Belatedly answering Michael’s questions –
1. Listings are important content, but they’re very specific or, to be buzz worthy, long tail. Blogs are more general. I’ve seen very few blogs engage with listings in a way that’s interesting. Rather, the successful blogs present overviews (statistical or descriptive) of listing activity and communities. Is there a way to blend/link such summaries into search or as a lead-in to search?
Honestly, I think that what I have done with my Neighborhood series has been very good, despite my recent hiatus – I provide good, searchable, Long Tail content and then within the post, I sometimes provide a link to search for homes in that neighborhood. The greatest detraction from this is my inability to be consistent in setting up the saved searches within Solid Earth. I wish I could frame in the searches better the way that I do on my real estate site – and that I could integrate google mash-ups with the MLS data, and that would probably help to provide a “stickier” site. If only the MLS would provide the ability for consumers and Realtors to save searches as RSS feeds! Why is this seemingly so impossible?
2. For example, would it be useful to include a link from listings to blog posts and vice versa? For example, perhaps the MLS system could provide an easy way to link search results for specific areas in posts. If you’re blogging about a specific community in or around Charlottesville, you could link to the active or sold listings for that area. Or would a link to some statistics for that area be better? I suppose it depends on the context. At the same time, would it be useful to provide the opportunity to “tag” a listing with a blog post or series of blog posts?
I would LOVE to be able to include a link to neighborhood content. I did that a few weeks ago for a new Crozet listing by posting a link to RealCrozetVA, but now that I have a “search for homes” tab, it was reported by another agent within an hour as “branding”. The content there is good, useful and relevant to buyers and sellers, but we are so focused on keeping the MLS content sanitized, that we negatively impact our clients. I could take away the Search tab, but believe that I would still be found in violation, as my contact information is there, even though it’s not to my real estate addresses. Heck, I’d like to see “tagging” with zip codes that is then searchable via Google, etc. I was also reported last year for stating the public remarks for people to “Google the address.” I was reported for that, too, because my website came up first – despite the fact that my site typically has much more information, pictures, data than does the MLS.
3. Who defines the relevant area? I think this may be the most interesting issue of all. MLS systems generally have “areas” and “sub-areas” defined that are more specific than zip code or city or even subdivision. While these MLS areas often do a better job of isolating relevant communities, none of these actually do a great job of defining the individuality of specific areas, which can often differ dramatically in just a few blocks. With the innovations from Google and others in annotating maps, it might be interesting to see what would happen if agents or customers were able to define their own areas and have those be saved and shared with others. These “areas” could then be a way for agents to interface blogs with the MLS database through tags.
Again, I would love to be able to accurately define an area, but relevant to whom? We’re back at driving the consumer to use Google to find information rather than leveraging our current lead in the accumulation of mostly accurate and relevant data. Outside.in, Localism, MyHouseKey, Local Matters, etc. – the list of companies trying to leverage “local” is too long to keep track of. I like this description of how a national MLS may work. Zip Codes in the Charlottesville/Central Virginia area are far too broad to be useful.
4. Or is this a good example of Occam’s Razor where simpler is better and blogs and the MLS should stay separate? Zillow and some others are creating some opportunities for this, but they do not have the depth of data of the MLS and eventually will become complicated environments for competitors given the advertising model. It seems like there’s an opportunity here to do more with the advertising-free MLS system for bloggers and so I’m excited for this discussion.
This could be the case. In the end, I think that the KISS principle rules. We need to keep working to ensure that the MLS data is as accurate as possible – through fines, redundant checks and ultimately the owners – the Realtors have to take ownership of the data and recognize its value. Unfortunately, I think that too few Realtors have this point of view or access to discussions such as this to even see this perspective.
Ultimately, I think that Jalane’s comment speaks volumes –
For what it’s worth, your blog has more credibility being separate from MLS. You’ve got a hyper-link that folks can consult MLS or your website if they want to.
Blogging for credibility and trust will bring more business for everybody.