Archive for December, 2010

Social Media Tips for Real Estate Agents

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

Social media and real estate go hand in hand. Many of my clients are in real estate and I help them to use social media as a dynamic and professional tool. However, there is something of a learning curve. When using social media as a real estate agent keep these tips in mind:

• Always keep personal and real estate profiles separate. This doesn’t mean that you can’t have coworkers on your facebook or friends on Linkedin, but always think carefully about whether you want a potential business relation to see pictures of you with your sister’s baby or celebrating at a Griz game

• Think about each social network you are going to get involved with. Just because everyone has a myspace page, think about is it really relevant to what you want to do and who you are. For a real estate agent, Realtown would be good social network to get on, but Myspace would not be. But don’t just jump on the bandwagon of a social network, think about what having your ‘brand’ on there would mean by association

• Always check your privacy settings for any social profile, regardless of whether it is for real estate or personal. Just because you only use your facebook account for personal friends and acquaintances, remember that others can search for you and possibly see information. Google now allows you to search over social networks for information, so if you have pictures of you doing things you don’t want future home buyers to know about make sure your settings are done right

• Always add value to the social network. This means providing information that users actually want to know about. Now, keep in mind the specific audience of each network when figuring out what value is. On facebook with family and friends, a picture of your dog in a Santa outfit in front of the tree would be added value to your friends. That would not be value added information to your LinkedIn connections (but that market report on an up and coming real estate market would be!) Plus the better the value, the more likely somebody is going to retweet or repost it so you get to increase your audience without you lifting a hand

• Build quality relations. By quality we mean relevant. In other words, don’t spam invite a bunch of people. The days of who’s got more friends on myspace are over, it is better to have 10 relevant real estate specific ‘friends’ then having 400 strangers. In fact, a lot of professionals online will either think you’re a major party animal meeting bunches of people, or you’re a spammer concerned with quantity over quality

• Don’t SPAM! Let me repeat that DON’T SPAM!!! This goes back to value add. But it also means, don’t be constantly sending out requests to help you out with something, or asking people to post comments on blogs or asking for a retweet

• Remember the Golden Rule. Treat other people online like you would want to be treated. If somebody is wrong about something on a forum, politely explain the correct answer. Would you want somebody to attack you for being an idiot (or ‘flaming’ you) if you are wrong or to politely explain (possibly even in a private message) what the correct answer is?

• Try to listen to other people. This means that instead of posting meaningless “oh, that’s a great point” try to add something to the conversation. If someone posts about 10 staging ideas, post another one in a comment. And just like any real conversation, make sure to adjust what you are saying to what other people are saying. If you are on a forum discussing accounting techniques and someone post a different opinion after you posted, listen to what they said, and make sure to reference what they said in your post.

3 Misconceptions About Google’s Local Search

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

Countless articles have been written about Google’s recent overhaul of how it displays local search results; and I feel like I’ve read most of them. Along the way, I’ve come across a few of what I’d call misconceptions about Google’s changes and how they impact both the search results and how small/local businesses should adjust their approach to the new search results. Here they are:

1. This change diminishes/phases out organic SEO.

I’ve also seen Google’s new local SERPs described as a change that puts more emphasis on your Google Places address. Neither is accurate.

In the old way of local SEO, you essentially had these options:

  • Do local SEO on your business web site, optimizing pages for good, local keywords. The hope was to rank in the organic results that might show up below the old 7-pack, 3-pack, etc.
  • Claim and optimize your Google Places listing in order to get visibility inside the 7-pack, 3-pack, etc.
  • Both of the above.
  • Neither of the above.

I’m simplifying things there, but the point is that you could get visibility via local SEO and/or Google Places listings.

Now, your listing is inextricably tied to local SEO. The change doesn’t diminish one or the other; both are now required elements of any local search marketing effort. Without both an optimized web site and a solid business listing, your chances of great visibility in the new Google Places is low.

2. You can’t rank (or it’s harder to rank) for any city name outside the one where you’re located.

Ranking for cities other than where you have a physical location was always a challenge in the old local SERPs, and was essentially impossible in larger cities and/or competitive industries. A real estate agent in Concord, North Carolina, was just not going to get visibility for “charlotte real estate agent” or even “albemarle real estate agent.”

But, in smaller cities and/or less competitive industries, it was always possible to show up in the 7-pack or 3-pack of local results. That has not changed in the new Google Places. If you do enough searches outside the major cities, I’m certain you will see local businesses ranking for cities where they’re not actually located … just as they did before.

3. Local directories are dead.

The prevailing thought was that the new Google Places search results would pretty much kill internet yellow pages sites and other local directories. Not the case. I see Expedia, Yahoo Travel, and others showing up on a search for atlanta ga hotels. I see and SuperPages showing up on page one for nashville dermatologist. I see three directories at the top of page one for charlotte italian restaurants. Look at this screen shot for “child care nashville”:

Again, I have no doubt that you’ve also seen local directories doing just fine in the search results even after the big Google Places change. They’re also getting visibility in the links below some of the business listings, too, when there are reviews available.


  • Organic SEO on your web site is more important today than ever for local search visibility.
  • Getting visibility in cities where you don’t have an address is no more easy or difficult than it was before.
  • You’re still competing against local directories.

If you have any questions about this please let me know and I’ll try to help you examine your local search needs.

Mastering Local SEO

Saturday, December 18th, 2010

Part of what I do is provide recommendations to site owners about how they should optimize their web sites for search engines and local search. Often this list of recommendations is quite long and made up of items some of which are relatively easy to implement and some of which will require quite a bit of work. As you can imagine, there is sometimes push back from the site owner regarding the high effort items. Usually this resistance is phrased like, “Do I really need to do item #43?”

In the past I’ve taken the approach of explaining each recommendation to make sure it is understood (some can be quite technical) along with the reason for it when it comes to search engine rankings. Obviously the person paying for my services has the final say and so once I’ve provided my explanation I leave it to them to give the thumbs up or thumbs down. Sometimes so many items are rejected that I’m fairly certain the client has guaranteed failure with their local SEO efforts.

What I believe I’ve failed to emphasize is that the only way to win the local SEO game is to be better than all of the other competing sites. This is obvious to me and probably to everyone doing SEO work, but I’m now convinced that people outside of the search industry don’t get this idea. I believe they think that the game is just with the search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and MSN.

So if a web site happens to have very little competition because it focuses on a very niche area, then the amount of local SEO required is going to be small. In such cases it makes sense to look at a list of recommendations and reject the time consuming and expensive items. However, for web sites where competition is present, perhaps from web-savvy affiliate marketers that build their web sites from scratch with local SEO in mind, it simply doesn’t make sense to not do everything possible to improve rankings in the search engines.

Essential Ingredients of Article Marketing for Local SEO

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

Article Marketing is a great platform on which to build your online business.

“But wait Chuck, I thought Article Marketing was good just for back links and traffic”

Well, Article Marketing is great for back links and traffic, and so much more. This is because Article Marketing provides the 5 main ingredients that you need to build a local business online and optimize it for Local SEO. These 5 main ingredients are Content Creation, Online Visibility, Traffic Generation, List Building and Product Creation.

So let’s take a closer look at each of these 5 essential ingredients:

Content Creation – No matter your niche, you need to be able to create fresh, unique and usable content for your prospects. From time to time you will online that content is dead. Wrong. Content is not only alive and well, content is king online. And relationship connection is queen, and you can have both with Article Marketing.

Every time you create an article you are creating content that you can use over and over.

Online Visibility – The Golden Rule of the New Internet is “whoever has the greatest reach wins.” And online visibility is the fast path to a greater reach. You don’t have to be found all over the internet but you do want to be found all over your niche. And you can do this quickly when you repurpose parts of your article on your blog and Social Media sites, as well as Article Directories.

When you are found all over your niche you are naturally seen as the “go-to” expert in your niche.

Traffic Generation – Traffic is the lifeblood of your business. You can have a great web site with great products but if no one ever sees them you are sunk. You want to have 3 kinds of traffic: immediate, consistent, and long term. Article Marketing is still the best free way to get immediate, consistent and long term traffic.

And once you submit an article online it can send you traffic forever.

List Building – You want a list community that is highly qualified and hyper-responsive. When someone reads your article and then clicks on your links for what you offer, they have qualified themselves as someone very interested in what you have to offer.

And when you take good care of your list community, they will take good care of you by being hyper-responsive to your offers.

Product Creation – When you are creating your content you are creating your information products. You can expand your content into info products or you can compile your article content into info products. You can also repurpose your content into audio and video as well.

With the regular content creation of Article Marketing, you have set the stage for being a prolific product creation machine and developing your Local SEO.

2011 Local SEO Search Predictions

Friday, December 10th, 2010

The predictions season is here . . . Telmetrics is one of the first out of the gate with its “Top Local Search Trends for 2011.” Here they are for you pleasure and consumption with comments by me:

1) SEM Churn Levels Off: We expect churn to decrease in 2011 as SEM agencies have aggressively adopted key measurement tools to help prove the value of their services. Transparent performance and positive customer/advertiser satisfaction go hand in hand.

2) Quality of Leads Trumps Volume: Advertisers have realized that call or click volume doesn’t necessarily translate to a quality body of leads. Local advertisers have become more savvy and will demand tangible lead quality measurement in 2011.

3) Call Tracking Gets Social: In 2011, we expect more advertisers to monetize their social media initiatives and with that, demand performance reporting on social media campaigns. Call tracking within social campaigns will help validate the model as consumers are still picking up the phone for the last leg of a transaction. Additionally, reputation management platforms that embed call measurement will bridge the gap between online and offline customer feedback.

4) Speech-to-Text Adoption Takes Hold: Caller intelligence from consumer- advertiser dialogue—available through speech-to-text technologies—will be widely adopted and advertisers will be able to more effectively optimize ad spend and creative to drive more leads. Lead quality details such as customer sentiment and keywords spoken will quickly become must-haves.

5) Value of Traffic from Online Sources Revealed: As the ROI of online platforms becomes more transparent, traditional ad channels that generate quality call volume will have an opportunity to recoup lost ground by demonstrating their value on a level playing field.

At a general level I agree with all of these.

Local SEO with Google Maps and Google Places, etc.

Sunday, December 5th, 2010

Every business wants to be on the first page of a search when someone is searching for local businesses. But, how do you maximize your chances of getting on the first page?

There are a few ways to help optimize your local SEO:

First, get listed with the search engines. Getting listed by Google Maps will help tremendously. You have to fill out an application, get verified, and then wait a few weeks before your business will show up. Yahoo Local is another important listing. You can do this without the verification and your business gets listed faster. The more exposure you get on these sites, the more customers you will get.

Another way to optimize your SEO for you local region is to get listed in yellow pages type directories. Yellow Book, Yellow Pages, Yelp, and CitySearch are all examples of these types of directories. People utilize these just like they used the Yellow Pages phone book in the past. They need a service or a product and they look it up. Your business will get much more exposure when listed on these sites.

You should also list your business on free local classifieds such as Craigslist, Backpage or USFree Ads. People look to these sites to find service every day. These are very popular with Internet users and will get maximum exposure for little cost and effort.

Another way to get more exposure is to get reviewed. Ask your customers, or your friends and family to review your business on the various directories and online review sites. You can also attempt to put a link to your business on various local sites such as a Chamber of Commerce site.

One of the most important thing you can do is to manage your business profile. Your profile contains the basics: business name, address, phone number, and business description. This is what information will appear when someone does a search. This information will also appear on sites for national data providers. You certainly want this information to be correct and give a true description of your business.

If you have a web page, you can do a few things to make it more local search friendly. You should have your address on every page of your site. Furthermore, even if you have a toll free phone number, you should put your local phone number of every page of the web site.

Creating a page on your site titles “location/directions” will also help make it friendly to local searches. Have a link to Google Maps and Yahoo Maps on your location/directions page. If your business serves other surrounding towns, list as many of those as you can on your site.

Local SEO has become very important since Google introduced Google Places. Also, the proliferation of netbooks and smartphones have increased the important of getting listed on top locally. If you have a business that is living for local customers, learning how to get the maximum exposure on search engines is vital to the health of your business.

Google Instant Preview adds visuals to SEO

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

Earlier this month, Google added a new feature to their Search experience: Google Instant Preview. The feature, explained in detail on the official Google Blog, accelerates the search process and adds a visual aspect to the SEO job description. In order to activate Instant Preview, users must click on the magnifying glass nestled within each search result. Once activated, a graphical preview flips up when the cursor hovers over any part of a search result.

Like many of Google’s enhancements to the Search process, the arrival of Instant Preview affects the SEO industry. Many web marketers were tempted to dismiss Instant Preview’s SEO influences after reading that the change would not influence algorithmic SERPs. Sure, the rankings of your client won’t change, but what if your #1 ranking doesn’t appeal to users visually? Instant Preview encourages conversations and integration between SEO and Web Designers for maximum return on search engine marketing efforts.

SEO without an Algorithm

An important element to each preview returned is the text highlighted, emboldening the keywords from the search query; a golden opportunity to impress searchers and ensure a click-through. This concept is similar to well-crafted meta-descriptions: Optimized copy won’t influence the algorithmic results directly, but the right keyword usage can lead to increased traffic and visitors.

As mentioned earlier, Instant Preview adds a visual dynamic to the SEO process. How do your landing pages appear in Google’s preview? It’s important to note that Previews do not include Flash graphics. As you can see in the example with a search for “YouTube”, pages loaded with Flash are unappealing and may cost you visitors.

The wall between the Search Optimization Department and Web Designers is slowly crumbling due to changes like Instant Preview. With so much of search decision-making fueled by the look and feel of a site, SEO has a voice in webpage design, at least when forming landing pages.

Changes in Web Marketing

The introduction of Instant Preview is the latest in a long line of Google efforts to organize the way the internet works. If you want traffic, you have to play their game. Instant Preview brings sweeping changes to those sites hoping to profit off pop-ups or windowless Flash Ads. The Google Webmaster Blog explains:

Try to avoid interstitial pages, ad pop-ups, or other elements that interfere with your content. In some cases, these distracting elements may be picked up in the preview of your page, making the screenshots less attractive.

Additionally, Google is picking up valuable seconds in terms of Average Time on Site, and in the process, building trust in the Google search process. Instant Preview affords users the ability to quickly interact with a page and determine its usefulness while never leaving the safe haven of Google’s search results; a notion that contributes to overall brand loyalty to the search giant. Tricky? Maybe. Smart? Absolutely.

Game Changer?

The arrival of Instant Preview is merely another example of the constant evolution that is SEO. Interpreting Google’s signals and actions is an exciting aspect of SEO that will never end.