listing syndication

MLS Not Ready for Direct Syndication

by Victor Lund on May 5, 2015

In no small way, the impact of Zillow and Trulia being disconnected from ListHub has caused troubled waters for many MLSs. Although ListHub continues to manage syndication to a wide number of sites, they no longer support two of the top five. What’s the plan? MLSs are scrambling in every direction today. The biggest issue has been the data license agreement to Zillow. Everything was neat and tidy when ListHub had one agreement with each portal. Now Zillow is faced with hundreds of MLS agreements all with different terms. According to MLS executives, that is Zillow’s choice. Efforts by legal firms to negotiate on behalf of groups of MLSs have been shunned by the Zillow Group in favor of individual contracts. Comedic Tragedy: Each Zillow Group agreement is confidential. It begs the question, how can the MLS inform the broker of what is in it? MLS Technical Issues The ListHub service has two features. The first is the broker dashboard for syndication preferences. The second is the data distribution server. The broker dashboard is the critical ingredient for direct syndication. It puts brokers in charge of where their data goes through a process known as broker opt-in or broker opt-out. MLS data distribution servers from most vendors (called RETS servers) do not have a broker dashboard feature. Some MLS system vendors like FBS were quick to add them. Rapattoni launches tomorrow. CoreLogic is planning their launch roll out with customers now. Paragon is in the research and planning stages. Beyond that, I am not sure. Third Party Services Technology firms like Onboard Informatics, Real Estate Digital, Bridge Interactive and perhaps others have developed MLS solutions with enhanced features for managing and reporting on listing distribution. These services are typically found in large MLSs with more enterprise data management needs. Most smaller MLSs use the vendor solution or rely on ListHub. The Need for Communication A lot is changing everyday. Zillow is out trying to get agreements signed with over 800 MLSs. Most MLSs are not talking to their brokers about their preferences. Most brokers do not know what the readiness state is for the MLS to support direct syndication feeds. If you are a broker, call every one of your MLSs and figure out what’s going on. If you are an MLS, be sure to ask brokers what their preferences are and get feedback before making decisions. MLSs would do […]

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Audit Third Party Portals Today

by Victor Lund on February 25, 2015

Brokerages publish listings to third party portals as a method of advertising homes for sale. As we mentioned in our paper, the Syndication Rats Nest (Download Report), every portal displays listings differently. Moreover, portals apply different rules on the same listing if it comes from a different data source. Confused? You are not alone. Portals are constantly battling on multiple fronts. They are innovating constantly to return better value to consumers and advertisers. On any given day they segment their consumer traffic to test innovation strategies. Sometimes your listings are folded into the mix in ways that you did not intend. If you are not monitoring your listings, your inactions may undermine the effectiveness of your online advertising. Don’t Syndicate Without and Agreement Publishers may only display your listings in line with the license agreement you have in place with them. If you are a franchise broker, the data sent from the franchise to the publisher is governed by the agreement between the franchise and the portal (i.e. Coldwell Banker and Zillow).  Your MLS may have an agreement with Listhub who has agreements with their publishers.  Some MLSs send data directly to publishers under a direct agreement. Some MLSs may syndicate one way in your local MLS area but data share with another MLS that syndicates the same data without your consent. Publishers have no alternative but to install a trumping order that may oppose or violate the agreement you have in place. It’s tricky and confusing. Single Source Syndication The best practice for brokers is to only syndicate your listings to a publisher from one source with one agreement. This fixes the problem with trumping. Don’t blame publishers if you send the same listing from multiple sources and they choose to display a listing from the wrong feed. How would they know which listing feed source to display from? Audit Your Listings Each firm will need to figure out what the best frequency is for auditing listings. Large firms hire WAV Group or dedicate staff to monthly audits (1000+ listings). Midsized firms (250 to 1000 listings) audit quarterly. Small firms with fewer listings may choose bi-annual or annual. Be Responsible As the seller’s representative, your firm is 100% responsible for all advertising. Controlling how advertising content is used has become more and more difficult in the digital age. With good policies and agreements in place, your firm has the […]

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Midyear Broker Website Benchmarks

by Victor Lund on September 11, 2014

WAV Group just completed providing our broker clients with a review of their Google Analytics for September. Something rather remarkable happened this month that has confirmed a strategy that we have long suspected, but have not had enough data to confirm. Virtual Tour Videos Drive More Traffic Than Listing Syndication on Broker Websites. Quite a number of WAV Group broker clients have been publishing automated virtual tours to YouTube for a few years now. They are using vendors like Property Panorama, RealBiz, Virtual Tour Café, Imprev, VHT or some other solution. We do not endorse any product over another, but encourage brokers to chose a vendor based on product design, customer service, and cost. The product that tickles one broker and not another is a space that I do not fully understand. They all work as far as we are concerned. Customer service and cost are our key considerations. Through August of this year, brokers who have been publishing all of their listings to YouTube have seen that traffic volume grow to 5th or 6th in their overall ranking of traffic-by-traffic-source.  For most brokers – Direct or None is the top referrer. This means that Google Analytics could not track the referring website or the user typed in the domain name – ie wavgroup.com. Also at the top is Google. The Google Search result is important for two reasons. First, more consumers use Google than any other search engine. Second, Google displays YouTube results in the search results above the fold. Meaning that the video gets great SEO – usually better than the broker’s listing detail page. This is the driving force behind the strategy of publishing virtual tours on every company listing. A small handful of brokers are creating virtual tours on every IDX listing – but I am not sure that is IDX compliant – so I would not endorse that without discussing it with the MLS first. Some say its ok, others say its not. There is no clear rule. Below Google and Direct traffic come the other search engines. Bing has passed Yahoo in most markets. For some reason, AOL is very popular in the eastern United States. As we have noted before, Bing and Yahoo traffic have more value. The time on site and page views per visit are higher for those search engines – generating more leads and indicating that PPC campaigns may be […]

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MOVE acquires Point2 Syndication Contracts

by Victor Lund on September 4, 2014

It looks like MOVE, operators of Realtor.com have taken a stride that is not altogether different from the success that Zillow is garnering with their acquisition strategy. MOVE is doing their best to control the pipelines that deliver advertising to portals in the United States. MOVE already owns Listhub, the largest syndicator of listing content. Now they pick up their nearest competitor – Point2 – much in the same way that Zillow picked up Trulia. The biggest difference, beyond taking out a competitor, is that they will removing a layer of duplication of listing syndication. Spencer Rascoff of Zillow describes today’s listing syndication feeds as spaghetti. MOVE will now have a pretty good chance of cleaning up the problems. Point2 is providing a single data point for CREA that amasses the country’s listings from every market. MOVE did not buy that. Point2 will also continue to manage all of the syndication for CREA. Point2 will also retain all of their syndication technology, Listhub is just getting the contracts in the US with MLSs, Associations, and publishers. This acquisition is for US Listing Syndication Services Only. Point2 will continue to provide MLS Consumer facing websites, Point2 Agent Websites, Team Websites, Point2 Mobile, etc. I tried to reach out to Saul Klein to chat with him about this, but he was not available. I imagine that his phone is on fire. Saul has been at the forefront of a project he called Contract Alignment – a process of using the listing syndication agreements between content providers and publishers to cure many of the ills of syndication. Knowing Saul, I doubt that he will drop the ball on this topic as a vocal supporter. He has a pretty untamable passion of this stuff. The saddest part is that he will no longer have a mechanism for getting in the middle to impact change. In other stunning news, Saul Klein and his partner John are no longer working with Point2 or Yardi effective September 1.  This may provide a boost to Nationstar’s Real Estate Digital division, or RED. RED has been making many inroads with their REDataVault product. MLSs and Brokers like to have choices when choosing products, and with another choice off the table, RED may find themselves getting more requests for their syndication services. Immobel, who offers both domestic and global listing syndication may also find that they get a boost from this acquisition. Change […]

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MyOnlineYardSign Attacks MLS IDX Policy

by Victor Lund on August 28, 2014

Generally speaking, real estate business media companies write pretty respectful commentary regarding the well-developed MLS IDX policy. Sure, the policy is a living document and the MLS Policy Committee is an open forum for clarifying the policy and amending it from time to time. But generally, it is a well adopted program that publically exemplifies cooperation among brokerage firms. Today, Travis Saxton of Real Trends promoted a product called MyOnlineYardSign. The product allows real estate agents and brokers to put contact information and the company logo on their photos for free. Watermarking of this type has been around for a long time and I think the product is exceptional for listings that are being syndicated. However, the article suggests that agents upload these photos to the MLS – which is a clear violation of every IDX policy in America. But wait, it gets better. The website, http://myonlineyardsign.com, goes on further to explain what agents should do if the MLS not approve the photos. On the resources page, http://myonlineyardsign.com/Resources they suggest that Talk to other agents in your office including your managing broker to call or write to the MLS Talk to other agents in other offices to call or write to the MLS Start a petition to the MLS I am more than a little surprised that the Real Trends article does not inform the agents or the broker that the photos would be a clear violation of IDX policy that will ignite disciplinary action agent the firm and the agent. Be that as it may, MLSs may want to put agents and brokers on notice about this company and remind them about the MLS policy that forbids this activity before it gets started. But in a larger sense, I do think that IDX policy could use some renewed thinking. Perhaps the stoic policy of tucking the listing broker and possibly the listing agent down at the bottom of the page has lived out its life.  Perhaps a discussion should be started about IDX following the broker fair display guidelines, or eliminating IDX all together. The consequences of brokers who want to tightly manage the display of listings online is a very slippery slope. It slides from the open range of anyone using the broker’s data for any purpose without restriction to the closed door of requiring that only a consumer working with an agent may ever view the listing. […]

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WAV Group 2014 Road Map to Listing Syndication

by Victor Lund on July 22, 2014

 Listing syndication to online portals is in the throws of a revolution in real estate today. Listing syndication has followed a philosophical pattern first envisioned by the German philosopher G.W.F. Hagel in his triadic process – thesis, antithesis, and then synthesis. This paper will walk though the first two phases of the process, discussing the evolution of the original thesis of listing syndication followed by the new roots of today’s chaotic antithesis. The industry is developing a plethora of new models to transmit listings for online advertising at a pace that is eroding the effectiveness of the process in a significant way. However, out of this chaos of antithesis we are beginning to see a glimmer of new publishers who seek to be the best possible partners to brokers. A new synthesis is on the horizon. View the full report here

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Consulting Minds Think Alike

by Victor Lund on July 15, 2014

On the eve of publishing a WAV Group paper on listing syndication, consulting firm Clareity Consulting published a paper on the same topic days ahead of us. They did a great job on their paper and Victor Lund considered delaying or eliminating the WAV Group paper from publication. But a read of both papers is probably healthy for today’s real estate brokers, MLSs, and publishers. Clearly, listing syndication remains an abrasive business struggle in real estate. Both Clareity and WAV Group address syndication issues with clients every day – which is certainly what prompted both firms to independently publish papers on the topic. I do not think that there is much value in recapping anything in the Clareity or WAV Group papers to compare and contrast the points made. The papers agree, representing the acute consciousness of the issues that face our industry today. It is quite clear that although solutions and strategies exist for improving the effectiveness of listing syndication, the process is moving forward in a dysfunctional and disorganized way. Unfortunately, the strategies compete with one another in a way that undermines the success of the others. Point2 and Listhub are trying to raise the bar to improve data accuracy and listing attribution – but in doing so are in competition with each other. Moreover, each of them are agents for the customer (franchise, MLS, Board of REALTORS, Broker) and many of the customer do not agree about how they want their vendor (Listhub or Point2) to negotiate on their behalf. Trulia and Zillow have joined Realtor.com and Homes.com at pursuing direct licensing feeds from MLSs. This skips the value of hub and spoke solutions like Listhub or Point2, eroding their negotiation strength and further segmenting the feed sources. Segmented feed sources further the issue of the same listing going to the same publisher from many sources with no authoritative agreement that articulates the true listing record for display. Here is a new problem that has cropped up. Often, the publisher website is now more accurate and timely at displaying property updates like price changes than the listing broker’s website. Whenever brokers (even large ones) try to take on the issues, they can only manage what they do with their listings. It becomes a competitive struggle against other brokers in the market place who would rather go left when a competitor goes right regardless of what is “best […]

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FBS To Support MLS With Listing Syndication

by Victor Lund on May 28, 2014

Since listing data feeds came into existence, they have been the providence of MLS vendors like FBS and their peers. There are also controls that go down to the listing detail level that enable listings to be opted out of things like IDX (with written seller approval in most markets). In a blog post today, FBS CEO Michael Wurzer discusses this functionality that is delivered through a standard feature in FlexMLS called Listing Export. Arizona Regional MLS serving the greater Phoenix, AZ area is among the first FBS clients to use this functionality for a wide range of syndication to publishers. Brokers may now Opt-In or Opt-Out of a number of portal channels including IDX, Realtor.com, Homes.com, Trulia, and the local newspaper website – AZ Central, powered by Homefinder.com. Listing syndication has followed a philosophical pattern first envisioned by German philosopher G.W.F Hagel in his triadic process – thesis, antithesis, and then synthesis. The “thesis” was along the lines of Listhub, where brokers accepted the strategy of listing syndication as they first found it. Today we seem to be in the second phase of antithesis, where brokers and MLSs are tearing apart the existing foundation of listing syndication in order to find something profoundly more adhesive to the needs of firms. WAV Group is watching this next round of listing syndication emerge in real estate. Some MLSs have chosen to opt out of providing listing syndication services all together. Others offer Listhub and/or Point2 syndication services to brokers. Some are making Realtor.com a syndication channel. Still others are entering into direct licensing arrangements with publishers like Realtor.com, Trulia, Homes.com, and Zillow. The freedom of syndication is clearly the providence of the broker, but how that manifests itself in practice is more variable today than ever. Broker control is the only fundamental pillar of the process. WAV Group is preparing an update on listing syndication for publication this summer. If you have anything that you would like to discuss or contribute to that effort, please contact Victor Lund.

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Third Party Site or MLS? Why not both?

by Marilyn Wilson on May 7, 2014

MLSs, with their consumer-facing websites, long to find ways to make their sites more engaging, attracting more visitors and ultimately more exposure to their member’s listings. The Houston Association of REALTORS®, arguably one of the most progressive and gutsy Associations in America today, has done it again.  They have become the first MLS consumer site in America to allow listings from brokers around the state of Texas via Listhub. Listing syndicator ListHub will feed listings to public-facing websites operated by multiple listing services, and the Houston Association of Realtors is the first to sign up for the new program, which will expand HAR.com’s coverage area to the entire state of Texas. ListHub is the leading provider of listing syndication services to MLSs today, syndicating listings for more than 450 MLSs around the country. What inspired the idea? In 2013, WAV Group conducted research for HAR, revealing that 98% of their membership valued HAR.com as the organization’s most valuable tool. Understanding the importance of this offering, HAR set out to find new ways to make the site more powerful and profitable for its members. The highly competitive online marketing environment had a large impact, as well. In February 2013, HAR.com was #1 real estate website in Texas with 9% market share. Just 12 months later, in February 2014, HAR.com had a 9% market share and Zillow had a 12% market share, becoming the number one real estate site in the state of Texas. HAR.com quickly figured out that they needed to have as much data as other third party sites have, allowing brokers throughout the state of Texas to add their listings to HAR.com. Last year, they met with Corpus Christi, Midland, Tyler and others, asking HAR.com how they could work together. Together they came up with the answer – let’s pool our resources and create one powerful site for the entire state. Interest in a statewide portal came also from brokers who would regularly contact HAR.com asking if they could add their listings to the site. Listening to the needs of brokers and their fellow Texas associations, HAR.com worked with Listhub to develop an easy way for brokers and MLSs to add their listings to HAR.com. What did it take to transition from local to statewide? HAR.com was already a robust site but there were several adjustments that were needed to make the site appropriate for statewide listing exposure. The […]

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Calculating ROI on Syndication to Publishers

by Victor Lund on April 9, 2014

WAV Group provides enterprise brokers with a monitoring service to measure their listing syndication strategy. It is a thorny and emotional topic where risks and rewards are balanced delicately. Undoubtedly, this week brokers who do syndicate to publisher websites are reviewing their reports from last month. Here are a few things you should look at. Listing Views Obviously you want to know the number of times that your listing was viewed on each publisher website. The easiest way to view listings by publisher is to look at reports from your listing distributer – like Listhub, Point2, reDataVault, etc. If you are sending the data from your broker website provider, you may not be getting this information in a consolidated report. Rather, you will need to combine the listing reports from each publisher. Here are a few things to be aware of. About 30% of the listing views are robots, not consumers. With the exception of Realtor.com, few publishers have strong anti-scraping technologies. This also explains why publishers report so many millions of visits when there are so few homes sold per year. They are counting machine traffic (so are reporting tools like ComScore). Visits It is always a good idea to look at the visits to your website as a result of syndication. Driving website traffic is a key benefit of syndication. Most firms see about four visits per listing per month for premium brokers (premium means you pay). There are techniques to improve this that include modifying photos and modifying description text. It is always a good principle to check your website analytics to see if the numbers are equal. They never are. The goal is to track how close they are. If you see 1000 visits for the month coming from a publisher in their report, you may see a number that is lower or higher in your “referrer” report on your broker site. While you are looking at the referrers, also track the bounce rate. They vary significantly by publisher. You will find that some sites have higher bounce rates than others – like 75% of the traffic will view one page then bounce, or leave the site. That is the measure of quality of traffic. Higher bounce rates can mean a few things. Remember that a lot of this traffic is machine traffic, so that impacts bounce rate. Also, remember that if your site is not […]

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Build Broker Support of your MLS Consumer Website with this FREE tool! MLS Consumer Facing websites collectively deliver millions of leads and thousands of inquiries for their subscribers every year.  In every market that I have evaluated the MLS delivers 2 to 3 times the number of inquiries that any other leading third party site does including Zillow and Trulia.  Sadly, most brokers and agents are not aware of this amazing value they receive from their MLSs. I solidly believe that if MLSs did a better job of communicating the amazing marketing value of these sites, brokers of all sizes would be more supportive of the event.  In today’s climate where so many brokers are trying to find alternatives to third party sites, there is an even larger opportunity to promote the value that MLS consumer websites are providing.  I have been pleading with MLSs to share the great work they do with their brokers, but I have not seen much positive movement. Now the Realty Alliance is asking for the same thing I have been suggesting for a long time. Enter the new Fair Display Guidelines. In a nutshell, The Realty Alliance is asking that MLSs provide a consumer-facing website that follows a set of guidelines that allow brokers to control distribution of the leads from their listings and that no broker can secure an advantage over another broker.  The guidelines also require that an MLS share results of the listing exposure generated by their site. Rule 6 of the Guidelines states: Make Reports available to the broker, if available. Brokerages will receive or be able to access complete reports on any traceable activities related to their listings. This language was actually watered down because there are so FEW MLSs that actually provide an outbound report taking credit for the lead activity their site and the MLS and IDX generates for their subscribers. Since every MLS is struggling to maintain relevance and value for its brokers it makes no sense not to promote the business value that MLS provides. Everyone knows that the MLS is the #1 place to market a home, but the industry has not collected the proof points like third party sites have published. If the MLS aggregated that data, agents could demonstrate that value. HAR.com, the granddaddy of MLS consumer websites has offered their STAR report to their members for years.  Every month the organization […]

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As many of you know there is quite a bit of discontent with selected large brokers and their MLS relationships. While there are many components to this discontent, there is one tangible action step that MLSs can take to help improve the relationship. The Realty Alliance recently published their Fair Display For MLS Public Facing Websites Document. Fortunately, our experience suggests that most MLS websites comply with these rules. For any MLS that already offers a site or is considering launching one here are the gotta have rules you must follow to be in compliance with The Realty Alliance’s dictate: 1. Brokers may opt-out of displaying their listings on the MLS-operating consumer site MLSs need to make it a simple toggle switch allowing brokers who would not like to participate in the program to opt-out. Also, this opt-out can NOT be tied to participate in IDX or other syndication policies. It needs to be isolated JUST to the MLSs website. 2. Unbiased display of all listings To be in compliance, MLSs need to display listings based upon the consumer’s search parameters, not given special preference to agents who pay for featured display of any sort. This would also suggest that no MLS can allow another subscriber to “claim” to be the listing agent on a listing that is not theirs, something that happens regularly on other third party sites. 3. Consistent display of listing data Each MLS will determine the amount of listing data and photos to be displayed on their website. There will not be charges imposed for displaying any data related to the listing or the agent, such as fees for additional photographs or broker/agent contact information. WAV Group recommends that MLS websites allow agents to display at least 20 or more photos per listing and then use the photos on their MLS site. 4. No ads for other brokerage or agents displayed on or with a Brokerage’s listing Only the actual listing broker and agent may be displayed on the property details page. No ads from companies that may compete with a broker’s affiliated business such as mortgage, title or escrow companies will be displayed on an individual property-listing page. This requirement is easily met if you work with third party ad provider like CoreLogic, MLSListings or the Realm from Real Estate Digital. They each allow you to set ad-type exclusions so you steer clear of every type […]

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Austin Board of REALTORS Bids Syndication Farewell

by Victor Lund on October 10, 2013

Sunsetting services is never any fun, especially services that do not cost the membership any money. That is exactly what the Austin Board of REALTORS® is on a path to do this spring. The ABoR directors released a formal statement this week announcing the plan to sunset the Listhub agreement by April 30th, 2014.  The process for researching this difficult decision is nicely outlined http://www.abor.com/syndication. In June 2012, the ACTRIS committee, which is the MLS of the Austin area, created a Syndication Task Force with diverse representation of members and brokers. They cited some interesting findings. The decision to syndicate to third party websites should be an independent broker decision. They found there to be questionable consumer benefit in providing data to non-REALTOR® websites. They opined that Non-REALTOR® websites damage the reputation of REALTORs® They are of the belief that Non-REALTOR® websites misinform and mislead the consumer They believe that they can support REALTOR® members market listings without facilitating syndication to Non-REALTOR® websites. Note: There was no indication whatsoever that ListHub did not do an excellent job with the services offered to ABoR. The issues are occurring downstream of Listhub. The sunset process The committee put forth a roadmap for the process of sunsetting the Listhub service. Announcement to members and brokers Creation of a MLS Learning Community for online discussion Broker Forum It is interesting that ABoR  moved in the exactly opposite direction of fellow Texas MLS operated by the Houston Board of REALTORS® this week. HAR announced that they are adopting the Listhub service. HAR was one of the final major markets in America to offer Listhub as a member benefit. Publishers indicate that the best path to listing accuracy is a solid partnership with the MLS who provides the trusted source of accurate listing information. WAV Group research has shown that even in markets where the MLS provides data to publishers, the listing accuracy is still way off the accuracy found on a broker website. However, it does make an improvement. The key issue of listing accuracy is that publishers (REALTOR.com excluded) take listings from multiple sources. If they only took the MLS Listhub feed, the accuracy of a broker listing on the publisher website would be synchronized at least daily. Until publishers let brokers nominate the trumping rules and listing terms of use, data accuracy will continue to be a cancer. Brokers in Austin will not be left in the lurch. […]

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Listhub Offers New Terms HAR Agreement

by Marilyn Wilson on October 9, 2013

Listhub has finally enrolled the Houston Association of REALTORS® in its listings distribution platform by matching the terms of HAR’s unique needs for listing syndication. Historically HAR has entered into direct agreements with major portals. Houston CEO, Bob Hale spoke briefly about the organization’s strategic shift toward Listhub during our discussion at the Council of MLS meetings in Boise, Idaho. “We track everything so our brokers can maximize their success in online marketing,” said Hale. The Houston Association of REALTORS® pioneered the STAR reports that have long provided their members with detailed reports on listings and leads displayed on HAR.com. What was missing was a federated report that shows how HAR.com stacks up against the leading portals.” Historically, Listhub has offered its listing syndication services for free to MLSs, in exchange for the opportunity to market “premium” reports to brokers and agents. HAR wanted to acquire customized weekly listing metrics reports for their members. When the system goes live, brokers and agents who have active listings will receive reports that show how well their listings a performing on HAR.com and other sites where brokers choose to publish their listings. HAR is installing the Listhub tracking codes on HAR.com. Brokers and agents may still choose to subscribe to other premium reports. REALTOR.com President, Errol Samuelson remarked “with our partnership in Houston, Listhub has now eclipsed the aggregation of 90% of listings in the United States, a landmark accomplishment.” There are a couple of interesting best practices that emerged in this agreement that are worth noting. In some instances HAR may maintain their practice of contracting directly with a publisher and not rely solely on the agreement between Listhub and the publisher. REALTOR.com listing views and leads will be included in the HAR Listhub reports. HAR is not truncating the data feed at this time. Some MLSs like Sandicor have also implemented a Syndication Remarks field into the MLS that allows agents to promote themselves differently for syndication than the remarks intended for IDX. HAR stopped short of a few opportunities that WAV Group has identified for listing syndication. No MLS has successfully implemented tracking codes into the MLS system. This is a strategy identified by MRED MLS that was attempted with Onboard Informatics but the pilot program was not implemented into full production. It would also be very interesting for an MLS to require every agent and broker website vendor to install tracking codes. WAV […]

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How SourceMLS Benefits Brokers

by Victor Lund on September 3, 2013

The Council of MLS, an industry trade group that allows MLSs to collaborate on common initiatives and share best practices, released a new initiative today called SourceMLS. The goal of SourceMLS is to develop an industry wide method that support brokers with listing source validation. Listing validation allows brokers to take credit for having the best data quality of any consumer facing website. Listing data is widely distributed on the Internet today. Unfortunately, consumers do not have a way to know if the listing they are looking at is valid: really for sale, or if the listing information is accurate, or even if the website they are on is legitimate. The committee recognized the need to develop a brand stamp or mark that may be displayed on websites that meet the standards for listing display. The stamp is a SourceMLS badge. With widespread industry adoption of the SourceMLS badge on legitimate websites, consumers will learn to recognize which property search websites they can trust. Participation CMLS membership is open to any MLS. To participate in the program as a broker, your MLS must be a member of CMLS. Ask your MLS executive if they are a member of CMLS. To display the badge as a broker or site owner, you must agree to the Guidelines and Trademark License Agreement. Here are the keynotes of the terms of use. Documents are linked below. All listing information displayed comes directly from the MLS or an approved source. (like IDX) The listing information is updated at least every twenty-four(24) hours. (like IDX) The source of the listing information must be identified (like IDX) The date and time the listing database was last updated must be displayed (Like most IDX) The entire Source listing information is displayed without modification (like IDX) The website on which the information is displayed is a CMLS approved site. (like IDX). In effect, the SourceMLS initiative will act similarly to the way that the IDX disclaimer works today on your broker website. The principle difference is that your participation will play a role in supporting the industry with developing a professional real estate branded seal that consumers will grow to recognize and trust. Moreover, third party websites will not be able to display the seal unless they conform to the Terms of Use for participation. For more information, please visit SourceMLS.org http://sourcemls.org/ View SourceMLS Listing Guidelines here  View Trademark License […]

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Trulia To Collect More Agent Data

by Victor Lund on August 5, 2013

To optimize your online effectiveness in the real estate business, you need to think strategically. This is the kind of strategic thinking that WAV Group works with brokers and franchises on every day. When a company that does a great job at online marketing and search engine optimization focuses on a strategy like enhancing agent information, we pay attention. Typically, when Trulia, Zillow, Realtor.com, or homes.com makes a change, it is with intent to find improvement. It’s the way everyone should think. Why Agent Profiles Are Important When consumers search, they use keywords. In our broker website effectiveness study, we learned that most consumer keyword searches that direct them to broker websites involve the company name or the agent name. A robust agent profile increases the likelihood of a consumer selecting an agent. If you have not Googled your broker name or agent name in awhile, you should do so, and look at the results. Broker Name Keyword Search Trends Brokerage Name keywords generally display the brokerage website at the top of the list. If they are a franchise, the franchise page for the brokerage tends to follow, then it becomes a bit random from there. Yellow pages, Yelp, and a host of other sites are fighting for top slots. *The only portal that I recognized in my sampling of brokerage searches was homefinder.com. They build company landing pages on their site for brokerages that seem to get indexed quite well. Agent Name Keyword Search Trends Agent name keyword searches yield different results. If the agent has a website that uses their name, that is typically the top result. Beneath that, you will typically find social media sites like Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Yelp, etc. Beneath that, you may find the broker website or the franchise website. *Today, my testing did not yield any portals who display on the first page of Google search results for any of the names I tested (20 top producers from around the county). Why Should You Care? In 2008, if you used Google to search for a property address of a home for sale, Realtor.com, a franchise website, or the broker website appeared at the top of the search results. Today, broker websites rarely appear on the first page of Google for an address search at all. When you do see a broker, it is Redfin, ZipRealty, Wiechert, or a few of the mega brokers like Long […]

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Contact:  Victor Lund, Author for: WAV Group 2013 Broker Website Effectiveness Study Phone & Fax. 805.709.6696 Email: victor@wavgroup.com Arroyo Grande, CA July 25th, 2013 – WAV Group (www.WAVGROUP.com), industry leaders of technology, strategic planning, research, business and product development, sales and marketing in the real estate industry, today released a whitepaper entitled “2013 Broker Website Effectiveness Study.” The whitepaper, written by WAV Group, surveyed the Google Analytics accounts of broker websites representing 7,500,000 monthly visitors as the subject for insight on consumers accessing broker websites, and also garnered insights on the impact of social media, mobile, listing syndication and search engines.  This report is positioned to provide a consumer counterpoint to industry perspectives about broker websites to help the industry be more well-informed when making decisions about broker online marketing strategies. “The whitepaper confounds much of the vendor marketing hype about the impact of mobile, social media, SEO, and listing syndication on broker effectiveness“.  “The strength of the broker brand still rules supreme in garnering website traffic to broker sites,” says Victor Lund, Partner of WAV Group. “This study has found that consumers strongly believe broker websites are, in fact, very valuable tools. They not only help improve the value of the broker, but help the consumer identify and buy homes more efficiently.” Findings include: 68% of consumers access a broker website by either typing in the URL or using a brand related keyword phrase in a search engine. Referal traffic from franchise brands have dropped over 30% since 2008. Listing Syndication represents 12% of traffic to broker websites, up from 2% in 2008. Social Media represents 5% of consumer traffic to broker websites. 7.5% of referral traffic comes from automated email alerts     A complete report is available online for free download at: http://waves.wavgroup.com/reports/

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A new tenor to integrated solutions for brokerage

by Victor Lund on June 25, 2013

I was in Seattle a few weeks ago visiting a broker when I encountered the Trulia team in the airport heading over to Market Leader. During the entire flight home my head spun with ideas about how these two companies would blend their talents to serve consumers and the real estate community better. We have clients who leverage these companies to their fullest, and others who don’t. It has never been the providence of a consultant to champion one strategy over another. Helping others execute the strategy that is right for their business to maximize their opportunity is our charge. Pick a plan and make it work. With that in mind, brokers are challenged with absorbing leads from multiple sources. LeadRouter does the best job, which is great if you are a REALOGY Franchisee, other brokers are left to their own devices. But LeadRouter ends at lead distribution – there are only minimal follow up campaign capabilities. This causes all sorts of data problems related to tracking, distributing, and reporting on leads by lead source, lead quality by lead source, and lead conversion by lead source. Listhub and reDataVault have done a respectable job of helping on the reporting side, but there is more ground to cover to perfect those reports and get a full picture. Lots of broker solutions providers have engineered lead rounding and lead management tools – but you often need a programmer named MacGyver to get it to work. Leads from publishers are all unique and require unique programing to capture the email lead, scrape the information, add it to the lead management data base, then try to do something with it. It is hard. Once you do have your leads being routed, you need a solution to manage those leads. Brokers who have end-to-end CRM solutions like LoneWolf’s brokerWOLF, Homes.com’s Homes Connect, CoreLogic’s AgentAchieve, or Real Estate Digital’s rDesk have these capabilities. They are all integrated. This is also true of Market Leader’s broker solution. Brokers who do not have lead management or drip marketing can also look to Market Leader, leadtrax or Imprev to fill the gap. These solutions all curate leads into customers for life by making it easy for brokers and agents to stay connected to providing information and service to the homebuying or selling consumer. Both Trulia and Market Leader know that lead conversion is the most valuable product they can deliver. […]

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The War That Few Are Watching

by Victor Lund on June 19, 2013

There is a War being waged between the leading portals today. They are fighting with all of their might to be leaders in consumer website traffic. Today, Zillow is in the lead with Realtor.com on their heals and Trulia not far behind. Homes.com is pacing with the pack too, and perhaps showed just how strong they are by climbing the rankings at a remarkable pace in 2012. In an announcement released yesterday, Move proclaimed victory at retaining their relationship with MSN.com, the portal operated by Microsoft. I tried to get information about the battle, but limited facts were made available. We do not know the details of the agreement, its price, or the length of the term. We just know that Realtor.com won. I can only suppose that Zillow and perhaps Trulia were in the bidding. There was a lot at stake in this battle. Had Zillow won, they would have distanced themselves far afield of Realtor.com. Had Trulia won, they may have been lifted beyond Realtor.com into second place for overall traffic. By no means am I an historian for our industry, but I do remember that Prudential Real Estate had a similar relationship with Yahoo.com. If my memory serves me correctly, the eRealty strategy cost Prudential about $35 million. I tried to find press releases about this to confirm or cite the facts, but failed – so take the $35 Million with a grain of salt. I do know that the Prudential paid handsomely to buy the position on Yahoo Real Estate, and that Zillow now maintains that important foothold. The REALTORS® of National Association of REALTORS® should be joyous, and join MOVE in celebration. Had the battle gone another way, a key member benefit would have been reduced, and the REALTOR® brand marketing may have been diminished. It is hard to say how these things work out. But there is an important appreciation of strategy here. Like our Nation, our industry rests on the foundation of the Freedom of Choice. The one thing that we know about portals is that none of them make very much money. What money they do make comes from agents and brokers. For sure, consumers flock to these sites at a pace of 100 million per month. It is a great hunting ground for buyers and sellers. You have a choice about where your listings go. You have a choice about where your advertising dollars go. As […]

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The Future of Anything

by Victor Lund on May 30, 2013

I would attribute the series of postures on The Future of the MLS to Saul Klein. He may not have been the first to coin the phrase, but he has embraced it and made it his own. It is with due respect that we leave that posturing behind and set forth on a new journey. Our industry is at an inflection point, and my fear is that we are too blinded by current affairs to look beyond the steps in front of us. This morning, I encountered a quote from Antoine de Saint Exupery, a French writer, poet, and aviator who lived from 1900 to 1944. I did not take the time to research the setting for the quote, but it really does not matter because I want to use it to frame a new strategy for our industry leaders. “Your task is not to foresee the future, but to enable it.” I pecked out an industry overview of the governance of MLSs earlier this week. You can view it here if you like. I did not expect the flow of phone calls and emails. Apparently there are only a few people that are keenly aware of how different or fractured the governance of MLSs can be in America. Most brokers did not even know the governance of their MLS. It is a strange fog. Lets turn now to the key insights gathered in the rethink program. rethink is an organized effort to modify strategic planning at NAR. Here are the key insights presented at NAR Mid-year. I will provide commentary through the lens of enabling the future. Restructure Data and MLS Systems National MLS Take back REALTOR.com Be the Source for Big Data It would be a far reach for a trade association to morph itself into a data services company. This is the providence of brokers, not associations. Brokers are the group that need to enable the future of the MLS, online advertising, and big data. I would love to write the action plan for this. By the way – the action plan would likely retain local MLSs and REALTOR.com – but change them. Most MLSs and REALTOR.com have extraordinary talents at providing their services. It would be a mistake to restructure data and MLS systems without retaining the experience and talents of those service providers today. The real restructuring that needs to occur is broker involvement in […]

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