By Ryan Ward | June 29, 2013
With the recent changes to Google’s algorithm and the impact it has had on the real estate industry, chasing the long tail is something that can not be overlooked. Penguin and Panda are reeking havoc on the local realtor. We’ve all but been replaced by websites like Trulia, Zillow, Homes and Realtor.com at the top of most common search terms. I believe that Google’s algorithm is not yet capable of discerning the best search results in the real estate category. Certainly when one considers the integrity of the data found on the above mentioned sites and compare it to the information and accuracy of listings that local real estate agent and broker websites can provide, it can be said unequivocally that Google is getting it wrong. There can be no doubt about that fact.
If the idea is for search engines like Google and Bing to provide the most accurate, up to date information and listings to consumers, they fail completely by giving the weight they have given to these large sites. It seems the search engines and consumers are the only ones who don’t know that the quality of those sites is much lower than the accuracy and data integrity provided by local real estate professionals. Terms like “city homes for sale” and city real estate” provide huge traffic and really should be going to local sites, but that is not the case and there seems to be no indication that the search engines have any way of learning how to get it right. At least not yet, but I suppose there is hope for the future.
Since these terms now go to the big players, the local guys like myself really need to dig deeper and find new ways to stay relevant especially if organic search results play an important part of your overall marketing campaign. To stay relevant, it’s long past time that we look to the long tail to find business. No, this isn’t a new topic, but it is become more relevant today than ever before since we are being pushed down the page, and often below local results for major keywords more and more often.
There is light at the end of the tunnel though because the long tail should convert better than the general terms do. That’s because the long tail is a much more specific search than “atlanta homes for sale”. There are also going to be less people competing and your chance at success will be higher. Let’s take a look at why…
If someone is searching for “atlanta real estate” or “atlanta homes for sale” (insert your city for mine), they are looking very generally. However, if they really know specifically what they want, they will search for something like “homes for sale in alpharetta high school district” and that’s where we need to be! Think about this: if the consumer is search for something like this long tail example above, they are much farther along in their process…since they are still searching, it probably also means they don’t have an agent doing this type of search for them yet. If they are looking at Atlanta, they are looking at some 30,000 listings. By the time they are narrowed to a specific high school district, they are looking at only a couple of hundred homes and once they select their price point, they are likely only looking at 20-30 homes to choose from. THAT, is where you want them to find you. This is a person much closer to buying and if they find you on their very specific search and your information is helpful to them, you will appear as the expert they need at just the right time for them to need the help. You are that expert, right???
So, what are some good long tails to think about trying to provide information to consumers about? Here’s a short list to get your mind going. They are endless though:
- homes for sale by school district (elementary, middle and high school all separated into their own searches)
- homes for sale by zip code
- homes for sale with basements (maybe even another with only finished basements)
- homes for sale with pools
- ranch homes for sale in “city”
- homes for sale in gated neighborhoods
- homes for sale on golf courses
- homes for sale in golf communities
- homes for sale in swim/tennis neighborhoods
- homes for sale with land (maybe something like “over an acre”)
Ok, that’s a short list for some ideas. Did you notice the term real estate isn’t mentioned very frequently? More and more I believe that “real estate” is an industry term and homes or homes for sale is a consumer term. Remember that when you are creating long tail searches.
So I’ve set off to start getting more specific on my site with the long tail. I’ve recently created a homes for sale by school district in Atlanta page and under that, a list of the most popular elementary, middle and high school districts. I’ve also created a couple of searches for things like “homes for sale in alpharetta with basements” and I will continue adding pages like these. Another long tail group I’ve started is that for zip codes. I’m not sure about this one yet, but if someone is searching for a zip code in an area we specialize, I really hope they will find us.
What other long tails should we be going after? I think it’s a must. Yes, it’s going to be a good bit of hard work, but success generally goes to those willing to do the hard work.
By Ryan Ward | June 16, 2013
I was looking through the FMLS tonight and came across a homes listed for $3,450,000 that the photographer used a fisheye lens for the interior photographs of the listings. Here is one of those photos.
Disregard the oversaturation and the framing for a minute and look at the photo. What does it do for the room? It doesn’t make it look large, it just makes you need to fix it in your mind before you can decide whether this is a nice room. If you looked at 20 images of this home that looked like this, how would you feel about the house? Are you sure you would be right?
Here is the same image that I tried to correct in lightroom to look like a normal wide angle. There isn’t enough distortion correction to correct it all the way, but it is more “normal” in that I tried to make straight lines straight. I could have save this one and then manual corrected again to get it right, but that isn’t the point.
The point is that our mind is going to try to do this anyway and the photographer isn’t helping to show the home the way it really looks.
There is a difference here. This version actually makes the room look larger. I tamed the highlights, lifted the shadows and lowered the saturation slightly and made some adjustments to the white balance, but I did it off of a screenshot with minimal photographic information to work from. Still, there was enough to make a better photo. You can get a sense of space. Again, forget the color as I didn’t have much to start with.
This is a 3.5 million dollar house. The homeowner and the agent should not have accepted these photos as they are just terrible. It’s a shame that in an industry as marketing dependent as we are in real estate that people make some bad marketing decisions. Don’t do this to your clients and don’t let your photographer try to talk you into some sort of artistic perspective. It just doesn’t work.
Can you use a fisheye at all? Maybe, but it would really need to be used for a very specific purpose. I can’t think of one right now, but I’m sure it could be used for something. Maybe one photo in a printed spread or something like that but MLS photos would be a place that it is not a good choice for 99% of real estate photos.
Don’t do it!!!
By Ryan Ward | June 12, 2013
One of my favorite websites is Photography for Real Estate and Larry does an amazing job of keeping new content, ideas and tips flowing on his blog like few others. A while back, he pointed out a WordPress theme an agent named Link Moser was using to power a single property website and I fell in love with this theme and now am trying to figure out how to use it almost exclusively as well.
The problem with creating single property websites and then using it as the virtual tour for our listings is that we typically have to have an unbranded version with no contact information for it to be used as a virtual tour. Now, as nice as it is to make one of these sites, it really becomes too time consuming to make two of them for each listing. Not anymore!
Here is the Scoop
If you do a lot of these for yourself as an agent or if you do them for clients as a real estate photographer, it can be done one a single domain using the WordPress multisite feature and one simple plugin that allows you to make the website for the property one time and then copy it in exact form and simply add the branded pages to the second site in seconds!
Here is how to do it:
Pick a domain and install WordPress. Add this language to your wp-congig.php file:
/* Multisite */ define('WP_ALLOW_MULTISITE', true);
Download the plugin called Blog Copier here: http://wordpress.org/plugins/blog-copier/
This creates a domain that can have unlimited sites on it and a plugin that will copy a site in exact form. You simply go to the network admin and click “create new site”, enter the name and admin email and then select your theme and create your site the same way you do any other WordPress site. The new website will have the name something like the: example.com/123-main-st (you pick the name)
Once that first site is created with the content, images, etc…that you want, you simply go back to the network admin and copy that site and give it a new address like this: example.com/123-main-st-vt. 30 seconds later, that new site is up on that URL and it is an exact duplicate of the first one. All you have left to do is add your branding and contact page and you are done!
I suppose it’s possible to create a template site to start each one with by selecting the theme and creating that site with a home page, photo, page, etc…and then copying it to create your virtual tour (unbranded) and single property website (branded) or you could just go in and create the unbranded version and when it’s completed, copy that site – photo gallery, content and all – and then just add the branding to the second site. Either way, it is simple and pain free and it allows you to cut a great deal of time out of having to recreate that second site.
For a real estate photographer, this is a great service to offer and for an agent, it makes it more palatable to now make both versions so you can market your brand and the house at the same time!
Look, as an agent, I want to make sure the photos are great, but I want the display of the photos to be be equal to the photos themselves. This allows for a beautiful tour and showcase of the property and in a way that can be used on all of the important marketing channels including as a virtual tour in the MLS.
Other Benefits, Possible Reservations
One other great thing with this is that if you use this one theme and only this one theme you will very quickly know how to create it and get it live. I can knock one out in 30 minutes and 5 minutes later, I have the duplicate branded one complete.
If you don’t like the idea of not having the single property website on it’s own domain, just buy the domain name you want and use a redirect to send it here. It may be important for marketing materials to have a custom vanity URL and that’s ok too…
If you have any, just leave a comment below and I’ll be happy to help
With this theme that Link and I are using, you have to be careful of the license you have as the one I have for this theme is only good for one use at a time. There are lots of other themes, many of which have full size background images. Here is a good resource for them. I may ultimately switch to one of these if I can only use them in my example at the top on one site at a time…
By Ryan Ward | May 21, 2013
My newest test I’m doing is a community website to try and generate listings. I know, it isn’t new and I’ve done it before, but I’ve never really put the effort into it that needs to be made to create a successful endeavor. To do this properly, effectively and professionally, you are going to have to start by doing some research and take the time to write enough content on the site to make it valuable to buyer AND sellers because it is going to be part of your listing presentation that should set you apart from other agents who might be competing against you. If you do this correctly, I think there is a great opportunity to generate listings consistently. Like a farm, but virtual!
So to begin with, you need to find the right neighborhood. It needs to have significant turnover so the neighborhood needs to be large. I would say anything less than 1000 homes and you will be wasting your time. My chosen neighborhood for this project has about 3000 homes. It also has 2-3 dominant agents who have the majority of listings and I’m not one of them. I don’t shy away from a good challenge though and this seems like one that is right up my alley. I wouldn’t try this if you are relatively new or overly inexperienced as there are probably easier ways to farm an area than trying to take on 3 big agents at once.
What Your Website Should Do
Once you have your neighborhood, you need a website. Here is mine that I am using to try and target terms like Windward real estate agent and terms associated with sellers. I am also going to target buyer terms such as “Windward homes for sale”, “Windward homes” and “homes for sale in Windward” because part of the listing presentation will be that I will use this website to bring highly targeted buyers because we will be found easily for these very specific search terms. We’ll complement search traffic with paid ads on places like Facebook where you can create mad-accurate ads for very specific things. If your website can’t be found, it really isn’t there, right?
Content for Your Site
Ok, so you have your neighborhood and you have your website so now you need to build your content. The website needs to have some general information on the homepage with a way to search homes for sale, a search page, a video of the neighborhood with information about it, school information, a page with detailed information about the neighborhood, a contact form, an easily found phone number and some information about the lifestyle associated with living there. This could be shopping and dining, neighborhood amenities, etc…
Here is my video on the site. Click on the image and it will pop over on your screen:
It seems there should be no shortage of topics to blog about, but when you narrow down to a neighborhood, it could get more difficult. Your blog is your personality and where people will hear what you have to say about the community. I’m going to do video blog posts every other week on market statistics, sold listings and other things I’ve yet to think of. I’m only planning on posting to it once week or so. I’m not going to kill myself and I don’t think you have to. One week a blog post with a couple of pictures or a nearby restaurant or something and the next week a video. Simple. Don’t make it hard.
Show Good Faith – Give Something Back
Back when I first started selling real estate, I used to hand deliver a monthly newsletter to the neighborhood where I lived. In this newsletter, I gave a quarter page ad to any homeowner who wanted to advertise their business to other people in the neighborhood. Before long, I had a waiting list of people who wanted that spot. I did not charge them for it. After all, I wanted to give them something of value and that helped. Use your community website to do something similar – maybe even create a directory where homeowners can add their business. People like to work with neighbors and this is a great way to build trust.
If you have a greta site that you are proud, use it in mailers to the neighborhood as well. There is no rule that says you are only allowed to market online. Get people to find it online and in print. It will just help to reinforce the brand you are trying to create.
Let’s Get Started!
Ok, I have some content to add to my site and I need to find some other places to start marketing it to.
Did I forget anything? Have some suggestions? If so, leave a comment below…
By Ryan Ward | May 19, 2013
This is a question that many people have answered and the answers vary quite a bit. To look at this more technically, you might want to do a search for this topic without “real estate” in your search. There are great responses that will help give you a better idea of what will work for you and the readers of your blog. Here is some excellent information from Neil Patel on the how and why blog posts should be long. He makes the point that the content being longer (if it is good quality) may help to attract more links which will help it rank better and his conversion was higher with a longer page when A/B tested against a shorter page. Here is something else from 37signals where they tested and a shorter page gave them better conversions, but it’s what was on that page that made a difference. One more from remarkablogger that takes a different angle altogether and one I think we as real estate bloggers need to think about. Finally, I wanted to get to a point that we as real estate professionals get caught up in because we are always looking for the fast answer and it usually isn’t the best. See what my friend Eric Blackwell did here and this is what I will talk about in more detail below.
First of all, there is a lot of mediocre information about SEO from real estate professionals and those who seek to help us. I’ve recently seen people on FB and in a few videos that speak to us seeking advice as if they are the be-all-know-all on the subject of SEO. That, to me, is a sure sign you are getting information from a source that probably should not be fully trusted.
The truth is, there is no “right” length of a blog post for a reader or from an SEO perspective. Of course content will help, but long content with no real value is, well, of no value. So don’t write long copy for the search engines. It isn’t necessary. Right good content. Even an infographic with no text can be excellent content that will get indexed and rank well in Google and the other search engines. If you don’t believe me, see where my friend Eric ranks for his infographic with no content on Google for “Can a Blog Post Rank with Less Than 300 Words?”
So Then, How Long Should it Be?
Simple. As long as it needs to be. If it is of value, share it on social media, tell your friends, send it in your newsletter and it will garner links and it will rank. I’ve had blog posts that were an image and a sentence/statement that rank. They will rank if they are of value to someone. Stop looking for a silver bullet, write from your heart about something that is important to you and mean it. That will be a much better way for you to plan your posts than worrying about filling it with a bunch of junk content just to make it be 300 or 400 words or more. More importantly, you will be writing about something that matters. That’s a much better way to write than worrying about a word count.
You do not have to write The Odyssey or War and Peace 3 times a week for your posts to rank well.