Real estate sites offer a unique experience for customers to research and eventually buy a home. However, with this type of marketplace comes an increased risk of inappropriate content that could negatively affect the customer’s experience.
Over the years of helping online marketplaces moderate their real estate sections, we’ve gathered a long list of best practices for content moderation rules and guidelines specific to this industry.
If you work with a real estate site or platform, you know that you need to keep a close eye on the user-generated content published by users. If you don’t, your site quickly turns from a helpful tool for smooth interactions between renters and landlords to a scam-infested spam forum.
Here are 9 best practices for moderating content on real estate sites. You can use them to increase the quality of listings, protect your users and hopefully increase the conversion rates of your real estate site.
1. Edit or reject ads with contact details
While the whole industry should slowly move towards sites that monetize and provide value through value-added services, most sites are not there yet.
Unless your site already has a unique and strong offering of additional value, it’s likely still relying on sellers who use it as a lead generator. If that’s the case, you should remove all mention of phone nr, names, and email or physical addresses to prevent platform leakage.
2. Unconventional payment methods
Unless it’s your USP, all ads that mention unconventional payment methods should be removed. This applies to swapping and exchanging suggestions, such as a car or cell phone, in exchange for accommodation.
The rule applies to unorthodox payment methods like Bitcoins and other electronic currencies.
We advise against allowing such reimbursement options as the value comparison can be hard to get right, and there’s a risk one of the two parties will end up dissatisfied. You don’t want those negative feelings associated with your platform, and you do not want to get involved in disputes concerning unconventional payment methods.
Finally, there’s also the risk that some of the commodities offered in exchange have been acquired illegally. You don’t want your platform involved in what could essentially be seen as fence activities.
Whether you monetize your real estate platform by charging listing fees, you should remove listings with more than one item.
If you charge a listing fee, sellers post multiple items in one, circumvent the fee and negatively impact your revenue. If you don’t, listings with many different offerings are still really bad as they make it harder for users to find relevant results when searching for accommodation, decreasing the user experience.
3. Links or references to competitors
It goes without saying that it’s best practice for content moderation to immediately remove or edit any mention of competitors, particularly if they include outbound links.
It’s bad enough with bouncing visitors, and it’s even worse if the content on your site is actively referring them to rivals in your space.
4. Pay attention to listing prices
We have an entire article focused on things to look out for to prevent scams on real estate sites, but one of the things we haven’t discussed in depth is listing prices.
Most areas will have a pretty baseline price range for similarly sized accommodations. For cities that are extra prone to be targeted by scammers, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with this range. Scammers often offer up apartments for rent at too-good-to-be-true prices. Knowing the realistic range makes it easier to catch them before they get to your customers.
5. Take a stance against discrimination
You’re probably aware of the multiple lawsuits Airbnb faced back in 2018 due to various instances of discrimination through its platform.
To avoid getting into the same legal trouble and the ensuing PR storm and to provide all your users the best possible experience through your site, we advise taking a hard stance against discriminatory listings. Reject any listings that single out people of specific race, religion, sexual orientation, etc.
6. Prohibit rentals that enable prostitution
For anyone who followed the case of backpage.com and how its owners were indicted for earning over $500 million in prostitution-related revenue from the site, it should be second nature to have processes in place for finding and removing any content that facilitate prostitution.
Apart from the moral implications, allowing prostitution is illegal in many countries and could land your company (and you) in both legal and PR trouble.
If your platform doesn’t offer hotel rooms or vacation homes, rejecting room-for-the-night listings is often a good and safe practice. That type of listing is often advertising accommodations used for indecent interactions.
7. Remove duplicate items
Users will sometimes submit the same listing multiple times. Why they submit duplicates may vary, but the most common reason is to try and bump up their ranking on your site. When users try circumventing rules, it’s never good as it usually impacts either user experience, violates legal commitments, or, as in the case with duplicates, could get your site penalized in Google rankings.
The best cause of action is to remove duplicates from your site directly before they get published. This way, you ensure the quality of your site and avoid a messy search experience for other users.
We’ve written more about why duplicate content is bad for real-estate sites and how to remove it here.
8. Recategorize listings placed in the wrong category
Vacation homes in the permanent residency category or for-sale houses in the for-rent section all contribute to irrelevant search results and negative user experiences.
It’s important to quickly remove or recategorize misplaced listings to ensure a good user experience.
9. Reject listings with poor descriptions
Depending on the category, the required details on the commodity for rent or sale may differ. What’s always true is that the description needs to be accurate and descriptive. Information like location, price, minimum rent time, etc., should be a given. But sellers are often in a hurry and don’t want to spend too much time on the admin work that goes into writing a good listing that converts.
Ensure you educate your users to create proper descriptions and titles for their listings. Otherwise, both bounce rate and conversion rates may suffer.
The 4 most common refusal reasons back in 2019
Now that we have gone through the best practices for content moderation, let’s also quickly disclose where we find the biggest content moderation challenges for real estate sites.
In 2019 these were the top 4 rejection reasons for the real estate sites we help.
- Multiple products
- Wrong category
- Poor description
As you can see, most of the rejected items affect either user experience and, as a result, conversion rate, or they impact your revenue more directly, as is the case with multiple products, where users circumvent the listing fee.
Curious about which other listings we reject for real estate sites? Check out our presentation on 9 listings to remove from your real estate site to optimize for monetization from Property Portal Watch in Bangkok 2018, where we go into more details.
Want to know more about best practices for content moderation or expert advice on how to set up and optimize content moderation on your site?
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