Author Archive

It took almost two years and hundreds of hours of research…

By Jim Marks

before I finally figured out EXACTLY what it takes to be a Social Media Rockstar.

rockstarNow, I am NOT speaking of the “I followed 5000 people that I know have auto-follow to get a bigger follow base” type of Rockstar..  That would be too easy.  I want to be the “I have 5000 followers that love me, engage me and hang on my every word” type of Social Media Rockstar…” You get it, the “other social media rockstars will fly thousands of miles to attend a conference I am attending…  NOT because I am speaking…but because I am THERE”  Rockstar…  Are you getting my point?  I want to be the “people are SO engaged in my life, they take the time to learn that my wife is awesome too!” Rockstar…  Yes,  I was possessed to become the “I am sooo loved that any charity I touch becomes blessed, just cause I am involved and so incredibly passionate and sincere…”rockstar.

Yeah, thats the type of SM Rockstar I want to be…  So how did I figure it out?  I am tricky…

Step One:  Find someone who IS this type of Rockstar…

Well, I looked, and looked, and looked…  and I found him…  Well, to be honest, he wasn’t actually hiding…  he was freakin’ everywhere…  filling up my facebook, my Twitter, My LinkedIn, Speaking at every RE engagement known to man, etc…(he is a SM Rockstar , after all) but I found him…  My unassuming, social media uber-rockstar patsy to be?

Jeff Turner…alias @ResPres (look at that face?  This is gonna be easy!!)

Step Two: Befriend him (Sh-h-h)

This, surprisingly enough, was not that difficult either.  I emailed Jeff… then Facebook friended him, tweeted a tad…  invited him to lunch under the pretense of “some crazy business idea” and just oozed my self-serving, sucrose-enriched charm…  The funny thing was, it was almost TOO EASY…  It was like Jeff….  ACTUALLY CARED about what I had to say…  no, no… it was much stranger than that…it was as if Jeff actually cared WHO I WAS…  He listened, and engaged me, and respected my opinions, and shared important ideas freely.  He almost made it too easy…

WOW, this guy is goooood…  but I found the chink in his armour…

He was the same way to EVERYBODY…  Nobody can be that interested in everybody… can they?

Step Three:  Learn all his tricks

This is where my plan derailed a bit…  I paid attention, I really did…  but I just couldnt figure him out, what was he hiding?…  how did he do it?…  puzzling.  Then it hit me like a ton of bricks…  This super great guy… This caring, engaging, thoughtful, social, guy…  This killer communicator, charitable, funny, guy…  Yeah, this pensive, warm and downright AFFABLE guy that everyone SHOULD want to communicate and be social with…  HAS A VERY UNIQUE AVATAR!!

jeffturner-avatarHow could I have missed this!!  Could this really be it?  What else could it be?  Let me take inventory one more time…

Is he smarter than me?  Well, probably, but that cant be it..

Is he more successful than me? Well, I think so, but that cant be it either…

Is he better looking than me?  HELL NO!

Nicer, more engaging, thoughtful, caring, INTERESTED…  of course, but who cares.  IT HAS TO BE THE AVATAR!  I ‘VE GOT IT!!

Step Four: Use this new found knowledge to conquer the SM world!!  So, here it is, my fool proof Social Media Strategy.

@jimmarks…  be gone.

Introducing…@vrpres

vrpres11

Wait…  where are you going…  arent you gonna follow me?   Hello!!  Did you see my AVATAR??  (happy april fools day!)

WordPress SEO for Real Estate Websites-Robots.txt

By Jim Marks

icon_bigIt seems almost eery that within the week I scheduled to write a post on WordPress SEO about the Robots.txt file,  I get two…not one, but TWO calls from Realtors who just can not figure out why their sites are not ranking as they should. After careful observation, BOTH of them turn out to be robots command issues… Now granted one was an on page robots (no index) issue, but the other was a robots.txt file issue…  Each carry the same message…  HEY GOOGLE, DONT INDEX THIS SITE (PAGE) K?

Probably not the message YOU want to send to Google, now is it…

So today, we will speak about the robots.txt file…  in a week or so, (probably not next week, as two robots posts in two weeks would even bury my eyelids…) we will talk about robots commands, another sure fire way to increase slightly, or DECREASE GREATLY your SEO.

So, What Is Robots.txt?

Robots.txt is a text (not html) file you add to you root directory that tells the  Search Engine Spiders which of your pages NOT to visit. Search Engines do not guarantee they will abide by this information, but typically they do.  Most spiders will not go where they are told not to go.  A robots.txt is a strong suggestion to a search engine not to index your page.  However, it is not a rule…  It is a bit like asking someone not to go in a room while you are not home…  the room is unlocked, but you trust they will not.

Just as you would not leave VALUABLES in that room, do not PROTECT sensitive information by adding it to your robots.txt file. There are way better ways to secure pages.

The location of robots.txt is very important. Search engines will not search your site for it. They simply scan the main directory and if they don’t find it, they assume that your site does not have a robots.txt file and they proceed to index everything they find. Work with an SEO agency in Vermont to achieve a successful digital marketing plan.

So HOW do you write a Robots,txt file.

Well the simplest way, is to open NOTEPAD and create the file there.  robots.txt is exactly what it says, it is a text file named robots not an HTML file.  So, notepad is the logical choice.

The structure of a robots.txt is pretty simple, but frankly NOT very flexible– it is an endless list of user agents and disallowed files and directories. Basically, the syntax is as follows:

User-agent:

Disallow:

User-agent” are search engines’ crawlers such as Google Bot or Yahoo and disallow: is a lists of the pages or directories tyou wish NOT to be indexed. You may also see lines of text proceeded by #.  These are simple comments and intended for human eyes as opposed to the spiders.

For example, if I did not want the spiders to index my wp-admin page (something I do on all my sites to keep from leaking link-juice to meaningless pages) I would write it this way…

# All user agents are disallowed to see the /wp-admin page

User-agent: *

Disallow: /wp-admin/

The first line is for me, the second states “OK, this is for all spiders and bots” and the third line, “Pretty please, don’t index my logon page.”

The concept and structure of robots.txt is a decade old, and there are plenty of resources, such as http://www.robotstxt.org/ or you can go straight to the Standard for Robot Exclusion

Robots.txt files can get lengthy and the exact syntax, punctuation and SPELLING (most of the errors I see are mis-spelling of user agents, directories or missing colons, slashes, etc.) is of great importance. So be careful…

Here is an example of Virtual Results robots.txt file.

User-agent: *
Disallow: /cgi-bin
Disallow: /wp-admin
Disallow: /wp-includes
Disallow: /wp-content/plugins
Disallow: /wp-content/cache
Disallow: /wp-content/themes
Disallow: /trackback
Disallow: /comments
Disallow: */trackback
Disallow: */comments
Disallow: /*?*
Disallow: /*?
Allow: /wp-content/uploads

Dont be totally discouraged if you dont get all of this, as you will have another chance.  In coming weeks, look for my WordPress SEO for Real Estate Websites post on wordpress DUPLICATION,  a pretty large SEO issue with WordPress out of the box.  WIthin this post, we will give tips and tools to use wordpress plugins to create robots.txt to reduce content duplication…

Next time?  Creating Great WordPress titles for SEO

WordPress SEO for Real Estate Websites-Permalinks

By Jim Marks

icon_bigIn WordPress, what some call a URL, we call Permalinks…

Permalinks are literally permanent links to your blog posts, yeah, the ones that live in your address bar because they contain the address to your blog post (or page).

WordPress sets them by default to look something like this…

http://virtualresults.net/?p=123

Now, having important keywords in your URL (permalinks) is pretty darn important to the major search engines, (arguably, one of the top 5 most important things in the Google algorithm) So, unless your post HAPPENS to be about the number 123, we should really change this.. In addition, it gives your readers a better idea what your post is about…

Change to what? and how? Well here again, there are two schools of thought…
1) www.yourdomain.com/the-title-of-your-post/
2) www.yourdomain.com/category/the-title-of-your-post/

Both make a ton of sense in the proper situation… I tend to favor number two when I can build keyword rich, important categories and write proper descriptions for those categories…

How to change to “pretty Permalinks”
In WP 2.7, simply locate the link that says “permalinks” near the bottom of your left hand tool bar, under “settings”…

next choose the radio button next to “custom settings” and finally enter the permalink structure youhave decided on…

For 1) www.yourdomain.com/the-title-of-your-post enter /%postname%/
For 2) www.yourdomain.com/category/the-title-of-your-post enter /%category%/%postname%/.

Thats it your done?

*Note that if your .htaccess file is not set to be writeable, WordPress will produce a set of codes which you’ll need to copy and paste to your .htaccess file!

Now, I know this is really simple stuff for a lot of you, but please hang with me and SUBCRIBE, because it is going to get a lot more interesting….

Next Post? When is the last time you invested some time in your robots.txt file?

WordPress SEO for Real Estate Websites-Validation

By Jim Marks

icon_bigOkay, I am a TAD fed-up, just  TAD… At almost every Real Estate Internet Marketing event I attend, someone…some Internet-marketing-SEO-real-estate-social-media-twittering-facebook-connected-expert, says something to the effect of “The great thing about WordPress, is that is has UNBELIEVABLE on page SEO, straight out of the box.

Now while WordPress is not BAD, and in fact is significantly better than MOST flash intensive, java-laden REAL ESTATE Websites, it is really not (in the immortal words of Dr. Evil) “Two clicks and a bag of chips.”  In fact,l it has drevilsome pretty significant issues, “straight out of the box….”

The Good News?  Almost nothing that can’t be fixed, with a few (8-10) plugins, a smidgen of PHP, a smattering of existing code changes, and maybe a rub of your lucky rabbits foot…  (although that wasn’t really lucky for the rabbit, was it…)

This started as one REALLY long post… but I think it may end up as a bakers dozen or so…  A series of bite-size pieced nuggets to clean up your WP install and make the lean, mean, ranking machine you hoped for when you launched it…  Lets start with the Obvious and SLOWLY journey to the esoteric.. well not so fast, lets start with the esoteric..kind of.. go directly to the basics, and slowly get more advanced..

Theme Validation

There is, and always has been an ongoing argument about the necessity of Theme Validation.  Validating Code simply ensures that your page (or theme) conforms to a agreed upon technical  specification, which usually include a machine-readable formal grammar (and vocabulary.)

The reason is simple: search engine spiders need to interpret your source code. And while the Internet Explorert and Firefox are very forgiving of your coding errors, search engine spiders, such as Googlebot aren’t quite as kind.  Most browsers are very forgiving of bad code. If the browser can interpret the intent or meaning of the site then it will likely display an agreeable page. But search engine spiders are often not as forgiving and something as simple as an overlooked “tag  close” can cause the spider to read the code structure  differen tthen how the page is displayed in the browser.

My opinion? Most validation errors will not affect your SEO at all…  but the really bad ones, absolutely will.

The only thing you really need to be sure of is that there are no problems in the code structure that would prevent the search engine spider from parsing the code correctly. Proper validation does this.

While a page may still get ranked for keywords, improperly developed code may actually keep  the page from performing as well as it otherwise could.

The solution here is to ensure the site you are building, buying or developing is  W3C XHTML and CSS Validated .  If you are purchasing a site, ask.  If you are starting with a theme, make sure the theme is documented as compliant. Solid programmers and theme writers validate their code…

With that said, in most cases, if a page doesn’t validate it  probably still will work for adaptive technologies and search engines, however depending on the errors within the code, it’s not a guarantee.  Due to this, it’s best to try and take one extra precaution and  begin your project with valid code.

Next post in this series?  Something simple.. or is it?  Permalinks

PS: If you’re interested in amazing world class SEO, let us know.

Active Rain-Pay to Play…

By Jim Marks

Active Rain has launched a new membership policy for new members starting this morning at 5am… New members will now pay $29 month for outward facing blogs. New members may create new members only blogs for free. I think this is a great step for Active Rain and I wish them success… Their service has truly benefited tens of thousands of Real Estate Professionals and they deserve to be profitable with these efforts.. Here is the details…

ACTIVERAIN – Our NEW Membership Plan

We are implementing some changes in our membership structure on ActiveRain for NEW MEMBERS. We believe the NEW membership plan will be beneficial to both our existing members and to our “New” members joining the Community. We want ALL NEW MEMBERS to reap the same benefits and rewards that existing members have created and experienced in the past. The time has come for us to make a change.

* Any member accounts that were created before February 16th, 2009, but have NOT yet produced at least a single Blog post will continue to have access to the network and all the tools that they’ve utilized up to this point. If those members wish to activate their account so their Blog posts will be viewable to consumers and search engines, they’ll be required to sign up for the New Membership Plan at $29 per month.

All New and Existing ActiveRain Members will also receive:

* Listing Router “Wholesale” pricing, with clicks being delivered to the highest bidder on an auction basis. All members including the New Braunfels cash home buyers will have the opportunity to pay the same price as bulk wholesale buyers. This represents a 70% per bid price reduction.

* The NEW Rainmaker Badge: If you currently utilize any AR product (Listing Router Campaign, Outside Blogs, Sponsored Localism Communities etc.) the new RainMaker VIP Badge will appear when leaving comments and wherever the member profile picture is currently displayed.

* ALL Outside Blogs will now have the ability to add multiple users/authors. The pricing will only be $19 per month for existing AR members going forward. (This includes Individual and Group Blogs)

* Premium technical support will continue for paying members. Non paying members will only have access to email based support. These changes will be rolled out over the next few weeks and will be automatically applied to member accounts.

* Weekly ActiveRain Webinars and On-line Training will also be made available to ALL ActiveRain Members.

All current members will be given ActiveRain Founder Accounts. You have gotten us to this point and your contributions have been the fuel to mature the network. Again, nothing changes for our existing Active AR members.

This new membership plan goes into effect at 5am PST on Monday, February 16th, 2009. Feel free to contact any of the ActiveRain staff or team if you have any questions or concerns. We are looking forward to the continued growth and success of our network and YOUR business here on ActiveRain. Thank you for your continued support, your contributions, and your allegiance.

FInd the WHOLE article, HERE…

How’s your Internet Marketing Foundation…

By Jim Marks

I think the Internet is simply passing Realtors by.

Realtors seem to fixate on shiny objects, they trip over dollars to pick up dimes, they love to think of themselves as tech savvy, which in Realtor speak  means “yeah, I have heard of xyz and have used it…some.  Unfortunately, the shiniest objects in the Internet marketing world are (at this very moment) social media apps, and they are absolutely NOT the best thing a realtor can do to create revenue on the Internet.

In fact, if not handled properly, (like a sharp knife) they are more likely to cut into your productivity, than increase it.

The current darlings of Realtor time-suck are Twitter, and Facebook… but there are dozens of other social media sites that can waste away your professional career as well. Now before you reach down to pick up that stone, or cry out “But I found YOU on twitter,” I am NOT saying that either one of these Social Media tools are not plausible forms of Internet Marketing. In fact, I believe that just like the proverbial sharp knife, they can be very useful tool, however,  most Realtors simply just don’t understand enough about Social Media Strategy to reap a decent  return on investment with Twitter or Facebook, or even doing it with a website that you can promote using SEO services from sites as https://the-indexer.com/seo-companies/ that are experts on this.  (Shameless plug for future social media strategy for Realtors post)

And  frankly, investing valuable time on social media before you have built an internet foundation, is silly.

To gain true results with Internet Marketing, a Realtor most build a solid Internet foundation.  This short post is dedicated to the 3 CORNERSTONES of any Realtors successful Internet Marketing campaign. Please be advised.  The following is NEITHER sparkly nor shiny and IS for the faint of heart.

1) A website that works-I constantly see Realtors investing huge amounts of time to the latest greatest Internet app to increase their Internet exposure or traffic.  But where are you driving that traffic. Realtors need as their base of operation a well written, properly executed website.  Notice I didn’t say pretty…effective is the key word.  Most web designers are just that… designers.  Ready to redesign your site?  Check this post for 11 items that every effective Real Estate website must have. Does your site contain them all?  It really should.
2)  A Prospect Database-How long have you been selling Real Estate?  How many people have you spoken to over the years you have served your community?  How many friends of friends have called you to ask a question about the market?  How many Internet leads have you just stopped working because they got cold… How many leads just didnt get worked to the level you would of liked when the market was just so busy..

Each and every contact you make from the very first day of your career should be in database.

Once you start creaeting this database, you will be shocked at how fast it grows, and more shockedhow many buyers and sellers it produces, when watered, nutured and PROPERLY tickled.   Don’t think Web Leads are good Leads?  Read this article to learn how to make them great.
3) Listing Syndication-What are you doing to post your listings all over the web…  Do you know that there are hundreds of sites that will host your listings with links back to your (properly written, effective) website?

Listing syndication is possibly the most effective and under utilized Internet Marketing tool to drive traffic and real leads to your website.

Take a look here for a list of 60 sites and their URLS that will post your listings and give you and your properties valuable exposure…
So , whether you are an Internet neophyte or a social media god or goddess, you must first ask yourself… Have I properly built my Internet foundation?  Do I have my cornerstones properly in place?  And can I maximize my efforts to build traffic and revenue through other avenues, by driving prospects to a sticky website…

11 steps to building a Real Estate Website that WORKS!

By Jim Marks

1) Properties for sale, Properties for sale, Properties for sale

A quick trip to adwords will prove to you that searchers are NOT searching for Realtors on the web, they are looking for property.  So if we KNOW that searchers are searching for property, why would be host a REALTOR web site, instead of a Real Estate Website…  Answer?  We Wouldn’t…  would we. If you really want to some tips for a real estate website, consider reading from the Construction Lead Generation website.

2) Not a good IDX, but a Great IDX

Your IDX is the most useful tool on your site. This tool allows your reader to search every property on the MLS, and then contact YOU to learn about it…  Great IDXs have super easy to use interfaces, with cool ways to sort porperties and terrain style maps…  My fave?  Diverse Solutions Why settle for a poor IDX, when the price difference between a poor IDX and a best of breed IDX is $20/month…

3)  Up to date VALUABLE market info

As a Realtor that most common question you get asked is most likely “Hows the Market Doing?”  How do you answer?  Here’s the proper answer..” Well currently it is ….., but this is a unique and exciting market and it turns on a dime.  Tell you what, if you want weekly, up-to-date market information emailed right to you, here’s my card, go to my website and subscribe. I send valuable info, weekly for no cost and no obligation…” Need the info to provide?  There is NO ONE better than Altos Research.

4) Custom Neighborhood Content

No, not cut and pasted, regurgitated drip.  Your personal opinions, and impressions describing what YOU love about each neighborhood.  If you give YOUR honest opinions of a neighborhood, and one of your readers feels a bond with your opinion, could they really NOT choose you as their Realtor?

5) Micro Searches

If one of your readers already know which neighborhood they would like to buy in, and you give them a link to only search and receive updates on that neighborhood, then you have offered a service that very few, if any, other web sites will offer them…

6) Interesting Dynamic Lists

Your readers love lists.  Create a list for the 5 least expensive properties in your area, 5 most expensive, 5 best values, (you can actually blog by phone from your weekly caravan and update a “This weeks breaking values” list.) Give your readers a reason to come back and check these lists, over, and over.

7) Your Voice

As a Realtor, your most important value is KNOWLEDGE.  Use your website as a tool to show your Realtors that you are the Defacto authority regarding Real Estate in your market.  Take quick notes of daily questions your clients are asking you, and post them to your web, with the answers you gave.  You own the knowledge your prospects need.  Give it away.

8 ) Subscription Button (RSS)

Give your readers the ability to subscribe to your pearls of wisdom.  Once they subscribe, they will get all your updated info, when you update it.

9) Video…

Add video to your website, Tips for first time homebuyers, Neighborhood walk arounds, Community events, etc. Video give your readers a chance to see your personality.

10) Contact Info, Contact Info, Contact Info…

Make your contact info SUPER Visable on your HOMEPAGE, (not a contact page) Make sure you list multiple ways to contact you. Phone, email, chat,etc.  When web readers want to speak to you, don’t make them wait.  Make sure they can fine the info easily, and make your self available by THEIR favorite method of Communication.

11) CALL TO ACTION

Tell you reader what YOU expect their next action to be. Sunscribe here!, For more detail call (XXX) XXX-XXXX, To receive weekly market reports, enter your email HERE!!  Tell them specifically what you want them to do and give them the opportunity to do it easily, and immediatly!!

Why are Web Leads so hard to close??

By Jim Marks

One of my newest broker/clients called me the other day and asked me why his salespeople didn’t care whether or not they got “their share” of the leads from his newly performing website… “We never got Internet leads before, now we are getting them almost every day… but my salespeople tell me that they are not that enthused about working them…”

I asked, “Are you just giving any correspondence ( I hesitate to call them leads..” that comes in from the website to your Realtors, to work?”

He responded, “Yes, I am not going to work them myself!” and here we unmasked the problem…

Emails that come to you via your website are USUALLY not leads…

Should I say it again?… I am not saying you will NEVER get a lead from your website, but unless it is a request for a showing, or a request for a car ride (attended the 4RealzED seminar? … you should) it is probably not worth investing your precious “closing time” on…

Emails that come to you via your website are requests for COMMUNITY..

Typically emails that come to your website are from searchers that are engaging your community.  They saw a post about a neighborhood they are interested it, they saw a property they would like more information about.  They read something that they need clarification on.  They are interested in staying informed via your community market analysis. (You do have community market analysis, right?

These are individuals that have taken the first QUANTUM leap towards becoming a prospect/client.  They have decided to trust you.  So how do you repay them for their freshly discovered loyalty?  You turn them over to a super busy hard charging Real estate agent who is going to qualify them from sentence three and blow them off around sentence four…  not good.

You have GOT to have a community option for readers who are willing to self identify.  They are crying out to become your desciples, your evangelists, your groupies? (Okay, I am reaching….)  Let them.  A newletter, a blog, a forum, a VALUABLE monthly email blast… (read: market conditions with valuable, personal, ORIGINAL, well thought out market observations)  You have got to welcome Internet correpondence as you would welcome a valuable stranger into your home…  tred lighly, offer your freindship, dont ask for anything in return.  GIVE THEM WHAT THEY CAME FOR….

and from this community?  You will grow leads…  and leads…  and leads….

Do you really need a website? (and why do you have one..)

By Jim Marks

ME:   “If you had a website”,  (or more commonly) “If I write you a new site” (or most recently…a lot) If I completely redesigned your crappy Advanced Access (insert ANY template website company name here…)  site, what would you do with it..  WHY DO YOU WANT A NEW WEBSITE..

Realtor:  “Because EVERYONE has a website…” or

Realtor: “Because my clients (I expect this means “prospects) expect me too… Number three? or

Realtor: “To get Leads..”

Believe it or not, this is a legitimate question I ask Realtors all the time.

However I rarely get the real answer.  The real answer is squirreled away and has to be carefully coaxed out…  the REAL ANSWER is often “So I can bury myself in front of my computer and wait for leads to rush in, so I dont have to do all the HARD stuff that really creates business, like Up-desk, OR DOOR KNOCKING!!  or cold calling, or going to community meetings and approaching strangers or DOING SALES!!

As an Internet Marketing Constultant , the strangest look I get is still when I tell Realtors “You know, you dont really need a website.” Why would I say this? Because you would be shocked how often I get this question…

“I don’t do anything with my website, and I am really busy, and I make plenty of money…really. But I think I need a website… DO I?? ”

NO, you need a vacation. If you ARENT really busy, if you DON’T make plenty of money, and if you have time to grow an Internet presence…carefully and methodically, you need a website.

If you are doing ALL the aforementioned stuff, and would like incremental business from a slightly different (cooler?) demographic, you need a website.  If you have the time and energy to educate yourself just enough to understand how the web works and your place within it, you need a website. And if you are TRULY INTERESTED in Real Estate and want to touch more people in a day, then you currently do in a year…  yes, you need a website…

What is the Return in ROI…

By Jim Marks

Over the next few posts I will endevour to bring you some ideas on the VALUE of tracking website analytics that rise well above simply receiving leads…  Now, Receiving leads, or convincing visitors to self identify is first and foremost.  But how about just getting better…

How did you get better at your listing presentation…  Feedback.  Each time you gave a listing presentation your prospect showed you comments and body language that properly read coached you to add or omit parts of the presentation…  and you got better!

Analytics is the Body Language of the web… 

Analytics works for your website just as prospect feedback is used for presentation..  As you watch the trends of  your visitors and see what they are doing, where they are going, and what they like and dont like…  you change your web to match their likes…  their body language..  and your site gets better…

The changes you make in your listing presentation AND your website create the same results…  better conversion…

So, how do you improve your website without the feedback or BL of the web (analytics)… you simply don’t.