Customers For Free – SEO Marketing For Real Estate Agents – Part One

Getting Customers For Free? SEO Marketing for Realtors, Part One. Can you really get customers for free on the web?Yes you can and average people are doing it now every day. But they are only average in the sense that they do not have some magical ability or special inside knowledge. They are the people that have learned to use time tested principles and they implement them using the efficiencies of modern technology. So what is SEO Marketing? Just in case you are an old timer, ( anyone over forty, relative to the Internet) or you have been living in a cave you may need a definition for the acronym SEO. It simply means Search Engine Optimization. For the sake of brevity I am not going to spend much time explaining what it is.I am going to assume you already have a fairly good working understanding of this term. This article will be the beginning in a long series of articles that looks at SEO specifically for Real Estate Agents. Because I am a Minneapolis Home Inspector located in the Lake Minnetonka area; it serves my interests to help local real estate agents succeed by educating and coaching them for the Quid Pro Quo benefit of obtaining referrals from their clients. It is perhaps one of the very few ways inspectors can offer value to agents without the unethical and perhaps illegal practice of paying for referrals under the table.Anything I do to help realtors succeed and obtain clients will benefit my business. It is in my direct line of self interest to help realtors get more business with a lower capital investment. SEO is a valuable tool in the marketing tool box. If done properly it can lower the cost of acquisition per customer.A quick definition of SEO. Search engine optimization is where you try to increase the amount of traffic to your web site through ( organic or unpaid ) search results as opposed to search engine marketing (SEM) which deals with paid inclusion or the purchasing of advertising space. In Internet marketing strategy, SEO tries to understand how search engines find, categorize and qualify content and what people search for. Optimizing a website involves the task of writing content to both increase its relevance to specific keywords and to remove barriers to the indexing activities of search engines.This simply means that when you attempt to use the “free” aspect of the internet to market your real estate agency, you will need to optimize the content of your web site. When you design your web site, write articles or network on the web, you will need a strategy for the effective use of keywords, links and HTML code to “attract” web site search engines like Google to your web site or any other form of your internet content.This is all too often scary and intimidating to most real estate agents because search engines are very mysterious and highly mathematical technological monstrosities. When most people try to start learning it they quickly throw up their arms and conclude it is just too complex. So they will either forgo this medium of marketing altogether or they will spend a great deal of money hiring someone else to do it for them. And all too often these companies that claim to be able to design an amazing lead generating machine that will spit out one qualified lead after another from your sales funnel turn out to just be a worthless rip off. Too many service providers like real estate agents have fallen prey to this hype.And now the rules have changed. Current SEO companies are now offering “Pay For Results” marketing programs that promise first page placement guarantees. At least these companies must adhere to some kind of a measurable performance metric. But to simply get on the first page is not enough either. The goal of marketing is to attract qualified clients and build brand awareness. Just getting on the first page will not do that. That is why the masters of the internet are able to apply “Old School” marketing wisdom to the modern medium of Internet marketing.And that is what this series of articles is going to address. How can your average real estate agent compete and win in the fast paced and ever changing world of internet marketing? There is an answer to this question. And there is a way to get there. But the cost of admission is to get an education on time tested marketing principles and applying them to modern SEO principles to create a marketing strategy that will deliver on the promise of more customers for less money.What’s The Problem? Why do you need to learn SEO Marketing Online?Real estate agents are entrepreneurs. That means they have to spend their own time and money acquiring their own customers. They also have overhead expenses including the cost of office space, administration, insurance, licensure, etc. But the one expense that is perhaps the most expensive is the cost to acquire customers. In the modern world it has become very expensive to advertise. And the effectiveness of most advertising is very poor. It is now normal to only get one lead out of one thousand viewed advertisements. That is a.0010 rate of return. And that is just a lead.Then you have to qualify that lead to see if the prospect is a genuine customer. After you determine they are a customer, then you have to attract them away from your competitor and persuade them to sign on the dotted line with you. Now that you have one customer that has allowed you to list their property, now you have to sell their home. So the marketing starts all over again. It is clear to see that this can become very expensive very quickly. If you are paying for space in any advertising medium, the chances that you will be profitable after all expenses are paid are small. Advertising space is often too expensive for single individuals to make it worth the investment. Therefore a realtor’s biggest problem is to find a way to acquire new customers without incurring the dramatic costs associated with normal advertising.There are two ways that will allow you to develop a sales funnel without the advertising cost. The first way is the “Old School” method of developing a network of relationships. These are mutually beneficial relationships that benefit each member of the network. Nothing beats this system. But as I will explain a little later, it takes time and has a few drawbacks. The new modern method is to develop relationships using the Internet as the medium to get your message in front potential customers and also potential network members. It is a new tool in the marketer’s toolkit. But it is not a silver bullet.The Internet has promised the world to everyone. But most people have discovered they don’t want what the world is trying to aggressively sell them. So the Internet and every other form of marketing is causing a new problem. People have begun to build thick firewalls both online and off. And the promise of the Internet has succumbed to the modern problem of information overload. So the modern marketer needs the promise of free customers the Internet has to offer. But they need a strategy to overcome the endless barriers that have been placed before them. There is a solution to this problem. And SEO Marketing provides the tools to address this challenge.What this series of articles is all about; doing a large number of small things well.The following categories will form the beginning of this series of articles. The following descriptions are just a synopsis of the content of this series of articles. Each category must be understood as it relates to the whole. Each component by itself will do nothing to serve you on its own. You need to put each piece together to form an overall marketing strategy to reduce your costs and increase your exposure to the right audience. Each of these components when understood and implemented correctly will work to bring you new business from a wide variety of sources you may not yet have even considered.But you will need to adjust your expectations. You will not skyrocket to success online by adopting some modern Internet tricks. What I will teach you in these articles will be very small pieces of a very large puzzle. You will not have to spend money on these solutions. But you will have to spend time. And if you stay in business long enough, you will eventually harvest the rewards of your efforts. Success in the modern world does not come from doing one thing very well. It comes from doing many small things very well consistently over time. And the cumulative effect of those efforts will generate business for you. But it will not come immediately. It will come in time.The Value of your Offer. This is where you begin.Simply put, this is what you do well. This is what you are selling. If you can’t do something well, then you cannot hope to succeed no matter how good you are at Internet marketing. In this series of articles I will explain the fundamentals of marketing and then how to adjust and apply those methods to SEO Marketing. When you bring old wisdom together with modern efficiencies, you can have a powerful set of tools at your disposal. You will discover there are not any fancy techniques and no magic bullets. You will just need to implement these strategies one step at a time to achieve good results.Traditional Marketing Principles. SEO can’t work without them.SEO based Internet marketing is worthless unless you adhere to the time tested rules of marketing. There is an old saying. Entrepreneurs sell things that other people want to buy. If you are a real estate agent then you are selling your ability to sell someone else’s house quickly, for the highest offer while abiding by all the rules and regulations. That is what people want to buy. It is your job to accomplish those tasks. If you are not able to do just that, then you have nothing of value to sell. There is nothing I can teach you that will overcome that hurdle. But if you learn to apply these time-tested methods, they will help you to sell real estate better. But you first must be able to sell real estate. The horse has to come before the cart.Key WordsThe place to start learning about SEO Marketing is by understanding keywords. These special words will form the hub of your Internet marketing campaign. In themselves they offer nothing. But when they accurately describe your unique skills and the value of your offering relative to your competitors, then they begin to work for you. This is perhaps the back bone of Search Engine Optimization. Therefore it is the fundamental place to start if you want to gain any control over Internet marketing. I will be spending a great deal of time just on keywords. This is where you will develop the most amount of control over your ability to attract search engines to you articles and online content. It is where you learn to get in front of large amounts of traffic on the Internet everyday. It will also help you to write interesting articles that will actually be of value to others. When you understand keywords on a deep level, then you will be able to write content that speaks clearly to people with solutions to problems that they are searching for online. And your articles will convince them that your services and skill sets are the solutions they are searching for. Keywords are the railroad tracks that will take you to your destination.ContentIt has been said that content is King. This is not really accurate. What you say about what you’re competitively able to offer that is of value to others is the key to your success. First you need to get good at something that is of value to others. When you are first starting out, it is not possible to show a history of work success. That is why you will need to ride the shirt tails of others and provide them with profitable service until you learn the ropes. But that is another article at another time. But if you have a work history then you will need to be able to put your skills, experiences and unique value into writing. But when it comes to SEO, it will not just be any writing. It will have to be writing that includes content that a Search Engine will use to put your message in front of not only your target audience, but anyone that may benefit however indirectly from a relationship with you. When you know the rules of the game, SEO can actually force you to perfect your message and marketing strategy so that you will be more effective online and off. I will outline a strategy to help you understand how “content” is the key to your success. But with the understanding that content has to speak both to Search Engine Algorithms and the public that will be reading your content.The NetworkIf you are old school, the network refers to a closely related group of people that share a common interest. In real estate that is usually affiliated vendors and target groups of people that realtors develop relationships with to get business. But in the world of SEO it is reference to the “Content Network”. This is a group of websites that currently gets a great deal of traffic and those web sites already have established a high quality score with search engines like Google. Since most people spend their time online visiting web sites because those sites offer them value, then you will need to understand how you can get traffic from those sites that are free. But how is that possible you might ask?Isn’t the content network a place to buy expensive banner ads and text ads? Well yes that is true, but that can be very expensive and may offer poor results for many service based businesses. But there is another aspect to the “Network” that will allow you to place traffic generating content on the Internet for free. This is possible because these sites make money through “Adsense”. This is a program by Google where website owners can share in pay per click revenue from visitors that click on the ads embedded in their web site. But how do these sites attract visitors? The answer is content. And they get their content from people like you. They are normal people that will upload important and valuable content that web users are searching for. The article you are reading is an example of this.You can get high quality traffic to your business or web site if you do the hard work of creating valuable content. And if you are really smart, you can beat your competitors and make it to the first page for relevant keywords. More on that later. But for now you need to become aware of the network of web sites that will allow you to post content for free that will drive qualified traffic to you. I will be showing you what to look for and where to post content, then I will show you how to write that content for maximum effectiveness. If you piggyback on the shirt tails of web site authors that have a high traffic volume and an outstanding quality score, you will get to the front of the line in your location or niche market.The Bigger PictureTo get the most from the internet, you need to think way outside the box. If you confine your thinking to just getting qualified leads directly from customers searching to buy now, you will lose a greater opportunity to get customers from indirect traffic that will result in business you could never predict or plan for. I will be showing you how to see outside the box so that you can use the Internet to get in front of people you may never meet. If they like your message and you have offered them genuine value, they will send you referral business from places you may have never heard of before. You will gain exposure in categories you cannot now imagine. You’re just not smart enough to figure out every possible category or group of people that needs your services. But the rest of the world is. They know better than you. The trick is to get your message out in ways that touch the lives of people in a positive way. If you help others, you will get enough business as long as you offer a valuable service.Authority BrandingThis is the past, present and future of any successful marketing strategy for the services industry. If you are a service provider you will fall into two basic categories. You will either be providing labor in some form or fashion. That means you will be completing some kind of a task. Or you will be providing consulting services in which your intelligence is the commodity. As a consultant you will either be orchestrating a more efficient or profitable strategy or you will be protecting your client from some harm or loss. These are really the only two options. Therefore your marketing strategy must employ a method for efficiently communicating your unique skills, ability or intelligence born from education and hard won experience. If you use traditional advertising methods, you would spend a fortune to achieve this kind of brand awareness.You can’t make enough from each sale in most cases to support this kind of a strategy. The other strategy is to develop relationships from conversations and personal interactions. If done properly, you will develop a network of people that will sell your services for you. This is the most effective marketing strategy and has a long history of success. The problem is that it takes a long time to develop that network. And it is often a mine field of politics and personal interests. And those that sell you can quickly become your worst critics. And their criticism may not be fair or even accurate. It may be that you are perceived as a competitive threat and now you need to be cut down to size. The tables can turn all too quickly. But the Internet can offer a solution that will provide you with an efficient system of communicating your value and expertise that is not filtered by personal bias. And best of all it can be free if it is implemented effectively. In later articles I will address at length the most effective methods for developing and implementing Authority Brand Awareness on the Web.HTML CodeI will not spend too much time on this topic for now because it will not be an important part of your strategy. Why is that? Because your website and content is not going to be complex. Properly encoding content is designed to reduce the barriers to Search Engine Spiders that crawl the web to discover, categorize and rate content on the web. Only complex e-commerce sites tend to suffer from these problems. Service providers can write content that is simple and effective. You don’t need fancy tricks. You just need to provide valuable information that other people need and want to read. One of the few places it can come in handy is for images. But you should not be using too many images to brand yourself. Consulting service providers need to communicate their unique intellectual value, business system and work ethics. Words do the best job of this. And search engines love words!This ends the introduction to this series of articles. See part two…