A brand could find no better influencers than the Kardashians – the family who proved that you can get famous just for, well, being famous. Each Kardashian sister has an astronomical number of followers, making them obvious trendsetters.
That’s why brands pay the Kardashian sisters – Kourtney, Kim, Khloé, Kendall, and Kylie — tens of thousands of dollars a pop to post pictures of themselves on social media using their products.
Perhaps you find it hard to believe that the Kardashians stop by Popeye’s Chicken to grab a to-go meal before boarding their private jet. Regardless, the Kardashians, and the brands who pay them to pump their products, would prefer that you believe that these endorsements reflect the Kardashian’s actual preferences, rather than the paychecks they receive for posting them.
The Kardashians have been attempting to make their endorsements seem more “authentic” by totally disregarding Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rules that require influencers to disclose when their posts are paid endorsements.
In August of 2016, Truth in Advertising (TINA.org) filed a complaint about the Kardashians to the FTC, saying that the (in)famous sisters had “failed to clearly and conspicuously disclose material connections to brands or the fact that the posts were paid ads, as required by federal law.”
After receiving a finger-wagging from the FTC, the Kardashian sisters corrected less than half of the posts, generally by adding #ad to the post. The remaining posts, according to a recent TINA.org follow-up investigation, either have not been edited at all, or contain “insufficient disclosures.”
For example, some posts now read #sp to indicated “sponsored” – as if anyone knows that reference. In another tactic that also got Warner Brothers and YouTube influencer PewDiePie in trouble with the FTC, the Kardashians are posting their disclosure information at the bottom of a long post so that users will only see it if they click “see more.”
The Kardashians have also been posting disclosures, but only days after the original post. Considering that the vast majority of viewers comment on or like posts within the first ten hours after it’s published, most of them will never see the disclosure when it’s tacked on days later.
Some of the “repeat offender” brands, who came up both in last year’s complaint and in the recent review, include Puma, Manuka Doctor, Jet Lux, Fit Tea, and Sugar Bear Hair. This time around, the Kardashians have also failed to disclose sponsorship on posts promoting Adidas, Lyft, Diff Eyewear, and Alexander Wang.
TINA.org found over 200 posts on Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat where products are promoted without the Kardashians letting on that their raking in big bucks in exchange. The organization has notified the Kardashians, the brands they represent, and the FTC.
The FTC has recently been cracking down on deceptive influencer marketing, targeting not only the brands, but the influencers themselves.
In April, the FTC sent letters to 46 social media stars reminding them of their legal obligations to disclose, and followed up with 21 letters in September warning the influencers that they had until the end of the month to disclose sponsorships, or face legal consequences.
“The Kardashian/Jenner sisters are masterful marketers who are making millions of dollars from companies willing to turn a blind eye to the women’s misleading and deceptive social media marketing practices,” says TINA.org’s Executive Director Bonnie Patten. “It’s time the Kardashians were held accountable for their misdeeds.”
Dove dropped the olive branch with new ad campaign
(MARKETING NEWS) With any ad campaign there will be misses but take a note from Dove’s playbook and learn how to not repeat mistakes.
Dove’s latest Facebook ad really hit the mark for whitewashing in advertising. The ad, since removed, essentially implied their soap could turn a black woman into a clean white woman.
In a three-second video on the company’s Facebook page, three women transformed into the next when they removed their shirts. The first transition caused an uproar: a woman of color lifting a brown top over her head to reveal a different woman, who is very, very white.
Although the white woman then lifts her shirt to reveal another woman with darker hair and a darker skin tone, the initial transformation is problematic in its implications of whiteness as cleanliness.
Dove has since removed the ad and issued an apology, stating in a tweet “In an image we posted this week, we missed the mark in thoughtfully representing women of color and we deeply regret the offense that it has caused. The feedback that has been shared is important to us and we’ll use it to guide us in the future.”
Wait, haven’t we been here before? At this point you’d think skin care companies would have realized a little more delicacy is required when rolling out ad campaigns. Remember Nivea’s disastrous, short-lived “White is Purity” mishap? How about Dove’s other blunder in their 2011 VisibleCare ad?
These featured another series of three women standing in front of close-ups of skin, with the darker skinned woman in front of the “before” label, and the woman with the lightest skin by the “after” picture. Although Dove didn’t intend to imply white skin is cleaner, oops, that’s what happened anyways.
While Dove has gotten many things right in terms of inclusivity and featuring models of different racial and ethnic backgrounds, there have also been several instances of intentional racist missteps. Let’s use this as a teachable moment for handling marketing mishaps.
Whenever an ad campaign offends people, the company’s response can make or break the business. If you find yourself in the midst of a marketing crisis, you can take some mindful steps to manage the situation and begin repairing your public image.
First, acknowledge the problem and issue a genuine apology that gets to the core of what your audience is saying. Dove recognized they upset people, and instead of taking a defensive “sorry you felt offended” stance, took responsibility for their actions. Once an apology is issued, explain the original intent to provide context for the situation.
Dove meant to create an inclusive campaign featuring a diverse cast of women. Lola Ogunyemi, the first model featured in the now controversial shirt ad, has even defended the ad. She stated, “I can see how the snapshots that are circulating the web have been misinterpreted, considering the fact that Dove has faced a backlash in the past for the exact same issue. There is a lack of trust here, and I feel the public was justified in their initial outrage.”
Aori helps you pack a punch with AdWords
(BUSINESS MARKETING) Aori is the newest tool designed to help anyone using AdWords to kick more butt.
Search ad campaign managers constantly wrestle with the best way to organize their keywords into campaigns. Most of these decisions strive to balance the time needed to manage the campaign with efficiency of campaign expenditures.
Take the SKAGs strategy, for example. The SKAGs (Single Keyword Ad Group) system is setup to trigger a unique ad for every single keyword by placing each keyword in its own group.
There’s lots of literature touting the benefits of the SKAG system. Generally, the hyper-specific match between ads and keywords improves click-through rates.
This leads to higher quality scores, which leads to lower costs for click, which leads to lower costs per conversion. The tradeoff with this system is the setup. You could be looking at hundreds of keyword groups to set up and maintain, and that’s a lot of work for a small business or startup.
This is where Aori comes in.
Their system helps to automate the process of setting up a SKAG system for your AdWords campaigns.
According to the website, the tool’s primary function is to automate keyword generation. Users enter a set of “root keywords” and common keyword extensions, and Aori will automatically generate all possible combinations of those keywords for your campaigns.
Additionally, through Aori, users can create ad templates using a “dynamic keyword insertion tool,” to enable you to utilize the strongest ad copy across multiple phrases.
In what is the least clear value point of the whole pitch, Aori also uses what they call a “unique bid-optimization algorithm.”
There is almost no detail to be found on how the algorithm works. If the tool handles all bid management for you, this could be a handy tool for PPC novices who are less familiar with the process and lack the time to learn it.
Aori appears to run cheaper than the others we know of, but that may be due to the level of automation available. For example, Aori requires the user to feed it keyword inputs, both root and extension words.
It’s also important to understand where a SKAG system can and can’t work. It is likely a better system for smaller campaigns where ad testing wouldn’t yield statistically meaningful results.
Because every keyword group targets one phrase, you can’t readily say that improvements in ad copy will translate to other campaigns.
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