Google Drops Real Estate MLS Listings

Will Google Stop Indexing Real Estate Website MLS Listings

is google dropping mls links iconIs Google going to stop indexing MLS listings on real estate websites? It’s a rumour we came across recently! Disturbingly, the source of the rumour came from an IDX service provider. (IDX service is an intermediary service between the raw data MLS feed and a realtors website)

The IDX service provider told our client there was no point in having indexable listings on his real estate website as Google was going to stop indexing these listings. The client should instead use the listings on their own domain, and use Google AdWords to drive traffic to their site

In a way this makes sense. Yet the idea raises more questions than it answers.

MLS Listings a Problem for SEO

MLS listings are a big problem for SEO – content duplication. Consider this example:

Let’s look at Florida, USA. There are thousands of realtors in Florida. Many have their own websites. Most of the Florida realtors with websites have a MLS listing feed on their site. Many of these use the same MLS listing service e.g. South Florida MLS.

It’s quite possible there are a thousand or more real estate websites in Florida using the same data feed, or very similar feeds from other IDX services. The listings embedded on their website are all the same, are nearly identical, in other words they are all duplicates. In the world of SEO we know duplicate content is a big problem.

From this point of view it makes sense for a realtor to not use embedded feeds.

Real Estate Websites – To Embed Listings or Not

Realtors face a hard choice. Do they embed listings on their real estate websites, or do they link to an IDX website for their property listings.

From a purely SEO viewpoint, it’s better for their websites not to have any duplicate content. So linking to the IDX website makes sense.

On the other hand, without indexed listing, how will anyone ever find their website, their property listings. If these listings are not indexed by Google, the website won’t be found in search results, so no-one will ever go to their website.

Let’s say you are looking for a home in the Florida gulf area e.g. Clearwater Beach, and use Google to search for property in Clearwater Beach. If there is only one listing, for the IDX company, your choices are limited. However, the way it is today, you will get a list of pages where you can refine your search for property for sale in Clearwater Beach, Florida, like this real estate property search page

Linking to IDX Site Great SEO (for the IDX Website)

The one thing that jumps out at you when you think about the IDX provider’s advice to link to their own domain listings is the excellent SEO for their site. 1000 real estate websites in Florida all providing back-links to every listing. Sounds like a really great idea (for the IDX company).

The flip side: Every one of those back-links will have identical, or nearly identical anchor text. It’s not so long ago Google announced non-generic back-links from multiple websites with identical anchor text are considered spam links, or at least downgraded for ranking factors. So is the IDX company shooting themselves in the foot with this suggestion.

Well, maybe. If every realtor used the linking method for their MLS listings, the IDX website would be the only one with the property information, so spam backlinks would make no difference. But, how will the realtor find clients?

Preferred Referrals instead of Search Results

With a single (or very few) sources of property listings, who will get inquiries about the property? The IDX service will effectively become king of the hill – able to send potential buyers to favoured clients – those who pay the most. Not unlike the way Google pushes AdWord campaign linked results.

Is Google Dropping Real Estate MLS Listings

Back to the question; will Google drop MLS listings from the index. It’s very unlikely. We don’t see Google drooping the listings from the index, not in the near future. We think it’s unlikely Google will ever drop the listings from the index.

We do think Google will continue to refine the search algorithm, and changes will affect real estate websites as they do other websites.

About Mike

Web Developer and Techno-geek Saltwater fishing nut Blogger

Posted on July 12, 2013, in Google and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Hi Gwen

    Thanks for the positive comment. 🙂

    At this time Google IS still indexing the MLS listings.

    You don’t mention which IDX you’re using – I’m guessing if your client’s site is running on WordPress, it’s probably Diverse Solutions.

    Noindex nofollow helps but has a downside

    Going the route of noindexing, nofollowing the listing pages, and nofollowing any on-site links to these pages – and setting a robots.txt disallow rule is definitely an option (with a down-side). It does stop all the 404’s Google finds.

    The down-side: Excluding these pages from search results is not a good idea if the listings are bringing in business for your client.

    If the site is still small , and the listings aren’t getting good SERP among better ranked sites, then I feel it can be beneficial, at least until the site domain is getting well ranked with the older, larger,more authoritative sites.

    A client of mine had great ranking for his articles and his own listed properties, but the site had only around 150 non-MLS pages. When we switched to an IDX like the one you describe the number of indexed pages of course increased dramatically.

    That was great for a while, then the broken links started accumulating – sometimes 700 and more a week. More broken links than on-site pages

    Then we started seeing the well ranked articles dropping down the SERP rankings, below less relevant results. The only reason we could establish was that the excessive 404’s was creating the impression to Googlebot the site was faulty – and we know Google wants to send searchers to sites where searchers find a quality experience.

    Traffic also dropped.

    Noindex nofollow experiement

    As an experiment, we noindexed, nofollowed all IDX generated listing pages – and nofollowed on-site links to any of these too.

    After about 4 months (It’s a slow process recovering from a downgrade in Google ranking) traffic started picking up again, and SERP improved. We’ve stuck to this for now – concentrating instead on building strong content to build the site authority. Once we feel the site is more competitive with the bigger sites in ranking, we’ll look at allowing the listings back in Google’s index.

    Just a word on SearchMSN, Bing etc – these bots completely ignore the meta robots markup and robots.txt rules and index the MLS pages – so we still get broken links in those search-engine indexes.

    Best solution for 404 MLS problem

    The best solution to the 404 problem is for the IDX service to return control over broken links to the site using the system – so we can set proper 301 redirects – or set de-index header code (which is what the IDX SHOULD do – not simply delete the listing). But that’s unlikely – the service my client uses thinks it’s better to have Google find broken links… But it doesn’t affect them – only their clients.

    I think what they mean, but won’t say, is “it will cost too much money to manage the sold listings properly”

    Or consider what we see as our long-terms option; set-up a dedicated RETS integration so the sold property listings can be managed properly. Which is quite a challenging task for my small business – so is likely to take another 3 years or so. Unless we get lucky and get hired to develop the system 🙂


  2. Interesting read on one of the many challenges of real estate SEO. Since this article was published, has anyone heard more about whether MLS listings have indeed been dropped?

    The issue that I’m dealing with for one of my clients is that once a listing is sold, it is removed from the MLS and therefore their website. This makes for something like 23K Not Found pages in Webmaster Tools. Do you think that the solution is to add no index tags to the listings pages or a no follow to the robots file? Neither of those seem to be ideal solutions since we do get a lot of traffic through those pages, but neither is having 23K 404s.

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