Google is not out of the real estate listings business

by Victor Lund on January 29, 2011

The last few days have been full of Google noise in the real estate blogs and media. From our perspective, it has been a bit comedic. Google made a post on their blog about shutting down Google Base and everyone went into shock.

Google Base was never a great idea. It was a project to aggregate real estate listing data because they could not get the listings by their standard methods – indexing.

At the time that Google Base was created, Google Robots and Spiders were blocked from indexing real estate listings on nearly all property search websites. Realtor.com blocked spiders at the time, and Trulia, Zillow and the other upstarts were young, and largely lacking in quality listing data. Those upstarts were the first to index data, because IDX rules did not apply to them.

It was clearly articulated to the real estate community when Google base launched that Google is not getting into the real estate business. They wanted access to the data to do some cool mashups on another young product – Google Maps. Google’s main thrust at the time, and now, is to expand search beyond text to geospatial search (map search). It is all part of their localism strategy to get the right search results to consumers.

The big news is not that Google base is shutting the doors, its that Google can now index all real estate data – which is a huge game changer.At the National Association of REALTORS conference in 2009, the MLS Policy committee interpreted the IDX rules to clarify that allowing Recognized Search Engines to Index real estate listing data is not Scraping. As such, the practice of blocking Google spiders and robots from looking at property data was removed. The doors were opened and today, Google can do what it has always done best – index web content, including every piece of real estate listing data. The robots find the information on real estate websites, and tuck it neatly away in Google servers for rapid recall in Google search results.

When the Google spiders/robots were blocked, Google had no method of seeing listing content. They did some research, learned about data feeds – and opened Google base for syndication. Ta da – Google had the data that they were looking for. Google Base is redundant and trivial now that they can index listing content – which was always their goal.

Lastly, Google is not at all out of the real estate business. They receive more money in pay per click than all third party websites combined. Google is still the 10,000 lb gorilla in the room. They will never open shops to sell real estate – the margins are too low. There is far more revenue and profit in advertising than resale.

By the way – Google Maps (formerly Google Base) is still in the Syndication Channel area of Threewide. I wonder where those listings are going???

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