Note: While this post is geared toward the real estate profession, any business owner can use it as a guide in creating a Web presence.
By now, almost every business owner on the planet, including those seeking startup funding through avenues like Kiva, Kickstarter, Indiegogo, among others, knows the importance of creating a presence online. Or at least every business owner should.
But what makes a strong Web Presence that will capture the attention of potential home buyers and sellers ?
And what is the best way to go about creating one?
In this article, we’ll talk about how to create a Web presence, with resources to get started for real estate professionals. Tips and advice that all business owners can use are also included.
A Web Presence is created with one or more of the following online assets:
- A Website
- Social Media pages
- A blog
- Profiles and pages on other online portals
- Image hosting and video sites: Flickr (owned by Yahoo), Vimeo, YouTube, Google Photos, Picasa Web (owned by Google)
Why is Web Presence Important?
People live a large majority of their lives online now. They socialize, seek entertainment, and search for services and products, including homes and real estate agents on the Internet.
Here’s some compelling numbers:
- There are 2.9 billion Internet users worldwide
- In the United States alone — there are 2.3 million users
- 92% of home buyers used the Internet in some way to search for a home online (NAR)
- 2 in 3 homebuyers researched agents extensively online before choosing who to work with to buy a home (Google Consumer Survey, August 2014) Tweet this Stat
- 98% of home buyers say real estate agents and websites were viewed as useful information sources
- There is a 13% year over year increase in the use of YouTube to view homes (Google Data Report, 2014)
- 50% of millennials visited real estate websites in July 2014 (Google Data Report)
- 36% of those millennials used a mobile device or app to visit of those real estate websites
Creating a Web Presence
You need to define your target market, do your keyword research and come up with a strategy for your social media and content marketing before you even lift a finger in creating any online assets. Once you’ve done that, you can use the following outline as a guide to which assets to utilize in creating your business’ Web Presence.
The full text of this post is located after this infographic.
1. Build a Search Engine Optimized Website
I recommend building your own site, in addition having the Web page that most corporate brokerages offer to real estate agents. One reason I suggest this is that visitors to a corporate page can easily be redirected to another agent’s page or elsewhere on the Website. Other important reasons are that you can:
- Have full control over your content, including lead generation and capture
- Feature your listings and information more prominently
- Customize your site to your liking
- More easily integrate social media and a blog
And, if you go out on your own, or change brokerages, you won’t lose your carefully built presence
2. Set Up a Blog
Either create a blog separate from your Website, or embed one in your existing site. There are three blogging platforms I recommend, in order of my preference:
- WordPress first started as an open source blogging platform. Now you can create an entire Website with it, and have blogging capabilities at the root of its structure. There are plenty of themes you can use to create a Website with WordPress. However, if you’re not tech savvy, and don’t have the time, you might want to consider hiring a web designer to build and customize one for you.
- Owned by Google, Blogger is also very easy to use, and comes with a variety of free themes. However, it’s not as customizable as WordPress. A plus — blogging on the platform helps with Google SEO (search engine optimization). If you use it, make sure to download and archive your posts so you won’t lose your content should Google decide to abandon the platform (not likely, but you never know.)
- This platform is a combination of a social media network with full blogging capabilities. Some use the available free or paid themes to create full Websites. The fact it’s owned by Yahoo, which is partnered with search engine Bing, could help with ranking in Yahoo Search. Keep in mind: Tumblr users are a unique bunch. Browse through pages and you’ll see commentary and images that are on the quirky side.
3. Set Up Social Media Pages
If you’re just starting out, and want to keep it simple, just start with one social media network. Once you get the hang of it, get your second social site going. Remember to use your keywords in your profile and about descriptions. You can read this post on Best Social Media Networks for Real Estate to get an idea of where to get started.
Setting up a Website, blog and social media pages won’t get you anywhere unless you are continually active on all fronts.
You must publish to your blog once a month minimum. Better: once per week. Best: three times per week.
Content can include articles, videos, images, slideshows, infographics, ebooks, downloadable one-sheets, checklists and more.
Share your blog content with your social media networks when you first publish, a week later, and a month later. Share more often on Twitter. Go back into your archives and update and re-share old content. Check out this infographic for recommended social media sharing schedule.
6. Curate and Share Industry Leaders’ Content
It’s important that you follow the 4:1 rule when publishing content (some people use a 8:1 ratio) to your social networks, so as not to turn away followers. For every piece of company promotional content you publish, share four articles or other types of useful, engaging and entertaining content from leaders in your industry.
Real estate sites from which you can curate content:
- Text articles are free to use, but you can’t use their images/video
- National Association of Realtors
- California Association of Realtors
- The site offers market reports, surveys, infographics and more
7. Monitor and Engage
Remember to monitor all your accounts, sites and pages for comments, questions, and criticism. Respond promptly, and make sure you handle criticisms well. Here’s a great article from Mashable that gives you simple ways to respond to criticism.
8. List Your Business
There are hundreds of place you can list your business for free. If you don’t mind paying for membership or fees, sign up with your local Chamber of Commerce, get accredited with the Better business Bureau, or join sites like Angie’s List.
Here are some recommended free directories:
- Often labeled a social media site, Yelp is a directory/review site.
- Google Local (gets you on maps)
- Industry specific directories, etc.
Tip: Use a service like Yext to find a full list of directories. I don’t recommend paying their monthly fee to list your business. Once you start listing your business with the major directories, it will be picked up by the hundreds of other directories out there. However, you need to claim each and every one to make sure you can optimize them as much as possible, and to avoid someone else claiming your business. I’ve seen this happen with individual real estate agents claiming a whole brokerage on Google Local as their listing.
9. Create Industry Profiles
In addition to online assets that you create, you can also create profiles on other real estate sites. Following are some suggestions for real estate professionals. For other industries, search online for associations and boards related to your area of business.
- National Realtors Association
- Your local board or association
- California Association of Realtors
10. Guest Blog
You can create profiles and blog on sites like Trulia, Zillow and Active Rain (owned by Trulia). Offer to blog on your local Realtors association site, or with CAR or NAR.
- Other sites that are connected with the biggies:
- AOL Real Estate: Zillow, Houzz
- MSN Real Estate: Zillow
- Yahoo: Zillow
- HouseLogic: NAR
An effective Web Presence will help home buyers and sellers find you on the Internet, and enable you to reach out to your specific target demographic. A Website, social media networks, a blog, and directory listings woven together will help you create a strong presence on the Internet.
Remember: Just building and having these online assets doesn’t qualify as a Web Presence. You have to be active with all your assets on a weekly/daily basis. Also, it takes research, strategy, time and patience.