I firmly believe that SEO is at the route of this listing syndication discussion that has been picking up steam since Edina and ARG stopped syndicating their listings, so wanted to expand on the SEO discussion that Sam picked up on. Some have defended the SEO tactics the syndicators use, but most simply don’t understand SEO — which is prompting this post to help the industry better understand this issue.
Specifically, I wanted to address the thought by some agents/brokers that “without my/our listings, I/we would outrank Trulia/Zillow“.
It’s a notion I’ve seen discussed on several blogs over the past couple weeks. But it’s simply false.
Allow me to explain.
First, let’s spend just a minute explaining the way SEO works at a high level. Every page on the internet has X amount of PageRank, and each page is generally targeted at one or two keywords — such as “homes for sale in Seattle” or “Portland real estate”. PageRank is largely driven by how many other websites & pages have linked to a particular page (both internal and external links). For more on PageRank, watch this video. The idea behind PageRank is that great content will get shared by others in the form of links, Facebook Likes, +1′s — and those represent real people (if you weed out the spammers) voting as to what pages they find valuable. For any given search term entered into Google, their algorithms strive to return the result with the highest PageRank, focused on the exact keyword searched.
Of course that’s an overly simplified version of how SEO works, but there’s no sense getting into the real weeds of how Google’s algorithms work (and no one but Google engineers know anyway). The important thing to note is that LINKS (and Likes/+1′s) drive search engine rankings.
So, even if a number of the extremely large brokerages such as Century 21, Better Homes & Garden, and Prudentail suddenly pulled ALL their listings — and Zillow/Trulia suddenly lost 50% of their listings in a given market, you’d see zero SEO impact on the aggregators.
Would Zillow and Trulia be less value to buyers with half as many listings? Certainly. But from an SEO perspective, nothing would really change. The high value, high traffic pages that rank for “city + real estate” and “city + homes for sale” (such as Manhattan, Seattle, or Los Angeles) exist regardless, and they have inbound links and PageRank already. Even with half as many listings, their PageRank would remain the same because all the internal and external links to those pages would still exist.
The argument that listings are the reason that Zillow/Trulia are outranking agents and brokerages for those high value terms such as Denver homes for sale and San Francisco real estate is simply a flawed argument that the industry would love to be true because it would mean a simple fix to beating Zillow/Trulia at the SEO game. Unfortunately, competing on the SEO front with the big boys isn’t quite as easy as pulling your listings off those sites.
What do you think? Do you think SEO has no bearing on the decisions by brokerages to pull their listings? Am I missing something?
[Disclosure: It's already listed in the about page of this blog, but I'm a share holder of Zillow]