Google Drops Real Estate MLS Listings
Will Google Stop Indexing Real Estate Website MLS Listings
Is 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.