The renewed fight against questionable tactics
For years, third party real estate media sites have been under scrutiny by SEO experts for using what some call “questionable tactics” as they are accused of hurting real estate brokerages’ ability to achieve search engine visibility for their own websites. Many fought against the multi-million dollar sites years ago, but most have given up and accepted the SEO competition as an inevitability.
VHT Visual Marketing Services is making waves in the industry for reinvigorating the debate on what they call “black hat” tactics, and fighting against what they say is an injustice. VHT is known for their digital marketing platform, ImageWorks, now used by Century 21, Edina Realty and 50 other top brokerages, as well as having acquired real estate bookmarking service, Dwellicious last year.
Edina Realty is among the real estate brokerages that have announced their decision to pull their listings from third party real estate media sites, and has opted to use VHT ImageWorks to search optimize their listings. VHT says their platform is different than third party aggregators because they use the brokers’ visual assets (property photos and videos) to inform search engines that brokers are the original source of all of the listing data.
Because of brokers pulling their listings from third party real estate search sites, the fight over who owns the data, how it is displayed, who is compensated (or not) and what each party’s rights are is vigorously renewed.
VHT Chairman takes a strong stand
VHT Chairman, Brian Balduf issued the following statement to AGBeat, addressing third party aggregation practices:
“While brokerages have been fighting battles among themselves to recruit agents, the competition for customers has moved online. Brokers lost the marketing high ground to third party aggregators that have become very good at attracting home buyers on the web and controlling the source of potential customers.
“In October 2011, Zillow attracted 24.4 million unique visitors, that’s more than the total number of visitors to the nation’s 15 largest residential real estate brokerage/brand sites combined. By ceding control of their listings and more importantly, the source of new clients, brokerages risk being perceived as diminishing in value to their agents and franchisees. While the industry once feared that third parties would disintermediate agents from buyers and sellers, instead, what’s happening is that brokerages are actually being distintermediated from agents.
“Some top brokerages, such as Edina Realty in the Twin Cities and Shorewest in Wisconsin, have begun fighting back by pulling their listings from third party aggregators. They believe they can do a better job of search engine marketing on their own. They don’t want third parties getting in between them and their target customers, and they’re frustrated by the rising cost and confusion it causes with consumers..
“Brokerages are tired of being blocked from search engine results due to the questionable tactics commonly used by third party aggregators such as Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com, and Yahoo. Brokerages provide their listings for free, and in return, the aggregators commonly insert ‘no-follow tags’ on the links back to the broker’s websites. The ‘no-follow’ tags effectively tell the search engines to ignore the actual source of the listing data. It’s dirty pool.
“Search engines don’t count links with no-follow tags in their rankings calculations. So it’s virtually impossible for brokerage sites to be recognized by search engines and consumers as the original, authoritative source of their listings. It also means it’s very difficult for brokerage sites to be ranked higher than third party sites.”
Tis the season for employment scams – here’s what to look out for
(BUSINESS NEWS) Desperate times call for desperate measures. Seasonal employment scams are back on the menu and here’s how you can avoid them.
With the sheer amount of desperation surrounding the holidays, employment scams typically have a resurgence during this season. Thanks to the Better Business Bureau, there are some clear warning signs that can help you spot and avoid seasonal scams this year.
The typical crux of any employment scam revolves around a prospective employee’s willingness to pay for something upfront, be it training or some other kind of quasi-justifiable item (e.g., a uniform). However, other iterations of the scam actually involve an “employer” overpaying for something at the onset—albeit with a fake check—and then asking the recipient to wire “back” the extra money.
Either way, these scams can leave you jobless and with less money than you initially had, so here are some things for which you should watch out.
Firstly, employers shouldn’t ever charge you before hiring you. Some industries do require employees to make small purchases on their own dime (i.e., the aforementioned uniform), but payroll will usually deduct the cost of these materials from the employee’s first paycheck—not require payment upfront.
As a general rule, it’s probably best to avoid companies that charge you at all. Aramark, for example, is known for requiring employees to buy company clothes—and they’re no peach to work with. But desperate times may warrant an exception in this regard.
It’s also to your benefit to avoid postings that boast an “interview-free” experience. Put simply, no one is hiring sans an interview unless it’s nepotism or a scam. If you aren’t related to the poster, that doesn’t leave much up for interpretation. Similarly, advertising a large sum of money for disproportionately low amounts of work is a pretty big warning sign.
Finally, watch out for jobs that ask for a work sample before hiring. While this is common for internships, most entry-level positions and beyond aren’t going to require you to complete a project for free before determining whether or not you’re good for the job. At best, this is a tactic to get free work from you; at worst, your application information can be stolen.
It’s sad to think that people would stoop to the level of scamming others amidst the dumpster fire of a year it’s been, but if you avoid these red flags, you should be able to keep yourself safe during this holiday season.
Genomelink is a one-stop-shop for your DNA data, but is it safe?
(NEWS) Genomelink is presenting a dashboard product to unlock further insights using your genetic data. Sounds cool…until you think about privacy.
Have you ever done one of those nifty home test kits to check your ancestry? In this new world where covid is a long-term reality and the resulting boom in telehealth services, genetic home test kits are seeing a comeback in popularity. What many consumers aren’t aware of, is what happens to their data after they get their report back. Now, there is a new contender in the market called Genomelink that is presenting a dashboard product to unlock further insights using your genetic data. That sounds cool… until you start thinking about privacy.
Most of the major companies in the business don’t even give you the option to not have your data sold, but that fact is buried so far into the fine print, it is no wonder that people miss it. Research published in the journal Nature found that genetic-testing companies frequently fail to meet even basic international transparency standards. Unifying all this data into one dashboard product unlocks even more opportunities for your data to be compromised.
There are four big glaring red flags prospective users should be aware of:
1. Cyber security standards in the genetic testing industry are low-tier.
2. The protocols for how to make your information “anonymous” before they sell it en masse are laughably ineffective.
3. There are no restrictions on who can purchase it or for what purpose.
4. Genomelink is trying to build a platform to streamline access to this data for “all users everywhere.”
Genomelink Co-founder Tomohiro Takano provided the following quote on ProductHunt.com: “We believe in the future, billions of people will have access to their DNA data. When that happens, imagine: [the place] where you will store DNA data and how you [will] connect data [to an] app ecosystem. That will be Genomelink in a nutshell.”
As someone who lives with disabilities, the last people I want to have access to my DNA data are health or life insurance providers or other for-profit interests who may not have my best interests in mind. Genomelink’s vision sounds like the well-intentioned beginning of something with the potential to be abused in sinister ways.
9-to-5 workdays are no longer the norm: Flexibility brings productivity
(BUSINESS) Doing away with 9-to-5 workdays in a cubicle can work wonders for a team’s productivity. This is no longer a dream, but today’s reality.
As we’ve seen in recent years, many of the old concepts about work have been turned on their heads. Many offices allow a more casual dress as compared to the suit and tie standard, and more and more teams have the option of working remotely. One of these concepts that have been in flux for a bit is challenging the norm of 9-to-5 workdays. Offices are giving more options of flex hours and remote work, with the understanding that the work must be completed effectively and efficiently with these flexibilities.
Recently, I got sucked into one of those quick-cut Facebook videos about a company that decided to test out the method of a four-day workweek. This gave employees the option of what day they would like to take off, or, it gave employees the option to work all five days of the week, but with flex hours.
Despite the decrease in hours worked, employees were still paid for a 40-hour workweek which continued their incentive to get the same amount of work done in a more flexible manner. With this shift in time use, the results found that employees wasted less time around the office with mindless chit-chat, as they understood there was less time to waste.
The boss in this office had each team explain how they were going to deliver the same level of productivity. The video did not share the explanations, but it could be assumed that the incentive of a day off would encourage employees to continue their level of productivity, if not increase it.
This was done with the goal of working smarter, rather than harder. Finding ways to manage time better (like finishing up a task before starting another one) helps to stay efficient.
During the trial, it was found that productivity, team engagement, and morale all increased, while stress levels decreased. Having time for yourself (an extra day off) and not overworking yourself are important keys to being balanced and engaged.
There is such a stigma about the way you have to operate in order to be successful (e.g. getting up early, using every hour at your disposal, and using free time to meditate).
Let’s get real – we all need a little free time to check back in with ourselves by doing something mindless (like a good old-fashioned Game of Thrones binge). If not, we’ll go bonkers.
Flex hours and remote working are not all about having time to do morning yoga and read best-seller after best-seller. Flex hours give us the time to take our kids to and from school and comfortably wear our parenting caps without fear of getting fired for not showing up to work precisely at 9 AM.
9-to-5 workdays are becoming dated and I’m glad to see that happen. So many people run themselves ragged within this frame and it’s impossible to find that happy work-life balance. Using flex options can help people manage every aspect of their lives in a positive way.
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