The Deeply Dark Side of a DDF Feed
Here’s a fun topic that only Realtors in Canada will understand. Everyone else in the world just scratches their collective heads and says ‘huh?’. DDF feeds, a uniquely Canadian solution to the problem that the big real estate companies in this country truly have no idea how to market properties for their clients.
What is DDF exactly? The Coles Notes version is this:
A tool that allows participating companies to stream each others listings on to each others websites
Makes Realtors lives simple as content is dynamically created for your own website
Listings are updated at a single source and current information is shared across those partner sites ensuring accuracy
Free promo for your listings!
All of that does sound pretty sweet, but I don’t think anyone ever looked at the other side of the coin on any of these points, or more importantly, considered the consumers role in any of this.
Run a simple web search and all you will find is praise for the DDF system in blog posts and sales pitches from companies who offer to connect this service to your website for you. No one wants to tell you how it could actually be the single worst thing you do to build your online brand.
Let’s delve into the dark side a little deeper …
DDF is really just a lazy solution to years of ignoring effective marketing strategies
Ya, I said it. The real estate industry, specifically in Canada, has taken forever to wake up and realize that our marketing efforts should be focused squarely on effectively promoting property under contract, not our franchise or our faces. At some point post 2010 when large national firms began to realize that this Interweb thing was not going to go away, they scrambled to look for solutions to get their properties displayed properly on their own and agent websites. Technology was not their game, so a cut-and-paste solution like DDF just made sense. Just talk to this guy, he adds the feed and presto - you are web marketing genius. Go sell that to your Realtors without any full understanding of how it works yourself. I was at a franchise Brokerage at the time, I can still vividly remember the awkward presentation, backed by zero confidence from the Broker, of why this was the saviour we have all been waiting for.
It was a solution-in-a-box that franchise HQ said would solve all our problems. I don’t think they ever looked at what problems it would actually create.
Problem 1: Total loss of control for Realtors
Do you mind if I stick a for sale sign in your next listing beside yours? You know, a little extra promo for your Seller.
When the next phone call comes in on one of your properties, just have the admin staff forward it on to me, I can handle it from here. No?
I’m just gonna take a big old ad out this weekend promoting your hot new listing with my point of contact on it. Cool?
Mind if I hijack your SEO, and in return just give your Brokerage a little shout-out at the very bottom of the page where no one ever looks. Sound like a plan?
You would never agree to any of the above in the off-line world, but you agree to all of it in the online one with your trusty DDF feed. Your property is promoted by anyone and all property inquires go wherever consumers happen to find your property first. I can guarantee you 99% of the time it isn’t on your own website. Don’t believe me? Run a quick Google search on the address of any property you have currently listed.
Ever wonder to yourself ‘wonder why that guy is showing my listing;? Well, there you go, your Brokerage agreed to the forfeiture of marketing your listing. And I bet you didn’t even know it was happening.
All of this has created the rise of Realtors circling the wagons to promote their own individual points of contact wherever possible to avoid the chaos caused by DDF streams. Contact me directly, please don’t Google the address!!!! Please don’t, or you will never find me!!! Not promoting the property, but back to square one of promoting their faces and their own brands.
Problem 2: Total confusion and frustration for the purchasing consumer
The ease of the search for a consumer really should be the primary focus of any promotion we do, but unfortunately it just isn’t in real estate. Instead, through the magic of DDF we have opted for the route of absolute chaos.
If a consumer stumbles across your property on some online rabbit-hole of a website, how often do you think they look for the ‘Listing Brokerage’ fine print at the bottom of the page? Then go reach that Brokerage for the Realtor that has actually listed the property? Because that is what they would need to do to find you, the only actual Realtor that has stepped foot inside the home and might be able to answer some relevant questions about it.
The result of this process is simply confusion, The consumer has no clue who actually has the property for sale. The guy they call about the property lives 200 kms away and has no idea how to actually help. His whole game plan is picking up a referral from a Realtor in the town the property actually exists in. You can thank your DDF feed for adding to the public perception that we are all running some kinda racket here.
Problem 3: When did we forget about working for OUR Sellers?
I am sure your Seller will be very pleased to arrive at your Brokerage website and not be able to find their own home buried amongst the thousands of competitor and discount Brokerage listings you prominently display. The hired you to promote their home and all they can find is other company listings you are showcasing, in a narrow-minded effort to generate some Buyer leads.
This is not what they hired you to do, and they are left with no choice but to wonder why they hired you in the first place. A terrible way to promote how your company appreciates and values the client relationship. A relationship you may have worked very hard to nurture over time.
Problem 4: Bye-bye SEO and a chunk of your online reputation
DDF is often packaged up by companies who make money of selling you their DDF-ready websites as the SEO solution of the century. You now have a plug-in to all of the 15,000 listings in your province, which will make your web visitors so very pleased. But what they are actually selling you is someone else’s content and the search engines are smart enough to recognize this. Taking other people’s content and displaying it as your own can actually cost you dearly in your positioning.
With DDF you can’t actually control the output of content on your website. Garbage information goes in, garbage info goes out. The out being your website. Remember you are being sold on the fact that the content in a DDF feed is universal across the Internet because it is being pulled from a singular source? That’s great, except when that source is wrong and you are now displaying that incorrect information on your website.
Ask yourself, what percentage of listings out there do you see with incorrect information on them? Illegal apartments described as ‘income properties’, incorrect tax info, and Realtor remarks so filled with BS that it hurts you just to read it. Well that’s the kinda marketing magic that DDF populates your website with.
Don’t even get me started on cell phone pics or listings with no photos. Because all of these beauties make it to your website as well.
The Solution: Unplug and become a promotional entity for your property
Aka what you were hired to do by your Seller client and what Buyers actually want to have happen.
We have never and will never participate in DDF as a company. And the praise from both Seller and Buyer clients pour in as a result. I get countless remarks on how easy things are to find in search engines and on our website. We control our SEO, we control our company listings and we control our online reputation. In the world of web, that’s called ‘winning’.
So why do Brokerages and Realtors use DDF then? I think it is as simple as laziness and an unwillingness to change the way they do business. The solution is right in front of them, they just don’t want to take the time, or spend the money to acknowledge them.
Brokerages must become marketing firms for their properties, simple as that. Custom solutions and strategies for each individual property takes time, marketing staff and loads of cash, but it is the future - hell, it’s the present and they refuse to admit it. The big franchises haven’t even figured out how to take professional photos for all of their listings yet, so I don’t see them addressing this one anytime soon. Solution-in-a-box DDF will have to do the trick for them.
In the meantime, tech smart and more agile companies like PurpleBricks have hijacked your SEO and your leads. You can stop it - unplug and take control of your property promotion, it’s what everyone wants you to do. Smarter Brokerages are doing it and their Realtors and respective clients are winning as a result. You could be winning on the web too, you just have to resist the force of the dark side. Trust me, your business will only grow as a result.