Some estimates say that more than 60% of people looking to buy or sell real estate go to the internet first when they begin their search for real estate information. And as agents and brokers become more net-savvy, and more and more people get online, that number will only increase.
That means that the hottest sources of real estate prospects, leads, listings and sales is online. Which obviously means that if you are a Real Estate Agent, or if you provide a real estate service, you need an online presence.
** Establishing an online presence
Most people have no idea how to create an online presence. But the truth is, it is fairly straightforward, once you understand how the internet works.
It's all about getting traffic to your website, and then having a website attractive enough to attract the attention, and get the responses of your website visitors.
** How do you get traffic?
There are two well established ways to get traffic to your website. Both of them involve the major search engines like Google, Yahoo and MSN.
The first method is to run advertisements that target the buyers or sellers you want to reach. There is no better way to advertise than by using paid search advertising -- what is called "pay-per-click" advertising.
The second method is to promote your website so it comes up high in searches. Most people begin their search for real estate information by typing a search term into their favorite search engine. The list of possible sources that the search engine gives you is called "natural" or "free" results. You place high in these searches by impressing the search engines with the importance of your site. When you come up in the first few spots in "free" searches, you are virtually guaranteed to get "free" traffic -- because people will click on your link and be taken to your site.
** Pay-Per-Click Advertising
Most real estate agents are used to traditional advertising methods such as running ads in real estate publications. And they think it is necessary to pay between $250-$750 for one insertion that may or may not bring them any responses. That is the major problem with traditional advertising -- it is expensive, and it gives you no guarantee of response.
But pay-per-click advertising is different. On the one hand it can be targeted to reach the precise target segment you want to reach -- for instance, people looking for real estate in your town or city.
On the other hand, you only pay for "clicks" when someone who is potentially interested in your service clicks on your ad and visits your website. This is the revolutionary advertising concept that has made Google the hottest and most dominant player on the web.
But pay-per-click advertising can also be expensive and difficult to manage. Fortunately there are ways of establishing an online presence without paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars a month.
** Search engine marketing - Search Engine Optimization
As mentioned earlier, the other way to generate online traffic is to promote your site so it comes up high in organic or free searches. This is called "search engine marketing" and involves two important components.
First, it involves creating a website that makes it very clear who your prospective visitors might be. This process is called "search engine optimization". You "optimize" your site to include as many references as possible to the subject matter you want to focus on, and the target market you want to reach.
For instance, if you are trying to reach potential home buyers in Sarasota, Florida, then you must make it clear that your site is about "real estate in Sarasota." You must build as much content into your site about Sarasota as you can.
Since most online business people do not know the "tricks of the trade" when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO), they hire an expert who does. Unfortunately there are no guarantees when it comes to search engine optimization. Even with sites that have been highly optimized there is no guarantee that the search engines will reward you with a high ranking. Nevertheless, it is an important exercise to go through, and is one of the foundations on which to build your search engine marketing.
** Search engine marketing - Linking
The other component of search engine marketing is to get lots of "inbound links" pointing to your site from other sites. An inbound link is a link on someone else's site that makes a reference to yours.
Links give you two important sources of traffic. First, visitors to the sites where your links are found may actually click on those links and visit your site. This is especially the case if your links are on high traffic pages that are highly relevant to your service.
Second, inbound links impress the search engines. When the search engines find lots of links to your site in various places around the web, they interpret this as an indicator of the importance of your website. And that in turn results in the search engines rewarding you with higher rankings in free or organic searches.
Inevitably that results in traffic. And if your website is written to get results, traffic should convert to sales.
If all of this sounds a bit overwhelming, it is best not to simply throw up your hands in despair and concede all of those potential online customers to your net savvy colleagues. The fact is there are very inexpensive ways to cash in on all that online gold. You just have to keep looking until you find the right people to work with.