Create Content or Die
The lesson in this post is about the need for creating content if you plan to survive online in 2010 and beyond. In order to understand this new market driver, we need to take a peek into market trends and history.Google real estate part of Google maps. This has happened just while NAR was announcing their intent on building out their own national database. Snooze you lose I guess.
What is most interesting is that while NAR moves at a snails pace. Ironically, Google gets their data spoon fed from Realtor sources nearly in real time. In other words, if the Realtors stopped giving them listings, then Google would not be able to provide this new feature other than fsbos.
Of course, neither would real estate verticals like Trulia survive. But of course the nature of taking a listing is to sell the listing. So it has always seemed counter intuitive if not downright non fiduciary to hold onto a listing with such tight fists.
Givin' Away the Farm
MLS syndication has been a source of controversy since the beginning. To the best of my knowledge I was the first to write about the ultimate demise of the MLS system as far back as January 2005. Since the start of this blog I have pontificated about the MLS system, and the giving away of Realtor data.
The debate within the real estate community has always been one of ownership vs marketing.
- Ownership: The real estate listings clearly start at the Realtor who takes the listing and the Board where the property is listed. I have always stated that the listing is the only tangible asset that an agent has to offer a prospective client. In the old days agents would offer copies of the MLS book or cards, and then later on, print outs were the norm.
- Marketing: When an agent signs a listing agreement a fiduciary responsibility is formed such that the Realtor must do their best to sell the house. When the best means the internet and getting that house in as many places as possible, then the old ownership model must crumble.
The internet gave way to VOWs and IDX. And allowed for a terrific direct response mechanism for capturing leads.
Commodifying the MLS
A commodity is some good for which there is demand, but which is supplied without qualitative differentiation across a market.
So the MLS syndicated itself, despite itself. A Federal lawsuit helped push things along. And the value of the listings themselves diminished. While the citizen agent provided terrific market and listings data to their visitors. Their visitors got website Attention Deficit Disorder. And to make it worst, today's web visitor is less tolerant to sign up for anything without real value offered.
Like a Thief in the Night
While the great Realtor giveaway went on quietly, some in the industry blogaratti (or RENet as some like to call it) raised their concerns. It was just a little over a year ago that a debate was raging at the Bloodhound Blog. Seems many agents took offense to giving Trulia listings and content and then finding that Trulia was "link blocking" them with a no follow. The idea is to preserve their link juice by blocking the agent website from getting any link juice. Then like a Trojan horse Trulia was giving away cool widgets with market data. One problem though. They embedded a link that would pass link juice back to Trulia.
In defense of Trulia, links embedded into a widget is nothing new. But the lack of reciprocity was found to be a bit insulting by the real estate agent community.
The debate was pushed forward again of late when Notorious Rob-Robert Hahn said in his WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 16, 2009. This was an article in Hahns Inman space about the recent move by Google to ratchet up their own real estate space in the main search results.( I would link directly to the Inman post but it is behind a membership password. )
I say debate, even though Hahn did not frame it that way because this Google Maps real estate move occurred while NAR announced their national database and while Google has been talking with Trulia about a buyout. WHAT!? Yes Google has been in talks to buy out Trulia. And in addition word has it that Google offered $550 Million for Yelp the local business directory. Yelp is said to have turned down the deal.
The automation game is all but over for the real estate community. I warned of this as far back as 2004. The day has arrived to personalize your web presence. To create rather than copy. Automation is the lazy way out. Its ability to perform all by itself is all but over.
As a side note. Let's consider what Trulia has done to build their monster website into Google buyout bait.
- User Generated Content-
A. Listings Syndication-We have discussed this above.
B. Trulia Voices- This allows you to answer questions and blog from Trulia's space. Thus creating tons of content filled pages for Google and other engines to index and use to send folks to Trulia.
- Search Engine Optimization-SEO has clearly been part of Trulia's plan from the start. The no follows, friendly SEO URLS (Url.com/keyword-keyword/keyword.htm is far better than URL.com/9&%lfj/$%&.asp) , and link embedded widgets if not top Google rankings is proof positive that Trulia is using heavy duty SEO to get traffic into their website.
So How Can You Compete With The Big Boy Club?
SImply put you compete with unique content that proves your authority over your marketplace. You compete with what makes you so special over your competitors. Your USP or Unique Selling Proposition. Call it blogging or just article writing. Content creates pages. Content unifies your message and targets your prospects.
It is in the end the only thing that you have in your business that makes you special. Your content is your brand displayed textually (or visually or sound in the case of video and podcasts). We already talked about the listings being a commodity. Vanilla as it comes. Anyone can offer listings these days. Anyone can get a pretty website.
What is the great differentiation from you and your competition? Why do you matter? The only content that you can possibly offer that cannot be copied is your voice. And my guess is that you are not using your voice.
I know it is a pain. I get it. So is any form of prospecting. And like most issues surrounding prospecting. The 20% of the producers prospect. Either online or off line. But the big money always goes to the prospectors.the good news about publishing is that you can gain long term market authority when you create a voice.
I recently made a video for my email list and will offer it to you now. Get it here
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