Who Controls the 10 Blue Links for Listings on Google?

Searches for information about active listings are by far the biggest driver of traffic to real estate websites. In fact, it’s not uncommon for more than 80% of a broker website with IDX integrations and a search engine friendly website architecture to receive more than 80% of their traffic at the listing detail level.

This traffic is also very valuable because prospective home buyers who’re Googling the addresses or MLS numbers of active listings are likely reaching the point where they’re willing to talk to an agent.

The national aggregator sites understand the value of this data, and have worked hard to acquire this data, for free, from real estate agents, brokers, and franchises. Sites like Trulia and Zillow have built great websites and invested heavily in online PR to increase their site’s online authority in Google’s mind, which allows them to rank high in search engine rankings for the listing inventory they’ve acquired.

Minnesota is a good place to see the value of inventory to aggregators. For example, here’s a screenshot of a Google search result for the address of a local broker’s listing. This broker is affiliated with a national franchise who syndicates to many national aggregator websites:

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In this case, the top-6 results are from Zillow, Trulia, Realtor, Realtor, ForSaleByOwner, and HotPads. Three of the next four results on this page (just below the screenshot) happen to be listings from WhereToLive.com powered clients in this market. Prospective home buyers Googling this listing are most likely going to end up on sites who are willing to sell the lead back to the listing broker, or on the sites of competing brokers (who’s sites happen to be powered by WhereToLive.com). Those companies may be willing to help that prospect with financing and other ancillary services too.

Here’s an example of what the playing field looks like on Google when a listing isn’t syndicated by the broker or at a franchise level. This is a search result for an Edina Realty listing in the same neighborhood of St Paul as the previous listing:

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In this case, Edina Realty ranked first on Google for their own listing. Zillow and Realtor rank #2 & #3 with pages dedicated to that address, but neither of those sites realize that this is an active listing:

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This is an IDX listing so most of the rest of the search results on the first page come from local brokers. In this case, it seems likely that a prospective home buyer searching for the address of the active listing would recognize Edina Realty’s name, since it corresponds with the sign in the yard) and click the first result. If they decide to check out the 2rd and 3rd results, they’d likely be met with disappointment and end up back at Edina’s site where they found information about the active listing.

With both listings, a prospective home buyer (who could clearly be a seller too) Googling an active listing will find information on the listing they’ve Googled. It comes down to where will they find that information, which page they’ll bookmark or print, which listing detail page they’ll share with people involved in their search process, and where they’ll decide to engage an agent.

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  1. Jason February 24, 2014 at 11:10 am

    That is really interesting, I did not known that properly integrated IDX search results were so important for page ranking. I’m a Realtor in Okotoks and I know your websites dominate google search results in this location. I guess you guys are doing something right as the results speak for themselves.

  2. Jeff Johnson July 13, 2014 at 8:20 pm


    Are you saying that a agent would be better off by NOT allowing internet sites upload our listings and that we are better off doing the Edina Realty method? I’m agreeing with that, because this way I can upload each listing to the sites that I choose & anyone who views my listing, will have to contact me….