SEO

Have you StumbleUpon’d your Delicious Digg and is it worth it?

Posted by mhurston on August 11, 2009
Creative Corner / 1 Comment

You may have no idea what heading means, and that’s probably ok if you’re in the Real Estate industry. If you’re in to SEO/SEM or are looking for an easy way to increase traffic to your website a quick Google search will lead you to all three of these sites: Stumbleupon, Delicious and Digg – but are they worthwhile for the Real Estate Community?

These three sites are considered, Social Bookmarking Sites, meaning they allow users to submit links to places on the Internet they find interesting. These links are then placed into the sites directory of user submitted links and the entire network could comment on them. It’s an easy way of generating an influx of referring traffic to your site with minimal effort. But does it convert?

From several articles I have read online as well as my own personal use, when a site offers a product for sale, such as a digital download or a subscription based service the traffic from these social bookmarking sites doesn’t seem to convert. My most recent experience yielded over 900 visitors within a single day, and 1,400 over thee days, yet none of them purchased a single copy of my eBooks. On the other hand, I had a press release go out to a popular online gaming site and received 13 visitors of which 2 purchased eBooks from me.

So what does this mean for real estate?

Much like my questions and comments on Twitter, I think social bookmarking is a great way of generating traffic, but since real estate isn’t something people can click on and buy instantly, you’re chances of having that traffic convert are even less than others. However, it is a great way to show clients how much exposure their property is receiving, but what’s the point if it’s not ending up in a sale or lease of the property after months of high traffic?

So how does one get traffic to convert, or better yet, how do we increase the rate of conversion on any links we have? That’s where SEO/SEM come into play.

Statistically the conversion rate of visitors to sales has always been a very low percentage, so the goal becomes to increase the amount of traffic so incredibly that even with a 0.001% conversion you’re able to sell your products. Below are the most common examples of typical SEO/SEM:

Article Submission – submitting articles you write to online webzines is a great way to advertise your site, as you can include a link to your site in the articles “about” or “signature” block.

Blog Commenting – commenting on other peoples blogs can be good or bad, if you are there just to drop a site link people will know and it doesn’t always reflect kindly on you.

Directory Submissions – If you have a real estate blog submit it to a real estate blog directory, it’s a pretty simple concept. If you have a site about flowers, find an online flower site directory and submit it there.

Craigslist – many people have a love/hate relationship with this site, but at the end of the day search engines seem to pull content from this site quite often, so posting ads about your product or services here is a good way to get yourself noticed in search engines like Google quickly.

Emails – even if you don’t have an email list to market to, just put your site’s URL in the signature of your emails, the people you talk to on a daily basis will see it and maybe even take a look or ask you about it. Think of this as an easy in for Word of Mouth.

Forums – not quite as popular in all circles, but there are many forums available for a number of topics, if you happen to be involved in one, such as the CrackBerry forums for BlackBerry users, it’s a good idea to include your site’s URL in your forum Signature, so as you talk to others they keep seeing your site.

Press releases – these aren’t just for local papers anymore. All PR sites now place their releases online where search engines and subscribers come to view them. Include your web address in any press release you send out.

RSS submission – if your site is a blog or you generate an RSS feed for it, there are many RSS syndication sites out there that want your feed, Syndic8 is the first one that comes to mind.

Reciprocal Linking – this is probably one of the least used methods of SEO/SEM, but it can have very successful results if done right. You basically find other site owners who run sites similar to yours, but do not compete directly with you and the two of you add links to each other’s site on your pages. It can take some time, but if you have at least 10 sites in your head that come up as places you could cross link with, that’s a great start.

But what about Meta Tags and Search Engine Submission?

Here is my answer in a nutshell, for Meta Tags websites have smarted up a lot with them and the days of the late 90’s where people stuffed a gazillion words and sentences into the code of their site to inflate rankings is dead and gone. Here is all you need to do with them: for keywords don’t use more than 15 terms and for the description, a one liner, sentence, is fine. Anymore than that and most current search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing will toss out the rest anyway so it doesn’t help you. As far as submitting your site to a search engine, once you’re site is working the way you want and you have a good amount of content on it feel free to stop by free services such as AddMe and SubmitItExpress. If you’ve taken advantage of at least 60% of the above suggestions you won’t need to pay anyone for SEO/SEM.

I really see no reason why anyone couldn’t invest a single Saturday afternoon and complete all of the above, but if you are really busy and would like to hire me to do your SEO/SEM, feel free to drop me a line. mgh@lasvegascrenews.com

– Michael G. Hurston

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Preliminary Marketing Report – Broker Feedback

Posted by mhurston on July 08, 2009
Creative Corner / 1 Comment

Broker Marketing Feedback

While our overall office strategy effectively increased visitors to our website, lead generation that results in a transaction has and will most likely always come from the brokers own networking and marketing strategies. The following is based on the feedback received from our offices Brokers and their Marketing Specialists.

Print Ads

Of the brokers who responded to the questionnaire all of them were no longer running print ads, post cards or any printed marketing for that matter. The reasoning across the board was that it was simply too expensive for the current marketing budgets. While they did mention that in the past leads had been generated from print ads and post cards it was too low to justify the cost involved.

Email Marketing Campaigns

This was the number one used marketing resource of all brokers, primarily because it allows them to reach large amounts of people quickly and with little cost involvement. The additional tracking information seemed to be under used, though an added bonus for those who follow it. While some brokers indicated that they would receive up to five responses per every 100 emails, others mentioned that many of the smaller brokerage firms as well as agents who also work in residential were typically the first to respond. In either case, almost all of those who responded indicated that if email campaigns lead to a transaction it was usually due to an outside broker who received the email. This was also the exact result from brokers who were regularly using services such as PropertyLine and other third party sites.

Signs

Signs were and still are the primary lead generating tool, based on the feedback we received from the questionnaire. The majority of deals that did not involve an outside broker seemed to come from people driving by the property and calling the number on the sign. Simply put, property signs will always be a necessity.

Events, Press Releases & webSite

The various use of the companies website, press releases and participation in local events was very diverse overall. Where one broker mentioned that events such as NAIOP’s breakfast or an open house had lead to a deal, several other brokers had comments in direct contrast about the usefulness of participation in any event. Similar was the response about the companies website, such as the use of team sites and featured property sites. While some indicated that they had never received a call from someone who visited the website, others stated that they received calls on a regular basis from people who found them via their site, though none had lead to a transaction being done, so far. Press releases and news coverage seemed another item that some brokers felt strongly about being involved in, but others did not see the need. While some brokers saw media coverage as added exposure, even without leading to a transaction, others admitted it was useful for gaining public awareness, but since it wouldn’t lead to a transaction it wasn’t something they wanted to focus on.

New Media, Viral & Social Marketing

With the release of emerging social media and viral marketing there have only been a handful of people across our partnership that have actively been involved in marketing their listings this way, many with limited success, though at least two with significant results. Our take, is that as this technology becomes more familiar with more people and the learning curve is passed, it may begin to have similar results as email campaigns and PropertyLine.

Broker Suggestions

The broker suggestions this year were varied, but had a consistent theme. More tools and flexibility were desired. The top requests were, more flexibility with the company website as far as what information could be put up and how we are allowed to market them. A desire for broker edit able marketing templates was expressed, such as for brochures, proposals, offering memorandum, etc. The sharing of all email lists among all of the brokers within Colliers was also mentioned, as well as the sharing of more marketing collateral.

Feedback Sources

The information compiled within this report was primarily based on the ebb and flow of projects and production within the Las Vegas Colliers Graphics Department. In addition, the following brokers and marketing specialists gave feedback on the marketing questionnaire: (In alphabetical Order) Adam Malan, Alicia Luz, Brian Riffel, Delia Dominguez, Kimberlee Hamilton, Margery Schulz and Megan Hatala.

– Michael G. Hurston

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Preliminary Marketing Report – It’s about results!

Posted by mhurston on June 03, 2009
Creative Corner / 1 Comment

The following is my preliminary marketing report for the first half of the year. Over the next few weeks I will be interviewing brokers and their marketing specialists to use in the full report coming out later this summer.

Marketing Overview

This year our marketing goal was to completely overhaul the way we do advertising and marketing for our office. We needed a new approach on a reduced budget that would still get us results with lead generation and staying in the public eye.

In the past we had done many overpriced one off campaigns and for the most part ignored any type of promotion of our website, regardless of its updated features. Therefore, this year we decided to focus on multiple phase marketing strategy which included extended length web advertisements to promote our featured property websites, SEO (Search Engine Optimization), a consistent branding campaign to show the people behind Colliers and a recruitment campaign to bring in more brokers to our office. We also created guides for the creation and use of listings on Craigslist and Social Media sites, simply put this year we pulled out all the stops.

While our PR firm MassMedia handled much of the price negotiations and the actual buys, the campaign placement, concepts, designs and photos were all done in-house (with exception to the Las Vegas Strip Aerial and Corporate Stock Art).

 

Ad Campaigns

In October of 2008 the planning began for a new ad campaign for 2009. We looked at a few of the ads we had done that conveyed messages or ideas we wanted to promote and incorporated these ideals into our campaigns, but with a unique and fresh look.

While the Las Vegas office has always had a strong relationship with many of the local publications, including In Business, Nevada Business Journal, Review Journal, Red Report, Western Regional and the Business Press.

Due to significant budget restraints this year we decided to pick Greenspun Media as our main outlet for print advertising. Greenspun Media Group is currently the owner and distributor of most publications within Southern Nevada. They currently produce In Business, Las Vegas Weekly, Las Vegas Home & Design, Las Vegas Magazine (LVM), and many others.

In addition to their print publications they also own and operate many of the local business news websites and niche media outlets in Southern Nevada including RecruitingNevada.com, 702.TV, LasVegasSun.com and more.

While Greenspun Media was where we placed the bulk of our budget, we still included placements in other print publications such as the North Las Vegas, Las Vegas and Henderson Chamber of Commerce publications. For our online ads we chose the Las Vegas Sun website and PropertyLine.

During the year, as always, brokers and their clients were free to pay out of pocket for any specific publication ads. Those included, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Nevada Business Journal among others.

The primary message we wanted to get across in our branding campaign was that we were not simply a business offering services, but rather people servicing our clients. The concept of the ads was to show the “faces behind the divisions”. The distribution for this was In Business Magazine, one of the most popular business magazines in Southern Nevada. We had six Island Ads, with an ad popping up every other month. A couple times throughout the year we managed to be upgraded to a full-page ad at no additional cost.

We chose the North Las Vegas, Las Vegas and Henderson Chamber of Commerce publications to target a very set demographic. We tailored each of the ads to their specific areas, Speedway & Aliante (North), Downtown and Strip (Vegas) and Green Valley Ranch & Horizon Ridge (Henderson)

The Las Vegas Sun was the news site we chose to advertise our website on. All ad banners were created in either flash or animated gif formats and also appeared in the e-newsletters (e-bizclick) sent out monthly. The links directed viewers to our featured property page.

For our recruitment campaign we were able to negotiate for 3 consecutive pages of ad space. This allowed us to place consecutive ads showing growth and work as a teaser within the publication. We again chose In Business to place our ads in. The online version of the ad linked to our recruitment page and was included in the PropertyLine e-newsletters.

 

SEO Strategy, Social Media & Craigslist

While we received an immediate increase in direct traffic to our featured property sites due to our online ads, we still needed to increase the overall organic (search engine) traffic to our website. We did this by incorporating a three-step process. We began by reviewing and writing into our featured property sites appropriate and individualized Meta Tags; the key words and descriptions that some search engines use to index websites. The next step involved the massive re-submission of our sites and main Colliers sites to multiple search engines. We used available free services from Addme.com and Submititexpress.com. The final steps involved created a web presence among sites that already had high organic rankings and could direct visitors to our Colliers site. This was done by the creation of a CPI Wikipedia page and Aboutus.org page. After one month we began to see a slight increase in organic traffic.

Our next online endeavor was to educate those within our office who were members of social sites on how to include their listings on their social pages, such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. This had two immediate affects, the first was that the brokers now had another reason to give to potential clients on why they should list them based on the amount of exposure their property would receive, as well as this resulted in increasing our organic traffic. Similar results occurred with the implementation of Criagslist postings as well.

 

Public Relations & Exposure

In the past we had lost some of our offices connections with the local media, so this year we made it a point to correct this. We began with the internal promotion of all public transactions to generate buzz within the office and get our brokers and staff thinking about our media exposure. A calendar of events was created, one internally for CRE events and one by MassMedia that included many local events that would be worthwhile for our brokers and staff to attend. We next worked with MassMedia on consistently generating stories within local publications and sharing them with others within the office. To coincide with this we had MassMedia create a bi-monthly e-newsletter for our office sent out to over 12,000 people. An official media policy was developed for our office, as well as a reporter source book of contacts within our office the media could rely upon for accurate and timely information.

We also included more focus to our research this year, with Matt and Campbell organizing an industry round table for the quarter ends as well as a magazine style all inclusive report known as the VQR (Vegas Quarterly Report), later renamed to LVQ (Las Vegas Quarterly). Being the first CRE brokerage in Southern Nevada to release their market report each quarter allowed us to play up our media publicity each quarter.

 

All Eyes on Us

Among the Graphics departments within our partnership we typically all share “best practices” among each other. While many of the other offices in the past have used a few of our ideas, this was the first year that the majority of these marketing strategies created in our office were pushed out among the other offices. The Event Calendar, our Craigslist guide, our Viral Marketing guide, our SEO strategies, our Reporter Source Book, and our Recruitment Page are all being considered for implementation at many of the other offices based on the work done within our Las Vegas office.

– Michael G. Hurston

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SEO or Keyword Advertising Experiment

Posted by mhurston on May 13, 2009
Creative Corner / 5 Comments

Outside of the commercial real estate realm I own and operate a very niche market PDF publishing company whose hosting provider, GoDaddy, recently provided me some free credits for Google AdWords and Facebook Ads. The credits consisted of $25 towards Google AdWords and $50 towards Facebook Ads. My first thought was that the amounts were so low, they couldn’t possibly provide any benefit, and since my PDF publishing hasn’t been exactly profitable the last few months I didn’t want to increase any budget items for it.

However, the company I work at recently had inquiries to me to look into both of these ad services so I figured this might give me an opportunity to familiarize myself with these two products. So I began two campaigns on each site and tracked all of my results. I then shared these results with my companies Marketing Technology Director and our PR firm MassMedia; the results were interesting and a little surprising in some cases.

Disclaimer: Since the testing was only done for 2 days for both campaigns, this information is by no means extensive and should be taken with a grain of salt, though I believe it is something I will look into more and I’d recommend others to evaluate on their own as well.

The Ad Campaigns & Initial Results:

For Google AdWords I created a campaign consisting of about 20 relevant key words (short and long included) with a daily max budget of $30 and a bid of 0.01¢ (the estimated bid of my keywords was between 0.04¢ and 0.09¢. The budget increased to $30 because of Google’s “activation fee” of $5 and their “forced” deposit of $10 to open the account. The ad consisted of the name of the company, a brief description of the product and linked to the sites storefront, however, the link shown in the text was to the sites main page, not the store. I ran this campaign for two days prior to beginning the second campaign. After these two days I had generated just under 200 exposures, but no clicks. This was to be expected; however on my Google Analytics I had seen an increase in traffic of 5%. No other ads or releases had been made during this time.

I continued to let this campaign run, as it was not using any of my credits and set up a second campaign almost exactly the same, but with a slightly higher bid of 0.05¢ After two days the ad had generated over 500 impressions, with a click thru rate of almost 0.20%. My websites traffic increase from this was slightly higher obviously. I then paused this campaign for the remainder of the next test, with hardly any of my credits used.

Facebook was a different beast entirely. I started by setting my campaigns to a daily budget of $25, used the same key words, ad text and link setups as I did in my Google AdWords campaign, but had a cost estimate of 0.46¢ to 0.59¢ – apparently my competitors must advertise on Facebook more than Google. I placed two campaigns, one for 0.01¢ and the other for 0.5¢. After the first day with 0.01¢ I had not generated any impressions, so no clicks, but the 0.5¢ had a different story – I had hit my $25 daily budget with over 84,000 impressions and 54 clicks. While the traffic to my storefront had increased that day, the traffic to my sites main page had not seen a change, and since the previous days had been higher, my Google Analytics showed my site had a decrease in traffic for those pages. Which is fine, since ultimately I want people at the store or at least one of my distributors sites since if they visit my home page, blog or forums it’s not going to generate any income directly.

Questions & Answers:

While the Facebook Ads worked the way I had anticipated for the most part – the Google AdWords, which I have turned back on and continue to follow has been causing me to ask questions. While Facebook seemed to generate traffic to me from the clicks to my site, Google AdWords seems to continue to generate traffic to me whether people click on my ads or not.

When I spoke to our companies Marketing Technology Director we came up with the idea that perhaps the people interested in my niche may have seen the ads, but not clicked on them, but for some reason either typed in the web address or name of the book and found my site this way. This would explain why the ads, which link to the store, seemed to increase traffic to the main page instead of the store.

I then thought of the idea, that perhaps looking into ad words as a way of generating a lot of impressions, but not necessarily desiring clicks may be a feasible small-budget marketing strategy. Of course for commercial real estate, we’d have to look at the possibility of higher key word costs, but the concept would remain the same – to underbid in such a way that our ad is seen but not shown dominant enough to generate a lot of clicks.

This was an interesting train of thought for me, but I wanted more input, so I sent a few emails off to our PR firm, MassMedia to see what they thought of these campaigns and their results. The first response was what I had been thinking, but hadn’t voiced, which is that my use of AdWords may have increased the keyword relevancy from an organic SEO point of view. There have been some theories that an advantage of AdWords will increase your sites SEO as sort of a self serving incentive or that AdWords simply grows the SEO algorithm Google Search uses. I don’t know if it’d be possible to really prove this one way or another, but an interesting concept none the less.

Conclusion:

I’m ultimately left with a lot of questions, not too many proven answers, but definitely an interest in researching these results more. While this outcome was a bit different than I expected it definitely made me think about the benefits of organic ranking compared to raw conversions to your site. If someone is simply looking to build site traffic it’s probably best to just focus on the more common optimizations, such as relevant link exchanges, url submissions to directories, enhanced keyword and description tags, consistent content updates and the use of social media networks and tools. Of course, if you have the budget, a well-targeted AdWords or Facebook Ad campaign wouldn’t hurt either.

AdWords Update: I’ve turned my campaign back on and will post a follow up once the $25 has been burned through.

– Michael G. Hurston

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