Saturday, December 8, 2007

Real Estate SEO - A REAL example that worked

Whether it's Travel, Real Estate, SEO, SEM, or whatever space your company deals in, one thing has happened. Internet consumers are getting smarter, much smarter. They're spending more time shopping, comparing and researching. They're looking for quality and price.

Impulse, in this economy, has taken a back seat in almost every sector.

Those of you that have been reading this blog for a while know that my wife and I decided to put our little place in Northeast Pennsylvania on the market just before the sub-prime nightmare hit.

This week, the contract was signed. The Realtor didn't sell it. The MLS didn't either. 100% white-hat SEO sold it. If you think I expected it, you're wrong. Was it a fluke? NO. Read on ....

Here in Pennsylvania (laws vary by state) there's a vehicle known as 'Exclusive Agency'. It basically means the broker can sell it or you can yourself. If you sell it, the broker doesn't get commission. Note: I am NOT a real estate agent, so if you're considering any of this, be sure and read the pros and cons this type of agreement before you think about it! It may not be right for you. Better yet, get a lawyer.

So here's how it went. There's a lot to be learned here for SEO pros, Real Estate agents, people looking to sell a house, and many others.

I suppose I need to qualify some of this. Pike County PA is one of the fastest growing counties per capita in the Northeast United States. It's commuting distance from NY. It's friendly and it's beautiful. Although the housing market growth slowed in recent months, the potential upside for a buyer was good. This whole concept probably wouldn't work in a major metro market.

The first thing I did was list the house with a local prominent broker who we knew and trusted. They know the neighborhood, and of course, they put our home on the MLS. They were also much more net saavy than I expected. They put the house on Google Base, Trulia, and a host of other Real Estate and relocation websites.

The next thing I did, using PicasaWeb, Flickr, and a little clean SEO was post this page . It's still very much in the SERPs. (Hey, it's still a contract, not a closing!).

A picture tells a thousand words so I took the photos myself, lots of them, then paired them down. I shared them with the broker. Why not?

Next... I looked for websites where the house wasn't being shown including Craigslist which premiered earlier this year in the Poconos. (This area is considered part of the Poconos although the local area has a significantly different profile).

I listed the house on Zillow (Zillow at the time was getting a lot of PR!) and every other FREE real estate website I could find. Where it was allowed, I linked back to the page above. What I found out is that a LOT of these sites share or syndicate. Within days, I found the house on a ton of websites that it hadn't been submitted to.

Then we did a little networking. We knew that Vanessa Fox was selling her house so we jotted a little post on her post. (For those of you not 'living' in the Search Engine community, Fox used to head Google's Webmaster Central team, left to go to Zillow, and more recently joined Search Engine Land and a VC company).

Winter is a BAD time to sell in the Northeast, so as the leaves fell and time went on, I was pretty sure we were toast until Spring although the calls kept coming.

The numbers:
73% of the showing came direct from our website.
27% from the MLS and the Realtor.

How do I know?. We asked every one that came. They had printouts (Note the PRINT button at the bottom of the page!).

The direct showings were all serious buyers probably because of the wording on our page. I went on to create HONEST, PERSONAL relationships with the people I thought would like to live here. I showed them all the positives and negatives.

We DIDN'T spam a whole bunch of Real Estate forums.

I don't want to make this the longest post I ever wrote, but it doesn't take a lot of reading in between the lines.

To our friends in the Real Estate space, be careful with offers of web marketing that sound too good. With keyword CPM's going higher and higher, there's a lot of bogus stuff out there. There are also a lot of legitimate companies that can help you. (Not us, we're not accepting clients for a variety of reasons right now).

This piece is a real life example for many. Check out the links. Do a little more homework. I honestly believe that this post is one of the most important that I've written, in a very difficult time for many during the holiday season. I hope it helps.

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