Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Point2 and Yahoo Organic Search

There was a post on Realtalk indicating that Advanced Access sites and Point2 sites were dropped from Yahoo. I had heard of the AA dilemma, but not ours. The first search I checked was "Calgary Homes for Sale". I found 4 Point2 sites on the front page. So time to breathe easy. I checked the Yahoo referrals over time and this is what the trend line looks line from March to present.

It's not going up quickly, but it certainly hasn't fallen off. Having said that, Yahoo has not been kind to real estate sites in general and their overall strategy in the real estate vertical is questionable. Why would the Internet's largest portal and second largest search engine align itself with one franchise (Prudential) and alienate the entire rest of the industry? Strategically, it does not make sense. The Prudential affiliates represent only a fraction of the 1.2 million Realtor population that is prepared to spend advertising dollars online. The IDX feeds they have from Prudential do not represent a sufficiently high enough percentage of the total homes for sale. Thus the consumer search suffers. According to a Prudential Executive at the recent Inman Connect Conference, Prudential affiliates can not handle all the leads that Yahoo is sending, exclusively to them. Again, the consumer experience suffers. Their natural search index is yet another example where I feel the consumer experience is inadequate.

As for Google, which is where any online business should focus the majority of their attention, their search results are becoming more relevant and their index is including better and better content to improve consumer search.

Point2 Agent websites have been performing well in Google which is by far the largest referral source. Growth over the past year has been steady. Natural search is more relevant today for consumers who are conducting targeted local neighborhood searches such as "Capital Hill Denver Homes for sale". If content is indexed, a consumer can find their target faster than going to a real estate website. And thus natural search is more beneficial for local Realtors who target local content. This is known as the 'Long Tail of Search'.

Point2 Homes has experienced massive growth this year and it is the most effective portal at getting local neighborhood content indexed. Conduct a search for any neighborhood, city with the keyword term homes for sale. Try this search - "north denver heights homes for sale". Our goal is to get listings indexed and drive consumer inquiries directly back to the Realtor. This provides our members a 2 fold strategy for natural search. If their website is not ranked high enough to have listings displayed prominently, there is a good change Point2 Homes will be found.

But it brings up a good topic of natural search. How much time should the average Realtor be focusing on natural search? The search landscape is changing fast. The newest and fasted growing trend is vertical search and online classified services. Vertical search refers to serach engines that focus on a specific vertical market. In real estate, vertical search is exploding with new 'pure' sites like Trulia, Extate, Edgeio and Point2Homes, emerging to compete with the traditional vertical search like Realtor.com, Realestate.com. Complemetary to this trend, classified search sites such as Craigslist, Oodle, Google Base, Yahoo Classifieds and LiveDeal are growing just as quickly. Together, these sites provide a way for for consumers to search through structured data better than traditional search engines. Data is organized bettter, the search has appropriate filters, maps are commonly provided for local data and the data is updated better by publishers providing a better consumer search experience.

As search becomes more and more competitive for large meto marketplaces (city and state level searches), it will be more and more difficult for Realtors to compete for broad search terms (like: Denver Real Estate) with sites like Realtor.com, RealEstate.com, Homegain, other lead generators and the main sites for large brokerages. It is clear that Realtors should use tools to get indexed for targeted local searches, and them focus on getting their most valuable marketing assets, listings, into as many vertical search engines and classified sites as possible. A major focus for Point2 is helping our members follow these 2 strategies.



Kristina Davis said...

Jeff - Your own forum had many threads about this dilemma in October of 2005. I believe you said you were looking into it then, and in January 2006. Comparing our experience in March of 2006 to what happened to all Point2Agent sites in Yahoo in October of 2005 is eerily similar.

A few interesting points

- The graph you show is from this year only. I believe all Point2 agent sites lost their rankings, or were penalized, in October of 2005. It would be interesting to see a graph of the data from last year and this year to compare apples to apples.

- The keyword your list is Calgary Homes for Sale. That is not a very competitive term in relation to 'City Real Estate 'keywords.

- In addition to the keyword not being very competitive the domains that are listed in the Top 10 for that keyword are:

#3 www.bobdressler.com/Our_Listings/page_583919.html - Interior page only. We have seen this with some of our users as well where the interior page ranks instead of the homepage. This domain was registered in 2004.

#5 - getahomecalgary.com – Registered Nov 2005

#8 - janrose.ca – Looking at a Whois for .CA names is confusing but it was ‘Approved’ on December 2005 – I’m assuming 'approved' means registered.

#10 - allcalgaryhouses.com – Registered Jan 2006

As we know from our own situation, all client sites on our main IP Blocks were penalized by domain name at a single point in time. Any sites who moved their domain name or created a new domain name after March of 2006 (for Advanced Access) have escaped the penalty.

I would assume this to be the same for Point2 and other networks. The three sites currently in the Top 10 for the keyword you indicated all have domain names that were registered after October 2005.

I have a great respect for your company but I think your network also has a problem.

Kristina Davis, Advanced Access

Jeff Tomlin said...

Hey! Thanks for the comments Kristina, good to hear from you.

We no doubt had some issues in October and my main point here was that Point2 is not categorically 'banned' from Yahoo. Just to respond to some of your points:

- The graph I showed was only from this year to show that recently we didn't see a drop. I didn't go back further, mainly, because it was taking forever to chug through log files for 86,000 websites. We did see a dip in referrals from Yahoo in late 05.

- The keyword issue is splitting hairs a bit. I found Point2 sites for the same city and others using 'real estate' too. The 3 terms most popular in consumer searches according to Google and the Overture Search Suggestion tool are 'real estate' at 2.1 million/month, 'homes' at 1.9 million/month and 'homes for sale' at 1.3 million/month. All 3 are competitive and I can find Point2 sites for those terms.

- We do have sites that came on board after October. The first one I checked was www.tararosen.com. And even having said that, i'm not going to say there isn't some 'problem' with Yahoo but I think there is a broader issue here not isolated to certain application service providers. There is a difference between link farms and website networks that interlink common content sites that are cooperatively working together in service. The one thing that Yahoo search engineers don't appreciate is that in real estate, competitors cooperate together to advertise, sell homes, exchange referrals unlike any other industry. This high level of cooperation naturally leads to interlinking. Relevant sites with should be able to link together.

Most importantly however, my message is that natural search is becoming less relevant for real estate agents. All real estate professionals need to start thinking about vertical search and provising crawlable local content.

By the way I like what you guys do too - i'd like to chat with you about a couple of things. Would you email me your direct line: jtomlin @point2.com

Thanks again for the post

Kristina Davis said...

It was nice talking to you today, Jeff. Thanks for your call.

A few things that you mentioned above…

***my main point here was that Point2 is not categorically 'banned' from Yahoo***

The sites still exist in Yahoo but in my opinion there is a penalty imposed on any domains that existed on your servers on Oct 2005.

***The keyword issue is splitting hairs a bit. I found Point2 sites for the same city and others using 'real estate' too***

I did not find any P2A sites in the Top 20 for Calgary Real Estate. I stopped looking after that.

I was also not referring to the single terms of ‘real estate’, ‘homes’, and ‘homes for sale’. You said you could find sites for ‘Calgary Homes for Sale’ without the quotes. Calgary Homes for Sale is not as popular as Calgary Real Estate.

***We do have sites that came on board after October***

The issue of the penalty is for the sites on board during October 2005. All those sites are penalized from being on your network. Those sites will never achieve any rankings for competitive search terms in Yahoo unless the penalty is removed.

***Most importantly however, my message is that natural search is becoming less relevant for real estate agents.***

I think a website should be able to be found on any search engine, while at the same time concentrating on the different local and vertical searches in its niche.

Good luck, Jeff. Talk to you soon,


MDW said...

Tom thanks for the update you are very much right Point2Homes listings are key to successfull buisness in Google as they are highly ranked with Yahoo it is not so good
Ehsan Mohamed

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