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Internet / content marketing and SEO practices isn't a normal topic for our blogs, but we wanted to share this information. For those doing their own marketing and relying on website development, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and online marketing to advertise their business, perhaps this will bring a pitfall to light. It was recently mentioned by a peer that Zillow and Trulia were very helpful in their provision of real estate related tools. These companies offer free widgets with convenient tools for buyers like: mortgage calculators, home value applications and weather widgets, to name a few. These tools are definitely useful, easy to implement and free from monetary cost. But, how many things in this world are truly free?
Trulia and Zillow market and provide these and other widgets for one simple reason. Inside portions of the widget-code, links are created from the user's site to their massive real estate websites. You'll notice from the picture below how easy installation of these widgets can be. All the user needs to do is copy (Control+C) a short snippet of code and paste (Control+V) it to their website's source code and viola! The tool is seamlessly and instantly integrated. The process is very simple, quick and, as advertised, works great. The conveniently forgotten benefit for Zillow and Trulia is that, also included in the code, is the aforementioned link. When thousands of internet marketing campaigns implement these real estate tools, Zillow and Trulia effortlessly create thousands of back links in the process. They sit back and watch others do their SEO work for them. It's a great and brilliant idea, but does not help others as implicated. In point of fact, it actually hurts them by promoting their competition.
This is not something the two marketing giants discuss openly. It's not illegal, but the fine print clearly states some things to warrant a better understanding by those without a great understanding of how internet marketing works. The importance of high ranking in the results pages of search engines is obvious. Something not so obvious is back links and how they are one of the single most important factors in ranking. Google, Bing and other major search engines use the quantity and quality of back links in determining the importance of a particular website. The importance of a site, in turn, helps the search engines determine which sites will rank higher than other similar sites. In conclusion, when a real estate marketing campaign is consistently linking to another website, in this case, Zillow and Trulia, the campaign is helping to promote them to the search engines.
In this example, we've used Zillow and Trulia because they are two of the companies in our profession where we frequently see this occur. This method of creating back links is not limited to these companies and happens all over the internet marketing world. One way to check for hidden links is to paste the provided widget code in to a word program like Microsoft Word, Notepad or Wordpad and run a search for "http" or ".com". Any links hidden in the code will appear as this is the basic precursor or closing code for any .html links. In closing, anytime you get ready to start adding free widgets, make sure you fully understand what you are adding and ask yourself - why is this free? More times than not, you'll probably find the cost hidden in the fine print.