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Will new policy heat the IDX arms race back up?

Internet Data Exchange (IDX) is the transfer of MLS data from the Board of Realtors to websites. There is a long, sordid history of how the IDX feeds came to be and are used today including the 2009 battle between a Realtor, MIBOR and ultimately the National Association of Realtors (NAR) (the back story starts here, is followed up here, ultimately ends here).

If you’re new to the space, there’s a lot of history catch up on, but we’ll simply fast forward to last week wherein agents with IDX feeds going to their sites and being indexed by Google were in the SEO position to outrank many of their competitors, even the big boys Trulia, Zillow and Realtor.com for local listing search results.

That was last week. Welcome to this week, post NAR’s Annual Convention wherein the Directors voted to “expand NAR’s IDX policy to allow MLS participants to provide IDX data to real estate franchise organizations to index and display on their websites.”

According to the NAR, “The amendment comes with conditions, such as the need to promptly correct inaccurate or incomplete information and a prohibition on advertising on pages displaying the IDX information.”

Breaking it down in layman’s terms:

Justin LaJoie, CEO of Diverse Solutions (DS) said, “The expanded policy by NAR is going to start leveling the playing field for those that are using MLS data for SEO reasons. What this will do is allow the larger and national franchise websites to begin to compete in the search engines in their franchisees local markets. Once they are able to do that effectively then they will be able to compete with the likes of Realtor.com on a national level. Previously it was up the local franchisee to create a SEO strategy leveraging the local MLS listings which few of them did well. With this change they are going to get the power of the large franchise helping them in their local market.”

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All that said, to me, the punchline to this whole update is who this ruling benefits. LaJoie continued, “This is good for the local franchise but potentially not so good for the local tech savvy agent who now has to compete with the franchise website for potential clients.”

So, the agents that are small potatoes that are fighting on the ground and living closing to closing without the benefit of getting the piece of everyone else’s pie are now competed against even by their big box broker who will most certainly use their ability to compete as a selling point (and some agents will fall for it), but the truth is that again, the individual agent has just been kicked in the teeth. In other words, the IDX arms race is on and agents have to compete for SEO position with any techie who decides to open up a real estate search site and now with their very own brokers.

AG is not affiliated with NAR or MIBOR; DS is an AG advertiser.

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Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

36 Comments

36 Comments

  1. Bob Wilson

    November 10, 2010 at 6:55 pm

    This is a non issue.

    • Rick Steiner GRI

      November 10, 2010 at 7:58 pm

      A non issue sanctioned by NAR…

      Gee, how surprising that NAR makes a ruling that favors big brokers. Why does membership think NAR is working in *their* interests rather than for the biggest brokers and the biggest brokers alone?

  2. Teresa boardman

    November 10, 2010 at 7:18 pm

    The listings are already on 2 zillion sites and they will become a far less important way to get traffic to a web site as they continue to become more generic. Not a problem there is far more to offer consumers than listings. Anyone can do that.

  3. Steve Nicewarner

    November 10, 2010 at 7:22 pm

    “agents have to compete for SEO position with any techie who decides to open up a real estate search site and now with their very own brokers.”

    Which makes the next question “Why should I work with a franchise at all if they are going to take part of my commission and use my own listings to compete with me?” This looks like a win for the national francises on the surface, but it might be another thing standing in the way of them retaining the superstars.

  4. Jim Duncan

    November 10, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    Whatever.

    “… but the truth is that again, the individual agent has just been kicked in the teeth.”

    Not really. The individual agent who was depending on IDX SEO to significantly boost his rankings has been kicked in the teeth.

    This has been coming for a long time now; there was a very small window there that allowed individual agents to temporarily boost their rankings.

    I’m no SEO guy, but I suspect that Google will figure out that the same listings are *everywhere* and will devalue/derank their importance.

    This is yet another instance of the franchises/big boxes following rather than leading.

    • Benn Rosales

      November 10, 2010 at 8:46 pm

      I agree with your last line entirely. Coming for a long time? Yep, the ship is turning, and it’s full steam ahead, and never mind who or what it runs over. 🙂

  5. Carol Cei

    November 10, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    The individual agents can never compete with the major franchise sites, trulia, zillow, etc. Never really could. I don’t think this will change things very much in the end.

  6. Rail Life

    November 11, 2010 at 8:13 am

    I have a feeling that content is still King. Just because someone at a large firm throws up a data feed on a piece of crap template site, I doubt they will be out ranking guys that work hard on said content…

  7. Teresa boardman

    November 11, 2010 at 11:53 am

    Jim – you said it better than I did. 🙂

  8. Brian Wilson

    November 14, 2010 at 11:14 am

    AgentGenius is really taking the leadership role in the recent industry changes of listings policies. This analysis and this one: agentgenius.com/real-estate-news-events/zillow-dupes-realtors-investors-and-consumers-with-flawed-claims/ get to the heart of the issues. I just want say “job well done.”

  9. Rob McCance

    November 15, 2010 at 11:07 pm

    I agree with Bob Wilson, though he didn’t give us much to work with.

    I agree because SERP rankings for IDX data is not where it’s at anyway. Who really cares if you can rank for a specific property address.

    A specific address might, but probably won’t, be searched once, if ever.

    On the other hand, a top local real estate related keyword will be searched hundreds of thousands of times a month and the searchers are real buyers. Terms like [atlanta real estate] [alpharetta homes for sale] etc., etc.

    Being crawled for IDX data (basically addresses) hardly helps you rank for these local keywords, if at all.

    And finally, smaller, more focused, nimble sites should be able to outrank large sites, or sites that are just lists of IDX data, for these local high-volume KWs.

    And there’s NO way these sites can outrank more focused sites for lower volume, but more specific local terms, like neighborhoods.

    So, non issue.

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