At a time when selling real estate is an increasingly demanding business, finding a buyer who is able to close has become an art form. Luckily, agents who can think out of the box will find some promising new opportunities to give their listings new exposure.
The search giant Google keeps expanding its online services to offer real estate agents (and sellers who are not yet represented by one) the opportunity to upload listings to Google Maps.
How It Works
Prospective buyers who research a neighborhood on Google Maps can activate the display of properties listed for sale there. These listings then appear in the left column and are marked with a red dot on the map of the area. Google also offers an optimized search interface with rather limited options such as “Listing type” (For rent, For sale or Foreclosure), price range and area. Almost all listings are accompanied by photos of the property and a link to the website of the listing agent.
Many of the listings are outdated or inaccurate, but that’s not the point here. The point is to get a buyer in the door by keeping your accurate and up-to-date.
What to Do About Google Base
The search giant began putting up property listings on its Maps service quite some time ago without asking any agent’s permission and is unapologetic about it. It is not going to stop.
While crawling the web, Google’s spiders (indexing algorithms) recognize real property listings posted on your and other websites and include them in Google’s offering. While you have every reason to be upset that you haven’t been notified, ignoring Google Base is not going to help your business.
Also, you should be aware that someone else could upload your listings and point to their website.
You have two options: You can either embrace it as a welcome addition to your other promotional efforts, or you could demand that Google take down your listings.
In either case, you don’t really have much choice but to keep an eye on Google.
Feeding Your Database Into Google Base
Google wants you to export your database, format it into a feed (how to do this depends on your location) and then submit to Google Base. Depending on how often you need to post an update this could mean a lot of work. If you happen to be using a content management system such as WordPress, it will create a data feed of the listings you publish automatically (we recently wrote about WordPress right here) so this could be a good starting point. Alternatively, you could also conform an Excel file to Google’s specifications and then export it.
Per Google’s Terms of Service you must hold all rights to a listing to upload or modify it, thus some agents will have to obtain their broker’s permission before they can make changes to existing listings or put up new ones. But this also means that you can request that Google takes down or corrects your listings if they were placed by someone else or if they point to someone else’s website.
You can find out more about it in Google’s FAQ for real estate professionals.