Hacker Connect January 16 in New York
An event for and by the real estate tech community

Move over, Google, Yahoo and MSN; there’s an entirely new type of search engine that’s about to revolutionize how you search on the Web.

With a great deal of fanfare on July 28, 2008, a new type of search engine called Cuil (pronounced "cool") was launched. The company hopes to topple Google by indexing more than 120 billion Web pages. It also claims to "dig down" into the content on the site to give users more detail about the matches that they generate. Based upon the comments at PC World, the folks at Google have no need to worry.

At Real Estate Connect, Brian Boero did a short presentation on "20 Different Online Sites that You Don’t Know About — But Should!" I decided to visit each of them. While there were a number of interesting applications, the one that really inspired me was www.SearchMe.com. SearchMe is an entirely new way of conducting search that will revolutionize your search experience. This site achieves what the creators of Cuil hoped to do plus much more.

What Makes SearchMe.com Cool
Instead of displaying a link, imagine a cascade of various Web pages that you can flip through, much in the same way that you would turn pages in a book. By displaying the entire home page of each page that it catalogues, SearchMe allows you to quickly identify the most relevant pages from your search prior to clicking through to each site. This saves massive amounts of time since you will no longer open irrelevant sites nor will you have to toggle back and forth between sites and the original search.

A Lesson in Search-Engine Optimization
SearchMe also highlights where your search terms appear on each page. This gives you an opportunity to see how well the Web site fits your search parameters. If you are attempting to improve your search-engine ranking, conduct your keyword search on Google. Next, go to SearchMe to see where and how often those terms appear on the top Google searches. In most cases, following the same approach on your personal Web site should help you improve your position on both search engines.

Share Your Searches
Suppose that you are searching for a property online. In the past, sharing photos from multiple properties was a cumbersome process. With SearchMe, you simply create a "stack" of photos. You and your clients can then share photos from your favorite searches. This works well with relocation clients since you can quickly provide a visual overview of different neighborhoods. The result is that your clients will be able to more easily identify the neighborhoods and the types of property best suited to them.

Share Your Photos
When I searched the photos for Austin on SearchMe, virtually all of them appeared to have originated on Flickr.com, the Yahoo picture-sharing site. Since you will be taking photos of the property anyway, why not post them to Flickr and have the added benefit of increasing your search-engine ranking as well.

Preview Videos in Seconds
SearchMe also catalogs videos and images that are relevant to your search. Most of their videos were from YouTube. Nevertheless, the ability to quickly preview 5 to 10 videos in just a minute is another serious time saver. Furthermore, as in the Web search, you do not have to toggle back and forth between videos. On my computer, the download times on SearchMe were considerably faster than they were on YouTube.

Submit Your Site
If SearchMe doesn’t currently list your site, you can submit it for inclusion on their search engine. I was surprised that they already had our current site in their index, complete with changes made just a few days earlier.

A Minor Downside
SearchMe does not appear to display the number of page views (i.e. analytics) that your Web site, your pictures, or your videos receive. Google Analytics, Flickr and YouTube do display this data. Having access to this data is critical to effective marketing. For example, in Austin, the lowest number of Web visitors for any YouTube real estate listing was 99 views; many had more than 1,000 views. These numbers are important for the following reasons:

1. When you are at a listing appointment, you can objectively illustrate how effective your marketing is.

2. You have an objective measure of "ROI" (return on investment). Did the money you spent on the video or other marketing pieces produce enough traffic to merit the cost?

3. When a seller needs to reduce his or her price, you can use analytics to show the seller how much traffic your marketing has created. When the listing has had several hundred page views and no offers, it’s much easier to make the case for a price reduction.

The traditional search engines aren’t going away any time soon, but the way that we experience search in the future will be faster and more engaging than ever before.

Bernice Ross, national speaker and CEO of Realestatecoach.com, is the author of "Waging War on Real Estate’s Discounters" and "Who’s the Best Person to Sell My House?" Both are available online. She can be reached at bernice@realestatecoach.com or visit her blog at LuxuryClues.com.

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