17 phone calls on this topic came to me just yesterday, and I have maybe 30 more calls to return today on this same topic.
"Bart, do you think me switching from my current website to a Zillow PAW Website is a good idea?"
Short answer: Nope.
Unless you just woke up from a seven month nap, let me address this one on AR and answer this question for you all so I don't have to put the same answer in another 154 emails as I did yesterday.
HISTORY: Last year, Zillow acquired a real estate technology firm, "Diverse Solutions," for just over $7 million dollars in a cash plus stock deal. The tiny IDX shop in Irvine, California was pretty happy. They no doubt celebrated, drank champagne, bought new cars and life went on pretty smooth.
Until a few days ago.
Customers with the exsting $29 to $129.90 Diverse Solutions website flooded Zillow's switchboard asking about the new PAW service price:
- How can I switch?
- Should I switch?
- What do I get?
- Is it SEO friendly, blah, blah, blah.
Sources told me that countless agents were left on hold for an eternity, many upset agents were no doubt routed to the sisters of voice mail mercy.
Like all big companies that gobble up smaller, more agile ones... Zillow took the IDX technology from Diverse Solutions and boiled this down into a mass-marketing, me-too set of Website packages that are surprisingly not that different from what you bought from Advanced Access, eNeighborhoods, or a Pullan Communications Website just but 5 years ago.
The goal being, 300,000 (or more) real estate agents paying $10 bucks each translates into a nice pile of cash flow for a call center of 7 people and 3 automated servers that cost $508 a month at Rackspace.com
Cost: $32,900 a month. Zillow grosses $303,450 (or more) a month = $270,550 a month.
Is this a bad thing from an evil empire? Not at all. This is what I would do if I acquired Diverse Solutions. It's simply business 101. You buy up smaller companies and add their technology to your own. I call it the BORG Technique and it's practiced by every successful company I know.
Does Zillow really care that you have a state of the website and high page rank on Google? Yes, but not that much.
They are no different than Point 2 Agent, or Dominion Enterprises.
Zillow wants $2 million in cash flow a month from selling you a watered down $10 a month website, sprinked with an iFrame IDX feed. No big deal here. Thanks to Zillow, they will pump hundreds of thousands of more real estate websites into an already over-crowded sea of me-too real estate websites. It's more white noise for home buyers to sort through. Google will love it because you'll be shelling out thousands of dollars competing for eyeball space with AdWords ads.
Lots of train wrecks in disappointments are coming. But Zillow and Google will be laughing all the way to the bank.
80,000 of you will sign up this month, and 40% of you will fire them 30 - 60 days later. It's just how this works. Nobody can afford to give you any kind of live human support for $10 bucks a month. It's going to cost them over $6 bucks just to maintain the website, pay for electricity, the people to make the server work, etc.
Terry Pullan, former CEO of Pullan Communications was acquired in 2007 by Dominion Enterprises. Terry told me they received over 100,000 sign ups a month from agents switching from other firms. 45% of them cancelled the next month or failed to pay their bill and were shut off.
So is Zillow's PAW any better when it comes for natural SEO page ranking on Google? Not at all.
Because thousands of the same content on the same server, same IP address is not going to do squat for gaining you any SERP ranking on Google. Their crawler now looks at the class-C block of IP addresses and when it finds the same website pages, on the same server and the same me-too template driven content... Google is not really going to be kind to pushing you up to a natural, page one ranking.
This is not hard to understand why. If you're a REALTOR in San Francisco, and you want to rank for "bay area homes for sale," or "san francisco homes for sale," do the math. There's 10 natural positions on Google. This is like 10 homes for sale around the lake or with ocean front. These 10 positions, like homes are going to be hard to get. And last time I checked, beach front or lake front homes are going to be expensive.
Zillow's PAW Website for $10 bucks will most likely never have a natural page one, #1 ranking on Google. Unless of course you're an agent selling real estate in Wink, Texas.
The former Google AdSense business manager of 7 years is on our payroll, so we know a few things about how Google is going to crawl and rank your site.