Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Redefining Real Estate E-Marketing Standards

Marketing strategies in the past

Marketing strategies for real estate agents were always the same: print tons of fliers, put out more newspaper ads - a typical numbers game. The more phone calls, fliers and newspaper ads you're doing, the more chances you have to pick up new clientele. However, in our 21st century, full of new technologies, these strategies are likely to fade away. These tools are becoming obsolete for reaching a bigger and broader audience of seller and buyers.

Based on the latest market analysis by the National Association of Realtors (N.A.R.), 80% of buyers used the Internet to help find a home. Amazingly, only 15 years ago that wasn't possible. Information on properties wasn't available to the public, since all listed properties were stored in printed multi-listing system books. Buyers didn't have any choice, but to get help from licensed agents. Back in those days, looking for properties took a lot of energy and required more than a regular "real estate" license. Agents had to remember various codes that Multi Listings Service (MLS) companies were using. For example, agents needed to memorize that property type CONDO1 represents a condominium with 1 bedroom. In addition, agents were required to page through heavy hard cover MLS books. Both of the previously mentioned skills were often described as "dealer maker" qualities. Sellers and buyers were blind to these books and only agents had the power of knowledge. This all happened of course, before the WWW era.

Marketing strategies nowadays

Nowadays, the same information is found on thousands of real estate web sites. Customers are given the power of knowledge. According to the California Association of Realtors (C.A.R.), nearly half of the REALTORS® said that their business originates from Internet. In our "Google this" age, more consumers are spending their time online to do their own due-diligence prior to looking for a real estate professional. Real estate market customers ask for more information that is publicly available from anywhere and at any time.

Introduction of public Internet access greatly contributed to this change. Internet users started to ask for everything with the "click of a button". This eventually pushed local MLS companies to change their rules regarding sharing listing data. With MLS changing their rules, real estate professionals were given the opportunity to own their own listings portal - their own web site. In the beginning, the only adapters of the new technology were big brokerage firms. As the years went by, technological advancements and high demand reduced the cost of ownership. From this very moment, having a web site became a standard for every real estate agent. Furthermore, having a Web site became as much of a necessity as having a cell phone.

Benefits of today's tools/strategies

The major shift to "e-shopping", is benefiting all involved parties in a real estate transaction:

  1. Buyers are spending less time to look for listed properties. They can find available properties on a user-friendly Listing Search web page that offers access to hundreds of listings based on search criteria. Select city, state and optional bedrooms and bathrooms and wait for the listings. Clicking on a particular listing that got your attention, will bring more detailed information about this property. Most of the time a regular listing information will be accompanied by:
    • property photos
    • virtual tours
    • quick loan calculator
    • community information
    • comparable sales
    • local schools
    • property on the map
    • send an email to the agent
    • an option to schedule a showing with the listing agent
  2. Sellers are benefiting from faster transactions, since every listed property transforms to a property that is visible on "every block". Since most of the web sites are taking their listing data from the same centralized data center, such as MLS, a listing that is uploaded to MLS will turn up on all sites that are sharing the same MLS data. More exposure, of course, means more prospects and a faster sale.
  3. Agents are taking advantage of lower marketing costs. No longer do agents need to rely on expensive fliers and newspaper campaigns, since the cost of electronic media is much more affordable than its "hard-paper" rival.

Today's standards for a web site

To accommodate e-commerce growing needs, real estate professional agents required knowledge that associated with building web sites. This required a prior knowledge of various computer related technologies such as: domain name registration, web hosting, web design and much more. Luckily for them, a variety of Web services companies came up to fill up these growing needs. These tech-oriented companies made it easy for real estate agents to maintain, update listings, and even to keep their web site complaint with most recent MLS rules. Agents that took advantage of such professional help were given more time to represent their clients in real estate transactions.

Agents and web service companies, the demand and supply of real estate industry, created some "must-to-have" features in the industry. These features became the foundation of any web site that each web site should follow:

  1. Fair graphic design of web site's pages
  2. Convenient and easy of web site navigation
  3. Web page that offer to search for available listed properties
  4. Property detailed description that features agents that own the web site
  5. Option to customize different personal and office details: photos, email accounts, phone numbers, etc...
  6. Automated email notifications feature that sends listed properties information as soon as they become available on the market to a specified email address.
  7. Free Real Estate industry reports
  8. Real estate news

New standards for a web site

Starting from 2004, web site strategies changed and just a having a web site became irrelevant. Having a web site and having a web site that translates to leads, are two totally different ball games. Since the introduction of the first real estate web site, the Internet has greatly changed. Real estate web sites started to pop-up like mushrooms in a rainy forest. A world full of real estate-related web sites, signaled that competition for Internet visitors had began.

Fortunately, using five marketing tools bundled with your web site can definitely reduce your marketing efforts and give your web site greater exposure. These tools are FREE to use and easy to integrate with your existing web site. These extra features in addition to your current web site are going to create new industry standards.

  • Interactive Maps

Providing potential buyers with detailed property information is vital for successful real estate transactions. Eventually, a buyer that contacts an agent after reviewing all available information becomes a more qualified buyer. Supplying property address look-up on a regional map helps buyers to decide about the location of the property. Such look-up feature provides customers with additional information such as: cross streets, freeways, parks and more.

A web site that is designed to embed "mapped" property instead of redirecting visitors to another web site is a key selling point of this feature. "Redirecting" has a negative impact on Internet users' attention. Unfortunately, once the other web site is grabbing users' attention, users tend to lose any interest in your web site. A range of "Map" products from different companies like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft are able to deliver interactive maps that can be navigated by dragging the mouse and zoom in/out using the mouse wheel to see detailed street information.

  • Web site Analytics

With Web site Analytics, agents can find out what keywords attract their most desirable prospects, what advertising copy pulled the most responses, and what landing pages and content make the most money for them. In addition, they will be able to track all online campaigns, from emails to keywords, regardless of search engine or referral source.

Google Analytics is considered one of the successful tools on the market and yet it is free, and it offers enterprise-class web analytics. It allows web site owners to track the effectiveness of their online marketing activities and helps to optimize the content and layout of their website. Out-of-the-box functionality includes conversion goals, funnel path analysis, Google AdWords integration and e-commerce tracking. The goal of Google Analytics is to empower you with information to maximize your marketing ROI and increase website conversions.

  • Search engine exposure / recognition

One of the many benefits of a well-known brand's web sites such as, RE/MAX ( and Realtor ( is brand recognition. A brand that is recognized by customers often becomes associated with "products of desire". Regular customers will go directly to the web site, when looking for a Realtor. Others alternatively, are going to to look for properties. Of course, a regular real estate agent with a limited budget and a 2-3 year old web site can't compete with such companies. Customers are not going to hit his/her web site, since they don't know about its existence.

One of the many ways to tell the world about your web site is by using search engines. Search engines are sophisticated creatures that are able to find relevant resources on the Web. Becoming one of the registered or indexed resources is one the keys for your web site success. According to comScore, an Internet information provider, search engine market is held by 5 major search engines: Google, Yahoo, MSN, AOL and Ask. Since AOL search results are almost completely based on Google search engine results, we count only 4 search engines. Making your web site recognized by these search engines gives your web site greater exposure by improving placement for specific keywords. Greater exposure, of course, translates to more phone calls and emails from prospects.

Recent adoption of sitemap specifications by the "big 4" greatly reduced indexing efforts. Sitemap is a page that lists the pages on a web site, typically organized in hierarchical fashion. Sitemaps can improve search engine optimization of a site by making sure that all the pages can be found. Just 30 minutes, that is what it takes to make your web site ready to be indexed. This is the maximum time that it takes to create Sitemap file, create a reference to it and upload these changes to your web hosting account.

Additionally, webmaster tools such as Google Webmaster Tools and Yahoo Site Explorer, offers help to diagnose problems and improve your site's visibility.

  • Real Estate Blogs

Thousands of real estate bloggers can't be wrong. RE blogs become the added value in real estate industry and let's you quickly post thoughts, interact with people, and more. Real estate professionals can position themselves as industry experts and interact with prospects. According to Pew Internet & American Life Project, 44% of U.S. Internet users have contributed their thoughts and their files to the online world.

In addition, running blogs is also good for your search engine marketing, since search engines are on a continuous-run to add unique content. Given that most of the blog platform available on the market are search engine friendly, your written content becomes visible faster and easier. Visible to search engines, blog options such as RSS feed subscription and URL track-backs will constantly promote you web site.

One of the respectable choices for blog platform on the market is Blogger. Blogger offers FREE and easy blog management tools for those who are not tech-savvy. Furthermore, with the addition of hundreds of web-templates to choose from, your blog can get a unique look that it deserves. Since your blog will be hosted by Blogger, you don't need to have a web site to have a blog. And finally, given that Blogger was recently acquired by Google, you can count on better exposure on Google search engine results.

  • Virtual Tours and Video Profiles

One of the latest technology contributors to sales is the virtual reality tour. "Virtual tours" offer buyers a much greater user experience than just regular property pictures. Buyers are more likely to visit the homes and are more ready to buy than their more traditional counterparts. Based on Real Networks, a provider of Internet media delivery software and services, web visitors stay on a site 75 percent longer when the site includes video. The majority of these web visitors will watch the videos on the site. This number is even greater and closer to 100 percent, for professional web site such real estate web sites.

Uploaded video to a highly successful web site such as YouTube creates a world full of possibilities. Since every video comes with YouTube profile that can include a web site, video viewers that liked your video will most likely follow to your web site. In addition, you will save money by receiving a free movie hosting from YouTube. Furthermore, linking to your video has never been easier - YouTube provides you with necessary code that links to your video. And of course, one of the biggest advantages of YouTube is its growing popularity. Your uploaded video, becomes searchable on YouTube Search and even on Google Search.