Do you believe that the only way to make money on the Web is to convert a lead into a listing or sale?

Do you believe that the only way to make money on the Web is to convert a lead into a listing or sale? If so, you’re missing a huge new opportunity that could be a potential gold mine in the future.

The Internet marketing community is buzzing about Web 2.0, the next generation of Web products and services. Web 2.0 is all about lead conversion. Consumers will experience “smarter” searches that include “mashups” (i.e. multiple functions such as mapping, comparable sales, school reports, community data, etc.), data customized based upon the consumer’s past searches, as well as quicker and more personalized responses from their Realtors. Web 2.0 is about transparency (i.e. that all aspects of the transaction are open to all parties to the transaction), as well as citizen journalism (i.e. where readers of agent newsletters and blogs co-create content in an online forum.) For those who embrace the next wave of Internet innovations, the possibilities are nothing short of astounding.

Yes, advertisers will pay you!

Historically, brokers and agents have spent billions of dollars on advertising their inventory. The so-called “Web advertising model” is causing a quantum shift in how real estate advertising will occur in the future. Google and other search engines are making huge profits with pay-per-click (PPC) and something that Google calls “ad sense.” For example, if you have ever visited a Web site for the first time and it provided information specific to your local area, this tells you that the search engine recognized your browser and tailored its response to where you live. Advertisers are willing to pay more for ads that reach specific target markets as opposed to using a more generalized marketing approach.

To drive the advertising model, however, the search engines (such as Google, MSN and Yahoo!) must have content, and so must “destination” sites such as Realtor.com. The difference in a search engine and a destination site is that the search engine directs the Web visitor to your site. In contrast, destination sites such as Realtor.com or your local MLS seek to have the visitor come to their site and stay there, often times to see properties listed with your competitors. In both cases, the content they want is your listing information. Unlike print media where we must pay to advertise, many of the new players in the Web advertising game are willing to post your data for free. This includes Craigslist, Trulia, Oodle, as well as a host of free online classified sites. 

At the latest Real Estate Connect conference in San Francisco, I spoke with the folks from Foreclosure.com. They provide a comprehensive list of properties currently in foreclosure, in bankruptcy, or that are in pre-foreclosure. Agents who have foreclosure listings may post their listings for free. What I found interesting about their model, however, is that they also have a program that allows you to display their foreclosure listings on your site. This is an excellent way to drive more traffic to your personal site. It also helps your search-engine placement. The twist here is that if someone from your Web site clicks on one of their listings, you get paid for the click. In other words, if you can generate foreclosure buyers to your Web site, you can earn a steady stream of pay-per-click income. This is the newest twist on the advertising model — paying brokers and agents for generating Web site visitors to the Foreclosure.com listings.

Domain names: another potential income source

Because the Web as a commercial vehicle is still relatively young, you have a great opportunity to purchase domain names for your local market area. For example, when you take a listing at 202 Elm St., you may want to register the address as www.202ElmStreet.com with GoDaddy.com. It costs $8.95 per year to maintain the URL. You can do the same thing for different subdivisions you service or for specific market niches such as resorts, relocation or estates. In the future, you may be able to sell your Web site URL in the same way that we sell other types of businesses. This trend has already started. For example, www.dnjournal.com recently reported the following URLs sold for rather substantial sums: WaterfrontProperty.com, $80,850; and PasadenaRealEstate.com, $44,187.

As Web advertising continues to grow, the hotter the competition will be for good Web site URLs. The more Web real estate that you control (again, provided that it is generating traffic) the more money you will be able to generate from the sale of these domain names.

Blogging: Big money in the future?

One of the hottest new areas in real estate is blogging. A blog is simply an online Web journal. An increasing number of consumers are visiting real estate blogs. There are numerous advantages to supplementing your traditional and Web marketing efforts by blogging. First, you can obtain the software for free from BloggingSystems.com. If you want more functionality, TypePad.com is another resource that costs about $150 per year. Blogs give consumers a chance to get to know and trust you. If you have great content, they will visit your site repeatedly. Great content can be information about local events, current sales and interesting articles. This also helps your search-engine ranking. What’s interesting about the blogging trend is how it is being monetized. For example, two great examples are www.curbed.com and www.dailycandy.com. Curbed is more in line with a traditional blog where visitors comment about the posts. Dailycandy is more akin to a newsletter. One expert recently placed the value of DailyCandy.com at $130 million. Advertisers pay top dollar to reach highly targeted audiences. For example, you may not be able to pull in Mercedes as an advertising account, but you may be able to have a local car dealer sponsor your blog. While this is still a new trend, you will see more advertisers spending their advertising dollars on blogs in the future.

As these new business models continue to expand, even more opportunities will be available to the savvy agent or broker who embraces these new technologies. If you’re ready to supplement your commission income with additional revenue streams, this may be one of the best opportunities to do so.

Bernice Ross, national speaker and CEO of Realestatecoach.com, is the author of “Waging War on Real Estate’s Discounters” and “Who’s the Best Person to Sell My House?” Both are available online. She can be reached at bernice@realestatecoach.com or visit her blog at www.LuxuryClues.com.

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