I ran across this infographic about banner ads. Many of us use banner ads on other sites to promote our websites to prospective buyers and sellers… and making banner ads that accomplish the goal of increasing the right kind of traffic is key to success. If we toss up bad ads, we are just throwing money away, and complaining about how low conversion rates are.
One thing that is also worth considering, in order to increase conversion rates, would be to incorporate landing pages. Landing pages are mini-sites that are specifically tuned to the user that just clicked your ad. You know what they are interested in seeing… show it to them.
Do you hound over your site statistics? Do you look at them to see where your traffic is coming from and which sources are the most fruitful? If you aren’t, you should be.
If you are using your website to attract business, you HAVE to track your traffic. Just at with a traditional store, you track ads to see which ones are effective, with internet traffic you have to see which outposts and stratigies bring the traffic to your site. you also need to track the quality of different traffic sources… When people come from site “X”, are they sticking around your site or bouncing? Does your search engine traffic bounce? If you are selling a product or service, which sources provide sales or leads?
There are some great tools out there to accomplish these goals and know more about what is actually working for you. Google Analytics is free and VERY powerful. Personally, I use Clicky Analytics. I find it easier to navigate and understand. They have a free and premium level. I have included an affiliate link. Either of these tools will let you drill down to see what the traffic on your site is doing. With Clicky’s premium service, you can literally follow an individual user around your site to see exactly what they are doing.
Just like with a traditional store, knowing what your customers want helps you to provide it. Analytics provide the data about what your site visitors want… And you can’t optimize for search engines without knowing what searches people are using to get to your sites.
A few days ago I posted that (in my humble opinion) real estate blogs should be about real estate… not movie reviews, restaurant reviews, not recipes… Real estate. That is what the audience is tuning in for, give them what they want. I gave a few examples of what I see from my traffic patterns, and generally tried to support my opinion.
But, real estate agents that are marketing online (should) have a LOT more channels aside from their real estate blog. And I DO believe that there is a place in some of those other channels for items with less focus. First, let’s run down a few options:
FaceBook (Business) Page
Delicious (Link sharing)
Flickr (Photo Sharing)
FourSquare (Location Sharing)
With the exception of the community websites, EVERY one of those items listed is FREE. Community websites might be free, might cost a few bucks a year, or might cost as much as $100 (if you have to have someone set it up). But there is something that they ALL have in common, too. They can all be support systems for your real estate website. And they can all send links to your real estate website… they are all outposts, providing information and hopefully send a few people trotting off to visit your cyber-office. A community website is the absolute toughest to get going… and has the most reward if you get it right.
Video is hot. You should have video of testimonials, communities, local events, YOU and likely a plethora of other things. Host them on YouTube, embed them on your site (the ones that belong) and let them pull in a little traffic. Flickr is much the same… but with pictures instead of video.
Posterous is COOL. It is a great way to get some of the content to the other sites… and also share news and tidbits about things that are happening in the community. Grab an RSS feed from your Posterous site and let it run on the sidebar of your blog. Pull in calendar entries from local events, interviews with local politicians or business-people, news items, reviews or local places, etc. Don’t make it the focus of your website… let it stand on its own, while contributing a little to your website. Better yet, make it community specific, and find people in the community that want to load THEIR content onto it. Be the publisher…
A great source of news is Twitter. I have come to see Twitter as “broadcast media” rather than as person to person social networking. Some will disagree, but I look at Twitter the same way as I look at the “newswire services”. Filter it down to what is important, and then share that in a news feed on your site. It isn’t terribly difficult in a geographic specialty… but a bit tougher with a lifestyle specialty.
Delicious is a link sharing site. Instead of having a giant blogroll of all of the people you might know, share the links through Delicious… they can be tagged and categorized to make finding resources easier for your reader. Again, publish a feed to your sidebar.
On FourSquare, do those reviews (in the “Tips” section of the location). Have a great profile and point it back to your website. If there is someone out there that will buy a house from you based on your incredible writing about an ice cream cone… they can still find you.
FaceBook could be 20 posts all by itself. But, the basic idea is to make a Page about a community and then get the community to give it life. You should be there to nurture it, cull out the junk (and competitors) and keep it moving along. Talk about the parks, restaurants, movies, local parades and a zillion other things. Let it be a virtual Town Square where people can gather at 4am in their underwear without being laughed at (nobody has to know).
The bottom line is that there IS a place for all of that other content we want to use to show everyone how connected we are to the community. It just might not be the main real estate website.
I have been blogging about real estate since 2008… so over three years. I can say proudly that I have a few thousand posts. Of those, there are a lot that were NOT about real estate, but that appeared on my real estate blog. Some were about cars (I just started a car blog JUST for those posts). Others were about local news. Still others were about local businesses, entertainment venues, parks and recreational opportunities.
As long as I have been blogging, the mantra has been to “Be the source of information about EVERYTHING in the community”.
But after years of blogging, and looking over my blog posts and traffic patterns… I’m not so convinced any more. I see where my traffic is coming from, and I see which posts are the popular entry (and exit) posts. BUT, I also talk to the people that call, email or contact me in other ways… and I ask them what made them make the call.
Let me make a few points…
Almost without exception, my most read posts are NOT real estate related in any way.
My most read posts are NOT about local issues, businesses, personalities or events.
The post types that causes the most direct contact from consumers are market reports.
I’ve NEVER had someone say they wanted to work with me because of a review of a local business.
Most of my local name recognition has come from local event and local issue posts… but I can’t say one has ever brought me business.
Keep in mind, this is specifically about real estate blogging…
Here are the take-aways that I see from the above points.
A real estate blog needs to be focused on real estate. There is plenty of room for reviews, lists of area attractions and other local interest items, but they should not be the focus of the blog.
Hyper-local news DOES belong on a good real estate website. It shouldn’t be the focus, and even a “curatorial” style might be enough (rolling links to a variety of hyper-local news stories, for example… like a Twitter based local news feed).
Market Reports are one of THE most important things to have on a real estate website. Consumers want to understand the real estate market, whether they are buying or selling.
Market Stats are nice… but people want interpretation of the stats. They want to know your professional opinion is about the direction of the market… up or down.
Community profiles are VERY in demand. Buyers want to know about the communities and the schools that they are considering. They might like to know about the history, school performance and local culture… but they REALLY want to know about prices, styles and economic outlook. All of those items belong in the community profile, but some might be links to specialty sites, like GreatSchools.net or sections of a city’s website.
Daily updates are overkill… but a good real estate blog needs to have depth. After you have 40 or 50 solid posts, posting up 2-3 times a week might work… assuming that will cover the areas you need to cover.
Helping real estate “Do-It-Yourselfers” is good business. Give them your best tips for promoting their property, warn them of the most common pitfalls they may face (Fair Housing laws, for example) and give them the steps for a smooth transaction. But don’t talk down to them.
Is this a sure-fire path to success? No. But it might help. Don’t forget, though… it’s just my opinion. Look for a related post coming up about Social Networking.
Then you should be signed up for rebarcamp Atlanta. Tickets are only $17.50… and that is for a FULL day of learning, sharing and networking with the most tech savvy agents and real estate professionals in the Atlanta area, and from around the Southeast. AND, there are tickets available right now for just $10, with the “Almost Early Bird” special.
Many real estate “technology events” are really commercials for their sponsors. After paying $50 or $100, you get to sit in a room as the sponsoring vendors parade across the stage telling you about their newest, coolest techno-must-have… that you can sign up for at the table in the back for a mere $499/year.
rebarcamp is VERY different. At an average rebarcamp event, participants share what is working for THEM in their markets. Sure, there are sponsors, and they are talking about their products, many of the sponsors are not involved in selling directly to agents…
But the big thing that differentiates an average tech event and rebarcamp is that rebarcamp is more tuned to participation. Attendees decide what sessions should be featured. They lead most of the sessions. It is built upon attendees sharing… sharing challenges and solutions… rather than being built on presentations.
So, if you are a real estate professional, and you can make it to Atlanta on October 28th, rebarcamp Atlanta is the place you need to be.
WordPress is a great Content Management System (CMS). It can be a blog, but it can also be so much more. It can be a VERY easily updated website as well. But in order to really get the most out of WordPress, you need to deploy a few plugins that aren’t included with the basic package. Luckily, they are all free. I have 40 active plugins on LaneBailey.com and 20 here. And all of the plugins listed below are on both sites.
These aren’t limited to just real estate sites… they can be used by anyone, especially those utilizing WordPress as a business website.
Here they are in no particular order…
All in One SEO Pack*. If you are blogging for business or to get noticed, you will need to be optimized for search engines. This plugin, after it is set up, handles a lot of the drudgery of SEO. You still need to provide the killer content, though…
FaceBook Share. There are a variety of ways to do this, but the basic point is that FaceBook is second only to Google in importance for growing your site. You NEED to have a way for readers to easily share your killer content with their friends.
MobilePress. This is a plugin that builds a mobile version of your site. You can tweak the mobile version so that it is faster and easier for mobile users. And the growth in mobile web surfing is astounding.
TAC (Theme Authenticity Checker). If you like to use free themes, this is a great plugin that will look through the theme for potentially malicious or junky scripts. If it does catch something, it isn’t always completely bad code… but it is a good prompt to look into it further.
SoJ Tag Feed. Turn any post tag into a RSS feed. This is great for sending some of your content to your other sites. It is also a great way to have a feed that is targeted for a specific audience (like maybe a different feed for buyer and sellers).
WordPress Editorial Calendar*. I’m writing this post a few days before it is going live. I usually try to have anywhere from 3 to 10 posts in queue at any given time. This allows my blog to be more consistent. With the WP Editorial Calendar, I can look and see at a glance when I have posts scheduled to run. If I had other bloggers, I could also see who is posting what… and when.
WP-DBManager*. This allows you to inspect, repair and optimize your databases from right within the WordPress admin panel. But, it also allows you to get scheduled back-ups. You HAVE to have back-ups coming in regularly in case there is a problem.
Zemanta*. This is one of the plugins that I leverage more than any other. It allows me to easily find and use images and related articles. I can use just my own or I can use items from around the web. One word of caution, though… KNOW if it is content you are allowed to use. The articles are generally not a problem (they are just linked), but you CAN get into trouble with images.
Page Link To. This allows you to build a “holder page” so that you can link in the menu to items outside of the WordPress installation. If you have a squeeze page, sales page or other site that you want included in your menu, this is the way to do it.
Blog Copyright (by BTE). If you don’t protect your content, nobody else will. This doesn’t keep it from being stolen, but it keeps the reasonably honest people honest… and can make it easier to find the scrapers that steal it.
The plugins with a “*” after them are the ones that I think EVERYONE needs to have on their blog. These are the ones to grab first. I would have a hard time blogging without these…
What do you think? What plugins do you find essential?