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Comparing Trulia, Zillow & REALTOR.com to IDX/Broker Reciprocity Audience

While the syndicators have a lot of web traffic at a national level, their traffic locally is much smaller. Up until this point however, there has been no way to track all the properties viewed by consumers on the 1000′s of local Broker Reciprocity websites and compare that to these behemoth syndicators.

Through Broker Reciprocity (many know it as IDX), many MLSs have hundreds or thousands of member websites that display property listings. This represents a huge amount of exposure for member’s listings that are currently not tracked at an MLS level.

If MLS rules were changed to require a small tracking image or code to be included on every property detail page viewed on these sites, the MLS could provide statistics to listing agents on their listing’s total exposure across all member sites as well as provide aggregate usage data to all members.  The MLS would ensure that listing and broker-specific data is not shared with competitors, only composite data.

Creating this tracking would accomplish the following:

  • For the first time ever, we’d be able to quantify the full value of our BR/IDX distribution channel in terms of “readership” or “reach” – something most advertising/promotion/distribution systems have at the core of their business and ZTR tout regularly.
  • Provide agents the opportunity show their clients the true viewership of their listing on the Internet
  • Demonstrate the value and reach of the MLS BR/IDX system to its members
  • Demonstrate to the public the marketing power that the MLS system provides and thus promote listing homes with MLS members
  • Provide agents and brokers with objective data to help them better determine the cost vs. value of syndicating their listing with Zillow, Trulia and REALTOR.com

This would require some infrastructure to be created at the MLS level as well as small changes to the IDX websites however the technical requirements for this on both the MLS and member websites are not monumental.


Had a few more thoughts on this since this morning.  First off, how would this be implemented?

An image (like say the BR logo or a 1×1 blank image) is loaded from the MLS server and is requested via a unique URL:  http://img.mls.org/{brokerid}/{mls#}/br.jpg

  • The MLS would simply count the hits for each image
  • The URL itself is a dynamic virtual URL so it wouldn’t need 1000’s of folders and images
  • The Broker ID would not be necessary but could see value in that and/or a website ID # could provide for more tracking info
  • It could work on smartphone apps too!  I think that is critical for the future.
  • Costs the MLS bandwidth and a dedicated server (or two) for high reliability/system independence

My guess is that a typical MLS could do this for $20k – $40k for 1st year, $10k-$20k additional years.  This could be much higher than actual – the devil is in the details of what is tracked, how it is served, how it is saved, and how it is displayed.  If anyone on that side of the industry has some professional opinion on price I’d love to hear it.

Ideally the system would be done @ the MLS search vendor level (i.e. Tarasoft) as it would integrate better into the MLS system for stats (which some providers give MLS system viewing stats already) and mean only programming it once for myriad MLSs.  It would also dramatically reduce the hardware required for such a system as redundancy would be easier.

I think agents would love it and I think the small brokers would too.  Big brokers may not be as big of a fan but few brokers have more than 10% of the marketplace so I think most of them will be supportive if they understand the big picture.  Plus, competitor data would not be available to the rest of the members so a broker’s traffic is still proprietary.

I think a ton of brokers and agents would love to find a way to cut the cord of ZTR… but maybe ZTR is actually a bigger share of total viewers than we think????  If that’s the case, it may actually buoy the value of syndication with ZTR.  Either way, everyone would be looking at real numbers so they can make an informed decision.  Transparency rocks.

Michael Wurzer, @mwurzer, pointed me to FlexMLS’s blog post from 2010 where they implemented much of this idea.  Sounds like the uptake from IDX sites and vendors has been low because it was opt-in.  Making it an MLS rule would ensure 100% compliance.

Rob Hahn, @robhahn, commented that the rest of the syndication channels should report stats too to make it a fair comparison.  I’m cool with that.  Listing brokers should already be able to get that data on anything they syndicate directly from the syndicator, but integrating it into the MLS reporting would make it the go-to source for all listing exposure stats.


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The important thing is do it ONCE and get it adopted  by Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com, other portals, syndication sites, etc. Not on a vendor by vendor basis. Council of MLS is exploring this as part of the SourceMLS initiative.


 @MatthewCohen Interesting. Where can I find more information about the SourceMLS initiative?


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This website is a service of Aaron Dickinson of Edina Realty, a broker Participant of the Regional Multiple Listing Service of Minnesota, Inc.