By Jody O'Donnell, SEO Manager
Google recently announced that they will drop the Real Estate Feature in Google Maps. The rationale is cited in a recent Google blog post:
"In part due to low usage, the proliferation of excellent property-search tools on real estate websites, and the infrastructure challenge posed by the impending retirement of the Google Base API, we've decided to discontinue the real estate feature within Google Maps on February 10, 2011."
To put this into context, here is some background information on this feature. In July 2009, Google announced plans to integrate the Google Base API with special filters in Google Maps that would make this feature available. A query for homes or apartments in a particular city yielded a filter form at the top of the Maps results page very similar to search forms on real estate listing sites. Although not as robust as a listing site, the form gave users a good starting point in the process of finding an apartment or home, filtering results based on rent, features, amenities and specific types of property searches (For Rent, For Sale or Foreclosures).
Google gathered this data through the Google Base API, which allows users (realtors, in this case) to upload their entire product data to show up in search results. The retirement of the Google Base API announced in December of 2010 came with the announcement of some additional "shopping APIs" like Google Product Search, Product Ads, Google Affiliate Network, Google Commerce Search, and shopping rich snippets. (Eventually, these new APIs will replace the product upload section of the Google Base API).
The full effect of this change on Multifamily Housing communities won't be completely appreciated until February 10. However, G5 doesn't believe this will do much to impact rank or the Google Places account. The only effects of this move are that real estate companies will not be able to upload their data through the Google Base API, and Google Maps displays of real estate listings will be different. Unless Google decides to keep this industry outside of normal search, Multifamily Housing listings will probably look similar to other Google Maps listings.
Net, this is not a large move by Google to disrupt the Real Estate marketplace, and Google is still offering real estate tips through their site.
Google has expressed an interest in the real estate search vertical in the past, and we’re not sure that the abandonment of this feature means it’s abandoned forever; a more robust version could emerge down the road. According to PaidContent.org, Google was so interested in real estate search in the past that it reportedly considered purchasing real estate search engine Trulia. Google’s blog states, “We recognize that there might be better, more effective ways to help people find local real estate information than the current feature makes possible. We’ll continue to explore this area.”