Homestore Moving into Vertical Search

Online real estate site Homestore is changing its name to Move Inc. and will launch a vertical search property at that will offer a variety of advertising products.

The name change and plans for are part of a series of strategic changes for the company, which is positioning itself to be more competitive at a time when newly-launched properties like Zillow and RealEstateAdvisor are drawing increased attention to the space.

“Move is the brand we will introduce to consumers as the friendly, trusted and helpful resource that they will want to use,” said CEO Mike Long on a conference call with press and investors.

Though Homestore has plans to revamp content and advertising offerings on a variety of its properties, the most dramatic change is in its vertical search plans.

“The underlying strategy for this new site is to give consumers access to the most comprehensive selection of resale, new home and rental listings possible,” said Allan Merrill, executive vice president of the company.

Rather than simply indexing properties that pay to be included, as it has done thus far, the company will opt for comprehensiveness with the new offering. Listings will come in part from its existing, and RENTNET properties, which will re-direct to when the site launches in the second quarter of this year. The company will also crawl the Web, take feeds from property owners and accept free listings via a self-service Web interface.

Merrill said the change in approach was partly due to shifting expectations among consumers, who had become aware that they weren’t getting every home available at the Homestore sites.

On the new vertical search engine, the company will offer fixed-price, subscription-based showcase listings, which will let advertisers differentiate their search results but won’t affect their rank. The site will also display featured listings, which will appear above organic search results.

Initially, these featured listings will be priced on a fixed cost-per-click basis, but the company is developing a real-time auction-based bidding system similar to that offered by Google and Yahoo Like in the Google system, the featured listings will be ranked by relevance and bid price. Additionally, the engine will carry third-party sponsored links in the right rail alongside the organic results.

Significant changes are also afoot for the company’s property, which is produced in conjunction with the National Association of Realtors., too, will be adding featured listings to its search results, which will be available on a bidded cost-per-click basis. Other changes will enhance mapping features, add lead generation capabilities and expand the use of virtual tours.

The company also plans to embrace the user-generated content and social networking trends with new features on The company is adding a community component that will include dedicated pages for each neighborhood. The pages will feature interactive maps with community resources highlighted. They’ll also give local Realtors, as well as residents, opportunities to share their knowledge about the communities.

“We believe consumers searching for homes and neighborhoods will be a natural context for viral interaction and we already have the participants on our site,” said Merrill.

Within those community pages, Move Inc. will highlight listings from its Welcome Wagon Local Business Directory.

In conjunction with all of these changes, the company also said it had acquired from TMP Directional Marketing for $9 million. Move Inc. will incorporate the smaller firm’s listings of mortgage lenders into its new sites. It will also replace the site’s current apartment search functionality with its own.

When the company launches the site in the second quarter, it expects to also launch a significant marketing campaign, which will involve offline as well as online advertising. The company will seek shareholder approval of the new Move Inc. name in June.

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