BY ROBERT FREEDMAN as featured in Realtor Magazine
Online real estate advertising hit about $2 billion last year, accounting for roughly 15 percent of all real estate ad spending. It’s projected to eclipse real estate newspaper advertising in just another few years to become the dominant real estate ad medium, a report by media analyst Borrell Associates Inc. says.
Before you rush to join the bandwagon, though, take time to know what separates good from bad online advertising. The difference between the two might not be what you think it is.
“The goal isn’t to drive traffic to your site you can buy some traffic easily enough with sponsored links the goal is to drive qualified leads to your site and give them what they’re looking for once you get them,” says Larry Bailin, CEO of Internet marketing consultancy Single Throw Inc., in Wall, N.J.
Bailin suggests you not spend a dollar on Internet marketing until you first make sure your home page instantly communicates how you can help your customers. That means a simple home page emphasizing home searches, your tools for getting customers a mortgage, your list of open houses, and information on the neighborhoods you serve. “You only have five to 10 seconds to convince them that they don’t need to go anywhere else to find help,” says Bailin.
So important is tracking your visitors’ preferences that it doesn’t make much sense to have a Web site without a tracking mechanism in place.
Second, make sure you can measure every movement on your site, from where customers entered to what they viewed before they left. This gives you a road map for making improvements. So important is tracking your visitors’ preferences that it doesn’t make much sense to have a Web site without a tracking mechanism in place, Bailin says. An Internet search of “site traffic” or “Web site traffic software” brings up many analytics tool providers. Look for recommendations from your Web host or others whom you trust.
When these two pieces are in place, optimize your search engine placement by focusing on three to five word phrases that get at the heart of your specialty, such as “Greenwich, Connecticut, real estate” rather than more general phrases like “real estate.” And don’t feel you have to buy a sponsored link at search sites, because 80 percent of users don’t click on them, says Bailin. “Searchers click on relevant listings, particularly those in the first three results pages,” he says.
Next, put yourself in the mind-set of your typical customers and try to identify the sites they’re visiting for information; then advertise your brokerage on those sites. If your typical customer is female, married, from 35 to 40 years old, with school age children, you might target the Web site of your local parenting publication, if there is one, and community sites featuring information about schools and shopping.
Advertising on your local newspaper sites might be smart, too. “These sites get a lot of eyeballs, because they have a lot of content that draws people to them,” says Kaira Sturdivant Rouda, chief operating officer of Real Living Inc., the Midwestern residential real estate giant based in Columbus, Ohio.
Among her company’s ad buys is a package deal with a publisher that operates more than a dozen local papers in about half a dozen central Ohio counties. At each of the papers’ Web sites, Real Living occupies a standing position in a fixed navigation bar at the top of the page as sponsor of the sites’ search tool. When people click on the Real Living logo, they go directly to real estate searches on the Real Living site.
You can also structure your Internet ad buys with newspaper companies as packages that include a print ad component, says Rouda.
But don’t lock yourself into this or any other Internet ad deal, say Rouda and Bailin. The Internet is all about adaptability, so if an ad package isn’t drawing people the way you anticipate, your agreement should be flexible enough to allow for changes in position or in the print-online mix to improve response. “The publishers should want to show how they’re a good partner and will work with you,” says Rouda.
Taken together, rules for Internet advertising are little different than print advertising: Know your audience and have something valuable to offer them.
Copyright 2007 Single Throw Inc.
Larry Bailin is a sought after public speaker, author of the Internet Marketing Book, “Mommy Where do Customers Come From?”® and CEO of Single Throw, an Internet Marketing consulting firm that has helped hundreds of businesses develop successful Internet Marketing strategies.
1973 Hwy 34 Suite E-23
Wall NJ 07719
732.451.0820 ext: 105