Real estate SEO syndication

The Real Syndication Battle: SEO. Are Brokers Giving Away Online “Real Estate”?

This article was originally published on Geek Estate Blog:

[Pre-emption of syndication flack:  I syndicate.  Most brokers do.  Many value the additional exposure in the current situation.  This isn’t a blanket condemnation of syndication.  It’s merely an analysis of the SEO byproduct of that action.]

The real estate industry is buzzing about Edina Realty and ARG pulling their listings from syndicators.  The announcementone strong view, and a different response.

Most of the arguments about syndication are ignoring the elephant in the room.

Real estate brokers and syndication sites are battling for SEO.

9 out of 10 home buyers today are online.  The first business to grab a consumer’s attention is likely to get that consumer’s business, or generate revenue through the online traffic.  Buyers and sellers create income for whichever business has the most-accessible presence online.

All real estate companies are in competition.

Brokerages, individual agents, vendors, and syndicators collaborate in many useful and productive ways, but we are all in competition for the consumer’s dollar.  Brokers owe a high level of professional representation to our clients, while maintaining a competitive and sustainable business model at the same time.  When we disregard the competitive nature of our business, we lose focus in our decision making.

When you give away your listing, you give away SEO.

Unique content online is king for SEO.  Own a unique piece of online real estate, and you own the traffic and revenue that come along with it.  The more times you duplicate and syndicate that content, the more diluted it becomes, and the less-valuable your share of it becomes, in terms of SEO.  An individual listing is a unique and valuable piece of online property.

Who is #1 when buyers search for [Your City] real estate or homes for sale?

Is it a national syndication site?  Quite possibly.  When buyers search for your listing, “123 Main St ,City State”, they also probably find the syndicator first.  Why?  Because you gave it to them.  Thousands of real estate brokers give their SEO to that site every day.  Brokers create thousands of links to syndication sites’ listings, and effectively encourage their clients/consumers to do the same.

Is diluting your listing’s SEO good for your client?

Who is best to receive the inquiry from a buyer?  Better yet, who would the buyer want to receive his/her inquiry?  Trulia doesn’t know where Seattle homes are in the neighborhoods of Inverness or Arroyo. can’t find Newport Shores or Surrey Downs, because it doesn’t list homes for sale in Bellevue in those neighborhoods (yes, I am pushing my own SEO right now).  A local agent would know, but they’ve all given their rights to that traffic away through SEO dilution.  It doesn’t matter who is “best”.  All that matters is who is “seen”.

Listings create consumer traffic.  Consumer traffic creates revenue. 

It’s true that these large sites currently have far more national traffic than most brokers’ local sites.  That traffic comes from brokers’ listings. Listings are the holy grail of online real estate.  Consumers certainly like maps and research features, but in the end their #1 goal is to find a home.  Without listings, a website is just an informational resource, without a solution to the home buyer’s ultimate need.  [Zillow has an amazing real estate website.  It used to generated its revenue through beverage advertising.  Until real estate brokers’ listings and corresponding agent ads grew the revenue significantly, this company was not in a position to have the big, successful IPO they they had last year.]

Who should consumers find when they search for homes in your neighborhood?

That’s debatable, and really outside the SEO topic.  Most real estate brokers know dozens of local associates that they respect for their knowledge of the local market.  Unfortunately for them, they all point their web traffic to a national aggregator who may or may not.  Collectively, they’ve told the consumer to ask a syndication site.

Real Estate SEO will determine the direction of our industry in the long-term.

The companies that are successful selling real estate online will continue to gain greater power and influence over consumers, brokers, and even legislation that affects the real estate industry.  As a handful of companies gain larger shares of the market, more brokers are taking notice, but far too few are focusing on the source of that power.

SEO is your real estate online.  It is much like real estate in the physical world. 

Those who own the best real estate have usually worked hard for it, paid well for it, and will protect it fiercely.  The more they acquire, the more powerful they become.  Those who disregard its value and allow their real estate SEO to be acquired by others will see their influence wane and, over time, fail in their efforts.

In the end, brokers will decide on their own what is in the best interest of their clients, and their business.  The answer is not as cut-and-dry as many might assume.  Page views, traffic, experience, local knowledge, and a host of other factors will determine what is best for each individual’s clients.

Bottom Line:  Buyers will search.  They will find listings.  If they’re not at the syndication source, they’ll find them at the broker source.  The key is not in pointing as many people as possible to just any web site.  The key is pointing the right people to the right listing source.


  • All opinions expressed herein are personal opinions and do not constitute the position or views of any organization. Sam DeBord is CEO of Real Estate Standards Organization (RESO). He has two decades of experience in the real estate industry, spanning real estate brokerages, mortgage lending, and technology consulting. He has served as President’s Liaison for MLS and Data Management with the National Association of REALTORS®, a REACH mentor, and on the board of directors for NAR, Second Century Ventures, and California Regional MLS. Sam began his career as a management consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers. He is a recognized real estate industry writer for publications including REALTOR® Magazine, Inman News, and the Axiom Business Books Award-Winning Swanepoel Trends Report.