Archive for the ‘Snake Oil’ Category

Direct Mail vs SEO for Real Estate

I almost can’t believe that I wrote that headline?

Yesterday, I spoke with a guy who told me he wanted to run a direct mail campaign to drive traffic to his website and capture leads to “farm” (his word) into clients.

Now, first let me say that farming a cache of leads is a great strategy. You can source your leads lots of ways. We recommend a strong online marketing campaign including strong real etstate seo efforts, ppc, email marketing, and a highly accountable reporting system. direct mail

So, this guy isn’t completely off the mark. Yes, your database of leads and customers is gold. You need to nourish this list and grow it. The more qualified users you can drive to your site, the more leads you will generate. If your site is well built to convert real estate buyers, sellers, and renters into leads, then the more traffic you have the more leads you should have.

As we’ve mentioned many times on this blog, you need to consider the cost of each lead. What did you pay to acquire the lead? If you paid $4000 for 8000 clicks (that’s $0.50 per click or site visitor) on Google Adwords and that generated 400 leads, then you paid $10 per lead. Got it?

Well, let’s think about this direct mail campaign that the guy on the phone wanted to deploy. He’s going to spend money sending those mail pieces upfront. Let’s say he sends our 10,000 pieces at $0.40 each. That’s $4000.

Now, he told me that these mailings were going to direct the users to his website. So, how many of the recipients will actually go to a website on a postcard? Here’s where the plan falls off the tracks.

It’s not likely that many of the recipients will actually go to the website. I don’t know about you, but I toss those mailers in the trash. I pick up my mail on the way into my building and the next thing I do is filter out the junk mail straight into the garbage.

So, if our friendly realtor is lucky, he’ll get maybe 5 or 10% of the recipients visiting his site. If the site was fantastic and converted leads at 10% (which is pretty high) he’d have 10000 x 0.1 x 0.1 = 100 leads. That’s $40/lead. Honestly, the cost would likely be even higher.

Bottom line – For real estate marketing campaigns, SEM, SEO and PPC are far better investments than direct mail. And please don’t be fooled and think that you can generate web traffic efficiently using traditional marketing like direct mail.

Hopefully, we just saved you some time and money.

Joomla isn’t for Real Estate

Let’s get something clear here. Joomla is not the right platform for building real estate websites.

For our readers who aren’t familiar with the system, Joomla is an open source content management platform. It was built to make building a generic website easier. It was not built for real estate offices or agents.

If you’re going to build a real estate website, you need to use something that was designed for the real estate industry.  At Boston Logic, we’ve developed the ONE System Real Estate Website Platform, but I’m not going to write about that today. Before we invested the thousands of hours that we’ve put into building this system, we did use Joomla to build some sites. So, I’m speaking (writing) from experience here. Let me tell you about some of what we learned:joomla-logo

  1. Joomla is not built to integrate with an MLS. This is critical. Your real estate website should be built with an integrated MLS search. The search should not be on another website or in an iFrame. You should be building on a platform that has the search, search results, and property details pages right on your site. In addition the interactive user tools should be part of the site and so should your lead management system. Obviously, joomla doesn’t have a real estate lead management system for you to leverage.
  2. Joomla’s content management system is overcomplicated for real estate. When you design software, you start with requirements. Joomla was built to do a lot of things. Most of these things, real estate agents and offices will never ever do. Advanced content management requires a lot of user access levels and controls. Realtors require a simple and easy to use interface for managing their content. Joomla, we found, confused our clients more than it enabled them.
  3. magnifying glassJoomla is relatively laborious to style. Our team has worked with Joomla plenty of times. It’s still a bear to make the pages all look good. If you think you’re saving money, think again.
  4. Customization is harder. When you get down to it, working with open source systems can get you a lot of functionality for no money. That said, going beyond what the system includes and/or what the plugins you find can do is a challenge. So, if Joomla will do 80% of what you want for your real estate website and then you think it’ll be easy or cheap to hire a developer or web development shop to take you the rest of the way home, think again. Customizing Joomla gets expensive quickly. As a point of reference the last Joomla site that we worked on required about $75,000 in work to get to what the client wanted.
  5. Joomla is hard to turn into an effective real estate website. Great real estate websites have lots of features that are not part of the Joomla platform. I’ve already mentioned the MLS search above. Agent profiles linked to their listings. Pages on developments and/or buildings with available listings right on the pages. Live Chat. Lead distribution and management. Featured property pages. Maps. And many of the other features that make for a great real estate website are missing.

Here’s the all important conclusion. Joomla should not be used for real estate websites. It’s unlikely that the cost benefit will outweigh the poor end product that you’re going to see.

Making some good points about Real Estate Marketing

So, every once in a while, I read an article that makes some great points.

Mike Parker, who I’d never heard of before, wrote an article for Broker/Agent Social network and it touches on a lot of good facts and points. The web address and a link to the article are below.

The article is entitled Traditional Agents Earn $36,700 Annually; Internet Agents Earn $100,000+ Annually. It’s an attention getting name for sure. The article goes on to tell how real estate agents have a lot of trouble existing solely on the money they make from being in the real estate biz. That is, accept for the folks who have embraced the internet.

Now, I don’t agree with everything Mike said. Intelligent and reasonable folks can disagree. That’s fine. But I’m going to highlight some of his points and I also want to look at some of the comments he received.

The best part of the article is that Mike tells us that the average “Internet Agent” makes more than $100,000 per year. Now, I’m not sure that the numbers are quite that high, but let’s assume that the Internet Agent does make a lot more than the average agent. Who is this agent? Well, they get 70% of their leads online. They sell more than one home each month. And lastly – and I don’t really agree with this statement – Mike tells us that they have a positive outlook for the future because, “There are no economic downturns online.” That last quote is not completely true. That said, there’s a reason why we’re seeing Boston Logic’s real estate clients growing in a down market. The reason is online marketing: SEO, SEM, and social media. A general embracing of online strategies to succeed in real estate marketing.

Mike tells us that the AVERAGE Real Estate agent doesn’t get many leads from their website. Well, regular readers of our blog will tell you that we’re not surprised to hear that at all. In one of the comments, a reader says that they have a website and haven’t seen results. Again, no surprise. Mike’s comment in response is really quite spot on. Mike says that it’s likely that the strategy wasn’t implemented properly. Just having a website isn’t nearly enough. Yes, you need to invest in online marketing. Yes, it will cost you money. The Real Estate brokerage business is like any other, you have to invest money to make money.

Next, Mike makes a great point saying that you need professional Real Estate SEO help. He says, “…let someone manage a site built just for you that produces these leads, and that site must employ the best in REAL SEO…” I’m not sure what he means by Real SEO? I’ll assume he means white hat techniques that won’t get you banned from the search engine results pages. Of course, Mike is right on the money. You probably need a professional and you need to have a site that’s build just for you that produces leads. Not some cookie cutter template site. Read our Snake Oil category to learn who not to buy from.

Now, it’s very important that you remember a few things. In order to succeed online – in order to see a return on your investment – you’re going to need a site that gets visitor traffic, you’re going to need a site that generates leads, and you’re going to need to follow up with those leads. I think we’ve posted about a dozen times on just those topics. Here are some recent posts that back up just what the stats from NAR tell us:

Here’s how you can get to Mike’s Article:
http://www.brokeragentsocial.com/article.php?article_id=364

Thanks for reading.

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.

I knew it when I saw their SEO um PPC ad

This post is going to address a couple of major SEO topics. Why am I tackling 2 in one blog post, because they jumped off my computer screen in rapid succession!

First, I’m going to call out another snake oil seo salesman. The first thing I saw was that their ad read “Good SEO = More Traffic.” This immediately screamed AMATEUR SEO. Then I clicked through to their website (yes, the PPC click probably cost them a couple of bucks) and I started reading. I immediately thought, this was not written by someone who speaks english as a first language.

I couldn’t believe it, I was reading what was supposed to be marketing copy and I could immediately tell that it was written by someone who wasn’t qualified to be writing it. So, I clicked on the contact page on the site. Sure enough, they gave an address in Mumbia, India.

The company is called Convonix. I’d never heard of them before, so that’s why I decided to click on their ad. It’s a bad sign when we’ve never heard of an SEO firm. We’re pretty well aware of who the players are in the industry. It’s not hard for us to suss out the riff raff. Like I said, I knew they were snake oils salesmen. Here are two major reasons why.

“Good SEO = More Traffic” is how their PPC ad read. THIS IS FALSE!!!

GOOD SEO = MORE CUSTOMERS

Results are what matter. I would shout this from the rooftops if I could. Any SEO firm that’s trying to sell you on placement is behind the times and should not be allowed to practice SEO. Who cares where you place and how many users come to your site if you don’t gain any customers as a result? Good SEO = Revenue. Good SEO = Business Growth. Good SEO = Speaking the language.

This brings me to my next point on SEO and really marketing in general. Years ago, one of the fathers of direct marketing described the practice of marketing as “salesmanship in print.” In the 21st century, we can expand this definition to say “salesmanship through another medium.” The medium could be a website, print, radio, you name it. The marketer’s job is to help promote and sell the offering.

Now, let me ask you bright people the following question. Is it wise to have someone who doesn’t have a good command over the language write your marketing copy? Do you want the content of your website to be written by someone in India? Will they understand idioms? Slang? Irony? Let’s remember, when we talk about SEO, content is King! The answer is simple. You need someone with a healthy command of the language to do the SEO work. SEO is not something that should be outsourced to Mumbia or Paris or Moscow. Marketing requires someone who knows your language and your market and SEO is marketing!

This is twice as true for the real estate industry. You need someone who speaks your “language.” I’m using the word language a little more loosely here. The language of real estate, which is required for good real estate seo, is specific to the industry, your geography, and to your market. The home buyer or seller, whom you want to click on your listing in the search engine results, is going to search using works and phrases particular to the real estate industry. They’re also going to use real estate terminology specific to your area and the current market condition.

This brings me to my last point. We’ve had clients in the real estate industry ask us how we can work with multiple real estate companies in the same market, which we do all the time. The answer is pretty simple. You can work with a real estate seo firm, like Boston Logic, who speaks the language, with domestic staff, who know the real estate vertical extremely well, or you can pay someone else to ride a learning curve on your dime. Also, it’s a big market out there. If we can help a few clients in each market gain more market share, then we’re doing our job.

That’s what good SEO equals…more market share. Not just more traffic.

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