Links, URLs, Websites and YOU: Best practices for including URLs in your listings so they appear correctly in feeds.
July 27, 2020
While we collectively continue to navigate the changing landscape of state, county, and city rules, we are also all learning the best practices for using the various links to websites (called Universal Resource Locators, or simply URLs) which have gone from being generally important to completely critical.
Let’s look at what works and what doesn’t:
First, we should review what can go into the Public Remarks (also called Marketing Remarks) of your listings. On June 17, we published an update regarding the MLS Rules where we asked SFARMLS members to suspend the behavior of including URLs in the Public Remarks field of their listings. We determined that most of the largest syndication portals (Zillow, et. al.) and brokerage listing websites (Redfin, et. Al.) had mechanisms in place to remove content that contained any type of links or complex HTML. It benefits everyone involved if we continue to restrict the inclusion of any type of links in Public Remarks. You can however still use appropriate links in the Private Remarks (also called Agent-Only Remarks) with no ill effects.
Second, we have worked with our largest partners to verify that they are receiving and using Open House + Virtual (type) mappings with their systems. Where possible, we have tried to accurately verify what fields from the Virtual Media section of listings in the MLS are transmitted and displayed too. With all of that said – on to URLs!
Virtual Media Links (URLs)
Virtual Media links should contain URLs to recorded tours, single property websites, or 3-D showcases (but NOT Live Streams which should be put into Open House + Virtual).
The various types of virtual media you can assign to your listing in the MLS have specific functions. You should avoid reusing the same URLs in multiple fields with the goal of hoping that something gets through – this temporary emergency practice will trip up some systems that take data. Importantly, consumers who want to attend a true live stream open house shouldn’t be provided a link to a pre-recorded virtual tour.
Virtual Tour - This is the well-understood default case for virtual tours. Usually this is a “branded” style of a pre-recorded virtual tour that you provide so that anybody can watch the video on demand. This is often a branded link, meaning aggregator sites (like Zillow) would show it, but brokerage-operated sites (like Redfin) would NOT. A brokerage site will often prefer to use Unbranded Tour instead.
Unbranded Tour - Exactly like the Virtual Tour above, but, importantly, an unbranded tour does not contain ANY broker or agent/team branding either as logos at the beginning, signage during, or in a final frame. You would create this so that cross-brokerage data sharing (IDX) can still show your Virtual Tour without being concerned about mismatched branding between the site and the tour content.
Property Website - Only use this for adding a single property website with a dedicated vanity URL. You would insert the vanity URL that points exclusively to your subject listing in this field and nothing else.
Voiceover - There are many reasons you may have audio-only content about your listing. It is useful to the visually impaired, or you might link to a podcast episode where you talk about this listing.
Video - Any link to pre-recorded video content which is NOT a Virtual Tour can be put here. Perhaps you have a video about the area around the subject listing that conveys a feel for what it’s like to live there, or a video highlighting why moving to this area is a good idea.
3D Showcase - There are several excellent 3D/VR representations of listings available today. You might use Matterport and would like to include the user-driven, interactive, exploration of your listing from that product. Many of the largest listing data websites will look for recognized 3D/VR vendor URLs and will display them differently to indicate that it is available.
Zillow will completely drop your carefully crafted public remarks if their algorithm detects unwanted content. This means that the inclusion of URLs (or any other HTML code) in your Public Remarks will trigger this type of content block. The listing is then given boiler plate text by Zillow so that their UI does not look broken.
Avoid using URLs in Public Remarks to stop this from happening (there is no effect of links in Private Remarks, which we’ve confirmed Zillow does not parse or use). We are engaged with Zillow on entirely stopping the practice of text replacement, or injection, for any reason.
Do Not Post In-Person Open Houses in the SFARMLS
Open Houses, except virtual, are not permitted by the City and County of San Franciso. If you are posting an Open House in the SFARMLS and you select "in-person", it will be flagged and removed. Additionally it will not be syndicated to any of the consumer or broker websites, like Zillow and Trulia.
Can I put a URL to Virtual Tour in Public Remarks?
No (use Virtual Media). If your tour media is ‘branded’ you should use the first option “Virtual Tour” and if your tour media contains no branding whatsoever then you should use the second option “Unbranded Tour”.
Can I put a URL to Virtual Open in Public Remarks
No (use Open House + Virtual) What happens if I accidentally do it incorrectly?
We will be sending courtesy and Compliance emails regarding the original rule and will not be processing violations (but will be assisting with corrections). We will make sure we start highlighting this regularly on our various communication channels (this one for example).