Are you feeling befuddled about trying to get better Web ranking for your real estate site? If so, you’re in the best of company.

At Real Estate Connect, Vanessa Fox, formerly of Google and Zillow, gave a great talk on what agents and brokers need to do to establish their brand identity online. If the topic seems daunting, it really doesn’t need to be.

On the other hand, some of the most sophisticated companies in the world have fallen victim to old-school marketing approaches that fail to recognize the basics of Web marketing.

One of the worst examples comes from the most valuable brand in the world: Coca-Cola. You may recall the campaign where Classic Coke was going to sue the Diet Coke division for ripping off its product.

Coke spent $16 million on that campaign. The videos the company produced drew a great deal of attention, but the campaign didn’t link up the ads with specific Web site URLs where consumers could view them with a single click.

This campaign also used Flash animation. The problem with Flash is that search engines such as Google cannot read it. Thus, the opportunity to build their Web ranking and drive additional traffic to the Web site was greatly diminished.

An additional error was with the "tell a friend" feature. Typically, if you use the feature on YouTube or any other video or photo site, the link will take you directly to the video. In this campaign, the link didn’t take "friends" to the video — it took them to the Coke homepage.

If Coca-Cola can’t get it right, how can a Realtor expect to do better? Fox gave the following tips based upon her experience at Google.

1. Use video
After Google, YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world. According to Fox, in September 2009 40 percent of 26 billion Web views were on YouTube.

2. Use simple search terms
According to Fox, 24 percent of searches used only one word, 23 percent used two words, 23 percent used three words, and 22 percent used four or more words. Fox pointed to such powerful brand messaging as, "Just do it," and "Got milk?"

The key is to discover which terms are producing the most leads for your business and to use those terms repeatedly on your home page. You can use Google Analytics or StatCounter, among other sites, to monitor what is happening in terms of your keywords on your site.

According to Fox, "The key opportunity is in the long tail." What this means is that your URL and Web site descriptions may be more effective if you use focused terms such as "" or ""

3. Don’t waste valuable real estate
Research has consistently shown that Web visitors scan the upper-left corner of your site. They may take a quick look at the paid ads in the right column of the search, but the bulk of their attention goes to that top corner. As a result, it’s important that you place your most important keywords in first position on the site.

4. Offline channels drive 67 percent of all search
I found this to be a rather surprising statistic. Nevertheless, when you think about it, buyers will go to a company’s Web site because they happened to see a sign in their neighborhood. Television, radio, and print advertising also drive Web traffic. …CONTINUED

According to the National Association of Realtors, however, the two most important sources are referrals (word-of-mouth marketing) and signs. Today’s buyers and sellers typically check out an agent’s online reputation before they ever consider calling them.

5. Ask questions
According to Fox, people won’t search your site to find the answer to specific questions. Fox recommends that you post a "how to" page. For example, "How to calculate closing costs," "How to save money on your next mortgage," "Where are the best schools in this area?" or "When is the best time to sell?"

6. Be wary of companies that promise to get you to No. 1 on the search engines
According to Fox, Google values "editorial links" but it reduces your Web ranking if you’re using "reciprocal links." Most of the companies that promise high Web ranking are using reciprocal links or "link exchanges." Fox’s recommendation was to avoid any program that relied on this strategy.

7. Use Google Local
When you take a listing, include a video, a map, and reviews for the stores, restaurants, and the other recreational facilities nearby. The more detail you provide, the better your results will be in terms of search-engine ranking.

8. When there is a problem, respond rapidly
Fox shared a story about a woman who claimed that she was separated from her baby while going through Transportation Security Administration screening at a local airport. Since the TSA had eight different video cameras on the area, they were quickly able to refute the woman’s claim.

Rather than turning into a potential public relations disaster, TSA’s quick response showed that the woman’s claim was bogus.

If you want to get the most from your real estate Web site, follow the suggestions above. That’s the best way to avoid making a $16 million mistake.

Bernice Ross, CEO of, is a national speaker, trainer and author of "Real Estate Dough: Your Recipe for Real Estate Success" and other books. You can reach her at and find her on Twitter: @bross.


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