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Google’s Knowledge Graph: The beginning of the end for Real Estate Websites? - Part 2

May 29 2012

This is Part Two of an article about Google's Knowledge Graph. You can read Part One here.

What does all of this have to do with the demise of real estate sites?

3642 brain technology smallTo clarify, I mean all of the real estate sites that offer only property listing information. Specifically, the Knowledge Graph may have a big impact on the listing syndicators that don't offer much beyond property details.

First, let's use the example of Tom Cruise. In a recent blog postrecent blog postGoogle's search boss, Amit Singhal, stated that "The information we show for Tom Cruise answers 37 percent of next queries that people ask about him."

So what does this mean?

Well, let's say you run a website that sells Tom Cruise dolls. Odds are, you have some Tom Cruise information on your site and use this information (birthday, movie list, Katie Holmes, etc.) to create unique content that helps you get listed high in the search results and therefore drives traffic to your site. And once people are on your site, you can now sell them your dolls.

You indeed provided an answer to a Tom Cruise question(s) on your site and then offered a Tom Cruise product to an engaged audience.

Based on what Amit is telling us, though, you may have just lost a huge chunk of that audience (37 percent) because of the Knowledge Graph.

Ultimately, people will no longer actually need to click through to a website to get their questions answered – the answers will be right there inside the search results page. The only reason someone would need to click through is to take a much deeper dive into Tom Cruise content or to specifically buy your doll.

So, let's apply this same rationale to the syndicators and other sites that only serve up property details.

Some syndicators are currently using semantic markup for all of their listings. On the surface this is a good thing because Google will certainly give preferential treatment to those that are creating content built for the graph. Even so, despite giving Google what they require, the syndicators may be caught between a rock and a hard place.

Syndicators make their money from having people visit their site. More traffic means more ad revenue.

Because the Graph is not yet rolled out to real estate listings, you'll have to use your imagination here. Do a search for the Taj Mahal and then envision the knowledge box instead displaying property information details. All aspects of the property details can be marked up so they will display in the box, i.e. address (with a map), bedrooms, bathrooms, square footage, pictures, schools close by, etc.

For example, a search for 'Homes For Sale In Seattle' would return a short list of the homes available with the ability to click on related searches at the bottom of the box (still keeping you inside Google) that would take you to the next group of five homes for sale that relate to your initial search.

So, if a home shopper gets the answer they need from the knowledge box in the search results, why would they need to click through?

Basically Google becomes the de facto website (across all verticals) for this top-level view of information.

So, why exactly may syndicators be caught between a rock and a hard place?

If they do not use the markup language for their listings, they'll probably be left out of the knowledge box results.

If, on the other hand, they do use markup language on their listings, these may show up in the knowledge box. However, this will be tantamount to providing home shoppers with all the information they need without them needing to click through to their site.

As a home searcher, I will be able to get all of the information I need right in the search results, again, including the agent's name and contact information. Which brings up a very interesting point...

Because the markup language also allows you to connect a specific property to a specific real estate agent, it will be interesting to see if the syndicators use the actual listing agent's information or if they will use the sponsored agent's details.

Many refer to the syndicators as "scraper" sites, which means they are "scraping" the MLS's information to create pages on their own site that contain property details. Depending on the varying perspectives of each of the stakeholders in the real estate value chain, scraping isn't necessarily a bad thing – and it's definitely the practice of some of the largest, most popular websites out there.

Regardless, the Knowledge Graph may have just made Google the biggest scraper site on the Internet. Did all of the scrapers just get scraped!?


Why is Google doing this?

As I noted at the beginning of this post, the Knowledge Graph will not only affect real estate. It will affect all sites. The end goal of the Knowledge Graph is to clean up the search results and to provide a better user experience to Google users. Plus, the more time we spend on Google the more ad revenue it generates--a nice little bonus for them.

The old system of writing content based around keywords isn't dead (yet) but definitely less important. The meaning of the keywords you choose and their relationship to other keywords is what matters most moving forward.

What can you do?

Now more than ever before, you need to write engaging, unique and valuable content. You want to write about stuff that goes beyond what Google will include in its knowledge box information. You want to build around what homebuyers are really searching for – neighborhood character, great restaurants, local parks, local politics, schools. All of these and more compose the rich information that will require searchers to click through to your site to get more.

Next, use semantic markup to let Google and Bing understand the important and relevant words/images on your pages. Our company, ClikbrixClikbrix has already begun to implement this for our clients, and we are currently building the necessary markup into the Clikbrix 3.0 mobile platform.

It's also time to get social and then get more social. More and more Google is incorporating 'social signals' into its search algorithms. In our view, social is imperative and specifically Google Plus – if you're not on it yet, now is the perfect time. Once there, add us to your Circles (Erik and Clikbrix on Google Plus) and we'll help show you around and keep you updated.

Finally, take a breath. At this point, no one really knows exactly how this will play out. Keep in mind, your end goal is to ensure that if your property listing does show up in the knowledge box that your name, contact details, and even your profile pic show up right along side it. This will help ensure that when people do a search and land on a property they love, they'll contact you directly from the results page.

Time will tell whether the Knowledge Graph may not be the best thing for your personal, professional website. On the other hand, it could end up being the absolute best thing to happen to your real estate business in quite a while.

To learn more about Erik Goldhar, visit his Google+ page.