A Web 2.0 Education in the Comment Thread(s)

[Please note, as this conversation has the tendency to get emotional and very technical at the same time, I would like to state up front that I do not take any specific or direct side in the discussion.

I can fully appreciate the dissatisfaction of those who feel they could get better SEO results for their association with Trulia. As an internet marketer, I can also appreciate the potential value that Trulia delivers in the form of customers who are fairly well along in their purchasing decision.

Which of those two is the most important can be measured (feel free to give me a call if you’d like me to assist you in this assessment). The answer would likely vary on a case-by-case basis and also over time.

The purpose of this post is to examine some of the tangential benefit of the broader conversation. One is practical and includes information on which you can act, probably today. This information is covered in my “first semester” below.

The other is more of a thinking and strategic issue surrounding online marketing, interlocking ecosystems of information and reputation management. This is where a lot of the heated discussions take place. While you read them here, however, please try to look beyond the specific companies and personalities and consider the systems (personal, technological and economic) involved and how they rely on each other.]

As I recently let loose in Twitter, there’s an entire education to be had in the comment thread on Galen Ward’s post about Trulia and their linking policy over at the Bloodhound Blog. This post was created to back up that statement. Consider this a pivot-table applied to qualitative data. 😉

I’ve prepared a syllabus for you. Please note that not all of the answers to the exam questions will be found directly in the comment threads, but enough clues for you to determine the majority of the answers are present. Some questions (particularly in the second semester) will require creative thinking and problem solving extending beyond the comment thread on the Ward’s post. Outside resources are encouraged in all semesters.

  • The first semester is a practical one, with hands-on worthwhile info on which you may be able to act. There are a few though-pieces in there, but it is primarily a “lab” class.
  • The second semester is more of a seminar where you examine a controversial issue not for it’s controversy but for its structure.
  • A laid back summer session has been assigned as well.

Enjoy. And if you post your answers to the exams publicly, let me know so I can send you a certificate of some sort.

First Semester: Search Engine Optimization

A wide variety of excellent SEO concepts are discussed in this comment thread by people both in the trenches and expert.


First Semester Exam:

  1. What is the relationship between trusted domains and inbound links?
  2. Outline some SEO strategies for making use of social media.
  3. Is PR Sculpting an on-site or off-site marketing tactic?
  4. How would you find an answer to theory of “onclick” not passing Page Rank?
  5. When is it good use a widget on your site? When is it potentially harmful? How might you decide whether to install one on your site?

Second Semester: Reputation Management and Social Media

The majority of the conversations in the comment thread of Ward’s post are about one company, Trulia, and how it treats individuals with whom it interacts/effects. Wherever you read the word “Trulia” insert your own company and try see how you might react or engage the conversation if it were your brand. This semester requires broad-based thinking about specific problems of online community engagement.

Initial Lecture:

Galen’s original inspiration is a to look into why Trulia does well on street address searches. He comes up with two compelling reasons:

…the original source doesn’t even display the address on the page..

and (emphasis his):

Trulia blocks Google from following their links.

This of course gets the ball rolling very quickly. The importance of this statement is that Trulia’s coding practice prevents Google from finding the original listing’s source by way of Trulia; basically Trulia isn’t being as SEO friendly to the original source as it could perhaps be.

A possible example of the results of this are are put forth in the comments to Galen’s post by Kevin Boer. Cheryl Johnson provides another search result that may be effected by this.

The follow up from there is a discussion of why Trulia might block Google from following links on Trulia to the original source and why the original source would give the listings data to Trulia, given that disparity.

Glenn Roberts Jr. made a good assessment of the situation over at Inman News.

Here is the link to the Official Google Blog post about “no follow” coding practices. Also, SearchEngineWatch has an article about how other search engines deal with “no follow” coding practices.


As you review the comments please note that I have presented some of them slightly out of order so that they will connect better with related comments. Also, please note that I am attempting to present these comments as a way for all of us to understand how issues unfold and change online. The vast majority of these comments were made within 24 hours of the original post.

The conversation initiated by Ward spread to a variety of sources. Currently, the best method to track these conversation is via a widget developed by Greg Swann at the Bloodhound Blog. The irony of a widget to track a conversation about the widgets of another company is not lost on anyone. Below, you can view this widget and follow the conversation further than the items in the coursework.

Comments and reasoning critical of Trulia’s “no follow” code practice

Comments defending or further refining the understanding of Trulia’s “no follow” code practice (and other aspects of their business model)

The situation in relation to other businesses

Recommended reading:

The Outcome of the Situation

The immediate outcome of the situation is that Trulia developed new technologies for their site as reported over at the Future of Real Estate Marketing.

Second Semester Exam:

  1. How many organizations and brands are brought into this conversation? Which brands participate willingly and why? Which ones unwillingly and why?
  2. How many topics/grievances/frustrations beyond the original “no follow” coding practice are discussed?
  3. Where does the “no follow” coding practice fall within the spectrum of online business development? Is there a difference between perceived value and actual value?
  4. What needs are being served by the “no follow” coding practice? What damage is the practice doing, if any?
  5. If you drew a map showing “customer/client” and “vendor/provider” relationships based on financial transactions what would it look like? This question was first broached in the comment thread about 2 1/2 days after the initial post.
  6. If you were developing a social media marketing plan how might you balance your efforts between sites that have a “no follow” coding practice with those who don’t? Is it always clear-cut how the coding-practice will effect your marketing plan?
  7. Who has the most to gain or lose by inserting themselves into this conversation (and yes, this post is my conscious effort to insert Union Street into this conversation so feel free to help me justify this post to my boss. 😉 )
  8. Write a brief essay on any aspect of this online reputation management exercise that strikes your fancy and adds to the wealth of knowledge on this topic

Summer Session: Spare bits of good info.

There are a number of random bits of information scattered throughout the comment thread as well.


Pete Flint gives a link to the official Google blog that describes the “no follow” issue in relation to comment and wiki spam.

Continue to add content to your site, even if you participate in social media, says Rudy.

Greg Swann’s breakdown of PR, “no follow” coding practices and number of outbounds from several top real estate blogs.

Chris McKeever notes that many of the real-estate-as-content sites are built using excellent technology which “unfortunately, is increasingly hard for the individual agent to achieve.”

Greg Swann says: “the bottom line is that we make money from conversions, not from our SERPs.”

Greg Swann, James Boyer, Mary McKnight, Eric Bramlett, Kevin Boer and Teri Lussier have seen searches for street addresses, neighborhoods or MLS numbers.

The future of real estate marketing technology is the $9,000 business card.

Summer Session Exam:

  1. Create a work of art that expresses your feelings/emotions/thoughts on the variety of knowledge that can be gained in reading an comment thread discussion that contains high-caliber thinking on a tricky business or technical issue.

11 thoughts on “A Web 2.0 Education in the Comment Thread(s)

  1. Fantastic breakdown of the comments on this post! My beef still stands: it’s sneaky. Didja notice no one said “I’ve known this all along – Trulia makes it clear that they block search engines from seeing links to my site.”

  2. Pingback: The Realty.bot shuffle: Trulia.com’s response to complaints about nofollow tags on partner-supplied content seems truly atrocious | BloodhoundBlog: Real estate marketing and technology blog | Realtors and real estate, mortgages, lending, investments

  3. Hey guys, thanks for stopping by.

    The original post and the wealth of comments was too much for me to avoid. I was drawn to it like a moth to flame.

    I continually feel that the quality of conversation is what transforms a blog into a community and that post at the BHB is a text-book example.

    However, some folks don’t want to wade through all of it and there was just too much good stuff to let it stay encapsulated in an ongoing (and spirited) conversation. I’m glad you all enjoy it (and I’m honored as well, frankly).

    Thanks for the backlink and I’m glad you enjoyed this.

    Your original post was astounding for it’s ability to stir up excellent debate and ideas as well as teasing out some pretty advanced SEO techniques from your audience. My post is merely a re-organization of the ball you started rolling.

    I did notice that no one said they didn’t feel duped. I almost linked your comment here back into the coursework section of Second Semester but figured the meta-meta-addition might cause a rupture in the space-time continuum.

    Thanks for stopping by and being a part of the general conversation. I think it’s a very important conversation for people to have and it is by no means limited to your company. Your ability to participate in a seemingly hostile environment is a testament to your convictions.

    As for how long it took… well I think my boss will be having a conversation with me later this week about my blogging activities. 😉

  4. Very impressive indeed!

    I do believe however, that somewhere, someone made the distinction between user generated content and partners – that being the difference between FLICKR and Wikipedia, both of which are user generated vs. what should be trusted partners.

  5. Pingback: A Perfect Example Of Co-opetition: The Real Estate Industry … Barry Nalebuff Would Be Proud | 3 Oceans Real Estate, A Boutique Real Estate Brokerage Serving the San Francisco Bay Area

  6. Thanks for the heads up Ryan, that’s an incredibly important point. I’ve been looking for an excuse to write about UG for awhile and maybe this will be the spur for me.

    If I can find the comment you mention (I feel like I did read it, but it was a ton of comments) I’ll add it into the coursework for second semester.

    Thanks for stopping by!


  7. Pingback: I Want My, I Want My, I Want My ... Traffic | Clean Slate Blog

  8. My comment as I mentioned elsewhere:


    We absolutely do not pay Number1Expert for any links. The TruliaMap integration was an opportunity they saw to enhance their client websites with a valuable free tool from Trulia, as it drives more clicks into their site. Sadly, nothing scandalous here.

    For some clarity on much of the misinformation and confusion going on here and elsewhere, please take the time to read our blog post.


    Social Media Guru at Trulia

  9. Hey Rudy,

    Thanks for stopping by again. I don’t think the comments I selected re: Number1Expert accuse Trulia of anything really. My interpretation is that those who are upset by the “no follow” practice are widening their scope to find other ways to let their dissatisfaction known. Probably similar to lobbying groups putting pressure on advertisers to avoid sponsoring a specific show due to content.

    I will add your link into the coursework as well. I am attempting to present the issue in as neutral a light as possible. In this post, I’m most interested in concepts of reputation management and information dissemination. Feel free to email me as well (you can get to my email via the USM bios in the “about” section).

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