Real agencies can achieve their greatest potential for new business when their website is established as the primary lead capture model for the real estate business. Every external print and internet-based marketing initiative should lead to the site, and the site should be developed with strong keyword-rich content, titles, descriptions, tags, and inbound links so it can be found on search engines. These actions are critical to launching a new website (or revamping an existing one), and should be measured frequently (use Google Analytics – its free and highly relevant) and content should be revised on an ongoing basis. It is also important that your webmaster create a sitemap and submits it to Google.
Other ongoing initiatives include social media such as Facebook, Twitter, ActiveRain, RealTown, Trulia, Zillow, craigsList, YouTube, Flickr, and Linked In. Also important in social media are a blog with feed to the site, content-rich articles, and local directories (such as Google Places, Google Maps, Yahoo Maps, etc.) and global directories (such as dmoz, yellowpages.com, wcities, hotfrog, joeant, yahoo, Google, etc.)
The social media component adds value to the real estate business only if it takes on the persona of “neighborhood expert.” Instead of sending the message that “here’s my listing”, the agency becomes an advocate for the area about things to do, events, and local happenings. Then throw in a listing here and there, especially price reductions because then people see you for your “value added” features. The primary social media outlet is Facebook. However you can easily set up some automatic feeds so that Facebook sends feeds to Twitter, YouTube sends feeds to Facebook and the website, and the blogs and articles are fed to the website and Facebook. Once the initial set up is realized, the feeds do the “viral work” for you. Blogs and articles will add to the organic search component.
Complementing the real estate business in an ongoing manner for social media requires a key communication checkpoint person within the agency – someone who can lead the effort by posting local events, neighborhood news, price reductions, new listings, new agents, top sellers, e-mail addresses captured at the agency, local chamber website, local Realtor board website, and other local interest news.
Search engine Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising is not recommended due to its high cost and limited demographic ability. Some SEO experts would disagree. However, Facebook ads, if written properly, can produce a higher ROI simply due to its low cost (starting at $1/day) and specific demographic targeting component. And it’s well-known how important good photography is for a real estate listing. Website visitors want to see PICTURES of listings (which need to be optimized with tags), and they want to see many of them. Whether the agency invests in some decent photo equipment or hires someone locally for photographs, there is great value in how well good photography influences website visitors to take action (the lead capture). In addition to posting photos with the listing, use editing software to compile the still photos into a video with a smooth background fade-in and out, attaching tags and keywords to the video and photos, and placing these listing videos both on the website (by your webmaster) and on YouTube. Once on YouTube, load each video with lots of tags and keywords so they will also appear high in organic search engines and then link it back to the real estate agency website (again, the primary lead capture model). It may sound simple – and it is – but YouTube has very high search engine rankings and you can accomplish all of this at a much lower cost than hiring someone locally to produce a live video production and then slapping it on the website without an SEO motive.
You can also place some advertising on real estate websites. Facebook ads, Zillow and Trulia offer some options, as does Realtor.com. There are also some low-cost real estate websites with high traffic counts that can be recommended.
One last communication piece is very effective – due to low cost and high ROI. Building a data base of clients through lead capture forms on the site (and other lead capture methods throughout the social media realm) and sending a monthly newsletter is an essential part of a total advertising plan for a real estate agency. The newsletter should take on a tone of neighborhood expert once again, with listings and price reductions subtly interspersed. Repetition is the key – sort of a “Marketing 101″ concept.