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Search Engine 2.0

Pat Kitano had a blog post back in March about the search engine marketing value of real estate blogging and in particular about the Long Tail concept in SEO. He also explained the fact that real estate professionals who get into blogging early on, have a good chance of locking up search engines, that is, the first page results on a particular search term. It made me thinking about where I predict search engines are heading nowadays.

I agree with Pat, that in the short term, there is a leverage in getting into the game early on. You can lock up Google for the time being, but I doubt that we can assume that once you get in the "club", you stay in for a very long time, even if you keep producing quality, relevant content.

First: Search engines are constantly changing algorithms, rather than static and constant systems. The main purpose of search engines is to deliver relevant AND quality content. Allowing the search engine to be locked by a few is against this philosophy (both for short and long tail terms). Once real estate content (blogging, listing data, market data) become a mainstream public information, and such trends become obvious, search engines will have to adjust to keep delivering their ultimate value: non-biased, quality, relevant content.

The blog-overload of search engines is not a new phenomena. When blogging went mainstream in the early 2000, there were a period of time when search engines got "confused" and algorithms had to be tuned so that page ranks were reduced on blogs, which got too favorable by the old algorithms, without delivering enough value to the consumer. It seems that now, when real estate blogging is going mainstream, similar thing is happening with long tail search terms related to real estate. Adjustment will certainly happen. See Marcus Blurk post about some absurd long tail search engine results.

Second: While no outsider knows the exact algorithms behind Google' search engine, the general concept of page ranking - based on how many related and relevant content links in, links out and links across the site - is well known and elaborated on. But this algorithm is certainly changing in today's social networking world. Page ranking, while still very effective, was invented during web 1.0, when content producing was more  of a newspaper publishing, that is, a limited set of authoritative editors created content and decided who to refer to via hyperlinks. Judging the relevancy of a page to a particular search term could be decided very effectively based on the semantic analysis of pages linking to each other. But the fact is, that since the process of content producing required expertise and many times serious investment in time and money, therefore the algorithm could safely assume the authority of the author and put most of the emphasize on links. The very terminology of PAGE ranking refers to the web 1.0 world, where internet content is assumed to be a web page (or blog article), which can be parsed easily for content and relationships are via hyperlinks.

Today, in the web 2.0 world, content is produced bi-directionally and not only textual content but rankings, recommendations, tags, social network entities, bookmarks etc. Relationships are more than just hyperlinks. It is a social relationship, a geographical relationship etc. I predict that the value of rankings by the public via non-traditional means will increase. The recent acquisition of StumbleUpon by Ebay and Google's jump into the game the second day underlines this new trend. The relevancy is shifting from the authoritativeness of hyperlinks by a few content producer to the authoritativeness of the public once enough public opinion is aggregated via social bookmarks, social networks, recommendation engines and user behavior tracking systems. Again, in the web 1.0 world, the only authoritative sources we could assume were the content authors themselves, the public was a passive participant. In the web 2.0 world, the importance of the public as the authoritative source of relevancy AND quality is increased significantly. That is search engine 2.0 in my opinion.

Relevancy relates to quality, but it does not imply it. The search engines' ultimate goal is to deliver quality results. Up till now, the best available method was to check content for relevancy. Page ranking was the ultimate solution for determining relevancy (and hoping for quality). But now that there are more data available via the information generated by Web 2.0, search engines will ultimately develop judgments based on more accurate methods. Take for example: When a home buyer is searching for a real estate term in a particular market, the consumer hopes to get not only related content, but content produced by "good quality" author. That is, a good sales person, with the quality of such: intelligence, emphaty and aggressiveness. The basis of the future relationship is an client-agent relationship. Consumer wants to find an agent who can represent his or her interest the best. Using a search engine to find related content, locate and trust the author, project this trust of authority into trust of professionalism is the mean, not the goal. Consumer's ultimate goal is to have the best real estate business process provided by the agent.  How can a search engine tell who is a good sales person, just by analyzing the relevancy of the content produced by the real estate agent. Certainly not with Page Ranking alone. Just because a lot of other real estate professionals link to this particular one may imply intelligence, but not emphaty and aggressiveness, which are also required for a successful sales process. On the other hand, if a search engine can relate content relevancy with consumer generated information (how many consumer bookmarked a particular blog with a particular set of related tags), social networking relationship (how many "friends", "admirer", "connection" a particular agent has on different networks), we get closer to determining the overall quality of the content provided. I suspect that Yahoo's purchase of MyBlogLog relates to this new concept. While on the surface, MyBlogLog delivers a social networking service for blog and website owners and visitors, in the background, it is capable of generating additional classification information by tracking what sites a particular user is visiting. They have now another authoritative source for determining quality using the information about the behavior of the general public. Returning to a site over and over again implies similar relevancy to the classic page ranking by links, but extends the qualification from the authors to the browsing public. We will see many other social behaviors tracked for relevancy purposes in the near future.

Third: Modern web applications are using more and more client technologies (i.e. AJAX, Flash etc.) vs. pure HTML content, which is traditionally non-indexable by search engines. There is lot of relevant information generated nowadays, which are simple left out from the search engines because of that. We, at RealBird, have to drop some of our user interface concepts just because we want to make sure, that maximum search engine exposure is provided for our clients, even when it effects our overall user experience and innovations. This is changing though. For example, GetClicky indicated that their log tracking system will support tracking AJAX interactions, which is not yet provided by any system as far as I know and I believe search engines are working on acquiring content from sources not queried before. Take for example all the geographic content provided on Ajax maps (Google, MS Virtual Earth, Yahoo, MapQuest). While they may be extremely relevant to a particular search term, they are simple ignored by search engines currently, due to the fact that they are not rendered as normal HTML markups, but rather created in the browsers memory on the fly. Another example: If you put a blogroll on your blog or website using server side technologies, (i.e. the links to the 3rd party blogs are rendered as regular HTML), you most likely get scores for it by Google as outgoing links. On the other hand if you use Google's own, Ajax based feed reader API, the very same links are rendered on the fly, and while users may see them and use those links just like in the server-side rendering scenario, they are completely invisible for search engine robots. The content, the relevancy, the quality is the same, but current search engines punish you for using modern technologies to deliver better user experience. This will obviously change. It has to.

Having all that said, I agree with Pat, that this is an opportunity for the real estate community to get into the game and turning this short term opportunity into business by blogging it away. But I also sense some major changes coming to town: the way Google changed the search engine game by putting emphasize on the connection between quality content from purely analyzing the content itself, the new search engines will put more and more emphasis on the relevancy established by the consumer public vs. relevancy established by the authors of the content only.

So blog it away, but also start using social networks such as InmanWiki, ActiveRain, LinkedIn, MyBlogLog and so on. Your online relevancy will certainly be more than just the content you provide: it also your behavior and participation online.

-- Zoltan Szendro

RealBird

 


250,000 unique visitors on RealBird

According to Google Analytics, we served over 250,000 unique visitors on RealBird sites in March, 2007. Over a quarter million people. Or more than the whole population of Baton Rouge, LA or Chula Vista, CA or Debrecen, Hungary or Yamato, Japan (source)

This includes all services provided by RealBird to individual agents and brokers, large brokerages including listing marketing and map-based MLS search applications and GIS and mapping tools for specialty real estate sites.

Over 250,000 unique visitors in march, 2007 - Google Analytics

Thanks for all of you for stopping by in March !

-- Zoltan Szendro
RealBird


Scribd, Box.net and Jaxtr Click-to-Call support added

We have a mid-week update released for the RealBird Publisher listing marketing platform. From the very beginning, we designed the service with flexibility in mind, so that you can mashup your single property website produced with RealBird with other services. We do not limit videos to YouTube, but rather, you can embed videos from any sources as long as they support embedding via some widgeting platform. Of course you are not limited to one video per property either.

With the current release we have extended the flexibility to other media besides videos and audio. Alex Keyser requested a couple of week ago the ability to attach real estate documents to the listing website created with RealBird. He also asked for an option to rename the Video tab on the user interface per listing depending on what kind of information is attached. It has now been implemented as part of this update. See a couple of recommendations of services below, which you can use with the RealBird Publisher tool for document sharing and embedding:

Scribd.com

Scribd I first heard about Scribd.com on Techcrunch  Scribd.com is for documents what YouTube is for videos. An easy-to-use and powerful online media sharing service focusing on documents. You can upload  documents and Scribd.com will convert them to Flash, PDF, Word and even machine-read audio MP3 files. You can then take the generated widget code and add it to your website, blog and your listing website created with RealBird Publisher. While Scribd is a general purpose, consumer application, it is perfectly suitable for real estate application. Kevin Boer has a blog post about this also. Please remember that this is not a platform to share confidential documents, but suitable for floor plans, disclosures and documents which are intended to be shared with the public.

To use Scribd with your RealBird Publisher service, do the following:

  •  Create an account on Scribd.com and upload your documents
  •  Login to RealBird and create a new listing post or edit an existing one
  • On the Embedded media tab of the listing editor, paste the Scribd widget code (the one which starts with the <object> tag) into the box and rename the Video tab to e.g. Documents

Box.net

Boxnet Techcrunch also reported today a new release of Box.net’s online file sharing application. You can now upload and share your file folders via widgets. You have the option to make the online file folder private, enable or disable others to add files to it via your widget. This is another great service and just like with Scribd.com you can add this widget to your listing website created with RealBird. Box.net can be also used to create photo slide-show widgets (one folder per property) which you can add to your blog and to your RealBird listings as well . The procedure is simple as well.

  • Create an account on Box.net and upload your documents
  • Login to RealBird and create a new listing post or edit an existing one
  • On the Embedded media tab of the listing editor, paste the Box.net widget code (the one which starts with the <object> tag) into the box and rename the Video tab to e.g. Documents

These are truly amazing applications and definitely should and I think will be adapted by the real estate community fast. This write up also shows the powerful flexibility of the RealBird service when it comes to creating an online listing presentation website.

Jaxtr.com

Jaxtr Jaxtr is a new VOIP clickt-to-call service. RealBird now supports the addition of your Jaxtr account to your profile, so that visitors on your property website can connect with you via their regular phone by clicking the “Call now” link. Jaxtr will collect their phone number and connect your registered phone with theirs and setup a regular communication channel instantly. This is an additional option which your visitors can use to contact you. Of course this is an optional feature, but we believe that it’s worth trying out. The lower the barrier for your visitors to contact you, the better it is. As always, make sure that you agree with the Terms of use of the service you are signing up to.

To setup Jaxtr with your RealBird account, do the following:

The “Call now” link will appear on all existing listing fliers and on the newly created one.

More search engine optimization

We have replaced the cross-marketing tools on the listing websites. Instead of the Flash based blocks of “Our recent listings” and “Our recent blog posts” which is not indexable by search engines, we have now an inline, server-side rendering module. The links to your other listings and the outgoing links to your blog posts can be indexed by search engines from now on and can improve your rankings. Both inter-site (from listing to listing) and outgoing links (to your blog) are valued by search engines due to their relevancy.

Private labeled driving directions update

We released a couple of updates on the newly introduced private labeled driving directions service. We provide a unique solution to our members utilizing the Microsoft Virtual Earth technology. Private labeled driving directions are another great way to build your brand. All printouts generated by your visitors have your contact information and photo in the header, further enhancing your branding and name recognition. With the current updates we solved a couple of usability issues: When clicking through to the driving directions link, the map now automatically zooms in to your property location. The Url syntax is also compatible with Google’s syntax so you can replace your links on your website pointing to Google with your own private labeled maps. You can use this tool as a general purpose, private labeled mapping service on your website. With its driving directions, local point of interest and extremely high resolution bird’s eye view pictures (growing number of metro areas), this is truly an eye catcher for your visitors.

To learn more about RealBird visit our main site at RealBird.com

For existing members: the above features are released and available for you immediately. Just follow the instructions above and you are ready to go. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

The mashup capability of RealBird Publisher is quite flexible. We put a lot of emphasize on creating a system which can be used with different kind of 3rd party widgets. We hope you like the new updates. Enjoy !

-- Zoltan Szendro

RealBird.com


Breathtaking Ocean View 4 Bedrooms 3 Bathrooms Home

Every now and then we post one of our client's listing as a case study to demonstrate how to effectively market your listing with single-property websites:

Take a look at this: Breathtaking Ocean View 4 Bedrooms 3 Bathrooms Home

And here is why we like Anna Gandamana's listing site:

  1. Good, catchy title - effective as online slogan and excellent wording for search engine optimization
  2. Large-size pictures - RealBird is one of the few single property website creating tool which supports large-size picture upload. She uploaded the large size pictures for the benefit of consumers and her seller, rather than the reduced size photos supported by the MLS and most virtual tours
  3. Took her time to enter property description - the couple of extra minutes spent on entering or copy and pasting the description from the MLS sheet will benefit her greatly in search engine marketing
  4. Uploaded neighborhood information - again, the little extra time spent on uploading neighborhood stats may have a great effect on how her property ranks  in search engines. It is also nicely formatted
  5. Cross-marketing her blog - Her latest blog posts appear on her listing. By updating her RealBird profile with her blog Url and RSS link, she is now cross marketing her blog on her featured listing. This is a great and unique tool. It  drives traffic to your blog and can also increase you search engine ranking because these links are real, valid and valuable cross site links to relevant and related information.

Congratulation Anna ! I am sure, your effort to walk the extra mile for your clients will lead to a lot of new and referral business.

http://www.RealBird.com


First place first time

I thought I write a quick post on this: We found a first page, first place Google search result pointing to a listing published via RealBird.  GetClicky, our favorite tracking service reported a search query referral to a RealBird listing: when performing the same search, we were delighted to see that the first match is linking to a RealBird listing.

See it for yourself:
http://www.google.com/search?q=REsidential+listing+in+bon+aire+ga