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Defending third party real estate sites’ SEO tactics

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SEO methods under fire

Last month, we reported that the debate over third party real estate sites’ SEO tactics has been renewed as listing syndication rules change and as various brokers across the nation pull their listings feed from the third party sites. The scene is changing.

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. VHT Visual Marketing Services calls the listing sites’ methods “black hat” tactics, and is fighting against what they say is an injustice.

VHT Chairman, Brian Balduf opined, “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.”

Defending the methods

Deeply entrenched in real estate, Jesse Friedman has a unique point of view in his role as President of BrokeragLeader.com which offers brokerages a “complete online solution for generating and tracking leads,” which led to his founding of Diggsy.com, “which aims to be the simplest and fastest Nationwide real estate search on the internet.” Friedman serves real estate professionals, aiming for their websites to rank highly, meanwhile also understanding the role of a third party real estate site, having founded Diggsy. Friedman explains to AGBeat exclusively his position on the debate about SEO tactics from his unique perspective.

Cutting exposure

Friedman echoes what many say is the top attraction to the third party real estate sites, noting that “Zillow having 24 mil visits in October means if your hiding your listings from them and other third parties, you are severely cutting exposure to potential buyers.”

“The goal of an agent should be to sell their clients home at the highest and best price, not worry about gaining views on their own site or trying to obtain both sides of the transaction (which has ethical implications in itself),” he added.

It’s not “black hat”

Much controversy surrounds how third party real estate search sites treat listings. Friedman explains, “The big 3rd party Syndication websites, as well as ours, Diggsy.com do not engage in “Black Hat” techniques. Adding a “nofollow” tag to a link is standard practice and does not devalue the site being linked at all.”

Friedman adds, “If anything, current research shows that a well rounded link profile, which includes nofollow links is essential to proper search engine optimization and marketing. The reality is that these big sites get traffic because they simply offer tools that people like to use and remain an independent source of information for people that are undecided on what agent or brokerage to use.”

Competing with the “big boys”

“Furthermore,” Friedman said, “agents and brokerage can compete with the “big boys”. Our proprietary Brokerage Leader platform and SEO that we offer brokerages consistently garner top search results with some clients getting as many as 20,000 leads over the past couple years with thousands of unique visitors a day.”

Fridman notes, “As a listing agent, you have intimate knowledge of your listing, target buyer and local knowledge. Use that to your advantage, blog about your new listings and become an expert in your community. This will help you rank better, not removing your listings from 3rd party websites.”

What if third party sites went away?

“Diggsy and our competitors put a ton of effort into our online marketing and presence,” said Friedman. “If we were gone, brokerages would still be competing with each other for rankings. The fact of the matter is it takes the right approach and ultimately hard work. Get a good website, utilize proper search engine optimization and marketing and pound the digital pavement and you will get the results you are looking for.”

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21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. Jesse Friedman

    February 6, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    If anyone was wondering about the "no-follow" issue, there is plenty of info out there talking about the value of these types of links including https://www.socialseo.com/blog/an-experiment-nofollow-links-do-pass-value-and-rankings-in-google.html – a good read if you are interested in this.

  2. Ken Brand

    February 6, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    The notion that qualified buyers make their home buying decisions by visiting 3rd party aggregators is in my opinion, inaccurate, misleading and uninformed. At least in my market.

    Yes, buyers all across planet earth visit the web (online real estate sites) to dream, entertain and educate themselves. When it comes time to seriously shop, the vast majority of qualified home buyers turn to a real estate agent to help them.

    If the consumer has found properties online that they're interested in, they share their findings with their real estate agent, who then includes them along with other matching properties found in a detailed MLS search. Whether a buyer has visited all three of the current leaders (Realtor.com/Trulia/Zillow), or none of them, consumers rely on and expect their real estate agent to scour the well source of property data, the local MLS.

    At the end of the day, hits and views are window dressing and hype designed to extract advertising and enhance your OWN listings advertising dollars from brokers and agents. The reality is, if a properly is supremely showcased in the local MLS, showing agents will include them in their showings, whether the properties ever show or viewed anywhere else online.

    The excluding your sellers from our 3rd Party sites is a disservice to the seller is the same true sounding but untrue argument that newspaper, billboard, grocery store carts, park benches and magazine advertisers used to use. The guilt trip is sales spin, imo.

    Having 3rd party aggregators display a sellers listing or not, does not effect the sellers selling price or days on market. Local market conditions and how the seller's property is positioned (price, terms, condition, location) relative to competing properties is what determines the seller's outcome. Of course it's the listing agents job to provide the intelligence necessary to positon the sellers property in a manner that accomplishes the goals of the seller.

    As I understand it, the conversation rate for internet leads is generally in the abysmally low single digit range. If 3rd Party sites were such awesome exposure tools, the results would be much higher, wouldn't they? The "you're missing out on exposure, which hurts your seller" doesn't ring true when so few qualified buyers buy the property they inquire about.

    As you point out, if the 3rd Party Aggregators disappeared we'd all be competing with each other instead of 3rd Party players. Exactly! Brokers and agents would be better served spending the millions of dollars currently spent on online position ads, zip code buys, enhancing their OWN listings and chasing strangers and tiny-tiny conversation rates, to create wow-worthy websites. If 3rd Party players disappeared tomorrow, the real estate industry would have millions of additional views to compete with and collectively millions of dollars to do it.

    My 2 cents. I'm not a hater, but I'm not a believer either.

    • Michael Corley

      February 6, 2012 at 10:54 pm

      Ken, you hit the nail right on head.

      Freidman can expound on the value he believes 3rd pty real estates sites provide brokers and agents, but the argument rings a bit hollow.

      3rd pty real estate sites profit from the free content offered by users (brokers, agents and visitors) by selling views with small benefits to brokers.

  3. Jesse Friedman

    February 6, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    Ken, you bring up some good points and by no means is there any replacement for the knowledge of a realtor. The internet serves as one of the means to find the right one and much of the time, customers are more comfortable using a site not tied to any one brokerage to start with.

    This is just a discussion point. Lets say the 3rd parties were out of the game, I would imagine the majority of top rankings would then be had by National Brokers resulting in little to no exposure to the smaller firms. Obviously everybody is out to make a buck, at least the syndicators remain an independent resource for an agent or brokerage to utilize.

  4. Jonathan Benya

    February 6, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    No follow tags aren't considered "Black Hat" in my book. Would I like the do-follow tag? Of course. Do I expect it? NO!!!

    Let's be honest with ourselves. 3rd party sites create greater exposure. If you don't like the way they get that exposure, then you can choose to not support them, but what's more important here: Your exposure, or Your client's property exposure?

    Agents have been ingrained with the concept of "your listing, your lead", but at the end of the day, is it more important to sell the listings you have or corner the buyers yourself?

  5. Ken Brand

    February 6, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    I hear you Jesse, and I agree, we're all in a competition for profit. Here's another concern I have about 3rd Party players. They're in a competition too, not only with brokers and agents, but each other as well. The race is for relevance, and therefore views and visitors. The pool of potential viewers is finite, if we want more, we have to take it away from somewhere/someone else.

    To succeed 3rd Party Players have to leverage disruption and destruction, they (just like brokers and agents) want to and have to become the go to source for real estate information.

    I DO NOT want Trulia, Zillow or Realtor.com to become the authority on real estate. It''s already happening, CEOs for all three are routinely quoted on the National News (on and offline) as the experts in the real estate market (That's our fault, where are the Big Broker leaders; PRU, CB, KW, BH&G, Re/Max, etc., why aren't they taking the leadership role? Tsk-tsk) Consumers place more faith in a dumb ass and often wildly inaccurate Zestimate, which creates conflict and suspicion when factual and realistic analysis is presented by an informed real estate agent, than they do local experts. Why does this happen?

    Because the consumer believes that an "Independent Source" provided the information so it must be true. After all TRZ isn't trying to sell anything. What the consumer doesn't know is that the "independent source", in this case Zillow, can promote themselves as unbiased and independent, and only trying to help the consumer, when it's really it's all and only about attracting viewers – accuracy, the truth and reality be damned. Although they are Independent, mostly unaccountable and perceived as unbiased, nothing could be further from the truth.

    To top it all off, we send them everything they need (listings data, blog posts, Q&Q and our advertising money) to ultimately make brokers and agents appear less and less relative to real estate.

    Another example is the agent/consumer so called Q&A opportunity. Seriously, how can an agent answer a consumers questions about the a real estate market in a state, city or neighborhood they've never worked in? It's sounds like a consumer friendly tool, but it's not. The consumer Q&A forums foster more misinformation, that wise advise. This practice continues because it has nothing to do with helping the consumer, it's about getting the brokers and agents (in addition to their listing data and advertising money) to add SEO in the form of content and the thin hope that maybe a contributing agent might generate a lead. It's a strategy to attract viewers away from wherever to them. So much for Independent and unbiased motivation.

    I know. Shame on agents for answering questions they're unqualified to answer, and shame on 3rd Party players for pretending to help. It's an SEO, attention-getting sham for 3rd Party Players and a unanswered prayer for magical leads for brokers and agents.

    It's the same play when 3Party players add all these wonderful social media share buttons so agent can disintermidate themselves by sending their audiences to a 3rd Party site. An on and on.

    I don't fault 3rd Party players for their brilliant marketing and efforts to become the authoritative real estate source, I just think it's unwise to help them displace me.

    And lastly, I'm not concerned about Broker competition, if worse came to worse, I could always affiliate with the winner. But you know what, I can't affiliate with Trulia, Zillow, or Realtor.com. They win by overshadowing all brokers and agents as the authority and go to place for real estate information.

    Once they seize Top Of Mind Awareness at the Independent and unbiased Go To Real Estate Source, real estate agents will move down the food chain and become as important and relevant as Apple factory workers in China and the 3rd Party Players will be Apple. This has happend before, it's called the RELOCATION business – some fees are 40% now. It didn't start that way, but if you participate, you're doing all the work for peanuts because you let a 3rd Party player become the Go To authority for relocation.

    Again, my 2cents. Just some thoughts on how I believe brokers and agents are clogging their arteries with hype and hope.

  6. Alex Cortez - Wailea Realtor

    February 6, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    First, saying that no-follow links are 'black hat' SEO strategies is wildly inaccurate. It is completely normal and expected for webmasters to put the no-follow attribute on links as deemed necessary.

    Now to the question regarding syndication and the value proposition of the big aggregators, not placing a listing on the 3 most visited real estate sites in the US is not only a disservice, but could be interpreted as negligent. Do I expect to sell a listing merely because it's listed on Zillow? Absolutely not. But although to me there's no quantifiable evidence that listing on Trulia, Zillow, Realtor, etc. will help in selling a listing, there's also absolutely no harm in syndicating.

  7. Thomas Johnson

    February 7, 2012 at 1:15 am

    TRZ are just…infomercials. The Vegamatics of real estate. The brokers and MLS boards that sold their data for at best a pittanc, now realive they have been sliced diced and julienned, but wait there's more! Once they get investors' billions, their behavior will worsen as they must justify their fluffy valuations.

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Opinion Editorials

New USPS duck-shaped truck design has mixed reactions

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) The USPS is getting a fleet of electronic delivery vehicles. We’re wondering if the actual design got lost in the mail.

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New USPS truck in a fictional neighborhood delivering mail.

So the USPS is getting new trucks and they look like ducks and maybe that sucks… or maybe it wucks. Like “works,” if a duck said it. Just give me this one please.

Anyway.

I don’t know how mean I can be here – there has to be something said for objective journalistic integrity – but I have a feeling most people are going to have a rather sarcastic reaction to the new design. I’m not so sure I can blame them – it has a kind of stubby little nose with a shortened hood and a boxy frame and super tall windshield, which gives the wheels a disproportionately large look compared to the rest of the silhouette. It’s sort of like a Nissan Cube but less millennial cool, which A) is discontinued (so maybe not so cool), and B) is not the car that had those giant hiphop hamsters running around, but I’m still going to link to it anyway.

Elon Musk must be breathing a sigh of relief right now.

The contract was awarded to Oshkosh Defense (which I was thrilled to find out is NOT the adorable kid’s clothing company, even though I personally think that would be hilarious if there was a factory making overalls for tiny humans alongside tactical defense trucks) and officially announced on February 23rd, 2021 to the tune of $482 million. Seriously though, someone is going to mix those up for the rest of all time and eternity; I’d never not think about my own baby pictures if some contractor from Oshkosh Defense showed up.

The release mentions that, “The historic investment is part of a soon-to-be-released plan the Postal Service has developed to transform its financial performance and customer service over the next 10 years through significant investments in people, technology and infrastructure as it seeks to become the preferred delivery service provider for the American public.” It’s called the NGDV – Next Generation Delivery Vehicle, which I happen to adore, and will pronounce as Nugduv, and you can’t stop me anyway. The old one was called the Grumman, by the way.

Some credit this as a radical change, and keeping in mind that radical doesn’t necessarily denote positive or negative, it seems like the perfect word to use here. Then there are those who correctly identify “a mixed bag of responses,” sort of like when you get a bag of candy at Halloween that has at least one thing no one likes. Some call it strange, while others defend it as something every new big vehicle should look like (this is where – as one of many – I found it called a “duck” which oh man do I love, quack quack).

We can also hit up the ever fair public opinion of Twitter, because why wouldn’t we?

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This is how I would draw a car. That is not a plus for this design

I really can’t get over that last one. But I mean, whoa. That’s quite the spectrum. There’s less disagreement on pizza toppings I think. But luckily I think we’re safe there – Domino’s makes people drive their personal cars.

Taking a step back and putting snide commentary away for a moment, there’s some areas that should be discussed. First – and what should probably be obvious – there was a laundry list of requirements and restrictions from the USPS, which made Nir Kahn – design director from custom carmaker Plasan – offer up his own tweets that give some insight on dimensions and design:

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I was involved in an early proposal for the USPS truck so I know the requirements well. They pretty much dictated the proportions – this package sketch shows that to meet the ergonomic and size requirements, there wasn’t much freedom 1/2 #USPS pic.twitter.com/Fk35g98Z83

Kahn mentions that “there wasn’t much freedom,” but also that “it could have looked much better,” and this sort of underlines the entire discussion I think – there were goals in place, and possibly some more aesthetically pleasing ways to meet them, but the constraints won out and drove (hehe) the design more than style did.

Certainly, there are other concerns – the ability for USPS drivers to reach a mailbox while seated is paramount. Others have pointed out that this design – with its large windshield and shortened front – should help with safety around small children (all the better if they are wearing Oshkosh B’gosh, because that implies they are tiny and may not be at all concerned with the dangers of streets). The open field-of-vision will aid in making sure drivers can navigate places that might be frequented by any number of pedestrians, so that’s a plus.

Further, if you get struck by one of these, you’ll basically “just” get kneecapped versus taking it square to the torso. The duck article is the one making this call, and I think there’s some merit there (though it makes me question how the USPS fleet is going to do against the SUVs and big trucks out in the wild). It then goes on to point out that this design has more cargo space, fitting into the idea of “rightsizing,” where the form and function of the vehicle meet in a way that is downsized, but still punches above its weight.

“From smaller fire engines to nimbler garbage trucks, making vehicles better scaled to urban tasks can make a huge difference, not only for keeping other cars moving on narrow streets, but also to ensure that humans on those same streets can access the bike lanes, sidewalks, and curb cuts they need to get around.”

I didn’t try too hard to find stats on crashes in mail trucks, but seems like something that should be addressed.

Maybe the biggest point here is that we sort of have to get new trucks – they are outliving their 24 year expectancy and catching on fire. On FIRE. I mean a mail truck might be the worst place for a fire. I’m not even sure I can’t think up a better answer… Ok maybe toilets would be worse.

The new vehicles can be either petrol or electric powered, have 360 cameras, airbags, and automatic braking. Oh, and air conditioning, which the old vehicles did not have. So yes, literally the worst place to have a fire. But due to the taller vehicles, someone can stand in them now! So escape is even easier! Hooray!

A series of delays pushed back the introduction of new vehicles from their 2018 projected date, with poor initial prototypes and the pandemic being major setbacks. Aggressive bidding led to extended deadlines, which had been narrowed down to a small list of candidates that included Workhorse (who unfortunately suffered a large stock plunge following the announcement). It’s been in the works for at least six years.

In the end, I don’t think we can discount all the advantages here – more efficient vehicles that are safer and provide drivers with modern amenities. That’s a LOT of good. I think once the initial goofy shock is over, the design will be accepted. Everyone thought Nintendo’s Wii was a hilarious name (still pretty much is regardless of being in the public book of acceptable nomenclature), and Cybertruck sales are brisk, so I think we can set a lot of this aside. The Edsel these are not.

So hey, new USPS vehicles in 2023, like an exceedingly late birthday present. All I want to see is a bunch of baby ducks following one of them around oh please let that happen. The USPS kind of has an identity crisis in the modern era, so maybe a funny little cute silly boxmobile is just the right way to get some attention.

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Opinion Editorials

Declutter your quarantine workspace (and brain)

(EDITORIAL) Can’t focus? Decluttering your workspace can help you increase productivity, save money, and reduce stress.

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decluttering

It’s safe to say that we’ve all been spending a lot more time in our homes these last few months. This leads us to fixate on the things we didn’t have time for before – like a loose doorknob, or an un-alphabetized bookshelf, or that we’ve put off ‘declutter’ on our to-do list for too long.

The same goes for our workspaces. Many of us have had to designate a spot at home to use for work purposes. For those of you who still need to remain on-site, you’ve likely been too busy to focus on your surroundings.

Cleaning and organizing your workspace every so often is important, regardless of the state of the world, and with so much out of our control right now, this is one of the few things we can control.

Whether you’re working from a home office or an on-site office, take some time for quarantine decluttering. According to The Washington Post, taking time to declutter can increase your productivity, lower stress, and save money (I don’t know about you, but just reading those 3 things makes me feel better already).

Clutter can cause us to feel overwhelmed and make us feel a bit frazzled. Having an office space filled with piles of paper containing irrelevant memos from five years ago or 50 different types of pens, has got to go – recycle that mess and reduce your stress. The same goes with clearing files from your computer; everything will run faster.

Speaking of running faster, decluttering and creating a cleaner workspace will also help you be more efficient and productive. Build this habit by starting small: try tidying up a bit at the end of every workday, setting yourself up for a ready-to-roll morning.

Cleaning also helps you take stock of stuff that you have so that you don’t end up buying more of it. Create a designated spot for your tools and supplies so that they’re more visible – this way, you’ll always know what you have and what needs to be replenished. This will help you stop buying more of the same product that you already have and save you money.

So, if you’ve been looking to improve your focus and clearing a little bit of that ‘quarantine brain’, start by getting your workspace in order. You’ll be amazed at how good it feels to declutter and be “out with the old”; you may even be inspired to do the same for your whole house. Regardless, doing this consistently will create a positive shift in your life, increasing productivity, reducing stress, and saving you money.

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Opinion Editorials

Online dating is evolving and maybe networking will too

(OPINION EDITORIALS) How has the online dating industry been disrupted during the pandemic? And can we apply a few pointers from this evolved model to networking?

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Woman networking through Zoom video call with two other women.

We are often reminded that hindsight is 20/20 – a proverb that means “it is easy to understand something after it has already happened”, and how ironic that is since we are in the year 2020 and not sure we can fully comprehend all we are learning and what hindsight this will bring.

Reflecting back to six months ago, there were many of us that didn’t have much of a clue about what the rest of 2020 would look like and how we would have to adjust to a more virtual world. We’ve updated our ways of working, connecting with colleagues, socializing with friends, networking with those in our industry, or looking for a new job.

Microsoft suggested that we have seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in about five months. For example: MS Teams, Zoom, and Google Meet have become the new way to host networking sessions, work meetings, and “chats” with colleagues; Tele-med appointments became the norm for routine or non-911 emergency doctor appointments; curbside pickup at grocery stores and food to-go orders via online ordering became the new normal (they existed before but saw tremendous growth in number of users).

We also had to learn how to create engaging and interactive ways to connect solely through a screen. We are already Zoom fatigued and wondering how online meetings have zapped our energy so differently than in person. It turns out, looking at ourselves and trying to talk to a group is a lot for our brains to process.

The Atlantic shares a great article about why the Zoom social life might feel so draining, saying that “Attempting to translate your old social habits to Zoom or FaceTime is like going vegetarian and proceeding to glumly eat a diet of just tofurkey”. No offense to vegetarians, of course.

You could argue though, that we’ve all been interacting via screens for years with the dominance of social media channels – whether it was posting our thoughts in 140 characters on Twitter, or sharing photos and videos of our artisanal sandwiches/cute kid/pet pictures on Facebook. But this seems different. Times are different and we will not be going back soon.

In this interim, many people are trying to make the best of the situation and are figuring out ways to connect. We will always need human connection (and without the germs, even better).

What about our single friends? If they don’t have anyone in the house to already drive them crazy, then where can they go to meet new people and/or possibly love interests?

While many experts are trying to predict the outcomes of this global shift, it may be hard to know what will change permanently. We know many industries are experiencing major disruptions – online dating apps being one of them.

According to Digital Trends, Tinder still ranks as one of the top dating apps. However, now that people are sheltering in place and/or social distancing, there’s a new app taking over as a way to “meet” someone a little faster, while also allowing you to stay behind the screen, sans mask.

Slide is a video dating app that changes your first-date frustrations into real connections and instant chemistry. Explore video profiles, go on first dates via Video Calls at your fingertips, and find that chemistry before dating IRL.”

So, while Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge play quarantine catch-up, Slide is stealing their market share.

How? With video.

Slide recognized the massive success of short-form video platforms like TikTok, and have translated it to dating. They focus on features like:

  • “Vibe Check”, which gives you the option to video chat immediately after matching with someone to see if there’s chemistry. This will save you from long or misinterpreted text conversations and money you may have spent on that first date.
  • A video-first approach that lets you see the real people behind the profiles so you can pass if they aren’t really who they say they are.
  • AI-assisted creation of “future bae” profiles that help suggest your best matches and spare you extra swipes. If Netflix can find similar suggestions…

As of August 2020, the Department of Labor and Statistics estimates about 13.6 million people are currently unemployed and searching for a new j-o-b. Is it possible that some of these newer ways of connecting online could be included in how we network for a new job/career opportunity?

For example, instead of sending a connection or networking request on LinkedIn, what if we could send a quick video about our story, or what we’d love to learn from that person, or how we’d like to connect?

Would that create a faster, better, possibly more genuine connection?

This would seem worth exploring as many job connections are created by in-person networking or reaching real people vs. solely online applications, behind a screen. Some other formats that have seen increased use are Marco Polo for video chats (you don’t have to both be available at the same time) and FaceTime group calls.

It might be worth exploring how short-form video platforms could assist job seekers in networking, outreach, and connecting with others. These are just some ideas as we continue to watch this digital transformation unfold.

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