Does owning the listing entitle you to “own” the address in Google?

My friend Bill Lublin wrote a great post this morning calling on MLS’s to adopt Google’s author tags to help identify the true owner of a real estate listing. First off, let me say that I’m 100% for this. However, being the broker of record for a listing doesn’t necessarily make you the best place for Google to send its users to.

Google’s perspective

webresultsThere’s a mid-century modern home in Denver that I absolutely love. According to Trulia, the property was purchased in May of last year. The new owners are renovating the home and building an addition. They created a blog about the property to document the renovation. The house is nearing completion and I assume you’ll find a listing in the MLS before too long. If you Google the address today, you’ll find search results that include this blog and pages that portal sites like Zillow and Trulia have created for off-market property. Very few brokers have a content strategy in place to rank for off market property and because of this, are ultimately losing the SEO race. Google looks for trusted resources that provide a long history of updated information about a search term. The fact that a home is for sale is a very temporary thing. It’s important, and Google recognizes that, but those reliable trusted sources still deserve a lot of credit, and they receive it.

When the house enters the market, will the broker’s website really be the best resource for someone searching for that address? In many cases, it could be. In this case, absolutely not. In most cases I don’t think the searcher will be any better served by the broker’s web page than they will be by a real estate portal. It’s not a given that the person who searches for an address, wants to buy it. If you were Google, what would you do?

Your syndicator’s perspective

I agree with Bill that, in the context of ranking for transaction specific search results, the broker deserves top billing. However, I’m not sure you can fault Zillow and Trulia for not giving the broker as much credit as they deserve. The blame for this falls more on the syndicator the broker gave their listings away to. It’s no coincidence that the first two points in Trulia’s data pledge reference the “source” of the listings, not the broker. The broker may own the listing, but Zillow and Trulia ultimately negotiate with the source, not necessarily the broker.

If you send your listings direct to Zillow or Trulia via an XML/RETS feed, you are the source. If you opt-in to a feed sent via the MLS, than the MLS is the source. If the MLS uses ListHub, than ListHub is the source. If you belong to a franchise network that syndicates, than guess who the source is? The broker may own the listing, but they give up many rights of ownership when they hand off syndication duties to others.

These syndicators, whom brokers pay subscription and franchise fees to, are positioning themselves between internet consumers and brokers. They want the leads as well. Of course, they will likely pass the leads on to the broker for no extra charge. They may even pass on the proper attribution to the broker. But they are still there. They currently position these activities as a value added services. What they do in the future could be quite different.

Ultimately, I think the push for author tags is a good one. It matters: at least a little. I just don’t think the practical end-results will be as transformative as brokers hope they will be.  To truly take control, I think brokers might be better served by developing direct relationships with the companies that publish their listings instead of handing it off to another “source.”


13 thoughts on “Does owning the listing entitle you to “own” the address in Google?

  1. Eric Stegemann

    There are so many points being raised between these posts that deserve discussion:

    Something that I think should be discussed that you may not have been going above and hasn’t been discussed is the push of non-automated feeds – i.e. Postlets, vFlyer, Point2 manual insertion, etc.
    I know that ZTR have setup data prioritization methods (i.e. MLS direct, then listhub, then broker, then agent) but this isn’t always utilized correctly. A perfect example, what happens when the listing comes from MLS for the time it’s listed, but the agent also put on Postlets. The listing sells and is removed from the MLS feed, but is still in the Postlets feed. All of a sudden that bad data and listing is showing. Better yet, brokers are getting somewhat screwed by direct MLS feeds. They always link back to the public facing MLS website, when that’s really an opportunity to get the prospect to get over to the brokers site and see other listings there. Who’s to say who owns what at this point? After a listing closes, does the broker still own that on the ZTR sites?

    As far as SEO goes – the authorship tag doesn’t mean that much and won’t even matter the way people are discussing it. They forget important things, i.e. a broker would have to add “contributor to” to every single place the listing appears on their site. That’s not going to happen and thus Google will disgard that data. For those advocating this, canonical would be the more appropriate argument but as I suggested over on Bill’s blog, this would be a doomsday scenario for ZTR.

    1. Todd Carpenter Post author


      The irony of all of this is that within a year, tradition SERPs won’t matter to Zillow and Trulia. But that’s a topic for another blog post.

    2. Sara Bonert

      Eric – Sara from Zillow here, your second paragraph of information isn’t correct from our Zillow’s perspective. First of all, the order is different that what you state. It is Agent, Broker, Franchise, MLS direct, Listhub, then other syndicators (listed highest to lowest).

      Then to answer this scenario you describe: “A perfect example, what happens when the listing comes from MLS for the time it’s listed, but the agent also put on Postlets. The listing sells and is removed from the MLS feed, but is still in the Postlets feed.”

      If the listing comes to us via the MLS, then the agent also enters the data in Postlets, the Postlets data is ignored and the MLS data is used. Conversely, if the agent had entered it in Postlets first, the MLS data would override Postlets once it is received.

      The second part- the listing sells (comes out of the MLS) but it is still in Postlets: The listing would not repopulate to the site. Any time a listing comes out of an Agent, Broker, Franchise, MLS, Listhub or P2 feed – we put a block on it from repopulating to the site from any lower level syndication source. if you have any more direct questions about this process, happy to answer.

      1. Eric Stegemann

        Hi Sara,
        Ok so a few questions:

        You take data from the agent direct first? Doesn’t that seem like a bad strategy? It’s also in direct opposition from what other Zillow employees have stated (I forgot who, but I remember the direct conversation about it and them stating it was from most important: MLS, then franchise, Listhub, then Broker, then Agent is the least important) due to the inaccuracies inherent to agent provided syndication. (For the record Trulia told me the same priority – I believe other than if you’re part of their broker speciality program that the built after the kerfluffle with Listhub.)

        I think we’re misunderstanding each other because then you’re saying that you don’t listen to Postlets if you get it form the MLS?

        About the quality of the listing data then, would you say the reason there are so many off market listings then is that their brokers didn’t syndicate nor did the MLS so the listing is still showing active since it’s on Postlets or vFlyer else? I don’t really see that. In most cases when I see a listing that’s off market it’s from an agent self syndicating. But if you look at those listings, often times it’s at a broker that is definitely sending you a feed but the listing source is an agent syndication system. Is there a cut off date to when it stopps being ignored perhaps? i.e. after 6 months?

      2. Eric Stegemann

        Just wondering, under what circumstances could a franchise trump the MLS? Brokers, I’m aware of due to the broker program. But I wasn’t aware a franchise could trump? If I was a franchisee in that circumstance I’d be frustrated.

      3. Sara Bonert

        To be clear with the agent submission, I’m talking about a feed. The agent has to submit their own XML feed of just their listings (not use some third party syndication service). We have very, very, very few of these and they tend to be MLS sourced.

        Yes, we’d trust/source a Broker, MLS or Listhub sourced listing over data entered in Postlets

        Yes, stale listings typically never came to us via a Broker, MLS, or Listhub feed originally (thus the need for the other sources). If you are seeing something otherwise on the site, I invite you to email me the address and I’ll research the data trail to tell you what happened.

        Yes, with third party feeds (not Broker, MLS or Listhub feeds) we do auto expire after the listing goes unchanged for a certain period of time. The length of time varies based on the method of data entry and level of trust of the feed. It can range from 30 to 180 days.

  2. Teresa Boardman

    No disrespect intended and feel free to delete this comment if you consider it harmful but I just could nt resist participating in this conversation. As a real estate agent I don’t want to own the address. I want to sell the listing at the address. I think some how we are losing track of one of the vital services people like me provide. My clients want it sold quickly and for the most money possible. my goal is to sell them before Google indexes the address.


Leave a Reply