Three Keys to Successful Real Estate Search Engine Marketing
The buzz at the latest Inman Real Estate Connect Conference  and ReMax R4 Convention  was all about how to leverage social media to drive leads and sell homes. It seems like the new rule is, if you aren’t tweeting advice about real estate in your neighborhood 24/7 or using Foursquare to check in your every move, you are fairly unlikely to ever sell another home again. This is a lie.
In a world of exponentially increasing options on how to market your services as an agent or broker, the noise is louder than ever. How do you sort through all the noise to find the signal, the one or two things that will actually lead to more clients and sold homes? Start by resisting getting caught up in the latest trend. Instead, my advice is to spend your time, money and resources marketing your business where the homebuyers are.
And today, homebuyers are on the search engines.
With 90 percent of US homebuyers now using the Internet to research real estate information, search engines continue to be the dominant research channel. 62 percent of homebuyers search throughout the entire home-buying process, according to the Google Compete Real Estate Study 2010.
But, as we well know, search is not confined to the desktop. Consumers, including the very homebuyers you are hoping to attract, are doing searches right in the palms of their hands.
Follow these three key steps for marketing on search engines, and you’ll be sure to enjoy more homebuyer leads in 2012.
1. Go Mobile
By the end of 2011, half of Americans will have a smartphone (Nielsen, March 2010), and adoption continues to be on the upswing. In addition, consumers are increasingly complementing their desktop searching with mobile and tablet searches in the evenings.
Percentage of daily queries by hour (source: Google internal data)
To take early advantage of this growing trend, real estate advertisers must adjust their approach to paid search marketing. Specifically, because the user experience is different between desktop and mobile, marketing on these devices must be handled differently:
Best practices for search engine marketing on mobile devices include:
- Being in the top two positions in mobile search engine results is critical—sure, it’s also important for a desktop search but, in mobile, it’s paramount to success. Therefore, we recommend testing and maintaining position one or two in mobile paid search for maximum exposure.
- Include sitelinks in your mobile paid search campaigns to take up to 40% more real estate on the search results page.
- The cost of paid search clicks on a per click basis for smart phones is currently 40% less than desktop. Take advantage of this opportunity for cheaper clicks.
- While tablet screen size and browsers are more like desktops, smart phone browsers are still limiting. We recommend using mobile landing pages for smart phone traffic to increase interaction and leads, while also reducing bounce rates.
2. Give Your Visitors Value
Even though home buyers are probably not completing a purchase online, it is possible to track the success of your search marketing campaigns by measuring user behavior on your site.
The key is to attribute the ‘value’ of every visitor that was driven to your site from both paid and organic search. Measuring the value of visitors that fill out a lead form is relatively straightforward. In search marketing, we often refer to these new leads as conversions. But many qualified home buyers will visit your site on multiple occasions before ever filling out the lead form or picking up the phone. These visitors certainly also have value, as they are building a virtual relationship with your brokerage. As these visitors spend more time on your site, assign a relative value to each step of their buying journey. Here is an example of various user behaviors and an assumed “fraction” of a conversion:
Fraction of a Conversion
|Select a residence||
|View a floor plan||
|Add to Favorites||
|Print a floor plan||
|Customize and furnish your homes||
|Click on ‘Join The Interest List’||
|Print a brochure||
|Finance Your New Home||
|Click on ‘Contact Us’||
|Buying Your New Home||
|Email to a Friend||
Add up these fractional conversions to determine the ‘value’ of the visitor. Taking it one step further, this conversion data can be mapped back to your paid search keyword bidding strategy. Here you would bid up keywords that were driving more total conversions and bid down keywords that were driving less:
3. Content Is King
Content is often where many sites fail, because creating keyword-rich, unique and relevant content is extremely time-consuming. Why is it so important?
When Google and other engines produce search results, they are ranking sites based on authority. The sites that have more authority relative to the keyword searched rank higher than sites that have less authority. One of the most important factors that Google uses to determine authority is content.
For your real estate brokerage site to rank at the top of the organic search results, Google must see it as an authority on the topic of real estate for your location. Here are some of the most important ways you can invest in content:
- Unique Content: Google assigns SEO value to content only once. Develop your own unique content that only stays on your website and isn’t shared elsewhere.
- Content Freshness: Google rewards sites that frequently provide new content on their sites. Continually providing relevant content will help your site to be seen as authority.
- Be a Resource, Not a Brochure: Websites that only exist to sell the company’s services to its visitors create resistance (remember what it feels like to be ‘sold to’). Invest in creating resourceful, interesting and relevant content for your site. This type of content improves the stickiness of your site, creates in-bound links, social recommendations and SEO authority.
While social is a powerful way to build relationships which can lead to new leads, agents and brokers should focus more of their time, money and resources on improving their visibility in search, which is where the homebuyers are today.