The strategy was taught at Keller Williams Family Reunion (where I first learned about it at KWFR 2013 in Dallas, TX) and continued to be promoted as a marketing strategy that KW agents should be using at subsequent Family Reunions. While it was promoted heavily, it was always an unofficial, but encouraged strategy supported by the KWLS. I brought what I learned from KWFR 2013 to our Market Center, and taught many classes on how to do it, even supplying agents with a template they could use.
So here's what it means for me and KW agents...
- I will no longer offer my branded listing photo services.
- I will no longer teach classes on branded listing photos.
- I will hide the instructions for branded listing photos from this website, however, I will keep both my instructions and my template for agents to use on this site, and provide it upon request should agents wish to continue using branded listing photos at their own risk.
- I will offer full refunds on any branded listing photos I've done since February 1st, 2015, as long as the agent or I replaces their photos in KWLS with the original, unbranded photos.
- I will offer support to all of our agents in taking down their branded listing photos from the KWLS, and replacing them with unbranded photos (whether I did the photos for your or not).
If you used branded listing photos, don't panic. Not all branded listings are being taken down. Branded listings seem to be discovered purely by chance, and if your listing is taken down, Zillow (at least) says they will re-syndicate your listing within 24 to 48 hours of correcting the issue (by uploading unbranded photos to KWLS or to the listing claimed in your Zillow agent account). Your listing will not be taken down permanently; it will simply lose exposure ONLY on the site it was removed from while the issue is corrected.
Agents, technically, can continue to use branded listing photos. However, it is a gamble, and the consequences will have to be weighed by the agent. The consequences are...
- Losing 24 to 48 hours of exposure for your listing on the specific website where it was taken down.
- Time and effort spent re-uploading unbranded photos to KWLS (or the website) to correct the issue.
If you have been using branded listing photos, here are the options available to you (listed from safest, to least safest) along with their pros and cons...
- SAFEST: Replace ALL of your listings' branded photos in KWLS with unbranded photos.
PROS: You will be in 100% compliance with search portals' policies, with 0% chance that your listings will lose exposure.
CONS: Your listings will lose their branding on ALL sites that KWLS syndicates to.
- SOMEWHAT SAFE: Continue to use branded listing photos, and gamble on receiving a takedown notice from a site. Upon notice, upload unbranded photos ONLY for the removed listing to KWLS.
PROS: Your listing might never be discovered for takedown, thus taking advantage of branded listing photos remaining on your listings. Also, after correcting the issue by uploading unbranded photos to KWLS, your listing will be compliant on ALL websites.
CONS: If discovered, your listing will lose exposure for 24 to 48 hours ONLY on the site you received a notice from. Also, after replacing the photos in KWLS, you will lose branding on ALL sites that KWLS syndicates to.
- LEAST SAFE: Continue to use branded listing photos, and gamble on receiving a takedown notice from a site. Upon notice, leave your branded photos in KWLS, and ONLY upload unbranded photos to the SPECIFIC site you received a notice from.
PROS: Your branded photos will remain on other sites because they remain branded in KWLS.
CONS: If discovered, your listing will lose exposure for 24 to 48 hours on the specific site you received a notification from. Also, while branded photos remain in KWLS, you continue to gamble on your listing being taken down on other sites.
While this will certainly cause inconvenience for many of our agents who have been using this marketing tactic, I hope that they have gotten some benefits out of it for the past two years. Like all good things, they must come to an end—like when Craigslist changed their hyperlinking policies, and that removed yet another great marketing strategy available to real estate agents (and ruined yet another class I taught).
As always, I'll keep looking for the next great strategy that our agents can use, and both teach it and make it easily available to them. We'll take advantage of any strategy as long we can until it goes away, too!