Archive for February, 2009

Real Estate SEO and Email Marketing, Part of the chain

This blog is about more than simply Real Estate SEO. Our regular readers know that. SEO affects so many parts of your marketing campaign. Also, to get the most out of your investment in SEO, you’re going to need to need to make some other marketing and technology investments. Email Marketing is just such an investment.

For a long time now, we’ve been partnered with Constant Contact. We’ve done work with iContact, and we use Campaign Monitor regularly too. We’ve been designing email campaigns for years. Every one of these campaigns is designed to help our clients maximize the value of each contact in the email list. This is the reason email marketing is so important. It’s going to help you get the most out of your other investments.

In Real Estate, as in many industries, your SEO efforts are focused on finding leads and customers. Often we judge the effectiveness of a marketing media – be it SEO, PPC, or any other – based on the cost per lead. Now that you’ve paid that money for each lead, you want to maximize the conversion of those leads into customers. Email marketing plays a key role in doing so.

Every lead you get needs to be added to your email list. When they sign up on your site, they should be automatically imported into your contact list and be saved in your CRM system. If you’re using the ONE System by Boston Logic, this is already happening for you automatically.

Now that your leads are in the list, you need to communicate with them. Send them a newsletter. Send them nightly property updates. Add them to your drip campaign. Our clients with email campaigns are far more likely to convert their leads into clients. Alert! this is the conversion rate that really matters. Now we’re talking about client acquisition cost and this is really where the dollars and cents get counted…

A small example:

Let’s say you’re spending $10,000 per month on your online marketing campaign and this is generating 1000 leads per month. This means you’re paying $10/lead. Now, if you’re not emailing them, you might be converting your leads at 2%. So, for those 1000 leads you’re generating, you’re doing 20 deals. Your customer acquisition cost is $500.

Now, you implement an email marketing campaign. Say each month your list grows by 1000 email addresses. Remember, it costs very little to email each person. So, the incremental cost of adding each email address may as well be ignored for the math in this example. So, you’re collecting these email addresses and you send them a message on a regular basis. Over time, you see your conversion rate go up to 3%. Now, your cost per lead has stayed the same and you’re only paying a $333 customer acquisition cost and you’re doing 30 deals per month instead of only 20.

In this example, you can see that your marketing expenses don’t change all that much, but you do 50% more deals! And these numbers are realistic. These kinds of results don’t happen overnight, but they do happen. Your list is gold. You’re investing in SEO in order to get leads, but that’s not the end of the end goal, of course.

When you’re making your strategic SEO plan, think about how you’re going to maximize the conversion of those loads into sales. When you do, remember that email marketing is an important link in that chain.

Thanks for reading.

SEO 101: Blogging Part 2

Answer this honestly: Are you hitting the wall when it comes to maintaining your blog? Are you standing out amongst your peers? Perhaps the creative juices aren’t flowing, or you are uninspired or maybe you are just starting out and simply do not get this blogging spiel … It comes down to this … Do you want to be found when people in your area are looking for real estate? What I am trying to impress upon you is that regardless of your interest, topic, or motivation etc. you must publish a post on a regular basis once your blog goes live because you have plenty to offer! If you want to create an online presence that will create visibility and leads for your business, you have to publish consistently.

Keep the following in mind:

  • Through your blog, you can become a trusted and respected source of information on real estate.
  • Your blog is a means of publishing more content and keeping your site fresh and up to date.
  • Your real estate blog can become a means of connecting with your fans and establishing long term relationships (take that Dr. Phil).
  • Your blog is a way to connect with your audience in order to market your business and services.
  • Your blog is a gateway to nurturing potential customers who for now are either in the research stage or following you to see if you are the right fit for them.

By providing valuable insight into the business of real estate, your readers will come to see you as knowledgeable and experienced which will then cause them to choose you over your competition when it comes time for them to buy or sell their home. Many people who are not ready to engage in a sales process will subscribe to or bookmark your blog to stay informed about your industry. Think of it this way 57 million (and counting) Americans read blogs, 12 million American adults maintain their own blog, and over 120,000 new blogs are created daily (lots of competition) … and you are one among many.

So what makes you stand out?

Real Estate has the unique opportunity to be very geographically driven. That virtue knocks out a good portion of online competition. Take advantage of that. Your KEYWORDS should target your geographic location. And don’t use broad terms but (in most cases) State and/or market specific phrases.

Let’s take the keyword “Boston MA Real Estate” for example. As you know by now, the incorporation of your keywords is important (use convention where applicable and creativity when warranted) in the URL, Title, Header or Headline (your page’s H1 tag), and a few times throughout the body, and preferably at least once as a link to a relevant page/source. Your options are to use the phrase as Boston, Real Estate, Real Estate in Boston, Boston Real Estate, or Boston area Real Estate, etc. There are many different ways you can make known to readers and search engines that your post is “truly” about a stated topic.

The more relevant content you add via your blog, the more your site gets visited, and the better the search engine placement will be. But in the end, as that old saying goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it incorporate keywords in its blog posts (or something like that).

SEO 101 – How to SEO my Real Estate Blog

When it comes to managing and optimizing your blog there are some key factors that can help improve the performance of your blog tremendously. As you know by now, Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of making a site and its content highly relevant for both search engines and searchers. SEO includes technical tasks to make it easier for search engines to find and index a site for the appropriate keywords, as well as making a site more appealing to visitors. Successful search marketing helps a site gain top positioning for relevant words and phrases. When a website appears near the top of the search results for relevant search queries, traffic to that website increases dramatically. As a real estate business, Real Estate SEO can help you can acquire a great deal of leads by appearing high on the search results pages. Blogs in particular allow you to add new content on a regular basis and establish territory for your particular niche or market.

How do I SEO my blog?

Keywords: Do your research (search-trends and keyword competition/difficulty analysis) and use your keywords throughout your blog. We suggest, when appropriate, using some form of your keywords in your URL, title, content, links and tags for your post. An important thing to keep in mind is to make the incorporation of your keywords reader friendly. Don’t just cram the words in there, but use them in a way that will still make reading enjoyable.

URL: You know, that funny text that appears in your browser window, Http://www.such-and-such.com … Well most blog platforms like WordPress and Typepad actually let your edit what the URL structure or Permalink (as it’s sometime called) will be. URL naming is important because that is one of the pieces that search engines query as they gather relevant information based on a user’s search.

Basically it is much more powerful to have a URL be http://www.domain.com/blog/fascinating-topic or http://www.domainname.com/fascinating-topic (if your blog is in a separate domain from your website) rather than http://www.domain.blogspot.com/querystring…

There is also a whole issue of canonical URLs – setting a primary URL structure – that I won’t go into now.

Eye Catching Title: The old adage that you only have a few seconds to grab someones attention with what you have to say still counts. Express what you are offering in your post to your reader upfront. Key things to remember, keep it brief, and keep it relevant and if appropriate use keywords. I’d suggest forgetting about being clever, we all know you can channel Johnny Carson, and instead focus on giving your readers something they are looking for (especially given market trends) like the “Top 10 mistakes home buyers make”, or “How to buy a house and close within x Days” …

Keep in mind also that most blogging platforms take your title and use that as a base for your URL, so unless you have the ability to edit your URL directly, you are stuck with your title as part of your URL.

Content: Foremost you want quality and relevant things to write about. Write about neighborhood news, celebrity sightings (trust, this brings in lots of traffic), housing market updates, featured properties etc.

Finding something to write about isn’t always easy. Be prepared for those days that you are too busy or honestly may just not feel like it. On those days that you do have time and inspiration and could write an entire anthology, write down extra ideas or thoughts for that rainy day. And look for inspiration where ever you can find it.

Last but not least, remember to review all content prior to making it public. It’s important to communicate your subject matter with authority, and nothing says authority like well thought out and grammatically correct posts.

Links: For usability and SEO purposes you want to link your article to other posts within your blog and also to other sites. As a rule of thumb, if you write about a site that is less familiar to the general public you should, as courtesy, provide a link to that site.

Gathering inbound links is equally important. You should have a plan in place for your blogs linking and submission. One place that I highly suggest you submit your blog to is Google’s Blog Search.

Social Media/Community: There is a saying in SEO that “content is king”, well … content is only a lonely King if there are no people to follow. Have some kind of “share this” or “add this” function available for a each post. If you are already part of the social networking community you can share your posts online and have others who follow you do the same. I recommend that each post you write you distribute it to other social media venues. Statistics show that about 1 in 20 posts that you publicize will actually go viral.

While blogging may seem like a lot, it is truly worth the investment. If you cannot or do not want to invest the time yourself, then invest in a service like our Real Estate SEO. The long term results are worth every penny…but I don’t need to tell you that just give it a try and see for yourself.

Real Estate SEO and ROI, calculating results

Before I get into the substance of this post, I want to lay down some facts that we all should know. This is very important. If you’re investing in SEO, you must be judging the results and calculating the return on your investment. This is true for more than just SEO. If you’re investing in any marketing, be it online or off, you need to know what the results are. If you don’t know what’s working and what is not, you’re wasting your money.

Next, if you’re investing in SEO and the firm doing the work isn’t providing regular reports showing you what they’re doing and the effects of their work, then you should fire that firm. If they’re not willing to be accountable to you, then don’t pay them. They should be showing you where your users and leads are coming from and how they’ve improved your visibility. This is critical.

OK, now that we have those SEO truths established, lets get to it.

In Real Estate and when you’re performing Real Estate SEO you are really trying to do three things.

  1. Bring the right users to your real estate website.
  2. Convert those users into leads
  3. Convert leads into clients who buy or sell a home.

Now, SEO costs money. So, we now have a few pieces of information which will allow us to calculate some key metrics in judging SEO performance.

If you take your budget – we do this on a monthly basis, but you could look at it quarterly or annually or over any period of time really – and you divide that budget by the number of users, you’ll get a cost per user. You can do the same with the number of leads generated. You can also do similar math by counting deals and dividing the budget by that number to calculate a client acquisition cost.

Now, it’s important to note here that visitors and even leads happen quickly where deals close months later. So, you’re going to want to look at when the leads were generated which resulted in the deals. This month’s SEO spend is not generating deals this month. Instead, it’s generating leads now which will turn into deals down the road. This is just another example of why Real Estate SEO needs to be seen as an investment.

So, if we now know our cost/user, cost/lead, and customer acquisition cost, we can now compare these numbers to other media or industry norms. For many campaigns, cost/lead will be a good indicator. You’ll need to do some in-depth analysis to calculate customer acquisition cost and you’ll need to stick with it for a long period of time and through several deal cycles. If you have systems in place, then you should definitely start tracking all marketing media down to customer acquisition cost, but realistically, for more than half of the readers of this blog, cost/lead will suffice.

There’s a lot more I could say about this topic. But I’m going to stop before this post gets any longer. I’ll write a follow-up in a couple of days. If you have any questions on how to calculate the ROI of your Real Estate SEO campaign, drop us a question and we’ll give you an answer. Thanks.

Backlinks for SEO, Quality not Quantity

It’s amazing what some people will tell you.

We’ve been working on signing a new client for our SEO practice. They really are nice folks. They own a real estate office, surprise surprise, and I’ve spent my time in touch with a couple of the members of their marketing department. After telling them what we offer, sending a document on what to expect from our SEO services, I then sent along a service agreement. Pretty much, this is our standard sales process when someone signs up with us for SEO work.

This client wrote back asking us to write into the agreement that we would create 150 “backlinks” each month during the SEO campaign. This set off an alarm right away.  First of all, it was obvious that some SEO provider had told the client that this was an SEO best practice. Well, it’s not. So, we took the time to explain to them that when it comes to inbound linking, you want quality links, not just a high quantity of links.

When you’re trying to increase your inbound link count, you need to increase the number of quality links. This is just one of the elements of good SEO. Here’s how you judge whether it’s a good link.

  1. Google assigns every page with a PageRank. They don’t make these page rankings public, but you can see a version of your PageRank by downloading and installing the Google toolbar. If your links are from pages with PR (PageRank) 1, then they’re pretty much worthless. If you can get inbound links from pages with PRs of 5, 6, 7, and higher, then you’ll really be doing more for your SEO.
  2. Links to your site should be from pages with similar content. So, if your website is about Boston Real Estate and you’re trying to increase your ranking for the term “Boston Real Estate” then the inbound links to your site should be from other pages about Boston Real Estate. Also, ideally, the sites that those pages are a part of are sites about Boston Real Estate. The search engines look at this like the site is an authority on the subject. So, another example would be: a link from this website to a site about Real Estate SEO would be of high value to that other site; whereas a link from this website to a site about plumbing would be of far less value to that site.
  3. Link farms are bad. If the link to your website is from a page or website with many other outbound links on it, then this is not going to help your placement all that much. Google and Yahoo! can tell when a site is a link farm. All they have to do is count the number of outbound links on a page and on the site. So, if you’re just one of 100 outbound links on a page, then that link isn’t going to be looked upon very favorably and this will not help your SEO.

OK, now that we understand what makes for a good link and that many links aren’t worth much at all, let’s remember the following: Good SEO links are about quality and not quantity. If you can remember this mantra, then your SEO campaign will have a much better chance of performing well.

OK, that’s about it for now. If you have any questions about this topic, drop us a note and well get back to you. Thanks.

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