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RealGeeks says Realtors help Zillow, Trulia outrank them

As real estate professionals struggle to determine where fault lies in their losing search engine authority, RealGeeks outlines how agents have been helping Zillow and Trulia in search engines all along.

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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.

zillow widget

widget code

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?

RealGeeks notes that by altering any of the code associated with the widget to help your own rankings violates the Terms of Use agreed to upon copying the code. “Essentially, by using this widget and accepting these terms of service, you are agreeing to boost Zillow in the SERPs.”

zillow terms of use

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:

realtors zillow trulia

The American Genius is news, insights, tools, and inspiration for business owners and professionals. AG condenses information on technology, business, social media, startups, economics and more, so you don’t have to.

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82 Comments

82 Comments

  1. hempler

    December 17, 2012 at 10:31 am

    In other words…create your own stuff

    • drewmeyers

      December 17, 2012 at 8:27 pm

      @hempler Yea, well said. If agents/brokers don’t want to put in the effort to create their own stuff — then they need to live with the trade-offs of using other people’s stuff.

      • bdmanson

        December 17, 2012 at 9:01 pm

        @drewmeyers  @hempler  Hey Drew, I heard… Jay Thompson As a Zillow employee said… Quote” So I’m all for educating people and letting them decide what to do.” about this topic..
         
        So when is Zillow going to start educating agents about how they are helping them Zillow Out Rank Them i the SERPs when agents use their widgets and use their $10 sites?
        If they need help organizing that… I would love to help educate them as well…

        • drewmeyers

          December 17, 2012 at 9:51 pm

          @bdmanson  @hempler I’m not against educating agents – far from it. That’s what I did for a big chunk of my job there.

      • bobwilson

        December 17, 2012 at 9:15 pm

        @drewmeyers  @hempler Thats funny Drew! Zillow’s existence is based on leeching off of other people’s “stuff” without paying for it.

        • drewmeyers

          December 17, 2012 at 9:49 pm

          @bobwilson  @hempler clearly you don’t know what is required to put zestimates on 100 million (or whatever the current number is) properties. I happen to know what it cost to get the property data it took to do the first 42 (?) million at launch in 2006. I (and Zillow) is under NDA not to disclose those figures……but it was certainly NOT even remotely close to free.

        • bobwilson

          December 17, 2012 at 10:36 pm

          Having seen the results, I would suggest that they over paid by a few bucks. But the Zestimate parlor game aside, without industry listings, Zillow is nothing. 
           
          Of course Trulia started off a bit more nefarious by scraping  listings from IDX sites.

        • Tommy Holmes

          April 16, 2018 at 8:06 pm

          I feel like the same thing is happening in the lawyer space with avvo findlaw and justia getting posted to constantly by other attorneys. Some lawyers spend hours a month answering questions on avvo legal forums, uploading youtube videos to their avvo profile and then even backlinking to the avvo profile from their website. If every attorney in the country backlinks to avvo, of course they are going to outrank lawyers. Same thing happening in real estate I guess.

  2. Michelle Silverman

    December 17, 2012 at 10:31 am

    What free widgets would you recommend to add to one’s website for a customer to use as a Home Value indicator? I’ve been looking for one but haven’t been able to find? I have Diverse Solutions and they recommended Zillow (which they own) Thanks

  3. Joe Loomer

    December 17, 2012 at 10:33 am

    Masked under the auspices of helping your clients, they’re actually stealing them – even if the main intent is purely SEO boost.
     
    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

    • mikelintonteam

      December 17, 2012 at 2:43 pm

      @Joe Loomer Nice Back link Joe ….

  4. Jonathan Bowen

    December 17, 2012 at 10:39 am

    Why would a customer need a widget to use as a home value indicator when they have you?

  5. HelpYourSite

    December 17, 2012 at 10:51 am

    I always thought that Realtors were an SEO-savvy group by necessity. Widgets are almost always created by companies to boost their SEO – with brand awareness as a distant second. That’s the whole point of them.

  6. tcar

    December 17, 2012 at 11:26 am

    Todd from Trulia here,
     
    Agents who want to create banklinks FROM Trulia, back to their own sites can do so by listing their website in their free Trulia Profile.

    • bobwilson

      December 17, 2012 at 11:42 am

      @tcar Nice try, but thats not the same as requiring a link in a widget to be do follow Todd.

      • tcar

        December 17, 2012 at 12:54 pm

        @bobwilson Bob, we offer widgets that create backlinks to us. But we also offer opportunities for agents to create backlinks from Trulia, to an agents site. I’m not an SEO expert, but if they are so valuable, then the fact that we offer them back is worth noting. Agents can do this by including their website in their free profile or my linking to their sites on our Voices platform. Both options are free.

        • bobwilson

          December 17, 2012 at 1:03 pm

          @tcar And it is your choice on your site to make those links dofollow or no follow. The agent should have the same choice as to whether or not those links should be dofollow or nofollow.
           
          If I were to use your logic that the do follow link should be required as a trade off for the use of your content on my site, then by the same token all links on Trulia should be dofollow, not just those limited to a profile page. 
           
          Google has stated many times that links should be freely given. I believe your TOS violates that principle.

        • tcar

          December 17, 2012 at 1:22 pm

          @bobwilson Backlinks are not just limited to the profile. You can create them on our Voices platform as well. If an agent wants to create content on voices, we offer them a backlink.

        • bobwilson

          December 17, 2012 at 1:27 pm

          @tcar Can I nofollow links in your widgets?

        • tcar

          December 17, 2012 at 1:38 pm

          @bobwilson I wrote a post for Inman News back in 2008 that talked about the tradeoffs of using another company’s “free” widgets. It’s absolutely true that you are providing a back-link to the producer of the widget in return for being able to display the widget. If you don’t want to give a back-link, don’t use the widget. The alternative is to pay for the data the widget provides, or to not provide your consumers with that data. Any of these options might be right for you.

        • bobwilson

          December 17, 2012 at 1:46 pm

          @tcar I understand your position. What I am saying is that trading a link for a widget in lieu of paying for the widget is in effect a paid link.

        • BrianRayl

          December 17, 2012 at 3:56 pm

          Hi Todd. You are being just a little disingenuous here. All of the links on Voices are no follow links which pass absolutely no link authority. The only place that has do follow links is the Blog section. On the other hand, most Trulia widgets are placed into a sidebar which is on every single page of a website.
          You allow agents to link back to themselves in exchange for multiple prices of content (one link per peice) while you get hundreds if not thousands of links from a single widget.
          So lets talk apples to apples here. Thanks.
          @tcar @bobwilson

        • tcar

          December 17, 2012 at 6:43 pm

          @BrianRayl  @tcar  Hi Brian, As I said before, if you don’t wish to provide back-links to Trulia, don’t use the free widgets. I personally recommend Altos Research for some great paid data widgets. You can earn back-links from Trulia’s site without providing any back-links to us. The way to do that is to list your web address in your Trulia profile and to link to your site in your Voices blog posts. My apologies for not being more specific before.

        • bdmanson

          December 17, 2012 at 7:07 pm

          @tcar  @BrianRayl Most the links from Trulia by design have no-follows on them so they do not pass the juice.. Having that tag essentially is Trulia telling the search engines they don’t trust your site.. They are very SEO smart when it comes to that.. They hoard all their link equity for themselves while sucking as much from agents as possible.. Most agents don’t know any better… and that is what theuy are counting on!!!This is a good read about the subject: https://ericbramlett.com/trulia-awareness/

        • bdmanson

          December 17, 2012 at 7:54 pm

          @BrianRayl  @tcar  @bobwilson This is happening because most agents are not aware of what they are doing… and that’s exactly what they are counting on too… Use our listings as content… then get local agents to boost their authority in the SERPs so they can then sell leads and traffic to us. Pretty disgusting.. actually..?

        • drewmeyers

          December 17, 2012 at 8:22 pm

          @BrianRayl  @tcar  @bobwilson As Todd said, you either pay for that data with links or money. You think Zillow and Trulia spend all that money aggregating and calculating the data just to give it away in exchange for nothing? If agents don’t like using free data instead of paying for it, they shouldn’t use the widgets and they should all go pay Altos Research. Pretty simple. Not sure why this is such a huge issue.

        • bdmanson

          December 17, 2012 at 8:49 pm

          @drewmeyers  @BrianRayl  @tcar  @bobwilson 
          Drew – You know and I know this is happening because most agents are not aware of what they are actually doing… and that’s exactly what they are counting on too… Use (realtors) our listings as content… then get local agents to boost their authority in the SERPs with their widget spam and cheap crappy $10 sites… so they can then sell leads and traffic to us. Pretty disgusting.. actually..? I know you don’t think so… since you are an ex-employee and share holder… any website provider, real estate coach, so called real estate social guru or marketing person that suggests they do these things is not really looking out for the agents best interest… and are probably getting money from ZTR in one way or another..

        • bobwilson

          December 17, 2012 at 9:06 pm

          @drewmeyers  @BrianRayl  @tcar Simple Drew. Because requiring the anchor text and do follow as part of the widget is gaming Google. You know it, I know it.

        • BrianRayl

          December 17, 2012 at 9:13 pm

          @drewmeyers  @tcar  @bobwilson That is exactly why I don’t use them Drew. Actually, I may still have a site that has the Trulia widget on it, except I went into the code and removed the linkback. Oh no, a TOS violation! Just like @bdmanson mentions, the problem is that they are taking advantage of those who don’t know any better and using this lack of knowledge to cannibalize their own traffic away from them. They use the guise of “You can put a backlink from us too!” but of course you have to provide them with content in order to get that backlink. ZTR gets a link on EVERY SINGLE PAGE OF YOUR WEBSITE back to them (hundreds if not thousands of backlinks per WP site), while ZTR gives you one. Hell, at least Trulia allows do follow links on the blog portion. Zillow doesn’t give ANY do follow links except for maybe the profile. (Maybe)

        • drewmeyers

          December 17, 2012 at 9:37 pm

          @bdmanson  @BrianRayl  @tcar  @bobwilson ex-zillow employee with friends there – yes. I’m actually not a shareholder anymore though – I sold all my stock to fund the development of Oh Hey World – so I have no financial incentive in this.
           
          That said, let me be clear – I wouldn’t be plastering widgets from Zillow or anyone else on my website if I was an agent. I don’t recommend agents/brokers do it. What I’m saying is the trade-off being made — content/functionality for free in exchange for a link — is really clear. If agents don’t like the trade-off, don’t use the widgets. No one is making them put the widgets on their sites.

        • drewmeyers

          December 17, 2012 at 9:40 pm

          “ZTR gets a link on EVERY SINGLE PAGE OF YOUR WEBSITE back to them (hundreds if not thousands of backlinks per WP site) ”
           
          Not sure why you blame ZTR for that. Blame the person putting the widget on their site in the wrong spot.

        • drewmeyers

          December 17, 2012 at 9:44 pm

          @bobwilson  @BrianRayl  @tcar I actually don’t agree with you on this. Why is requiring a “do follow” link gaming the system? Zillow has to ensure they aren’t putting millions of dollars building data sets anyone can use completely free of charge, branding, and links. Do you honestly believe people should be able to use Zillow data/widgets and either remove the link altogether or make it “no-follow”?

        • bdmanson

          December 17, 2012 at 9:45 pm

          @drewmeyers  As I said earlier… You know and I know most agents aren’t aware of what they are really doing… Most of them are not tech savvy at ALL… That is why so many vendors and sites like ZTR are able to take advantage of their lack of knowledge 🙁  It’s easy to say blame the person that is putting them on… The majority would not do that if they actually knew what they were doing… I do not know any agents that would link to a competitor knowingly if they knew they were going to boost them in the rankings above them and drive traffic to them…I’m sure you know that to be the case 🙂

        • bdmanson

          December 17, 2012 at 9:49 pm

          @drewmeyers  @bobwilson  @BrianRayl  @tcar  They are widget spam and taking advantage of agents that are not tech savvy… PERIOD…

        • drewmeyers

          December 17, 2012 at 9:59 pm

          @bdmanson Yes, I’ll agree that many agents don’t understand the SEO issue. That said, anyone actually trying to outrank Z/T/R certainly understands this issue and is not using these widgets. Everyone actually using these widgets doesn’t stand a chance to rank — with or without the widgets.

        • tcar

          December 17, 2012 at 10:08 pm

          @drewmeyers  … and there are many agents who could care less about waging an SEO battle with Trulia, Zillow, RDC, Redfin, RE/MAX, Homes.com, Yahoo, MSN, Zip Realty, their local big brokers, their local MLS…

        • drewmeyers

          December 17, 2012 at 10:08 pm

          @bdmanson@bobwilson@BrianRayl  Jeff, can we also agree that it’s in your best interests if fewer agents link to Z/T/R all over the country?
           
          You and I both know that if fewer agents all over the country (and specifically in hawaii) link to zillow/trulia, you have a better chance to outrank them for your keywords.

        • bdmanson

          December 17, 2012 at 10:11 pm

          @drewmeyers Using those widgets is helping them out rank them.. You can spin it any way you want… ZTR are still taking advantage of agents so are their  SEO teams and management knows it… That is what they are counting on.. They also know that if agents were really aware of what they were doing they wouldn’t be using them..

        • bdmanson

          December 17, 2012 at 10:15 pm

          @drewmeyers  @bobwilson  @BrianRayl Well yes!!!! It benefits all agents across the country… Hello!!! I think you are finally getting it… Now let as many agents across the country know they are Helping Zillow & Trulia Out Rank Them by using their widget spam.. You would be doing all agents a favor!!

        • BrianRayl

          December 17, 2012 at 10:26 pm

          @drewmeyers  @bdmanson Drew writes “Yes, I’ll agree that many agents don’t understand the SEO issue. That said, anyone actually trying to outrank Z/T/R certainly understands this issue and is not using these widgets. Everyone actually using these widgets doesn’t stand a chance to rank — with or without the widgets.”  — @drewmeyers , the problem with this statement is that it doesn’t just hurt those that link to ZTR. It hurts EVERYONE. 10 agents linking to ZTR from Canada hurts me in Texas. It is not simply a matter of linking to ZTR hurts them. It hurts me too, and ZTR is taking advantage of the uninformed in order to have a major head start to those who are trying to do things the right way.

        • BrianRayl

          December 17, 2012 at 10:29 pm

          @drewmeyers  @bobwilson  @tcar  Drew writes: “Do you honestly believe people should be able to use Zillow data/widgets and either remove the link altogether or make it “no-follow”?   — Well, ZTR has no problem turning our content into NoFollow links such as Q&A sections and many more places and we are providing them with a PAGE of information that will help them rank with search engines, not just a single widget that does nothing for our SEO.  So yes, I feel that as long as ZTR turns OUR content into No Follow, then we should be able to turn THEIR content into nofollow.

        • drewmeyers

          December 17, 2012 at 10:33 pm

          @bdmanson   Look, I applaud you for the public awareness effort. It’s smart business. You and I both know you know more about seo than 95% of people in the industry, probably 98%. As a result, you stand to gain way more than most because many people don’t have the faintest idea what they should be doing to compete on the SEO front. 
           
          Your awareness campaign strategy is smart for someone in your shoes, just as Zillow’s widget strategy was (still is) smart for someone in their shoes.
           
          Just be honest about the motives behind your efforts.

        • drewmeyers

          December 17, 2012 at 10:37 pm

          @BrianRayl    The difference in that scenario is that the website owner (zillow) doesn’t vouch for each and every piece of content that is inputted onto the site. There is a lot of spammers/marketers that abused early dofollow links Zillow did provide. I know first hand, as I spent countless nights and weekends from 2006-2010 cleaning the site up from crap that spammers posted. 
           
          In the widget scenario, the website owner is choosing to put that widget on the site on their own accord. It’s not a case where there is potential for a 3rd party to abuse their site but putting links/functionality. Therefore, there is no logical case to be made to no-follow something you as the webmaster chooses to put on your own site.
           
          That’s my 2 cents.

        • bobwilson

          December 17, 2012 at 10:40 pm

          @drewmeyers  @BrianRayl Completely agree about the spam issue.

        • bdmanson

          December 17, 2012 at 11:19 pm

          @drewmeyers You are funny with how you try to spin it.. My motives are to let as many agents know how they are helping a competitor out rank themselves and also push traffic away from their sites to one that is competing with them.. When agents link to the portals it hurts all agents… Pretty simple…  You said earlier “I wouldn’t be plastering widgets from Zillow or anyone else on my website if I was an agent. I don’t recommend agents/brokers do it.” 
           
          So we are in agreement that it is not good for the broker to do that…
           
          You also said you were all for educating the public.. We could post the infographic from  https://www.realgeeks.com/blog/how-youre-helping-zillow-and-trulia-outrank-you/  on GeekEstate.com and start educating them there  :-)How does that sound?

        • bobwilson

          December 17, 2012 at 11:39 pm

          @drewmeyers  Why isnt a simple “Powered by Zillow” link sufficient enough? Why is each link specific to the market of the given site? Wouldnt that be more honest on Zillow’s part?

        • onewavedesigns

          December 18, 2012 at 1:46 am

          @bobwilson  @drewmeyers  @BrianRayl @bdmanson I have to at least put my own 2 cents in at this point. Yes, it’s the webmaster’s choice to put a widget on a site, but it’s also their site, and therefore should have the right to make any links from any outside sources to be nofollow. Simply put, if Zillow and Trulia didn’t have a selfish motive, they should have no problem allowing us to choose to nofollow or not.
          They are using a very, very sneaky way of taking advantage of their own customers to promote themselves, not their customers.
          I currently manage almost 20 real estate sites around the country, and not one of them has a widget from either company. I steer people away from their widgets.
          Jeff, I applaud your effort on making creating this blog. I preach these things to my own clients when they listen. I don’t normally speak up on posts and such, as I typically prefer not to get involved in these discussions. However, I consider this post by Real Geeks to be a well-needed “Public Service Announcement.”

        • drewmeyers

          December 18, 2012 at 1:56 am

          @bdmanson I’m in your camp of thinking online is a serious investment, and one I would make if I were an agent. But there is certainly more than one way to run a real estate business. Some agents just want a professional looking presence so that when people go look them up they don’t look like someone with a website from the dark ages, but have no desire to spend the time or money it would take for a real online marketing effort.
           
          Tell me this. Do you genuinely believe if the average agent removes a zillow widget from their website, it will help them? How is that going to help their business? Yes, it may help agents/brokers who really really understand SEO…but I don’t see how it’ll help the average agent. They aren’t even close to ranking well now, and one less widget on their website isn’t going to change that.

        • drewmeyers

          December 18, 2012 at 1:59 am

          @bobwilson I’m not going to get into a debate around what specific links are included. That’s a decision Zillow and Trulia will have to make.

        • drewmeyers

          December 18, 2012 at 2:07 am

          @onewavedesigns  @bobwilson  @BrianRayl  @bdmanson Of course there are selfish motives involved. Very seldom do companies, or individuals for that matter, do anything for unselfish reasons. Why would Z/T spend so much money calculating the data they do, and let anyone use it and get nothing in return? Doesn’t make any sense.
           
          Would your clients consistently write fantastic blog posts that take 4 hours each, post them on someone else’s website — and all they get for that is a “Written by Susie Smith” in small text at the bottom (no link, photo, bio etc)? Doubtful…

        • Greg Fischer

          December 18, 2012 at 9:53 am

          @drewmeyers  @bdmanson semantics. Doesnt address the issue of the post though dude (true as it may be)

  7. hempler

    December 17, 2012 at 11:32 am

    It can also be done with blog posts…I link back to articles on my site all the time

  8. IndyAgent

    December 17, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    How can agents NOT know this?!?

  9. RobertaMurphy

    December 17, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    Anyone have a good link for reporting spam? And an honest infographic developer?

  10. NathanFroelich

    December 17, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    Great article AGBeat. For the comments which assume agents understand this I can safely say having managed hundreds of good agents most don’t. The other reality may be that most agents don’t have the time/resources to have their personal sites rank high on the engines therefor these widgets may enhance their site functionality and the fact they are helping “RTZ” is of no consequence.

    • bobwilson

      December 17, 2012 at 2:02 pm

      @NathanFroelich How do they increase functionality?

      • NathanFroelich

        December 17, 2012 at 2:34 pm

        @bobwilson  @NathanFroelich Bob, great question and I honestly don’t know, that is up to the individual agent to determine and make a business decision that is best for them.

  11. kenbrand

    December 17, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    Nice article on how not to pee in your own Google punchbowl.  #MoreAhHa #RealEstateAgents

  12. bdmanson

    December 17, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    Long time SEO expert Greg Boser (CEO of Blueglass) commented over on this on Google+ post: https://plus.google.com/u/0/110263460160370936113/posts/Ly5AbnqdhZu?cfem=1Quote: “What makes it worse is the fact that it goes beyond widgets. I’ve spent a lot of time over the years working with smaller companies trying to get re-included for engaging in the exact type of thing you find when looking at the backlinks of a page like https://www.zillow.com/agent-websites/Thousands of crappy Hello World template pages with awesome targeted anchor text in the footer of every page.?”

    • gboser

      December 17, 2012 at 4:49 pm

      @bdmanson I’m actually the President, not the CEO, bit thanks for the temporary ego boost. 🙂

      • bdmanson

        December 17, 2012 at 4:57 pm

        @gboser You’re welcome!!! I knew it was important 😉 Even more importantly is that you know this stuff better than most!!!

  13. Joshua Dorkin

    December 17, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    Come on folks . . . we’re all in the real estate business, with an emphasis on BUSINESS.  Trulia and Zillow aren’t charities, nor are the agents who use their tools to grow their businesses.  I don’t understand all the complaints here.  These companies are providing agents with a service.  That service comes with a cost — a link.  In SEO 101 we learn that links pass juice.  
     
    I just don’t see the validity of any complaint against these guys.  No one is stealing your rankings; you’re helping them beat you willingly.
     
    If a company requires the use of their widget without the alteration of their code in order to use it, you have three choices: use it under the license, don’t use it, or take a chance and violate the terms of use that you agreed to (I strongly recommend NOT doing this).
     
    If you want the information that these companies offer, but don’t want to give them a link, you can spend the money to get it some other way, such as licensing it or building your own tool.  
     
    There are countless ways to market your business and to build your web presence.  You’re not forced to use a service whose terms you don’t want to agree to — just be sure to read the fine print before signing on the dotted line.  Unfortunately, far too many of use decide it isn’t worth our time to do just that — and that’s where the problem begins.
     
    Educating yourself on the consequences of the decisions you make in your business is the best way to protect yourself from the competition coming in and taking what you think is yours.

  14. Kristal Kraft

    December 17, 2012 at 11:57 pm

    What ever happened to “transparency?”  In all fairness ZTR should be required to disclose that using these widgets and be hazardous to your SEO health.  Love the infographic, kudos to the creator!  Let’s get the word out…finally. @bdmanson @gboser

  15. Tanishaxe3nvprm

    December 18, 2012 at 7:48 am

    @laineyinbrklyn https://t.co/hRFhLZTE

  16. MTrewe

    December 18, 2012 at 10:00 am

    Question – is trading data for a backlink where a site earns money from rank/traffic, equal to buying a link? It seems to me, and I could be totally off the mark that Google has a double standard in link policy?  If the link is freely given by an agent then it’s not a value trade, but if it’s forced, then, technically, is that a TOS issue for Google/ZTR? @bobwilson

    • Joshua Dorkin

      December 18, 2012 at 11:09 am

      @MTrewe  @bobwilson How does ZTR force anyone to link to them?  If you use their widget, you freely choose to do so, and in so doing, agree to the terms set by the companies offering the widget.  I’m not aware of any of these companies blackmailing or making someone use their widget by force.

      • bobwilson

        December 18, 2012 at 12:22 pm

        @Joshua Dorkin  What is forced is the choice of the anchor text and the way in which the link is done. Drew has stated in his comments that many agents dont understand the ramifications of many SEO strategies. Google has come out against anchor text laden widget spam in the past. If the anchor was “Powered by Zillow”, there would be no issue, but linking to the same market with market specific anchor text is the issue. That makes this widget spam. Taking advantage of the agents who dont realize the one sided benefit is predatory. 
         
        Widget spam isnt new. It started with Myspace widgets. Google took some action on those, but they still work. Zillow and Trulia make the argument that since the anchor text isnt hidden, its ok. The big difference though is with the myspace widget I can alter the link. With Trulia and Zillow, I cant. That isnt exactly freely given because we all know that a large percentage dont realize what the consequences are to using these widgets.
         
        Drew makes the argument that not all agents care about SEO and just want a site. That is about as disingenuousness as it gets. I talk to 100s of agents a month who all expect or want their website to produce something in the way of business and not just be an online business card. The fact that they dont understand how to accomplish that isnt the same as not wanting that outcome.
         
        For the sake of argument, I will concede the trade of widget for link, but please explain the why behind the market specific anchor text. 
         
        @mTrewe – Yes this is absolutely a double standard with Google and goes to the brand bias built into their algorithm. Aaron Wall has written numerous times at https://seobook.com/blog about this bias and the pass that big brands get we dont get, and that is the point. ZTR exploit this and use agents to do pull it off, with the end goal of using our juice to help them sell leads looking at our listings back to us.
         
        @tcar – I find your choice of words interesting. You call it war, I would suggest it is defending ourselves from the enemy among us. It seems to me that Trulia still seeks to find the short cut. When they first started, they scraped my site for listings. It took a call to your legal folks to point out the copyright infringement. Now they call asking “on behalf of a client” for data from a RETS feed you cant have, from an MLS that they know prohibits those with the RETS feed from syndicating. And while not all agents “wage war”, there is a growing group, including brokers (Edina, Abbott Realty Group, et al) that are not exactly thrilled with how you all do business.
         
        I believe that agents can do what they want with their sites within the law. I also believe that it is in their best interest to understand the ramifications of doing so. That happens with knowledge. Knowledge that will also help them discover when their web site companies sell them on the SEO benefits of said sites while also recommending the use of widgets that are counter productive to that endeavor. Sam Debord said it perfectly, “Having outbound links to your competition on your website is like Pizza Hut offering coupons to Domino’s.” 
         
        If you, as an agent or broker, are spending a single dime on the marketing of your site, then pull the widgets or change the code (Powered By Zillow” and link to the home page is a fair trade, and truly freely given) and let the ZTRs decide how valuable they believe their widgets are to the public.

      • MTrewe

        December 18, 2012 at 3:32 pm

        @Joshua Dorkin  @bobwilson Hi @Joshua Dorkin  The question I asked, has nothing to do with anything you described at all. 1) It’s simply a question, not an accusation. 2) Positioning within this thread has been described as an exchange of expensive raw data for a targeted backlink. That’s money for a backlink, a review for a backlink etc… – I could go on, but they’re no different, so I am asking Bob how it’s not or is different and if the backlink requirement implies a transaction. 
         
        I never get in the middle of these things, just trying to wrap my arms around the policy side of this equation.

  17. MTrewe

    December 18, 2012 at 10:01 am

    I mean, that’s a link farm, no? @bobwilson

  18. bobwilson

    December 18, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    What is forced is the choice of the anchor text and the way in which the link is done. Drew has stated in his comments that many agents dont understand the ramifications of many SEO strategies. Google has come out against anchor text laden widget spam in the past. If the anchor was “Powered by Zillow”, there would be no issue, but linking to the same market with market specific anchor text is the issue. That makes this widget spam. 
     
    Widget spam isnt new. It started with Myspace widgets. Google took some action on those, but they still work. Zillow and Trulia make the argument that since the anchor text isnt hidden, its ok. The big difference though is with the myspace widget I can alter the link. With Trulia and Zillow, I cant. That isnt exactly freely given because we all know that a large percentage dont realize what the consequences are to using these widgets.
     
    Drew makes the argument that not all agents care about SEO and just want a site. That is about as disingenuousness as it gets. I talk to 100s of agents a month who all expect or want their website to produce something in the way of business and not just be an online business card. The fact that they dont understand how to accomplish that isnt the same as not wanting that outcome.
     
    For the sake of argument, I will concede the trade of widget for link, but please explain the why behind the market specific anchor text. 
     
    @mTrewe – Yes this is absolutely a double standard with Google and goes to the brand bias built into their algorithm. Aaron Wall has written numerous times at https://seobook.com/blogabout this bias and the pass that big brands get we dont get, and that is the point. ZTR exploit this and use agents to do pull it off, with the end goal of using our juice to help them sell leads looking at our listings back to us.
     
    @tcar – I find your choice of words interesting. You call it war, I would suggest it is defending ourselves from the enemy among us. It seems to me that Trulia still seeks to find the short cut. When they first started, they scraped my site for listings. It took a call to your legal folks to point out the copyright infringement. Now they call asking “on behalf of a client” for data from a RETS feed you cant have, from an MLS that they know prohibits those with the RETS feed from syndicating. And while not all agents “wage war”, there is a growing group, including brokers (Edina, Abbott Realty Group, et al) that are not exactly thrilled with how you all do business.
     
    I believe that agents can do what they want with their sites within the law. I also believe that it is in their best interest to understand the ramifications of doing so. That happens with knowledge. Knowledge that will also help them discover when their web site companies sell them on the SEO benefits of said sites while also recommending the use of widgets that are counter productive to that endeavor. Sam Debord said it perfectly, “Having outbound links to your competition on your website is like Pizza Hut offering coupons to Domino’s.” 
     
    If you, as an agent or broker, are spending a single dime on the marketing of your site, then pull the widgets or change the code (Powered By Zillow” and link to the home page is a fair trade, and truly freely given) and let the ZTRs decide how valuable they believe their widgets are to the public.

  19. markbrian

    December 18, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    @advantage_group always look a gift horse in the mouth when it comes to those 2

  20. ModernDaniel

    December 18, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    @markbrian good article! That’s something we have discussed a lot in our brokerage. We’re sort of helping create the monster.

    • markbrian

      December 18, 2012 at 8:52 pm

      @ModernDaniel too many don’t realize they are NOT your friend

  21. bobwilson

    December 18, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    What is forced is the choice of the anchor text and the way in which the link is done. Drew has stated in his comments that many agents dont understand the ramifications of many SEO strategies. Google has come out against anchor text laden widget spam in the past. If the anchor was “Powered by Zillow”, there would be no issue, but linking to the same market with market specific anchor text is the issue. That makes this widget spam. 
     
    Widget spam isnt new. It started with Myspace widgets. Google took some action on those, but they still work. Zillow and Trulia make the argument that since the anchor text isnt hidden, its ok. The big difference though is with the myspace widget I can alter the link. With Trulia and Zillow, I cant. That isnt exactly freely given because we all know that a large percentage dont realize what the consequences are to using these widgets.
     
    Drew makes the argument that not all agents care about SEO and just want a site. That is about as disingenuousness as it gets. I talk to 100s of agents a month who all expect or want their website to produce something in the way of business and not just be an online business card. The fact that they dont understand how to accomplish that isnt the same as not wanting that outcome.
     
    For the sake of argument, I will concede the trade of widget for link, but please explain the why behind the market specific anchor text. 
     
    @mTrewe – Yes this is absolutely a double standard with Google and goes to the brand bias built into their algorithm. Aaron Wall has written numerous times at https://seobook.com/blogabout this bias and the pass that big brands get we dont get, and that is the point. ZTR exploit this and use agents to do pull it off, with the end goal of using our juice to help them sell leads looking at our listings back to us.
     
    @tcar – I find your choice of words interesting. You call it war, I would suggest it is defending ourselves from the enemy among us. It seems to me that Trulia still seeks to find the short cut. When they first started, they scraped my site for listings. It took a call to your legal folks to point out the copyright infringement. Now they call asking “on behalf of a client” for data from a RETS feed you cant have, from an MLS that they know prohibits those with the RETS feed from syndicating. And while not all agents “wage war”, there is a growing group, including brokers (Edina, Abbott Realty Group, et al) that are not exactly thrilled with how you all do business.
     
    I believe that agents can do what they want with their sites within the law. I also believe that it is in their best interest to understand the ramifications of doing so. That happens with knowledge. Knowledge that will also help them discover when their web site companies sell them on the SEO benefits of said sites while also recommending the use of widgets that are counter productive to that endeavor. Sam Debord said it perfectly, “Having outbound links to your competition on your website is like Pizza Hut offering coupons to Domino’s.” 
     
    If you, as an agent or broker, are spending a single dime on the marketing of your site, then pull the widgets or change the code (Powered By Zillow” and link to the home page is a fair trade, and truly freely given) and let the ZTRs decide how valuable they believe their widgets are to the public.

  22. EricStegemann

    December 20, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    @rqd I think “predatory linking practices” is strong. It’s the same thing all widget people do. But agents don’t know better.

    • rqd

      December 20, 2012 at 3:08 pm

      @EricStegemann That article (and comments) seemed right up your alley.

  23. IsabellaScott

    December 20, 2012 at 8:17 pm

    I read the post substantially … I put a trulia mortgage calculator in one of my posts, although it’s an older post from several years ago and the property is not longer available, so I can’t compare how it would rank with trulia today for a current listing, but I have a page rank 3 on that post where many of my other posts are a 2. I had noticed when I checked before that trulia had a link back to my post showing how to use the widget but I see they don’t show an example now from their page. That post is still near the top of the first page of google depending on key words chosen to search for the subdivision. I understand what the article says but and I don’t know why that post ranks higher, but just thought I would mention it …..

  24. ginbontadelli

    December 21, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    I don’t think that ZTR are being dishonest or manipulative.  Their links are not hidden on the widgets.  if you don’t want to link to their site, don’t use their widgets.  That being said they are definitely making it hard for local realtors to use the web to get clients and make real estate sales.

    • bobwilson

      December 21, 2012 at 2:35 pm

      @ginbontadelli The links in these widgets blatantly violate what Google considers to be editorially given links.

  25. Brad Jenkins

    January 12, 2013 at 6:36 am

    It amazes me that people did not know this. However, this little widget is just a small snippit of the bigger picture. We as agents share the blame for not meeting the needs of the real estate consumer and thus the rise of ZTR like companies. We are too slow to act. Instead we react and are constantly trailing behind. Look at the ages of the CEOs of the major sites that are honing in on real estate agents back yard, 35 and then look at the average age of today’s realtor, 55. The head of our own organization, NAR is over 60 isn’t he? Hello??? What are we missing here?

  26. Pingback: Things Real Estate Agents Do That Professional Realtors Hate

  27. Charles

    December 13, 2016 at 9:50 pm

    Commenting 4 years after the post was created and realtors are still trailing behind Zillow in the search engine game.

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Business Marketing

What you absolutely *must* know about digital marketing in 2019

(MARKETING) Because you have a pulse, you know you should be focused on digital marketing, but if you haven’t been, this guide will get you up to speed quickly!

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social media digital marketing

Justin Staples is an entrepreneur who specializes in providing businesses with results-driven SEO, custom web design, and content development. Below, he offers a modern guide for any business to ensure their efforts are modernized and effective:

Growing a successful business is anything but easy.

If you want your business to scale, you need more than a good product or service. You’ll also need tried-and-tested processes to deal with anything from sourcing products, managing employees, dealing with customers, and more.

Beyond that, you also need to figure out how you can reach as broad of a customer base as possible, and that comes down to marketing.

There are a thousand ways to market your business. However, every day that passes, digital channels become more important. Now more than ever, customers are more likely to look up products online before spending a single dollar.

If you’re not familiar with the concept of digital (or online) marketing, now’s a great time to learn some basics, so let’s get to it.

A Quick Introduction to Digital Marketing:

Every type of promotional activity that involves electronic devices falls under the banner of digital marketing. However, some online channels are far more important than others when it comes to promoting your business.

Social media is the easiest example. Unless you’re a hermit, almost everyone you know probably uses it.

Perhaps the best thing about digital marketing is it enables you to reach a far broader audience than old-school approaches – such as handing out flyers, magazine ads, and others.

If you run a local business, you can use online marketing to gain customers from all over the country, and even the world (depending on what you’re selling!). It all comes down to choosing the right channels.

10 Must-Knows of Digital Marketing in 2019:

In this section, we’ll walk you through the key terms you must know to get started with online marketing and some of the best channels you can focus on.

Keep in mind – some businesses will find more success in some channels than others, and it all depends on who your audience is. By the time we’re through, you’ll have all the information you need to make some important decisions!

1. Framework

Throwing money at marketing without a plan might work, but it’s not a sustainable or scalable approach.

To reap the full benefits of online marketing, you need a framework, which is a fancy name for a business plan. Here’s what it should outline:

• What your goals are (i.e., finding new leads, getting more traffic, sales, etc.)?
• Who is your audience?
• What online channels will you focus on?
• How much money do you plan to spend?
• What process will you use for tracking your results?

Frameworks are the basis of a great online marketing strategy. By laying out all that information, you’ll gain insight into why some marketing approaches work while others fail.

2. Brand Story

Branding is essential for any business. It enables you to establish relationships and build trust with your audience, which can help transform them into customers and keep them around.

The concept of branding is often very vague, but you can boil down what your brand is by answering a few simple questions:

• Who are your ideal customers?
• What problem do you help those clients solve?
• How do you want your audience to perceive you?

To put it another way, the products and services you offer may be at the core of your business. However, it’s your branding, web design, and the value you bring to your customers that determines what they think about you.
Before you embark on any marketing endeavor, you need to have a clear idea of what your brand is or what you want it to be. That way, you’ll be able to keep things consistent throughout every channel.

3. Traffic Acquisition and Conversions

When it comes to online marketing, we often don’t talk about sales, sign-ups, or leads. Instead, we refer to those things as “conversions.”

The more traffic you can drive to your website using digital channels, the more potential conversions you get. Those conversions might not always lead directly to sales, but ideally, they’ll get you one step closer to that finish line.

At the end of the day, the value of your services is what convinces visitors to become clients. Digital marketing is just the set of processes you use to get them in the door.

4. Paid Ads

Most online channels enable you to pay in exchange for traffic. That includes social media platforms, search engines, websites, and more.

Depending on which channel you use, you’ll be able to run different types of ads. Usually, you’ll pay for clicks, impressions, or more specific interactions.

In online marketing, we refer to groups of paid ads as “campaigns.” Ideally, you’ll test different campaigns across marketing channels, figure out what works, and then scale upwards to get more conversions.

5. Email Marketing

When it comes to digital marketing, email is king.

Almost 90% of online marketers use it as their primary channel. That’s no coincidence, either – email marketing offers an average ROI of 4400%, and that’s not a typo.

To reap the full benefits of email marketing, you’ll need to build up a sizable list of subscribers and develop engaging campaigns. It’s a ton of work, but the numbers speak for themselves.

6. Live Chat

If you take a quick look at some of your favorite websites, we’re willing to bet a lot of them have live chat windows.

Nowadays, live chat is by far the most popular channel for customers to communicate with you. In fact, 44% of visitors say having someone that can answer their questions directly is a big factor deciding whether to make a purchase.

Once someone gets to your website, it’s your job to explain what your products and services can do for them. The best way to do that, by far, is telling them yourself, and live chat provides you with a channel that enables you to do that.

7. Affiliate Marketing

Think about affiliate marketing as a commission program for the digital age. In short, businesses that run affiliate programs pay end-users or marketers to promote their products.

These days, affiliate marketing drives over 16% of all e-commerce sales, which is a staggering figure. If you can set up an attractive affiliate program, it can become a cornerstone of your digital marketing strategy.

8. SEO

If you’re trying to grow an online business, then you need to learn how to love search engine optimization (SEO).

Search engines can make or break websites. If your business shows up on a high position in the search engine result pages (SERPs) for popular terms, they can drive massive amounts of traffic to your website.

The problem is, there’s no magic formula when it comes to SEO. What you can do is follow best practices, which evolve all the time as search engines refine their algorithms.
SEO involves a lot of trial and error, but it’s key to the growth of most – if not all – online businesses.

9. Public Relations (PR)

If you want to get people talking about your business, one of the best ways to do it is through good old-fashioned PR.

Traditional press releases, for example, can drum up a lot of interest if you can get attention from publications with a big following.

Nowadays, there are a lot of online tools you can use to build relationships, with leading online publications. What that means is that in 2019, you don’t need the help of a PR firm to get the word about your business out there.

10. Social Media

As a marketer, the only thing you need to know about social media is that almost 44% of the entire world uses it.

Some platforms are more popular than others, of course, and not all of them might be a great fit for your business.

What you want to do is identify which social media platforms are more popular among your audience, and then use them to promote your business. In most cases, that means running paid ads, setting up profiles to promote your content, and engaging with your followers as often as possible.

What Digital Marketing Will Look Like in 2020:

The main thing you need to know is digital marketing is only becoming more important with every year that passes. Over half of the world’s population is already online, and a lot of them use the internet to decide where they’re going to spend their money.

As far as specific trends go, 63% of online marketers say they want to focus on social media in 2020.

Mobile use only keeps growing as well, which means more and more people are using voice searches to find what they want. Making sure your digital marketing strategy is mobile-friendly is key to staying relevant.

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Business Marketing

Create perfectly coordinated font combos with this online tool

(MARKETING) Typography is an important component of any design. Type Genius helps ensure everything coordinates beautifully.

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Designing a website can be one of the most important things you do to boost your business presence, but doing it on your own can be frustrating, and hiring someone can sometimes become costly. Luckily, there are several other alternatives you can examine to to help your business shine.

Type Genius is one such alternative. This site helps you keep typography clean, consistent, and professional. Typography is the art of creating and arranging text in a visual manner. This is one a fairly critical element of your design, especially considering all the advertising placed in front of consumers on a daily basis. It becomes even more important to design and use type in such a way that it attracts the reader’s attention and gives them a clear understanding of the message.

After all, the advertising will not do any good, if no one wants to engage with it. This is where Type Genius comes in to help.

When you click on the site, you will be prompted to select a font style you would like to start with; if yours is not listed, try to find the closest match. Once you have selected your starting font, Type Genius helps you find subsequent complementary fonts to enhance your website, or marketing materials. By having fonts that truly “go together” your marketing materials will look more professional and become more useful.

For example, I selected, “Comic Serif Pro” as my desired starting font and the suggested font was “Quicksand.” They look similar, but there is enough difference that you could use one for titles and the other for headers to emphasize the differentiation.

Type Genius displays the new font for you to see and if you like it, you can find the suggested font quickly by clicking on the gray square right above the description; this will launch a Google search for the font. This is a great place to begin formulating design ideas before you take a bigger leap into web site design or promotional materials.

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Business Marketing

Use the ‘Blemish Effect’ to skyrocket your sales

(MARKETING) The Blemish Effect dictates that small, adjacent flaws in a product can make it that much more interesting—is perfection out?

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blemish effect

Presenting a product or service in its most immaculate, polished state has been the strategy for virtually all organizations, and overselling items with known flaws is a practice as old as time. According to marketing researchers, however, this approach may not be the only way to achieve optimal results due to something known as the “Blemish Effect.”

The Blemish Effect isn’t quite the inverse of the perfectionist product pitch; rather, it builds on the theory that small problems with a product or service can actually throw into relief its good qualities. For example, a small scratch on the back of an otherwise pristine iPhone might draw one’s eye to the glossy finish, while an objectively perfect housing might not be appreciated in the same way.

The same goes for mildly bad press or a customer’s pros and cons list. If someone has absolutely no complaints or desires for whatever you’re marketing, the end result can look flat and lacking in nuance. Having the slightest bit of longing associated with an aspect (or lack thereof) of your business means that you have room to grow, which can be tantalizing for the eager consumer.

A Stanford study indicates that small doses of mildly negative information may actually strengthen a consumer’s positive impression of a product or service. Interesting.

Another beneficial aspect of the Blemish Effect is that it helps consumers focus their negativity. “Too good to be true” often means exactly that, and we’re eager to criticize where possible; if your product or service has a noticeable flaw which doesn’t harm the item’s use, your audience might settle for lamenting the minor flaw and favoring the rest of the product rather than looking for problems which don’t exist.

This concept also applies to expectation management. Absent an obvious blemish, it can be all to easy for consumers to envision your product or service on an unattainable level.

When they’re invariably disappointed that their unrealistic expectations weren’t fulfilled, your reputation might take a hit, or consumers might lose interest after the initial wave.

The takeaway is that consumers trust transparency, so in describing your offering, tossing in a negative boosts the perception that you’re being honest and transparent, so a graphic artist could note that while their skills are superior and their pricing reasonable, they take their time with intricate projects. The time expectation is a potentially negative aspect of their service, but expressing anything negative improves sales as it builds trust.

It should be noted that the Blemish Effect applies to minor impairments in cosmetic or adjacent qualities, not in the product or service itself. Delivering an item which is inherently flawed won’t make anyone happy.

In an age where less truly is more, the Blemish Effect stands to dictate a new wave of honesty in marketing.

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