Successful Real Estate Companies Are Online!

The real estate market has seen some dramatic shifts recently and two things have happened.  The market crashed and real estate professionals and companies are taking their businesses online!  The online process began before the bubble burst, but the stormy housing market further proved the need for more targeted and cost effective real estate marketing.

istock_000001767763xsmallcroppedTo succeed in today’s real estate industry, you have to be actively engaging the online community.  The days of thinking that your buyers or renters are not online or that your “demographic” doesn’t use the web to find a home are OVER.  Here are some important facts from the 2008 NAR Profile of Homebuyers and Sellers:

87% of homebuyers used the Internet as an information source

77% of Internet homebuyers drove by or viewed a home they saw online

32% of buyers first found their home on the Internet

25% of FSBOs used the Internet to help sell their home

So how do real estate companies large and small answer this direct need to be egaging potential buyers and renters online?  The answer is through comprehensive integrated Internet marketing strategies.  This may sounds more complicated than it really is.  It all starts with the website which is the foundation of any sound online marketing plan.  You must have an interesting and informative user experience by offering loads of unique content, rich media like video and virtual tours, blogs, forums, etc.  Real estate, like most other businesses, have the need to embrace the Web 2.0 world of customer interaction.

Once the website is in order and you have a great interactive platform, you need to make sure people can find you.  Yes, your buyers and renters are online looking for you (as stated in the facts above)!  Of course, organic search engine optimization (SEO) is the best long term investment you can make in your real estate company.  Homebuilders and apartment development/management companies across the country are making this investment and saving tons of money in other marketing mediums.  Let’s face it…print isn’t going to get the job done anymore.  Sure, its important for branding and can be effctive for promoting grand openings but its not interactive, nor is it cost effective or measurable.

People want the facts and they want them fast.  Buyers and renters are online because its convenient anf there is a wealth of transparent information out there.  Consumers can do weeks of research and make informed decisions before ever picking up the phone to call a property or speak to an agent (though the important role of an agent or leasing representative will never be obsolete!).  Having first page organic rankings for your relevant keywords will drive higher volumes of quality traffic to your real estaet site than most other outlets.  Real estate is very competitive online so it must be viewed as a long term investment.  Once you have the rankings, then investment will pay off tenfold.

In the short term, pay per click advertising (PPC) (when managed properly) is a great way to drive targeted traffic to your pages.  Google Adwords has developed over the past year and their algorithms are now more sophisticated.  You must approach paid search campaigns in similar ways you do with basic SEO – you must have a thoughtful keyword strategy with good title and descriptions, and use solid landing pages with unique conent.  Google now uses what they call “Quality Score” to ensure that campaigns are well managed and providing value to the user.  The Quality Score process ranks your campaigns from 0 to 10 (10 being the best) and makes judgements based on title, descriptions, and landing page quality.  Google will also now take into account the overall value your website has to offer.  This is were many real estate sites can hit a road block. So many sites out there now just aggregate MSL listings and property listings from all over the web without providing unique content and information.  Without offering the user unique content found nowhere else on the web, Google may not give a good Quality Score when running PPC campaigns.  So now its not just about outbidding competitors for terms, its about value.

The fastest growing marketing phenomenon is social media.  All types of companies in all kinds of industries are embracing the ability to interact with their customers in an open transparent forum.  Social media is actually very simple (though it can take a lot of time and energy to run a successful campaign).  Its about finding your target audience in social networks, blogs, forums, etc. and listening to what they have to say.  Once you have a loyal following and are offering value to the community (Free information, advice, knowledge, etc.) you can start communicating your more “commercial” messages.  From a real estate perspective this is very important.  Buyers and renters are seeking value and real information now more than ever.  Additionally, once you have a robust online presence in the social media world, you can simply use it as a communication platform – announce grand openings, share videos, pictures, special incentives, etc.  Always remember though, you should lean more heavily to the “value” offering to maintain a trusting and loyal following.

One very simple and effective compliment to both SEO and social media, is regular blogging.  Blogging used to be quite foreign to real estate professionals and now it is very mainstream.  You just have to find the time to do it!  To use blogging effective for real estate, it should be approached in two ways.  (1) Have a blog on your own website and write on it regularly.  Send out links to your articles through your social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.  (2) Get out there and write blogs on other sites.  Once you become a regular on some sites you can start providing links back to your site.  This is a great way to get traffic and very powerful for your inbound link building campaign (the most crucial element to orgainc SEO).

Regardless of the economy, people still need homes and they are looking for them online.  Make sure you are where they are looking!

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