Online Marketing - Quick Start Guide

Services for Real Estate Pros

I am often asked “How and where should I spend my online marketing dollars?”

With so many options - I wanted to give a “quick start” guide for builders. After you decide on a budget (I would recommend at least 25% of your total marketing budget) you need get to work on the areas that will drive traffic to your site. If outside expertise is needed, higher a reputable SEO firm to handle the details for you.

A recent survey of homebuilders and new home buyers shows a gap between consumer and builder marketing behaviors. Of the builders surveyed, the total budget allocated for online advertising was one-fifth of the overall budget while consumers spent one-half of their time using 0nline media. This means that builders need to start allocating more time and money to the one place where customers prefer to shop for new homes – the internet. Online Marketing is comprised of many different avenues to drive the traffic to your site. Time and time again, it’s proven itself to be one of the most cost-effective advertising methods. Plus, it is easy to track results of marketing sources and dollars spent.

Search Engine Optimization

This is the core of the online marketing program. Your highest conversion rates and number of qualified leads will come from your website. Spend the time optimizing your website to rank high on organic search engine results. While it may cost more at the beginning - it will pay high returns in the long run. Plus - all the traffic is essentially free.


PPC is advertising on Google, Yahoo, MSN etc. You bid on specific keywords like “new homes Dallas” and pay each time that someone clicks on the link to your site. The benefits are that you don’t pay until someone clicks, the downside is that you pay every time someone clicks. You can get a campaign set up quickly and start driving traffic to your site immediately. However, once you stop paying, the traffic stops. You must strike a balance on your PPC and Search Engine Optimization. Watch the numbers closely and adjust as you go.

Third Party Referral Sources

This refers to the websites and portals set up specifically to advertise and drive traffic for new home builders. These sites are dedicated to finding targeted and qualified new home shoppers.

These sites include:

  • (primarily for scattered site or custom builders)

More are emerging every day and there may even be regional sites that would be a good source. Nationally, these are the top performers and the best investment in any market. There are also crossover sites for traditional real estate that might be effective for listing completed or under-construction homes. These portal sites usually charge per community listed and might have options for featured listings.

Free Listing and Classified Services

Online classifieds are a great avenue for listing your inventory and driving traffic. The services below are free or basic listings. You will see great results if you have special offers or promotions that will attract buyers. These sites consist of:

  • craigslist
  • Google Base
  • HotPads
  • edgeio
  • LiveDeal
  • Oodle
  • Propsmart
  • Vast

Personally, I have seen the results from Craigslist rival that of our PPC in both traffic and conversions. All this with no cost except the time it takes to create a compelling listing. I’m sure there are more out there and more being created every day. You will also find local listing services in your market. Sometimes, listings can be time consuming. Check out free services like or will help you create online flyers and automatically post to most of these sites.

Also, if you are using third-party referral sites like or, they will usually push your listings to many of the popular free sites as well. Check into that before you spend your time posting on these sites.

Unique Pay Service

Beyond the common listing services and advertising sources mentioned above, there are many unique sources and local listing services that you can discover in your own market. The best way to find these sources is to start searching for homes as a customer would.


Think of it this way - instead of waiting for customers to drive to your model home, you can take the initiative and advertise on websites that drive the traffic to you.

Action Steps

  • Determine the budget
  • Assess your capabilities
  • Higher a reputable SEO company
  • Track and adjust your strategy and budget

Comments (9)

Adam Tarr
MavRealty - Phoenix, AZ
PC -GRI, ABR, CDPE, RSPS, ePro - Designated Broker

THANK YOU for all the suggestions!  Reminds me that we've been slacking a little on our postings....grrr...


Jun 19, 2007 06:20 AM
Dawn Workman
Veracity Real Estate Group, LLC - Camas, WA
Camas Real Estate Expert, MBA, 480-540-8100
Great advice!  What on your list have you tried and what has had the best results for you?
Jun 19, 2007 06:32 AM
Mike Lyon
Edmond, OK
That depends. I like SEO and PPC combined with good coverage in the 3rd party sites. In larger markets - it pays to go local as well. Craigslist is always good for individual listings. Basically, use it all and track what works the best. 
Jun 19, 2007 06:45 AM
Jeff R. Geoghan
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Lancaster, PA
REALTOR, Marketing Manager
Good post and blog, Mike. I have just found out I'm picking up a new home community and need inspiration to present my online mktg goals to the builder.
Jun 22, 2007 07:36 AM
Frank Harris
Keller Williams Realty Centre - Columbia, MD
Thanks for the info, I have used many avenues to advertise my listings, but am just starting to use Craigslist. I have  Postlets and if I am not mistaken they will link you to Craigslist. I will check to make sure.
Jul 04, 2007 03:39 PM
Dale Baker
Baker Energy Audits and Commercial Properties Inspections - Claremont, NH
New Hampshire Relocation Real Estate Information

Howdy Mike

Congrats and thank you for a very good post and helpful info.

Jul 06, 2007 10:35 AM

I need to know how to start and create a webpage.  I had my nephew to start me up on myspace to promote my real estate business.  But he was only able to get me so far.  HELP!  Please sent me info on the latest scoop on how to promote real estate via internet.  Thanks.

Jul 30, 2007 05:42 AM
Mike Lyon
Edmond, OK
Jul 30, 2007 05:56 AM
Jackie Moye
Bob Parks Realty - Franklin, TN
Good info and ways to help us refocus in a slower market
Jul 30, 2007 10:29 AM