You would be forgiven for thinking real estate is all online these days it dominates the landscape that much and online the search engines are the first port of call for property related traffic. Just after leaving Simon Baker confirmed that even realestate.com.au received massive traffic, somewhere over 30% from Google which is just one search engine.
Portals and particularly the top two paid portals absolutely saturate the search engine results by investing heavilly in SEO teams. They take the listings data of real estate agents and combine it with questionable tactics to create millions and millions of pages across multiple domains. This tactic effectively blocks real estate agent websites from search engine results thus starving us from direct enquiry.
These tactics by the portals is highly questionable and is evidence of the power they have developed in our industry. We are charged to display our listings on the portals and in return we are restricted to what we can display. We are not allowed to link back to our own website on each listing. We cant put contact details or phone numbers in the body text of the ad. Breach the rules and they will remove the property, do it too many times and they threaten to kick you off. Any links they do give you and the portals insert ‘no-follow tags’ on the links back to the agent websites which tells the search engines to ignore our websites and that they have no value.
They justify that enquiry by charging higher and higher monthly fees but the problem in this relationships are more than the monthly subscription charges. also a death of thousand cuts it goes further than that with the portals undertaking lead generation schemes whereby they intercept sellers on the site and sell those leads back to agents at inflated rates. The traffic that agents have helped create is being used to promote private listings on Domain and now even realestate.com.au.
I believe that Realestate.com.au would generate more traffic than all the large national real estate groups combined. Agents have effectively given control of their listing enquiries to the portals and now seller leads to two large media companies who have taken every opportunity and they will not give up that control easily.
Real estate groups are also suffering as agents around the country have rather cut their ties with head office rather than their realestate.com.au and/or domain.com.au subscriptions. Joining a large real estate franchise or marketing group once respresented a great differentiator from other agencies in your area. If you listen to the portal sales team the only way to differentiate your agency now is to pay more and more for feature properties, feature all, brochure all and all the other add on products. Real Estate groups are seen to be providing an ever diminishing value to their franchisees and members.
As real estate agents we have given them our listing data and our money willingly for years but the level of antipathy from agents seems to rise year on year at pace equal to the price rise.
With the 2012 realestate.com.au price rise just about to be released rumours are rife that its going to be the biggest one yet. So more and more real estate agents are going to be asking themselves the magical question more than ever — Can I survive without a realestate.com.au subscription?
Cutting the umbilical cord to the subscription based portals is always going to be difficult especially since we have essentially been starved of enquiry on our own websites by the SEO teams at the portals. Cutting that link would be extremely difficult and disasterous without an extremely effective e-marketing strategy in place covering SEO, PPC, Social Media and Email Marketing.
Australian real estate agents are not alone in asking if they can survive without syndicating their content to a national portal. In the USA agents have been cutting that cord from syndicating to their national portals. Edina Realty and Shorewest Realty in Wisconsin were among the first but the one group that has recently got the USA market buzzing is ARG. Abbott Realty Group (ARG) recently announced that they will no longer syndicate listings to third-party aggregators like Trulia, Zillow and Realtor.com.
Watch this video from ARG as they justify their decision to cut the umbilical cord. I think they do a great job in explaining their decision.