When I first speak with new clients about their online marketing, and mention Google, I’ll often I hear comments that suggest we’re discussing “the enemy,” the greedy monopoly that has allegedly been robbing them of their justly deserved traffic, leads and sales.
Disparaging comments about Google do help discourage real estate professionals from pursuing Google traffic and assist some service providers in signing agents up for their monthly services.
It’s been my experience that Google can be a top producer’s best kept secret. And we’re not just discussing search engine rankings, which incidentally are usually far more attainable than is generally believed.
Top-5 search positioning
According to Search Engine Watch, 32.5% of the clicks go to the #1 ranked site for a Google search term. 17.6% go to #2, 11.4% to #3, 8.1% to #4 and only 6.1% to #5. If you add those up, 75.7% of Google’s traffic is sent to the top 5 ranking positions. As Ricky Bobby put it, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.”
I’ve heard reps for IDX and other SaaS services “enlighten” real estate professionals, at “real estate marketing seminars”, that search engine rankings no longer matter in this millennium. And there’s actually a morsel of truth to that.
For example: The Greater Vancouver Real Estate Board today boasts a membership of over 11,000 agents. Do the math. Less than 1% of those agents will be ever be listed in Google’s top-5.
Online marketers joke that the best place to hide a dead body is on the second page of Google’s search results. Whether your site shows on page 2 of the search engine results, or page 846, chances are you’ll never be found.
But things aren’t nearly as hopeless as those stats suggest. Google is looking for high quality relevant content to put on the first page of its search results. Every geographic region offers these prize top-5 positions on Google, for serious real estate experts desiring to dominate their market.
Over the years I’ve conducted thousands of keyword searches, only to discover the first agent often is only listed way down on the third or even the fifth page. How could this be? Typically at the top are news sites, local directories, brokerage firms and community sites.
While it’s true that if every real estate pro executed a brilliant content strategy perfectly, there would still only be five top-5 positions for a particular local keyword search term, it’s rare to find anyone actually going after these powerful traffic builders. I’ve often read that many of the most drop-dead gorgeous girls rarely get asked out because men believe they’re beyond reach. That’s my take on this phenomenon. What a missed opportunity!
Most real estate professionals set up a site with IDX (branded as MLS Reciprocity in lower BC), with a regurgitated version of the same standard pages everyone else has on their site and then they wait. And wait. And wait some more.
But here’s the thing: It’s unrealistic to expect to surpass the sea of competitors by doing the very same things they are doing. Not going to happen.
Google Adwords ads are a very effective way to give your site a rapid boost, if done correctly. It’s possible to begin receiving qualified leads in as little as 48 hours of setting up your first campaign.
It should be noted that high conversion landing pages and the overall quality of the content the ads link to influence your Quality Score, affecting your costs and return on investment. In other words, those who invest more into doing AdWords right, also reap greater rewards.
The largest international audience of buyers
Business analysts tell us 60% of all web traffic now comes from mobile. In recognition of this shift to mobile, Google introduced their Mobile-Friendly algorithm April 21st of this year.
One in every 5 people around the world now owns a smartphone, while only one in every 17 own a tablet. Providing an amazing experience for smartphone users has become critical to your success.
If more than half of all Internet traffic is mobile, what devices are these people using? Google Android and Apple iOS devices hold 96.3% of mobile market share. According to stats published by IDC Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, February 24, 2015, 81.5% of mobile traffic is using the Google Android operating system. I’ve read articles that claim the iPhone 6 has been a runaway success, and Android dominance may only be 74.6% now, but the fact remains that Android smartphones have won by a landslide.
So, not only do we rely on Google for most of our search traffic; Google powers the lion’s share of our prospective clients’ devices.
Granted, in your local professional circle there may be more iPhone users, but that is certainly not the case globally. If you also target international buyers it’s in your best interest to cultivate a healthy love for the green droid. If you’re considering making some changes on your responsive website, one of the first questions to the webmaster/designer should be, “And how will it look on an Android smartphone or tablet?”
While not the most feature-rich of the traffic analytics solutions, Google Analytics does provide invaluable traffic data for website owners, and the price is unbeatable: it’s free.
If you’re not tracking your website’s performance with Google Analytics, don’t let the sun go down without setting that up. Web analytics are the most direct way of measuring the effectiveness of any changes you make to your internet marketing strategy. It’s been said, “You can’t fix it, if you don’s know what’s broke.”
Google Webmaster Tools is the Swiss Army Knife of personal brand SEO, generating a range of data that will help you build an intelligent SEO campaign.
As the name suggests, these tools are geared towards professional webmasters, but with some study they can be mastered by real estate website owners as well.
You can discover how Google views your site, who’s linking to you, the keywords Google ranks you for, your internal linking effectiveness, subscriber stats, whether the site’s software includes malware and many other useful facts.
I advise my real estate clients to use their domain-based email address when communicating with clients and other agents. (ie: [email protected] or [email protected]) This will earn you top marks for credibility and reinforce your brand.
For everything else, use Gmail. Your Gmail address is your master key to Google Calendar, the Google office apps, Google Analytics, Webmaster Tools, AdWords, Google+, your blog’s authorship account and YouTube.
Many agents still consider Facebook to be the top social media channel for real estate. For reaching buyers and sellers, Facebook pages have proven their worth.
Facebook has some annoying restrictions that can hurt business. For example: fan pages can only be created from a personal account. So much for keeping your personal life and real estate business somewhat separate. You’re only allowed to ask personal “friends” to become a fan or “Like” your business page. You can’t communicate with fans outside the Facebook fan page, and as the admin, you aren’t permitted to communicate as yourself on your real estate fan page.
Google+ is arguably a better community builder. On G+ you can just reach out to people and invite them into your circles. It makes it a lot easier to connect with prospects you don’t personally know.
I still recommend building some rapport by being genuinely helpful, before the invite, but you’re not going to be blocked, the way Facebook handles it, for sending out friend requests to people who don’t know from university, your church or the lodge.
Google Hangouts offers new opportunities for sitting around the virtual boardroom with international buyers, to negotiate a deal.
Using your public wall or feed for promoting your listings is not a good idea, unless only about 1 out of 10 posts are all about you and what you’re selling. But every sizable real estate area has some excellent Google+ Groups set up for local agents to share new listings and network. And if there aren’t any yet, you should consider setting one up. Your new listing blasts are actually welcome and expected in many of these professional groups :-).
Google+ Local is a godsend to real estate. If you’re publishing regular hyper-local content on your site, and promoting it in Google+, your G+ post is almost a shoe-in for a free Google+ listing on Google’s first page of results.
YouTube has become the top video research destination for home shoppers. And while you can blast your new listing virtual tours on YouTube, YouTube supports a far nobler purpose.
What an incredible opportunity for you to take potential local home buyers out to see your community. Almost every agent in your geographic area will be jabbering on to visitors about how they have their finger on the pulse of everything that’s happening in your community. You’re actually taking the time to show them your community. If new zoning has been approved that will impact local real estate, why not announce it the following day, standing in front of the land just as a top reporter would. Be the first to announce any new development in your community. Within a year your site can be the place people go to find out what’s happening in your locale.
In other words, don’t talk about being the buyers’ eyes and ears… actually be their eyes and ears. It elevates you well above the rest of the noise.
To “out content” the rest of the agents in your area, your content just needs to be “more local.” Hyperlocal marketing is real estate’s secret weapon on the web.
If you’re creating a series of pages covering the local schools in your area, Google Maps enables you to show people exactly where they are. Visitors to your site can see where the medical facilities are in relation to the home they’re considering. Your on-site listings (and you should have these, in addition to IDX) can show the location of a home, and its proximity to important amenities and local features.
Let’s face it; the MLS listings that appear on all the local real estate sites are pretty much the same. Fancy filtering of results, and cool search interfaces, can only go so far in re-packaging the very same information. So if the inventory is the same, you have the opportunity to win them over with your knowledge, as demonstrated through the quality of information you provide.
Google’s browser is blazingly quick. For the professional, time is money, and over the year you could literally save a day or two with Chrome.
With Chrome, one familiar interface fits all. Whether you’re on a Windows PC, a Mac, iOS or Android device, Chrome delivers the same familiar and efficient interface.
Chrome doesn’t freeze up or crash like the other browsers because of its multiprocess architecture. Every tab, window, and plug-in runs in its own environment. If something does go wrong, only one process is terminated and Chrome’s still available.
As Internet Explorer’s market share continues to decline, Google has climbed firmly into second place at 25.68%.
Google Docs, Sheets, Slides and Forms
Some of the greatest office tools out there — with cloud sharing through Google Drive — come from Google. And they’re all free.
Google makes it super simple to share documents with your clients online. Just select the document and click the big blue share button. That’s it!
Rather than hoping prospective buyers and sellers — or agents you’re working with to close the deal — also have the latest version of Microsoft Office, so they can open your documents, you can relax. It’s a web app, so if they have a browser and an internet connection, they can open any document you send them.
I recently had a real estate broker argue that using something other than Microsoft was just plain unprofessional. To my way of thinking, sending them documents they can’t open, because they haven’t invested in the very latest software from Redmond, could be a costly mistake.
If you click the top left printer icon, one of the options is “Save to Google Drive”. Once automatically converted to PDF format and sent, apps exist for Windows, Mac OS X, iOS (iPhone/iPad) and Android, that enable the recipients of your documents to sign them and return them by email (or fax).
Both the Google Play store and iTunes App Store list many powerful apps that help you leverage the full power of Google: Google, YouTube, Gmail, Inbox by Gmail, Google Maps, Google Earth, Chrome, Google Drive… to name only a few official apps. And there are hundreds of 3rd party apps that enhance the power of your Google ID.
Despite what you may have heard, Google’s not the enemy. They have become a hugely successful company by being more helpful than their competition. And they offer a powerful set of tools to help you grow your business.
I hope you feel inspired to give at least one more Google tool a try. I welcome your comments and questions.