What We Learned From Analyzing 25 Leading Portals’ Use of Data in Their Content

July 22, 2021
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It seems that no self-respecting modern-day property portal company in a mature market would be without some sort of index, report or other use of data to draw in users and generate headlines.

Earlier this month I wrote about the British property portal website OnTheMarket's imminent launch of its Property Sentiment Index which will survey the site's users to generate insights into the British property market.

This got us thinking about how real estate marketplace companies use data in their content. So instead of this month's Best (and Worst) of Portal Content column, we analysed the use of data in the content of 25 property portals from around the world.

 

What types of data do portals use to generate content?

We found that the most common type of data that property portals use to generate content is, unsurprisingly, price data which is much easier to collect, standardise, analyse and present than most other types of data.

These real estate marketplace websites are the obvious destinations for consumers to come for their informational needs around housing market prices and they naturally have an abundance of this data with which to satisfy that user intent.

Another type of data that we found to be a common basis for content among property portal companies was information around listings volumes.

In many cases, the precise number of listings is not given but used as a relative indicator to show the change over time - no need to let your rivals know how many listings you have unless you absolutely have to.

Less common, but usually very interesting is the use of behavioural data related to how the portal's users have been searching on the website.

Showing, for example, your agent customers, what your portal's users have been searching for and how this demand has changed over time is a win-win situation whereby you look like the good guy and your customers focus on the type of inventory that's most popular among your users.

The least common type of data - perhaps because portals don't just automatically collect it - is opinion data. Typically collected via a survey of users on the portal's website there are only a handful of portal companies that collect this type of data and produce regular content around it.

OnTheMarket knows this and has deliberately gone down the sentiment via survey route to differentiate itself from market competitors Rightmove and Zoopla which both use proprietary house price and listings data.

 

What formats do portals use for the content they create around their data?

There are several different formats that portal companies use to display the content they make with their data depending on their resources and goals for that content.

The classic format is the easily shareable blog report which makes use of the almost ubiquitous property portal blog section to convey the findings from the data. Australia’s REA Group has the best example of a well-constructed blog post around its data with just the right amount of expert commentary.

Often these blog posts are accompanied by a downloadable PDF document that goes into more detail. The PDF adds a certain level of legitimacy - journalists are much more likely to want to cover the release of a report than the release of a new blog post.

Some portal companies, such as Zoopla, put their PDF reports behind a sign-up gate but the majority of portal PDFs we came across - like Daft.ie’s excellent quarterly report - do not.

Some portals have areas of their sites dedicated to showing all the data they collect distilled in real time for their users.

The Spanish portals idealista and fotocasa are good examples here. While idealista shows all the information on a map on the main page of its data section, fotocasa has broken their information out into individual regions - presumably hoping to rank them on Google.

Recently, some portals have started producing video content to convey and analyse the information that their data shows.

While French market leader SeLoger has opted for the basic infographic video to accompany their blog posts and data, American portal company Realtor.com produces regular videos in which its resident expert analyses the housing market in general.

 

How often do portals publish their house price indices?

Not all of the companies we looked at publish regular reports or have a named house price index. Many prefer to release content around their data on an ad-hoc basis to make sure that the press sits up and takes notice.

For those who do publish regular reports, we found that most do so on a monthly basis.

The use of surveys and behavioural data seems to be done on a less regular basis. House price indices and the reports around them though tend to be monthly in the larger markets with big-name portals and more fluctuating markets (the USA, the UK, Australia) and quarterly in smaller ones (Ireland, the Netherlands).

 

Who is all this data-based content intended for?

This last question is a bit subjective, but as we analysed the content these portals put out we couldn’t help noticing the subtle changes in tone and presentation between content intended for different audiences.

While by and large most of the content we see is intended for average users - be they owners looking to sell, prospective buyers/renters or just curious window shoppers - some content is clearly intended for the press or for other companies in the value chain.

By way of example, Daft’s quarterly report openly says exactly who it’s intended for: 

“The goal of the Daft Report is to use this information to help all actors in the property market make informed decisions about buying and selling. In addition, because it is freely available, the Daft Report can help inform the media, the general public and policymakers about the latest developments in the property market”

Then there are reports such as the Rightmove House Price Index which have a large chunk of text and handy expert quotes upfront and whose publication is accompanied by a press release circulated to journalists.

In some cases - such as Russian market leader Cian - most of the data is kept off the blog site and monetised via bespoke reports for their agent customers.  

 

Findings in full and a note on methodology

The table below shows is an abridged version of our analysis of the data-based content of 25 of the largest property portal sites around the world as of July 2021.

Some of the research is necessarily subjective and if we couldn’t find something easily then we assumed that users would not be able to find it either and marked it absent.

July 22, 2021
Edmund got to know the world of portals and marketplaces working at Mitula Group (which became Lifull Connect after the buyout in 2018). He worked directly with hundreds of portals across the world in his role in the content department for three and a half years before transferring to the SEO department to understand the inner workings of listings sites. He joined Online Marketplaces as Head of Content in March 2020.

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