Brokers Losing Agent SEO Battle to Portals

SearchYears ago, when consumers searched for keywords like City Name + Real Estate, an actual real estate broker would appear in the search results. Those days are long gone for most cities in America. Unless a broker has invested richly in the goal to appear on page one, Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com, and Homes.com dominate.

With the advent of mobile search and the consumer awareness of long tail search, the goal of SEO strategies by portals expanded to include property address. Again, four or five years ago, if you searched for a property by address, and that property was for sale, you would normally see a variety of broker websites with property detail pages appear in search. Today, Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com and Homes.com dominate the long tail SEO for property address search in most markets. Brokers align themselves with the portals in various ways, including premium advertising products to redirect that consumer back to the brokerage.

When you look at the traffic to broker websites today – and how consumers use them – beyond property search, the most popular area of the website is the agent directory and agent detail pages. Property pages dominate, but the agent pages are a clear second place. From there, any other content on the site, including blog content, is less material.

Brokers are about to lose the search battle for agent name, and soon, broker name.

In 2013, WAV Group detected an interesting trend emerging. The efforts in 2011 and 2012 by portals to get agents to complete their profiles on portal sites began to pay off. The agent detail pages for portals began to appear on the first page of Google search for agent name. Google a few of your agent names and you will see what I am referring to. No doubt, if an agent wants to enhance their leads on their own listing, they absolutely must complete their agent profile page on portal websites. The ridiculous trade-off (conundrum) is that completing the agent profile serves the portal’s goal of enhancing their ability to drive more traffic to their site rather than the agent or broker website from search engines.

In 2014, brokers should budget to begin buying advertising products from portals that are not property centric – but agent or broker profile centric. Based upon recent developments with Realtor.com, I doubt that they will have the stomach to productize this, but I would expect others to take a stab at it. In many ways, Zillow is out front on this effort with their products that include Buyer’s Agent List, Branding in Your Area, Your Photo on Listings, and Premier Agent Websites. There is an agent testimonials page that speaks to the effectiveness of this program: http://www.zillow.com/advertising/Testimonials.htm

In my opinion, the discussion about agent ratings is a really a discussion about the content on the agent detail pages that will allow portals to outperform broker websites at producing content that is engaging to the consumer and differentiated from the poorly curated agent information on broker and franchise websites today.

One Comment

  1. Giovanni Mascolino December 5, 2013 at 8:32 am - Reply

    I find it amusing that, when I drive by my local real estate competitor and see, as it has sat for the last 25 years, a sign in the window advertising “Free List of Homes”. I wonder how many people understand what they are offering with their free list. In the time it takes to find a place to park, park, walk to the office, engage a real estate agent or assistant, define the area in which they are looking, and getting and printing that free list, a customer can be on his or her way to the same listings as found using any number of apps. My point is, it’s not just realtor.com that is to blame for the lack of marketing sense when competing with the portals.

    It’s easy to blame the MLS’s and the portals and any number of other consumer media outlets and points of contact for the decline in broker presence, but given the example above is one of many misdirected attempts at marketing, I lay the blame with brokers and agents for the loss of market dominance.

    Our main problem is one of value. The consumer does not care who provides the service for which they are looking, they simply want a convenient and cost effective way to get what they need and will go to whomever provides that in the most elegant way.

    You and I buy auto and home insurance on an internet based insurance portal. You and I trade equities on an internet based trading portal. And you and I travel by buying tickets and making hotel reservations on an internet travel portal. But when was the last time you or I thought about the “agent” that used to be the point of contact and medium for those transactions.

    We think nothing of bypassing our old insurance agent to buy insurance, yet somehow we are offended that the consumer wants to bypass us to buy their real estate.

    My contention is that we spend far too little time making ourselves a valuable part of the real estate transaction process. If we cannot bring value to the consumer it does not matter how you look on portals and in MLS’s. if we can do nothing but point out that this is the dining room and this other room here can be converted to an office, we do not deserve to be any part of the transaction process.

    We need to bring value, expertise and service to our clients and customers and to stop looking over our shoulders and whining and complaining.

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