Here's my thinking: I don't really want thousands of clicks from every user out there who is searching for "real estate." (I especially don't want them clicking through to my site if I'm paying for that click!) That's because 99.99% of those web surfers aren't ever going to be looking for the kind of property I work with! I'd much rather have 10 visitors each day who are really looking for the kind of properties I work with than 10,000 generic lookers who want other areas or other kinds of property. Even if I do get the 10,000 generic visitors each day, none of them is likely spend more than 2 seconds on my site, because they'll know at a glance I don't handle the areas and properties they're looking for.
So, I exploit MY niche, which happens to be horse properties in and around Albuquerque. If you visit www.LauraWarden.com you'll see that is what I concentrate on, with a specialized IDX search that searches only horse properties, with information about "horse-friendly" neighborhoods, and equine resources, etc. And at this moment, I'm working with 4 different buyers, all in the $300,000-$500,000 range who found me through searching online for "Albuquerque Horse Properties" just in the past couple of weeks. My husband and I have been generating between $30,000 and $70,000 in net commissions off our "niche" websites every year for the past 5 years, and we're paying exactly $0 per year for pay-per-click, SEO, or any other web marketing. Pretty good return on investment, there!
It works because there's much less competition in nailing down top placement for specific search terms than for general terms, and what all of us want is to get in contact with the folks who want to buy, sell, or lease the types of properties we actually work with.
So forget about getting to the top of Google for "California Real Estate." Think, instead, about "Bay Area Historic Homes," "Indio Horse Properties," or "South Lake Tahoe Ski Condos," for example.
Many web users soon discover that generic searches for "homes for sale" lead them to loads of sites that really don't help them locate the properties they want, and so they start to think of more specific search terms that will get them what they want. So be the expert they find when they get specific! Find your niche and exploit it!