(This is Part 1 of a four-part series. Read Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.)

During the last week of July, the movers, shakers and innovators of our industry met in San Francisco for Real Estate Connect. You may have been reading about all the amazing new trends and technologies — now it’s time to examine how those innovations can improve your bottom line.

Our industry is spending millions on Web advertising. With so many new technologies, it’s hard to know what will be the most effective. What’s clear, however, is our industry’s slow ability to adapt. According to Burrell and Associates, only 13 percent of the agents are using sponsored or paid search. Translated, this means that advertising on the Web is a smart investment because 87 percent of your competition is still not there.

Furthermore, while only 1 percent of today’s buyers purchase properties they saw advertised in a newspaper, about 25 percent find the house they will purchase on the Web. Estimates place the percentage of real estate advertising budgets spent on print advertising at about 80 percent. This means that most real estate professionals are throwing good advertising dollars away to achieve a miniscule return of only 1 percent. Nevertheless, poor Web strategies can cost you thousands of dollars with no return. Specifically, the average cost of a single clickthrough for the term “real estate” is $1.03. For the term “FSBO” it’s $1.16. It often takes hundreds or even thousands of clicks to generate a closed sale. Consequently, pay-per-click or sponsored links may not be the best route to obtain the greatest return on your advertising dollar.

In order to gain a competitive advantage using the new technology tools, it’s important to understand how consumers use the Web. Michael Yang, the senior director of business development for Yahoo!, outlined the four primary areas of Web activity. Those four areas include communication, information/entertainment, commerce/shopping and search activity. The two that apply specifically to the real estate industry are information/entertainment and search. Yang believes that search is the most important. Within the search area, Yang discussed three “buckets.” Those include Web search (i.e. Yahoo!, Google, MSN); vertical search, including Trulia, RealEstate.com and mapping solutions; and classified search, including Craigslist, Oodle and Edgeio.

What can you do to reduce your Web costs and obtain maximum exposure? The first step is to make use of Web sites that address the “buckets” Yang outlined. The great news is that you can post on many of these at no charge to you. One of my favorites is www.postlets.com. This site posts you on seven different sites, including Craigslist, Trulia and Oodle. (Trulia is a vertical search engine that directs its visitors back to the listing broker’s site. Oodle is a classified advertising site that does essentially the same thing.) A new player is Edgeio.com. They are also a classified Web advertiser. Their ads pull from Postlets, as well as Point2Agent.com. For properties priced above $1 million, www.UniqueGlobalEstates is a free multiple listing service for estate properties. They currently have 50,000 listings internationally. Since these sites cost nothing and refer visitors to your Web site, this is a no-brainer step that every single listing agent should take. Remember, the Web is like a haystack. The more needles you have in the stack, the more likely visitors are to find you.

A different approach is to go for organic placement. According to Andrew Coleman of www.LeadQual.com, most referrals come from organic search rather than paid search. When it comes to organic placement, content is the key. Specifically, you must niche various landing pages on your Web site for specific market segments that you serve. For example, rather than going with “San Francisco homes for sale” as a search term, it would be smarter to have a specific landing page devoted to “San Francisco Victorian homes.” Load the page with data about Victorian homes in San Francisco. Topics could include articles on how to restore a Victorian home, information from the local historical society, advertisements from vendors who specialize in providing historically accurate fixtures, etc. You could also host a blog where readers could comment on their favorite Victorian home, pitfalls to avoid when remodeling an older home, as well as reliable contractors. The more data and the more interactivity that you provide on your site, the better the search engines like you. This in turn leads to a higher organic search position.

Another challenge Connect addressed is how to shift our expectations from waiting for the phone to ring to going to where our clients now congregate. To learn more about how to generate more leads from your Web marketing efforts, don’t miss next week’s article.

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.


What’s your opinion? Send your Letter to the Editor to opinion@inman.com.

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