My entire business seems to be centered around Google these days. I think it is a stretch to label Google a "scraper" of content (see story), as the Metropolitan Indianapolis Board of Realtors has done. I see it as a search engine that indexes Web content so that people who are searching the Internet for information can find the information.
I remember when Google started. There were other search engines at the time, but in general we relied heavily on bookmarks, marketing and newsletters to learn about Web sites. In my very early days on the Internet, AOL issued a report every week of new Web sites. It was a short report, but I read it each week and visited the new sites.
When Google arrived on the scene everything changed. They got better and better at indexing information, which is their goal. Google helped make the Internet useful for finding information. Simple search strings, like "jobs in New York" or "pet shops in Minneapolis" bring the Internet user to relevant information.
Before Google came to be it was hit-and-miss, and most did not rely on the Internet for information. A search for employment sometimes landed me on Steve Jobs’ bio instead of on a Web site with jobs.
The Internet Data Exchange (a real estate data exchange format, also known as IDX) solution that I am currently using is not being indexed by Google, but some of my competitors are using indexed solutions. Yet, when I Google the address for a property I have listed, information about the property comes up. For one address I found seven references — all on page one and in positions two through eight in Google’s search results.
A Google Maps results will always comes up in the top position. Anyone who is using Google to search for homes by property address is going to instantly find several links to my listings and all of the information about them, and they will find me, too.
The home won’t sell any faster with eight indexed listings on page one of Google than it will with seven, in my opinion. It is better for me if the listing is found on my Web site rather than through another company’s IDX site. It may even be better for my seller because I can correctly answer any questions about the properties.
There is no mystery to how I do it and it doesn’t cost a dime. Google does all of the work and my clients reap the rewards. The listings go on sites that are already being indexed by Google, including my own sites, and I am using Google to promote my listings and my services.
It might put some people out of business if all agents understood how easy it is to get content indexed by Google and if we all had a better understanding of what consumers search for. …CONTINUED
There is a myth in our industry that Google favors national Web sites, and ‘big’ Web sites with many writers and information sources and property listings from all over the country. I have not found any evidence that Google knows the difference between national and local or that one is favored over the other.
I have noticed that IDX sites that are indexed by Google come up lower in the search engines for my listings by address than my own sites, Web-based fliers, virtual tours and ads do.
Do consumers search for homes on the Internet by address? If they do, do they need to land on an IDX page to learn about one home? When they search for my listings through Google they won’t be landing on Realtor.com. I don’t pay for enhanced listings on the site.
It is kind of selfish of me but I am happy that people searching for homes by address land on my site instead of anyone else’s, and at the same time can be found by anyone searching a local IDX on a national site.
I don’t claim to be a search-engine optimization expert but I don’t have to be one in order to woo Google. There isn’t any rule against putting my listings with addresses and other details on the Internet, as long as the seller agrees to it.
The secret to wooing Google is simple: Create useful, high-quality material that is of interest to users. In this case, simply putting an address and other property information on a Web site is relevant content.
Maybe it is shortsighted of our boards to disallow indexing of IDX data, but it may also be irrelevant to buyers, sellers and to their agents. Information contained in IDX feeds is available through other sources via online searches, and agents can always put their listings up on their own Web sites to be indexed by search engines and found by consumes.
That is more effective, too, than having a consumer find it on another agent’s IDX site or on a national site filled with ads for other agents and properties.
Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.
What’s your opinion? Leave your comments below or send a letter to the editor. To contact the writer, click the byline at the top of the story.