Real Estate Guidelines
The purpose of these guidelines is to assist in the editing of real estate categories:
- to increase awareness among editors of the aggressive strategies used by some real estate professionals to obtain multiple listings which violate ODP Guidelines
- to assist editors in properly placing a real estate site
- to assist editors in adopting a consistent practice for titling real estate sites
- to advise editors on writing accurate and objective site annotations that will be relevant to end-users
Real Estate categories are often targets for inappropriate submissions. Many agents will attempt to have their site listed multiple times, particularly in each city where they operate. As described below, the convention is to list agent/agency sites only once in the Directory.
Many agents/agencies will submit the same site with multiple URLs in an attempt to optimize site traffic (i.e. exact mirrors). Or, they will create multiple sites with essentially the same content, which may differ only in the addition of generic content that can be found on numerous other real estate sites (i.e. virtual mirrors). In both cases, editors should only list the primary site for any agent/agency, and only then if the content is sufficiently unique to satisfy the criteria for listing according to ODP Guidelines. Remember, no site is guaranteed a listing in the Open Directory.
It is not always obvious whether a real estate site has enough unique and potentially useful content to justify a listing. Some sites contain no unique content other than an agent's name and/or contact information; such a site does not qualify for listing in the directory. Other sites are harder to assess. A few questions to ask when reviewing real estate sites are:
- Is there any information about the agent on the site?
This could mean the agent's specialities, professional history, biography, and affiliations that may be of interest to individuals with similar backgrounds and interests looking for real estate services in a specific locale.
- Does the agent offer information specific to the services offered?
e.g. This would include areas of specialty such as commercial properties, HUD homes, waterfront property, vacant land, or horse farms. It could also include client specialties such as military families or seniors.
- Does the site offer individual information on current and/or past listings?
If the agent is identified as a "buyer's" agent, it is not reasonable to expect to find listings. Instead, things to look for would be the agent's record of past successes or testimonials from previous customers.
- Does the site provide information on the community, its schools, or other topics? Check to make sure this information is not found on other sites in the category. (i.e. not template information that is identical on two or more sites in the category)
If the site is listable you will answer yes to at least two of the above questions, or you will find exceptional content in at least one of these areas. Indications that a site probably should not be listed because it lacks unique content include:
- No listings of properties for sale or sold.
- An "About" page that is a "catch all" template with no personal information.
- Website pulls all information from external links.
- There is not enough information on the web site to use to write a description.
Deeplinks: Generally speaking, deeplinks into real estate sites should not be listed. However, in some very rare instances an agent or agency site may have a page that offers unrelated, useful content (i.e. their church, Boy Scout troop, or a page devoted to a favorite artist) that does not link back to the main page. In these cases and if there is no other site with the same content, it is okay to deeplink the site but this should be the exception to the rule.
Local real estate agents and agency sites should be listed once in the directory, if they meet the directory's general listing criteria. Generally, a site will be placed in the locality in which the office is located. Editors should make exceptions where it makes sense. Nonetheless, editors should list an agent or agency site only once in a real estate category in the Regional branch.
- A real estate agency has multiple offices - the site is listed in the metro area/region/state level category per the Regional Guidelines.
- An agent, with an office in Mudville, is an on-site agent for a new home community in Sunnydale - the agent could be listed in Sunnydale.
- An agent's office address is in Anytown but, after reviewing listings and content of the site, it is obvious the agent works from home in Anytown Beach and sells only on Anytown Beach - the agent could be listed in Anytown Beach instead of Anytown.
When adding a real estate agency, the title to use is the company's name.
- Prudential Frank Smith Real Estate
- The Jane Doe Agency
When adding an agent site the title needs to be in the form, Agent Name - Company Name. In the event the submission is for a team, use both names in the order presented on the site:
- Jane Doe - Century 21 Leading Edge
- John Doe and Dan Smith - Exit Realty
- Louise Jones - RE/MAX Beachside
The rationale for this title guideline is to help prevent multiple listings. If all editors are listing real estate sites with proper titles and in the correct locality, it should be apparent simply by looking at the contents of the locality's category or by searching for the agent's name if the agent is already listed. If a mirror site is found for a listed agent, an editor note should be placed on both the listed site and the mirror site indicating what the alternate URLs are. This allows other editors to also recognize that the site is a mirror.
More assistance on spotting mirror sites can be found in the September 2001 newsletter article, "Spotting Mirrors, Affiliates, and Similar Sites".
Descriptions for real estate sites, just like all other sites in the directory, should give specific information about the content and/or subject matter of the site. They should be informative and concise, usually no longer than one or two lines. The basic formula for a good description is Description = Subject + Content. Real estate sites should be described objectively, without hype or keyword stuffing, as outlined by the guidelines.
ODP Guidelines for descriptions aim to avoid excessive keyword repetition and other superfluous information. In many cases, however, sites will be submitted with a long list of locality names. Please note, simply using a list of towns covered is equivalent to a string of keywords; not a description. Since most agents specialize in their own town, adding 'specializes in Town A, Town B, and Town C' is unnecessary. If, while reviewing a site's content (listings, past listings, or community information), an editor determines that an agent focuses almost exclusively on a given neighborhood, development, or neighboring town, then that may be noted in the description.
When subcategories are needed, standard subcategory names found in the Regional Template should be adopted.