Marking on the Web: Google's New Online Classifieds

Reach out to young, tech-savvy consumers by using online classified Web sites to promote your listings.

April 1, 2006

If your listings are posted in the MLS, at REALTOR.com, and on your company and personal Web site, you probably figure you have the online marketing universe covered. Right?

Not quite. There are a number of national online classified Web sites — both free and fee-based — on which you can post information about your listings to reach prospective buyers who are young and tech-savvy. The fee-based sites include Yahoo! Classifieds, sell.com, and eBay.

In the gratis realm there’s the ever-popular craigslist, and lesser known DomesticSale.com and Oodle.com Plus, now there’s Google Base, which is in beta testing.

What Is Google Base?

Although Google Base is operated by Google, it’s different and distinct from the well-known search engine. Search engines “crawl” the Web, indexing every page they find. Then these indexes are searched every time you enter keywords into the search engine front end. The search engine produces a list of Web pages that match the keywords you entered.

Google Base, on the other hand, relies on consumers to create the indexes. Consumers (and real estate professionals like you) can post ads to the site’s index along with “labels” (keywords) and “attributes” (descriptions). So when someone searches on Google Base, the site simply matches the search keywords against the consumer-entered index of ads and returns the results.

How to Use Google Base

To see how the site works, let’s enter the search terms “Chicago real estate.” You’ll see a page that looks similar to this:

The first item matched the search criteria exactly. The right side of the page is typically where paid advertising is located. If you buy “AdWords” for your business today, you know that your items show up on the right side on the Google search engine. In Google Base, the right side of the screen is replaced with the ability to change the order of the search results. By default, the result list is sorted by “relevance” and options let you change the order to “most recent” or “oldest.”

Now let's look at how you can post your own items into Google Base. If you have a listing you would like to advertise, click on the yellow-highlighted link that says “Post your own item” on the home page. If you already have an account, you’ll be prompted for it. If not, you can register on the site for a free account.

Entering a new item is a simple three-step process:

1. Decide what category best describes your item. Although you can create your own categories, it’s better to use an existing category. Currently, there’s a “Housing” category. If you select that, you’ll get a form in which you can input the price, property type, number of bedrooms, and a detailed description of the listing.

2. Upload up to 10 photos to display with your listing (only .gif, .jpg, .png, or .tif formats are currently accepted) or you can link to a photo on another Web site. Your listing will be hosted on Google Base for 31 days. The image below is an example of the page you’ll see when you enter descriptive information.

3. Publish your new item. The item will appear on consumers’ Google Base searches and will have its own URL. Since the site is currently in beta testing, it’s uncertain if this service will catch on as widely as the Google search engine. But given the strength of its search engine and its name recognition, Google will undoubtedly will give Google Base a leg up from the get-go over other online classified sites.

Google Base isn’t a substitute for your Web site or other avenues of drawing attention to your listings, such as REALTOR.com. Along with these venues, print advertising, and other traditional ways to get the word out about your listings, online classified sites provide you with the opportunity to expand your marketing reach to more prospective buyers — at no cost to you — which ultimately will help you find a buyer faster.

Mark Lesswing is chief technology officer for the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

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