Unless your company is totally off-the-grid (think Tom Hanks’ character, Chuck Noland, in “Cast Away”), then you’ve probably paid for leads at one point or another. But just like Noland’s relationship with his buddy, Wilson, in the movie, all good things must eventually come to an end.

In the real world, this is where the story gets very scary! When speaking to real estate professionals about their SEO (search engine optimization) needs, there are usually three types of clients we see:

Client 1: “Timid Tom” is very nervous about using any company to work on his website because not only has he heard of people being scammed, but he’s also scared of the price tag. Timid Tom will have a million questions just trying to get a grasp on what it is that we can accomplish for him. In the end, Timid Tom will take all the information we relay and then never do another thing with it. He doesn’t understand it and is afraid it won’t work. Even though Timid Tom has heard of a lot of companies getting great leads from SEO, because he doesn’t understand it, he also doesn’t understand the rewards that he could achieve.

Client 2: “Ready-to-go Rhonda” has heard of her friends using SEO to go from page 11 of Google search results all the way to the first page in just a number of months. Rhonda has the budget and confidence to make the SEO decision to begin because she’s educated herself through online research and friendly referrals. Rhonda is ready to go because she also understands that SEO is an investment that needs time to begin to pay off. SEO isn’t just some tangible product that you purchase at a Wal-Mart self-checkout lane and you’re done. SEO is a process that takes at least a few months to get underway. Even then, once an SEO campaign is live, it’s still smart to go back and tweak parts of Rhonda’s website so they rank better for the keywords she’s attempting to maximize.

Client 3: “Panicking Patrick” needs the most help. Patrick is in a serious panic because Patrick put all of his eggs in one basket. Patrick got too comfortable with his lead source he was paying, and now that the source has dried up, he’s in total panic mode. When things were good with Patrick, they were great! But now that his source of leads is too expensive or the leads aren’t as good, Patrick is in a very serious situation. Without his lead source, how will he survive? Patrick never took the time to develop his own online leads because it was easier to pay someone else for them.

If you’re currently paying someone for leads, take a healthy step back and think about what you’re doing: creating a business model with no real longevity and chasing check after check. The moment your lead source dries up or is no longer affordable, you’re Chuck Noland watching Wilson float away from your grasp!

To take your business to the next level, you need to have a solid online lead generation source. You pay for a website, right? You had professional headshots taken, right? You pay local, state and national dues to access the MLS (multiple listing service), right? Then start using these tools to your benefit that you’ve already paid for.

Let’s say that you did SEO for six to eight months and now you’re getting great leads from your website that you’re actually closing. Now you can take it to the next level: Use some of the profits you earned to reinvest in pay-per-click and Facebook ads. The pay-per-click ads (think Google AdWords) will also help your website reach the first page of search results. If your website already is, then you’ll have double the chance to capture that lead!

I’ve always considered the Facebook ads as more of a branding tool for Realtors. The more people who see your Facebook ads, your yard signs in front yards and your “just listed” postcards sent to specific subdivisions, the more you will be seen as an authority in your area.

SEO can be done on your own, and I can respect the entrepreneurial do-it-yourself attitude, but have caution: You can also really screw things up for yourself if you do any black hat SEO (spam, shortcut techniques and so on). Make sure you’re educated and careful when you begin optimizing your website on your own.

If you decide to hire a company to manage your SEO, always make sure to research any company you’re considering.

Good luck and happy hunting!

Andrew Molz is an expert strategist when it comes to merging social media with real estate. Currently, Molz is the managing partner at Dallas-based startups The Reputation Shop and 12 Rounds SEO.

Email Andrew Molz.

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