You’re getting the emails telling you that a high Google ranking is just a mouseclick (and several thousand dollars) away, but how do you accomplish this yourself? Here’s a simple guide that we’ve seen work time-and-time again.
Step 1: Get a good website
Bells and whistles are one thing, but ranking well in search engines requires a website that:
is designed correctly with good URL and Title structure
can be easily updated
Step 2: Target your keywords
This is the interesting part – and DON’T GET INTIMIDATED. If you want to target “Chicago Real Estate” or “Vancouver Real Estate” then go for it. Just make sure you’re willing to wait a little longer (8-12 months) before you make it into the top 10.
Step 3: Optimize your meta tags
Make sure your front page title tag contains your targeted keyword(s), and not much else.
Step 4: Optimize your content
Make sure your targeted keywords appear in your content frequently but logically. Going out of your way to “trick” search engines won’t get you anywhere.
Step 5: Get good backlinks
Here’s the most important part. Make sure you get backlinks that:
will last a long time
have your keywords in the anchor text (EXTREMELY IMPORTANT)
are on high page rank websites, or root domains
5-10 backlinks per day should do it, with 3-5 high quality links per week.
Step 6: Keep content fresh
People often forget this one. Search engines measure two content factors:
Is it fresh on this current analysis?
How often is it fresh?
If the answers to these questions are “yes” and “often” respectively, then you’re good to go. A fresh blog post every week ought to do the trick.
Step 7: Repeat steps 5 and 6
Believe it or not, that’s it! Most people over-complicate SEO so dramatically they convince themselves that only professionals are capable of achieving a good ranking. I can say, from personal experience, that it’s well within anyone’s reach. Success is determined by only two things: consistency and commitment. Stick with this approach for 10-12 months and your website will be producing more business than you can handle.
Here are my favorite 5 REALTOR™ photos of the past few months (thanks to everyone who sent them my way):
5. Mr. Professional
The photo is small… so are your chances of landing a multi-million dollar sale. I’m sure you’re a nice guy, but I’d be much more comfortable entrusting you with my Corona than a $500k deal.
4. Big Advertiser!
Ironically this advertisement is more likely to put a “working man” out of work than it is to net a few more clients.
3. Outer Glow
Just because you can use the “outer glow” effect on your cellphone camera doesn’t mean you should. Even the photos of you on the roller coaster at a crappy summer carnival would be a better choices than this.
2. Fool me once, shame on you…
but fool me 4 times with a plethora of tastelessness? Shame on you as well. If including this on your key promotional material isn’t career suicide enough, then surely the cheesy poses are.
1. Bus-bench Surgery
Probably thought no one would notice right? Wrong. You’ve simultaneously convinced me that you’re cheap, don’t pay attention to detail, and don’t have a clue about what it takes to make my house, or anything else, look good… And for that you are my DECISIVE winner!
Roll the calendar back one year and everyone was talking about how social media would revolutionize the real estate industry. So, has it? We polled 30 REALTORS™ to find the answer, and the results are shocking:
25 had personal facebook profiles
1 had a facebook business page
5 were on twitter
12 were on linkedIn
The 1 facebook business page had not been updated within the last 30 days
4/5 twitter accounts had not been updated within the last 12 months
The 1 facebook business page had 13 fans
The twitter accounts had 22 followers, combined (most of which had also not been updated within the last 12 months)
This is a small sample, but it definitely suggests that the once touted “marketing game changer” has fizzled like so many fads before it. Despite widespread adoption, social media seems to have remained a key tool for movie stars and one-hit-youtube-wonders, but has had little effect on the promotion of Real Estate.
I know – this is old news – but I still get asked about Facebook Fan and Profile pages all the time.
A Facebook Profile
A Facebook Profile is your personal account on Facebook. This is where you add your friends, upload your photos, and interact with people. Since 2009 Facebook has not permitted businesses to use Profiles as their Facebook Locales. In fact a business that opens a profile page is in direct violation of the Facebook Terms of Service (and according to Facebook will be disabled).
It’s a good thing that Facebook prohibits business from having profile pages – after all, no one wants their customers seeing what happened in Las Vegas last week, right?
“So how do I get my business on Facebook?”
Enter the Facebook Page:
A Facebook Page is designed for businesses wishing to present their products or services in a social setting. They allow anyone full access, without restrictions. Additionally, where a Profile is limited to 5000 friends, a Page can have unlimited Fans. Finally, Facebook can recommend your page to other users interested in your subject area.
If you want to get started, here’s where you sign up for a Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/create.php.
Yes – there are examples of successful partnerships, but since starting this business I’ve seen hundreds of REALTOR™ partnerships fail – and some in the most catastrophic ways.
Things to consider upfront
Successful partnerships are built on trust, an upfront understanding of roles and responsibility, and a well-written contract. Here are the top five things agents from failed partnerships have told me:
Make sure you know who owns the partnership branding: logos, flyer/business card designs, letter/email templates, and customer service system
Who owns the website? Remember that a high-ranking website is a valuable asset and both partners might lay claim if/when the partnership fails.
How will the clients be split if the partnership fails?
How can one party buy out/leave the partnership?
In case of disagreement, who has the deciding vote?
Why they fail
Mixing work and friends – The oldest, but most common reason in the book. There nothing sadder than when friendships are pushed aside for money – I see it happen all the time. Two REALTORS™ being friends is not a reason to form a partnership:
“A friendship founded on business is a good deal better than a business founded on friendship.” – John D. Rockefeller
Mixing work and love – Yikes! I’m still not sure which comes first: the divorce or the failed partnership – but in either case these are ugly. There’s nothing worse than waking up and seeing slanderous language on your website written by your former spouse who’s managed to guess your password. I should add that though many “spouses selling houses” end in disaster, some of the strongest and most successful partnerships I’ve seen are married couples.
Joint Liability – One partner taking a contractual shortcut or not playing by the rules jeopardizes both partners. Remember that both parties are jointly and individually liable for the business activities of the other. If your partner disappears, you’ll be liable for all the debts, not just half of them. If one partner considers the other to be a liability then the partnership will fail.
Commission Split – Here’s the number-one reason partnerships end: one partner feels they do more work than the other. Having a suitable mechanism to deal with this is imperative to success.
So why have a partnership?
Some of the most successful businesses in the world are partnerships. I myself have a business partner (my twin brother) and we’ve been working together for many years. Here are some of the reasons why having a partnership can be a good idea:
Partnerships can be stronger because of reinforced support and motivation
Partnerships can spend more on marketing
Skills can be shared and learned by each partner
Two people working together can accomplish more than twice the work of one
It’s been well over 10 years since the first REALTORS™ went live on the Internet, and despite all of advancements made to the technology the ball is still being dropped when it comes to the most basic requirement of sales-success: followup.
“But Internet leads are useless”
When I hear people say this I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Internet leads are just like other leads – money in the bank if handled properly, useless if not. Here’s a look at how the Top Producers are making their money from the internet:
Yep – that’s it. Just a quick personalized email to followup with a new lead from your website. If you want to make the process even easier, consider the following tools:
Thunderbird email client
Quicktext plugin (for canned email templates)
If you want more sophistication then consider using salesforce or another similar CRM.
“What’s a telephone?”
This wonderful device allows people to communicate verbally, in real-time, and without email, text message, or Facebook! A simple phone call – even a scripted introduction – works wonders with brand new customers. Consider the following introduction (I’ve heard this one before and still remember the REALTOR’s™ name – incidentally he’s a multi-millionaire):
“Hi, this is <name> calling to make a quick introduction. I saw you surfing my website and wanted to let you know that if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Have a great day, goodbye!”
Ever wondered what separates top-producing REALTOR’s™ from the rest? Yep – it’s followup. Drip-email, direct mail, periodic flyers – all of these are required to eventually convert that Internet lead into money.
Just because a lead doesn’t convert right away doesn’t mean it’s junk. Using a good Customer Relationship Management system and coordinated followup will convert that lead eventually.
The talents of most REALTORS™ lay in selling homes, not writing Pulitzer-prize-winning novels. That’s not to say that writing talent isn’t out there, but writing killer content often isn’t at the forefront of most REALTORS™ minds.
“So what should I do?”
I get asked this all the time, and the answer is simple: contract it out.
If you’ve ever read a Hardy-Boys novel then you know how good ghostwriters can be (you didn’t really think it was Franklin W. Dixon writing all those books, did you?).
Many REALTORS™ now use ghostwriters to create their online content for them. Prices for hiring ghostwriters vary dramatically, but it’s possible to get good content written for an entire website for as little as $100-$200.
Advantages to Using Ghostwriters
The saved time will likely save money
Get a better ranking in Google
Potential Disadvantages to Using Ghostwriters
The copy can be bad… really bad – if you don’t find the ‘write’ person (write – ha!)
Cost. Yes, without shopping around it can get expensive.
But my best success has come from posting on the local college or university job board and asking students to write copy.
For the record – I write all my own articles for RealPageMaker. And my real name is Sam. (Though this article was mostly written by Tristan. Thanks Tristan.)
Quick word association game: What’s the first thing that comes to mind when I say “Website content.” Let me guess:
“High-school English” (with shudder)
For me there’s only one association:
In 1996 Bill Gates said:
“Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet, just as it was in broadcasting.” (full article here)
Since then, little has changed. The best performing websites – the ones that make the most money – have good, unique, fresh content. Period. Here’s why it’s important:
1. Search Engines Love Content
A website without good content will likely never rank well in search engines. Don’t believe me? Here’s a graph showing just how important good content is:
The graph represents the ranking of a website for an extremely competitive search phrase (60,000,000 results). As you can see, the website jumps in the rankings every-time we add new, unique content.
2. Clients Love Content
For a website to be productive it needs to attract customers. Imagine Google.com not having an obvious search field. Would it still be successful? No.
Is the content on your site representing you? Remember that a customer’s first interaction with you will likely be on your website. If you think that settling for the default content your web designer provided you is good enough, think again.
Creating Good Content
Creating good content is simple:
Start writing it
Use a spellchecker
Have someone close to you read it over
That’s it. And if you can’t do it yourself, there are plenty of contract writers you can hire to help you out.
Is the content on your site representing you? A visit to your website will often be your first interaction with a potential new client and you need to sell yourself! Do not settle for default content! Would you list a home without staging, cleaning and making look as appealing as possible? Of course not. The same holds true with your website.
Blogging has become commonplace on the internet, but uptake amongst REALTORSTM remains minimal.
“But I DID try it, I just never saw any results, so I gave up.”
Unfortunately I hear that from many REALTORSTM. The problem is that results from blogging can take a while – months and years, not days and weeks. Here’s a step-by-step guide to blogging effectively that will build traffic to your website and leads for you.
Step 1: Select Article Titles
Blogging effectively requires that you select the right topics to write about by ensuring people search for them in Google.
“How do I do that?”
Let me explain: The process involves close examination of “long-tail” keyword phrases in your market. Consider the following graph:
The graph represents the search volume in Google for certain keyword phrases. More popular phrases, with fewer keywords, are on the left and represent the highest search volume. As you move right, the keyword phrases become less popular and generate less traffic.
As expected, competition for keywords on the left is generally MUCH higher than those further right (though not always… I’ll write another article about this at a later date).
Examples of keywords that would be on the left:
Nashville Real Estate
Example of Long-Tail Keywords:
Nashville Real Estate Blog
Nashville Real Estate And The Flood
Nashville Houses In Foreclosure
The trick is to use your blog to rank for as many long-tail phrases as possible, and use other means to rank for the first few high-power keywords. You can use the Keyword Tool (from Google) to discover hundreds of “long-tail” keyword phrases. After you’ve selected a few, simply use these as your blog article titles.
Step 2: Write Good Articles
This is the hardest part for most people, but don’t worry – if you can’t write good articles then consider out-sourcing to qualified writers in your area. Posting on Craigslist or Kijiji (in Canada) for a copywriter takes only a few moments and will save you tonnes of time. A professionally written article of 500-800 words shouldn’t cost you more than $50-$80.
Step 3: Write Consistently, Write Often
Many people know that Googlebot will look at the freshness of your website content, but most people forget that Googlebot also looks at how often your content is fresh when it visits your site. Consistent writing is better than binge writing.
We generally find that writing one article every 7-10 days seems to be optimal.