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Fidelity pulls real estate Web sites out of the dark

September 16, 2004

New service helps agents, brokerages rank higher in search engines

By Jessica Swesey
Inman News

As further proof that search engines have become real estate hotspots, Fidelity's FNIS Real Estate division now offers realty agents and brokerages a service to help increase their Web sites' ranking in keyword search results.

The service, eSearch Solutions, automates the process of submitting a Web site to 15 major search engines, including Yahoo!, MSN, Google, AOL and AskJeeves. Fidelity also submits the site to 8,500 additional search engines and special interest directories.

The technique of keeping a Web site high in search engine's results rankings is known as search engine optimization. This, along with paid search, or pay-per-click advertising has attracted a lot of buzz in real estate as more home buyers and sellers begin their home searches online. Search engine portals have been cited as one of the top places consumers go when they log on to the Internet.

"If you're not optimized correctly, it can make it difficult or impossible for the search engines to index you," said Todd Wickham, managing director of FNIS Real Estate.

ESearch Solutions, which launched in May, uses a proprietary technology to maintain a Web site's optimization. The service continually resubmits the Web site to search engines to keep it relevant, sometimes up to 500,000 times per month, depending on the individual client's needs.

FNIS currently offers four different packages of the eSearch service, with the number of monthly submissions ranging from 95,000 to half a million. Prices range from $600 to $2,495 for the initial setup fee, and $59.95 to $149.95 for the monthly submission fee. Each package is designed to put a Web site in the top 10, 20 or 30 ranking positions on major search engines, and are available for individual agents and large companies.

Wickham said the submission program is "aggressive," but the company is careful not to over-submit because the search engines will consider it spam and possibly kick out the Web site for a specified time.

"Search engines continually shuffle the Web sites, so if you're not continually submitting you'll eventually be dropped off," he said.

In addition to the constant submission, the service provides continual research of changes in search engine submission requirements. It also tracks how other real estate companies and competitors are placed in the search engines.

ESearch determines which real estate-related keywords are most relevant to the client's products or services and which ones consumers use most frequently in their real estate searches. The service also performs integrated metatag optimization, including keywords content, to ensure all meta-code of the submitted Web page conforms to current search engine standards.

"The real estate industry is kind of unique because the (ranking) results are fairly easy to obtain," Wickham said. Some of the broader terms like "jewelry" for instance, are much more difficult to obtain. But with real estate, the local nature of a consumer's search makes it easier to target results.

The FNIS Real Estate Division also offers a Web site product for real estate professionals. The eSearch service can be purchased independently or as an add-on to that product, Wickham said.

FNIS Real Estate is a subsidiary of Fidelity National Financial.

Copyright 2004 Inman News



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