By Ryan Ward | December 6, 2013
As we roll through the month of December and business winds down as it does in the real estate sector, there is still plenty we can do to remain busy and productive. Much of what we do in November and December sets us up for a good winter after the holidays are over and to have a productive start to the new year.
This past week, I completely reworked my chart of accounts in Quickbooks to more accurately reflect my real estate business and to better be able to track income, expenses, cost of sales and what sales come from which lead sources. If you don’t have your chart of accounts set up properly, you will have to use a separate sheet you will need to create on your own to do this for you. I suggest for any real estate agent or team (which I have) to start with the MREA Chart of Accounts and customize it from there as I have done. It will give you an excellent starting place.
After reviewing my old, very poor accounting and updating it, I can now see exactly who does what production, how much of it they do, how much it costs to do it and where all of it comes from, from every real estate lead source we have closed this year and I added additional lead sources that I want to use next year to increase our lead sources, sales and net income. Only using this new accounting system allowed me to see where are strengths and our weaknesses are and it got me thinking about making sure we added new lead sources for next year and allows me to set specific goals for each category that I can then further break down into how we can achieve better results for each lead source category.
For us personally, our lead sources break down as follows:
- Internet (organic search) – 85%
- Sphere of Influence – 15%
- Internet (organic search) – 75%
- Sphere of Influence – 25%
So as you can see, we do most of our business from Internet lead generation and some of our business through our sphere of influence. But, as I look at our numbers, which were pretty good overall this year and up from the year before, I see some huge, glaring weaknesses. First, we rely too heavily on the Internet, next we don’t work our sphere enough, and we don’t even try other sources. We don’t do any PPC advertising on the internet, we aren’t using social media effectively, we aren’t working on FSBO’s and we also are not calling expireds or working any particular traditional farm area. In other words, we really have too many of our eggs in one basket and that is risky for any business.
So that got me thinking about what to do. We need goals and we need a plan to meet those goals. Looking through my chart of accounts, the two least expensive forms of marketing are the ones we are doing; organic search and stumbling upon those people who have used us in the past.
What I have done now is set out to research the top real estate lead sources for real estate. Here is what looked to be the general consensus. I have arranged them in what seems to me to be the one with the highest opportunity for volume to the lowest:
- SOI/Past Clients
- Geographic Farm
- Being Social
What I intend to do is to write a post on each of these lead sources and explore them further and in more detail. I will do this for two main reasons. One is to research and learn more about how to implement them myself and the other is to share what I learn with readers here so you can go out and begin improving as well.
The first thing I will do from here is set goals – attainable ones and articulate those goals to my team by showing them the numbers as they are and getting buy in from them to begin working with more purpose on what they already do and show them why we need the other sources. Next, we will all get a plan of action to be successful and reach our new goals. I’ll have some more evaluating to do, but I already have some goals in mind. I want to double our Internet sales, triple our SOI sales and I want to make Expireds/FSBO’s and a geographic farm make up a 10% share of total sales each at the end of 2014. We really can’t implement everything at once so I will need a plan. It will look something like this:
- Internet – 50%
- SOI – 30%
- Expireds/FSBOs – 10%
- Geographic Farm – 10%
I’ll get these numbers from our sales from this year but for easy numbers, If I know we closed 25 internet sales and my goal is 50 (double this year), that can only be 50% of what my new goal for next year will be which is 100 sales. This means we will look to SOI for an additional 30 sales from sphere and then I want 10 more sales each from the two remaining areas. This is just some simple math based on actual numbers from this year extrapolated…
Now we have goals. We can track them in real-time and see where we are ahead, where we are behind and we can focus more on each as needed.
I’ll talk more about each portion in coming posts as I explore how to achieve more sales in each category and implement them as we go forward!
By Ryan Ward | November 5, 2013
One of the best ways to generate business through a real estate blog is to keep it local and talk about something that will impact the people you want to do business with in your area of expertise. That could be your neighborhood, a more broad farm area or even a city is your a big thinker and doer. This blog focuses on the internet but you can just as easily implement this idea into a newsletter for your neighborhood or farm area.
Real Estate Market Statistics
It’s easy enough to market to people and try to get them to find their home’s value on a postcard or some stealth microsite, but if you want to instill a high level of trust in potential clients, you need to be able to demonstrate your local knowledge and understanding of how that local or hyperlocal market really works and how it may affect them as a seller or buyer of real estate in your market.
The best way I have found to demonstrate that expertise is through your blog by keeping them abreast of the current real estate market as it happens. To be able to accomplish this, you need to be able to talk market statistics and you will need to know a little basic real estate math. It isn’t too difficult to learn either. Here is a really good first step instructional post I wrote about using percent change on price or demand for real estate.
If you can tell people in a way that they can understand what is going on in the real estate market, you will have moved yourself out of the role of salesperson and into the role of a consultant – a consultant who offers an expert opinion on one of the most important financial decisions anyone will ever make.
How it Works
As an example, let’s say you work a farm area with 1,000 homes and 100 or so sell every year. This is a pretty good turnover rate and if you can manage a 25% market share, you can do quite well if the price point is right. In any farm of this size, there are going to be multiple agents and/or teams/brokers attempting to increase their market share for such a prize. Many will send flyers monthly and the value proposition is usually that they are the “neighborhood expert” or they live in the neighborhood. There are many variations of this. However, most will not demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of the market and how it impacts the way you price and negotiate a sale with the most advantageous terms to the client. Using market statistics offers you the ability to demonstrate your expertise.
Use your blog to talk to people in your market about what is happening and how it affects them. Then give them examples of how that real estate market information can be used to better position and market their home to get it sold.
If prices are up 8% year over year in their neighborhood and the broader area is up only 4%, you can show buyers why this is a great place to buy. Maybe the amenities are more complete or maybe it’s located in an exceptional school district. It doesn’t matter what the reason is as long as you can articulate it and show in real numbers why it represents a great value.
Integrate with Social Media and the Web
Once you have your farm and your blog with all of this great information, it’s time for you to spread the word. We all know that Facebook is a great place to share information, but make sure you are using hashtags on Facebook and not just when you share your information on Twitter. If you have a website, make sure you are getting this information on the relevant places there as well.
Getting your content to rank well on Google is well outside the scope of this post, but if you are truly writing great, unique content on a hyperlocal level, you are already doing the most important thing to make sure your expertise and information is going to be found on Google and other search engines.
Don’t Forget Traditional Marketing
Part of the theme of this blog is to “be everywhere” and while the internet is what I consider to be the best place to be found, it is not, by any means, the only place to be found. If this is your farm, you can use mailings to inform them of the bullet points and then refer them back to your blog where those who are really interested can learn more. This will take time and effort but anything worth doing is worth doing well and the payoff will be substantial.
Consumers today want more from their experience with an agent than being told that this agent is the best or that agent is the #1 n the company. They demand more. They have an expectation that you are an expert willing to share and educate them. After all, they can typically go online and at least see some information. I would argue that what they see on websites like Trulia and Zillow hurt more than help, but they really don’t understand why that is. It’s your job and by offering them real information, they will see your value.
Now stop reading and start doing!
By Ryan Ward | October 29, 2013
No need to go into whether or not we should be using Facebook for our businesses anymore – only what the best way is for us to use the platform. There are personal Facebook timelines as well as business pages. You would think the names themselves would lend a good idea as to which one we should use for our business, but I still see people using a personal page, naming a personal account with their business name and adding friends even though it violates the TOS of Facebook. Setting aside rules and terms of service for a moment, let’s look at the differences between these two and whether you should use one, the other or both.
Here is what Facebook says:
“Personal timelines are for individual, non-commercial use. They represent individual people and must be held under an individual name.
You can follow Timelines to see public updates of people you’re interested in but aren’t friends with.
Facebook Pages look similar to personal timelines, but they offer unique tools for connecting people to a topic you care about, like a business, brand, organization or celebrity. Pages are managed by admins who have personal timelines. Pages are not separate Facebook accounts and do not have separate login information from your timeline.”
As a matter of creating a Facebook business page, you have to already have a personal timeline, but you don’t have to have a business page. From a branding perspective a business page allows you to post offers and a place where you can talk more specifically about your products or services without inundating your friends with work information. Here is a good set of tips to get started and make the most out of your business page.
On the other hand, Facebook is an informal place – maybe something like the backyard barbecue of social media so it is ok to talk about your business on your personal page, but no more so than you would hanging out with friends. A little is ok, but too much business during playtime will eventually annoy your friends and they will ignore you. A good rule of thumb would be 80% personal and NO MORE THAN 20% business.
What You Should Do
I’ve found that the best approach is to use both a personal timeline combined with a business page. You can talk ad nauseam about business stuff on your business page and you can share the really important stuff with your personal friends provided you don’t overwhelm them. Your personal friends, just like in real life, can be great advocates of your business as well. You can suggest they like your page and if you are compelling, they will share some of your business posts with their friends. Keep them separate but connect them from time to time. It’s ok for your friends to be reminded about your business concerns and it will help you remain top of mind to them when your products and services are needed. Just don’t go overboard. As a real estate agent, I have many “friends” on Facebook that post too much business information on their personal timelines. It just feels dirty, sales-like and generally unfriendly for the user. However, to see all of the business talk on a business page is to be expected. Post to your heart’s content!
Tell Me What You Think
Leave a comment below if you disagree or would like to add to the discussion!
By Ryan Ward | October 26, 2013
I recently lost all of the posts on this blog – it was completely my fault. I was lost, the theme was gone, the content was gone and I had to start over completely. I’ve been very busy and admittedly, neglected this blog and months past. I know, I know…
Anyway, I was trying to see what I could do to try and find these old posts, but the site was down for so long they fell out of the Google index. Not ready to give up, I went to the Wayback Machine and entered the URL for this site. I was able to find some of the old posts so I copied them, added some new images and got them back. One thing you may want to do is to note the date you originally wrote the posts and edit that when you put them back up in the event of a total loss as I had. They weren’t all there, but some were and that is better than nothing – especially when you are starting all over.
By Ryan Ward | October 24, 2013
There has been a lot written about whether it is still worth getting a domain with an exact match to a particular keyword you are interested in and whether or not they work. Over the years, Google has become much better at delivering relevant search results to consumers and to some degree, EMD’s have been limited in their success. I believe there is good reason for that. Obviously, just because you own a domain with the exact match to a keyword doesn’t necessarily mean you have the best website for people searching for those specific keywords. However, I think it’s still an important consideration if you are looking for a new domain for a number of reasons.
First, there is the obvious point of branding. If you are trying to sell a product, having one of the main product words in your domain can help users trust your site more and improve the click through rate from the search results. However, focusing on an exact match with SEO tunnel vision can quickly get you into trouble. Let’s say you find a domain with four words that make up a pretty good exact match query. You have to remember that there are usually going to be lots of different ways consumers are going to search for that phrase so focusing on one term may keep you from finding that traffic coming from all of those variations.
I’m in real estate so I will use an example from my slice of the web. My market is Atlanta. There are a handful of keywords that make up the majority of searches for people looking to buy a house here; atlanta homes for sale, atlanta real estate, real estate in atlanta, homes for sale in atlanta, etc…let’s say you pick up a domain like atlantahomesforsale(dot)com. This would be a great term, but it doesn’t by itself do anything to get you any traffic for atlanta real estate, homes for sale in atlanta, real estate in atlanta and the inumerable other variations consumers are going to use when performing searches – that is, if we assume that the EMD will still actually help for the one search term we purchased the domain to help us with.
Back in 2012, Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s SPAM team announced a filter for low quality EMD’s:
Minor weather report: small upcoming Google algo change will reduce low-quality "exact-match" domains in search results.
— Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) September 28, 2012
I believe this is a good thing and is part of the continued evolution of Google. I also believe that there still MAY be some benefit to exact match domains, but I would like to share some thoughts about it first as I just purchased one that I think can be helpful to my business – provided I ensure the content on the site is going to be of value to consumers searching for this search phrase.
Here is something to think about if you do decide to use an exact match domain. Make sure it’s the right EMD. That is, make sure you are going to be using the one you feel is most helpful or can deliver the most traffic (preferably both) to the consumer. In the one I just purchased, I thought about several variations of a search phrase. I focus much of my business in real estate in a suburb of Atlanta called Alpharetta. So, I had to ask myself what phrase would be best or most specific and relevant to the general query of Alpharetta real estate. I thought of a handful of phrase that include; alpharetta real estate, alpharetta ga real estate, alpharetta homes for sale, alpharetta homes and homes for sale in alpharetta.
After thinking about this for a couple of days, I came to believe that “homes for sale in alpharetta” was the best phrase if I could find that domain. The next thing I did was used the Keyword Planner in my Google’s Adwords account. In this tool, you can get a general idea of the number of impressions each of these variations receives along with the CTR and other information:
Perhaps “alpharetta homes for sale” may have more impressions, but not once you look at the CTR so I decided to purchase alpharettahomesforsale(dot)net. I’m not linking to it, because it isn’t anywhere near ready for someone to view at this point.
So, Do They Still Work?
I believe they do with a caveat. It’s been shown through some testing by people much smarter about this kind of stuff than me that the older EMD’s are still working well and we know that low quality EMD’s are not showing up as well because of the filter and it would probably serve as good notice that a “new” EMD is probably going to qualify as low quality at least for a while so it’s important to be patient and build high quality content if you are trying a test such as the one I am doing. Actually, what I am doing isn’t so much a test as it is a strategic attempt to develop a high quality website for consumers on this topic using a domain with a strong exact match query. However, if you think you are going to throw up a trash website with an EMD and get it to rank, you are wasting your time.
For years Google has said build a good site with content made for the consumer and you will succeed. If you aren’t willing to put in the work needed to make that happen, don’t bother worrying about an EMD.
By Ryan Ward | October 22, 2013
Make sure you back up your blog! I recommend having at least one blog separate from your main website and if you are going to do this, I suggest you host your own WordPress blog. It’s really not difficult to set up if you have some basic technical skills, but it is the best approach long term.
Back to backing up…This blog, hometurfmedia.com, has been hosted through GoDaddy and somehow was turned off and I either didn’t notice or wasn’t given a warning before it happened. I typically have an automatic backup emailed to me with a plugin called WP-DB-Backup that is simple and easy to use in case you have some type of failure like I just had.
Somehow, I neglected to install this plugin on this blog so I’m starting all over again. It’s very unfortunate, but it’s the way it is sometimes.
Don’t let this happen to you. Make sure your blog backs up and either sends you a backup by email or some other way so you don’t get stuck like I have today…
By Ryan Ward | September 5, 2012
I’ve had my real estate website up for about 5 years now and over 80% of our closings originate from the site. Over the years, we have had several redesigns – some major and some small and numerous tweaks and testing along the way. One constant has been the most important page on the website. It isn’t your homepage and it doesn’t have anything to do with YOU.
The most important thing on the site is the page from which consumers search for homes. It’s called your IDX page. IDX stands for Internet Data Exchange. It’s the reciprocal agreement between brokers in a given MLS to allow the sharing of their listings on other broker and agent websites.
The link title to this page is usually ‘Listings’ or ‘Search Listings’ or ‘Search Homes’ or something like that. The name you give it is less important – although I think it’s important for the title to be clear and descriptive. This page will receive the vast majority of your traffic. On our website, about 85% of the traffic goes to the various search listings pages.
Optimize to Get Users to This Page
Instead of using your homepage (the most likely page users will land on first) to talk about you, make sure there are nice Call to action images and language to get people to what they want to see or, if you have a custom IDX, make sure you have some sort of quick search for users because if they can’t easily find your listings, they will simply find another website that makes it easier.
In my opinion, images work better for this than text. It’s faster to see a large, well designed button that it is to ready itty bitty text which may or may not have an underline indicate a link depending how your website is styled.
Don’t leave it to chance either. We have multiple places and ways for users to get to our listings. Everyone uses websites a little bit differently and you want to be sure you have as many types of users covered as possible so don’t skimp and do test. Nothing works better than a little bit of testing to make sure you have things working right so don’t be afraid to change things up.
What Users Don’t Want
You. It’s that simple. Until you get their contact information and call them or they inquire about a property, very few of the people who come to your website have any interest in you. The exception here would be if you have a blog that you keep updated with timely and relevant information, but that is for a different day. For now, you need to make sure that the pages your users land on have an easy way for them to get to the pages that really matter. The actually real estate, of course!
My name is Ryan Ward and I own HomeTurfMedia which is my blog to share, explore and learn more about using media sources to generate more business for real estate and influence those you hope to do business with so they think of you how you want them to when they remember you for their real estate needs. My main real estate website is www.PremierAtlantaRealEstate.com and I have a team of agents that work with me on my team, Premier Atlanta Real Estate at Keller Williams Realty Consultants in Roswell, GA.