Today we are continuing our series of interviews with the winners of our Stars of Search award. Today’s interview is with Jeb Griffin, Director, Product Strategy & Development at RE/MAX.
Can you give us a little back-story on how you ended up in search?
Sure. Back in ‘95 or ’96 I was working in the tech sector, mostly consulting. I ended up relocating to Colorado to work in the real estate technology industry. After working in marketing and training, I began working with RE/MAX in technology training. My role was focused on getting agents and brokers up to date on technologies, before I eventually ended up in product development.
Recently RE/MAX embarked on a huge undertaking of redesigning our entire website, which is massive. Part of the redesign was obviously migrating all existing data and content, and we realized that the migration presented the opportunity for RE/MAX to create a very optimized site from the ground up, which is why we sought out the expertise of The Search Agency. Through the process, I became very involved in search.
How did you come to realize that search engine optimization was a priority?
In the past, RE/MAX’s priority has always been listings; we wanted to display listings first. When we set out to redesign REMAX.com, a totally new user experience was our main goal. But as we began this huge undertaking, Search and SEO became increasingly more important priorities. We realized that we had been thinking too reactionary, instead of proactively, by getting sidetracked with an innovative user experience, and putting data and listings on the backburner.
We understood that our competitors were making great strides in their web experiences, and that putting Search at the forefront of our new site would make RE/MAX successful and competitive in our space. For us, our site migration was a clean slate. SEO really came into play with our main migration of data on the back end, and the front-end design is really focused on the user experience. Ultimately in the end, we were able to fulfill goals of both an engaging user experience, and an SEO structurally sound site.
How would you define your role at RE/MAX?
Honestly, I’m more of a product strategy guy. While I don’t have a traditional search background, this whole website migration project has been beneficial and I have learned so much working with The Search Agency this past year. RE/MAX didn’t have the in-house resources we needed, so we were looking for someone we could give a seat at the table with the knowledge to implement the infrastructure. I am currently managing projects, products, and focusing on work with our technology strategy officer to take a more holistic approach to our offerings, for both consumers and agents. As such, I helped facilitate RE/MAX’s entrance into the world of Search.
Are there any industry developments that you feel have impacted your Search strategy?
There’s a lot going on right now, but really it’s all about data, data, data. How you get that data, where you get that data, and how you present that data. All of our traditional competitors, any real estate brand, are competing with the exact same data set. They are looking at, and presenting, the same data as RE/MAX. From a website perspective, the way to be competitive is to present a better user experience with that same data.
Of course we have to keep our eyes on Trulia and Zillow; they’ve grown so much in such a short amount of time. But at the end of the day, consumers are brand agnostic with real estate searches, so we’re trying to figure out where consumers are going, and why. We realize that the key is to understand our own traffic, and how to grow it. Data is something we can use to direct that effort.
In your current role, what are best practices or philosophies you live by?
I think the one thing RE/MAX really focuses on is doing it right it the first time. We don’t want to cut corners. Our team wants to make sure whatever we do; we have a thorough understanding of potential enhancement or impact.
If you were to speak to someone just getting started, what advice would you give?
I would advise leveraging resources and knowledge bases, whether they are people or publications. It’s just so important to get a basic understanding of Search best practices; no matter what industry you enter. It doesn’t need to be extensive, just a basic understanding.
Thank you Jeb for joining us in the Search Studio and congratulations on your Stars of Search award!