From the moment any of the top real estate portals decides to dominate local real estate search, it will not take them long to make it happen.
How, exactly, does this happen? And what steps can you take to dominate local searches yourself?
All of the portals have access to vast sale data. They could use it along with technical prowess to overwhelm brokers at the hyperlocal level. It’s more simple for them to do than you think.
Searching hyperlocal information
Envision doing a local search for anything outside of real estate. Where do you go? You’re on Google, Yelp and perhaps a couple of other sites. That’s an easy example of hyperlocal information provided by large companies.
Now, consider how local real estate searches begin. The user enters a long-tail inquiry — something like: “homes for sale in Mountain View subdivision under $300,000,” “home values and trends in Green Acres neighborhood for 2015” or “walkable condos for sale in downtown Seattle near transit.”
The main portal sites already supply local details that almost no brokers offer. Their goal is to add to these tools. They currently offer not only homes for sale by neighborhood, but also details about school ratings, crime rates, automated valuations, value trends, local business information, sold price range analyses, comparable sold properties — and you can expect them to add to this list every year.
Using available information
What is the one thing you possess that the portals do not? You know what is hot by neighborhood, what buyers desire the most and what they’ll pay the most to attain. But this information can be automated by the portals using technology.
If they can do it, so can you.
1. The first step is market segmentation based on greatest potential return on investment (ROI) due to volume and sale prices. Portals can compile a list of neighborhood names with higher prices and the greatest volume of sales in the major metro areas. This information is readily available via large national data brokers.
Zillow has already compiled its own database of neighborhoods.
2. Next, they create a list of the 20 most common questions or search queries related to real estate. Portals can get this via Google or their portal analytics.
3. Using both sold and active properties, they’ll complete a regression analysis of the most sought-after characteristics of homes by neighborhood.
4. They’ll use programming to customize template articles with these key characteristics and let the sellers know what is most important to buyers, as well as let buyers know what they get for their money in each neighborhood. This is the kind of advice a seasoned broker might give.
Here’s where their technical skills pay off: They insert programming scripts within each article, which pull in the exact data needed for each neighborhood.
For example, to answer which condos are most walkable, they can use Walk Score to rate condos and geographic information system (GIS) locating for transit. Then they autopopulate the key characteristics discovered in the regression analysis for the area, automatically pull the units for sale into the screen along with full details and map it all out. This is mass-customization in marketing.
5. Next, they hit a metro area with these customized landing pages. If they attack 100 neighborhoods with 20 relevant landing pages for each, all of a sudden they have 2,000 landing pages with customized hyperlocal data on the Internet for your area.
6. Multiply that by the 300 largest metro areas, and they have 600,000 customized landing pages with hyperlocal content. That makes 600,000 ways to increase advertising revenue.
7. Once the templates are made and the coding and scripts mapped to their database, it will take little effort to launch them and start attracting Google hits. With a skilled staff and some outside programming contractors, it will require limited effort to update each page several times a day automatically as their database changes.
It won’t take them more than a month to create the templates, including coding and mapping the fields to their database.
Purchasing all the data and paying for a lot of programmers to bang this out might set them back a few million dollars. That’s nothing compared to their corporate budget and probable ROI.
It will take them less than a week to post their 600,000 hyperlocal landing pages. Then let’s give Google three weeks to pull these to the top of the local search results.
They’re done — you’re done
How much are you willing to pay for the leads coming from such specifically created inquiries? The portals want that money, and their investors demand those financial returns.
You can use these same steps to create this system yourself at just your individual local level. This year will probably be your last chance to do so, and the first mover to truly meet the market’s hyperlocal needs will likely dominate search results.
Pick your niche — whether it is by neighborhood or lifestyle or anything that truly excites you. Add video and the kind of personal articles that capture the emotions of sellers and buyers, and then do what you do best — share your expertise.
Footnote: if you are waiting for the National Association of Realtors, Upstream, the Broker Public Portal, Realtors Property Resource, your MLS or your franchise to save you, there are at least two problems with this strategy:
1. None of these groups are offering anything innovative based on the desires of the sellers and buyers.
2. If they ever do, then all brokers get the same tool — thus, you cannot gain any competitive advantage by using it.
Disclosure: Creed Smith created and owns the QValue AVM, which can value properties and determine what buyers most desire by neighborhood as described in this article; patent pending. Creed Smith has no affiliation with any portal or any other company mentioned in this article as of the publication date of this article.
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