With so many “expert internet marketing” blogs out there, and enough advanced topics to make anyone’s head spin, sometimes it’s best for us to take a few giant steps back and break things down on a real basic level for beginners to marketing real estate online. Let’s start with some important questions you should be asking yourself if you are a Realtor or other real estate professional who is just getting into the game.
1. Do you have a website?
2. What is your plan to drive traffic to it?
3. Are you going to use email marketing?
4. Will you have a blog?
5. How will you track ROI?
These are five very general questions, but the answers to each of them plays an essential part in understanding what’s required to succeed in 2009 and beyond, and can help you plan your online marketing spend accordingly.
Get A Website Already
Let’s start with the obvious. If you don’t have a website, get one. Not today, not tomorrow, but NOW. You have to be online to have visibility. Over 80% of home purchases start on the web, and that number climbs every year. This means that if you aren’t appearing in the search results, you are totally closing your doors to a majority, if not all, of your potential client base. Even if you can only get a basic, template-driven real estate site, that’s at least a start. So look into your options, see what other beginners are starting out with (the search results themselves can be a great resource in determining how your competition is representing themselves – and who built their sites!).
Drive Traffic To It
It is important to keep this in mind: having a website, no matter how cool it is, doesn’t mean people are going to find it. Plan to spend the majority of your advertising dollars, both up-front and on an ongoing basis, actually marketing the site you’ve had designed or created yourself.
Pay Per Click Explained
It’s important to consider both short-term streams of traffic that can be sent to your site as well as the long-term strategy. Plan to devote equal parts of your budget to paid search advertising (commonly referred to as “pay-per-click”) and search engine optimization (SEO). Paid Results or Pay Per Click (PPC) can deliver targeted traffic that comes from bidding on keywords that relate to your market. When those keywords are typed into the search engine, your ads, if you bid high enough on a per-click basis, will display above and to the right of the “natural” results. Once you’ve activated the PPC campaign, in just a short while you will see your ads appear in the search results if the campaign is set up correctly. We have a lot of extensive resources on this site about setting up an Adwords campaign, for example, and best practices to use with PPC. So figure out what you can afford on a monthly basis and set up a campaign that makes sense for your business and its goals, and also falls in line with your budget. Or you can budget out an amount to hire a professional paid search marketing firm to setup and manage your account; that can yield great results if you choose your provider wisely.
SEO is the long-term practice of making your website more attractive to visitors through adding content, making your website easier and more rewarding to use, and clearly labeling the site with META and TITLE data so that the search engines fully understand everything your site contains. If you do this correctly, the search engines, over time, will typically reward you by increasing the natural rankings of your site in their results. If you are appearing in the Natural/Organic rankings you will not be charged when someone clicks on your site’s listing. But don’t be deceived; it’s not like SEO is free. Unless you are a true professional search marketer, it is better to hire someone to add unique content and optimize your pages, as well as to plan your overall SEO strategy.
Don’t Forget Email Marketing
Email Marketing should be included in your overall marketing plan. It is something that could be easily overlooked, but if you have ever tried to send out 200 emails at once through Outlook you know what challenges lie in it; some messages get bounced, the list doesn’t have privacy, your branding doesn’t look good in the template, and perhaps most of the people don’t even get the message. As you build some success with PPC and SEO, you will start to build a list of contact addresses that are your long-term marketing gold. You can fortunately spend very little these days and get a robust provider of mass email marketing services like iContact to send out your blasts. So look into it.
…Or A Blog!
Invest in a blog. It really doesn’t cost much. You can set up a free one on sites like Blogger and WordPress.com. While it is not as imperitive as your website, as a Realtor you have an understanding of your area’s market more than anyone else. You should get your voice out there, start building a following as a news source for your area… and a blog can be the easiest way to do this. The biggest cost with blogging is, of course, that of your own time. Still, spending a half hour a day, five days a week can yield great results over time as you begin to brand yourself as an authority on real estate.
Track Your Campaign Results
Regardless of how you drive traffic to your site, keep track of your ROI. Take a look at what is working and what isn’t with your site. Use a free analytics solution like Google Analytics if you can. As the months go by you will be able to get a guage on which pages of the site people are spending the most time on, what pages people are leaving from (and you should improve upon), as well as the geographic locations your visitors view your site from.
These are just a few basic tips to get you started. You don’t have to immediately have all the answers, but you should have a basic understanding of all the components of internet marketing before you make any type of online spend. There are many more resources on this site, including advanced articles on the topics mentioned above, and additional topics like social media marketing and link building to explore. And don’t hesitate to comment on this blog with any questions you might have. We can make this an open forum to discuss the basics!