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MLS Policy – Broker Attribution Back to the Drawing Board

By |2018-11-04T14:42:02+00:00November 5th, 2018|NAR|0 Comments

NAR Policy Listing Broker AttributionThis is great news! Multiple Listing Issues and Policy Committee voted to send the Broker Attribution policy change recommendation back for another look. An impressive move based on a recommendation by the NAR Leadership during the Committee meeting.

Why the recommendation for policy change?

The recommendation for the policy change was in response to several brokerage firms and real estate organizations requesting a review on broker attribution on Internet listing displays.

Over the last few years, Redfin held a firm position a backlink from a participating broker listing page to the listing brokers property listing page would benefit all brokerages.

Redfin’s claims of how this position was a benefit to listing brokerages were to:

  • inform the search engines who is the originator of the listing content and therefore giving authoritative credit of the listing content.
  • increase the opportunity of listing brokers property page’s position in search engines over the publishers.

Most other brokerages and real estate organization’s concerns were how the broker attribution is displayed visually on brokers IDX/VOW and publisher websites. Concerns rallied around on the vagueness of the guidelines is causing inconsistency of how the broker attribution is visually displayed on websites.

One real estate organization did caution that if Redfin’s proposal was moving forward, a thumbs-up from the search engines were necessary before the policy could be approved.

What was the recommended policy change?

MLS Technology and Emerging Issue Advisory Board reviewed these concerns along with input from a highly regarded SEO Consultant before submitting their policy change recommendation to the Committee.

Policy change recommendations to the Handbook on Multiple Listing Policy included modifications to:

  • MLS Policy Statement 7.58 – Internet Data Exchange Policy (IDX) – Requiring participants to add a link back to the listing broker’s property page, plus other requirements.
  • Section 19.18 – Model Virtual Office Website (VOW) Rules for MLSs – Similar modifications as MLS Policy Statement 7.58.
  • MLS Policy Statement 7.87 – Transmittal of Participants’ Listings to Aggregators Policy – A new paragraph requiring MLS third-party aggregators to include the link information in the data feeds.

Impressive conversation by the Industry of policy change post the Advisory Board’s recommendation.

When the real estate organizations and brokerages gained awareness of the policy changes, dialogue and collaboration were spurred throughout the industry. There were various concerns raised by the proposed policy changes.

  • Would the search engines view this type of linking as a link farm or link scams? Both practices when practice could cause heavy penalties in SEO from the Search Engines.
  • How would MLSs and their third-party aggregators deliver IDX/VOW data feeds with the listing brokers website page for each listing? Each listing brokerage has a unique structure for their listing property’s web address (URL). While technically this is not a problem, logistically, the work to execute on this is significant and has a cost.
  • How would this new policy affect general SEO for brokerage websites? Concerns expressed if a linking policy is adopted, would it give an SEO advantage to national brokerages over the local broker website.
  • What other options are available besides linking? Another approach submitted by real estate technologists was thought that it could provide the same results as linking, without the harm of being considered a link farm.

Impressive Leadership

The above questions and following conversations must have begun to raise concerns by NAR Leadership. The result was NAR’s Leadership decided to seek more information directly from search engine leader, Google.

We found out at the Committee meeting that Google did provide more information to NAR Leadership. Information which required the leadership to request the removal of the recommended policy change from the table and to send it back to the Advisory Board’s drawing board.

Let’s go back to the beginning!

I like the KISS principle – Keep It Simply Simple. Brokerages want to have rich MLS Policy guidelines on broker attribution and in general, listing display.

Clarity which allows consumers to easily identify the listing brokerage is through visual markers and has nothing to do with linking, canonical tags or any other technical method.

How can the MLS guidelines be more specific?

Location of the broker attribution. The current guideline says, “reasonably prominent location”. The term “reasonably” and “prominent” are subjective terms. Just one reason why broker attribution is found all over the place on a listing page.

Every listing page has a section which contains a street address, photography, and the top or bottom of the listing content box. Let’s use these sections to define where the broker attribution is required to be displayed.

Visibility of the broker attribution. Again, the policy uses a very subjective term, “readily visible color”. What is readily visible? Seems like a lot of websites who think ‘readily visible’ is two or three shades lighter than the listing content. Hence, would it be simpler to have the broker attribution the same color as the listing content?

A policy which is very specific is the typeface. The policy says, “typeface not smaller than the median used in the display of listing data”. Who is going to or has the time to calculate the median size font used across the entire page?

Do MLSs have tools available to monitor this requirement? It is specific, but is it practical? A simpler approach is to make the broker attribution the same typeface as the listing data.

What do brokerages and technology companies want?

This is simple as well. Brokerages and technology companies want MLS policy which helps MLSs to aid consistent display of broker attribution and listing data across all websites.

Why?

One reason, it is easier and more cost effective to deploy by all industry stakeholders. Additionally, it provides consumers with a consistent vision of information across all websites. And finally, it is much easier for MLSs to monitor and deal with complaints from their membership.

Keep it simply simple for everyone!

All is good and can be better.

I think there have been some very good outcomes from the Committee meeting and the Broker Attribution discussion.

NAR Leadership has been very supportive of listening and then taking action. Probably an important step in knowing how to deal with difficult topics is to seek advice instead of powering through change.

A welcome approach was the conversations post submission of the Advisory Board policy change recommendations to the Committee. Kudo’s to the leadership of the Advisory Board and NAR in supporting this dialogue by taking feedback from others.

The old cliché of, “Two heads are better than one” was very present. The inclusion of many smart people in our industry is a much better approach to problem-solving than by a select few. I hope future consideration is given to formalize this approach.

This was a great 2018 NAR Annual Conference with great results for MLS Policy.

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