Archive for March, 2009

How long should my blog post be?

This is one of the top questions I get when we start a client out with a new blog. My answer is always the same, as long as you write with a purpose and bring across your point clearly your post can be as long or as brief as you want it to be. stressed-over-blogging

This of course depends on the type of blog that you manage. Is it tied to your business? If so, I recommend that you maintain a professional blog and keep the personal stories a minimum in which case all of your posts should have some kind of point to it. Thus, each blog post should have a few good, poignant paragraphs – and generally, don’t stress about it.

A few tips: go back to what you learned way, way back when. Hear that voice telling you, “Have a solid introduction, a body and a conclusion.” That gives you about three paragraphs right there. Make sure to include some links as references (if for instance a source is not well known, you will want to link to that site). You can also include an image or two (with the appropriate Alt Tag too of course). And voila, you are done!

Hope this helps take a little bit of pressure off your weekly to do list. Oh and look, three paragraphs and I made my point.

Happy blogging.

The right real estate seo investment

How much should I be spending? We get asked this question all of the time, in one way or another.

  • How much do I need to spend in order to be successful?
  • What budget do I need to allocate for SEO?
  • How much should I spend per day on PPC?
  • What does it cost to get onto page 1?

It all boils down to the same question: What does it cost to run a successful search engine marketing campaign?

I’m sure that you won’t be surprised to know that there isn’t just one answer to this question. First of all, it depends on who is asking the question. Next, you need to understand the marketing you’re in. Then, you need to do a little math.

Let’s examine one case:

If you’re a broker and you’re looking to invest in real estate seo in order to provide your office with leads (Real Estate brokers asks us this question most often) then the answer starts with another question: How many leads/week do you want to give to each of your agents? 7 leads? 10 leads? 20? These are all fine answers. If you said 3, then I don’t think I want to work for you and your agents are about to leave you for the broker across the street or across town who actually tries to help his agents succeed by leveraging the web. If that sounded a little harsh, well, I’ve seen it happen a number of times and I’m watching it happen in our clients’ favor every day.

Anyway, I digress.

If you know how many leads you want to give each agent/week or per month, then you have the first number you need in determining your SEM budget. Let’s assume that you have 10 real estate agents working for you (this is the average size of a real estate office in the US).

Now, it’s time to think about your market. How much does it cost to source a real estate buyer or seller lead online in your market? Well, this is where guys like us SEO consultants come in. We can help answer questions like this. A mature real estate SEO campaign in a market of medium competition will generate leads at approximately $4 – $7/lead. If you’ve been SEOing for a while, then you can do even better than that. If you’re in a metropolitan real estate market and there are lots of firms competing for search engine placement, then this cost can climb significantly. For the purposes of this example, let’s use $5 per lead.

So, if you have 10 real estate agents working for you and you want to give them each 7 leads/week that’s 300 leads per month. At $5/lead, you should allocate a budget of  at least $1500/month.

Ok, now, if you go looking for a real estate seo provider out there and someone tells you that they can provide seo services and they don’t talk to you about your business goals in a way similar to how I just did, then you know that they don’t understand the business that you are in. They don’t know the real estate market and they don’t know how to generate real estate buyer and seller leads.

One last point here. Frequest readers of this blog know that we talk about the fact that SEO is an investment. You’ll notice that earlier in this post I referred to “Mature” SEO campaigns. If you’re asking how much to invest, you should remember that investing in real estate SEO, like investing in real estate, is not going to bring you returns over night. Superior performance takes time and consistent investment. Proper planning, strategy, and implementation will maximize your investment in real estate seo. Just don’t expect it to make you a millionaire tomorrow.

That’ll take at least a week.  :o )  Thanks for reading.

Redesigning your blog? Keep SEO in mind

Thinking about a new look for your blog? Or maybe you are just starting out and are looking for some tips on how to get started. Well, here are some steps to keep in mind, from a marketing perspective, as you undergo your blog redesign.

First, I hope you are using your blog because you want to reach a broader audience and want to make a greater impact, establishing or reinforcing your online presence (depending on whether this is your first go at it or you’ve been around the block a couple of times). Your blog, like your website, is about marketing yourself or your business, ultimately, a means by which to grow your business (aka. lead generation). It should be easy to navigate, consistent with your line of business or area of expertise, and informative. With that in mind, you should not be redesigning your blog because you feel that your design just isn’t quite as fun or fancy as some others out there. Second, you want to make sure that while your design looks clean and professional, your content and layout are what will get you the most bang for your buck.

However, before you even get started you want to organize the following; (1) establish clear, definitive goals and determine what desired actions convert visitors into leads (Do you plan on using your blog to capture leads? etc.), (2) make sure to keep the HTML coding clean (if you are not familiar with these practices I advise that you consult a professional, (3) don’t forget your users and site usability, (4) remember that a blog redesign is a project and should be managed as such, (5) set up a realistic schedule and manage expectations (Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your WordPress blog won’t be either).

Once you get into the nitty-gritty of things you will want to make sure that you don’t lose what you have during your design process.  There are pieces of your website that exist now and are good for SEO, and those should be protected. I can’t stress enough – don’t lose what you have. With SEO less is not more – the content you have the better off you are. With a proper plan and layout you can keep track of what you have and what you can do without.

…which brings me to my next point…

Any site redesign is a great time to assess what you have. What is worth keeping? It’s everyone’s favorite “A” word (no, not that) – Audit. Assess what may need to be updated, was it 5 or maybe 8 years ago that some of that content was created?…right…follow what I’m saying.

Most likely you already have great content – whole-lot-a posts. On and off page SEO are crucial as part of your blog’s SEO. As a refresher, on page SEO includes your post URLs which you can easily manipulate with plug-ins like the WordPress “all in one SEO pack” or any “permalink” plug-in for that matter. Next are the page title (or Meta Title), page headers (your H1s, 2s and 3s) and of course your content, all of which should incorporate the use of your keywords. Now, depending on the kind of plug-in that you are using you may be able to update post and page descriptions as well, which we know is equally important. Off page SEO, which is huge, includes inbound links and to some extent internal linking. Make sure this is all working properly, and none of these steps get sacrificed. Typically when working with platforms like WordPress these transitions run more smoothly.

And, finally…don’t forget to test. Testing is an important part of any redesign and a crucial step that is often overlooked. Try testing in different environments to make sure that styling and functionality is consistent.

As always if you have any questions please let us know.

Happy blogging!

PS: How do you like our new look?

Lead Generation, Quantity vs. Quality, Maybe

This is an ongoing debate among real estate brokers and agents.

Here’s the situation, you’re marketing your real estate website online, you’re investing in SEO, maybe you’re working with PPC, maybe your office site is getting hundreds of visitors every day. The question is this: When do you ask the user to sign up? How do you acquire the most leads and, more importantly, customers? Which is your priority, quantity or quality? Let’s explore:

When a buyer is looking for a new home, they’re going to be looking for information. Most often, they’re going to want to search for real estate that’s on the market. Maybe they want market data or some other kind of information beyond simply listing search results. At any rate, they want to visit a site and get some information. Knowledge is power and they want to feel empowered.

Now, there are some horrible website vendors out there who sell websites that require the user to sign up to access just about every part of the site other than the home page. You make the user sign up to search, to get a report, to get a home valuation, to do just about anything. These sites will kill your prospects of achieving good search engine placement. Remember, the search engines will not fill out forms. They will not hit the submit button. In short, they won’t know about the majority of your content. If you want to optimize your site for SEO purposes, make sure the search engine robots can get to the information using regular HTML hyperlinks.

Now, when we build sites, we usually put the sign up in one of a few places:

  1. Sign up before the user can see search results. Yes, most visitors to your site will want to use the property search. So, it makes some sense to have them sign up in order to search or to see the results of their search. There are two major objections to this method
    1. Plenty of other sites don’t make the user sign up to see their search results and lots of users don’t want to sign up for anything. They prefer to remain anonymous. So, you risk loosing the possibility of converting this user into a lead and sending them to your competitors’ sites.
    2. If you make a user sign up just to browse, they’re somewhat likely to give you fake contact information. This is a risk. Our experience shows that when a site forces a sign up earlier in the search process, then they see more fake leads who are tossing bogus information into the sign up form just to get to the good stuff. Now, you may be willing, as many folks are, to sift through these fakers in order to get to find the real leads. There’s nothing wrong with this tactic.
  2. Allow the user to browse and only ask them to sign up to use advanced features
    If your site is built well, then it should provide the user with many different interactive features. This might include the opportunity to register for an account, save favorite listings, save searches, sign up for nightly listing updates by email, schedule a showing, inquire about a listing, etc. Lots of sites allow the user to browse the search results without registering. In other words, the user doesn’t convert into a lead until they’re ready. The argument in favor of this strategy is that the user who inquires or requests a showing is a better lead. The argument against is that you’ll see fewer leads.  Indeed, when someone requests a showing or more information or signs up for nightly email listing updates then they are indeed a more qualified lead. That said, there are lots of folks who don’t want to sign up until they’re ready to buy and using strategy #1 above may turn these folks away.
  3. Hybrid approaches to lead gathering

    1. You can give away some information and require the user to sign in for more. Lots of sites don’t give away property addresses, for example, until the user has signed in.
    2. Another approach is to allow the user to use the site for a while – say giving them access to 2 searches or 4 listing details pages – before requiring them to sign up. This is sort of like tempting the user. You show them that there’s a lot of inventory and features for them to use and entice them to sign up in order to stay inside the promised land.
    3. One of our favorites is to show the user the search results, but to then use something called a Lightbox in order to ask them to sign up. That’s when the screen goes dark/opaque and the user is presented with a sign up box.  They can still see that search results are behind the sign up and they’re more compelled to sign up to see what’s just beyond. Again, some users may just click the back button and go back to the search engines to find another site where they don’t have to sign up at all.

Customers come to us all of the time and ask about the best ways to implement lead acquisition within their site. It’s not a simple question to answer. If you have a lot of agents to satisfy, we recommend going for quantity. Make the user sign up early in the search process. If you have a lot of traffic and you want to get the best quality leads farther down the search road, then ask them to sign up later in the process.

Overall, your site must be engaging and the user needs to want to stick around and come back again. If you’re not designing for a superior user experience, then you’re just not going to get the leads that you need out of your real estate website.

Web Presence Management and Optimization

At the intersection of Real Estate, Marketing and Technology

For those who missed the most recent course in our ongoing series, which included a discussion of traditional vs new media, here are my notes from the course presentation. Hope to see you at the next class, April 13th.

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