Ever wonder why you're not receiving many emails or calls from your website?
Any real estate agent can state that they have their thumb on the pulse of the real estate market in their community. Almost everyone claims that they are the leading local expert, they have the insider information buyers need, they're active in their neighbourhood, and ever so passionate about their community, yada, yada... Read the About Me pages on almost every agent's site and you'll read essentially the same thing.
Nobody has any reason to believe you're special. As a society, we've become very jaded towards sweeping marketing statements. A posed or Photoshop'd photo in a community setting doesn't prove you know squat about the real estate in your area. The years you've put in don't prove you're still at the top of your game. Contrast and proof are key.
What's contrast? Your website will succeed to the degree your message stands out from the ambient noise. In other words, look at what the majority of agents are doing on their sparse sites, and don't do that. Ever! Have the courage to be different.
So how do you prove that you are a wealth of up-to-date information, and the go-to agent they should be calling? Simple...
Award badges are often suspect. It takes seconds to "borrow" a badge graphic from another site. If you say you sell more real estate, you can easily prove it through your site's vast archive of sold properties. (Please tell me you don't delete listings as soon as they sell, or that you took the easy route, and only display IDX reciprocity [3rd party] data on your site.)
Your current and archived listings are pure gold. Current listings present your inventory to prospective buyers, but also for indexing by search engines. Your archives are huge credibility builders with prospective sellers, and they also present plenty of keywords and content that support local search on Google. Time is money, and there are some brilliant, real estate software solutions, like EZ Realty or AgentPress, for managing listings very efficiently on your website.
It has been said that if you want to be successful in any endeavour, study success. I have been building a swipe file from the real estate 'heavy hitters' ($1 million+ per year in commissions) in North America ever since I built the first site for a real estate professional in 1998. Almost without exception, they display their own listing inventory on the pages of their websites, and not through 3rd party IDX data. Think there's a connection between that decision and the rankings, traffic and success they enjoy?
"To rank well, build a site so fantastic that it makes you an authority in your niche."
- Matt Cutts, Head of Google Web Spam Team
Google is trying to list websites that have real content, published by authority authors in the field, that real people use, engage with, share online and link to.
Most agent's sites have terrible search engine rankings. No surprise there. They churn out the basic 5 or 6 web pages, have the webmaster drop in an IDX code snippet or search bar widget, so they display reciprocity data, and convince themselves they now have a lead generation machine. And then they wait... and wait... But take a look at the site, for a moment, from Google's perspective. There's a 'Contact Me' page, with a form, a Home page 'slider', and a self promotion 'About Me' page... no real content so far. The other 2 to 5 pages are just a regurgitated version of the fluff everyone else puts on their site... essentially duplicate content. And then there's the 3rd party MLS reciprocity data that isn't part of the site at all. 'No real content' is the problem.
The fact that most agents took the easy route in developing their websites and "content" (if you can call it that) opens up incredible content marketing opportunities for you.
When someone pulls out their mobile device in West Vancouver, for example, Google is going to provide a short list of websites for agents that list and sell properties in the immediate geographic area. In this case, let's say that's Ambleside. The on-site listings you took the time to re-enter on your website are legitimate on-site content, and validate your claim that you do business in the Ambleside area. Over time you may have accumulated 36 listings (current and archived) within a 10 block radius, so you should be listed right at the top.
While IDX data certainly has its place, it usually fails at bringing traffic to your site. If you want someone to scan the IDX listings and call you for a showing, you will have to get them to your site first. Your site's own hyper local content, and broader content marketing strategy, makes that happen.
If you're the prospects' eyes and ears, in the real estate market, someone needs to be writing in your blog every time there's a new condo building available, they break ground on a new project, there's a zoning change that affects the real estate market, etc. You're very busy, so you may want to have one of your team handle this, or hire an SEO copywriter with real estate content experience, but someone needs to be building out both evergreen page content and your dynamic blog content.
If you're very active in your community, your blog and social media pages can demonstrate this as well. The trick here is to make these posts about the reader. Your inclusion in the photos should appear incidental. Focus on the experiences, and sense of community your prospective buyer can expect.
Again, if you take a page from the playbook of some of the heavy hitters, video tours of your listings provide both valuable content for your site, and quality media to share in video posts on Facebook, YouTube and Vimeo. As with listings, adding geographic references to video is a legitimate (non-spammy) way to establish yourself in local search. How-to videos are also very popular. For example, one week you could create a video on "Choosing Your Perfect West Van Condo." You could of course talk about the neighbourhoods, and include several of your listings in the video, to illustrate features available. You would then 'credit' the properties used in the making of the video in the text below. Nowhere in the video would you be "selling" real estate, and that's what makes it content marketing, instead of shameless selling.
Detailed information for each of your local neighborhoods can be invaluable for buyers considering a move to your area. And it's an excellent way to build up your relevant content, authority and organic search traffic. Let's say you have 7 neighborhoods that make up your geographic territory. If you create 8 to 10 pages of quality information on each, you could have 70 new pages that will decimate the other sites that only devoted a single paragraph to each neighborhood. Some pages would be schools in each neighbourhood, parks, shopping, childcare, places to walk a dog, etc.
You're selling a lifestyle; not so much a house. Your content is the perfect place for you to show that you really get that. Let the other sites embed their 'canned' data, while you give your visitors a taste of the lifestyle they'll soon enjoy. People don't tweet and share "listings" much, but they will share a post about a dream lifestyle, or a community experience that touches them.
This is just a short list of some of the wonderful content possibilities available to real estate professionals. Over time you'll become adept at spotting content opportunities, or you can have a content marketing expert who specializes in real estate map out a content strategy and publishing schedule.
Is it worth it? Real estate is an industry in which even one or two additional, highly qualified leads per month can make the difference between making a living and enjoying an extraordinary income. A site that does what it's supposed to — generate leads — is a valuable asset, rather than an expense entry on your balance sheet.
The proof is in the content. The very best of luck, "out contenting" your competition.
Cole Wiebe helps brands and professionals grow their influence and value online; so they can “out content”™ their competition. Cole is a content strategist, content writer, conversion copywriter and online marketing coach.
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