I don’t want to hear any more whining about LoopNet. It’s just a marketing platform. You assess LoopNet’s value by how well they deliver leads that convert to deals. If they don’t deliver, you should stop paying for it.
No whining about CoStar either. They’ve collected all sorts of data, added value and are charging you to access it. Same thing goes for those who use LoopNet as a data source. You can only whine if you know their data sucks, in which case, why are you still using them for data? If you don’t want to get the same data from a bunch of other sources or do it yourself, you’re going to have to pay someone else to do it for you.
There’s nothing wrong, really, with relying on outside sources for data or paying to promote your “product” on websites, social networks or via traditional advertising means. Other companies do it all the time. Though it can be argued that collecting your own data can give you some advantages over companies that don’t, the process is time consuming, can be costly and often takes resources away from a company’s core business. Most businesses do better putting their time and money to that purpose.
So let’s say that CRE has lost this data war. Get over it because there’s another one that you should be paying attention to.
It always shocks me how poorly most brokerages market their exclusive listings online. They park them in LoopNet or some other aggregator. If they want listings on their website, gotta pay for LoopLink or you use another aggregator’s search interface.
Maybe you get “views” or “click” data from the aggregator. Maybe there’s even an easy way to export that data. And it is useful for those reports you have to give to owners to let them know how your marketing efforts are going. But that’s all you usually get.
By letting someone else control your listings search you’ve lost out on what’s turning out to be a very valuable commodity. That would be visitor data. All of it. Not just the clicks or views.
Wouldn’t you like to know what everyone is searching for when they come to your site? What if you saw an increase in searches for office space? Think of the actions you could take. You could increase promotion of your office listings, cold call office owners to see what they’ve got that you don’t know about, provide insight to owners and buyers/tenants on supply and demand.
With your own search, you could also look at real-time activity. Maybe implement a chat box pop-up offering to answer questions or use re-targeting, personalization and all the other tools available to only those who have users searching on their site – not on some aggregator’s site.
Thanks to off-loading your site search, you can’t see the keywords they used to search, where they went when they found something, where they went when they couldn’t. Don’t forget all that search engine traffic you’re missing out on because your listing pages are on someone else’s site – not yours. And no personalization tools for you ever!
I’ve never understood why every national brokerages doesn’t have their own listings search platform. Instead of letting your office/offices do whatever, why aren’t they putting listing data in a company database? Among other things, from that database, you can push your listings out to your own websites. Then all that search activity and user behavior data is yours to mine for insights.
Even smaller brokerages should be thinking about this. Find a web developer who knows how to set up your site so you can take your search back (creGROW who has been doing this for years). Look into a database cloud service or at the very least, use a standardized Excel spreadsheet (like this one I wrote about) and keep your listing data there. Once that data is in that database or spreadsheet, set up an RSS feed/XML file. You can use the XML file/feed as the data source for your website search interface.
Just think if everyone had a feed. You could all tell LoopNet that if they want your listings, they’d better figure out how to import XML because you’re not going to manually enter the same thing more than once. And that once is in your database or file. It’s not just brokerages who are technologically behind the times…
Now that you have your own site search, get a Google Analytics (GA) account, add Webmaster tools and set up some goals and reports. Submit your site index with all those listing pages. Ask your web developer for help (just remember that it’s you/the company that sets up and owns the account and gives the developer permission to access it). Or look into the host of GA partners or data analysis services.
Sure, you’re going to have to spend some money on this – but not as much as you think. And yes, the aggregators, if you choose to use them, will still have their own traffic data using your listings as bait. But not as much as they used to. This type of data is increasing in value every day and you’re giving it away. Time to take it back.
Original Post: 7/21/2015