Because favicon love is so easy to give

If you’re running a website, did you give your favicon any love?  Do you even know what a favicon is?

A favicon is simple a mini-logo (icon?) that shows up next to your URL in most address bars. (Favicons also show up on the tabs of browsers and are often included next to articles you write when being pulled by other news sites, such as this business week page about online real estate that pulled the favicons when linking to articles from Rain City Guide and Inman News). and

Here is the favicon I created for 4realz.net: 

In terms of a icon, I don’t like it as much as the 4realz logo that I generally use on my marketing materials:

but it shows up so much better when displayed at a really small size and kept the site’s color scheme. The idea is that people who know the site will quickly start to relate the favicon to 4realz.net.

Before creating a favicon for a different site (not yet launched), I decided to do a bit of research and look at the favicons for a variety of real estate sites. Here’s a peak at some of the sites I looked at:

There are some really good favicons there in that they are instantly recognizable for the website they represent, but just as many are pretty bad… and without the help of a little text, it’d be hard to know what site they represent.

So what makes for a good favicon?

A good favicon is:

  1. Really simple
  2. Limited to two or three colors
  3. Recognizable in place of your logo

However, as the examples form above show, using your logo is almost never a good idea.

For example, the blue/green “Z” house of the Zillow logo, just doesn’t cut it for me at the small size of a favicon.   Ditto for the landscape scenes used by Altos Research and Real Central Virgina.

Something more likely to work is a cute play on the logo, such as the tomato from the Real Estate Tomato, the owl’s eyes of Roost, the explosion from Blown Mortgage, or (I like to think) the rain drop of Rain City Guide.  At the same time, the “R” of Realtor is so recognizable that the realtor.com team was smart to keep their favicon that simple.

Looking through the list of favicons from above, it’s also obvious that the “home” metaphor is way overdone. Phoenix Real Estate Guy, Redfin, The Real Estate Bloggers, Move, HotPads, Estately, Altos Research, and Zillow all feature homes in their favicons…

Create your own Favicon!

So, you’re inspired to create a nice looking favicon for your site.   Here’s how I created the 4realz favicon in a few minutes using nothing more powerful than Microsoft Word (or in my case, Mac’s Pages app):

Step 1: Using a document processer (Microsoft Word will work), create your image. For the 4realz logo, I create a grey circle and put a blue “4” in the center.   If you feel like you need something more complex than simple graphics and simple text, then you’re probably making your favicon too complicated!

Step 2: Take a screenshot of the image

Step 3: Upload your screenshot to Genfavicon, and follow their simple instructions in order to create an “*.ico” image. (as mentioned in a recent hotlist post!)

Step 4: Rename the file “favicon.ico”and upload it to the root file of your server.

That’s it! Once you’ve created one favicon, I think you’ll see that the entire process can be done in less than 10 minutes.

It’s worth noting that in order to have a personalized favicon, you MUST be using a self-hosted website where you can add files to the server.  Folks using blog platforms like ActiveRain and WordPress.com can’t have their own favicon. 🙁

Of course, if you have photoshop you can get way more advanced and create really killer favicons directly from the app, but if you know what you’re doing in photoshop, then you probably wouldn’t read this far!  😉

Finally, favicons are important because they show just how much effort you put into the details.  They’ll never be a big thing (they’re way too small!) and they’ll never bring success to your website, but with a little effort, it’s not hard to create a fun, recognizable icon that will help you make a better connection with your readers.

LA Times Examines Local Home Search Options

Over two days in June, we searched each site for three-bedroom, single-family homes on the market in Santa Monica.

The results:

These numbers are always in flux, but from what I’m seeing I think there are between  90 and 100 MLS listings on the market and around 45 to 50 foreclosure listings.

Finally, it’s kind of a waste to do this kind of research unless you’re willing to do a quality analysis. My experience has been that the sites that do not have direct access to MLS info tend to have more listings that are out-of-date and/or listed with outdated prices.

zillow homes in santa monica

* It’s worth noting that I’m pretty sure the reporters messed up with their Zillow numbers… When I just did a search that limits the results to 3+ bedrooms in Santa Monica, then there’s a little graphic that says there are 166 listings for sale, but those are for ALL homes for sale and only 64 of the homes match my criteria.   The Zillow results should probably have been closer to 64 listings which would put them slightly below Trulia.

Realtor.com Turns up the Heat and…

…I really like how they’ve mapped it out!  😉

The Realtor.com team recently turned on a “heat map” option within their home valuation tool.  Here’s a heat map of Ballard in Seattle where you can really see the detail of the more expensive areas (in particular the areas around the water!):

Realtor.com Heat Map Screenshot

It’s clean, fast and well implemented.  On my version of firefix (v 3) on a Mac, I’m not seeing the legend that others appearently can see, but that is the only hole I can find in the implementation.

To get an idea of just how detailed these maps are, it’s worth comparing to the previous implementation that exists on on the neighborhood page for this same area on realtor.com showing average neighborhood list price:

realtor.com heat map from neighborhoods project

I think it is also worth noting that neither Zillow or Trulia have done much to bring the same level of detail to the maps… For example, Trulia’s heat maps are limited to the neighborhood level with boundaries

Trulia Heat Maps

And the option to display heat maps on Zillow no longer seems to be available (although I did find this page which shows what they used to look like on Zillow).

heat map for the seattle area on Zillow

Anyway I love maps and think they can convey a ton of great information about neighborhoods and homes, so it’s great to see someone pushing the boundaries even if I’ve been giving the team a hard time recently for other issues (see realtor.com home values and realtor.com blog hack articles).

Danilo apologizes for writing the 2nd post on AG that hammers REALTOR.com…

in two days and it reminded me that I’m about to hammer into REALTOR.com for the 2nd time in a short-while…  but I dont’ expect to appoligize at the end… 😉

Today’s beef?

The realtor.com team managing their blog platform is acting reckless.

Here’s the background: Last week, I let the realtor.com team know that Trace at BrokerScience had found some prett bad spam was filtering into a feed of their main blog: Let’s Talk.   I know they received my message because I received both notes and calls from the team thanking me. (Trace was not so lucky in terms of getting feedback).   Plus, at some point last week, they removed the spam from all their existing posts.  So far, so good.

Then today, I noticed that two recent posts on their feed are still spewing out spam (to sites selling Viagra, vicodin, tramadol, etc.).   Here’s a screenshot from my reader to give you an idea:

spam links from realtor.com\'s feed

This is a BIG deal because it means that even after the realtor.com blog platform learned that their platform was compremised (i.e. someone had hacked into their system), they kept the site up in a compremised mode that allowed those same hackers to return and insert more spam links into their posts.

Here’s some more background on this particular hack.   In the past 6 months, I’ve seen two other blogs have this SAME issue and each time I’ve written a personal note to the host.  Yet, I’ve purposefully never blogged about any of these sites getting hacked because I’m afraid that some people will mistakenly blame the WordPress platform.  The reality is that in every case the host had not upgrade to the latest stable version of the software and when they did upgrade, the problem went away.

I honestly don’t have a problem with a host that is running an old version of the software and gets hacked as a result (Been there and learned from that).  What frustrates me in this case is that the realtor.com team knew their site was hacked, but rather than upgrade to the latest version of the software, they left a compromised site live.   That’s just reckless… especially since there are more than a few ways to automate the process

Matthew Ferrara just left an interesting comment about Realtor.com Home Values…

…that reminded me of this video from the previous head of REALTOR.com:

[Ferrara’s comment]

“…Instead of just copying everyone else, maybe REALTOR.COM (and by extension, NAR) could make some decisions based upon market realities. And the reality is that Zillow (and other similar tools) are really inaccurate because the “conditions” on the ground are always so fluid that “estimates” based upon “market data” which is always stale because of “time” are really bad education for consumers. REALTORS should know better. Many consumers buy homes “regardless” of their estimated market comparable – and many sellers are able to sell for higher (or can’t sell nearly the same as a computerized estimate) because of all sorts of NON estimated items – like poorly performing schools, local tax changes, crime, etc – NONE of which can be accurately reflected by a computer. Only by REALTORS who keep up with “the full marketplace” of issues that impact homes.

If I interpret this right, Ferrara thinks that realtor.com should not offer such an AVM product, but should instead focus on helping real estate professionals educate consumers on  the fact that AVMs aren’t worth the digital real estate they’re printed on…

My guess is that Ferrara has his pulse on the finger of most realtors and they’d love to hear this… but at the same time, Zillow has single-handedly changed the public’s expectations.  Consumers now expect free home valuations when they go online and if they don’t get it from a realtor, they’ll go elsewhere…

4realz Roundtable: The Value of Home Values

I’ve got something special planned for this week’s 4realz Roundtable. In honor of Realtor.com’s release of the home valuation tool, we’re going to cover the value of online home values!

Join us on Thursday at 4pm (PST) to take part in the conversation!

Of course, the discussion is what makes the 4realz Roundtable work, and so far, I’ve confirmed three great guests for the conversation:

And, of course, YOU are always invited to join the conversation. For the past two week’s we’ve had an active chat conversation going on during the call, which has been just as interesting and entertaining as what gets recorded! 😉

(By the way, I reached out to the realtor.com team, but received no bites in terms of people who were willing to sit at the 4realz Roundtable…)

Here’s a general outline of things I hope to cover:

  • Discussion on the background on online AVMs
  • How have perceptions of online AVMs changed over the past two+ years… Both within the industry and among consumers
  • What are some of the interesting legal issues surrounding AVMs in terms of privacy issue
  • Is there a reason to think that AVMs will get better in the future?

If you have other topics you’d like us to cover, please let us know in the comments and/or join us on the call and ask the question yourself! I’m going to do my best this time to make sure we reach out to some more of the people who call in to make sure we hear from you during the call!

UPDATE:

I’ve confirmed a few more guests for today’s show:

UPDATE 2:

What a great conversation!  Things definitely got a bit rough with David G on the hot seat for a bit, but overall, I had some great insights from the conversations and hopefully you will to!   If you haven’t listened to the conversation on the value of online home values, then listen here:

[podcast]http://recordings.talkshoe.com/TC-20339/TS-122563.mp3[/podcast]

A fascinating conversation about NAR/DOJ…

I really want to thank the industry titans who participated in today’s podcast:

As well as all the people who listened in and provided wonderful chat commentary throughout the podcast. There were so many great names that showed up that I can’t wait to get many of you on future podcasts!

I thought if I gave us a half-hour we’d be able to cover the subject completely… but with the crew above, we were flying along after an about an hour when I decided to pull the plug in order to save some energy for next week! 😉

And if you missed the live call, don’t worry, you can still catch all the recored action here:

That was so much fun, I know we’ll do that again… Hopefully soon! 😉

I’ve convinced myself that the one thing missing from Outside.in is that they…

…never made much inroads with the real estate community (or real estate portals for that matter).   Imagine if the Realtor.com team had bought Outside.in instead of building the neighborhoods project.

And it really doesn’t matter if it was Zillow, Trulia, AOL, Yahoo or Realtor.com, it could be a win for the real estate portal (lots of local traffic and increased SEO benefits for local terms), a win for Outside.in (monetizing within real estate is easy: featured agents, listings, etc. on neighborhood pages) and a win for consumers (a large portal could easily add more local data/content such as neighborhood stats and maps).

I’ve always felt that Outside.in had an interesting thing going and just needed some real estate influence to make it pop.   Maybe the new CEO in the restructured Outside.in will do a better job reaching out to the real estate community…

Been crazy for a few days getting ready for…

…in Realty Quest.

Here are some of the things I wanted to talk about this week, but haven’t had the chance:

  1. 4RealzEd is coming to Pasadena on May 30! The buzz from the first two events has been wonderful and I’m already seeing people sign up without any real marketing on our part! I love it!
  2. Move, Inc lost $4.6M in Q1 and not releasing “transformational” product. About the only positive news is that they are “announcing” a beta site that has been live (with a link from the homepage) since December. I feel bad for my previous colleague in marketing who has to spin this stuff.
  3. Keller Williams gets Zillow fever. Consider the great relationship between Top Producer (owned by Move) and KW, this must have been particularly painful for Errol Samuelson (runs both Top Producer and Realtor.com)
  4. Trulia teams up with the Silicon Valley Ass of REALTORS.  The traditional walls are slowly crumbling.
  5. Seattle times reporter/blogger wonders covers conference with Move, Zillow and Google and wonders who will create the real estate destination portal of the future
  6. Todd announces RE BlogWord… A special real estate track for the popular BlogWorld conference in Vegas. My guess is that there will be a bunch of big names from the world of real estate social media so this should be a lot of fun.
  7. Had a great, GREAT, meetup yesterday (dubbed: Doctor’s Note Gathering) with real estate and tech folks from the valley.   Linda and Ted had nice write ups!
  8. Getting excited about a panel this year at Inman led by Jeff Turner called: Growing Pains: Take Your Blog to the Next Level (more announcments around RE Connect are sure to come!)
  9. Krunching.com launched earlier this week. I like everything about the site (from the perspective of a  first public launch), except the business model.  I think they will either need to be a tech provider (i.e. selling tech to consumers/professionals) OR a brokerage (commissions!), but not both.   Otherwise, the site is great and I look forward to seeing more!
  10. Niki let me know that he launched Homethinking Mortgage earlier this week.   I feel bad that I haven’t had more of a chance to check out the site, but ANYTHING Niki does is worth checking out.   Some of the things, like the heat maps of average loan amount, are interesting, but I just haven’t taken the time to figure out how they will be useful!
  11. BeatYouThere launches (yet) another national real estate search site.  I kinda feel bad for anyone trying to start up in this space at this point, even if they are well funded.   Incremental improvement in the search just aren’t going to be enough at this point.
  12. And speaking of things that will be forgotten about in a few months…   I like Louis a lot and he’s definitely doing a great job reaching out to the online real estate community, but…
  13. CyberHomes redesigns the site.   I can’t help but wonder when will they start seriously marketing to consumers?