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2008-05-13 03:35:47

6 Reasons Why SEO Does Not Always Work

We’ve all heard about amateur search engine optimizers who often leave you frustrated and angry. With some of them, you have less chance of appearing on the first-page search results of Google, Yahoo!, and MSN than of being elected President of the United States. However, most people just assume that once on those first pages, the business will flow in. Unfortunately, that rarely is the case. You are still the most important ingredient in your online marketing strategy. 

Here are six common reasons that even good search engine optimization (SEO) may not bring you the business it should, right out of our clients’ files. Our client base that follows our direction about lead capture, community pages, deleting outbound links and the rest can average 10-15% of their unique visitors converted to leads. It doesn’t take all that much traffic to make the leads flow. So then, why doesn’t SEO always work for people appearing on the first pages of the major search engines? Here’s what our experience shows as some of the most common reasons.

1.  Maybe your site is optimized for the wrong targets.

This happens more often than you might think. It happens when (for one example) when an agent covets the high end neighborhood where she may not be doing business and instructs her SEO company to optimize her site for that coveted territory, and not for where she makes her living; in this example, let’s say for “Beverly Hills Homes for Sale.” In due course, our covetous agent is all over the search engines on the first page for that search, but the phone doesn’t ring. Perhaps this will help explain why that is:

a.)  The agent’s office is in Burbank;

b.)  Her telephone area code is 818 and Beverly Hills is 310;

c.)  She is a member of no Beverly Hills civic or professional associations or social clubs.

We tell clients to optimize for where 85% of their business comes from geographically, not where they want it to come from, unless they are prepared to physically be in that target market with all the accoutrements necessary to belong in it. Why? Because people looking for a home in Beverly Hills want a Beverly Hills Expert, not some agent from Burbank trying to crash their market! Don’t be greedy; stick to where you can properly be the neighborhood expert. While good SEO will bring you buyers from all over, proper SEO is aimed at where 85% of your business is, today!

2.  Maybe your web site tries to target too wide an area and isn’t hitting what you really want to reach.

My favorite example of this is the Northern Virginia agents and brokers who aim their sites at every home buyer in the 100 mile radius of Washington, DC, and in doing so, fail to target any specific area. They optimize their sites for Maryland, Washington, Richmond, you name it. I cannot tell you how important it is that you keep your aim to what you are truly knowledgeable about and are readily familiar with. Someone looking for a home in, say, Laurel MD, isn’t gong to choose an agent who advertises that they sell homes in Richmond, VA, for the most elemental of reasons: No one person can be expert on an area that large and no buyer wants to deal with anyone but a local expert. The one exception to this is people relocating; they will often come to agents from anywhere if the search engine puts them on top. If 85% of your sales are to people relocating, then a wide area target is a good idea; if not, stay local.

3.  Maybe your web site doesn’t tell folks that they have arrived at the right place to buy what they are looking for.

To keep this as simple as possible, let’s stay with the analogy in item 1 above: a buyer clicks on the example agent’s search result on Google as it came up on page one for “Beverly Hills Homes for Sale.” So, what does this buyer see on the poaching agent’s site when the homepage comes up? She sees listings for Burbank, Hollywood, and North Hollywood. What should a buyer see when clicking on the search result? They should see a homepage that says “Welcome to Beverly Hills Homes for Sale” Make sure your Internet buyer immediately can recognize that she is in the right place, on the right site.

4.  Maybe your site does not invite people to register for a “Special Report” or a value of some kind and the chance to stay informed.

Many sites require a sign-in or the surrender of personal information to view homes. This is very bad, and very ineffective. Most consumers click off your site when greeted with such a demand. Equally bad, however, is where they are greeted with the ubiquitous REALTOR.com-type search box; (you know, enter price range, etc). Our experience is that it is far better to gently ask people to “fill in this form” for a Special Neighborhood report, or a “Guide to Yourtown and its attractions” and to put that form right on the home page of your site in a pleasantly normal and properly sized position.

now this: part of the reason so many people search for homes online is that they do not have to answer embarrassing questions or surrender personal information to anyone. They can simply search to their heart’s content and – upon finding a property of interest — contact an agent or broker and begin the process of seriously evaluating the property. You will be hugely more effective online when you welcome Internet buyers and offer them information they cannot easily receive elsewhere. Make registration optional and gentle, but you must have a lead capture on the homepage if you expect to be effective.

5. Maybe you don’t follow up your Internet inquiries properly.

Survey after survey confirms this: people who place an inquiry online expect to be responded to immediately. Not “tomorrow,” but immediately. Those same surveys confirm that when those inquiries are responded to within four hours, in the vast majority of cases, the buyer stays with the agent who responded into the sale (that is, more than 82% of the time — Source: California Assn. of REALTORS). Turn on your web site’s paging feature that sends all such leads to your cell phone in the form of a text message. A simple “I received your inquiry and although I am showing a home at this moment, I can call you within an hour” sets the stage for a successful conversion from inquiry to interested party. In an on-demand world, you need to be available immediately when that first inquiry is made.

6. Maybe your web site is too cluttered and too confusing.

There are some awful sites out there, jammed with every link imaginable and without a central focus. A site more concerned with “branding” than selling homes; a site without automatic lead incubation, drip e-mail, and other important management features necessary to ease your entry into the world of being an Internet real estate agent or a site that the consumer sees and just says, “Yuck," and moves to the next position on the search results to look over. It is not necessary to win beauty prizes for your site’s design, it is necessary to be consumer and search engine friendly.

eatures and benefits sell homes, not pretty web sites laden with the latest hi tech widgets and goodies that the public does not want. For the vast majority of agents, a simple mid-level template web site from a reputable producer is all the web site that they will ever need. $50 a month to acquire such a site is plenty (you can obtain one for FREE from certain providers of SEO); if you want to customize such a template, you can do that for between $500-2,000. Forget spending  between $5,000 and $10,000 on some FLASH-laden web site that can’t be seen by search engines; the real estate industry has more and better templates than any other and it is one of the most Internet-savvy services there is today in business. Get consumer and Internet friendly.

It’s not about what you want, it’s about what the Internet buyer wants, and they want intuitive, easy to use, and comprehensive information available in a comfortable and relaxing format.

These are just a few reasons that — even if you are on the first pages of the search engines — SEO may not be producing for you. There are many others. It is a huge technological feat to put so many clients’ neighborhoods on the first pages of the major search engines. Sometimes people can forget that all that technology won’t be worth beans if you, the agent, do not do your part to make the technology work and reward you monetarily. That is the personal part, the local knowledge part, the service part of what online marketing services for REALTORS® really are.

We have learned a great many things over the past few years that make us realize that it is not enough to simply give advice to our real estate clients; we must implement the changes they need for them. Why? It’s because most agents and brokers are TOO BUSY to implement the necessary changes to their sites to make their first page placement completely effective. We have had clients leave us who were getting 300 unique visits a week but weren’t converting because they wouldn’t implement recommendations made to them for good lead capture. While we can bring the traffic to your site, we can’t make clients implement changes needed. That’s why in January, we converted to doing what is necessary for the client rather than advising them what to do. It works MUCH better, I promise you!

Most agents and brokers need coaching and help to maximize results from the Web. While everyone knows that 84+% of all residential real estate sales begin on the Internet and that 66% of all Internet buyers find their agent through a search engine, very few are making those numbers work for them. The six reasons listed above confirm that even well intentioned agents sometimes don’t implement the strategies needed to convert visitors to prospects. Getting the shoppers to you is only the first step in REAL SEO™. Getting them to become leads and buyers takes a concerted ongoing effort and a true organic search marketing plan. If you can take $300 a month out of your print advertising budget today and put it into organic search and Internet marketing services for real estate professionals, you’ll receive your subscription cost back many times over — this year and every year. Real estate’s need for the Internet is readily apparent: the paradigm of buying homes has shifted to being Internet-based. Thus, either be effective on the Internet or miss the people searching for homes online.

And folks, that’s true in Beverly Hills or in Rapid City. Technology can help you open up entire new fields of prospects and clients, but even the best technology still needs you, the professional real estate agent. Why not graduate to the next step and start to become a professional Internet real estate agent, today?
 
(Mike Parker is a principal at the Blackwater Consulting Group, Inc., and specializes in online marketing for real estate professionals. You can reach him by e-mail at mparker@theblackwatercg.com. To ask for a free copy of his booklet "SEO Secrets for Real Estate Professionals" by writing to realestate@theblackwatercg.com. It will be sent to you free and no one will call you. To request a free review of your web site to determine if it can be found by Internet buyers and if it is search engine friendly, click here and it will be evaluated free.)

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