For many years, a bunch of web nerds have been asking questions abut who owns the listing data in the eyes of the all-mighty Google. (Or any other search engine, I guess.)
Apparently, Glenn Kellman revisited the subject recently at the NAR Legislative meetings which prompted my buddy, Bill Lublin, to remind us of this article from 2013 titled “Why the MLS Needs to Tell Google Who Owns the Listing.”
The article is interesting in that it asks what appear to be some fairly simple questions. Unfortunately, the answers quickly become as clear as mud when you dive in and look at all of the moving parts, the politics, and the money involved in making any “simple” changes to the way online real estate data is distributed and consumed.
Without getting too technical, mainly because most of this SEO stuff is way above my pay grade, the discussion revolves around who owns the listing data and who should be seen as the original source in the eyes of a search engine. Many people believe that the real estate broker deserves top billing and some wholeheartedly disagree with that.
I agree with Bill that, in the context of ranking for transaction specific search results, the broker deserves top billing. Todd Carpenter – Realtynex.us
To some people, this is a conversation hardly worth having. Heck, we are silly to be fighting the last war of consumer behavior. Afterall, real estate brokers must be foolish to think that they should be looked at as an authority when their listings are distributed to people looking to buy or sell a home.
There’s also the train of thought where search results don’t matter anymore, as the online real estate information is mostly being consumed from within mobile applications from many of the large portals and real estate companies.
If you think there should be an easy “fix” to any of this, go ahead and click on the highlited links above here in this article and read some of the comments. I bet you’ll quickly change your tune. The photo below was a comment I left on Bill’s original post in 2013.
Just for “fun” I am going to address the questions I had back in 2013 and try to muddy up the waters just a little more.
- Dual Agency – Some people wonder if the listing broker should even be the one who is most easily found online for their properties. Could the consumer be harmed by calling a broker directly? In Arizona, dual agency is allowed, in some other states, it is not. This in itself could be a really long post. so I’ll just say that policies should be in place by each office. We should all be doing business in accordance with our code of ethics. I am in the camp who says the listing broker should be the one who owns the listing data. ** see below for more on this.
- Z T R conversations – With many of the large portals ( Zillow, Trulia, Realtor dot com, etc.) competing for online eyeballs, it would seem like the portals might not be super happy about losing any “google juice” to individual brokers. Afterall, we are talking about BILLION dollar valuations. As such, these guys know the SEO game better than 99.9% of any real estate brokerage out there. They have teams of developers and huge budgets to make sure they are easily found for just about ANY real estate related search term on the planet.
- Large vs Small brokerage conversations – This is an interesting one. Could there be an advantage to large real estate companies who might actually have a small amount of knowledge about how search engines work? Can the small, independent brokerage compete with the big guys? Based on my experiences, a small brokerage can compete, and they can be a great value to local content. Big or small, it takes work to be found in one of the top spots of a search result. No matter what happens with this discussion, that isn’t going to change.
- Working with MLS providers conversations – This is a tricky one, too. I’m pretty sure there are a bunch of moving parts here. There are a LOT of MLS systems involved, technologies change, opinions vary, etc. I would ASSume that most of the MLS providers would be fine with adding the necessary field. There may be a cost involved with changing anything? Yeah, that would be interesting…
- Individual agent web site conversations – OK, so… What about the agent who procured the listing? Should the broker send some of this new-found SEO love to that individual’s web site? Heck, the vast majority of agent sites are garbage or non-existent. Agents come and agents go. Will brokers hire staff to manage this? Some would, some would not. There are a lot of moving parts and pieces here.
- Broker vs MLS provided tags conversations – Yeah, there’s just a ton going on here, too. A broker goes out and secures a listing. In theory, it is the broker who owns the listing data, as he is certainly the one who owns the listing. Once the listing data is entered in to the MLS, there are mechanisms in place, as directed by the broker, to distribute that data to many different third party web sites. By distributing this data, the broker often gives up some rights to some of the data. Third party sites take the data, put it in front of a whole bunch of eyeballs and make a fairly good living in doing so. Many of the brokers are very happy to have these sites distribute their data. Some are not so happy about it. This is a whole different topic and one that happens daily all over the web.
Changing the authorship or canonical tags from the MLS feed probably isn’t do or die for anyone, but it is an interesting conversation. I happen to believe that agents and brokers should be in control of their own real estate content. To me, it just makes good business sense. Sure, there are a bunch of people out there who talk of free data and transparency and talk of knowing what the consumer wants while collecting huge checks and answering to shareholders above all else.
The reality is, these big data companies are here to stay and big data is big business. For me, it is kind of a fun game to try to compete with the big dogs for specific key words or even an address search. Most agents don’t give a rip about SEO or competing with people who have WAY more resources than we do. Heck, they are probably smart to concentrate their efforts on other aspects of their business! For some of us, it just makes $ense and we’ll continue the search for what works best for our business…