Google will overcome the teething problems with its real estate proposition and disrupt the business models of property portals across the world.
Every single property portal in the world is wary of the Google Real Estate presence over the past few years and every single portal is scared of the effect Google will have on both their visitor numbers and there revenues.
Over the past year I have read a lot of articles (from portals, their newspapers or individual shareholders) demonstrating how Google’s entry into the market place has not or will not effect either their visitor numbers/revenues. Well they would say that wouldn’t they!
It is true so far that Google’s effect has been minimal, however Google has never stated it’s intention to kill off or mame any of the leading portals in the world in a time limited period! In fact, Google is focusing on getting as many listings into their systems as possible, forming new partnerships with various entities to help them get their listings into Google and finally continually refining their systems to make it easier for people to find the property they are looking for, then shoot them off to the originators website of that listing for complete property information.
Once Google has these three elements close to perfect, they can then think about a mass marketing campaign through, yes you guessed it, the most powerful online marketing tool on the planet – the Google Search Engine!
The two big differences Google has that others who have failed before them do not – is time and money!
Google’s mantra is to “Don’t be Evil”. Think about this, who are they going to upset with a successful assault on the property market? In the USA MLS providers? Come one, hardly anyone thinks they serve any purpose other than hanging on to a business model that expired in the early 90’s. Fee based real estate portals? Just about every real estate agent in the world rates their fee based real estate portal only slightly north of Saddam Hussein.
The free listing portals may need to adjust their business models, but specialized search engines like www.estately.com would probably welcome the success of Google!
All in all a Google success would mean current successful businesses will have to adjust their business models, evolve into new offerings, improve their practices and innovate – after all, isn’t that what capitalism is all about?
Everyone is in a rush to judge Google on their immediate impact. Real estate is just another business Google is involved in and they will take their time before marketing the product globally. Just don’t expect any of the incumbents real estate portals (many owned by news organisations) to rush out with a headlines promoting their competition, like ‘Google having an impact, revenue and visitor numbers plunge for xxxx.com’ )
The incumbents will always find a light for their own real estate businesses whilst shedding darkness on their competitors. This is the toughest thing for Google in real estate – getting the free headlines they attract in different markets (search, telephony, Internet). With property they are playing against many of the largest media companies in each country, which means fewer free promotions for their real estate services!
Google is a publicly traded company, it is a profit machine and there is no bigger game globally online for revenue than real estate. To be the number one real estate destination worldwide for property listings would be worth anywhere from $3 – 5 billion in additional revenues for Google, they just don’t realize it yet.
This is not to say Google needs to improve what they are doing and needs to form new partnerships to do this – it does! One area they can improve upon is rewarding individual agents for feeding their listings directly to Google by giving them the referral . At the moment it seems a bit of a lottery as to who gets the referral when a user clicks on a listing to see the full information. It should go to the originator of that listing – the person who signed the vendor. Not some portal or directory. This should not be that difficult!
Google also needs to acquire a few tools in the long run. I do believe Google will acquire a listing system/engine and offer it for free for agents and web developers/portals to hook into. In full disclosure, this is the very business I operate (www.zooproperty.com). However the reason I think they need to do this is because it gives them some control over the cycle of a property from listing to sales/rentals to sales/rental history, it also allows for them to know who the listing originates from.
If Google launched an open system that allowed agents to manage their listings and then distribute them across a variety of platforms they would get 90% of independent agents on board within a year. Every single portal in the world would join up to get feeds from that system and web developers globally would rejoice in finally having a system they can play with. Google will also be able to integrate Google Adwords, Adsense and other tools directly to developers and agents.
Also, never underestimate the power of the open web developer, one only has to think of the success of the Firefox browser to showcase how powerful the common web developer has become. If you build something that helps the web developer, the marketing power of that alone is enough to propel a product into the spotlight.
If Google take their time and work with agents, developers, portals and listing systems they will have an impact, it will come down to how much they control as to their next move, however once they start seeing the revenues flow in you can be sure Google will expand their presence.
If you are a real estate agent, you need to get all of your listings to Google, talk to your web developer, for them to build this into their system (if they already haven’t) should only take a few days.
You need to do this anyway, invest the time and you will be rewarded.
Note: A Version of this article first appeared on Global Edge UK.