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rudy bachraty of trulia.com interviewed by benn rosales of agentgenius.com


Quick Q&A

This is a quick email interview I did with Rudy Bachraty from Trulia to clarify Trulia’s position on some of the issues recently brought to light regarding Trulia widgets:


So what’s all the hubbub about Trulia widgets?

Widgets, like API’s, are a big part of the web2.0 marketing mix, think youtube, flickr, meebo – Trulia has it’s widgets as well and they’re pretty popular. Some agents, SEO consultants and referral companies are saying that we have a malicious campaign to hurt our partners with our widgets, which is absolutely, totally false. Basically they’re saying that installing these widgets might make it harder for them to rank high up in search engines. That’s absolutely not our intention with our widgets. If you think they add value for your site and your users, then you may want to consider using them. If not, don’t use them.

How do you feel about being called a Trojan horse?

We’ve been called lots of names recently and it’s a pretty funny visual, but totally inaccurate. There is nothing malicious or secretive about the Trulia widgets. It’s 100% standard for widgets to have attribution back to the sites that created them – your users should double check this with any widgets that they use! I have to reiterate again that Trulia is an extremely effective online marketing tool for the real estate industry. We are not here to compete with Agents, we are here to help them build their business. If they are successful, we are successful. We value our relationships and continually look for ways to enhance them.

Is your intent to outrank agents in search?

No, absolutely not. It is our intent to be the most effective online marketing tool for the real estate industry. It’s about providing them with the best possible ROI. We have over 70,000 registered agents on Trulia and we’re constantly integrating their feedback into the site.

If you are an agent and want a steady stream of active home buyers and sellers then you should work with Trulia. We drive interested home buyers directly to your listings on your website for free. In addition, by participating on Trulia Voices, you can connect directly with home buyers and sellers, for free.

So why the heck should I bother creating a profile on Trulia?

Good question. Think of it as a free billboard to promote yourself directly to consumers. Having a detailed profile on Trulia will help consumers learn more about you. It’s best to include as much contact information as possible. As you contribute to our Trulia Voices Q&A community, all your answers will appear on your profile. This creates a repository of your knowledge which can help a consumer learn more about you. An additional benefit for having a detailed profile is SEO related. You can choose what (naked) links you want to add on your profile and choose the anchor text for the blogs or websites of your choice.

What do you say to those agents that aren’t sure they should remove their widget or not?

It’s totally up to the agent and if they want to remove links to Trulia or add “nofollows” then we’re cool with that. If you think it adds value to your site, then by all means, use it. If not, then don’t. The choice is yours.

Sami points out that a no-follow is a best practice, but will this widget coding change?

Widget coding is not going to change, but widgets are added to a site by the site owner who can do what they wish.

Do you feel that there is a motive behind this flurry of hype against the widget?

I dunno, it seems that some agents, SEO consultants and referral companies might be concerned about Trulia’s growing popularity overall on the web and in search engines. I can confidentially say that at every level within the company we are focused on being a great long term partner for the real estate industry and empowering agents, brokers and consumers with tools and information. Today, we are a huge driver of new business and traffic to our partners. We’re still a young company and we never stop listening and learning.

Not to get too far off the subject but to get on to another question that’s been asked a lot lately…… there’s been a lot of controversy regarding Zillow forums but more recently Trulia Voices in regards to the quality of answers given to local home seekers and sellers. Would Trulia be willing to be the first to work with agents on a viable solution to benefit not only the consumer but the agent that wishes to seek out and assist buyers?

We’re been working with agents on fine tuning Trulia Voices since the beginning and continue to do so. As always, we would love to hear all your suggestions. Trulia Voices is a unique platform and it’s a balance between building a system to help consumers and agents. We’re all ears to hearing your suggestions. The platform is only as good as it’s contributors and we’d love to see a few of the Agent Genius team head over there and lead by example.

Benn Rosales is the Founder and CEO of The American Genius (AG), national news network for tech and entrepreneurs, proudly celebrating 10 years in publishing, recently ranked as the #5 startup in Austin. Before founding AG, he founded one of the first digital media strategy firms in the nation and also acquired several other firms. His resume prior includes roles at Apple and Kroger Foods, specializing in marketing, communications, and technology integration. He is a recipient of the Statesman Texas Social Media Award and is an Inman Innovator Award winner. He has consulted for numerous startups (both early- and late-stage), has built partnerships and bridges between tech recruiters and the best tech talent in the industry, and is well known for organizing the digital community through popular monthly networking events. Benn does not venture into the spotlight often, rather believes his biggest accomplishments are the talent he recruits, develops, and gives all credit to those he's empowered.

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39 Comments

39 Comments

  1. Team Benya

    May 20, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    “We are not here to compete with Agents, we are here to help them build their business. If they are successful, we are successful. We value our relationships and continually look for ways to enhance them.”

    Hah! They may not be the ones handling the paperwork and getting deals to closing, but let me assure you that it is not good for an agent as an individual to be losing more and more search ranking to national sites such as this.

    We preach that all real estate is local, but we’re supposed to love sites like zillow, truila, and realtor.com? Fact is, their rise in prominence and recognition is a means to an end, and that end is high prices for their “valuable” advertising space and likely charging Realtors to pay for their “leads” in the future.

    I’m not against companies creating gigantic, profitable, business models; That’s what business is all about, and good for them! But please, don’t give me a cactus and tell me it’s a rose. The thorns are much sharper than they make it out to be. Do they assume that Realtors are morons, or do we not see the inherent risk here?

  2. Jayson

    May 20, 2008 at 4:20 pm

    Nice interview. I think he makes a good point – if you don’t want the widgets and don’t think they add value, don’t use them. It’s up to each individual agent.

    They do offer a lot for the real estate community and consumers looking to buy homes – it’s a simple as not using them if you don’t want to. No need, IMO, to talk badly about the company as it is customary to link back to sites for good info, tools etc.. It has always been that way and I think we all appreciate links if they’re deserved!

  3. Greg Broadbent

    May 20, 2008 at 4:34 pm

    I think it’s the non-disclosure that makes you feel like they are tricking you.

  4. ines

    May 20, 2008 at 6:13 pm

    Benn, you can’t expect a nice guy like Rudy to show up to an interview without getting flamed. I personally think that it is common nature for people to doubt fast growing companies like Trulia – this is so because of what the predecessors have done.

    I do think it’s up to each agent to assess what benefit they can get from Trulia and similar sites.

    I’ve been working on Trulia Voices for a while now and can tell you that my popularity is decreasing on a daily basis and the thumbs down are increasing….so don’t say I didn’t try Rudy!!

    And no matter what Trulia’s intent is (which I don’t believe is a bad one)..I “heart” Rudy. 🙂

  5. Rudy from Trulia.com

    May 20, 2008 at 6:32 pm

    Hi All!

    I’ll just reiterate what I said on another comment as I think it applies here as well:

    “Trulia is a friend and partner to agents and brokers. We support each other. Adding your listings on Trulia is FREE. Participating on Trulia Voices, our real estate community, is FREE. Creating a profile is FREE. Have you actually tried to take advantage about the FREE services we offer? If not, I challenge you and everyone else to take some time to do that. Them come back to me with your thoughts. Because if you haven’t tried it, I really don’t think you have a solid footing to knock it. Makes sense?”

    Hi Ines, I <3 you too. Hey, just like blogging, seeing results may take time. I’d focus more on engaging buyers and sellers and less about worrying what other people think. But if it’s not for you, then that’s cool too. I appreciate your feedback as you are actually taking the time to see if Voices works for you. That’s cool. Each market is different so the results may vary.

    Rudy
    Social Media Guru at Trulia

  6. Frank Jewett

    May 20, 2008 at 10:34 pm

    Saw one of those Trulia “we’re not the enemy” presentations in person. First listing out of the gate belonged to someone in the audience, but was listed on Trulia under a different agent’s name. Truly a fiasco from there as the corporate shill joked that Trulia doesn’t punish anyone for posting bad info, as if inviting misinformation was a good thing.

  7. Team Benya

    May 20, 2008 at 11:59 pm

    Rudy,

    I don’t mean to flame you personally, so please don’t take my commentary that way. At the same time, I’m frustrated by the fact that I have seen other companies provide free services such as yours (which, I admit, Trulia’s features are both useful and innovative), only to switch to some method of either buying leads from our listings that we supply, or adopting the homes.com method of paying to list!

    I feel that I have to be naturally distrustful for 2 reasons:

    1) linkback growth like this increase your site’s rank. Linkback is only fair, and commonplace for widgets, but it should be disclosed up front IMHO

    2) that rank growth places you in a position of being a necessary cost for realtors should you decide to charge for your services down the road. With the high rate of visibility and appeal that your interface has, it’s natural for the consumer to use your site, and thus a necessity for any savvy realtor to be promoting their listings/services/opinions on.

    If I hadn’t seen other sites take this same approach of “we’re not here to compete”, I wouldn’t be so wary. Even Realtor.com charges us to promote adequately! I’ve had the same concern about Zillow, and thus far I have been relieved to see this has not occurred. But I do feel that it is a concern for our industry to be aware that we are helping to promote your site.

    If, down the road, your business model changes and we start paying to add our listings or buy leads from you guys, we should know that our indirect promotion of your site has helped bring us to that point.

    If you do change your business model down the road once your site’s seeing

  8. Rudy from Trulia.com

    May 21, 2008 at 12:07 am

    Hi Frank!

    That’s really odd. I’d be interested in getting more details about your experience regarding both the data issue and the conduct you seem to have experienced. Both seem highly unusual to me. What’s the best way to contact you?

    Rudy
    Social media Guru at Trulia

  9. Rudy from Trulia.com

    May 21, 2008 at 12:42 am

    Hi Team Benya!

    No worries. Your thoughts matter to me.

    Just like with many other widgets, attribution is commonplace within the industry. We have nothing to hide. NikNik of My Tech opinion has a nice post about the available widgets for real estate agents.
    https://www.mytechopinion.com/2008/05/does-your-real-estate-blog-need-a-side-of-widget.html

    They key is to only use the ones that best add value to you, your site and your audience.

    As we have stated many times in the past, the free services we offer today like adding your listings, creating a detailed profile, and participating on Voices will remain that way. We are not in the lead selling business nor do we plan to be. We are a business and make our money by selling advertising and enhancements. So if you have 1, 3,10, 100 listings or whatever, you can add them to Trulia for free. We send the consumer directly to your website. You do not have to pay for anything!

    Hope this helps.

    Please feel free to contact me at anytime.

    Rudy
    rudy [at] trulia [dot] com
    Social Media Guru at Trulia

  10. Frank Jewett

    May 21, 2008 at 2:20 am

    Rudy, what does Trulia do to discourage misleading listings? That’s the most basic question any listings aggregator needs to answer when presenting to organized real estate. The second question is whether the agent retains control of the listing. I haven’t looked at your TOS lately, but rival Zillow reserves the right change or edit the listing and resell (sublicense) the listing without prior knowledge and consent. Sounds to me like the agent no longer has control of a listing posted to Zillow. Is Trulia’s policy different? I like the fact that Zillow and Trulia have opened up access to listings and raised the bar in terms of appealing to consumers. Now they need to grow up and take responsibility for the listings they publish rather than hiding behind the Napster defense.

  11. Mike Farmer

    May 21, 2008 at 7:44 am

    Why does trulia advertise “no agents required”?

  12. Frank Jewett

    May 21, 2008 at 8:31 am

    Mike, are you sure you aren’t thinking of Redfin or Zillow? Trulia doesn’t appear to have a FSBO model like Zillow’s “Make Me Move” feature. I’ll never forget Spencer Rascoff trying to pimp the benefits of Zillow for Buyer’s Agents with “The average Make Me Move price is about 17% higher than the Zestimate, so typically these aren’t crazy prices.” Hmmm… a 17% premium over a questionable valuation to deal directly with someone who doesn’t have a real estate license. Sounds attractive, no?

  13. Broker Bryant

    May 21, 2008 at 11:54 am

    Personally, I am not a fan of any of the sites that are getting between me and the consumer. BUT…..they are here and we have to deal with them. I’m primarily a listing Broker so I get paid no matter how a Buyer finds my listing. If I were a Buyer;s agent I would be much more concerned about these type of sites.

    I do not use widgets from Trulia or anyone else. Never have and never will. When folks come to my site I want them to stay so I don’t give them the option of “clicking out”.

    I am a member of Trulia and do answer some of the questions on Trulia Voices but only when they pertain to my very specific market, Poinciana Fl. I’ve maybe answered 5 or 6 questions total. I have a buyer coming over from the UK next month who found me on Trulia and is purchasing a vacation home in the 500K+ range. He contacted me based on my honest and straight forward answers to some other folks. So Trulia Voices does work.

    So my thoughts are: Unless we can find a way to get rid of these sites, which we can’t, nor should we try, we just have to figure out a a way to work the system to our advantage. Being a child of the 60s this comes very easy for me:)

  14. Matthew Rathbun

    May 21, 2008 at 11:58 am

    This is a great Q and A and seeing Rudy here to answer questions says volumes for the company. I happen to like where both Trulia and Zillow are heading, but I think they need to be given some time to sort through growth pains. The pace they are setting for this type of initiative is impressive considering it’s new frontier for everyone.

    I’ve asked the same question as Frank, about agents falsely representing. My spin on it, is that an agent who has been nefarious with their mischievous marketing practices is just getting more bold as no one is standing up to them – or knew about it. Most state’s have regulations against such practices and if they are Realtors, there is certainly the code of ethics. Either way, my point is that this behavior will continue until licensees begin taking a more proactive approach to policing themselves.

    All good points and questions above, but it still comes back to the fact that most services (including MLS) are only as good as the participants.

  15. Matthew Rathbun

    May 21, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    Bryant,

    You bring up some good points and… answer them yourself. These sites are here to stay, mainly because agents (as a whole) weren’t doing the on-line marketing that they should for their region. The consumer being able to go to one location and initiate the contact is exactly what the consumer (currently) wants.

    Realtor.com tried this and IMHO missed the mark, because they were too busy trying to serve the Realtor’s desire as opposed the consumer’s needs. All the while not realizing that serving the client in a manner that they desired, WAS serving the Realtor best.

    Glad to see that you are able to convert curious buyers into clients. That’s fantastic!

  16. Benn Rosales

    May 21, 2008 at 12:28 pm

    Poor Trulia, the new scapegoat for all aggrigators.

    Here’s how I see it. Trulia never came out badmouthing Realtors, in fact, they’ve been a friendly vendor to Realtors for a very long time. They defended agents when Zillow was launched and began disrupting the paradigm. I’m not on board that Trulia is the evil enemy, but I do believe that giving the listing agent full exposure via links is fair play.

    Realtors are being forced into agreements with aggrigators by the boards and percieved consumer demand using transparency as the buzz word. Why I can stomach aggrigators such as Trulia and Zillow is because at least they’re offering something more than just search. Whether you’re a listing agent or not, you are a buyer’s agent too. The opportunity to create a profile and be involved in any conversation the buyer wants to have is a positive by anyones standards, the problem is that we’re forced to do so outside of our own real estate space, trumped by outsiders, and are forced to wade through ignorant advise, that tends to poison the buyer in some cases- mostly seen in zillow forums by forum junkies that just plain hate the world.

    I have never used a widget believing I got any link love from it, it is nieve to believe that any business out there is not there to acquire/keep consumers on their site- why in the world would Trulia be any different. If Trulia has an agreement with a template website company to provide links/widgets in an effort to monetize their offering and it allows profiles and listing of property to remain free, so be it- that problem is an inhouse issue the template company has to answer for with its consumer. I’ve dropped them for less reason such as their intrusive logo and links at the bottom of every one of my pages.

    I do agree 100% that getting in bed with aggrigation is a bad idea, but at this point that train has left the station. The strongest consumer/agent offering will win the battle for consumer minds, put added pressure on realtor.com to do more or continue to hemorage and in the end we’ll all hope it was all for not.

    It will be up to the individual agent to explore the opportunities in each of the online venues until a winning mix is achieved- beating up on Trulia (or just Trulia) is not the answer, but Trulia doesn’t get off so easially either as seen in the comments to this interview- Trulia needs to clear out the emotion and look at what is being said logically and find an absolutely route to the middle ground with agents.

    The attitude cannot be “we have your listings, who gives a damn if you play along” because in the end fury can organize quickly in the public relations nightmare.

  17. Jonathan Dalton

    May 21, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    > I’d focus more on engaging buyers and sellers and less about worrying what other people think.

    But isn’t the “thumbs up, thumbs down” system the method by which the community is supposed to be self-policing? Wasn’t that supposed to reflect back upon the agent who is receiving the marks one way or the other?

    Asking agents to lead by example is good in theory, Rudy, but in practice it’s often impossible to be seen and/or heard through the howling masses (including those across the country who fancy themselves experts on the Phoenix market and Arizona real estate law.)

    I keep a full profile on Trulia just because. My listings go there through P2A (though there are issues with how they’re displayed because they don’t list my brokerage, which is a problem for properties here in Arizona.) I’ll answer the rare question.

    But I stick to my original issues – just because homeowners believe agents should stomp on the COE, that doesn’t mean the agents should do it. We as agents need to respect each other at some point if we ever want respect from the public.

    Mutual respect and concern for the customer should be more important than having the most answers.

  18. Frank Jewett

    May 21, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    Matthew> This is a great Q and A and seeing Rudy here to answer questions says volumes for the company.

    If he answers them all, it will, otherwise it’s not unusual to send someone around to regurgitate (have we already seen one copy-paste spot?) the company line. Heck, the MLS used to send a guy around to a meeting, then one day he stopped coming “due to poor health.” I saw him a couple of months ago and expressed relief that he was looking so good, but he admitted (he was a nice guy working for bad people) that the health story must have been an excuse from corporate after they instructed him to stop attending that meeting. Too many of the people who make their living selling technology to organized real estate prey on the lack of technical sophistication within the industry.

    Matthew> if they are Realtors, there is certainly the code of ethics.

    Has anyone ever lost their R before they lost their license? From here is looks like the R is rented, not earned.

  19. Matthew Rathbun

    May 21, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    Frank: I was referencing Benn’s post as a good Q and A… The fact that Rudy is here, is a bonus and I agree that it’s value is in a candid and complete response to comments…

    Unfortunately, I try to give these companies the benefit of the doubt; as much as I would like it myself. Everything gets attacked – everything. It doesn’t matter what it is, someone will be against it and I find most often that both sides could do better. Some folks will see value and make money from it and some won’t. Each agent needs to establish their own marketing plan and if it doesn’t work for them, than trying to make it do so will probably not work.

    I see Trulia and Zillow as the open-source version of Google apps to the Microsoft suite. I really like the Microsoft products, but I think that open source compels to MS to be on their toes.

    Yes, people have been expelled from being a R, prior to loosing their licenses. I only know of two cases, but what a lot of folks don’t understand is that MOST association charters required the local board to forward founded licensing violations to their real estate boards, so that the loss of license and lost of R is about at the same time and often for the same reasons.

    It certainly is rented and that’s a great analogy. Folks can use the Realtor stuff as they please. Some see benefit, some don’t. I don’t think you’ll convince either side to see differently.

  20. Frank Jewett

    May 21, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    Matthew, along with the low cost benefit, Trulia and Zillow have applied professional design and development with a consumer driven focus. The local MLS is still implementing bad developer design with a Realtor driven focus (since when do consumers search by MLS area?), and even the Realtors hate the design. I welcome the presence of Trulia and Zillow. I’ve challenged them to come inside the industry by replacing stodgy, overpriced MLS systems with a platform the enables local boards to enforce their rules and retain control of their listings. We’re going to have a national MLS at some point. That system might as well be built by a professional software company rather than by a group of well connected laggards and amateurs sporting “Realtor owned” lapel pins.

  21. Mike Farmer

    May 22, 2008 at 5:00 am

    “Mike, are you sure you aren’t thinking of Redfin or Zillow? Trulia doesn’t appear to have a FSBO model like Zillow’s “Make Me Move” feature.”

    No, I’m thinking of Trulia, but they have changed it now — I just checked — but as of last week when I searched “Savannah Ga real estate” and followed their link in the results — it had

    “no personal information and no agents required” — prominently displayed. I addressed this at Bonzai — it appears they have removed the “no agent required” but I never got a response as to why it was there to start with. It’s good that they changed it.

  22. Eric Bramlett

    May 22, 2008 at 10:30 am

    Is your intent to outrank agents in search?

    No, absolutely not.

    That is an outright lie. Trulia has a killer SEO team, and they’re doing their damndest to outrank every one of us. Please read a basic explanation of Page Rank and then think about what all of those links from agent sites are doing, and what all of those nofollow links from Trulia are not doing.

  23. Bob Lipply

    May 22, 2008 at 11:24 am

    That’s right Eric and too bad many of these hardworking Realtors just don’t get it. Homebuyers click on websites that are near the top of the page in google and soon Trulia will be there for every city due mostly to the links from the same hardworking Realtors. Is Trulia going to send the homebuyer to you? Of course not.

    Add rel=”nofollow” to your Trulia widget code today. Trulia doesn’t care and it will help you in the long run.

  24. Eric Blackwell

    May 22, 2008 at 11:53 am

    Folks, when we are looking at “Which Interloper Sucks the Worst” that’s kinda like saying “Who’s hosed the REALTOR the most LATELY.” I will concede the battle over a National real estate lisitng site is ON because REALTOR.com REALLY screwed up and did not give the customer what they needed.

    For me to say that Trulia is a bigger threat to REALTORS right now does not mean that I condone Zillow. I don’t. They are just another mouth waiting to be fed out of the REALTOR’s pockets. Since they both want the listings and they both want the REALTORS of the world to be on their staff as writers in exchange for links that are of little value in exchange for the content they create…let’s just say it:

    THEY BOTH SUCK. Both are parasitic relationships. They suck the life blood FROM the REALTOR.

    But Rudy to say that you (Trulia) are not going after search engine rankings above the real estate agents is outright bull. You have made comments on various forums indicating as much– I am happy to go get some quotes of YOURS for you if you’d like, where you clearly indicate as much.

    I am not a fan of ANY of the interlopers Trulia, Zillow, etc…that having been said, Ines and Benn your comments about “Poor Rudy” are WAYYYY out of line as well IMO. I have always been cordial to both David G. and Rudy and I try to let the FACTS speak for themselves. We can disagree without being disagreeable, and I am trying to do just that.

    Rudy is a nice guy. This is NOT about nice guys. This is about Trulia using REALTORS against themselves and each other to gain rankings in the search engines. Once they get the rankings all over the country, the next step is to say “Everybody HAS to put their listings with US because of our search engine exposure…” Then comes the dominance phase where their management team changes or changes its mind and decides to charge agents for leads and goes away from the “advertising model”.

    Benn, once again…it is REALLY important to separate facts uncovered from personal animus. I would love to meet Rudy anywhere anytime. We’d probably get along GREAT. But Rudy, I don’t think you can get away with saying your intent is NOT to outrank agents in search. I have tall boots, brother…but it’s getting deep.

    Best;

    Eric

  25. Eric Bramlett

    May 22, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    I have tall boots, brother…but it’s getting deep.

    LOL! I had to put on my chest high waders to make it through this interview!

  26. Benn Rosales

    May 22, 2008 at 12:38 pm

    Eric Blackwell,

    “Poor Rudy” are WAYYYY out of line as well IMO

    That isn’t what I said so I’m glad we can agree Rudy can defend himself if he personally feels attacked (which I don’t think he personally has been).

    As for scapegoating- My point was not that Trulia shouldn’t be discussed (we’re discussing it) in detail, but business is basically always the same- self-serving in the end and profit driven- only the name changes. Anyone sticking anything from anyone on their site should have their eyes wide open because seo strategy, good and bad isn’t just specific to Trulia.

  27. ines

    May 22, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    I would also like to add that Trulia is listening – they incorporated agent branding on listings yesterday and who knows what else is coming.

    They are listening to the feedback and they are doing something about it. IMHO, that says a lot about them. (now don’t ask me to include their widget on my site – it wouldn’t work with my site’s strategy)

  28. Eric Bramlett

    May 22, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    I would also like to add that Trulia is listening – they incorporated agent branding on listings yesterday and who knows what else is coming.

    I fail to see how the agent branding does anything to address the issues we’ve raised.

    Anyone sticking anything from anyone on their site should have their eyes wide open because seo strategy, good and bad isn’t just specific to Trulia.

    I couldn’t agree with you more. And there is no other national competitor to all local real estate agents that’s running a successful widgetbait campaign.

    I don’t understand why we didn’t get any follow up questions to the following two statements:

    Rudy on “are you trying to outrank agent sites:” No, absolutely not.

    Rudy on nofollowing the widget links: Widget coding is not going to change, but widgets are added to a site by the site owner who can do what they wish.

  29. Wayne Long

    May 22, 2008 at 1:44 pm

    “add that Trulia is listening – they incorporated agent branding on listings yesterday and who knows what else is coming.”

    Do you really think they are listening and responding to customer wants – OR – do you think they are practicing a CYA strategy???

    I think it could be the latter. Did you notice what Mike said about changing the “no agents required” when it was pointed out. They can change it back just as quick when others stop looking IMO. This says a lot about their basic strategy to me.

    When Trulia said they were not trying to outrank agents in the interview (“no, absolutely not) – that said a lot about their trustworthiness. Again IMO.

  30. ines

    May 22, 2008 at 1:53 pm

    I didn’t say “poor Rudy either”….on the contrary, I said:

    Benn, you can’t expect a nice guy like Rudy to show up to an interview without getting flamed

    I know my comment about branding has nothing to do with the widgets, but it has a lot to do with how Trulia is trying to change the perception. I complained about the whole agent branding before and they listened. Who knows, they may do something about their widgets as well. (and for the record, I don’t use their widgets or any other widgets that redirect traffic)

    I think everyone’s goal on the Internet is ranking – that’s how the consumer finds us. But if you ask me, who would I rather have above me in google, other than no-one, it would be a company that responds well to feedback and who has good intentions. Should we tread lightly and test what works for us? absolutely! Should we turn a blind eye? NOT AT ALL!

  31. Frank Jewett

    May 22, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    I think everyone’s goal on the Internet is ranking – that’s how the consumer finds us.

    Unless they find you because they were referred to you, they met you at a local event, or they met you at their front door when you handed them a copy of a blog post about upcoming events in their area. I often get the sense, not necessarily from you in particular, that social networking is a replacement for personal networking and that Realtor 2.0 can ignore the proven lead generation methods of the past because technology has made them obsolete.

    Do we really think someone looking to sell their Willow Glen home is going to Google and searching for “Willow Glen Real Estate?” Even if they did, they would probably get one of those 1-800-DENTIST style lead capture sites because those sites typically outrank actual real estate professionals.

    I sometimes wonder if hype from SEO consultants has led to the overrating of SEO in the industry.

  32. ines

    May 22, 2008 at 2:34 pm

    Man! I feel like all my comments are being taken out of context with this thread! You guys are killing me!

    Frank – it’s a combination of everything we do, not just SEO – but in my own experience, both buyers and sellers are typing “Miami Shores Real Estate” and are finding me – they also find me with many other search terms and it does get me business. Google is my friend and I will keep blogging away useful information for “MY” audience – and I will also keep experimenting with different portals out there as well and different social networks to see what works for me and my business.

  33. Jim Olenbush

    May 22, 2008 at 4:55 pm

    Trulia has been using very agressive SEO and they are outranking agents in many markets. It is no accident.

    They ask agents to create their content by uploading listings and posting on their forums. They want agents to link to Trulia by using their widgets. Then they turn around and ask us to buy featured advertising spots.

    We don’t need any more of these middlemen trying to force their way into our industry. We are already paying huge fees to relo companies, paying R.com to display our listings correctly, paying for online leads… every one wants a piece of the pie. Enough is enough.

  34. Frank Jewett

    May 22, 2008 at 6:45 pm

    ines, I wasn’t trying to pick on you, but how many of us selected our dentist by calling 1-800-DENTIST or by doing a Google search for “dentist” and the name of our city or neighborhood? I suspect most of us found our dentist by referral. This raises another obvious point. How many of us expected that dentist to give us a cleaning presentation, then asked him or her for a price reduction? How many of us would want the cheapest dentist in town working on our teeth? Referrals make it easier to present yourself as a professional. As such, real estate websites should be focused on retention more than lead generation. That’s a general observation, not a criticism of you or your site. I like your site.

  35. ines

    May 22, 2008 at 7:25 pm

    Frank – I know you weren’t picking on me, I just like to add a little humor to the discussion. I really see your point with the whole Dentist analogy but at the same time I don’t think it’s a good comparison.

    Referral business is what we all strive for, but for newer agents, the referral business is an impossibility at first so there needs to be another way. As with everything, I stress balance and for someone that gets constant business not only local, but national as well as international on a daily basis, I can assure you that Google Placement is always a concern, but not the main one.

    I was just contacted last night from a Canadian moving to Miami Shores and chose us because we answered our phone. There is no referral, they liked our site and they loved the follow through. Now we will offer great service and we will begin the whole referral circle….one client at a time.

    (we’re going on a tangent here, don’t you think?)…..sorry for busting your post Benn

  36. Mike Farmer

    May 22, 2008 at 7:45 pm

    “Do we really think someone looking to sell their Willow Glen home is going to Google and searching for “Willow Glen Real Estate?” Even if they did, they would probably get one of those 1-800-DENTIST style lead capture sites because those sites typically outrank actual real estate professionals.

    I sometimes wonder if hype from SEO consultants has led to the overrating of SEO in the industry.”

    Frank, 80% of my business is coming from Google searchers searching in my area — no hype, just transactions. Search is the immediate future — maybe something will replace it — for at least the next five years I predict search will be the number one marketing opportunity.

  37. C Richey

    May 22, 2008 at 9:30 pm

    Interesting comments. But getting to the point. No matter what Trulia says, without rankings they are out of business. They depend on traffic and have a definite plan to get it, at the cost of agents in those areas. Pure and simple.

  38. Mike Brown

    May 23, 2008 at 9:29 am

    Somehow I believe even if Trulia, Zillow and Realtordotcom disappeared from the face of the earth Realtors could still bring buyers and sellers together.

  39. Mike Farmer

    May 23, 2008 at 10:29 am

    Mike Brown: AND, more directly.

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Business Marketing

The rise of influencer marketing and its effect on digital marketing

(BUSINESS MARKETING) More businesses are planning to invest a larger part of their marketing budgets on more relatable, branded content and influencer marketing.

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Influencer speaking to camera for marketing segment.

The digital age has created more savvy consumers, and the barrage of advertising on top of the plenitude of content online can be a lot. Many consumers have learned to hide ads or they simply scroll past them to their content of choice. Most business owners know that digital marketing is a crucial part of any ad strategy, and branded content and influencer marketing continues to grow in the market, because consumers see that it’s different from traditional advertising.

Hardly anything stayed the same in 2020, and traditional advertising also has shifted. Advertiser Perceptions reported on the trend for 2021, based on a survey from late 2020.

“More than half of advertisers using paid branded content and influencers say doing so is more critical than it was a year ago. Throughout the second half of 2020, 32% increased spending on branded content and 25% spent more to back influencers. They’re now putting 20% of their digital budgets into the complementary practices, which is more than they put into any other digital channel (paid search is 14%, display 13%, paid social 12%, digital video 12%).”

The benefits of branded and influencer content are that you are speaking to the consumer where they already are, when you choose an influencer. The people who follow their accounts are more likely to trust that the influencer would only share something they like or use themselves. The best matches are when the influencer marketing fits nicely into the kind of content, the voice, and any specialties they already deal with.

The word “influencer” as well as the concept rubs some people the wrong way. Marketers see the value, though, as influencer marketing can be effective if done well, and the cost to hire them is often less than a traditional ad campaign. If I want to know about food in a city, I’ll follow the hashtags until I find a local food blogger or micro-influencer whose style I like. Then I’ll seek out those restaurants when I visit. Sure, some of the meals are comped, but the truth is that food bloggers and influencers like to share their food recommendations. I have been influenced this way more than once, and not only for food. I am not alone in this, either, which is why it’s an important part of a marketing strategy.

In influencer marketing, the content creator is then given free rein to create within their own style, voice, and persona. They need to connect with their audience in an authentic, familiar way without creating a dissonance for their followers between their public page(s) and the brand. The level of trust is fairly high with influencer marketing, and many influencers realize that promoting something crappy or something outside of their area of expertise or recognition hurts everyone involved.

The power of storytelling comes into play here, as with all good advertising. Branded content is specifically all about the story, often the story of the business’s philosophy or some lifestyle aspect that goes with the brand’s vibe–or is so off that it goes viral. Some branded campaigns join into or build off of conversations already happening in the wider world. The purpose is to have people engage with the brand, with the content, build awareness, encourage conversations, sharing, comments, all with the long term goal of fostering a positive image of the brand so that down the line, they will become consumers.

Think of 2004 Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign, based on a study showing that around 2% of women saw themselves as beautiful. The widely studied, award-winning campaign featured women of all backgrounds and body types, without airbrushing and Photoshopping them into a narrow vision of “beauty.” While some people hated it, many loved it and applauded the brand for treading into traditionally uncharted waters. Among haters, fans, and people who weren’t sure what to think, the Dove Real Beauty branded content campaign generated conversations. The campaign also encouraged women to feel good about themselves and lift up other women. One could argue that the campaign you could argue that the Real Beauty campaign was a forerunner to the currently popular body positivity movement, which started gaining traction around 2012. Dove increased sales by at least $1.5 billion in the first ten years the branded content campaign ran.

The goal of branded content is to raise awareness of the brand, but the path from point A (creating the content) to point B (brand awareness, ultimately leading to better sales) is not a straight line. Brands are paying attention to grabbing attention, aka building brand awareness via more upper funnel marketing than lower funnel.

One thing that marketers are looking for now, however, is almost eliminating the funnel. With the mind-boggling increase in e-commerce since the beginning of the pandemic, clickable sales capability becomes important in any kind of marketing, including influencer and branded content. It pays to listen to customers, to find an influencer who meshes with your brand’s purpose, and to create thoughtful branded content that isn’t out of line with your core product or service.

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Business Marketing

Need design help? Ask a Designer offers free peer-review for better design

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Good design is more than just slapping some fonts and colors together. Ask a Designer promises free design advice on their new website.

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A white sign in an urban setting reading "In Design We Trust" with glowing yellow lights above.

With the necessity to create and maintain an online presence for our businesses nowadays, content creation is essential. One impact this proliferation of content has had on entrepreneurs, bloggers, and small businesses is that many non-designers have had to take a stab at design work. Sometimes this works out for the amateur designer, but often it could be better: More effective, accessible, and appealing. This is where Ask a Designer comes in.

Creating designs online can be fun, but your average Canva, Squarespace, or WordPress user, for example, has no more of a sense of design than the man on the moon. Design work encompasses so much more than just slapping some words on a stock photo and calling it a day. While there are truly incredible and helpful free or inexpensive DIY design and business tools out there, nothing beats the power of knowledge and experience.

Ask a Designer provides one more level of professional review and counsel before a business owner puts their DIY (or even paid) design work out there for the world to see—or worse, not see. As a writer, I have always valued editorial reviews, comments, and feedback on my writing. Second eyes, third eyes, and more almost always serve to improve the content. It makes business sense to get as much feedback as possible, even better to get expert feedback.

For example, an experienced web designer should have a good idea of how to incorporate and test for UX and UI purposes, thus making the user interaction more functional and pleasant. A skilled graphic designer knows what colors go together for aesthetic appeal, accessibility, and even the psychology behind why and how they do.

Take logos. Pick a color, image, and font you like, and go for it, right? I’m afraid not. There is a lot of data out there on the science and psychology of how our brains process logos. There are examples of logo “fails” out there, as well. Consider the uproar over AirBnB’s logo that many thought evoked genitalia. Or the raised eyebrows when Google changed their color scheme to one similar to Microsoft’s palate. Just search for “logo fails” online to get an idea of how a seemingly innocent logo can go horribly wrong. I haven’t linked them here, because they would need a trigger warning, as many of the worst examples can be interpreted as some sort of sexual innuendo or genitalia. Searchers, be warned.

It always makes good business sense to use professional designers when you have the option, just as it makes sense to use professional writers for copywriting and professional photographers for photography. After all, if you have the chance to get something right the first time, it saves you time and money to do so. Rebranding can be difficult and costly, although sometimes rebranding is necessary. Having a designer review your design (whether logo, WordPress, blog, or other) could possibly help you from missing the mark.

How does Ask a Designer work, and is it really free? It’s super easy—almost like designers had a hand in it! Know what I mean? First, you go to the website or app and enter your question. Next Ask a Designer will assign your question to the appropriate type of designer in their network. Within 48 hours, they’ll get back to you with feedback or an answer to your design question.

While Ask a Designer is available to anyone to use, the website suggests it is especially helpful for developers, teams, junior designers, and business and product owners. They suggest, “Think of us as peer-review in your pocket.” The team at Ask a Designer will provide feedback on specific projects such as websites, logos, and portfolios, as well as answer general questions.

Examples of questions on their website give a good idea of the scope of questions they’ll answer, and include the type of feedback they provide. Sample questions include:

  • “How do I choose colors for dark mode?”
  • “I’d love feedback on a logo for a restaurant.”
  • “I’m an industrial design student and I’d like to move into automotive design. What are some resources that can get me to where I need to be?”
  • “Please send me some feedback on [website link].”
  • “How can I use my brand fonts on my website?”
  • “I’m a full stack software engineer. Are there any resources you could suggest for me to level up my design or UX skills?”

Ask a Designer is new, and so they currently list 2 design experts, each with 20 or more years of experience in their fields. They promise to add more “desig-nerds” soon. It may sound too good to be true, but from what they state on their website, this expert design review service is free. Considering the other excellent tools out there with some free components out there for business, it is possible that this is true. Whether they will add a more in-depth paid version is yet to be seen. In any case, it’s worth trying out the app or website for your burning design questions and reviews.

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Business Marketing

6 tips to easily market your side hustle

(BUSINESS MARKETING) It can be hard to stand out from the crowd when you’re starting a new side hustle. Here are some easy ways to make your marketing efforts more effective.

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side hustle marketing

Side hustles have become the name of the game, and especially during these turbulent times, we have to get extra creative when it comes to making money. With so many of us making moves and so much noise, it can be hard to get the word out and stand out when sharing your side hustle.

Reuben Jackson of Big Think shared five ways that you can market your side hustle (we added a sixth tip for good measure), and comment with your thoughts and ideas on the subject:

  1. Referrals: Don’t Be Afraid to Ask!
    If you’re going to make a splash, you have to be willing to ask for favors. Reach out to your network and ask them to help spread the word on your new venture. This can be as simple as asking your friends to share a Facebook post with information that refers them to your page or website. Word of mouth is still important and incredibly effective.
  2. Start Where You Are
    Immediately running an expensive ad right out of the gate may not be the most effective use of your (likely) limited funds. Use the resources you do have to your advantage – especially if you’re just testing things out to see how the side hustle goes in the real world. You can do this by creating a simple, informational landing page for a small fee. Or, if you’re not looking to put any money into it right away, create an enticing email signature that explains what you do in a concise and eye-catching way. Check out these tools to create a kickin’ email signature.
  3. Gather Positive Reviews
    If you’ve performed a service or sold a product, ask your customers to write a review on the experience. Never underestimate how many potential customers read reviews before choosing where to spend their money, so this is an incredibly important asset. Once a service is completed or a product is sold, send a thank you note to your customer and kindly ask them to write a review. Be sure to provide them with links to easily drop a line on Yelp or your company’s Facebook page.
  4. Be Strategic With Social
    It’s common to think that you have to have a presence on all channels right away. Start smaller. Think about your demographic and do some research on which platforms reach that demographic most effectively. From there, put your time and energy into building a presence on one or two channels. Post consistently and engage with followers. After you’ve developed a solid following, you can then expand to other platforms.
  5. Give Paid Marketing A Shot
    Once you’ve made a dollar or two, try experimenting with some Facebook or Twitter ads. They’re relatively cheap to run and can attract people you may not have otherwise had a chance to reach out to. Again, the key is to start small and don’t get discouraged if these don’t have people knocking your door down; it may take trial and error to create the perfect ad for your hustle.
  6. Go Local
    Local newspapers and magazines are always looking for news on what local residents are doing. Send an email to your town/city’s journal or local Patch affiliate. Let them know what you’re up to, offer yourself for an interview, and give enticing information. The key is doing this in a way that your hustle is seen as beneficial to the public, and is not just an ad.

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