Websites

Welcome San Francisco Real Estate Services to the Virtual Results Family

By Drew Meyers

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This blog post is a little bit delayed (we’ve been beyond busy), but we’re pleased to welcome Brad Coy’s family brokerage site, San Francisco Real Estate Services, to the Virtual Results family! We’re super excited to have our first client in San Francisco (located in North Waterfront and really looking forward to seeing this one produce results for San Francisco Real Estate Services. As most of you know, Brad is one of the founders of the RE BarCamp movement along with Andy Kaufman (My East Bay Agent) and Todd Carpenter (NAR Social Media Manager). Welcome to the Virtual Results family Brad and team!

We’re working on a ton of killer new sites, so stayed here for further details!

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.

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.  (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.

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…