Google has just released 2 new products that will have an impact on real estate agents.
1. Google Sidewiki
In a previous post, Real Estate Agents Your Customers Are Checking You Out Online, I mentioned how customer reviews could have an impact on real estate agencies & could affect which real estate agent a customer may decide to employ.
In that post, I was concerned about customer reviews appearing right beside a Google Search for real estate agents.
But now with Google’s Sidewiki, customer reviews can now appear right next to your company website?
In an announcement from the Official Google Blog: Sidewiki “allows you to contribute helpful information next to any webpage. Google Sidewiki appears as a browser sidebar, where you can read and write entries along the side of the page.
In developing Sidewiki, we wanted to make sure that you’ll see the most relevant entries first. We worked hard from the beginning to figure out which ones should appear on top and how to best order them. So instead of displaying the most recent entries first, we rank Sidewiki entries using an algorithm that promotes the most useful, high-quality entries.”
Michael Arrington of TechChrunch explains that “Other users can read and vote comments up or down. All those votes will create a user ranking for each individual that will determine where their comments fall on the Sidewiki. The higher the ranking, the higher comments appear. The goal, Google says, is to help move better content up and move spammy stuff to the bottom where it won’t be seen. Website owners who have claimed their sites always have the right to the first comment on any URL they control.”
At this point the comments or customer reviews are only visible to other users of Google Sidewiki. Users can post a comment, but can’t edit the comments of others.
Almost every real estate company relies on their reputation & their ability to promote their websites & their listings via a one way conversation across the web, but now Google’s Sidewiki allows public commenting on your site & your listings whether you like it or not.
The scary part about Google Sidewiki is that most agents won’t even know that they have to download the Google Sidewiki to see the comments being made on their own website.
You can find the Google Sidewiki download link here.
2. Google’s Place Pages
Google has announced another new product :- Place Pages on Google Maps
Google are adding information on businesses, restaurants, points of interest, neighbourhoods, and yes that’s right, customer reviews on separate web pages within Google Maps.
Google said “We want there to be a Place Page for every place in the world, but we might be missing a few places here and there. If you’re a business owner, you can add or update your business details through the Local Business Centre. This allows you to make sure your Place Page reflects the most accurate, authoritative and recent information about your business. And if you don’t have a business, but you discover a place that doesn’t have a Place Page, you can add it through community edits or Google Map Maker, depending on the country you’re in.”
Agents should go into the Local Business Centre and check to see what information currently appears about your business on Google & Google Maps.
If your real estate agency doesn’t appear within Google’s Local Business Centre, make sure you create a business listing so customers can find your agency on Google.
You can add up to 5 different categories eg. Real Estate Agents, Real Estate Agency, Real Estate Consultant, Property Management Company, etc. to help people find you on Google.
You can also customise how your business is listed on both Google & Google Maps.
As Ben Parr from Mashable mentions, “Place Pages have their own separate, potentially indexable web pages. Unlike before, this information could appear as their own search results. With Google Maps already at the top of most location-based searches.”
It’s important to understand that reviews simply won’t be going away, so it’s best to embrace them & use the Free tools like Google’s Local Business Centre to help people find you easier.
Major concern for real estate agents & sellers.
With Google saying that they want to create a “Place Page for every place in the world”, it’s highly likely that your listings will end up appearing with their own Place Page as well.
This will mean that reviews will eventually end up sitting on the Place Page for one of your listings and/or the reviews could appear next to your listings in Google’s Sidewiki.
Imagine if a buyer criticised the property, or deliberately posted negative comments in an attempt to deter other buyers from buying the property.
Or what if they mentioned that they’d put in an offer that was rejected prior to auction & the pricing scared a potential buyer away? It would become an issue for both sellers & agents.
What can an agency do to protect their reputation?
Managing your online reputation is going to be an ongoing process & in an upcoming post I’ll be sharing a number of ways that real estate agents can manage their online reputation effectively.