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Ditch any hopes for 'black hat SEO'

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The past year is already ancient history, along with its ups and downs. For some Realtors, 2014 could be described as a total disaster, a year that is not worth mentioning — let alone remembering. Don’t be one of the Realtors doing marketing wrong!

On the other hand, however, 2014 could be described by other Realtors as a wonderful year full of noteworthy achievements and awesome sales.

No matter which category of agent you fell into last year, you can use the strengths, weaknesses, successes and failures of 2014 to build a better and more prosperous real estate marketing strategy in 2015. Here’s what you need to consider:

1. Take stock of your past

It is vital to take stock of what worked and what did not work well for you in 2014 so that you can look for a way to improve your overall strategy in 2015. Identify the areas in your real estate marketing plan that were the least effective or productive in 2014; this is where you should start.

This can also mean killing off a marketing strategy that has become more of a burden to you — sapping up marketing resources without an equivalent result to show for it.

2. Automate and delegate

One big reason why most real estate agents failed to make headway in 2014 was because they were engaged in all areas of real estate marketing, which resulted in overworked and less productive agents.

The most successful agents in the future will be the ones who practice the act of specialization by automating or outsourcing some or all of their marketing efforts.

3. Work smarter, not harder

This year, the agents who will make more sales and list more homes will be the agents who master working smarter rather than harder.

Work smarter by knowing the geographic, demographics and peculiar needs of your prospects, and then launch a marketing campaign that is designed specifically to meet those needs and demands.

Working smarter also means knowing where your best prospects enjoy hanging out online and offline, and devising the best marketing media to engage them in their favorite spots.

4. Diversification is the key

In 2014, some independent real estate websites were still being hammered by Google’s Penguin, Panda and Hummingbird algorithm updates. This might have caused a drastic reduction in traffic and sales.

To prevent that from recurring, agents must reallocate some of their marketing budget from search engine optimization (SEO) into pay-per-click and other forms of prospecting for leads, so that in the event that your website gets penalized by Google after a future algorithm update, you won’t be stranded.

5. Play by the rules

In 2014, a lot of webmasters tried to beat Google at its own game through “black hat SEO” (the aggressive use of SEO strategies that disobey search engine guidelines, such as overloading page keywords, adding invisible text to a page or adding unrelated keywords). Sure, those people managed to ramp up their ranking to the No. 1 spot on the first page of Google results, but after a week or two they were caught and banned by Google.

The only way you can successfully beat Google and occupy the first page of relevant Google results in 2015 is to play by the rules.

Enough of overoptimizing anchor text and building irrelevant links. In 2015, your focus when it comes to SEO and link-building should be on plenty of quality links from relevant websites, increasing user engagement and click-through rate on search results, and using anchor text for those links that makes them look like a natural part of the page.

6. Split test your strategies

Split testing is a way to compare two or more different strategies in a controlled manner, and it’s the only way to know which type of marketing strategy works best for your niche. It’s also the best way to identify and kill off unproductive marketing campaigns.

By testing and then analyzing results, we can get a better understanding of what our website visitors and subscribers respond best to, allowing for optimization of our email marketing campaigns

Obinna Ibemere is a Realtor and an Internet marketing expert. He blogs about real estate Internet marketing and SEO on his blog, Realtor Guide.