Generating Real Estate Leads with Facebook (Part 3)

Social media marketing, Vancouver, BC

In the first post in this series, I covered the 4 Facebook tools and how they fit into your Facebook lead generation strategy. In the second post, we got into building your audience.

Facebook isn’t about the number of fans, followers, “Likes” and friends you have. It’s about personal connection: starting relationships that can develop into warm leads, and ultimately new clients.

In this post we’ll discuss moving your fan base into your list and CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software.

Capturing leads before the funnel

If you’re like most agents, you’re probably pacing the floor already, and you’re wondering if there’s a way to pick up leads without going through the lead generation funnel.

It doesn’t happen that often, but sometimes prospects will contact your directly from Facebook. Following the Scout motto, it’s best to always be prepared. You can add a contact form app to your Facebook page, with of an app like PageYourself. You can check out ours here.

PageYourself contact form on Facebook page

Most of the high quality warm leads will have to be cultivated over a period of time, by tempting your Facebook connections into the marketing funnel.

Moving Facebook friends and followers through the conversion funnel

I’m assuming you’ve created links back to your blog posts, whenever you publish update notices on Facebook, so you should begin to receive some traffic to your website.

Alas, very few visitors will contact you on the first visit. Analytics data suggests they may contact you between the 5th to 8th visit. So how are you going to get them back to your site again and again? Answer: Ridiculously valuable content.

You got them to your site with content, and it’s the only way you’ll keep them!

They need to subscribe

Blog subscription. If you’re publishing extremely valuable content on your blog several times a week, some of your audience will want to subscribe, so they can get your updates in their feed reader or by email.

Make it super easy for them to find your RSS feed link, and the email updates subscription form.

Email subscription and nurturing. At the heart of any successful online lead generation strategy, you’ll find a growing list of hungry readers.

These subscribers exchange their contact details in order to receive a downloadable document they believe will be extremely helpful in solving their problem.

DO NOT let them down by providing a disappointing whitepaper, ebook, video or VIP pass.

DO NOT spam them with your listings after they subscribe. You need to have at least two lists. Your content subscribers should not find themselves on your VIP Updates/Listing Alerts email blast list.

At regular intervals they should come to expect helpful information that supports the document they downloaded. If they responded to an offer for a free download entitled “5 Things You Absolutely Need to Know Before Buying a Condo in Kits,” they will unsubscribe if they don’t receive future updates targeting condo buyers in the Kitsilano/Point Grey area. A lead in to a new post covering the parks and recreational facilities, or places of worship, in the Kitsilano neighbourhood would be appropriate.

Here’s how it works:

1. If you don’t have an autoresponder set up at AWeber, MailChimp or one of the other popular mail services, you need to get on this today. (It’s as vital to your website’s success as hosting.)

2. You will need to create several high quality, incredibly informative downloads. These could be PDF documents, with a very attractive cover, or videos. Do not disappoint, or you can expect an unsubscribe notification within five minutes. You may require the help of a content marketing specialist to produce these.

3. You will also require a landing page for each offer. Each high-converting landing page will sell the reader on the “must have” benefits of the freemium item. A form will collect the data and store it. (To be fully CASL-compliant, the subscriber will have to opt-in again from the email they receive, when the initially join the list.)

4. Your subscribers are drip fed a sequence of emails. At the bottom of each email, there’s a teaser for the next “must have” downloadable item.

5. Each landing page form asks 2 or 3 new questions. You’re getting to know more about them, and these leads are moving from cool to warm.

6. After a few downloads, it’s appropriate to send them a friendly and helpful email, asking them how they’re enjoying the informative email updates and downloadable documents. You can ask if they have any suggestions. Then provide a link to another extremely valuable document, or the login to the special VIP area on your site, where they can access more insider information.

If they don’t respond, keep sending them more valuable emails, with more landing page questions. You should know quite a bit about your prospect now, and they will be getting to know you.

Remember where you met: Facebook. You have access to quite a lot of information. An occasional ‘appropriately’ personal email should now be okay. If you discover he’s got an anniversary coming up, consider sending an ecard. Congratulate her on the promotion she received. If you discover he’s a deer hunter, send a funny YouTube video about a tree stand misadventure on the first day of hunting season. You get the idea…

People prefer doing business with people they like.  It’s important to be perceived as friendly, not creepy.

Real estate lead generation

Back to you

I welcome your comments. Do you have a Facebook success story to share? A question?

Need some help getting systems in place and content developed? I encourage you to take advantage of my 20 minute free coaching call to see how I can help you focus your online marketing.

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Generating Real Estate Leads with Facebook (Part 2)

Social media marketing, Vancouver, BC

In the first post in this series, I covered the 4 Facebook tools and how they fit into your Facebook lead generation strategy.

In this post I’m going to discuss the building of your audience and attracting those all-important “eyeballs” to your valuable content.

You can create the most spectacularly interesting and helpful Facebook post of all time, and release it at the optimal time in the day for your target audience, but without a qualified audience it may never reach anyone.

Building your audience

1. To make a friend, be a friend. Begin by inviting friends you already know: old clients, current clients and agents you’ve worked with.

Your mother may have told you that all you have to do is be yourself, and you’ll have plenty of friends. Social media isn’t the elementary school playground. Not very many people will “friend” you or “Like” your page just because your profile and page exist on Facebook.

Most agents do social media all wrong (and that includes the top agents in your office)

The top performers in your office have probably been at this game a long time. They built their network with old school tactics. And when newcomers to social media reached out to connect with people they already knew, they thought of these guys.

These “legends” could literally be doing the very worst things possible in social — like using their Facebook page to blast their listings — and still pick up some friends and Likes. If you don’t have a huge network already, that will follow you no matter how badly you screw it up, you can’t afford to make all of their mistakes.

Schedule time each week to make new friends. Reach out to local people that have mentioned your content to others, or made a comment. Not all of them may be prospects, but if they love your content, they can help build some buzz.

Begin organizing your Facebook “Rolodex” early. As you develop friends, take the time to place them in Facebook lists, such as friends, family, past clients, current clients, prospective clients and influencers.

Make the time to skim down your wall every day to find conversations you can engage in. The idea is to be helpful, without any selling. Compliment people on promotions, congratulate them on their anniversary, make a recommendation when it’s requested… you get the idea. Be their friend. When you make a comment, check the names of others that “Liked” the post or added their comments. It’s a good place to find new potential friends.

There are many social media gurus that suggest that having many friends establishes “social proof,” so it’s a good idea to indiscriminately friend as many people as you can. In our experience, this is silly as stacking a Rolodex with 250 cards of strangers so it looks impressive on the desk. None of them could be considered leads.

2. Incentivize “Likes”. There is “social proof” value in increasing your Facebook Likes.

Most successful websites use landing pages for lead generation. Landing pages promote an incredibly valuable free whitepaper or ebook, then ask for a name and email address in exchange for the downloadable document.

The incentive may be something like a list of discounted condos or foreclosures in Vancouver, 10 must-have tips for choosing the best Burnaby location for a young family, or 5 things sellers need to know to get the very best price for their North Van. townhome. Buyers and sellers need quality information, and the list is endless. Whatever the subject, the potential upside for the reader must be huge, so the exchange is a no-brainer.

Your list provides you with permission to deliver ridiculously valuable ‘epic’ content on an ongoing basis, and the privilege of influencing audience decisions over time. If you aren’t building a list, you need to get on it this week. It’s a pillar component of any effective lead generation strategy.

Besides list building, there’s another way to use landing pages. You can exchange the valuable downloadable document for a Facebook “Like” instead. Because the document is for the benefit of your Facebook reader, you also get to promote it on Facebook (and in other social media channels).

3. Post ridiculously valuable stuff at least a few times a week. What, you may ask, would make this content that valuable? It’s all about your audience, and the benefit to your readers.

Smart real estate professionals are helping, not selling.

- Jay Baer, author of the upcoming book Youtility for Real Estate

Take a hard look at your last 10 Facebook posts. Can you honestly say they solved a problem, or provided any lasting value? Were they just mundane updates — or much worse — shameless self promotion and listing announcements?

It may be ego deflating, but your readers don’t actually care much about “you,” your commission or the recognition you’ve received for closing deals. They’re hoping you can help “them” at their point of pain. Perhaps they’re looking for a new home, because the situation has changed, and they need more space. Or the kids have left home, and they want to downsize. There may an upcoming wedding or a divorce, with a family home to sell, and perhaps two smaller condos to buy. This is your opportunity to be helpful.

Observe the 80:20 rule: post 4 educational / informative posts that are hyper-relevant to your target buyer or seller, or about your local area, to every post that involves your business in some way. Does that mean you can never even mention a listing or a sale you made? Not at all.

It all comes down to how you frame it. Every piece of content must be written for “them” and about “them.” Write a listing announcement and it’s considered sleazy advertising. An announcement about a sold property just comes off as boasting and shameless advertising. Who would want more of that in their wall or inbox? Yuck! (There is a place for listing announcements on Facebook: Groups. I covered this in the first post of this series.)

Begin your relationship with each friend by thanking them. If they list with you, thank your clients for the confidence they’ve placed in you. If a transaction closes, a post that thanks the client, the title company, the closing coordinator, the mortgage broker, etc. is appropriate.  And, unless someone objects, tag each person. Humble appreciation goes a long way.

Your prospective clients are interested in outcomes, so they love “success stories” that focus on the client. If you write these as a letter to the client, it’s appropriate to ask for specific and relevant referrals at the end.

Every time you have a new listing, a deal goes into contract or closing, or you attend a house warming party, there’s an opportunity for a success story that makes your client and team feel good.

Never brag about your achievements but use “we” in describing the things you’ve accomplished “together.” Success stories demonstrate your ability to help others, your gratitude and willingness share the love you have for the people you work with; and in the process boost your social proof through the roof.

4. Keep your brand (and you are the brand) top of mind. Curate valuable information daily. If you follow successful social media marketers, you’ll discover that they’re posting all the time. But if you check the credits, only a fraction of the posts will come from the profile author. The rest is content the audience should find very helpful, curated from non-competitive sources.

Why should you curate additional content? Becoming known as an extremely valuable information resource for investors, buyers and sellers of real estate should increase the number of Facebook your followers and friend requests dramatically.

Two of my favorite tools for curating content are Feedly, an RSS feed reader,  that permits you to post to social channels, and Buffer. Buffer is a time-release solution that lets you get on with your work, while the posts you selected are published automatically throughout the day on your chosen social media platforms. I enjoy sitting down with my cup of espresso in the morning, while reading my real estate and marketing news feeds. Anything I believe my readers will find helpful is placed in the Buffer.

Coming up

In the next post I’ll discuss ways to move friends through the sales funnel, to become a subscriber you can influence, and then a warm lead that welcomes your call.

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Generating Real Estate Leads with Facebook (Part 1)

Social media marketing, Vancouver, BC

Is Facebook the powerhouse lead resource it once was?

You may have come across “link bait” blog posts and articles recently that suggest Facebook is no longer a good platform for real estate professionals.

Statista reported in “Most popular social media websites in the United States in September 2014, based on share of visits” that Facebook held 58.88% market share, followed by YouTube at 18.86%, Google+ at 2.74%, Twitter at 2.64% and LinkedIn at only 1.1%. (Pinterest and Instagram came in below LinkedIn.) While Facebook now has more competition, it’s still the biggest social media player by far.

We believe that Facebook should be taken very seriously when marketing your real estate business.

The 4 Facebook Tools

1. Your profile

A few years back, Thomas J. Peters claimed, “Your power is almost directly proportional to the thickness of your Rolodex, and the time spent maintaining it… You can take everything from a successful networker, but if you leave the Roladex, all can be replaced within a year or two with those contacts.”

Your most powerful business asset is your network, and in 2014 your profiles are at the heart of it. Social media and your email list are the new Rolodex.

In our coaching and social media makeovers, we come across some sorry LinkedIn profiles, but they are usually fairly easy to whip into shape. Most of our work is additive.

With Facebook, the situation tends to be reversed, and serious junk removal is often required before the account can be presentable to potential clients.  We become the digital equivalent of the Got Junk haul-away crews. It can literally take days to de-clutter. That’s because these accounts have often been used for years of chatting with friends and family.

You may be wondering why you can’t just set up a second account, for business use. First of all, Facebook’s terms of service permit only one personal account. You can have multiple fan pages, but only associate them with a single account in your name.

Some of you may be smirking at this, having already set up more than one account. Acknowledged, it’s fairly easy to get around Facebook’s one account restriction. But here’s the second caveat. You may rest assured that any potentially embarrassing photos, videos and comments in your personal account are uncomfortably available to real estate buyers and sellers that decide to check you out. There will be a lot more information, in most cases, on the original friends and family account, so guess which one comes up first on Google?

Am I saying you can’t use Facebook for friends and family any more? Not at all. To keep a part of Facebook private, I recommend using Groups over Lists. It’s too easy to send off a reply, to a list, and forget to change the setting. A reply that was to be private is suddenly out there for the world to see. With your own friends and family group, you can limit access to only your inner circle. I’ll cover Groups more below.

2. Facebook Pages

You have the option of setting up multiple pages, to address specific marketing needs.

Your official Facebook Business Page. This is the first page you should set up. The terms of service prohibit you from using your personal profile for commercial purposes, but here you are encouraged to use your logo, branding, slogan, photo of your office, etc.

Places and Location Tagging. Agents have discovered a special use for Facebook Places  and location tagging. That’s right, you can include geo locations for prominent listing “Places” and open houses, by checking in.

Community Pages. Another way to become recognized as a local authority is to develop a community page for your farm neighbourhood(s).

3. Facebook Groups

Join or Start a Local Real Estate Group. These groups usually only include local agents and investors. Some are ‘open'; others are ‘closed’, requiring an approved application request before entry is granted.

I usually advise clients not to pitch listings in social media, but these networking groups are generally the exception. They are the Facebook equivalent of your VIP Updates or Listing Alerts email list.

If you’re joining an existing group, take a moment to confirm that publishing listings is okay. If you decide to start a group, be sure to honor your commitment to your members. You must deliver value.

Nobody wants to join a group with 3 members, or where there are no new, interesting or helpful posts. You must proactively pull people into a new group., so you will have to send out quite a few invitations to local agents to gain some momentum. And you should be writing a post at least once a week. If you can get a few of your colleagues to write as well, or a writer from your content marketing agency, you should be able to stimulate some lively discussion within a month or two.

Groups tend to foster a sense of belonging, so the response is generally a lot better than to a blog post. A blog post that may only get 2 or 3 comments could receive over 20 if published to the group instead.

Create Family and Friends Group.
Many professionals set up a private family and friends group, with closed access. In the group you can chat freely, without everything displaying on your main wall, for prospective clients to see.

Create and Manage a Neighbourhood Group. You want to attract local residents, prospective sellers and people considering a move to your area. This is a place to discus local issues in a positive light, new developments under construction, zoning, new amenities, exciting new businesses, etc.

To keep the group positive and inviting, you will have to set some ground rules and define expectations initially. And you must be ready to enforce them.

You are not going to generate any leads from a group that bickers about local issues, trashes on the mayor and town council, and complains about what a dump the town is. You also cannot permit other agents to pitch their listings, or spammers to promote their offers. Take-over bids for leadership must be suppressed quickly. Bad apples will have to be tossed out, before the entire barrel spoils.

Having said that, neighbourhood groups can be kick ass lead sources, particularly from new buyers.

4. Facebook Ads

What makes Facebook ads so incredibly powerful is that few agents have caught on to them yet. You have the ability to define a very targeted audience; more so, I would say, than with AdWords. It’s a brilliant place to advertise a new listing to the most likely buyers.

You have the choice between cost per click, or cost per impression. Facebook Ads are very affordable. Currently, clients are spending somewhere between seventy cents and two dollars a click. As with AdWords, you can put a cap on your ad spend. Something you can’t do with AdWords is put your phone number in the ad. This can cut your click through costs considerably.

A set-it-and-forget it approach isn’t going to get the job done. Like Google AdWords, you need to continually tweak your ads. And you also require high converting landing pages on your website to maximize your return on investment.

Coming up

In the next post, I’ll discuss how you move your Facebook connections through the lead funnel, beginning with the development of your audience.

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Real Estate Marketing: Time is Money

Real estate marketing, Vancouver, BC

It has often been said that time is the only level playing field. Each of us is issued exactly 24 hours every day. Over the years, how we invest the sixty minutes in each hour makes the difference between a rich and satisfying career, and an extraordinary life, or regret.

Being efficient with our time enables us to be more productive in our careers and also have the time to enjoy the fruit of our labor.

As a real estate professional, what is the most productive use of your time?

  1. It isn’t scheduling your listing and home showing appointments. Your personal assistant can do that, or you might consider a virtual assistant. (This is 2014, and there are some very good services available.) You might also consider sharing an assistant with another agent in your office.
  2. It isn’t preparing documents and delivering them. By all means check to make sure all the t’s are crossed, and i’s dotted, but your assistant(s) can handle most of this.
  3. It isn’t running errands. A personal assistant can take care of these, or you can schedule these to be completed in a single block, a few times a week, during the least productive times. Running to the dry cleaners during prime selling time is inexcusable.
  4. It isn’t researching the market, the MLS or the competition. Again, your assistant can handle this. There are also many licensed people that would love to do this for you from their homes.
  5. It isn’t camping out at an open house. Your assistant can put in many of the lonely hours, and call you when there’s a genuinely interested prospect. If you choose to sit there, invest the quiet times nurturing the leads in your CRM with thoughtful follow-up emails and calls.
  6. It isn’t researching and writing the next brilliant blog post. Consider having your assistant coached in effective blogging, or hire a content marketing professional.
  7. It isn’t preparing your email newsletter. Jot down the news you want covered, then let the copywriter and creatives at the content marketing agency prepare it for your final approval and emailing.
  8. Social media… it may or may not be productive. If you are curating content, or making an announcement of a new listing or blog post, get someone else to do it. If you’re actively engaging with “warm” prospective buyers and sellers from your CRM, this may actually be valuable selling time. Be honest with yourself, because social can be a huge time waster. This is an area you, or your assistant, will almost certainly want some coaching in, to maximize every minute.
  9. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. If you have an aptitude for repairing your own car, keeping the computer running, shooting your own listing photos, entering data into the MLS, or being your own webmaster, the money you save may be penny wise, dollar foolish. Real estate can be a very lucrative profession, but you have to treat it as such. I very much doubt your attorney or periodontist closes the office to tinker on the website or do an oil change.
  10. I believe it goes without saying that television, shopping for ties at the mall and texting friends and family are bad for business.

The best place for you to spend your time is face to face with your clients. Period. You studied to be an agent or broker and adviser to buyers and sellers. And when you do that well, you are compensated handsomely. Every minute you’re squandering in the “necessary evils of the business,” or worse, should  be delegated to someone else or eliminated.

If you’re not already doing this, you need to take inventory of your work week. Keep track of how you spend every minute of your time. With the many time logging apps available for mobile devices, this has become incredibly easy to do. Log your time by category. At the end of each week, re-evaluate how your time was invested. You may find something else you could assign to someone.

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Real Estate Marketing: Leverage Your Story

Real Estate Marketing: Leverage your story

Are you guilty of underestimating the value you bring to prospective clients? Do you see competing agents as having more going for them? Do they have more years in the business, and an enviable reputation for being the go-to person for listing or showing a home? Do their signs seem to be on every desirable property? Perhaps they have the token Mercedes or Range Rover for schlepping clients around in style, while you drive a Honda. You may be overlooking a major advantage.

The ace up your sleeve

Do you ever apologize for the career you had before real estate? Here’s the thing; not that many enrolled in the real estate licensing course right out of university, or are second or third generation agents that grew up in a real estate family. Many of the top performers had a life before real estate.

Your life experience can become your greatest asset, because it helps you better relate to a certain type of prospective buyer or seller. What you see as a very “ordinary” past, may be the very thing that helps you stand out above the ambient noise.

Your story is your leverage. There are buyers and sellers that will be able to relate better to you than any other agent because of your life experience. Instead of hiding your story, you should include it strategically in your content marketing strategy.

The takeaway

Adding a nifty new IDX widget or animated image gallery to your website isn’t going to make them contact you. People prefer doing business with people they like, feel they can relate to and trust to get the job done. Your website should showcase your story and let your prospective clients meet you in a natural way.

If I can answer any questions, please leave comment below, or schedule a free 20 minute coaching session.

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Designing an Effective Real Estate Website

Designing an Effective Real Estate Website

A site designed to give you, the owner, exactly what you wanted may actually be the single greatest obstacle standing in the way of rankings, traffic and leads.

Even a drop-dead gorgeous award-winning website may not be a good design.

What is good design? For the real estate professional, the website must increase sales, not overhead.

Massimo Vignelli often said, “Design is not art. Art does not have to be functional.”

An attractive website can potentially increase page views, lower the bounce rate and enhance the number of earned links to its pages. But is a beautiful site necessary to perform well on the bottom line? Sadly, that would be a no. Four of the ugliest websites have made millions: Facebook, Google, Plenty of Fish and Craigslist.

So what makes a website design good?

It all begins with great content. The design then focuses on presenting your extremely valuable content in its best light. Most sites have it backwards. They design a new site and then replace the “Lorem Ipsum” filler text with hastily written copy.

Value is perceived in under 3 seconds. Visitors should know within 3 seconds if they’ve arrived at a site that is likely to answer their question or have what they are looking for.

It differentiates you from the ambient noise. Your USP (unique selling proposition) should be plainly visible. All other factors being equal, you will succeed to the degree you contrast yourself from the herd.

It connects you with your audience. Your visitors aren’t going to contact you because your IDX widget is cooler, or the design is sexier. They have to like you, trust you and genuinely believe you can help them. Your content must convince them of that.

It takes visitors where they need to go. Calls to action on the home page should grab visitors by the hand and lead them to the content they need by the shortest possible route. No desired page should be more than 3 clicks away.

The visitor doesn’t have to think or work. Where there’s a lot of content, consider using accordion or overlay panels to reveal additional information, so visitors don’t have to click to other pages.

There’s something for all three types of visitors. For search-oriented users, make the search field is prominently displayed. For menu-driven visitors, be sure the menu is easy to use, and choose only the most common menu terms rather than trying to be cute. For lazy users that want content to come to them, a video on the home page can tell your story without clicking a thing.

The pages are fast loading. Good websites avoid resource-hogging JavaScript features and huge images. Consider using CSS3 instead of buttons, box shadows, border radii, gradients, animated transitions and transformations, etc. You will beat your competitors by providing better content; not more gimmicky features and larger, slow-loading images.

Your content has killer titles. A great title will lead visitors to read your page or post. Titles also improve rankings and increase click-throughs from search engine results.

A photo is worth a thousand words. Choose images that not only support your content, but also intrigue your audience. Remember that Google can’t “see” your photos. Make sure you optimize your image file names, titles and  ALT tags.

Take it easy on hi-res images. Not everyone has retina displays. Serving up enormous image files to people that can’t enjoy them unnecessarily increases load times.

Interaction and sharing are encouraged. A successful website encourages commenting and sharing of content. Some of the “evergreen” (will still be relevant and useful a few years from now) content has a high value and this encourages links from other sites.

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Real Estate Marketing: Should You Cut Corners in Acquiring Leads?

Real estate marketing tipUsing Insider Information vs Cultivating Leads Organically

Our office is contacted dozens of times each business day by email and phone spammers claiming they are responding to my request for information.

This brazen approach is based on the assumption that I’m so busy I can’t possibly remember who I requested information from, so I won’t catch them in a lie. But, like you, my time is valuable, and I actually do remember that I’ve never contacted these companies before. Would I do business with people that attempt to initiate a relationship on lies? Would you?

Hundreds of CRM (customer relationship management) and other online marketing services exist that offer insider information on anyone that fills in the contact forms on your website, or in some cases, just visits your website. Some ‘scrape’ the information from sites like Facebook, providing personal information only available to authorized “friends”, and you can have this for a modest monthly fee.

Other companies attract subscribers by offering well written ebooks and white papers, in exchange for a name and email address, then collect more and more answers entered into their landing page forms every time you download another document. If you’ve ever been overwhelmed by almost daily offers of exciting content for download, you’ve probably been on one of these lists. Along with the form data, they store your IP address. They then sell this marketing intel to their own clients for a monthly fee. Every time you visit a site of one of their clients, they can access all of the stored information on you, plus anything they may have scraped. Well, at least that’s the theory.

On the surface, this insider knowledge is very enticing. Wow! You can know exactly who visited your website. They don’t even have to fill in a form and you can pounce on them with a phone call the very same day.

Where Did You Get My Number?

First of all, I have no problem at all with gaining subscribers by offering high quality information in exchange for a name and email address. If you use the CASL-approved double opt-in process, and then follow up with more valuable information as promised, you have a firm grasp of effective online marketing. You’re building a relationship of trust with your audience.

It’s the organizations gathering intel on prospects that sell the information as part of a monthly service that can be “trust busters.”

1. IP addresses can represent an entire office, family or coffee shop. The chance that you are contacting the person that actually visited your site is a crap shoot. Your opening statement, when contacting them, could therefore be an outright lie: “You were on my website yesterday…”  It’s not a good way to begin a relationship of trust, particularly when discussing what is probably the largest transaction these people will ever consider.

2. Information gained by scraping represents an invasion of privacy. Contacting people, with far more information than you should have about them, is downright creepy. Don’t expect them to warm to you.

If you can’t pass on the allure of insider information, at least reach out to prospective clients in a more natural way. If you call them before a connection has been made you risk being caught in a lie, or creeping them out. You might follow people that have visited your site, in social networks, and find more authentic ways to enter conversations by adding thoughtful and useful comments.

The Takeaway

Content marketing offers you a refreshing way to demonstrate genuine value to your prospective clients.

Real estate is a relationship business, and trust must be at the foundation. Clients need to know that you are the best person to help them buy or sell their home. Why not show your audience that you know a lot more about your area and local property than the competition by producing more valuable content?

Consider earning leads instead of buying insider information about prospects. It’s content that gets visitors to your website in the first place. Provide invaluable additional local information as free downloads and you can expect your visitors to very willingly give you their contact information in exchange for more of the same.

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Real Estate SEO: Preparing for 2015

Real estate SEO tipYou may have come across blog articles that state that “SEO is dead”. That statement has made great link bait for over a decade. However, real estate professionals are more baffled by the rapid evolution of search marketing than ever, and need highly targeted SEO and content marketing strategies to gain any traction in the marketplace.

A few years ago, when we optimized client sites, we focused on the keyword relevance of each page, and the quantity and quality of inbound links from other sites. If certain formulas were followed, results were very predictable. That made the system easy to game, and Google began rolling out algorithm updates to target sites with low quality content and links that were enjoying rankings they had not earned through quality content.

Following the Panda and Penguin updates, SEO has become a content play. Publish epic quality (far better than anything competitive sites are publishing) content that provides great value to your audience and your site will send all the right signals to avoid any Google penalties.

More recently, Google’s Hummingbird algorithm update is addressing changes in the way users are currently searching. Mobile queries are predicted to surpass those from conventional computers before the end of this year. Switching to a responsive, fast loading site design can position you to take full advantage of this trend. Many SEOs believe Google already favours mobile friendly sites for the coveted top-10 ranking positions.

Hummingbird also enables Google to more effectively process longer, conversational searches that are often presented as questions. As Google moves away from keywords to semantic search, we need to change our writing style to align with user intent. Instead of stuffing our content with keywords like “vancouver condos” and “high-rise apartments in vancouver”, we should try to answer questions like “Where are the new condo buildings?” in our posts and articles.

If you want to outrank the sites currently holding the top positions in local search, you need to “out content” those sites by becoming “more local.”

With a diminishing focus on keywords, we can also expect Google to match user requests with the most local results. For most agents, being “findable” for their farm area means everything. It’s become increasingly important to have your website associated with a local Google My Business (formerly Google Places) listing. Including a Google Map of your location on your Contact page, and publishing regular hyperlocal content also helps establish your location.

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Real Estate Marketing: What Should Your Website Have on the Home Page?

Real estate marketing tipEver notice that most real estate sites in a geographic area will have almost the same content? The majority will include IDX (MLS Reciprocity) listings. There’s an About Me page, some buyer and seller pages, and probably one or two forms.

Let’s face it, it’s excruciatingly boring for prospective buyers and sellers to check out a bunch of local agent sites. They’re all the same. The home page will usually have an image slider at the top. (Sliders rotate photos.) Many lazy sites will just post photos of the local area, but a few agents do use the slider effectively to display large, stunning images of their listings, linked to an on-site listing page.

If you’re listing homes, you want to be proudly displaying your inventory. Your real estate photographer is your secret weapon. A drop-dead gorgeous magazine-quality alternative to the slider on the home page is a mosaic layout with large in-your-face photos. Each image in the panel links to the applicable on-site listing page.

Many agents believe that if they can just add a cool enough IDX search interface, a flood of buyers will contact them for a showing. However, statistics indicate that visitors rarely complete an MLS search on the first three visits to an agent’s site. So if they’re coming back a 4th or 5th time, before they contact anyone, guess what they’re checking out… you.

Are you introducing yourself effectively on your home page? People aren’t going to slog through a lengthy bio on the home page. One of the very best introductions you can make is through a welcome video. Given the choice between an agent they’ve already met, by way of video, and all the others they have not, the chances they’ll call you just went up significantly.

Your video should get them to like you. Instead of bragging, provide some valuable local insider information. You want them to begin to trust you. And they should come to the end of the video believing you can help them buy or sell a property. Present your USP (Unique Selling Proposition) clearly, so they understand what makes you stand out from all the other agents that want their business.

Your home page should leave no doubt in your visitors’ minds that they’ve come to the right place. For example, if they’re looking for a condo in Vancouver East’s trendy renovated buildings, and that’s your specialty, your home page should provide evidence of that and link to more information.

If you need to get visitors to return several times, are you providing compelling calls to action on your home page?

1) Are you asking them to exchange their email address for a very desirable ebook with valuable local information? You could create something like: “10 Things You Must Know to Get The Best Price For Your Vancouver East Condo.” Subscribers to your list have given you permission to influence their decisions again and again. Make sure your emails deliver and link back to more great content.

2) Is the home page leading them to the useful hyperlocal “evergreen” content pages you’ve prepared, and your latest blog posts? Are your blog posts so valuable they’ll subscribe to your RSS feed in their reader, to make sure they don’t miss a single post?

While usually not part of the home page itself, make sure your website’s template includes your phone number in the header and additional contact details in the footer.

The Takeaway

Your home page is the most valuable page on the site. Make it a labor of love. Be prepared to tweak it to reduce your bounce rate and increase the number of pages your prospective clients visit.

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Real Estate Marketing: Need Leads Before Content Marketing Kicks In?

Real estate marketing tipMany agents simply can’t wait months for enough of their content strategy to roll out for the leads to start coming in. Does that mean content marketing’s not for them?

Paid search platforms like Google AdWords, Bing Ads and Yahoo! Search Ads can begin delivering qualified leads in as little as 48 hours. If you have a new domain, or have changed your marketing focus recently, you may not have any search engine rankings or organic traffic. Paid search offers an attractive stopgap solution.

The instant gratification of buying ads can be a trap however and it’s something you need to be aware of. When you’re maxing out your marketing budget in paid ads, there may be little or nothing left for creating and publishing brilliant content or marketing it through social media. Relying on ads for most of your traffic, for the life of your website, isn’t a cost effective strategy. It’s important to invest part of your marketing budget into epic content (epic = far better than anything your competitors are publishing) as well.

A strategy in which paid search decreases as content marketing results increase can be the ideal solution for website owners that can’t wait for organic results to kick in.

The balance between paid and organic search

Think of paid search as “renting.” You aren’t building any equity. If you have a slow month, and find yourself cutting back on PPC (pay per click) advertising, your traffic will evaporate when you need it most.

Conversely, you own the content you create and publish. Your site’s content, and the marketing of that content in social channels, gradually builds up your online equity every week. When you invest time and money into organic search on your site, in Google, Bing, Yahoo!, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and others, you’re building credibility and authority online. You have the ability to establish yourself as the go-to expert in your field.

If you’re new to PPC (pay per click) advertising, be sure to get some expert assistance. An effective strategy, carefully implemented, with well-written ads, landing pages and expert copywriting, can dramatically increase your return on investment.

High converting landing pages are essential. If your paid visitors aren’t contacting you and joining your email list, you’re losing money. A high bounce rate will also decrease your quality score with Google, and that means you’ll pay a lot more for your ads.

The Takeaway

If you need leads right away, a strategy that includes content marketing as well as paid search may provide the best balance between quick results and long term growth and sustainability.

Qualified Real Estate leads in as little as 48 hours