How can you maximize your return on your Web advertising campaign with a minimum amount of cost?

How can you maximize your return on your Web advertising campaign with a minimum amount of cost? Going organic is the solution.

There are two primary ways to advertise on search engines such as Google, MSN or Yahoo. The first is called “pay-per-click.” This type of paid placement is based upon how much you are willing to bid to be placed above other bidders. In contrast, “organic” search placement is based upon how well the key words on a given Web site match the search terms the user selects. It is also based upon how many people click through to the site, whether or not they stay on the site, how long the site has been in existence, as well as a host of other complicated factors.

Given that organic search costs you nothing and pay-per-click can be quite expensive, obtaining good organic search placement can be a huge win for your business. For example, I recently received an e-mail from a man who was trying to market a condominium project using pay-per-click ads. He was paying $20,000 per month and getting virtually no response. As this example illustrates, pay-per-click programs can be extraordinarily expensive. Prices are especially high if you’re bidding in a metropolitan area or against well-funded companies who specialize in Web marketing.

The auction mentality makes big bucks for search-engine companies such as Google, MSN and Yahoo. Click fraud is another huge issue that few discuss. In contrast, organic clicks actually help you achieve better placement.

As an individual agent or brokerage, what can you do to be on the Web and achieve high organic placement? Here are three simple strategies.

1. Get “granular”

Rather than tackling a mountain of advertisers, think of picking up grains of sand. For example, there may be tremendous competition for terms such as “Portland homes for sale” or “Kansas City real estate.” Competing for these terms will be exorbitantly expensive.

In contrast, there is virtually no competition for names of specific subdivisions. You may be able to achieve excellent placement by setting up a single page on your Web site devoted to “Bermuda Dunes golf homes, Palm Springs.” Another search term might be “Golf course properties, Bermuda Dunes.” Set up the page and register a separate URL with Network Solutions or GoDaddy.com. For example, you could register BermudaDunesGolfHomes.com . Pack this page full of words that reference, golf, properties, homes for sale, Bermuda Dunes, Palm Springs, etc. Although this page may appear to be a separate Web site, Web visitors simply land on a different page on your main Web site.

You could also do this based upon languages spoken or types of careers. For example, if you are fluent in Spanish, you might register “SanAntonioCasas.com” Another alternative would be to register “Homes4LATeachers.com” or any other site that references a specific geographical area in conjunction with a profession.

2. Start a blog

Currently, many search engines will give users higher placement if their site has a blog. The advantage of blogging is that you are adding content every day. Furthermore, if you have regular readers, they will visit your site repeatedly for new information.

The more visitors that you have, the better your organic placement will be. In terms of what to include, consider updating your sphere of influence on local events, funny stories, or with ideas on how to save them time and money. If you’re not good at writing, hire a virtual assistant to handle the posts for you. You can have a quote of the week (or of the day if you’re really ambitious), interesting tidbits from Inman News, or other resources that consumers will find to be interesting.

3. Misspell major terms

There is a substantial part of the search-engine industry that focuses on setting up Web sites that misspell one or more words in the search. One of the most commonly misspelled words is “Realtor.” A slightly different approach is to check for spellings based upon common typographical errors. Also, when you visit a site such as GoDaddy.com, they give you additional suggestions for terms you may use.

Regardless of the approach you elect, remember that obtaining free or organic search placement is a process. Experiment with different terms and monitor the number of hits you receive and convert. If one approach doesn’t work, experiment with others. Another important point to remember is that search is unlike traditional “right now” business where people are ready to take action now. Instead, Web buyers must be courted for 6 to 18 months before they are ready to take action. Whether you are embarking on a pay-per-click program or seeking to improve your positioning by using organic search, your success will be contingent upon your patience, your willingness to stay in regular contact for up to 18 months, and your willingness to constantly monitor and adjust your advertising campaign.

Bernice Ross, co-owner of Realestatecoach.com, has written a new book, “Waging War on Real Estate’s Discounters,” available online. She can be reached at bernice@realestatecoach.com.

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