Blog Post

Why Google Is a Fair-Weather Friend

Real Estate Top 10

If you’re a startup that’s building its business using Google’s (s goog) services, be warned, because the Mountain View, Calif.-based search giant is a fair-weather friend. Take real estate listings companies like Trulia and RedFin, which both use Google Maps as part of their offerings. They got a rude awakening today, thanks to moves being made by Google’s Sydney office. Google’s Australian arm is looking to get into the classified real estate business via a new tool that uses Google Maps and connects buyers and renters to available properties.

The service is launching with listings provided by the Real Estate Institute of Western Australia and, the free property listing service owned by Michael Hannan’s Independent Print Media Group.

Google is planning to roll out has had a similar service in the U.S. as well. And when that happens, the company will be competing with Craigslist, RedFin and countless other real estate listings providers, including those provided by newspapers for over a year, the UI of which is being updated today. Search Engine Land’s Matt McGee correctly points out that Google’s service is pretty rudimentary compared to the in-depth information provided by pure-play real estate services.

What remains to be seen is how the real estate industry will react. One of Australia’s leading real estate advertising publishers has decided against giving its listings to Google. Closer to home, the National Association of Realtors recently made its feelings clear when it called Google a “scraper” site and supported a local board’s decision to stop allowing some MLS listings to be crawled by search engines.

Whatever the outcome, it makes perfect sense that Google is taking this route; numerous real estate listings services already use Google’s mapping service and the company needs to find new ways to make money in order to keep its revenue stream growing. If it doesn’t, the company faces the prospect of its stock going south. And Google can’t afford to have its stock sink because it needs that currency to keep its offices stocked with smart engineers.

And if that means competing with its friends, its attitude is — just ask Mozilla — so be it. Big companies often encroach on the territory of their partners and today’s news shows Google is no different.

7 Responses to “Why Google Is a Fair-Weather Friend”

  1. Just because several real estate listings services use Google Maps for free, it doesn’t make them Google’s friends. If anything, it makes them Google’s moochers.

    I have long been pissed off with sites like MLS that give listings without addresses. Why do realtors think they “own” a listing? For any other product someone tries to sell, advertising is good – free advertising is even better! Realtors’ role must be to arrange viewings and help negotiate contracts, not too keep a veil of secrecy over inventory – therefore hurting the sellers they’re supposed to represent. The house market bubble has given them a free ride for too long, and the illusion that they somehow have a monopoly right over information. I hope that Google’s offering changes that. If I were a seller, I would list my house with Google myself. And if my realtor protested, I’d fire him!

  2. We like Google for everyday searches, just like the next guy! Here at, we live and breathe real estate for the web everyday and think our laser focus is apparent to consumers who use our real estate search engine. So while Google explores this market, we know that homebuyers are best served by a search that provides access to truly current MLS data like ours — it’s the only way to know you’ve got the most comprehensive and accurate information (providing the best shot at locating your proverbial “dream home”). Saving time is also key, underscoring the importance of having everything you need in one place (photos, contact information, comps, mortgage calculator, zestimates, etc.) contained in a clean design that has only the real estate customer in mind. We also think it’s a burden to be continually asked to conduct a sign-up process when you’d like more information on particular homes. It’s all in the details….

    Derek Overbey
    Sr. Director of Marketing & Social Media

  3. was thinking about this trend for a while now. couple of posts.

    also note that the grew by highlighting the small/niche sites. after the growth however, they are now dumped and the AP/Reuters comes up on the site. if you are a small publisher, may be you should be glad that you got your traffic spike from google for a few days. or may be you should feel like a used prophylactic.

    * google is smarter than you. shut up and hold your questions.
    * if it’s good for google, it’s good for you. shut up and buy the stock.
    * google has the right over your content. if in doubt, shut up and count your traffic.
    * everything on the web should be free, except AdWords. shut up and enjoy the free youtube videos of jodha akbar.
    * if you monetize it, we’ll make the same thing, and give it away for free. gee that sounds familiar.

    Google, as the leader in the web world, has the responsibility to set the agenda for the industry that allows the whole ecosystem to grow and be healthy. what it (inadvertantly, in my opinion) is doing is to sucking the oxygen out of the ecosystem (channeling it into adwords) by not allowing alternative monetization models to succeed.

  4. I’m sure somewhere in Google is a list of search types that are sortable by popularity and revenue per search. Google has already jumped on common searches like weather (search for “weather 98116”), stocks (search for “goog”), local (search for “seattle thai”), and more. They are dabbling in lots of areas (Google profiles for people search for example) and it’s not surprising that they’d hit real estate, where lots of money changes hands online.

    From a shareholder value perspective, it makes sense for Google to grab the top slot like this for lucrative search types. Assuming the stuff they put above the search results are marginally good, they’ll get the clicks– it doesn’t matter if Zillow, etc., have better content.

    I imagine the only thing that’s stopping google from placing a Google property above search results for all of the most lucrative search types is time, desire, and anti-trust issues.