This week Google announced that as of Feb 10, 2011, it will no longer display real estate listings on its Google Map pages. In case you weren't familiar with what this looks like today, here is a screen shot:
In the blog post making this annoucement Google said, "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 (used by listing providers to submit listings), we've decided to discontinue the real estate feature within Google Maps...".
Of course people can still type normal real estate search terms into Google and be presented with helpful website options, so SEO and sponsored search are still important marketing strategies.
But what this says to me is just taking real estate listings and putting them on a map isn't interesting enough to generate a substantial audience - even for Google! This means a lot of different things to different groups of people.
To agents, is the highlight or only functionalitiy on your website an IDX search? While it is clearly important to have listing search capabilities on your site, what color or other interesting and UNIQUE content can you add around this? (hint: maybe you have a blog with interesting perspectives on what is happening locally...)
As someone who works for a national website, we need to think about the same thing. Just taking listing feeds isn't how you attract and sustain new viewers or grow an audience. We need to keep thinking of unique ways to help consumers through the real estate process, like offering Agents Reviews or an interactive Mortgage Marketplace.
Lastly, there are so many APIs and widgets to help build out your site with really cool data at little to no cost.