Summary of new RealBird features launched in 2011

RealBird-Bird-LargeToday is the last business day of 2011 and we thought it is the good time to summarize the main new RealBird features that we launched in 2011. 

Switched the RealBird Property Search from Google Base to Oodle data

As you may recall Google suddenly announced in January '11 the discontinuation of Google Base. Because the RealBird Property Search was based on data from Google Base, we had to find another solution. We successfully ported the application to use real estate data from Oodle, soft launched in March and made it available for all RealBird members in June. The new search application has been working great ever since and has delivered thousands and thousands of buyer leads to RealBird members.

New listing inventory widget replaced the old version, with color themes and custom transition effects

We retired one of our legacy sidebar listing inventory widgets and replaced it with a brand new one, which can be configured with custom color theme and custom transition effects.

The first version of the RealBird Mobile Real Estate Website was launched

In March, we launched the first version of the RealBird Mobile Real Estate Website service with vanity domain name and QR code support. Within weeks, thousands of mobile sites were set up by RealBird PRO members. It also received coverage from Inman News.  

The second version of the Mobile Real Estate Website added Property Search support

Soon after the initial launch, we also completed the mobile user interface for the RealBird Property Search and added to the RealBird Mobile Property Website service. Update to the platform (and the new desktop IE support) also made it possible from then on to embed the mobile real estate website on regular blogs and pages with the handy RealBird widget, including the inclusion of the QR code and a call-for-action message.

Default Property Website Theme editor added

One of the powerful features of the RealBird single property websites has always been the versatile theme editor. We realized however that even with the easy-to-use interface, it has been an unnecessary hassle to set up the custom design for each listing one by one, so we introduced the same powerful theme editor tool as a global configuration option. In other words, RealBird members can now set up a default custom design once and all new property sites will inherit this theme.

Introduced 3 Facebook Real Estate Page applications

Just in time for Facebook's application platform overhaul during the summer, we released three Facebook applications for different RealBird services. You can now easily add your listing inventory widget, map-based property search and your mobile real estate website to your Facebook business page.

Diligent SEO work brought major results: video thumbnails of your property websites are now shown on Google

We've been always focusing on SEO best practices, but 2011 brought some break throughs: Finally, over 1 million pages on RealBird has been indexed by Google and to our great surprise, RealBird became one of the few real estate information providers whose pages have been enhanced with video thumbnails on the Google search result pages. This is a very positive and stunning SEO news and together with the high ranking of the RealBird property websites, it represents a major improvement in visibility for our members.

Tighter integration of your RealBird featured listings and map-based property search

We also introduced a small, but powerful feature for RealBird PRO members. The RealBird map-based property search can now be configured to show your own featured listings as "sticky", highlighted icons on the map. We call them "sticky" icons, because they are shown on the map independently from the actual search criteria, as long as their location falls within the current map boundaries. This a great, non-intrusive advertisement of your own properties to home buyers using your map search.

United Kingdom coverage added to RealBird

We also extended support for most of the RealBird services for estate agents in the United Kingdom. With this launch, RealBird now provides online marketing services to US, Canada and UK agents and brokers. 

Brand new, major redesign of the flagship RealBird single property website platform launched

It's been a long time coming and finally, in October, we launched a major redesign of our flagship RealBird Listing Publisher property website platform. The system has many, many improvements and new features, while remaining fully backward compatible: new layout design, improved SEO, improved load speed, deeper social media integration, better lead capture, more automatic integration with 3rd party services such as Walkscore, ability to add more custom pages and content and many more features. We were very happy to receive an overwhelmingly positive response from all of our members regarding this major update.

New Craigslist property ad generator released

A revamped Craigslist property ad generator was launched in November, making it much easier for RealBird members to create a Craigslist ad with unlimited color theme options. Craigslist is one of the most popular classifieds ad platforms and this new tool makes it way easier to create much better looking ads for your RealBird listings. 

SMS keyword property marketing added to your mobile marketing toolkit

Just in time for the holiday season, we added a new listing marketing service to the RealBird mobile toolkit. We integrated RealBird with the leading SMS technology provider, Twilio and introduced SMS keyword marketing for your properties with an amazing, automatic lead capture feature.

Last but not least, 7,616 real estate professionals joined RealBird in 2011. This is our highest yearly registration number ever and we thank you all very much (long time and new members as well) for trusting your real estate marketing on the RealBird platform. 

We Wish You All A Very Happy & Successful New Year !

-- The RealBird Team
RealBird.com 


Over One Million RealBird Pages Indexed By Google

Within two weeks of the new RealBird property website platform launch, we reached an amazing milestone yesterday. There are now over one million RealBird pages in the Google index ! Prior to this platform update, the count was less than 400,000. That's more than doubling the pages in the index in less than two weaks! I am not sure what your own Google search will show you for the same query, but the screenshot below shows a recent SERP from my location.

1 million RealBird pages

 

Also note the video thumbnails for many of the property websites. We wrote about this stunning SEO surprise before - i.e. RealBird property websites being listed with video thumbnails - and it seems that Google is now picking up the thumbnail enhanced listings even faster than before.

So far, all looks very good !!!

-- The RealBird Team
www.realbird.com


Google +1, LinkedIn, Twitter and other sharing tools are now easier to use with RealBird

We just made it easier for you and your visitors to share your listing information on social networks.

Your RealBird single property websites, your Quick Share page and also the listing editor confirmation page now show a new, large social media sharing module. We have been supporting social network sharing for your listings for years, but this update introduces some accessibility improvements and also adds a large button with counters for the new Google +1 button and for LinkedIn as well.

Social Sharing Buttons

What is Google +1 ?

Google +1 is a brand new social plugin from Google. It is similar to the Facebook Like button you see on many websites ( including your RealBird listing sites). You or your visitors can "vote up" content found either on Google's search result or on 3rd party websites, e.g. your RealBird property websites. Google then uses this vote to highlight and rank search results differently for your network (searchers who you are connected to via Google services, Twitter etc.) 

To vote your properties up in Google's index, you can visit your own RealBird property website, scroll to the bottom and click the +1 button. It takes only a simple click. Or you can visit your QuickShare page (link is provided on the top of the listing management page in the RealBird member area) and click the +1 button for each of your listings. Finally, when you add a new listing in RealBird, the confirmation page will also have the same set of sharing buttons so you can simple click on it as soon as the property is posted. 

Here is an example of how the RealBird listing is presented for your network in Google's search result, once it is voted up by you. In this case, RealBird's Google account voted up a listing and is shown for me as such:

Google +1

How to enable the Facebook Like button ?

Similar to Google +1, the Facebook Like button enables you and your visitors to easily share your listings with their Facebook network with only a single click. In order to enable this feature, you will have to connect your Facebook account to RealBird. This is a standard and secure process, just click on the Facebook Login button in the member area and click Allow on the permission popup page. We do not see your Facebook login info, it's absolutely secure to connect to RealBird.  We require this extra step, because unlike other simple implementations, we support the full Facebook Open Graph and we need to designate you as the admin of the Facebook Listing Page that is created for each of your listings. This is a very powerful feature, but also really easy to set up. A more detailed explanation can be found on this post of ours from a year ago: Don't Forget to Like Yourself - Facebook Listing Pages with RealBird

How to best utilize the LinkedIn button ?

A new addition to the social sharing module is the large LinkedIn button. Some of the features that we really like about this tool are:

  1. Just like Facebook, the LinkedIn module automatically picks up your primary photos and page title so your shares are visually engaging, which can result in higher click-through rates and subsequent share
  2. On the LinkedIn sharing popup, you can also post the RealBird listing website to LinkedIn Groups, including the RealBird Group on LinkedIn
  3. You can also use the LinkedIn tool to share via emails

If you are an active LinkedIn users, we suggest to set up a few geo-targeted real estate LinkedIn groups and start sharing local real estate related info including your RealBird property websites there as well.

The screenshot below shows these options:

LinkedIn
 

To sum it up: You can now quickly access the new sharing module via A) Your RealBird single property website B) Your QuickShare page C) The new listing add/edit confirmation page.

We hope this new feature will make your social media marketing with RealBird much easier...

Enjoy !

 

  -- Zoltan 
  RealBird.com

 


Vertical real estate search engine - co-branded with revenue sharing

The following post is reblogged from our ActiveRain blog

Encouraged by the positive feedback from the real estate community about the initial release of the "Search The Real Estate Web" custom search engine, we are pleased to let you know that we released a co-branded version as a free service. We also offer a unique revenue sharing advertising model for those agents who deploy this co-branded version. But first thing first.

Vertical real estate search engine

The RealBird vertical real estate search engine allows consumers to search for any real estate terms across thousands of real estate sites and networks. It utilizes the familiar Google user interface and utilizes Google's technolgy to provide state-of-the-art content ranking and lightning fast results. Rather than searching the billions of pages in the regular Google index, this search engine focuses on hand selected professional real estate content. While the selection is focused, the number of content pages are still large and aggregated from distinct real estate sites. In other words, the vertical real estate search engine provides a more focused, but robust result set for the consumers and hopefully a very accurate search experience of real estate content.

Co-branded - your traffic, your brand, your links

With the current release, real estate professionals can create a co-branded version of the same service for themselves. It is a free service. The co-branded service provides you with a version of the service which carries your photo, name, links to website, blog and featured listings on ALL pages and upon subsequent returns of the same visitor (see Bill Gassett's example on the right). This branded information is presented to all consumers who arrives through your very own link. The co-branded version also comes with a branded search widget which you can add to your blog and ActiveRain sidebar. Embedded in this post below is Janie Coffey's live widget for demonstration. As you can see, the widget itself carries your brand and links and all searches submitted through a particular widget maintains the branding information. Furthermore, when a consumer shares your widget through social networks, bookmarking sites or via email, it maintains your co-branded version also, so that you get incremental traffic to your own co-branded search engine from additional placements.

Revenue sharing

As you can see, there are advertisement above, below and on the left of the search result. We thought that it is only fair that we share the revenue with you for the traffic and click-throughs originated through your co-branded service, your blog's traffic and through your social networking activities. The system is designed in a way, that you can add your own custom content to the footer section of the search result pages. Not only the header will carry your profile and links, but you can also add further revenue generating and promotional content below the search results. In short, click through traffic from the built in ads above and on the left will generate revenue for us and all click-thrus below the results will generate ad revenue or traffic for you (assuming you configured the service with your own ad code) .

SEO benefits

One of the beauty of this design is what I like to call "chain-linked" SEO. This may sound like a complicated concept, but in practice it is very easy to accomplish. The idea is that you deep link from your websites and blogs to your co-branded search engine result page with specif search terms, "do follow" links and proper anchor tags. When Google's main search engines indexes your content again (your website, your blog etc.) and it finds these links, it will follow them to your own RealBird search engine result pages and it will index those pages also. Those pages contain your search engine friendly links. These links are pointing back to your website and blog. Ideally, Google will follow these links to your 3rd party sites and consider them as backward links. The RealBird system allows you to create as many "deep links" to specific result pages as you want hence making Google follow and index even more pages with your own links on them. In turn, this may very well increase your website and blog ranking even more. We suggest that you set up a few direct links for search terms for which your own content comes up first (your name, your brokerage, your local market and your name) and add those links to your website or blog. You can also add a few to your ActiveRain sidebar, under the link section, which will be populated to all of your AR blog posts. Within the RealBird member area, we provide a handy tool to create these links in seconds. Furthermore, because hopefully many of you will create deep links, the overall number of pages Google will know on the same domain name (search.realbird.com) will increase drastically.

Here are three more examples:
Virginia Beach real estate
Healdsburg Real Estate Blog
Akron, OH homes for sale

Transparency - the value proposition

We love transparency, so here we go: the value proposition for everybody involved is the following:

Consumers - They have access to a focused, easy to use, general purpose vertical real estate search engine

Us at RealBird - We receive ad revenue on the portion of the traffic

YOU - Free marketing and branding tool for you. Provide an invaluable service to your visitors. Increase the SEO of your own content and generate additional revenue with the revenue sharing model, if you opt-in to do so.

Additional content

We are continously improving the search engine by adding more related websites and networks to its index. With this release we have added content from RISMedia, Real Estate Shows, ClassifiedFlyerAds, Zipvo, Postlets and VFlyer to the growing index. As always, if you do not find your own blog or website after searching for your name or your domain name, just let us know. You can request the inclusion by commenting below.

Best practices

I hope I could successfully explain the benefits of this new, free service. It's cobranded, all your visitors who comes through your widgets and co-branded links will see your own photo banner no matter what they searched for, the revenue sharing or additional promotional options and SEO. If you decide to utilize this service - and we certainly hope you will - than we suggest that you promote your co-branded version as much as you can. Here are a few tips on how to do it:

  • Use the built in social bookmarking feature on the co-branded widget - share the link on Facebook, delicious, Digg, Twitter and others
  • Create good, meaningful direct deep links using specific search term and your co-branded Url. Chose the ones which directly benefit you and make sure that the link's anchor tag has related, meaningful name and title.
  • Add the co-branded widget to your blog and website and share it through email as well. Ask your network (farm, friends) to share it with their friends as well.

How to get started - it's free

  • Existing RealBird members: Access the widget configuration page in the member area (login required)
  • New to RealBird? Register for free and configure and grab your private labeled widget on the "Widgets" => "Search The Real Estate Web™" member page

Finally, please share this announcement with your network !

As always, we do appreciate if you share this post by Re-Blogging, through FaceBook, via Twitter other networks or by simply emailing it to your collegues.

Thanks and do not hesitate to contact us with your feedback.

-- Zoltan
RealBird.com



Google Street View - amazing neighborhood virtual tours

We could not wait until Google provides access to the amazing Steet View imagery via their Google Maps API, so we went ahead and for the first time in the industry, we made Google Street Views available for RealBird members with a very simple manual embedding process.

As many of you already know, Google started to take 360° panoramic photographs of streets in 2007, starting with major metropolitan areas. Many in the real estate blogging sphere covered Google's product release and most of them including me found it an amazing and a very valuable tool for real estate virtual presentations. Slide-shows and interior panoramas provide virtual walk-through of the house; maps and aerial photos give great information about things in the vicinity including buildings, schools, points of interest, roads and more and now, finally, with Google Street View, home buyers from remote locations can "walk around" in the neighborhood, virtually, without ever leaving their own place. From interior virtual tours through neighborhood walk-thrus to bird's eye views, finally you can provide virtual presentation for all aspects of your property.

While Google still does not provide API access to this feature (i.e. enabling 3rd parties like us to automatically use this imagery), they quietly released a feature in December, which allows you to embed the interactive Street View  widget into your website and blog. And now with RealBird's capability of handling any kind of embeddable widgets, you can use the Street View on your single property websites built with RealBird Listing Publisher.

How to add Google Street View to your RealBird single property website

Let's see a live example for demonstration, then I will show the simple steps it actually take to do it for your own listings for free.

Click the image below, then on the property website, click "Street View".

Amazing, don't you think?

OK, so  here  are the  steps for setting up a single property website like this. (You  will need to have a free RealBird account)

See if Street View is available for your location

Go to http://maps.google.com, type in the address and see if the Street View button appears on the top right. If Street View is available, drag the little yellow icon to the location where you want your viewpoint to be set . The streets with "Street View"  capability will be highlighted once you click the "Street View"  button.  Drag the person-icon to a location on one of the highlighted streets. As you will see it in the next step, the actual, current Street View will be provided as widget, not your initial location. In other words, fine tune the view of the location before you continue to the next step.

See if Street View is available for your location

Grab the code

Click the "Link to this page" link above the map on the right.

Link to this page option

The second text box contains the default iframe code, which you can copy and paste just like that. You can further customize the widget. Click the link: "Customize and preview embedded map"

Step 3 - Customize code

There is another feature, which can be very useful, but is not obvious as an option on the configuration screen. In some design layouts, you may want to have a full bleed 100% width for the widget. Just take the code Google provides and replace the width="xyz" with width="100%". The Street View widget's width will automatically scale to whatever design you embed it into.

Embed the widget into RealBird single property website

Login on RealBird (or get a free account in a few seconds).

RealBird

Add a new listing or edit an existing one. On the listing editor page, click the Embedded Media tab (it can be used for any widgets: video, slideshow, audio, iframe, in this case we are going to embed the Street View into a listing website)

Post Street View on your RealBird site

Enter "Street View" in the "Tab text" field and paste the embed code into the large text box. "Publish" or "Save as draft" and it's done.

~~~ Easy, elegant and absolutely cool presentation. ~~~

I believe, this is a must have widget for any online listing presentation if Google has coverage for your area. While these manual steps will not be necessary once the Google Maps API gives access to it, but until then, this feature on your RealBird sites can be a great marketing vehicle for virtual presentations and to separate your listings and yourself from the crowd.

-- Zoltan Szendro
RealBird.com