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Real Estate Agent with Novella Real Estate

I've never understood why agents are so willing to help other websites outrank them.  Then one day it occurred to me that these agents didn't actually understand what they were doing!

No agent in their right mind would ever link to a competitor, they didn't know that by placing those pretty little widget on their sites they are actually sending "Google Link Love" to their competitor.  Yes, Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com are competitors. They take our information and sell it back to us for a price.  Worse yet they offer widgets that link back to their sites and tempt us to use them but never really disclose that they are using them against us.

Look at this widget, published today on Agent Genius.  Once you understand the meaning of widget spam, I bet you will think twice about using those pretty little widgets.  Even if you decide to go ahead and use them, it least you will know they can be Hazardous to your SEO Health! 

How You're Helping Zillow and Trulia to Outrank You
How You're Helping Zillow and Trulia to Outrank You was created by: Real Geeks IDX Solutions

Ronald Gombach
Morrisville, PA

I'm not going to say that Real Geek's hazard warning is wrong, but, lets just say it may be overly zealous. Part of the HAZARD warning should have been more-emphasized. Namely can be hazardous to your SEO health. While I don't doubt Real Geeks sincerity in their hazard warning, the facts of the impact are more complex than the explanation they provide on their website. And the facts are, even if Real Geeks had the ability to eavesdrop on Zillow's traffic stats and if additionally they had access to and understanding of Googles algorithms, they still couldn't say with authority that the widgets are raising Zillow's page rank, and certainly not that its at the expense of yours. 

From Google Website: When a user enters a query, our machines search the index for matching pages and return the results we believe are the most relevant to the user. Relevancy is determined by over 200 factors, one of which is the PageRank for a given page. PageRank is the measure of the importance of a page based on the incoming links from other pages. In simple terms, each link to a page on your site from another site adds to your site's PageRank. Not all links are equal: Google works hard to improve the user experience by identifying spam links and other practices that negatively impact search results. The best types of links are those that are given based on the quality of your content.

The bold emphasis (mine) in the Google statement are keys to reading between the lines. The inference in Real Geeks warnings is "all things being equal." Well, when it comes to the WWW things are never equal for more than a fraction of a millisecond. It's unmeasurably dynamic and complex. If Zillow froze itself and the ONLY thing that changed online was Realtors kept adding widgets to their sites, (AND at the same time Google froze twiddling with their database and software algorithms) then you could have a reasonable measurement of the effect. Anything else is speculation.

Real Geeks Advice is Good Advice, but Probably Not for the Reasons they Give

Having said all that, I'd vote for heeding Real Geeks advice, however overdramatized it may be. It's likely NOT a good idea to support Zillow's widgets unless you can unambiguously measure and attribute results (say an increase in commissions paid to you) to their use on your site. Frankly, I doubt there's a way to perform that measurement.

If I had these widgets on my site, I would remove them. But I wouldn't panic and make it my highest priority.


May 23, 2013 04:02 AM
Ronald DiLalla
Century 21 Discovery DRE 01813824 - Anaheim, CA
No. Orange Cty Real Estate

We have enough competitors.....Thanks for sharing with us..

May 23, 2013 04:44 AM
Jimmy Faulkner
Florida. Homes Realty & Mortgage - Wantagh, NY
The Best Of St. Augustine

What a great blog & the illustrateions you use are magnificent. I am meeting with my web site people tomorrow & I will bring this subject up.  Thank you very much.

May 23, 2013 05:01 AM
Aaron Hofmann
Atlanta Communities - Smyrna, GA
aka Mr. Smyrna Vinings

Excellent infographic and definitely true that agents all around the country are providing wonderful SEO services to the national websites so they can higher, capture more leads and then sell them back.

May 23, 2013 05:56 AM
Kevin Ray
Resident Realty - Aurora, CO
REALTOR & U.K. Real Estate Consultant

Great point and great information! Thanks Kristal :)

May 23, 2013 06:13 AM
Jon Karlen
Finish Line Realty - Louisville Ky Real Estate - Metropolitan Service Area - Louisville, KY
Louisville Kentucky real estate - Metro Area

Great post!!!  Many persons simply are oblivious to what is happening, and why.   They claim the like the Google juice that Activerain provides....yet, many things they do actually hurt their strength in showing up in google, by pushing strength & presence toward Z&T to show above them.

May 23, 2013 06:16 AM
Tom Jansson
Acuity Home Inspections - Chicago, IL
Chicago Area Home Inspector - InterNACHI Certified

Wow, Kirstal.  This is incredible.  Thank you for sharing.

May 23, 2013 06:25 AM
Mike Cooper, Broker VA,WV
Cornerstone Business Group Inc - Winchester, VA
Your Neighborhood Real Estate Sales Pro

Great graphic, Kristal.  It was fun to read, and it made a lot of sense.  I will have to pay more attention to the widgets I pick.

May 23, 2013 06:42 AM
A. Kothe
Re/max Preferred Choice - Goodyear, AZ
The Kothe Team - SFR, CDPE, CIAS

Great information Kristal. Thanks for sharing.

May 23, 2013 07:09 AM
Jeffrey Smith
Author of 'Realtors Guide To Short Sale Success - Eustis, FL
Short Sale Education

I hate when some real estate agents use legal "tricks" on unsuspecting buyers or sellers.

I hate it even more when we as agents are taken advantage of. Thank you.

May 23, 2013 07:24 AM
Michael Blue
Home Smart Realty West - Encinitas, CA
REALTOR - 760-889-8877, Encinitas/Carlsbad

The guy that helps me with my wordpress trys to stick Zillow and other crap on my page but I don't let him.  I did notice my realbird.com account sends my info on listings to Zillow etc.  In the MLS we can opt out of the listing going to those sites, I did opt out a couple times only to find my info on their sites due to Realbird.com.  I havn't used it as much since.

May 23, 2013 08:16 AM
Gary Frimann, CRS, GRI, SRES
Eagle Ridge Realty / Signature Homes & Estates - Gilroy, CA
REALTOR and Broker

Mine are coming off soon.  I knew there was a catch.  

May 23, 2013 11:10 AM
Mark Delgado
houses for rent, Solano County & Glen Cove - Benicia, CA
Benicia and Vallejo, Property Management, rental h
Wonderful infographic and it makes sense to me. All links may to be equal but a link is still taking people away from your site And to theirs- perhaps never to return.
May 23, 2013 12:04 PM
Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573
Northern Maine Real Estate-Aroostook County Broker

The sport of SEO bores some, but not those that realize every snippet of code, link, and that careful creation of images, embedded videos is important. Being helpful, time and money saving for your buyer is too. 

May 23, 2013 12:36 PM
Joan Whitebook
BHG The Masiello Group - Nashua, NH
Consumer Focused Real Estate Services

I saw several post on this topic.  Fortunately, I have never linked to these sites.  Thanks for the post and I am sure that it will be very beneficial to our Active Rain family to know the consequences of linking to these types of site/widgets. 

May 23, 2013 01:10 PM
Royce Dean Vanderpool
Devan Realty & Development Corporation - Lake Mary, FL
GKC, RMC, REOS, CIAS, BPOR - Principal Broker

Wow. Great post. Widgets no! Won't do them.  Pretty and fun looking but not good.

May 23, 2013 02:08 PM
Jane Chaulklin-Schott
TEAMCONNECT REALTY - (407) 394-9766 - Orlando, FL
TeamConnect Luxury Homes - Orlando, Florida, 32836
Kristal, unbelievable information. Those of us that have registered for Zillow webinars and covered the subject of widgets, never realized the full consequence of placing these widgets on our websites. Great post! Thank you!! Guess I am fortunate because I never put any on my websites yet.
May 23, 2013 02:32 PM
Margaret Woda
Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc. - Crofton, MD
Maryland Real Estate & Military Relocation
I don't use a Widget for any of the 3rd party sites, but I love spending those commissions from Zillow leads. If they get business from their higher ranking, I'm okay with that because some of it comes to me!
May 23, 2013 08:58 PM
Gary L. Waters Broker Associate, Bucci Realty
Bucci Realty, Inc. - Melbourne, FL
Eighteen Years Experience in Brevard County

Interesting information. I think I have one of these Zillow widgets on one of my other blogs.


May 23, 2013 09:45 PM
Sandy Padula & Norm Padula, JD, GRI
HomeSmart Realty West & Florida Realty Investments - , CA
Presence, Persistence & Perseverance
Kristal, timeless blog and I thank you for your share with us. This is really diluting the efforts of independent agents spending lots of time and money, and putting high SEO rankings right in the 'laps' of the national real estate companies linked with corporate agreements to the big three. Just think about it and insulate your activities from becoming a lackey for these conglomerates. Thank you!
May 23, 2013 10:00 PM