Your clients are online — how best to reach them? This article explains how to amp up the online presence of you and your listings.

Why online marketing is important

Over nine-in-ten homebuyers use the internet at some point in the home searching process. The first step taken by 43% of homebuyers is to look online for a home, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). This essentially means if you’re not marketing your real estate services online, you’re missing out on potential new clients and buyers for your listings.

Perfecting your online presence is essential to a successful real estate business. Compared to traditional marketing, like direct mailings and door knocking, online marketing is low-cost, time-efficient and can be relatively easy.

Use online marketing to:

  • gain new clients;
  • market listings; and
  • stay in contact with past clients.

Gain new clients

The first step in your online marketing strategy is to create an effective real estate agent website.

Ideally, this site needs to be the destination for all your marketing, online and print. To that effect, choose a URL that’s easy for clients to read from your print materials and type into their browser’s address bar (i.e. WhittierRealEstateAgent.com). Funneling ads, listings and reviews back to your professional website helps you stay in control of how you present yourself online and concentrate all your materials in one spot.

In your website, display all your:

  • listings (if you have few listings, it’s good to include the listings of other agents in your brokerage);
  • general real estate experience;
  • awards; and
  • contact information, including a professional photo.

Unfortunately, the old saying “Build it and they will come” doesn’t apply to websites of any kind. So what’s the best way to direct traffic to your agent website?

The simplest way is to purchase ads. Google Adwords is a tool-for-hire that gives your website a boost on Google search results. So, if an individual searches “Whittier real estate agent” (and if your website is categorized correctly according to Google’s keyword terms), your site can appear at the top of the results.

Even if you use Google AdWords, you need to invest time in search engine optimizations (SEO), which is how well your website communicates with search engines, like Google. To help your website show up for clients searching for a real estate agent like you, include the right keywords throughout your website.

What are the right keywords? Think about what your would-be client is searching for. They are likely looking for a home in a specific neighborhood, so include the neighborhoods you serve on your homepage. This shouldn’t be every neighborhood in a ten-mile radius, but limit it to the handful where you actually practice on a regular basis. If you specialize in a particular type of real estate (foreclosures, rentals, single family residences (SFRs), condos, etc.), include that on your homepage as well.

If you’re having trouble getting SEO to work for you, you may consult with an expert (or read our interview with SEO expert, Jason McDonald).
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Market listings

Aside from your individual website or your brokerage’s real estate website, where are the best places to market your listings online?

There’s no shortage of listing sites, but here are some good places to start:

Uploading a listing to the MLS usually ensures it gets posted automatically to major aggregates like Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com. However, if you want to feature a listing on one of these sites, which helps it receive more views, you’ll have to go straight to the source. You may also consider checking how your listing appears on the aggregator’s site, in case the data didn’t translate properly.

Submitting your listing to a neighboring MLS is also a must. In heavily populated areas, like the Inland Empire, MLS territories overlap. If you are a member of one MLS you may be able to post to a nearby MLS without paying membership dues twice. It may be as simple as requesting permission from your local Association of Realtors (AOR) to repost your listing to other MLS’s, though some are more amenable to this than others.

Include the right number of photos with each listing. Listings with only a couple photos (or none at all) take longer to gain interest from buyers. Getting the angles and quality right also affects how quickly listings sell.

Finally, just like with your website, use the right keywords in your listing so buyers can find it online. Think about what words buyers are using to search for a home, such as the property’s:

  • school system;
  • amenities; and
  • basic features.

Keeping tabs on past clients

Agents like to count on past clients for future business. However, only 12% of homebuyers and 22% of sellers surveyed by NAR hire the same agent to purchase their next home.

Even filtering out for first-time homebuyers, who make up one-third of homebuyers, those moving out of the area and those whose agent has retired from real estate, 12% is still lower than it ought to be.

Further, 63% of homebuyers and 70% of sellers said they would recommend their agent to others.

If most homebuyers and sellers are satisfied with their agents, why do so few contact their previous agent for help with their next home purchase?

Clients may be unsure if their agent still practices, or simply forget the agent’s name, which is easy to do when other real estate agents’ marketing strategies outshine the marketing of their previous real estate agent.

Providing excellent service in the first place is a good start to being memorable. However, once the ink has dried and the boxes have been unpacked, agents need to continue to be a small presence in their client’s life. The easiest way to do this is through online marketing.

There are several social media outlets useful for keeping up with past and potential clients. Connecting on social media allows you to reach out to multiple former clients at once. For tips on what to post to social media and which platforms to invest time in, see: Social media tips for real estate agents.

Customer relationship management (CRM) programs assist real estate agents in tracking and organizing their customer service goals. This includes staying in touch with past clients and networking to find new client leads. Many CRM systems organize and track drip emails. These can be sent to your client list periodically and are an excellent way to keep your name fresh in the minds of past clients.

Do’s and don’ts

A potential drawback to online marketing is that it runs the risk of being less personal than other forms. While trying to make your brand appeal to as many potential clients online as possible, you may come off as insincere and fake (read: untrustworthy).

Therefore, do connect to individual clients whenever you have the opportunity, even if it’s just online. Send an email on their birthday or a social media message on the anniversary of closing their home purchase you assisted on. CRM software can help you keep track of these dates, and clients are more inclined to respond favorably to a personal message than a mass email.

Don’t give up too soon. Just as with any marketing strategy, it may take months or years for your online efforts to pay off with a steady flow of clients. Make an online marketing strategy and evaluate it every quarter, making adjustments where necessary.

Do track your progress. Keep track of your real estate website with Google Analytics and see how your visitors are finding you. Use this information to adjust your efforts and grow your network.

Do you have tips for other real estate agents looking to grow their online marketing profile? Or do you have questions for other agents? Let your voice be heard in the comments!