Real estate and the new Facebook-Bing partnership

From Future of Real Estate Marketing

By KEVIN LISOTA

Editor’s note: Kevin Lisota, is CEO and co-founder of findwell, a real estate brokerage helping people buy and sell Seattle real estate. Kevin left a career at Microsoft to put his tech skills to use in real estate and can be found regularly on his Seattle real estate blog.

Every real estate agent wants to be popular on the Web. If you are easily found by consumers searching for an agent or a home, your pipeline of prospective business grows.

Last week, Facebook and Microsoft made an interesting announcement that integrates Facebook data with the Bing search engine. Their announcement is a fundamental shift in how results can be found in a search engine, and will impact how buyers and sellers find you on the Web in the future.

How search engines work today

For the last decade or more, search engines have functioned in pretty much the same way. They crawl around on all the websites they can find and create a massive index of pages and content. When a user types in a phrase in the search box, they match up that phrase with the pages that they think are most relevant to the query.

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With billions of pages out there, many with similar content, how do they choose which results to show? Well, for the most part it is a popularity contest based on how many other sites have linked to your page.

The idea is if lots of people create "backlinks" to a particular page, it must be relevant and important for a topic, so those results are shown first. The more backlinks you have, the higher your results will appear in the search engines.

They also give more authority to popular sites, so a backlink to your site from www.cnn.com carries a lot more weight than one from frankslocalcarrepairshop.com.

What did Facebook and Bing announce?

By now, you have certainly seen the Facebook "Like" button across many websites. You and your friends have probably been clicking on it to say that you like a particular Web page, article, restaurant or product. What Bing and Facebook announced last week is that Bing will use Facebook "Like" data to enhance your search results with things that your friends on Facebook have liked.

This is probably easiest to see in an example. Say your friend Adam has "Liked" a particular steak restaurant in San Francisco. On your travels there, you type in "San Francisco steakhouse" looking for somewhere good to eat. Now with Facebook personalization, Bing can show you a list of steakhouses that your friends have said that they like.

searches

How this changes the search game

Clearly Web search results are better when you get recommendations directly from your friends, and I would certainly be more likely to click on them. This appears to be the first step in changing how Web pages are ranked in search results, stepping away from the generic popularity contest that exists today and towards search results that are popular with people you actually know.

The future of this partnership also looks interesting, as they see an opportunity to surface people in search results who are experts on specific subjects.

How is this going to change my real estate business?

When you search for a restaurant, you are looking for a specific type of food in a specific location. It also helps to know that the restaurant has received good reviews, and even better if those reviews are from people you know.

Finding a real estate agent online sure feels similar to that. You want a local agent who has a specific area of expertise, and you want to know that they get great reviews and are recommended by your friends. If lots of people "Like" your real estate services on Facebook, your chances of being found on Bing just went up.

This integration between Facebook and Bing is just beginning, so it remains to be seen exactly how prevalent these "social search results" will become, but I think it will pay to be ahead of the curve on this one. Here are some basic steps to take now to help raise your profile in search results.

1. Have a presence on Facebook — No one can "Like" your real estate expertise if you aren’t on Facebook, so you are going to need a profile there.

2. Implement the Like button — If you have a blog, adding the Like button from Facebook is pretty easy. There are lots of WordPress plugins to help you with that and it gives your readers a chance to highlight your content to other folks that they know.

3. Start "Liking" stuff — If you find real estate content on the web that would be relevant to your potential buyers or sellers, start hitting that Like button to help others in your social network.

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