Be careful of FREE tools
This is intended for webmasters and real estate website owners
When Zillow, Realtor.com, Trulia and other large real estate portals advertise "free" tools, there's a cost - a very big one. While there may not be a place to enter your credit card number or a request for your billing address, these sites didn't reach the top of Google's search results by accident. Although they're good sites, full of information and easy-to-use software with huge marketing budgets, their most effective marketing tactic isn't something they discuss. In fact, unless you've read the fine print within their terms and conditions, you've probably never heard of how they take advantage of unsuspecting professionals.
Anytime a mortgage calculator, CMA tool or anything else is offered as "free", there's always a hidden link back to their website. They've gone out of their way to disguise these links and make them hard to find, but a simple search through the source code will always unearth this link. These links, commonly called back links, are the primary reason Zillow, Realtor.com, Trulia and others outrank our agent websites - often with better local information and, in many cases, deserving of higher ranking.
A back link is any link coming in to your website from another website or blog. Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines rely on these back links, along with other factors, such as: unique, fresh or updated content, proper site and page structure, internal links, punctuation and analytic metrics, like click through rates, page load speed and others to determine where a website ranks in relation to similar websites. But out of all of these things, the back links have long been considered the second biggest factor in ranking websites. The more back links a website has, the higher they typically rank. The quality of the links also plays an important role.
While many agents rely on these websites for new leads and they represent a staple for new business, there's also many agents that compete with these real estate giants not knowing the cost of free. These large portals are not real estate websites, but "Media Websites". This is how they're able to display MLS data on a single website while having agents from different brokerages. They use third-party vendors to display MLS data, like current listings, DOM, price changes, recent sales and other pertinent sales information. The National Association of Realtors has recently taken steps to "level the playing field" by allowing agents to publish information once forbidden. The NAR plans to continue this trend in the future to avoid having these large companies hold too much power and influence in the real estate market. And after Zillow tested selling homes for free from their website and created programs like Instant Offer, it's about time.
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