Archive for May, 2009

Back to Basics: PPC 101

I frequently am asked how to optimize a Google AdWords campaign. So here are some simple basic tips on things to follow and look out for:

Google AdWords PPC Pick up a book or do a Google online training on using AdWords (AdWords for Dummies is great…and no one will call you a dummy, I promise…knowledge is power), it will help you to get to know the lingo

  1. Sign up for the standard edition, not the starter edition
  2. Use the new user interface
  3. Keep your content network in a separate campaign
  4. Have a lot of ad groups, each with very targeted keywords
  5. If you have real estate in different towns do a separate ad group for each town. If you have separate buildings, or building types then do a new ad group for each
  6. Have at least two different ad variations for each ad group
  7. Set up conversion tracking
  8. Integrate Google Analytics and your AdWords account
  9. Check your campaign(s) every day and edit bids continuously

PPC is a worthwhile expenditure if managed well. For branding campaigns especially PPC is great in coordination with SEO. If you have questions on managing or starting your AdWords account, Boston Logic can be of help.

What are some of the key practices you have employed that have resulted in successful PPC campaigns?

Photo credit: videovoo.com
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We cannot Optimize that site

Unbelievable!

I got a call yesterday from a guy who wanted to learn more about our SEO services. Actually, first a lead landed in my inbox from one of our websites. I think it was bostonlogic.com. So, I responded to the lead via email. The lead had written that they were interested in optimizing their website www.harrymoore.com. So, I wrote back. Then he called me to discuss his site.

I felt like I was a mechanic telling someone that their car had been totaled or maybe like a cop telling the victim of a robbery that they shouldn’t expect to see their possessions again any time soon. All I had to do was look at the site for about 15 seconds and I knew that there was nothing we could do.

First of all, the site is built by Advanced Access. The readers of this SEO blog have read my post about them. That post met refutation from someone in their marketing dept and there was a sting of about 7 comments and responses that followed. They told me that their sites could be SEOed and yes, some of them were based on old technology, but they help lots of agents…etc, etc.

ANY SEO worth half their IQ would know that this site was built improperly if you want to achieve organic ranking. Let’s look at why. The problems with this site spell out an education in how not to build a website:

1 page website
This site is, in fact, only one page! Click around Harry’s site. You’ll notice that the pages have names like:

/Nav.aspx/Page=%2fPageManager%2fDefault.aspx%2fPageID%3d2020443

Now, Nav.aspx is the file name and the rest is a database query. That query is actually telling the system that powers this real estate site what page to put into the iframe on the right side of the page, which makes up the majority of the page.  (more on iframes in a moment)  So, as you navigate around the site, you’re just reloading the Nav.aspx page again and again with a different bunch of content in the iframe.  A 1 page website will NEVER rank well in the search engines.

The “pages” of this site (I use that term loosely) are actually just 2 iframes each. There’s an iframe on the left, which contains the nav and an iframe on the right, containing the body

I-Frames =  No SEO help
Iframes are universally regarded as poor SEO. Sure, they get used all the time. They are not without purpose, in some situations. Google uses them to build some of their applications, even, but this is not the right place to use an iframe and here’s why. When spidering a site and considering it for search engine ranking, the search engines ignore the content that’s inside any iframe. It may as well not exist on your site at all.  Most folks would say that iframes just don’t help whatsoever. They’re certainly not the right way to construct AN ENTIRE SITE!!!

So, a 1 page site made up of iframed content…well that’s the ballgame. But let’s proceed with this analysis assuming that this weren’t the case. Maybe there’s some imaginary real estate website out there that’s similar to this one, but without the iframes and actually made up of more than 1 page.

Nav made of images
The navigation is made up of a number of images on this site.  When possible, you want your nav to be made up of HTML text. If you’re implementing some design that requires a font that is not an html font, then you want to make image files with names that are the same as what the images say. You also want to use alt text to tell the search engine spiders what the images say. The file names for the these images on this site are all similar to this: 1165984.jpg.  Oh, and there’s no alt text.

Being Constructive
Before I get carried away with more ranting about the snake oil that the people at advanced access will sell you, I want to be constructive. I want to give our readers a few tips on how to avoid getting yourself into an SEO hole.

Know what you’re buying. Realize that you can’t achieve good ranking for $50/month. A $15,000 car is never going to do 150 MPH either. Don’t believe the salesman when he tells you that it will.

If the company that sells you a website doesn’t offer organic SEO services for thousands of dollars, don’t buy your website from them. I’m not saying that you have to have a huge budget. Follow this logic: If a company sells sites and then takes on expensive SEO contracts and optimizes sites for superior placements for marquis terms using the technology that those sites are built on, then at least you know that the technology CAN support good SEO. You might even try calling the company and asking them to show you some sites that rank for marquis terms (and not just the agent’s name) and then make sure your site is built on the same software platform.

Lastly, remember that if you want to achieve good placement, you’re going to need an seo expert on your side. Ask your real estate seo consultant to look at the site that you’re going to be investing in and have them give their opinion of whether or not the system running the site is suited for SEO in the future. Most honest SEOs will do this for free in the hopes that they’ll get your business later on. We sure will.

Have a great holiday weekend.

SEO is a mean, not an end

Are you proud of your ranking? Are you psyched that you’ve got so many Twitter followers? Do you have 1000 friends on Facebook?

Well, all of those are indeed reasons to celebrate, but not too much. It’s like the old saying goes: That, and a token, will get you a ride on the subway.

At the end of the day, there’s no revenue generated directly from being at the top of the SERPs. No one is paying you to be your Facebook friend and Twitter followers aren’t a revenue stream. These are all means to an end. The end goal, of course, is revenue.

Let’s examine this process. A user is out there on the web, they’re tweeting, let’s say, or they’re searching for a real estate agent on Google. The first goal is for them to find you and click to your site. Great. Step 1 is implete, you’ve generated traffic. users are clicking on your organic listings which rank high because of all that SEO you’ve invested in.

Now, the user arrives at your site. What do they find? Is your site engaging? Can they easily find what they’re looking for? Are they compelled to sign up and become a lead? We’ve written many times on this blog about the fact that SEO is a WASTE if your site isn’t any good. It’s true that we often have clients contact us for SEO services and we tell them that we’ll need to redesign their website before doing any SEO. Otherwise, they simply wouldn’t see any benefit from our SEO services. Some folks out there, some in real estate and some in other industries, think that SEO gets you clients. Well, it doesn’t.

SEO is a means, not an end.

So, let’s be optimistic. The user found you, they arrived at your site. They became engaged. They even signed up and converted from a user into a lead. What now? Does a lead = money in your pocket? No, a real estate buyer or seller lead is only worth cash when the deal closes.

That said, it’s easier to understand the value of a lead. The closer you get to the transaction and the smaller the numbers get, the easier it becomes to assign a dollar value to each unit. If in a 1 month period you generate 100 leads and sell even just 5 of them a home, and your monthly marketing budget is $2000 that means you’re spending $20/lead and your customer acquisition cost is $400/customer.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. We have search engine ranking producing website visitors. The visitors are converting into buyer and seller leads. Now we want deals. How do we maximize the conversion of those leads into deals. Here are two ways.

First, email marketing is essential. Lots of your leads will not come back to your site unless they’re prodded to do so. Send them nightly listing updates. Send them your newsletter. Email marketing is the best way to re-engage a lead. It’s also the best way to stay in touch with your past clients, a source of repeat business, referrals, and testimonials (which are great for SEO).

Second, your site needs to be a resource to the buyer. They’ll keep coming back, and therefore be more likely to convert into a deal, if they are engaged with the tools on your site. Your property search should be fully featured. A user should create an account and save favorite listings, save favorite searches, take notes, save and edit their listing update criteria, and communicate directly with you, right through the site.

To review:

  1. The user finds you on Google or Twitter or where ever
  2. They become engaged by your site’s design and functionality.
  3. Conversion from a user into a lead
  4. User returns to the site as their buying or selling resource.
  5. Conversion into a client signaled by a deal closing.

Remember, steps 1 through 4 are all means to an end. It’s like my football coach used to say, “you can celebrate when you cross the goal line.”

SEO at NAR Meeting in DC?

In case you were under a rock, the Nation Association of Realtors mid-year convention is happening right now down in DC. I’m not there, for a few reasons which I’ll explain below,  but I decided to look into how the convention is helping real estate agents and brokers market their services and listings using SEO, SEM, or really online advertising media at all. Or, to ask a broader question, how important does the NAR think this is?

So, I looked at the schedule for the conference, which spans 5 days.  Most events in the calender are 1 – 2 hours long and there are about 50 events each day. So, how many of these events are about SEO? As far as I can tell, none! Now, I didn’t read the description of every event, for example I didn’t read what’s going to be discussed at the South Dakota Customized Hill Briefing, but I think it’s safe to assume that SEO isn’t on the agenda.

Yes ladies and gents, that’s it. Search Engine marketing doesn’t seem to be a priority. It’s not on the agenda. There are a few (5) sessions that seem to have something to do with online marketing. Here’s a snippet from one of the session descriptions:

“Identify which online ads outperformed the competition including: foreclosure ads, luxury home marketing, and landing pages that cause a consumer to give up their contact information. Discover which brokers are getting the best results and see what they changed to drive in more leads.”

Whomever wrote this description isn’t an online marketing professional, or I should say, isn’t a very good one. If you were going to compare online ads, then you should be talking PPC and, if you’re really looking to waste money, PPM, but I don’t think this session will get to that level of education.

I’ve been to enough of these conferences to know. What’s going on is a beginners course, or really, the NAR has invited some members, Realtors just like the rest of the conference attendees, who have taken initiative and started to leverage online marketing, to sit on a panel and talk about their relative succes. No one is going to leave these sessions with anything really actionable. Oh, well maybe if you go to one of the sponsored sessions by a big vendor selling cheap useless solutions, you’ll have an “actionable” ordering form.

Here’s my recommendation: Don’t go to NAR. Spend 5 days of your time and the grand or two of your GCI that the trip is costing you working on your business including your website, your blog, working your network, and signing some listing agreements. It’ll serve you a lot better. In short, don’t waste your time.

Lastly, why aren’t we down at NAR, because the big guys who attend NAR aren’t spending, they’re going bankrupt. The middle market, are spending, and they’re not there. I did hear on NPR that 1000 realtors showed up to hear Alan Greenspan speak yesterday – since he did such a bang up job keeping interest rates low and precipitating the sub prime mortgage crisis. I wonder if anyone threw rotten fruit at him?

Oh and here is my favorite session (Said with my tongue pressed against my cheek): The Power of You: Professional Development Forum - This is a self defense class, taught by an expert, on how to prepare and protect yourself from the hazards of showings, open houses, and unruly mortgage brokers. Good thing that you flew to DC to take a $20 course that they offer at the YMCA.

Thanks for reading.

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Top 10 sites to submit your blog

As part of your real estate seo link building is an essential task. For the most part links will come naturally, but a portion of your links and traffic can come from sites/directories where you have submitted your blog. Submitting your blogs is critical to gaining exposure in the appropriate forums and with your appropriate niche that helps support increasing inbound links, traffic, reader engagement and ultimately your overall site or blog goals.

You do not want to have your real estate blog exist in a vacuum. Here are 10 sites to help you start to gain exposure:

1.    Google’s Blog Search
2.    Technorati
3.    Best of the web
4.    Blogged
5.    Blog Catalog
6.    Blogmarks
7.    Bloggapedia
8.    My Blog Log
9.    Zimbio
10. LinkedIn
11.  Search specific local niche sites where you can submit your blog and have it publish your posts automatically.

You will want to make sure to create an account on most of these site and remain active. Find a specific group, niche or topic that relates to your business and then watch the links and traffic come in from those sites.

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