Updated referral statistics

The updated pie chart below shows the relative click-thru traffic from major real estate portals; i.e. consumer destination sites where RealBird listings are syndicated to (automatically or manually). It is based on the web analytics data of the last 200,000 click-throughs to RealBird single property websites:

Referral-stats-RealBird


Some notes and assumptions:


  • Craigslist is a manual distribution option for which we provide all the instructions and code. However, - due to the fact that it requires agents to manually post their listings after entering them in RealBird - the number of RealBird listings published on Craigslist is much less than the number of listings automatically syndicated to portals (Trulia, Zillow etc.). The traffic ratio of Craigslist would be way higher if all RealBird listings were published there as well by our members.

  • Trulia and Zillow consumer traffic is comparable (see Compete.com) but the click-through traffic from Trulia is almost three times as much. I suspect, that this is due to the fact, that Trulia has a big, prominent button "See more photos and details" linking to the RealBird property sites, while Zillow has a smaller, regular link on their property pages. In other words, Trulia's property page is more click-through friendly, hence more consumers actually end-up on the RealBird listing websites.

  • Since our number of syndicated listings is relatively small compared to the whole for-sale, active, US listing dataset, this chart does not implies in any ways the importance of those sites in terms of consumer traffic or the level of exposure your listing will receive. Statistically speaking, this chart can not be used as a base for making projections on traffic of the included portals. Our dataset is not a representation of such information. It only shows the distribution of traffic sources to the RealBird dataset. Use Compete.com or Quantcast.com for more accurate info on this.

    Update: Based on the conversation with Sara from Zillow (see comments below), I'd like to emphasize it again, that the chart shows the ratio of referral traffic only, which does not have direct relationship with other metrics, like lead conversion etc. For example: one may receive more leads directly on the sites we syndicate to, without the user ever clicking-thru to the RealBird listing website (hence no referral traffic is tracked).


  • It is interesting to see that the click-throu traffic from Overstock.com is higher than the traffic from Vast.com, even though OverStock.com's real estate classifieds are powered by Vast.com. It is probably due to the fact, that Overstock has way higher traffic than Vast.com (See Compete.com for details)

  • We decided to include ActiveRain traffic that is not click-through referral, but impressions of RealBird widgets embedded on ActiveRain. It may artificially improved the relative rank though. We did so, because we wanted to emphasize the importance of posting listing widgets on ActiveRain, and because we could not find an easy way to separate the two types of web analytics data

Other notable sources of traffic are: Geebo.com,Walmart Classifieds and recently, StumbleUpon

Thank you for Juliet Johnson for making us create an updated chart :)


-- Zoltan
RealBird.com


RealBird Listing Publisher 3.0 released

It's been a while since our previous major feature release of the RealBird Listing Publisher single property website and listing syndication service. We have been adding and improving features on-going, like support for the Google Street View widget and Microsoft Bird's Eye View, embedded slideshow and new default theme, and today, we have a major upgrade to announce with many unique and powerful presentation and marketing features. See below the list with examples.

Virtual open house - Live chat with your visitors

Chat widgets For the first time, you can use your single property websites as interactive presentation tools; effectively: virtual open houses. You can engage your visitors right on the spot, interactively, real-time, before they browse away to check out other listing websites. The new Listing Publisher provides you a way to add  3rd party chat widgets of your choice. Just like with the 3rd party video and slideshow support, we do not limit you to a particular provider, use one of our recommended services or add your favorite chat application. You can use Plugoo.com, Meebo, or Kyte.tv for audio and video chat, LivePerson.com for proactive chats or any other services you prefer. Many of these chat services also run on mobile devices so you will be able to participate in conversations even while you are on the go.

Tip: You can even provide live shows and market reviews using ustream.tv or similar services. Just like with syndicating the embedded RealBird MLS search tool, and getting additional real estate services one step closer to potential clients, you can  use the distributed single property websites to capture traffic for your live real estate shows. The options are pretty much endless.

I highly recommend to add the Plugoo.com chat widget to your RealBird sites, at least. With Plugoo, you can keep using your regular IM (Google Talk, MSN, Yahoo Messenger) to interact with your property websites' visitors, even from your mobile devices.

Example: Tina Merritt's listing : Popular Baylake Pines

Real-time market stats and lead capturing - powered by Altos Research

Market stats We met the guys at Altos Research more than a year ago, and we have been talking about integration ever since, but never got the time to actually do it. This time we pulled it off! For over 6,000  zip codes in the US we are now automatically include a "Market Stats" tab, a large, up-to-date median price chart for the zip code and a lead collector for your visitors to request more market research data. Within 1 hour of the release, one of our client received the first lead via this service. IT WORKS !  This is one of my favorite new features. New markets are added ongoing, so even if it is not yet available in your market, keep this feature on, we will include the charts automatically as soon as your market is available.

Example: Stunning Custom Home in Keller, Texas - www.705wickhamcourt.com

Mini Single Property Website widget to embed in sites and blog posts

The Mini Single Property Website is a new, powerful listing widget in your viral marketing toolset. If you like the original slideshow widget, you will love this one. Besides being nice and effective it has two major improvements. It is a viral widget: it provides you and your audience a way to quickly and easily grab and share it on social networks, social bookmarking sites and through email. The widget also maintains the visual theme of your single property website including the unique photo backdrop feature and custom color theme. No more boring widgets, spice it up as much as you wish. Stay tuned for new  RealBird viral marketing widgets coming soon. We are already working on some. See the current set of real estate widgets RealBird provides.

Example courtesy of Janie Coffey

Update: Embedded widget removed due to some bug with the Typepad blog hosting platform. Thanks for Rick at Phoenix Real Estate to point this out. We found the fix. the widget is back again below

See it in action on Janie's Horse Properties blog or see one embedded in this Philly real estate blog

What's nearby: powered by Google

This new feature turns your single property website into a local information hub. Your visitors can easily map any points of interest around your property with the built-in Google Local Search. Most importantly: schools and city amenities. Check it out on Bill Gassett's Medway, MA single property website. E.g. Enter "schools" in the text box on map and get instant nearby results.

Bargain alert - Notification if your list price is below Zillow's Zestimate®

Bargain alert The new Zillow API mashup will show a bargain alert on your site if your list price is below Zillow's Zestimate®. It is an automatic marketing pitch for grabbing the attention of the visitor, using the industry standard Zillow Zestimate® for emphasizing bargain pricing. If you property is priced above the Zestimate®, the feature becomes automatically hidden. We only use Zestimate® when it helps you with your online marketing efforts. This is an optional feature, you can turn it on and off, just like with most of the RealBird features, but I think this is an excellent tool as it merges the best of the features of RealBird and Zillow and only used when it benefits your marketing efforts.

Example: Highlands Ranch, CO listing  or Wonderful Ranch Home


Printable flyer with a twist - private labeled driving directions included

Printable flyer Many of you have been asking for it and now we have the solution: a printable version of your single property website. We also added an invaluable tool to it. You clients can print driving directions together with your flyer branded for you with your photo, logo and contact information. A new editor is provided in the member area which lets you configure the description and feature highlights. Having an optimized content for printing helps you create a flyer which prints pretty without changing the content on your full-featured property website and also helps you with search engine marketing by providing a second version indexed by search engines with related by slightly different content.


"Listing slug" - excuse us for the name, but this is powerful SEO

We borrowed the term from the Wordpress blogging platform, which uses "post slugs" for blog post Url customization. The concept is the following: having relevant keywords in the Url may increase search engine ranking. Having some variation between your property title's keywords (also important SEO content) and your Url keywords may increase ranking even more.  Besides helping you getting better ranking, this feature can also help you with better click-through rates once your property site is found by search engines.  Google and the other search engines also highlight keywords in the Url on the SERP (Search Engine Result Pages) which increases click-through rate. By default we use your property website's title in the Url, but for even better keyword targeting, you can override the single property website's Url keywords with related, but slightly modified terms. This is an advanced feature. If it is confusing, you can just skip this feature. RealBird will generate this for you automatically using your listing's title. To access this feature, use the configure tab in the listing editor.

International distribution

Through our syndication partnership with DotHomes ( a UK company ), we are now bringing international exposure for your listings. This is an automatic syndication feature. Publish your listings on RealBird and they will be automatically distributed to DotHomes.com (They are in the final stage of the implementation so it may take a few more days from the date of this post to have your listings appear)

Tracking more details of the property website activity

For those of you who are crazy about web analytics, we added more tracking via Clicky's new Ajax tracking code. Please note that this feature is only available for Premium Clicky subscribers.

Private labeled real estate yellow pages

Last but not least, we have released our first service of a series of upcoming team marketing tools. The RealBird Private Labeled Yellow Pages lets you private label the RealBird real estate yellow pages portal at SearchOnMaps.com. See the example below. Enter a US city, zipcode or address and see the private labeled portal.

Benefits:

  • Branding and lead generation
  • Team marketing - the RealBird community markets each others' listings
  • Backlinks to your site and blog from a portal with high PageRank
  • Single property websites are co-branded also
  • It's free

Example widget:

See it also on Katy Schaff's blog embedded in the right sidebar

If you like to be featured on this blog by showing one of these features on your own RealBird listing sites, just comment on this post with your RealBird link included or send us an email.

-- Zoltan Szendro
RealBird.com


Using Flickr photos in listing presentations

Flickr_realbird Flickr is one of the most popular online photo sharing services and known for their high-quality photos - uploaded by amateurs and professional photographers. This tutorial will show how to use Flickr images with the RealBird Listing Publisher service for creating a great looking online listing presentation.

RealBird allows you to spice up your listing websites with background images. This is a great feature for visually highlighting some of the main characteristics of the property. Many of our members are using high-quality property pictures or a nature photo to capture the mood of the property, like ocean or mountain view or to emphasize that it is a horse property. The challenge for the high adaptation of this visually captivating feature is that many agents do not have access to high-quality, royalty free images to upload as a backdrop.

This is where Flickr comes for our rescue. Flickr provides a way for its members to decide under which licensing term they are sharing their photos with the public. While the default setting I believe is "All rights reserved", that is, fully copyrighted and no reuse is permitted, many Flickr users opt-in to share their photos under one of the variations of Creative Common licenses.

In order for you to reuse Flickr photos, you have to make sure that the creative common license is such, that it allows commercial reuse. There are other details which you have to pay attention to. See the tutorial below.

Let's take an example of property which has an ocean view. Probably you will want to upload a background photo of the ocean, sunset or similar. Besides searching for "ocean view" or "ocean sunset" on Flickr, you can also add some additional characteristics, e.g. California, so that the random images will more likely represent the natural attributes of the California coast vs Florida or the South Pacific.

While it is not a licensing issue, but more of a best practice consideration, selecting a general purpose design with no geographically specific visuals is advised, to avoid confusing your visitors. The background image is a very powerful visualization tool and you may mislead visitors unintentionally, if they think that the background photo was actually taken from the house or relates to your property. The goal here is to choose an image which symbolizes the main characteristics, but in the meantime, does not imply that it is an actual photo of the property or its surroundings. (Of course, this is not a problem if you are using your own images of the listing for the background overlay)

The tutorial assumes that you already created a RealBird single property website.

Step 1 - Search for photos with proper licenses

  1. Go to Flickr's advanced search
  2. Enter your keyword: ocean view
  3. Check all of the following checkboxes for the following restrictions at the bottom of the search form:

Creative Common Search Criteria

Step 2 - Choose the photo and download it

Flickr2_2 Once you found the image you like, you will have to get the link to its high resolution version:

  1. Click on the photo that you like in the list
  2. Click on "All version" above the image on the left side
  3. Select a large size version (1024x768 or bigger)
  4. Double check that you performed a correct search. Below the image, it should state with the corresponding icons, that it is a Creative Commons-licensed photo, and most likely also, that it requires attribution
  5. Click download image and save it to your local computer

Look for these logos below the Flickr picture:

Somerights20 Cc_icon_attribution

Step 3 - Using the image on RealBird

One of the options of the RealBird listing website theme customization feature is using an uploaded photo as a backdrop. To use the Flickr photo downloaded in step 2, follow the steps below:

  1. Login or register at RealBird
  2. Add/edit a listing
  3. On the list of listings page, find the subject property and click "Change design theme" on the right side
  4. Select the "Single, large background image" tab
  5. Upload the image from your local computer through "Browse..." and "Upload"

Step 4 - Attribute the work

From the Creative-Common license: "Attribution. You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work)."

The best way to do this is by adding a link to the Flickr photo page (the Url in Step 2, Item 2 above) at the bottom of the description of your property using the RealBird editor. The link should say something like "Photo courtesy of [Author's name]"

That's it, you are done.

I hope you find this tutorial helpful for your next RealBird listing presentation.

-- Zoltan
RealBird.com

I hate to do this in a blog tutorial, but since we touched some licensing issues, here comes the RealBird disclaimer: This is not a legal advise on how to interpret the legal context of the copyright and licensing terms on Flickr. We are providing a technical tutorial about how to use Creative-commons licensed photos if you decide that you have the rights to do so. Please do not use copyrighted material with RealBird, unless you have proper permission from the copyright holder.




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