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2008-03-17 13:37:00

4 Steps to Success Using Online Marketing to Find New Buyers

You might have a tough time finding any news articles about this, but - believe it or not, there are many agents and brokers still prospering and still doing very well. Andy Alexander of Shorewood REALTORS in El Segundo, CA, is one such agent. On track to top 36 sales/listings this year (at an average of $900,000+ each), Andy expects this to be his best year so far, and this is his fourth year.

Andy sells and lists real estate in the South Bay and Beach Cities areas of Los Angeles. So do a lot of other people. Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach, and El Segundo are names that conjure up surf and sand and the best that Southern California has to offer in the Los Angeles area. Competition is stiff. Many aspiring agents come and go each year, and there are plenty waiting to take their places.

Early this year, Andy attended a presentation by Leslie Appleton-Young, VP and Chief Economist for the California Assn. of REALTORS® made at Shorewood Realtors offices comparing Internet Buyers to Traditional Buyers and explaining the huge shift in 'where the marketplace is for real estate' [Hint: It's not in newspaper ads]. When he saw the data and heard the figures, Andy knew that he had to put more emphasis on finding Internet buyers, and he had to do it right now.

He went out and contracted for a very nice custom web site and he subscribed to Compass Search to enable buyers to find that nice new site. About two months later, after taking delivery of his site, he received a call from Compass telling him that they had some bad news for him: His brand new shiny web site was programmed totally in FLASH, and could not be indexed by the major search engines, which also meant that his Compass Subscription wouldn't work (Note: Sites programmed in FLASH or <FRAMESET> are literally invisible to search engines.). After having spent considerable sums of money to start really developing his internet presence, Andy was back at square one. Initially discouraged, Andy quickly decided to remedy the situation: He obtained a Point2 Professional site and asked Compass to redo production on that site for free, which they did.

"In order to best perform for the client, it is essential to have a presence online. With over 80% of home transactions starting on the web, if we (as the client's REALTOR) cannot be found, neither can that client's listing. It seemed obvious to me that client satisfaction would be protected and maintained with every step I could take to make my presence on the internet more significant. After attending the CAR presentation, I fully understood how necessary it is to have that "presence." Instead of 'waiting for the market to improve', I decided to go at this full-bore as Internet Marketing is just too important to opt out of."

Now, only a few months later, Andy has10 transactions in process that originated from his web site and his site traffic is showing a nice increase each month. He uses his new site almost exclusively (http://www.andy-alexander.com/) and his original high-cost custom site is rarely used; in fact, Andy said that he is shutting it down because no one can find it.

After six months spent getting his internet marketing to the point where it is strong and getting stronger daily, Andy has many observations and opinions that constitute good ideas for all real estate agents. When I spoke to him one evening, he offered some of the things he has learned:

"While I hardly know everything, I do know more than when I started, and I am convinced that there is a right way and a wrong way to set about landing Internet buyers. Because of my experience, I am much further along, faster, than I thought I would be. I am fortunate to be able to report that my internet marketing is finally paying off.

I am also fortunate in that Our Broker has a good internet presence, too; in fact, about 40% of my leads come from my Broker (http://www.shorewood.com/). My web site and I produce the rest of my leads, and here's where they come from:

I get 40% of my internet leads from Yahoo, 20% from Google, 5% from Realtor.com, and the remaining 30% from "other." They all come through Compass Search. I know this because as part of my Compass Search subscription I have a tool called the WebReporterTool, which allows me to see what people are typing in to find me, to see what search engine they are using to find me, where they are from and who referred them and importantly, what phrases they search under. For example, anyone entering Beach Cities Real Estate Southern CA onto Yahoo will find me number 1. But on another phrase that doesn't put me on number one, I can see phrases that are being used more often. This allows me to adjust my marketing as needed. It may not sound like much, but it is very important to success in internet marketing to be where the traffic is."

Andy was also very clear about what he likes about his current arrangements. "I'm very pleased with my web site marketing platform because it is scalable, customizable to a factor I have not seen on other platforms and Point2 NLS (http://nls.point2.com/Content/Who.asp.) allows me to syndicate my listings to so many marketplaces on the web."

"I really am happy with Compass Search (http://www.compassinternetsystems.com/) because in addition to having me all over the major search engines organically for my phrases, they call me monthly with what they call "coaching call" - where we jointly spend a few minutes checking and discussing my traffic, lead conversion and ways to improve it, checking to see that my code is intact and my site is not utilizing bad practices like links outward bound that don't return, and more. They know that successful internet marketing is a work in progress that needs to be constantly monitored and adjusted. As an ex-IT manager and technical person, it is clear to me that I need internet marketing help: I know HOW to do just about anything involving computers, but I needed some guidance about WHAT I needed to do and Compass gives me that every month at no additional cost as a part of the subscription."

Andy's has four commandments for success in attracting Internet buyers and they are as follows:

  1. "Make sure you have a marketing platform that allows drip marketing and lead incubation; one where YOU can make adjustments and do not have to stand in line with your vendor, fill out work orders at $50 a pop, and hope the vendor does what you ask;
  2. Make sure that people searching for a home in your market area can find you and your site organically. Every REALTOR needs an organic search strategy. Some small amounts of pay-per-click can also help you, especially while waiting for organic to kick in (If you would like to know if your site can be found, click here (http://zjaf0zx8.1landing.com/) and we'll research your site and let you know with a phone call, free); a small PPC program can help overcome Google's "sandbox"*, too.
  3. Have lots of good content and update it regularly; write (or have someone write) your homepage content - don't use that template content, especially on your homepage!
  4. Continually track your performance, your traffic and your page popularity and adjust that which needs to be adjusted to turn visitors into leads and leads into clients."

    [* "Google's sandbox" refers to the condition and dichotomy that exist in Google's ranking of sites. Google will not even index a site, much less list it, until it is more than six months old, yet they will put you right on top of paid search on day one. Pay and you're listed, don't pay and you're not.]

"I have found that the top 10% of performers in this business are highly consistent," Andy continued, "and consistency seems even more important, now. Too many agents try something for a few months, then quit on it. That could have been me; after all, I started off paying for a beautiful site that couldn't be found, and I bought a search subscription that couldn't work with that site (which no one knew until the new site was up!). I easily could have chucked it and given up, but I didn't because internet buyers are just too important. I hold myself just as responsible for my success as any other tool in my inventory. If my methods are not consistent, how can my sales performance be consistent?"

As my interview with Andy drew to a close, I asked him if he had anything to add or if there were any important things I had missed. He said: "I know that I am lucky to be in a market that has slowed down slightly, but that is still vibrant. I know that being in my marketing area is a lucky choice I made when I began some four years ago. I was lucky in my choice of Broker. I was also lucky to finally choose the right vendors. However, my continuing determination to make the internet produce for me has been the factor that made me more successful..."

He continued. "So many of our fellow agents are suffering; mainly because they have few people to call on and few buyers to work with. Prospecting is a daily duty and many of us got a little prone to overlooking continuous prospecting over the last few years while the markets were booming. For a while we had five offers, each higher than the asking price, and properties sold in a day. Now, they are on the market longer (30-60 days) and negotiation has again become an important asset of a good agent. I believe that it is my persistence in seeking success with Internet buyers that is making all the difference for me because I am prospecting the internet and it is coming up roses for me."

We should all be as "lucky" as Andy. 

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