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RISMEDIA, May 13, 2009-RISMedia recently spoke with Celeste Starchild, VP sales and marketing at ListHub about the issues that matter most to real estate professionals today. Here, Starchild discusses the process of distributing listings to the Internet and how to address the problem when listings can’t be found on consumer websites.

Celeste Starchild
VP Sales and Marketing
ListHub (Threewide’s Broker Division)

“Where’s my listing” is the question I hear from agents and brokers about distributing listings to the Internet. Here’s the scenario: The agent has a listing presentation. The agent presents the prospective seller with a list of dozens of websites where their listing will be advertised. However, once the marketing begins, the seller calls the agent and says, “Where is my listing? I’m searching online and I can’t find it!”

Advertising listings on consumer websites such as Yahoo! Real Estate, Zillow, Google Base and has become an important way to reach today’s consumers. So how do we deal with the problem when the listing doesn’t show up?

First, we have to understand all the moving parts involved in listing distribution (also called “syndication”). For a listing to display correctly, several things must occur properly-and there is a responsible party for each portion of the process.

First, the source of information must be correct. This is the old “garbage in, garbage out” theory. It is the responsibility of the broker/agent to make sure that only current information is being used to advertise listings on the Internet. Listing information that is typed in by hand may be suspect as the onus is on the agent to make price changes and update the listing with any new information. Choosing an MLS-powered program for your listing distribution will ensure you are propagating current data.

Second, the technology that distributes your listings (the syndicator) must process the information correctly. The mapping of the MLS data fields must be done correctly. You can see a display of your listing inventory “on the way” to the websites. That way, you can see for yourself if the information is correct with the syndicator. If it is, then your problem is probably at the website.

Finally, processing and displaying the listing is the responsibility of the website. Each property search site has criteria by which they “pick up” listings from companies such as Threewide and process that data for display. The rules for each site are different, but it is often during this process that listings are “dropped” from display. Dropping often occurs when the site is unable to plot the listing on a map. This happens when listings are missing the house number or some other required information for mapping.

Most of the real estate sites we work with continue to develop and refine the process by which they pick up, process, and display listing information, so the future should bring improvements.

At ListHub, we have already taken steps toward making the system more transparent to brokers and agents. ListHub is integrating what we call “error data” and links to your listings into the reports that we deliver to you. Some of the most progressive Internet marketing sites have already started to work with us to submit this detailed information to ListHub customers. This makes you the first to know if there is a problem with the display of your listing. By receiving instant feedback explaining the reason for the failure, you will be back in the driver’s seat for making needed corrections, and most importantly, communicating with your sellers. That way, when you hear “Where’s my listing?”, you can rest assured that you will have a good answer.