Archive for April, 2009
A client of ours decided to invest in a tile ad on boston.com. For those of you who don’t know, Boston.com is the website of the Boston Globe, which is, in my opinion, the best newspaper in Boston. Every once in a while, a member of the sales team at boston.com or nytimes.com or some local newspaper calls one of our clients directly and convinces them to commit to a banner, tower, or tile ad on their website. Usually, it’s in the real estate section, which, of course, sounds like a good idea. It’s an easy expenditure to explain and to get your boss to approve. If you’re the boss and you’re reading this post, DON’T APPROVE THIS EXPENDITURE.
Now, if you haven’t heard, the Boston Globe is under the threat of being shut down. The paper is owned by the NY Times company and they’re loosing money. So, the management over at the NY Times is threatening to only offer the online version of the paper if the Globe can’t cut expenses. The unions are fighting back and it’s getting ugly. If you read the globe, it’s a page 1 story just about every day.
Now, our clients get called by folks selling ad space on their sites all the time. We’re used to this happening and we often advise our clients against buying banner and tower ads alltogether. Every once in a while, they do it anyway and we have new evidence to show folks why it’s a bad idea.
Here’s an image of the page. On the right, you’ll see, outlined in red the placement of the ad that our clients decided to pay for. How much? They paid $1200/month to be on this page. Now this is the main real estate page on the site boston.com/realestate. It would stand to reason that this is the best page to be on for our clients.
This ad brought a little less than 100 visitors to our client’s website during the month of April. You only need a middle school education to know that they’re paying about $12 per click. If you’re familiar with CPC prices, you know this is extremely high.
For those of you who are not PPC or SEM experts. Here’s some more information. We are managing an SEM campaign for this client. We’re using Google AdWords and the client is paying for Google search traffic at $0.75 per click. That’s the average CPC (Cost per click) of the PPC campaign for the month of April. So, this means that our client is paying 16 times more for each visitor they get from boston.com than they are for visitors from Google who clicked on their paid placement.
SEM is by far more cost efficient than tile placement. This is pretty much always true. We’ve been preaching this for years. SEO can make your campaign even more cost effective, but the numbers, when you’re dealing with SEO, aren’t quite as concrete and quantifiable. Besides, this is the most recent direct comparable data that we have to show you. We literally pulled it down today.
In case you’re wondering, we used good ole Google Analytics to gather this data. It’s pretty clear that paying for advertising space in the real estate section of a newspaper’s website, unless it’s PPC, is a bad marketing investment. We see it time and again.
If anyone at the Globe wants to rebut these facts, I’m happy to talk.
If you are in the real estate business and you are involved or are thinking of being involved in social media, you’ve come to the right place. You may have found yourself thinking that with so much new stuff out there, which sites are the right ones for you? Should you join Facebook? How about LinkedIn? How much good does a Trulia profile do? And what the heck is Twitter?
Social media is a great way to optimize an online marketing campaign, for sure. Though I advise you to tread with caution. It’s not for everyone. Meaning that if you are involved in real estate seo, have a well functioning website and blog, then yes, social media is a great next step and something that you should take advantage of. However, if you either (a) do not have a website with good usabilitly, and (b) are not committed to being involved online, then social media is not for you. Here’s why: Social media is not just some profile you create so people can stumble across your name. No. Social media should involve you actively engaging with your readers, fans, friends and followers.
One of the most important aspects, besides engagement, is listening. You need to pay attention to what people are saying online. Whether it’s through direct communication or setting up something like Google alerts and responding in turn, you need to listen and respond appropriately.
Social media groups for real estate:
- Facebook: You can create a facebook profile for every agent. Each should manage their own because it would be too much for one person to manage. Create one Facebook “Fan Page” for your business, to which you can upload blog posts (your own and those worth sharing), you can share links, invite friends etc. Facebook provides a very detailed and useful help section if you need guidance on setting up accounts. Take a look at existing real estate pages for an example and take the best practices from each.
- Twitter: You may have heard it referred to as a “microblog”, and what you write is referred to as “Tweet”. Oprah even joined Twitter…but that doesn’t mean that you have to be on there too, nor that your readers are part of her followers. However, Twitter offers a great opportunity for realtors to listen to what home buyers, sellers and renters may be looking for or need. If you search the term real estate, house, or apartment via www.search.twitter.com you can see all the things that people have to say. Follow those people in your market and respond by offering advice, resources, tips etc. It will go a long way.Tip: please be sure to post a photo and write a brief, professional bio. Most won’t follow you if you don’t have one.
- YouTube: You don’t have to be Susan Boyle to become an internet sensation, but as a realtor it’s really easy to pick up a camera and shoot a video of your open house, a neighborhood, or a walk-through and then post that video on your site, youtube, and/or vimeo, and others of the sorts.
- Flickr or Picasa: Very similar to posting online videos, I encourage you to create an account for your agency and post photos of homes or at least your featured homes.
- LinkedIn: Another online networking community. How’s it different? LinkedIn is much more professional than, say, Facebook. You can only post your employment background and up to 3 links. What’s great about this group is that you can make a direct connect with your blog through their applications, and you can join additional real estate related groups. This way, each time you write a blog post worth sharing or you have other exciting news, you can share that information with those groups that you joined.
- Trulia: Like Zillow and Zip Realty, Trulia is already one of the most widely used real estate resources online. So why not go where you know your audience is? You should sign up for a free account. Create your profile and all that jazz, and recycle your old blog posts here (liven them up with some new content etc) and re-post those article through your Trulia blog.
- Other real estate sites include hubpages.com, squidoo.com, and activerain.com. Whenever possible also join local groups through either your local paper, community centers, chamber of commerce etc.
Within these social groups it’s important to remember that you should create and complete your profiles to show that you are there for the long run. No one will care what you have to say if you only show up and leave a message once a month. Instead you should engage your readers, follow your fans, and listen to what people have to say.
Social media like all relationships requires time to build, consistency and an ongoing effort. You don’t have to tackle all of these sites at once, take a stab at what you can handle, distribute some work throughout your team, and build up from there when ready.
Like its sibling, real estate SEO, social media will (in due time) help drive quality traffic and ultimately increase quality leads to your site. The great thing about social media is that people will only follow you or engage with you if they are truly interested, so that means that those who engage are already a good lead. You’ll be amazed by what you learn, and you’ll be even more amazed when you see how much traffic these sites will bring over time.
Are there any groups that I missed that you would suggest? What groups are you currently involved in? What have been some suprising things you’ve learned?
Link building for your site is not just about gaining a large number of inbound links, but rather a good number of quality links (quality not quantity). I recently wrote a post about gaining quality links during your natural or organic real estate SEO campaign’s life cycle. We got some great questions in response to that article and so I am going to drill down into some of the questions and provide you with more feedback on how to improve your campaign:
Why does my Real Estate site need links? Links are an essential part to your web presence, while quality links do take longer to get, the best way to get them is to actively maintain your real estate seo campaign with content writing and publishing as a huge part of that. Actively publishing quality content is the best way to get those links.
Why links? Because you do not want your website to exist in a vacuum. In addition to establishing visibility for your business and direction for your users, your links help establish credibility for your website. A link is almost like a vote, and thus with each incoming link to your site you get a vote…someone saying “Hey, look at this site. It has great information that I want to share with you. Go see for yourself!”
What kind of places should I avoid submitting links to? Two words; “Link Farms.” This seems to be particularly popular in the real estate field (though not everyone). While some of these tactics worked at one time, search engines have become more sophisticated. If you see sites that appear to be spam you should report them and not engage.
Link farms are sites that will link to every page submitted, anyone and everyone gets accepted. Some good key indicators are that they have no or poor PageRank scores (use this tool to check Google’s PR), display paid advertisement (quality directories never have advertising), and often do not offer very detailed categories or specialty areas. Most link farms or spammers will also require you to place a link on your site in exchange (again quality directories do not ask this) … run when you see this.
What if I have engaged with spam sites? You should remove any links to them and request to have yourself removed. Unfortunately there is no quick way to remedy mistakes of the past. Time is your best ally. Quality SEO practices are what will help you gain trust again, and this can take several months and even several years for you to catch up.
How do I find out whether my real estate site has been banned? This is a simple check. You would know because your site would no longer be indexed, meaning that it would no longer appear in search results. A quick way to find out is do a search for your domain name “www.domain.com” (with the quotes).
I actually recommend, if you are not currently using any sort of tools, like Google’s Webmasters, that you perform a search on your site regularly. It will also show you what links are associated with your site, which can easily help you see the kinds of sites with which you are being associated.
If you have been banned search engines suggest that you do everything to maintain a good standing and then give you the option to resubmit your site for reinclusion.
While the promise of easy link building through link exchanges or link farms is tempting, these tactics often achieve subpar results. Natural, organic inbound links from sites that your competitors can’t get links from are the best way to perform well in the long term. Patience my friend is the name of the game…and trust that as you continue to optimize and maintain your real estate seo campaign, by adding quality and relevant content, links will indeed come naturally.
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I was speaking with a potential client about SEO just the other day. They’re in real estate and they offer residential real estate sales and rentals. They also offer investment sales and commercial leasing. Needless to say, there are a lot of stake holders to satisfy and lots of terms that could bring them leads.
The client also happens to own several real estate websites. They have a main website, an apartments website, one for commercial leasing, lofts, etc. This is a strategy that we’ve seen several real estate firms use. They opt to own several real estate sites rather than just one. It’s not a bad strategy, so long as you have the budget to build, maintain, and market each.
This particular real estate firm told us that they didn’t have the budget to spend on optimizing each of the firm’s sites. They want to invest a small real estate SEO budget into their main website. Now, the main site offers residential sales and commercial leasing searches, information, etc. The apartment leasing division has it’s own website.
When discussing a list of terms to focus on, the client was adamant that they needed to include “apartment” terms in their list. We advised against this. We told them that the SEO campaign would be hampered for several reasons:
- The site doesn’t currently have any content related to apartments, apartment leasing, the apartment market, or anything else apartment related. So, we informed them that we’d be starting from a virtual SEO stand-still and that ranking for the apartment-related terms would take much longer than some of the other terms they were interested in.
- The site doesn’t currently include an apartment search or even a tenant inquiry form. There’s no way to know when a rental lead is created or a rental goal (using the Google analytics notion of a goal) is reached. So, we’d probably want to ad a search form to the site. This is not an SEO task, so we told them that they should increase their budget to account for this expense.
- Lastly, the if you’ve chosen a strategy where one of your sites includes LOTS of content for a set of users and the site has been designed to appeal to those users, then it makes much more sense to SEO that site for applicable terms. I’d liken this SEO strategy to the good old adage that talks about square pegs and round holes.
This all boils down to planning ahead. You can’t just pick a list of terms and start working. You need to think about your long term Real Estate SEO prospects. Choose terms that are achievable, who your site was built for, and those that the users who arrive will respond to. Make sure that your site has tools and content that are intended for that group of users who might search for those terms.
Not doing so will mean that you work harder or spend more money for less results. Real Estate brokers and agents can’t afford (really no one can these days) to be inefficient and wasteful. Listen to your SEO professionals. They probably do have your best interest at heart and they’re going to steer you towards best practices.
Thanks for reading.
We are all pretty much on the same page when we say that SEO is organic and that you want to naturally receive traffic from search engines. But how do we get those inbound links? When do they start flowing in? Do I get them myself? Where do I get them? Do I pay for them? Help….
Don’t fret. Here are a few tips that will hopefully put your mind at ease:
- Links will and should come naturally. Organic links are when someone likes your content enough to link to it.
- Quality content naturally draws quality links. The more quality content the more those links will come in. Keep writing.
- Create viral content (aka. link bait), often this will be free or offered without having to sign up for it… something helpful to your readers.
- Don’t always be too serious, offer something fun or cool (as relevant to your business).
- Have a tool on your site or a widget of sorts that will inspire others to share that information.
- Have your partners, supporters or other networks link to you (not necessarily always in exchange but because they want to help promote you).
- Create quality profiles. Don’t just create accounts that never get used, but set up profiles where you will actually be and remain active in a community.
- Add yourself to quality directories like the Yahoo! Directory and DMOZ.org (a few times when it will be okay to have paid links)
- …which reminds me, don’t pay someone to get you a ton of links and don’t add your site to link farms.
- Actively share your content and that of others, links will flow naturally from there as well.