Social Media

Which social networking site is right for me?

Posted by mhurston on July 22, 2009
Creative Corner / No Comments

If you’re in commercial real estate this is something you have probably started to ask yourself. Do you immerse yourself and join every possible site out there, automate all your postings with Ping.FM and run the chance of not having the time to manage responses to all these sites or do you select a couple key places to better manage your ability to interact with potential clients on a more personal level?

While the first option may sound great as far as exposure for your listings, advertising on a site that doesn’t have your target audience in mind may end up causing you to waste a lot of time on setting up accounts you don’t need. While from a business standpoint it may be worthwhile to create the accounts to block others from using the company’s name, that’s not always a concern when you’re focusing on your individual listings. To help in deciding which place may be the best for you to hang your hat I’ve taken a look at some of the demographic information provided by Quantcast.com on several of the most popular social sites and compared to our typical client information.

The following sites are in order of popularity based on subscriber information and visitor traffic. US Site Views are based on 30-Day increments.

Facebook.com
US Site Views: 90.8 M
Majority Users: 54% Female
Age: 46% are 18 to 34
Income Level: 30% over $100k/yr

MySpace.com
US Site Views: 62.7 M
Majority Users: 57% Female
Age: 46% are 18 to 34
Income Level: 25% over $100k/yr

LinkedIn.com
US Site Views: 10.9 M
Majority Users: 56% Male
Age: 43% are 35 to 49
Income Level: 38% over $100k/yr

Ning.com
US Site Views: 7.3 M
Majority Users: 54% Female
Age: 35% are 35 to 49
Income Level: 16% over $100k/yr

Bebo.com
US Site Views: 5.1 M
Majority Users: 60% Female
Age: 45% are 12 to 17
Income Level: 20% over $100k/yr

Hi5.com
US Site Views: 4.0 M
Majority Users: 52% Male
Age: 48% are 18 to 34
Income Level: 6% over $100k/yr

Friendster.com<
US Site Views: 1.9 M
Majority Users: 52% Male
Age: 29% are 35 to 49
Income Level: 27% over $100k/yr

Orkut.com
US Site Views: 485.9 K
Majority Users: 54% Male
Age: 55% are 18 to 34
Income Level: 18% over $100k/yr

So why is the above relevant?

Given that the majority of commercial real estate clients tend to be Male, between 45 and 60 with mid to high level six figure salaries we can see that it wouldn’t be worth our time to advertise our Industrial or Office availabilities on a site that has a primary demographic of females between the ages of 12 and 17 such as is found at Bebo.com

Overall, LinkedIn seems to be the best site for professionals to connect with other professions, followed closely by Facebook, which also boasts 9 times the number of visitors and users when compared to LinkedIn. The only other site from this list I would consider, from a strictly commercial real estate point of view, would be Ning, as this social networking site operates completely different than the others. Instead of signing up and being part of a wide variety of users the site instead allows each user to create or subscribe to user driven social clubs. Essentially a Ning user can create their own “social networking group”, such as a social club focusing on Las Vegas Real Estate.

While other social media services like Twitter can compliment all of these sites it may also be worthwhile to look at up and coming networks. Recently I became aware of a new social networking site geared specifically for real estate professionals. The site, RealCorner.com is still relatively new and unfortunately I could not find much third party information for them short of Alexa.com which of my last checking had a lot of holes to fill with their information still.

In any case the site is still worth watching and based on its description and meta tags is usually not blocked by most companies firewalls or web filters, much like LinkedIn, where as most of the popular sites listed above are blocked from within the work place.

– Michael G. Hurston

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Is Twitter Too Automated?

Posted by mhurston on July 14, 2009
Creative Corner / No Comments

With so many applications available to automate Twitter, does it run the risk of losing its social edge? Let’s look at a brief run down of what one could do with a Twitter account and an Affiliate Program that is capable of providing RSS feeds.

Once your Twitter account is created, you swing by TwitterFeed.com and plug in your RSS feeds to automatically post each hour (or however often you want them too) to generate your content. Next we’ll stop by TweetLater.com and make it so that our Twitter account will auto reply to anyone I follow with a direct “thank you” type of message and a link to your website.  Make sure to also check auto-follow anyone who follows you and auto-un-follow anyone who un-follows you.  You can also set it so that you receive an email if anyone replies with a @yourname.

Now we’ll start joining the online directories at WeFollow.com and Twellow.com, but don’t forget to also swing by Twibes.com and join some similar interest groups. Next it’s on to the spam-follow method of gaining users, which seems to be extremely popular these days. Basically, one searches through Twitter for users who have similar key words to their interest and follows all of them. After you follow a couple hundred followers you’re bound to gain a few hundred in return. Wait a week and then use FriendorFollow.com to un-follow anyone who isn’t following you. Oh and if you skipped a step and need to change your following or followers around in bulk there is always ReFollow.com

Guess what happens next? After about a week you’ll end up with a couple hundred followers who are just like you, auto-posting away and ignoring you and your product links. Chances are you may generate a little bit of traffic to your site from this, but more than likely you won’t see any monetary income coming from it anytime soon.

While automation is a great tool for Twitter, it’s not going to work for everyone, especially for users that have no real relationships and instead are just automated bots blabbing away at other bots 24-7. Remember, social sites are popular because they draw on the social aspect of people to talk amongst each other about their interests. If you automate yourself out of this, then you’re losing the whole point behind social based sites and their viral marketing capabilities.

Michael G. Hurston

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Can real estate be sold on Twitter?

Posted by mhurston on June 16, 2009
Creative Corner / 3 Comments

Can real estate be sold on Twitter? Whether you’ve been a fan of Twitter for some time now or if you just happened to start using it recently because you read it’s a great social media tool that is becoming popular, you probably have asked yourself at some point – is it possible to make money with Twitter?

A quick Google search of this topic will lead you to find many people all telling you that it’s easy to do…but is it for everyone? From poking around the net I’ve found, and I think many will agree with me, that the people making money with Twitter are those selling Retail products or Affiliate services. Dell is a great example. Recently Dell announced that they made over $3 Million from Twitter exclusive deals. They would post a direct link to their product on Twitter; people would follow the link and buy the computer. Fantastic, it’s proven; you can make money on Twitter. But can you buy a house? What about an office building?

This is something I’m really interested to find out and am willing to give it a shot for the next while. I’m sure many of you have noticed the feeds from Las Vegas CRE News, which include commercial property listings, get pumped out to Twitter every few hours. While the traffic from this has been great, no one I work with has reported a lead generating into a sale from Twitter. Many of the brokers I’ve spoken with outside of the Vegas Valley have all given me the same response. This begs us to then ask the question – if it is not generating results is it worth it?

Too many variables exist right now in my research to give a definite answer one way or another on how effective Twitter is or may be in the future as more people in the CRE industry begin to use it to market their listings, but who I’d really like to hear from are those on the residential side of things. Residential brokers seem to embrace new technology and marketing ideas a lot faster than commercial brokers, so it would be safe to assume that those who have been using Twitter longer to market their listings would give a better insight into the chances of having a property sell from a lead generated from Twitter.

So this begs me to ask, if you’re a real estate agent or broker for either commercial or residential and have actually had a lead generated from Twitter result in a transaction being completed, I’d love to hear about it and post it here for others to be inspired by. Please contact me at mgh at lasvegascrenews dot com

– 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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Viral Marketing with Social Media

Posted by mhurston on May 25, 2009
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What is Viral Marketing?

The buzzword, viral marketing, refers to marketing techniques that use social networks to produce increases in brand awareness or to achieve other marketing objectives through self-replicating viral processes, analogous to the spread of pathological and computer viruses. It can be word-of-mouth delivered or enhanced by the network effects of the Internet. Viral promotions may take the form of video clips, interactive Flash games, advergames, ebooks, brandable software, images, or even text messages. The goal of marketers interested in creating successful viral marketing programs is to identify individuals with high Social Networking Potential (SNP) and create Viral Messages that appeal to this segment of the population and have a high probability of being passed along.

The term “viral marketing” has also been used pejoratively to refer to stealth marketing campaigns—the unscrupulous use of astroturfing on-line combined with undermarket advertising in shopping centers to create the impression of spontaneous word of mouth enthusiasm.

– Wikipedia

 

So how do we use this?

One of the great social aspects of the internet are the popularity of Social Networking sites, such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. All of which focus on the primary goal of staying in touch with friends, family and colleagues, as well as the sharing of information.

One of the benefits of these sites is the ease of automated replication of your listings onto your profiles, so they can be seen and shared with everyone on your network with little time involvement.

The next few pages will list information on how to display your listings on these sites, the initial time involvement is minimal and once done you will never have to manually update anything.

 

Step One

Acquiring your RSS feed. Chances are no matter which Commercial Real Estate brokerage you work at, your companies database puts out, or has the ability to put out, Property Listings via RSS feeds. For example, at Colliers we have feeds for our Market Reports, PodCasts, Exclusive Listings for each office as well as individual broker listings.

Ask your local Marketing Specialist, Graphic Designer or Research Department for it, if you have questions on this. Once you have the feed url you can start to get your listings showing in lots of different places. Your feed will look something like this: http://www.colliersparrish.com/rss/excl/las/feed.emolfetta.excl.xml

 

Step Two – Linkedin

I’ll begin with Linkedin.com as it is probably the most easiest to implement as well as the most used site for strickly professional networking.

Once logged in you will select “Edit My Profile” from the left hand sidebar. Next select “Websites” and choose “Edit”. While you can select up to three sites to enter, choose one of these to be “My RSS Feed” and copy your Properties RSS feed to this. Click “Save Changes”.

Next, select “Applications” from the left hand sidebar. Scroll down until you see an application called “BlogLink”. This application will pull information from any of your website(s) feeds and display them on your profile. If you’re feed is working, you should immediately begin to see your listings displayed on your profile.

Note: If you have more than one website listed BlogLink will only display up to the four most recent posts, however it does have a scroll arrow users can use to click through your listings or posts.

 

Step Three – Twitter, TwitterFeed & OpenID

If you have a Twiiter account, you will not need to do anything special from here. If you don’t have a Twitter account, it might be a good time to create one.

Once you have a Twitter account you will want to go to TwitterFeed.com and set up a RSS Feed that will post to your Twitter account automatically.

You will need to sign in with an OpenID. See below for explanation on what an OpenID is. Once you have logged into TwitterFeed, you can select “View My Feeds” or “Create New Feed”. The form here is pretty self explanatory, you paste your Properties RSS feed where it asks you as well as you can set the time to display updates. I’d recommend setting it to 5 hours. On the section where is says “Include” I would recommend selecting “Title & Description”.

You will need to “Authorize” the application to access your Twitter account. It just involved clicking the Authorize link and signing into Twitter. Congratulations, within the next 5 hours you will start to see your Property listings displayed on your Twitter automatically.

Chances are you already have an OpenID, though if you do not, you can sign up for many free online services and use that as your login. For me, I have an account on Gmail as well as WordPress, so I use those to login.

 

Step Four – Facebook

Once you login to Facebook, choose “Home” and scroll tot he bottom of your page. A button on the lower left hand corner will say “Applications” select this and choose “Browse Applications”. Search for the Twitter app. (Note: this is different than Twitter Updater app). Or you can go directly to the applications page at http://apps.facebook.com/twitter/ to install it.

Once you have it installed, and have “Authorized” the application your Facebook “Status Updates” will display your Twitter posts, which should be including your Property feeds.

 

Step Five – Other Sites

While other social sites include Myspace, Orkut, BeBo, Hi5 and Friendster – the popularity and target audience are not necessarily the most beneficial for the Commercial Real Estate industry.

Therefore I have not taken the time to create a guide for them. That said, if you have an existing social network on any of these sites and would like me to look into it for you, I would be more than willing to help you out. Just drop me a line.

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Marketing Perspective – April

Posted by mhurston on April 10, 2009
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Over the next few months I hope to get a chance to talk more about marketing and cover the various resources available to those within the Commercial Real Estate Industry, as I truly believe it can be one of the most demanding fields to work in, especially with the current depression we find ourselves in.

Real estate has, and more than likely will, continue to be a relationship-orientated business, which leads many commercial real estate professionals debating whether if investing time and money into building their online presence is actually worth the effort.

My opinion is one that more than likely any transaction completed will be the direct result of the brokers interaction with the client, but providing value-added services for your clients, may help to not only strengthen an existing relationship, will also provide a resource for potential clients to want to use you to market their listings, as well as bring in new contacts.

This is why I believe a successful marketing strategy consists of many tools, and not all are cutting edge, though the ones who pick up on new social media tools may have a stronger relationship base in the next 10 years.

 A year ago, and the year before, I wrote a “Marketing Observations” report for our Colliers office here in Las Vegas, which was my reflections on a marketing feedback survey I had sent out as well as one-on-one questionnaires I did with some of the teams. The results varied and ultimately what worked well for one group didn’t always work well for the next, but each tool did give some positive results to some individuals and teams.

While I won’t go into the specific details and listing of each and every tool now, the general topics I looked at were as follows:

Print Publications

I started with advertising in Print Publications; these included small local papers, magazines as well as regional, national and global newspapers and magazines. Having a solid campaign within your local market can be a real boon to your local awareness, as chances are, the majority of people within CRE industry we meet everyday read at least one of the publications you’ve advertised in. While this may not cause someone to buy a property, it does keep your companies name recognition prominent within the community.

Regional, National and Global publications are the opposite. In my experience people reading the Wall Street Journal will see an ad and inquire about it. Our office actually had a few transactions done by reaching out to investors in other states and even one in another country, both of which came from the WSJ’s property ad.

In my opinion, I see local publications, and maybe even regional publications as a means to keep your target audience familiar with your name through branding campaigns, while national and foreign publications can be a great way to actually gain new contacts and potentially move your properties.

Direct Marketing

I have always had a strong dislike of the term, as it reminds me of late night commercials and Internet scam sites. The truth is Direct Marketing should include sending collateral directly to clients and relationships you’ve generated. If you’re just grabbing a random email list or mailing list and sending out information, chances are you won’t get much of a response and people will dislike you. Remember, negative impressions last longer than positive ones.

Postcards, Flyers, email campaigns, cold calling offices in person and leaving your information with flyers can all be considered forms of Direct Marketing. The results of this are very dynamic, for example, while cold calling an office and offering tenant rep services in a down market, may result in a positive outcome, cold calling an office and trying to get a hold of the owner to see about leasing out one of his vacant spaces may prove more difficult.

Email campaigns seem to do the most for brokers though, as they can direct people to their properties web page (if it has one), their listings page, online profile if they’ve just changed brokerages, or inform other brokers who may represent a seller for their buyer. The other aspect is the cost effectiveness of a good email campaign, even with hundreds of emails multiple times a month, many services out there cost less than a penny per email.

If nothing else, emails provide a way of keeping you, your properties and endeavors in the eyes of those around you and work for not only potentially closing a deal, but also keeping you, the broker, marketed.

Press Releases

I’m a big fan of press releases. News is free and in my opinion it is the best way to get your self noticed and heard. While not everything you may have to say about your company or industry will get attention, it never hurts to have a write up on a new product type, service, or event that could potentially end up on the news stand, or in some cases, on the morning news.

While it may not generate a transaction immediately, gaining exposure is the number one means of meeting new contacts and finding potential leads. Again, the commercial real estate industry is a relationship-orientated business, the more people you know, the better your chances for success.

Social Media

I think technology scares a lot of people still, or at least they don’t understand enough about it to realize how it can help. Let me spell it out for everyone: Yes, what your 12-year old uses online, can actually help you build your professional network.

Now I’m not saying go build a MySpace page and expect to get your commercial retail space leased the next day, but what I will say is that social media provides an additional means of staying in touch with others as well propagating your information through the internet. With the way technology works now, information can be distributed quickly, instantly and easily, through the way RSS feeds work. You don’t have to understand the ins-and-outs of the technology, in fact you don’t need to know anything about it other than this: putting your property listing information, press releases or other relevant information online can allow you have this information replicated across multiple sites and seem by an incredible amount of people.

To get more specific, lets look at this site for example. Information from various news sites and Colliers is displayed here; people viewing this site see all of this. But, this information, this exact post, gets replicated over to Twitter (it’s ok if you don’t know what it is), which displays the post to people viewing that site. The post is also sent over to LinkedIn and FaceBook (social networking sites, think MySpace, Friendster, etc). People who have this site on their friends list will view the post. In additional to all this we have the other sites users, viewers of the site, who have chosen to pull information from this site and have it displayed on their blog or website, which again gets distributed out to other sites. But it doesn’t stop there, because people who visit this site can click on the little icons below to “recommend” this site to social bookmarking sites (another type of social media news and information sites) essentially allowing anyone who views this post to “spread the word”. The amount of people seeing this post can continue to grow exponentionally. That is what Social Marketing and Web 2.0 have brought us, the ability to distribute information without having to think about it.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

This has always been a topic I believe people make much more complicated than it needs to be. The concept is simple, improve traffic to any website by making your site appear in search engines more often. Although this topic is simple in my opinion, I do believe many CRE sites over look it, as it requires someone with more technical knowledge of how search engines work and the best ways to make your site search engine friendly.

Getting down to the basics, SEO starts with simply creating a proper website that has content relevant to the key words and headings used for the description of the site. For example, Las Vegas CRE News has CRE content for Las Vegas and throughout the site are references to Las Vegas News and Las Vegas Commercial Real Estate (I’m simplifying a bit here). The next item takes place with what are called Meta tags, lines of code that are not seen by the user which tell some search engines what a site is all about, they provide key words and a description and ideally should use the same descriptors that can be found throughout the sites content. It’s important to note that due to so many sites improper use of Meta Tags, as well as blatant methods of Spamdexing (including unrelated key words and repeating popular phrases to make your site appear more relevant than it is) has caused many popular search engines to no longer index sites based on Meta Tags alone, or in some cases at all.

Next we move on to the website indexing, or rather, the inclusion of your site into search engines. While there are many sites that will automatically submit your sites to smaller search engines, to get your site listed within top companies like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft you need to look into manual submissions as well as the Open Directory Project, which allows users to submit there site to the directory and then a real person will look through your information to make sure it gets listed in the proper category.

Once a site is indexed, Crawlers (search engine tools that continue to look at and monitor websites) will continually view your site, which brings us to the final item in this very brief write-up, dynamic content, or simply put, Search Engines like to see content updated regularly as opposed to static pages.

There are additional items we can look at involved with this, such as the use of link backs, Wikipedia and AboutUs.org, but we’ll look at those in a later segment.  

– Michael G. Hurston

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