[For our readers who aren’t in real estate: this article might still be useful for you with little effort–whenever you see the word “listing” replace it in your mind with “marketing copy” or something similar] There are a lot of questions and concerns about syndication of mls listing data in the real estate internet marketing space. Let’s start by looking a little bit at a listing and then approaching two potential strategies for using that real estate listing help market a property on the internet.

A real estate listing is structured content

A real estate listing is pretty much a data set that describes a property. Usually this includes pictures, some quantitative data about square feet and bedrooms etc and some “remarks” field narrative description. But when the dust settles a real estate listing is just a collection of facts and narrative about a specific property. There’s no real difference between a real estate listing and any other type of marketing content on the web. And the phrase “marketing content” is key here. Ultimately, people don’t buy the content itself, they buy the thing the content is describing: the house. Perhaps, if some of the listings are much better written then someone looking to list their house might choose to list their house with the agent that did such a good job. But for now, lets focus on listings as strictly marketing content.

Two approaches to syndicating real estate listings

One of the great things about online marketing is the ability to quickly and easily spread your message around the world. And since listings are already highly structured chunks of content, spreading listings is even easier than other kinds of content. You can easily get your marketing message out there. Since, traditionally, the listing data was a lure to bring in customers (you couldn’t look at this marketing content unless you were doing business with someone who had access to it) some people prefer to maintain tight control of that marketing content to bring in traffic. Each of these strategies are useful, but for different objectives:

  • Spread your message around: primarily increase human exposure to your marketing message
  • Maintain tight control: primarily leverage SEO value of your marketing message

I’m going to outline both of these strategies and give them fancy names.

The Flagship and the Fleet

The British Grand Fleet steaming in parallel c...

Image via Wikipedia

This is an internet marketing strategy to gain qualified human visitors to your site by syndicating your real estate listings. You have a primary site where you might gather information so you can sell the person the house (your flagship). Then you’d get your content onto as many other sites as possible (your fleet). All those places where your content is syndicated need to point back to your site (so people can get from your fleet ships to your flagship). Flagship and Fleet might be right for you if:

  • You can identify other sites where your target audience exists.
  • Your content could fit in well on those sites.
  • Your content can link back to your main site.
  • There is a potential audience visiting other sites that currently does not visit yours.
  • You care as much or more about “quality” visitors as you do about overall visitors.

Process for deploying Flagship and Fleet

  1. Identify your syndication media (GoogleBase, Trulia, Zillow, a guest post on a blog, whatever).
  2. Get your listing content in order so it fits the requirements of your syndication medium (your listing needs to be compelling enough to get real humans to follow you back to your site).
  3. Put your listing on the external sites
  4. Identify which syndication sources are performing well and find more like them
  5. Repeat

How does this listing syndication strategy work?

The main concept here is to put your listing in front of more people than you would if you kept your listing to yourself. The people who read your listing information on another web site and then click through to your website should be more interested in the property and/or your services (they’ve already consumed the data and are more likely to take action). If you’re interested in magnifying the effects of this listing syndication strategy, Vincent Socci has some thoughts on using the advertising platforms of the aggregation sites at the Geekestate Blog. One of the drawbacks is that you limit the search engine optimization potential for the listing. But the quality of the leads should be better than general web surfers (assuming you’ve done a good job of identifying good web sites with whom to syndicate). In your analytics you’d want to see a general increase in referral traffic and you might suffer a nominal drop in search traffic. If the search traffic is better for you, then read on about The Whirlpool.

The Whirlpool

Naruto whirlpoolImage by MShades via Flickr

If your content is unique and well targeted for search engine optimization (SEO) you may want to bring visitors directly to your site from search engines. This internet marketing strategy is aimed at increasing your traffic from search engines. As before, you’d have a primary site where you do business (your Whirlpool), but your visitors will come directly from the search engines instead of from targeted syndicate sites. The Whirlpool might be right for you if:

  • You know what keywords are valuable for your niche
  • Your content is unique and not duplicated elsewhere online
  • You have the ability to create extra-engaging landing page designs for your listing
  • You don’t mind having a high bounce rate

Process for deploying the Whirlpool

  1. Identify your valuable keyword(s)
  2. Write your listing to include appropriate amounts of your valuable keyword
  3. Prevent your listing from being anywhere else online or
  4. Make sure your listing is sufficiently augmented on your own site if it’s listed elsewhere (your MLS’s site, for example)
  5. Include immediate conversion tools on the listing page (If done correctly, your audience will land directly on this page)

How does this real estate listing SEO strategy work?

The main concept for this internet marketing strategy is that you protect the originality and uniqueness of your content to draw in specific visitors who can only get that content on your site. I’ll be frank and tell you that this is not very easy in today’s world of syndicated, aggregated and shared content. But if you’re willing to work very very hard you can accomplish it. One of the drawbacks of this strategy is that you may miss out on potential visitors who are looking at other aggregate sites (Realtor.com, Trulia, Zillow etc). If you are executing this strategy well you should see an increase in your search engine traffic for your pre-determined key words. Ideally you’ll also see an increase of landings on your listing page.

Strategy vs Strategy

Though I prefer the Flagship and Fleet approach myself, there are times when The Whirlpool is appropriate as well (exclusive listings, for example). And you can mix and match on a case-by-case. You can also run both strategies (on different listings, of course) and test them out to see which one works better for you. Here are some items to consider: Visitors and Quality:

  • Flagship and Fleet may deliver less total visitors of higher quality
  • The Whirlpool may deliver more total visitors of lesser quality

Listing Competition:

  • Flagship and Fleet listing syndication will put your listing in direct competition with millions of other listings on a aggregation web sites like Trulia, Zillow etc.
  • The Whirlpool listing site will be in direct competition with millions of other sites on the search engine results pages.

Primary Audience:

  • Flagship and Fleet requires listing content that is compelling enough to get human beings to leave their trusted syndication/aggregator site and visit your marketing site.
  • Whirlpool requires listing content that is sufficiently search engine optimized so that search engines place it near the top of searches for your valuable keyword.

Hopefully, you’ll start with your objective clearly defined and be able to use this to help craft the best strategy for your listings.