Posted by Carolyn Gjerde-Tu
Carolyn Gjerde-Tu is a Broker Associate with Lyon Real Estate in the Davis Office near Sacramento. Her focus is on internet marketing and has an extensive background in Real Estate that includes many years in other areas including Real Estate Appraisal and Mortgage Lending. Carolyn is a proud member of the Real Estate Webmasters community and contributes to many other outstanding real estate sources.
I’m part of a new breed of real estate agents – although my roots run deep in real estate, virtually all of my marketing and business comes through the internet. Naturally I get concerned when policies are enacted that limit individual agents abilities to do business especially when policy is made by people who do not seem to have an understanding of how things work online.
Recently a local board of Realtors® in Indianapolis (MIBOR) decided that they would not allow members of their organization the ability to have all pages in their website searchable by the search engines. Basically all listings (IDX data or feed in real estate terminology) would not be allowed to be indexed.
Let’s back up a couple of steps – this issue is very confusing, even more so for non real estate agents. It involves the ability for agents other than the listing agent to advertise another member’s listings.
Back in the day, before the internet the real estate agent used to be the gate keeper of most all information. Yes, there were home guides, newspapers, mailers, tons of different print advertisements, but many times this was only a small or moderate percentage of what was actually available. The public needed to get in touch with an agent to find out most anything about homes for sale in their area. The internet has changed how buyers and sellers get their housing data.
For the most part, consumers still choose to work with real estate agents because the process is still very complex. The agent’s role has changed in some ways, to being a trusted councilor vs. just distributor of information. However, many agents still cling to the old ways and still have the gate keeper mentality.
Most people looking for real estate online want to see inventory i.e. listings, homes for sale. People will search for many different things besides broad terms like city real estate. Some may have only an MLS number, a specific street address, a street name, a subdivision name, or very specific criteria. Search engines are a great way for people to find this information. Google, Yahoo and the other search engines have done amazing things with indexing information – more often than not pulling the relevant information that the user was looking for.
The rule that is at the center of this issue states: “participants must protect IDX information from misappropriation by employing reasonable efforts to monitor and prevent ‘scraping’.”
I’ve discussed this with several SEO’s – whether or not you define search engines as indexers or scrapers this really needs to be an issue of intent. Search engines are not misappropriating the information – they make the information easier for consumers to find. A search engine result links directly to the source. Limiting individual agent’s ability to have their IDX feed found in search engines is not going to stop consumers from researching this information – instead of landing on a local agent’s site – they will find their way to Zillow or Trulia – non agent sites who are not subject to the same regulations as agent sites with IDX feeds. I truly believe that real estate is local and consumers are best served when interacting with local experts.
We’ve moved away from the gate keeper model a long time ago. The rule in question was written in 2005 – yes there were sites with IDX feeds that were indexed but they were not as common then. It is a positive step that Paula Henry and Jay Thompson have been invited to speak on this issue at the NAR mid-year meeting. I urge everyone on that committee to move this rule forward into the 21st century – whether or not an IDX feed is allowed to be indexed will not stop someone intent on scraping the data. Or even completely stop a search engine from finding the data. To place this burden on individual agents, is in my opinion, not something many agents have the expertise to control. Maybe the best solution is to eliminate this statement in it’s entirety. The real problem is NAR has no control over non-members so they can only place false controls on the data and their members.
Notice I’m writing this from an SEO’s blog. The internet has blurred industry lines and social networking allows people with common interests and goals to work more closely together. I’ve always been someone who has tried to work within existing frameworks – many of my friends are not so forgiving or tolerant. Knox’s blog often focuses on ethics, fighting injustice as well as SEO. It is a true testament on how serious this is that he has allowed me to guest post on this issue.
Thanks Carolyn, I have a better understanding of who MIBOR (The Indianapolis Board of Realtors) is now.