This is a pretty technical post, but the information is very important to your SEO.
Syndicating listings to 3rd party websites should be part of your SEO (search engine optimization) strategy. It's a simple formula; you allow your listings to be published on other websites in exchange for a link back to your site. Link building, as the SEOs call it, is by far the most effective way to get good content to show up on Google's first page and listings are a broker's best option for link building. You may have heard it said that 'content is king' of SEO but links are queen. If two sites have similar content, the one with the most links typically wins.
The twist in this tail is that sending your listings to most 3rd party real estate listings sites is not helping your site's SEO and may well be hurting it. Many listings sites employ technologies to ensure that your site is invisible to Google. There are a lot of sneaky tricks to this but to keep it simple, there's one main thing that you should be checking your links for - and that is nofollow tags.
Checking links for nofollow tags.
The oldest trick in the book is easy to spot. If a 3rd party site has added the tag "rel=nofollow" to your links then the search engines will not follow the link and will not find your site. For example, this link to my profile on Zillow is followed by google but this link is not yet they go to the same place. You can check for nofollow tags by clicking on View --> Source in your browser window to check your links. I personally prefer to use a firefox plugin that highlights nofollow links for me. You can get the plugin I'm using here - when it's installed, right-click the "q" in your firefox tool tray and select "highlight nofollow links" and it will cause nofollow links to be highlighted in red. For example, Prudential Northwest and Mike Kass (pictured left) have invested in showcase ads on Realtor.com but they receive no SEO benefit from any of the links to their websites from those listings. Mike and Prudential Northwest will get more SEO benefit from this blog post than they do from syndicating their listings to Realtor.com.
Note: when you dive into this, you are going to see a lot of red links and it's important to remember that they are not all evil! There are some good reasons for using nofollow and google has clear guidelines that explain how nofollow should be used. All you need to know is that none of the good reasons for using nofollow apply to links on syndicated listings and honestly, it's surprising that this hostile behavior is the norm in our industry. Nofollow is the most common mechanism used to ensure that listings partners don't get SEO benefit from the links on their listings but there are two other technical issues related to this problem that I'll touch on very briefly here ...
Checking links for 301 redirects.
It's quite common that websites move their pages around. When they do that, and to ensure that old links still work, the old URLs are redirected to their new location. Redirects are how you sometimes end up on a web site that's different to the link you thought that you clicked on and are quite commonly used by real estate sites to send click traffic through an intermediary server for counting purposes (Zillow does this). Redirects will only be followed by search engines if they are of a specific type; namely a 301 redirect. Redirected links come in many flavors but all you need to look for is the 301 - links to pages with other types of redirects may as well have a nofollow tag because search engines will ignore them. Checking for 301 redirects is as easy as entering the listing's link into a form and reading the results. There are numerous free redirect checkers online - I'm currently using this one.
Beware of Java Script
Now, go and check on your listings!
Update: ... and this is a followed link to the mortgage website findmyloanonline. If you want to know why it's here you'll have to read the comments.