Focus on Search Engine Optimization: Generate More Traffic With Improved Search Engine Rankings
The need to optimize your Web site to help achieve top-of-the-list Internet search rankings can be critical to your ongoing marketing success. After all, more than 75 percent of home buyers today use the Internet as a primary tool in their home searches,1 and 56 percent of Internet-based leads choose to work with the first real estate professional who responds to them.2 In our new, two-part series, we'll cover the benefits and "tricks" of search engine optimization (SEO) to help you generate higher natural rankings versus paid keywords - and with the goal of increased sales.
Part 1: Understanding SEO and Its Importance
There's no doubt your Web site is one of the most important marketing tools for reaching today's tech-savvy home buyers. But simply developing a site and hoping customers will find you may not be enough in today's competitive marketplace. After all, in an average month, Americans conduct 9.82 billion Internet searches, and real estate properties and terms are consistently some of the most-searched-for phrases.3
How do you make sure your site gets noticed? Search engine optimization (SEO) can help. By pushing your site higher on major search engine results lists, SEO can help ensure that potential customers find your site quickly and more easily. In addition to increased ranking visibility, experts say that utilizing effective SEO tactics can lead to a click-through rate of up to 12 percent - meaning 12 percent of the people who view your listing actually visit your Web site from the search engine results list.3
Is your competition using SEO?
Probably so. In the real estate arena, nearly 45 percent of real estate professionals say they are now investing in SEO.5 And in recent national studies, SEO ranks as the top search marketing tool used by U.S. marketers, ahead of paid placement ads by nearly 10 percent.3
How can SEO boost my site's search ranking?
SEO uses a range of techniques, including adapting your Web site's HTML code, content, links and navigation, to improve your site's search engine rankings for particular search topics.3 Other essential starting points for appealing to most search engine systems include: popular, relevant and current content; keywords that appear in both your page content and HTML coding; and informative image captions.4
If you can create the "right" combination of SEO strategies, you should increase your ranking and possibly even come out near the top of the results list for specific search phrases. Without SEO, your site could end up so far down the results list that potential customers may never see it.
Where should I focus my SEO efforts?
The world of SEO can be complex: There are more than 10 popular, general-purpose, worldwide search engines and hundreds of additional language-specific search engines - from Google* and Ask.com* to AOL Search* and Dogpile.* To narrow your focus, consider zeroing in on the top three most popular search engines: Google,* Yahoo* and MSN Search.*3
Who can you turn to for help?
Tapping into outside resources can be important to your online success. Software tools like AgentWebRanking,* and specialized real estate SEO consultants and external-site-linking campaign generators like The Kosloff Group* and OptiTrex* believe they have the concept down to a science, using analytics programs that evaluate your site's HTML and content, then fine-tune it for better placement.5,7
To jump in on your own, browse through some of the most popular blogs dedicated to SEO, such as Search Engine Journal,* Search Engine Land* or The SEO Book Blog.*
NEXT MONTH - Part 2: Simple Ways to Improve Your Search Rankings Right Now
1. National Association of Realtors® 2006 data.
2. "Lead Conversion's Newest Permutation: Lead Response Time," Transparent Real Estate, by Pat Kitano, Aug. 25, 2006.
3. Search Marketing Fact Pack 2007, Advertising Age.
4. "Top of the Heap," by Michael Antoniak, Realtor® Magazine Online, Nov. 1, 2006.
5. "The State of Real Estate Marketing: Assessing Marketing Budgets, Trends and Opportunities for Real Estate Agents & Brokers," Inman News, July 2007.
6. "Get Noticed: Optimize Your Web Site for Search Engines," by Greg Ryan, Realtor® Magazine Online, May 1, 2004.
7. WWW FAQ, by Thomas Boutell, Boutell.com, accessed Nov. 15, 2007.
Serving the Self-Employed in a New Mortgage Environment
In a mortgage industry that's tightening lending standards, it may soon be increasingly difficult for the self-employed to find assistance when purchasing a home. That leaves the door open for agents like you to find new ways to serve this market niche as a self-employed client specialist. Here are a few insights to help you better understand this increasingly underserved market.
Growing ... and growing. The number of self-employed Americans has been rising, hitting 20 million-plus (that's up 4.4 percent over the past year) in the most recent U.S. Census Bureau survey.*1 In fact, every day another 2,350 Americans decide to go into business for themselves.1 The District of Columbia leads the nation in the growth of the self-employed market with a nearly 10 percent annual increase, followed by Nevada, Florida, Georgia and Utah. A few of the fastest-growing self-employed industries are Web search portals, Internet service providers, nail salons, e-shopping/mail-order houses and landscaping services.1
Big money. Self-employed companies account for a whopping 78 percent of all U.S. businesses, and they collectively report annual receipts of more than $950 billion.2
Optimistic profile. More self-employed Americans are now female - and members of minority ethnic populations - than ever before.3 They generally describe themselves as optimistic about the economy and enthusiastic that conditions for their businesses will improve in the next five years.4
Struggles and obstacles. Based on National Association for the Self-Employed* surveys, more than 65 percent say they consider cash flow a problem, and one-third say paying for inventory and equipment are the most important issues affecting cash flow.5 More than half report using their personal savings to start their businesses, and nearly one-third say their credit rating is an obstacle for them.6
What they'll need for a loan. An article in Daily Real Estate News* indicated that self-employed home buyers may need more documentation to qualify for a mortgage in the new lending environment. The article also suggests that these borrowers consider taking fewer tax deductions to show as much income as possible on tax returns.7 Leading lenders like Countrywide offer a range of programs tailored to qualified borrowers in this market segment, so working with an expert home loan consultant can be an important step in helping your clients that fit the self-employed profile.
For more information, check out the Census Bureau's annual economic and geographic survey on the self-employed.*
1. U.S. Census Bureau press release, June 2007.
2. Rural Entrepreneurship, July 2007.
3. National Women's Business Council Fact Sheet 2005.
4. National Association for the Self-Employed Web site, accessed Nov. 13, 2007.
5. National Association for the Self-Employed, member poll, September 2007.
6. National Association for the Self-Employed, member poll, March 2007.
7. "Self-Employed Workers Struggle to Get a Mortgage," Daily Real Estate News, Oct. 3, 2007.
Create an Open-Door Policy
Generate ongoing community awareness by opening the doors of your office for local groups to use at no cost to them. (This is particularly easy if you have a common area or conference room.) Put the word out to area book groups, scouts organizations, children's sports organizations and others, letting them know you have free meeting space available. Be sure to stick around for some of the meetings to socialize with community members and spread the word about your services.
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