Taking data and scraping away your content by New Start Up concepts…

I recently got asked regarding the emergence of the many new online concepts within the industry and what I thought regarding their business models. I did have a chat regarding GetAgent that I saw had not too good press recently following issues from some agents that the content they have isn’t their right to take and use. Some of my thoughts below…

I see that with the internet and most recently, social media, we have opened up a whole new way to build not only a brand, but a business too and this I say with confidence having done this myself with two established brands online thanks to the power of social media and building target audiences. This is the key really, your target audience and building content and how you use both to build a business. Let me explain:

Firstly, these online concepts are after sign ups initially and this they can do by simply marketing by themselves, ie Google Ads, networking at events, social media, partnership deals, blogging etc. They can also purchase in databases and email out to them hoping to attract interest and sign ups that way. Another way is to take the data already available on the internet and pull it all in under your brand to give out the impression that you are already established in order to achieve industry recognition or indeed start to make sales. With the abundance of content online, we’d only need to spend a short time to start accumulating strong content if we are a start up, ie if you are looking to list every estate agency in the UK and start ranking them against each other, then most will have their content online ie logos, addresses, web domains and you can also gain their results if you needed to ie sales / lettings. If you list 10,000+ estate agents and you’ve a basic software in place to rank them in order of activity to specific areas, then to a degree, your main job is really done – You have an established ‘Estate Agency Ranking Website’ – All you need to do now is action the business model you have in place to generate income (though some brands are after simply the content and building big web traffic numbers as this in itself has value).

I understand the GetAgent concept and if as they say they are, the content they are using is just basic data that is already out there and they are providing leads (new leads that the agent would not have achieved themselves) then I would have thought that is a good thing. I suppose it is just like someone putting together a site specifically for Estate Agency News portals and comparing how they rank and the content they share (ideally this has to be accurate or I can see complaints coming in) and if the rankings are justified and on top of that they can provide new sales leads / new subscriptions, then that is a good thing in my mind.

Yes, sites are launching that simply gather data from the internet to build their name / concept initially and that can be annoying to some who’ve they have taken the data from, I can clearly understand that, as it is in truth your intellectual rights that are being used. For sure I would think that the likes of property listings can not be simply taken and used, ie from Rightmove/Zoopla, as this would fall in to copyright infringement and could lead in to legal disputes. I know, from past experiences already, that it isn’t your right to use ‘any image’ you find on Google or a company’s website (even their logo) without permission, neither a blog, infographic, stats, survey results etc (I have had to chase one or two people up, in a friendly way of course, to credit me for photos they have used from my other websites previously).

I wouldn’t think it is even the best practice to rely on simply a message on your website saying the likes of ‘if you find content on our website and want us to remove it then just call or email‘ as many would say their code of practice is in the reverse and they should be asking before taking

So, with many new ideas popping up in the world of PropTech, do we need to be putting into place copyright notices on our websites / property listings to scare off those who will simply ‘scrape the data’? I have seen blogs on my site here contained within other platforms that shares property industry news which has not bothered me in the past as they are both helping to increase readership of the blogs they are sharing which benefits our writers and they are increasing awareness of our brand too (they correctly reference origination of content and link back too). Yes, our content may not be actually on their website and merely sat within an i-frame, but nonetheless, the content is sat on their domain name so to the average person, it looks like the content is on their site and it helps to build their brand too. As I say, not an issue for me, if our content is seen to be good enough to be featured elsewhere, then that is great and I would position it similar to someone sharing a Tweet of ours on Twitter or using one of our URL’s and sharing a news story on their Facebook page.

We must of course be careful that those using our data use it wisely and they are part of a business doing good over likely to be a start up that fails or brings a bad name to the industry.

Overall thought is that we place content on the internet these days to be seen with the hope that our next new clients will stumble past it and make a new connection with us. For the sites that use our data wisely and with respect to both promote what we do and help to generate new business and leads that we would otherwise not have achieved ourselves, then I see that as OK (from a non estate agent view that is). We all know that another new property portal idea with spring up again soon and it may well start to scrape data in order to build it’s web presence, but will that annoy you if they become a raging success and throw an increasing amount of quality leads to your agency at a greatly reduced fee compared to what you currently are paying?

Christopher Walkey

Founder of Estate Agent Networking. Internationally invited speaker on how to build online target audiences using Social Media. Writes about UK property prices, housing, politics and affordable homes.

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