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May 30 / bschwartz

Getting Local With Google+

find-8-marketing-digital-solutions-web-design-seo-get-found-1If you’re a small local business, having a Google+ Local profile is imperative to putting your brand – quite literally – on the map. A decade ago a basic website with a phone number and an e-mail address would get enough attention to generate new business.

Then, everything got local.

Instead of projecting a global presence, today’s best SEO targeting techniques encourage companies to dive deep into their neighborhoods. Prospects, especially in real estate, identify more closely with businesses who have established themselves as part of their communities. This is because real estate agents are relied on to be experts in their community, especially for those who are relocating to a new city. Agents need to know what each neighborhood can offer potential home buyers.

Google+ Local is a powerful tool for small businesses targeting local customers because it combines customer reviews and local search into one platform. Google Places was recently replaced with Google+ Local – a merging of Places and Plus that serves up your Google+ Local listing in Search and Maps results on mobile devices and traditional browsers.

Yet, many small businesses still aren’t sure how to take advantage of Google+ Local. How do you, as a small business owner, unlock the full potential of this tool?

Get Found

Over the past few years, search engines have started automatically applying more localized filters to users search results. These localized filters are apparent by the search results that appear on the map to the right of the “google+ box” results, when executing a search. Listing and claiming your business properly with Google+ local is the most important step to improving your local search rankings.

Google+ Local needs some special attention to be effective. Google wants to provide searchers with the best results so focus on making your page as informative and appealing as possible. Pictures, custom business descriptions, and videos are just a few of the ways Google+ Local listings stand out from the others. For a good Google+ Local crash course, check out this article on Search Engine Watch.

Get Friendly

Today’s best organic search engine optimization techniques require you to meet your neighbors. And everything you do, both online and off, can be leveraged for SEO. Are there any local events you can participate in/contribute to that will help with your local branding AND build a few links to your website? That coffee shop will improve its search rankings when it posts blog items about the pizza shop that moved in on the corner, or about the new bookstore up the street. A neighborhood with local businesses that link to each other create a rising tide that lifts all their boats. The more, the merrier!

When you live and work in a local area, social media is a fantastic way to connect with your community, especially when you have a claimed Google+ Local profile. Post updates about what is going on in your store, share other local events, have conversations with your customers and local leaders and more!

As a business owner, you should be harnessing the power of reviews. Executing a localized SEO strategy doesn’t necessarily mean devoting yourself to blogging about your neighborhood. The best testimonials about your business have always come from your customers. Today, your customers are writing about you online, whether you know it or not, and those reviews have an affect on your Google Local rankings. Embracing those conversations and inviting them onto your site and your Google + Pages can help your business maintain its commitment to serving existing customers while discovering new ones. Real customer reviews are essential for local SEO.

Furthermore, managers and owners who take the time to resolve complaints in public can earn repeat business by building trust online. In return, they can reap the benefits of comments, tweets, and blog posts attesting to the quality of their business—all of which factor into the latest search engine rankings.

To sum up, here are the key ways that will help you maximize the power of Google+ Local:

  • Make sure you have a Google+ Business Page for entry into the Local space
  • Once its claimed, merge your Business Page with your Google+ Local Page
  • Update it with marked up business information + engaging content
  • Build rank for your Google+ Local Page by optimizing the most important ranking factors (on-site/offsite factors, social media/mobile factors, reviews)
  • Consistently publish value-charged content and engage with your online communities

Ultimately, when your customers live and work in a very specific community it’s important to go after that location in as many ways as possible with your SEO. The stronger presence you can build online and off the better success you’ll have over time.find-8-marketing-digital-solutions-web-get-found

 

May 22 / bschwartz

@Properties Selects VHT Studios!

Integration of VHT floor plans and photo services creates robust marketing package that sells more homes.

logo_lowChicago, IL – May 21, 2013 – VHT Inc., a leading provider of visual and digital marketing services, announced today that @properties, a leading Chicago-based real estate brokerage, has chosen its Professional Interactive Floor Plans Service to enhance its marketing of real estate listings.

VHT Studios’ Professional Interactive Floor Plans Service is integrated with its photography capabilities, providing real estate professionals with the same high quality, consistency and convenience they have come to expect from the nation’s leader in real estate imagery. Photographs and expert room measurements are taken on-site by VHT specialists in one easy appointment. Both photos and floor plans are delivered within 2-3 business days.

The combination of interactive floor plans and great photos creates the ultimate shopping experience for buyers and a robust marketing package that sells more homes.

“In today’s competitive marketplace, selling real estate is all about the visuals,” said Brian Balduf, VHT Chairman. “Having great photographs and videos of a property is critical in creating an emotional connection with potential buyers. But the addition of a professionally-drafted floor plan enhances a buyer’s viewing experience and helps them understand dimensional aspects of a home that aren’t apparent in the photos.”

“It’s almost irresponsible not to make floor plans available when it’s so easy to do with VHT’s new service,” said Thaddeus Wong, co-owner of @properties. “Properties can be equivalent in location, and number of bedrooms and bathrooms, but that doesn’t mean they’re all the same. You need to have a full grasp of how all the rooms relate to one another to help you determine a property’s value and if it fits a buyer’s needs.”

Wong said @properties is committed to providing interactive floor plans and high-resolution photos free of charge to sellers on all properties listed at $500,000 or higher, and will soon extend the service to those at $300,000 or higher.

“The majority of our listings will soon have floor plans included,” Wong said. “It’s crucial to give buyers as much information as possible.”

“The addition of interactive floor plans is yet another innovation by @properties that gives our agents and clients an advantage in a competitive marketplace,” said Erin Mandel, agent for @properties.

VHT Professional Interactive Floor Plans show all walls, partitions, doors, windows, staircases, columns, recesses, chimneys, major appliances, floor levels and room dimensions. Measurements are taken by experienced professionals.

VHT also offers a Floor Plan Reconstruction service to produce new floor plans from architectural blueprints that may be difficult for buyers to read and interpret.

Apr 25 / bschwartz

You Are Here

‘Real Estate for Sale in (insert town name here)’ might be the Holy Grail of keywords in the real estate market, but is it really the right local keyword for you? To avoid competing with businesses that are outside of the country, state or even town, there is one appropriate strategy: focusing on hyper local SEO.

Local SEO has the ability to personalize a customer’s experience and blends the boundaries of the real world and the internet. Companies now have the power to release a message locally and get the information right to their target market. In fact, local SEO benefits businesses in ways that global SEO cannot.

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Here are 5 ways to stand out using hyper local keywords and tactics.

1)      Get specific, and then get more specific

‘Real Estate for Sale in X’ is a fine keyword, but it is incredibly broad, and with broad, all-encompassing keywords comes competition. When you work in a metropolitan area or in an area with a lot of competition, it pays to get hyper local with your SEO. For instance, let’s say you’re a real estate agent in Chicago, every other real estate agent and brokerage in Chicago is going to be focusing in on ‘Chicago’. Take it a step further and focus on the neighborhoods you serve, ‘homes for sale in Lincoln Park’ for example. If you’ve followed our past blog posts (‘Get Specific and Go Local’ and ‘Content is Key(word)’) we may sound like a broken record, but going hyper local with your keywords will help ensure the right customers are finding your website.

2)      Be a recognizable face in your neighborhood

As a real estate agent or brokerage, it is important to show you are an expert in your local community. So get involved! Show that involvement on the neighborhood pages of your agent or brokerage website. Offer a list of the top things to do in your neighborhood. Give information about the shopping, the nightlife, the restaurants, the schools, etc. Creating pages on your site that give details about your marketplace, the surrounding shops and businesses and insights into the homes in the area, allows you to be in expert in ways that nobody from outside your marketplace could possibly do. Plus, when you write about community news and events, you naturally attract people who are fans of that community. Everything you do, both online and off, can be leveraged for SEO.

3)      Get social

Along with showing your neighborhood expertise on your neighborhood pages and website, social media is a fantastic way to connect with your community. Social media and local SEO are interdependent. Social networking sites, like Facebook, often have geotag media, creating an optimization point for local SEO. This gives credibility to a business and solidifies its location within search engine listings.

Furthermore, post photos of new listings, photos of happy new home owners, share local events, links to blog posts, neighborhood trivia, and your pets – whatever! Just start posting and sharing. Social signals are becoming increasingly important for SEO so the more times your content is shared on social sites the more valuable it becomes to the search engines.

4)      Utilize Google Applications

The data you input in your Google+ profile, the connections you make, the interactions you have and the posts you make are all part of an increasingly visible digital footprint that begins to define ‘you’ as an entity in Google’s search. Google is starting to view this information as humans see it, which means that you are likely to have a more targeted audience in Google search than ever before. And the key here is relevance. This is because in most cases Google can see the general location of a searcher, or the location he or she is searching for. When localization is in play for your area, Google will boost your search result even more for in-network users, and more importantly for mobile search.

For example, the listing of a condo for sale in Chicago posted on Facebook may get a little bit of interaction with some of those who see it, it may get re-shared a few times, a few comments might be posted, but its chances of finding a buyer are slim and the post will get buried in the stream of new content within a couple of hours or so. The chances then of the right person seeing it, at the right time, with the right mindset, are so slim that they hardly do justice to the effort involved in posting it. Posting on Google+ is a whole different, and better, ballgame. The data is indexed by Google. The search engine notes that the listing is for a condo in Chicago. Google will move your listing to the top of the search when it’s relevant to the search query.

Quick tip: It is important to just get your presence felt through these Google+ pages and Google Local. The way to start going about this is creating profiles for all of your offices and be sure to completely fill out those profiles. Incorporating photos, video, address, local phone number, business hours, etc, will help your local search results. Correlation studies show that Google takes “profile completion percentage” into account when ranking Google pages.

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You should have at least one image larger than 250×250 but less than 1024×1024 and under 1MB. This square image should be your logo or a picture of your place of business. Each page allows you to upload 10 images. By default, if you upload one image or less, the page will display a map of your location along the photo strip a Google+.

5)      Be Authentic

Aside from attracting local search traffic, local SEO has a few other key advantages. The first advantage is that a website that has had the proper local optimization treatment done to it will be viewed as being more authentic by big search engines like Google. The second benefit is that local search engine optimization has the ability to bring authenticity, mobile users and an audience of people who are more likely to purchase products or services directly to a website. The last feature that local search engine optimization carries with it involves the ability to bring in users who are more likely to be customers.


These are just five ways to get hyper local with your SEO. When your customers live and work in a very specific community it is important to go after that location in as many ways as possible with your SEO. The stronger presence you can build online and off the better success you’ll have over time. Today, local search traffic is something that the real estate industry can’t afford to ignore.

 

Apr 19 / Nick Teel

MythBusters on Virtual Tour Providers!

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You may currently have a web vendor promising you maximum SEO benefits. That they will get certain landing pages to show up high on search engine results pages, that certain key phrases will guarantee lead generation or you may even be promised a silver bullet solution for SEO. But do you really know if your site and your virtual tours are really getting the most exposure they can in the Real Estate Industry?

The online market for real estate is a completely different beast compared to any other industry.

Could it be the fact that everyone is in the same field, looking for the same clients/consumers, who are searching for the same keywords? Or is it the fact that real estate is the single largest visual competition in the online world. A brokerage’ website success simply comes down to how visually appealing, literally and figuratively, it is to consumers, and thus to the search engines. That appearance extends through all of the marketing tools that brokerages use and none have greater effect on on the visual extension of your brand than that of virtual tours. But if what your virtual tour provider is promising you in terms of SEO sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Below, VHT debunks common myths that you may have heard from your Virtual Tour Providers.

Have you been told

1.         
“Video Syndication is a Backlinking Goldmine”

Issue – Many video sites automatically set a nofollow attribute on any external links within their video pages.  What this means is that search engines do not transfer PageRank or the SEO link markers from the video to the receiving website.  They simply do not follow the link to the website.

Truth – Linkbuilding is now, more than ever, one of the single most important factors to your SEO success. The only difference is you need to be getting a variety of high authoritative sites pointing inbound links to your site. The numbers of links is not as important as where they are coming from.  If your virtual tour provider or web vendor promises you backlinks, make sure you take the time to investigate where these links are coming from.  If they are telling you YouTube is the silver bullet…Look elsewhere my friends.  Be sure to have your virtual tour providers explain their link profile and how they can help build on yours.


2.       
“Your Virtual Tour is SEO optimized”

This is often a myth for several very big reasons.

  • Hosting a Virtual Tour on your Subdomain creates a duplicate page on your site

Issue -Duplicate content is a major SEO no-no. Most virtual tours are created using mere copies of the content that a brokerage has on their property details page. This is not actually original content, and it may even be flagged as duplicate content by search engine algorithms and, ultimately, have a negative effect on your site.

Truth - By hosting duplicate content on a subdomain, virtual tour companies are just creating a bigger mess than they probably bargained for and can actually cause penalties for the brokerage site.

  • You are, in essence, creating a competitive arena from your own visual content

Issue – The virtual tour provider is essentially creating a competitive environment between your main property pages, your agent property pages (if you have them) and their tours, hosted on your domain. This can have a major affect on the page authority of your properties, because you are splitting them between several versions of the same content.

The more pages you have, the more spread out your link web is, thus having people linking to multiple versions of your property pages squanders the authority a canonical version of your property information should have.

Truth - Canonical links give authority to one version of a page, but passes on the link value and the content value of the aforementioned duplicate page. A virtual tour should be used as an extension of your property pages,  not take away the authority the original pages should have. By Setting a canonical suggestive (Rel=”canonical” on your Virtual tour pages), the authority passes through from wherever you syndicate out to.   Setting a preferred version of this content will help avoid duplicate content issues and pass the SEO benefit back to the brokerage site, where it should be.

  • Virtual Tour Companies often sacrifice SEO value by hiding the valuable content behind Flash and Ajax

Issue – To this day, search engines do not crawl Ajax or Flash; therefore any content within/hidden behind those implementations are not crawled by search engines. The broker reaps none of the SEO benefit that a virtual tour can provide if that virtual tour is primarily made from Flash.seo_magnify

Truth – If your virtual tours are being created with Flash and Ajax your on-page information is not even seen. Likely, search engine crawlers are not even finding your tour and that means you are missing out on valuable leads or referrals from these page extensions.  Many Virtual Tour companies have no idea the affect that certain programming languages can have on how search engines see their content. You need to really make the provider knows what they are talking about!

  • Rich media is not optimized well for search engines, namely photos and videos.

Issue Plain and simple, in most cases your visual assets are not being optimized for SEO.  Many virtual tour providers and web vendors miss the boat on optimizing your rich media and fail to get this valuable content noticed.  There seems to be a lack of focus on optimizing your visual assets, in a world where visual assets are your key marketing tool.

Truth- Educate yourself and ask your virtual tour provider to educate you about the rich media and html language that will make your content SEO friendly. Many rich media elements influence your search engine results position including the image name, alt attributes and image size.  Best practice of image optimization is surprisingly positively correlated with good rankings. It also helps considerably with image search, a popular and oft-employed vertical/universal search system.

  • “Virtual Tours will provide substantial increases in lead generation via Search engines.”

Issue – If the page is not SEO Optimized then it most likely is not found or even indexed on the search engines. If this is the case, that virtual tour provider is just blowing smoke, because leads cannot come from search engines if the search engines will not even index the tours.

Truth – Don’t miss out on the low hanging fruit because customers cannot find your tour or there is no mechanism that drives traffic. Work internally to create an online lead team that all information is funneled through or more importantly,  Make sure there are clear calls to action on your virtual tour that get traffic back to your brokerage website. And, of course, make sure the tours themselves are being optimized.


The biggest Myth of all is that virtual tours are a silver bullet solution for your website’s SEO.

Virtual tours should be a websites way of extending their reach to various avenues, to help generate traffic back to their site. To get a response you must capture a consumer’s attention with visuals, but if you’re not optimizing your virtual tours and visuals for SEO, if your web vendor is getting credit and seen as the authority of your content, then you’re losing the battle, and eventually the War.

Having an aesthetically pleasing virtual tour doesn’t get you anywhere if you can’t be seen by consumers or by search engines. Real estate is all about being seen. Don’t let your virtual tour provider ruin that because of false promises about how SEO friendly their solution is.

Mar 28 / Nick Teel

Get Specific and Go Local

iStock_000000101029XSmall11Location matters, but few real estate sites provide quality content to prospective buyers at the community level. If your website only provides information on listings, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity for user engagement and a stage to demonstrate your agents’ local expertise.

As the internet has become a primary source for buyers, (90% of buyers start their search online) it is crucial to make the best first impression. This means getting noticed in a pool filled with major SEO and SEM budgets geared toward driving traffic to real estate destination sites. It’s not an easy task.

Furthermore, nearly 70% of buyers who take action on a real estate site began their search with a local geography term. For example, ‘Old Downtown Algonquin Homes for Sale’ or Real Estate in Old Downtown Algonquin, IL’. Having locally relevant content on communities, neighborhoods and even schools makes a huge difference in your potential to get in front of buyers and present them with relevant content once they are on your site. Not only do buyers notice, search engines like Google take note of this too when ranking you in their search results.
 

Stand out in a Crowd – Community Profile Pages

How is one noticed in a sea of local information? Create localized content pages that you can utilize as landing pages for consumers, but put your own perspective on them. There are numerous sites out there devoted to providing community based information, but they all have their own unique perspective, or at least they should. A government site is different from Wikipedia, which is different from a Food Critic’s blog, which is then again different from the local school information page. Just providing the content to get another page on your does not get you noticed.

A brokerage’s local profile content must be tailored to a real estate perspective. People like to think of real estate professionals as authorities in their communities, therefore it is important to utilize that knowledge base. The way a real estate professional sees a community is very different than that of a government official or even the consumer. Interested buyers and potential clients are looking for different information than generic Wikipedia data and U.S. Census statistics.
 

How can you start beefing up your neighborhood pages?

Get specific. Get beyond specific. Narrow down what keywords you’d like to be found for in a search that’s local to you and incorporate those keywords into your content on these pages.   The easiest way to do this is to optimize your content as a neighborhood expert. This means that in addition to the listings and photos on your website, you should also have these unique pages that portray the added value of the surrounding neighborhood where your listings are located. Here are some ways to incorporate that info:

  • Articles with important information about the neighborhood, utility information, and great places to eat, etc
  • Photos of local hot spots and interesting neighborhood events you’ve attended
  • Photo/video/blog posts from your agents of dishes from restaurants, cool buildings or landmarks in the area
  • Articles about upcoming events and festivals in the neighborhood or general neighborhood news
  • Video interviews with local community experts
  • Video tour of a hot property that has come up for sale
  • Neighborhood video tours
  • Home values, selling prices and other market information.
  • Updated images, photos, and listings

 
Let’s walk through a neighborhood

For instance in Algonquin where I live, there are a few main streets, and there is the old downtown and the new downtown. There is the east side of the river and the west side. There are a few key parks and a few key schools. There are certain bad traffic intersections.  There are a few gems of restaurants, i.e. everyone goes to the dairy queen on rte. 31 after a sporting event.  There are also a few key shopping areas that everyone in town and in real estate knows.  This is the type of information people want to know. A community blog or postings from agents about their perspective on the town would be incredibly helpful. And, of course, photos, photos, photos.

If you utilize this type of perspective for each community, this provides your own unique presentation of the community that surrounds your inventory.  What better way to sell a home than create an experience of familiarity and comfort  in the surrounding area.

Here is a good example of a neighborhood page with recommended homes based on location with built-in search functionality to drill down even further in a certain geographic area.

Michael Saunders

 

After selecting a specific community page, in this case Bay Isles, Florida, we can see unique written content, maps, rich media (video, photos) and textual content, business reviews, video tours, blog posts targeted at the Bay Isles area, and of course, recommended Bay Isles listings. All this dynamic content creates user engagement.

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This is especially powerful for attracting relocation buyers who are not as familiar with various cities and neighborhoods in your community. Help them understand why people in your community live where they live, what it looks like, and that your agents have expertise in the communities that interest them. This increases conversions to leads, and should also increase conversions from leads to transactions.

Local-search visibility should be a springboard – a launching pad. Local SEO is most valuable when you use it to open up even more streams of potential customers. With dedicated time and resources, you can turn your stale website into a hub of targeted community content.  Your website will no longer be your typical home buyer/ seller resource with canned information.   It is a rich center of information for any potential client. It has a web page on each community in your territory, each one touting a compilation of information that only your website can provide. Now that’s a web page worthy of a number one spot.

Mar 27 / bschwartz

Digging the great real estate photos – Really!

Real estate photography is all the rage these days.

Jumping on the growing popularity of Web sites like Pinterest and Houzz, Zillow recently launched an image-based service on its real estate platform called Zillow Digs (www.zillow.com/digs).

Digs lets people browse thousands of images that have been uploaded to Zillow, including photos of dream kitchens, beautiful bathrooms, elegant living rooms, gardens  and even tricked-out pantries.  Aimed at home owners who are planning to remodel, Digs lets people share photos, create inspiration boards and get design ideas, examples and even detailed remodeling cost estimates.

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It’s easy to see the appeal of such a service.  No longer do consumers need to buy glossy home and garden magazines to find inspiration for their remodeling projects.  Services such as Digs are free and available on their laptops or tablets.

Zillow officials say they have long term plans to monetize Digs through lead generation, advertising or e-commerce.  Home improvement professionals are already being invited to post profiles and photos of their work on Zillow – it’s only a matter of time until Zillow plans to begins upselling them to additional advertising and marketing services.

Which means Digs will likely follow in the footsteps of three-year-old Houzz, which connects homeowners with design and other building professionals.  Houzz recently raised $35 million in its third round of venture funding and reports more than 12 million monthly visitors and 160,000 “active home professionals” on its platform.

With all the gorgeous photographs fueling content on these sites, the launch of Digs only highlights the growing value of visual marketing in the real estate industry.   Visually speaking, the stakes are higher than ever.

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When shopping for real estate, consumers have come to expect flawless, professional photography as a given.   Ninety percent of buyers are online, and they’re focusing on photographs as they browse listing after listing.  If the photos don’t wow them, they just move on to the next property.

 Photos by VHT Studios.

 

Mar 25 / bschwartz

Real Estate: Searching for the perfect home starts online

VHT has long been an advocate of using a complete portfolio of quality photographs to advertise an online listing. As has been referenced in numerous white papers, VHT knows that consumers have dramatically changed how they shop for a new home in the last 5-10 years. Nine out of 10 buyers use the Internet as a resource when looking to purchase a home, and 52 percent of buyers use it as their first step, according to a 2013 survey by the National Association of Realtors.

Carrie Miller of The Suffolk Times talked to several top brokerages and agents who all seemed to agree with what VHT has been saying; that a complete portfolio of quality photographs is the most important part of an online listing.

In fact, Nancy Cervelli and Barry Novick of The Corcoran Group in Southold said they hire professional photographers to best showcase each property.

“We take them no matter what the price of a house is — if it’s $300,000 or $3 million,” Ms. Cervelli said. “The most important thing on the Internet is to have great photos with good lighting, or people will go on to the next property.”

The article featured a photograph by VHT Photographer Lorraine Marino.

Feb 28 / Nick Teel

Organic SEO: Do Keywords Matter Anymore?

The simple answer to the question “Does keyword ranking even matter anymore?” is yeah, it still does. Frankly, I sort of get tired of this question, and the response “keywords don’t matter anymore, Post Penguin and Panda.”  Think of it this way, if you are a real estate brokerage, and you focus your content and the keywords on your site, around how awesome of a community you have, but never include real estate focused key phrases,  you’re not going to be seen as relevant for real estate related consumer queries.  If I fail to use the phrase “homes for sale” on my site, I’m not going to show up for searches that include that phrase.  It’s somewhat of a simple concept.

So, let’s cut right to the chase. Don’t forget about your keyword focus when building content, otherwise you might as well count yourself out, in search engine placements.  And then all the time you spent creating killer content is, well, irrelevant. Build relevancy for your content, don’t just build “unique” content.  What better way to do that than have a topic of focus (your keywords).  Showing up for relevant queries in the search results is the first hurdle you’ll have to face, and it will probably be a tough one. If you are looking for somewhere to start in improving your SERP (search engine results position), start with your keywords (or think of it as, start with the spotlight of each page).

Google used to rely heavily on keywords. What do we mean by a keyword? A keyword is a word or phrase that search users type into a search bar when they are looking for your product or service. Google would use the terms found on your site, in your keyword Meta tag and in your Meta elements to establish what your site was about and how they should direct search traffic for related queries. It was only a matter of time before crafty developers and SEO consultants stuffed it full of keywords that were not necessarily relevant to their website content, so Google made the decision to ignore it in determining search engine rankings.

Okay, so if these items are no longer a ranking factor why should you spend time writing Meta tags and Meta descriptions for each page and include keywords? A keyword is a word or phrase that search users type into a search bar when they are looking for your product or service. Google would use the terms found on your site, in your keyword Meta tag and in your Meta elements to establish what your site was about and how they should direct search traffic for related queries.

First things first, conduct keyword research that establishes what consumers are actually typing into the search engines to find your site’s subject matter.   Then it’s your job to implement those keywords into your page content and major elements naturally/organically. It is still important to first focus your attention on keywords, and not just “how cool can I make my content,” but ultimately you want to meld that creativity in with your keyword data.

The simple fact of the matter is while you may pick up tactics every now and then or work with certain SEO strategies as Google changes their algorithms and rules, over time every fad will pass and just two key elements will remain.

You will ALWAYS want to know what people are searching for…

You will ALWAYS want to create content that people enjoy/find useful…

Luckily both of these key aspects of SEO can be accomplished by starting of with keyword research. Focus on certain key phrases helps meld your site’s content and keywords help give relevancy to the content being created.

With that, we move to using your keywords to create relevant content.

If you always focus on creating content that is targeted to the right keywords for your audience, then you will always have a solid base to work from and you can worry as much or as little as you want about adding the latest search optimization technique or link building campaigns.

It’s often said that content is king, but the truth is “creating content that people are searching for is king”. It may not sound as catchy but it’s the one truth in SEO that will never change. Focus on your keywords and content and the rest will follow.

Jan 17 / bschwartz

Photography: The Most Visible Reflection of Your Company’s Brand A Brokerage’s Essential Guide to Getting the Most out of Its Visual Assets

A new VHT white paper by VHT founder, Brian Balduf has arrived. The topic at hand: Photography. Namely, good photography. It’s obvious from even a cursory glance at many real estate Web sites that the industry in general tends to overlook the importance of good photographs. Consumers don’t. When even a used $50 coffee pot on e-Bay has stunning, striking photos, consumers expect that sites marketing the most expensive item they’ll ever buy – a home – would have at least the same.

 

 

 

 

 

VHT has created this essential guide to ensuring that your brokerage has the most stunning and striking images in your market and is visibly seen as far superior to your competitors. We’ve divided the guide into four main categories: 1) getting great photographs, 2) displaying great photographs, 3) managing your visual assets, 4) getting the most out of your visual assets.

Click here for the full paper.

Dec 18 / bschwartz

What should real estate agents post on Facebook? Part 2

In a post featured last week, What should real estate agents post on Facebook?, we presented 5 Facebook Guidelines for Real Estate Agents. It doesn’t take a genius, or a hundred Facebook best practices articles to see that in this economy, many agents have embraced the social media world, including Facebook, to promote their brand and their listings because it is free, easy and efficient.

In addition to offering cost-effective methods of promoting properties, Facebook also offers a range of new opportunities to grow and cultivate a robust community of prospective buyers and sellers. Many businesses have thrived thanks to this giant social network, including Real Estate professionals. Our goal with this series of articles is to offer real, actionable tips and ideas that can become a part of your marketing plan right away.

Here are the next five best practices for using Facebook in real estate marketing.

1. Maintain a Consistent Flow of Communication

It used to be that a monthly newsletter was enough to keep your network updated on your business, but with the advent of social media, you now have the opportunity to stay top-of-mind on an ongoing basis. And the key to having a successful Facebook business profile is to post consistently.

Creating a posting schedule is an easy way to stay on track. For example, maybe on Mondays you post your latest listing, on Tuesdays you post a photo and have a caption contest, and so on and so forth.

It’s quick and easy to post a photo of a home you’re selling, plus, according to studies, it’s the best way for your small business to engage with fans (Source: Pagemodo).

2. Be less Obvious 

Try to find that delicate balance between “sales” and “relationship building”. As an agent, just posting what you’re selling is not what social media is about. So be different! Instead, show passion, be creative, have a little humor, create conversations, ask questions, be helpful and stand out.

3. Be a part of the community

For example: “The new store off of X Street just opened– I have 2 homes nearby- each about 3 miles away! Convenient places to live if you love bargain shopping. Check out my Photo Gallery for more information!” This example post is an easy, enthusiastic and non-pushy way of advertising the sale, redirecting followers to more housing information and sharing some community news.

4. Do Diversify Your Content

Change up your content every now and then. Often, people are not sure what to post on a regular basis. You could try adding how-tos, trivia about your company, breaking news, polls, fill-in-the-blanks, relevant third-party content, or multimedia. Just figure out how to put your spin on your posts.

5. Do Track the Performance of Your Posts

Do you know your average number of comments and Likes per post? If you have your profile set up as a business page you can find out. Facebook automatically sets up Insights for pages with more than 30 likes. The Facebook Insights tab can be found on the left hand side of your Facebook page, under the same section you see your “Wall” icon.  Insights are denoted with a purple icon.

This is an excellent tool to utilize. It can tell you the age range of those viewing and interacting with your page as well as their gender, location, your most popular posts and the reach of each post on your page. This information can provide a great deal of insight into exactly who your customers are so you can tailor your page to these specific individuals and create the most engagement.

There is a lot to learn in Facebook Insights, take some time to play around with it, and read up here.