If you have never used Google then the time has come – and if you’ve only been using Google to find the latest sports scores or what is playing at the local movie theatre, then it’s time to familiarize yourself with its true power in the world of real estate marketing.
First, a quick overview: Google started out as an online search engine - a website where you can type in random words and have a list of web sites appear that feature those same words. Handy stuff. But over the years, Google has transformed into more than just a search engine. Today, you can buy much of your traditional media through Google, including radio and television spots.
And as new means of advertising become more popular, such as marketing on our cell phones, it is likely that Google will lead the way in this environment as well. In many ways Google is a virtual one-stop shop for advertising dollars.
However because most of us do not have time to become Google experts I recommend hiring one. They are usually in their 20’s and have their heads filled with knowledge that would take most of us a lifetime to acquire.
Hiring a skilled Google expert is probably the best investment you can make – and it is an investment that should be made, considering the fact that the Internet drives 80 to 90% of all real estate sales, despite being allocated only 2% of the average marketing budget.
A great way to lower your cost per lead
Let me give you an example of how Google marketing can pay off. We did a report for a client called Waterside, the largest condo conversion project in America at the time with 917 units. Our marketing plan focused on getting unique 1-800 numbers and unique URLs, and here is what we learned about the last thousand leads we received.
Our price per lead was $660 from all of our traditional print marketing – even with great copywriting and messaging that targeted the right market. Our online cost per lead was in the $100 range – but of all of our online advertising, the least expensive and most valuable investment was Google. It cost just $13 per lead.
Now let me ask you, would you rather pay $600 or $13 per lead? Sure the $600 cost may make you feel good because you will see a big photo of your project in a major newspaper, and you can show it to your friends. But in the end you will be paying 25 times more for those leads that if you were advertising on Google.
So here is what the Internet and Google can do for you:
In the old days of marketing, your print ads were separate from your direct mail, which was separate from your sales centre and so on. Today every marketing initiate you do should drive people to the one, central marketing hub you have – your website.
Every single touchpoint you create with a potential buyer, whether it is over email or a billboard, at your sales counter or in a phone call, should drive people to your website so you can track what’s working and what is not.
Traditional marketing pieces that sync with your website can be particularly effective. For example a postcard is the least expensive direct mail piece you can send – and it is even better when that postcard addresses a client by name, Sally in this case, and includes a specific call to action: “Want to see if you’ve won a weekend in the Florida Keys? Log on to: www.atripforsally.com”.
Once Sally logs on to this unique URL a salesperson can be notified and can contact her within hours to inquire about her interest in your project.
Do you know what the single largest online resource is for selling real estate? Craigslist – and it is free. If you have never posted a Craigslist ad it takes about 10 minutes, even with photos. Facebook, MySpace, Linked In, Twitter and other social networking sites are also great options and well worth the investment.
You should also familiarize yourself with Search Engine Optimization – the free advertising you get on Google when your website address appears when people type in search words related to your offering.
Now you may be thinking that Google only reads words right? When Google bought YouTube, the number one video site in the world, they changed the game. Google reads Flash and images, which means the keywords, tags and meta-tags used in the naming and descriptions of your content must be relevant. It is essential to optimize all of your text to be as relevant to your audience and project as possible. Be sure to hire an expert.
Pay per click is a great way to go
You should be using pay-per-click advertising. Go to Google’s home page. Do you see the sponsorship links? Those listings are paid for. Figure out what keywords people would type in the search toolbar that are related to your project and buy that listing. For example, if you buy ‘Miami office condo’ it might cost you $2 to have your listing appear in the search results.
Pay-per-click is a bidding war so if somebody is paying $1.00 you should pay $1.05 and you’ll be listed above him or her. I would suggest being in the top three positions for your ad to count. I’ve seen enough studies to show how the human eye works. It goes from left to right and it doesn’t scroll down very far. So if you’re trying to save money and end up in position six or seven, people will never see you because you’re too far down the page.
When you’re writing text for the pay-per-click listings, create different versions. You’re limited in the number of words you use, which is why you need a good copywriter. You could do it yourself but it is probably better to pay a professional.
When you do an online ad, remember that the work begins when you place it as you now have to track and measure which version of your ad is actually working. Remember that when you run an online ad you do not do one version. You should have one in the major newspaper, banner ads, skyscraper ads – and someone should be tracking and measuring all of this. This is the number one reason people continue to put more money into traditional advertising – it is not because it is more effective, but rather because it is less work.
Remember that 80% of people do not go directly to your site, but rather they go through Google. So test your key words in Google often, piggyback on the key words of competitors, and monitor your position at all times to maximize your investment.
Start researching blogs as some bloggers can be incredibly influential – sometimes even more than the regular media. Is there someone who is blogging about your industry? You need to figure out who they are and make them your friend. Even if they only have 100 readers, those are targeted leads and the popularity of the blogger can grow over time.
Consider setting up your own blog for each community you create. Offering residents a blog means that more people will be writing about your project, and the more people there are writing about your project the more content there is for Google to grab, and increase your search rankings.
Google, and online advertising in general, is the most effective way to reach both local and international audiences. Start thinking about the many ways that you can use this powerful strategy to generate leads and excitement around your next real estate project!