The Zillow/Trulia merger is finalized. How the combined online real estate powerhouse will affect real estate professionals remains to be seen. Will advertising costs go up? Will real estate professionals abandon the Zillow/Trulia portals and pledge allegiance to rival National Association of Realtors?
As reported by Investors.com and HousingWire.com, the Zillow Group will no longer get listings from Move’s ListHub, and Move’s new CEO (Move owns realtor.com) is ready to go against Zillow/Trulia. Yet Zillow and Trulia get more traffic, and the Zillow Group owns a range of other online real estate businesses.
Zillow and Trulia have property listings, maps and other features that draw more online visitors than anyone else in the real estate category, according to market tracker ComScore. Also in the Zillow Group fold is New York real estate site StreetEasy and rentals site HotPads, as well as several business-to-business brands: Diverse Solutions, Mortech, Postlets, Retsly and ActiveRain, a popular online community for real estate agents.
No More Listings From Rival
Property listings are a key reason people visit Zillow.com and Trulia.com. Rascoff said on the call that some property listings used to come from Move’s ListHub, now owned by News Corp., but that arrangement is going away. Move also owns the realtor.com site run by the National Association of Realtors, the biggest rival to Zillow Group by online visitor count, says ComScore.
“How will we compete?. By continuing to build the best web and mobile experiences for consumers and the best and most valuable tools for brokers and agents, and by providing the market with the most comprehensive, most accurate and most up-to-date listings in the U.S.” — Move CEO Ryan O’Hara
What Should Real Estate Professionals Do?
While the battleground lines are being drawn, real estate professionals need to hunker down and layout their own online marketing strategies. The most important plan of action should be to make sure you Own Your Web Presence.
Own your Web properties and content — a Website, a blog, articles, photos, listings, videos etc. that you create and publish (or hire someone to create on your behalf).
Because if you don’t own it, you don’t control your online presence. Carefully curated content that you worked long and hard to produce can be taken away. Or you could be forced to pay in order to have the content you published be seen. A perfect example is Facebook. Many real estate professionals worked hard to put together business pages that were filled with valuable content, and Facebook eventually shut down organic reach. Now, pages that were once active with Likes, Shares and Comments have become ghost towns.
Actions to Take
1. Make sure you own your Website
If you contracted an agency with package services to build your Website, read the Terms of Service to see if you own your site and content, or whether you must give it up once you stop paying for their services. If the latter is the case, and you find the Website works well for you, by all means stay with them. But keep in mind, they own your Website. What if they raise monthly service fees? What happens if the company goes out of business? Will you be able to access your site and content?
The best bet: hire an individual or design agency to create your Website, teach you how to navigate it, and arrange your own hosting/domain renewals. However, there are some pros and cons to owning your own site:
2. Have a Blog
If your Website was built with Wordpress, which originally started as a blogging platform, a blog is already part of the site. If a blog is not part of your Website’s back-end, have your Web developer create a simple WordPress blog, and embed your page on your company site.
Here’s a great example (except Blogger was used*): Sternexec.com. This is a client’s blog for whom I manage his social media marketing. His Website designer embedded his Blogger feed into a page of his company site. And here’s an example of a Website I built with a WordPress theme: Bombino and Associates. The blog is integrated with the site, which allows for maximum SEO.
3. Create & Publish
Write a blog post once a week minimum. Create videos, eBooks, slide shows, and infographics. Publish and share your content consistently across all your social media networks.
For more detailed information on how to strengthen your Web Presence, here’s a post I wrote after the potential merger was announced last year: 5 Important Online Marketing Steps for Realtors to Take Now.
Note: I’ve changed my recommendation regarding what platform to use for your blog. It should be self-hosted; optimally using WordPress. Blogger is owned by Google, and while it’s optimal for SEO purposes to publish on the platform, at any time Google could dramatically change it or even pull it. The company is known for discontinuing popular services or integrations, such as Google Reader and authorship.
As mergers come and go, social media networks rise and fade, and popular online services are discontinued, one thing is certain: you must own and control your Web Presence in order to make sure your online marketing opportunities remain constant and valuable. Create a range of online properties that you ultimately control, and at the same time remain active with other online marketing platforms (social media, and other marketing Websites).