How Google’s New Algorithm will affect your real estate website

Very recently, Google made significant changes to its search engine algorithm.
This algorithm is basically the formula that Google uses, when determining which sites should appear at the top of search results, and which ones should not.

Very few people, except for hardcore search and tech literati understand precisely how these changes were set up or exactly how they work, but the changes are pretty evident already.
The long and the short of it, is that you will need to take a good look at your website to determine if it is still “search engine friendly”.

Here are some items that now need to be understood in regards to this new Google algorithm:

  • Faster Indexing
    Google has a new thing called “Google Caffeine”. This means there is no more “sandbox” or long waiting times, before your website can be indexed by Google. The indexing time is now down to around 15 minutes (if you have a dynamic site map submitted to Google Webmaster Tools).
    This means that unique, steady content such as news updates, blogs, etc, will take even more precedence in search engine rankings.
  • Google Analytics Data
    In a fairly controversial move, Google has suggested that they may use the analytics data of sites in their algorithm, since it provides a huge amount of information about user interaction of a web site. This makes a lot of sense, but there will be many that do not like this idea.
    This one is a pretty easy fix though, as Google Analytics is free and does not take much to add into a website.
  • Paid Links
    Buying links to push ranks up in a short period of time is a technique used by some marketers. Many of these are added for short periods of time due to the cost of purchasing them.
    Google now says that the age of links matter, so these short term link arrangements will no longer help you. They prefer stable links that have been there for a while, so work on building naturally occurring links that matter to your business.
  • Page Load Time is now important
    Very simply, the time it takes a web page to appear in your internet browser will directly affect how it ranks in Google.
    Make sure that your images and all page elements are optimized and that your sites load fast. Don’t lose rank due to slow loading images or other web elements.
  • Flash animation and Flash websites
    Flash websites and animations created in Flash, can take forever to load up. Based on the information above, this is bad news for your site ranking.  Avoid full flash websites, large animation files & splash pages. Use HTML5 where you can.
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There are other changes still to come from Google. They like to rearrange things periodically just to keep the SEO experts, tech guys and online marketers on their toes.

Trying to play the game and work out how Algorithms work, can be a real waste of time. These Google Algorithm Changes, don’t really change the core message and approach of a good website though – it still is all about CONTENT.
The best thing to do is ensure the basics are covered and that you have good, solid content on your website.
This means:

  • clear information on your site, that is relevant to what your website visitors are looking for (Such as search-able listings, interactive location maps for listings, locality information, clear contact information & staff profiles for example)
  • the consistent addition of unique content (latest news, etc)
  • site promotion through syndication, aimed at generating quality back links through to your site

Brightfox is aware of these changes, and we regularly advise our clients on the best way to manage their online presence, to be the most search-engine friendly that it can be.

If  you are seeking to improve your website rankings, traffic and sales, then feel free to contact us here at Brightfox.

How BRICI Countries are using Mobile Phones to Access the Internet

A great article on The Economist on how BRICI countries are using mobile phones. Anyone who reads this blog will know how we have being saying for years that the ‘new’ internet is smart phones, and this article demonstrates very aptly why this is the case.

The graph in this article shows the number of PC’s compared to smart phones and the speed of adoption. It is amazing to think that these BRICI counties will bypass the PC age. They are essentially leapfrogging straight to the smart phone age – jumping PC’s completely. It is the sole medium that hundreds of millions are increasingly using for accessing the Internet.

It is time for every company to have a ‘smart phone’ internet strategy. Give us a call if you would like to discuss how this trend is going to impact your business.

In property networking is a fundamental key to success

Many real estate offices work in conjunction with the same businesses over and over again, so why not take advantage of this and use it as a way to market your business to new or different markets?

Everyone at some point is going to look at buying or renting a property so, rather than market to the same people over and over again, using joint ventures promotion with local businesses is a way to reach people who may not normally come knocking on your door.

A joint venture doesn’t have to be a big marketing agreement or event between businesses, it can be as simple as contacting the businesses who work in and around your area and agreeing to include details of their business in your weekly or monthly newsletter in exchange for them doing the same or similar. By doing this you are gaining access to an entirely new database of contacts and potential customers.

Some types of businesses you may consider entering into a joint venture promotional agreement with might be mortgage brokers, insurance agents, financial planners, accountants, solicitors, property inspectors, interior designers and other complimentary local businesses.

All of these people should be marketing to their database of clients and contacts on a regular basis in one way or another so it won’t be any extra effort for them to include some information about your business with this.

Some examples of ways you could promote yourself through other businesses might be:

  1. Agreeing to write an article each month to be included in their monthly newsletter.  You might include an interesting story on one of your current properties or a profile on a different agent each month.  Make it interesting and a little out of the ordinary so that it captures people’s interest; you could include a short interview with one of your agent’s where they answer questions about themselves and why they are in the real estate business.
  2. Getting them to reference your website on their site and include some information about your business and how you work with them.
  3. Putting signs and brochures in their office.
  4. An interview with you to be published in their newsletter or on their website on a topical market issue.

 These are just a few ideas of how you could use other businesses to help you market to new contacts.  In exchange for this you would do the same for them so it is a win-win situation for everyone and is also a low cost way for you both to market your businesses.

Building Smart Websites for Smart Phones (and Ipad’s!)

We blogged recently about the amazing growth of smart phones. Smart Phones and Tablets (think IPad and the upcoming Android and Windows Tablets you will see next year) are going to be the dominant platform for accessing the web in the short to medium term. More people will access the web using these devices than PC’s. Let me assure you it is going to happen.

So what does that mean for websites? Well pretty much every single one has been designed for viewing on a PC so this means a lot.

We have long been pushing the importance of building mobile friendly websites and have been doing so as far back as late 2007. As mobile phones and tablets simply become more and more powerful, and 3G and (coming 4G) internet speeds faster, it is simply more convenient to use them to access websites and web services. The huge growth of social networking is also a strong driver of this user adoption. People start using their mobile to access Twitter or Facebook, and as they become increasingly comfortable with the medium, start using their phone to access all manner of content.

The future for real estate on the web is to provide a true cross platform experience to the customer. Whether it is via a PC, a mobile phone or on the ‘about to explode’ tablet and touch screen devices, users simply expect a great experience. This means delivering an experience optimised for that specific environment.

To explain a little further, the experience of accessing the web via a mobile phone is very different to accessing it via a PC. The screen resolution and functionality is vastly different, not to mention the environment in which it is done. This results in large useability variation between the two, which in turn requires a different design to your website or services and often a modification to the service itself. One simple example is sending an enquiry on a listing. On a PC the most common action is to complete a register interest form and send an enquiry via email. Mobile phone users are far more likely however to want to send an SMS.

We have just launched a website that demonstrates the difference in design for a PC to a Smart Phone.

Visit www.precinctpropertygroup.com This is a standard website when viewed on a PC however if you visit this site from your phone you will be automatically taken to a mobile friendly website at the following URL: www.precinctpropertygroup.com/mobile

You will note significant differences with the design and if you are using a smart phone, integration with your GPS, call and email functions – all making the website user friendly and actually useable!

To effectively target this every growing market we now recommend that our clients build a website for these very different user platforms. The additional cost really is not that great and the benefits are significant.

How to become more efficient – online and offline!

In this age of instant transactions and having almost everything available to us at the click of a button, more and more people are working longer hours and simply don’t have the time to complete real estate transactions the way they used to.  People are increasingly expecting to be able to speak to someone straight away or, at the very least, be contacted within a few hours of making an inquiry.

For this reason, it is essential for you, as a real estate agent, to make yourself available to your target market as much as you possibly can.  This will often mean that you need to be available to meet with clients after normal work hours and on weekends but this is not the only way you can be more accessible.

Here are just a few ideas on how you can make yourself more accessible to your clientele, even when you’re not available!

  • Use your website to its maximum potential.  Make sure you include up-to-date information about all of your listings and that they are as detailed as possible.  If you can narrow down the options for potential buyers they will have a much better idea of what they are looking for when they actually get to speak with you.  If you are an individual salesperson you might consider spending the money to build your own website so that customers can come directly to you and view all of your listings in the one place.
  • Use social networking sites to interact with your customer base.  Update your Twitter account with new listings and open house times and encourage your clients to “follow” you.
  • Use your mobile when you are mobile!  Take the time to update your voicemail message with a direct message on days when you know you won’t be available. By putting in the effort to record a message that includes the date and advising callers that you will be in meetings/unavailable that day, you are showing your customer base that you care that they are calling you and will take the time to call them back when you actually are available.  Make sure you keep it up to date though as an out of date message of this kind will have the opposite effect!
  • Use your “Out of Office Assistant” when you are going to be away from your desk for long periods of time so people who email you know why you haven’t replied to them.
  • Consider getting a BlackBerry or similar mobile device, if you haven’t already got one, so that you can check and respond to emails while you are away from your desk.
  • Use SMS as a way for clients to contact you.  You can set-up direct SMS functionality on your website so that potential clients can send you an SMS direct from your website to request a call back. Similarly, it is a good (and simple!) idea to have your office Receptionist or Administrator send you messages for call-backs via SMS rather than send you an email as you will get it immediately, as opposed to getting the message the next time you check your email; which could be up to 24 hours later.
  • Start your own Blog – this is an easy way for you to make yourself more accessible and approachable to clients on a virtual level.  Use your Blog to post your ideas on current market news and talk about situations you have been in that are relevant and useful for both vendors and buyers.

These are all simple and extremely effective ideas that you can use to make yourself available and accessible to potential clients when you are on the run.  In the fast-paced age of technology that we live in, it is imperative to stay ahead of the pack when it comes to communication and utilizing one or more of these suggestions in your day-to-day dealings will help you to do just that.

Using Testimonials Effectively

In this article we are going to look at a simple but under-utilised and often misused marketing tool – testimonials!

Before we even start I want you to immediately throw away all of the preconceived notions you have on testimonials. As mentioned above, testimonials are generally not used well, so you should consider the possibility that what you are doing now is either not working or, at least, not maximising the opportunities that they offer your business.

Here are our 10 rules for making testimonials work in your business:

1. If you do not ask you shall not receive

Just like asking for referrals, asking for testimonials is not the easiest thing for a salesperson to do. Good salespeople are naturally looking for the next opportunity and want to start talking to the next prospect, however; you need to discipline yourself (or your team) to ask for testimonials as often as possible. We would suggest creating an automatic follow up plan in your CRM software to allocate tasks to the relevant people in your business to obtain a testimonial after a sale or purchase.

2. Time is not always kind to you

As we all know, time is not always kind to us. You need to ask for a testimonial fairly shortly after the completion of a transaction. The euphoria of the deal will wear off quickly, so ensure you ask for the testimonial within 14 days of completion to get the best testimonials.

3. Put your testimonials into context

Sliding a testimonial letter under a prospect’s nose can be effective, but not nearly as effective as providing the letter together with your ‘story’ on the nature of the transaction and what you did that made the client so impressed. A testimonial is an opportunity for you to prove that you will do what you say you do. It is an opportunity to show why you are different. You need to assume that the prospect will question the quality of the testimonial and the independence of the writer. Taking a few minutes to verbally describe the transaction and your relationship with the people providing the testimonial will make all the difference.

Another great way to provide a testimonial is to relate it to a historical sale that you are using in your CMA (comparative market analysis). First of all, talk about the property and the price achieved and then provide the testimonial. It is all about putting the testimonial into context which makes it far more meaningful and believable.

4. Testimonials are not just Client Testimonials

Now I know that when I say testimonial, you are immediately thinking client testimonial. This is the first misconception. Client testimonials are but a portion of all of the testimonials you should have. If you are a project marketer you should have testimonials from other agents that you have worked with, advertising agencies and other professionals such as finance brokers and accountants. If you are a residential brokerage agent get testimonials from franchise representatives, other agents and even respected members of the community. They all help to demonstrate your professionalism, credibility and trustworthiness.

5. Testimonials have a use by date

You need to include dates on your testimonials to provide them with credibility. Client testimonials in particular generally start losing their impact after 3 to 6 months. So replenish with new ones at least every 6 months.

6. Reward people who provide testimonials

A good testimonial is tantamount to a referral. You should reward people who provide you with a testimonial as a sign of gratitude. A voucher at a local coffee shop or a simple bunch of flowers will suffice.

7. Use the full testimonial

Don’t be tempted to cut the seemingly bad or irrelevant parts of a testimonial out. Provide the full testimonial with the full name and details of the provider (ensure you have confirmed it is ok to supply their details). It will make it far more believable.

8. Start thinking multimedia

Written testimonials are the most common and practical, but certainly not the only way to present a testimonial. Consider using audio and video as a means of delivering a testimonial. You can syndicate this content on iTunes and Youtube as well, providing additional marketing benefits.

9. Use testimonials on your website

Don’t limit testimonials to your marketing presentations only. Maximise the benefits by putting them on your website and even consider including some particularly positive comments in your print marketing material. If you are getting great testimonials you should ensure you use them.

10. Create marketing material requesting testimonials

Create a poster and put it in the reception of your office requesting testimonials. Add a call to action asking for testimonials to your website. Add it to your email signature. Use your existing marketing channels to actively generate testimonials.

Action Plan:
Print out this article and work your way through these 10 points. If, by the end of the week, you have implemented an element of each item, you will be well on your way to using testimonials effectively in your business.

To tweet or not to tweet!

The property industry has been pondering for some time the importance of being active on twitter. I personally have equally been skeptical as to its benefits. I really question agents or consultants who think that there are a large pool of people who want to be bombarded with regular tweets on new listings, price changes etc. As a consumer, and a technically orientated one at that, I just can’t see how I benefit from that. Email alerts will do just fine and I get to read them when I want (the one exception I would make here is for rentals in particularly tight markets. In some cities I know of instances where people pretty much fall over themselves to find out about new rental properties when they come available. A tweet would be great for that).

However, as a technical company, we needed to give it a go so we set up a couple of Twitter Accounts a few months ago and got started.

Not much feedback and quite a few followers and then, out of the blue, a genuine enquiry! Yes that is right, a genuine enquiry from a real estate agency that had come across one of our tweets and then contacted us.

So I guess the proof is in the pudding as they say. Not a huge number of leads but certainly it is a start. So maybe my thinking on twitter and the value it offers is starting to change…..

By the way you can find us at @brightfoxhq

If you are targeting Asia, you need Brightfox!

A recent article in Real Estate Business (see it here) interestingly talks about the amount of business Victorian agencies are doing with Chinese buyers at present.

Brightfox has been doing business in Asia for over 9 years, and we can successfully market properties and projects to Asia.

One of the suprising facts that most people wouldn’t appreciate until they start marketing to Asia is the fact that most languages require the PC to be Unicode  compliant. This requires the CRM software and the website to be similarly Unicode compliant.

Both foxAdvantage and foxEnterprise meet these requirements and can market your properties and projects in the native language of your target audience – a key requirement to successfully penetrate these markets.

 

Launch of R.E.Mobile making it easier for property buyers to find property online

 ACCESS TO PROPERTY INFORMATION JUST GOT MOBILE!

Brightfox is proud to announce the launch of R.E.Mobile, a world first product that takes an existing website and optimises it for viewing over any smart phone in the world.

Over 140 Million ‘smart phones’ were sold in 2008 and with 87.1% of all property buyers researching property online, the smart phone will become more and more prevalent in today’s market.

Instant access to property information is becoming extremely important, but the ability to view this information in an easy to view format has been somewhat difficult.

Enter R.E.Mobile.

R.E.Mobile, or Real Estate Mobile, is designed to enable any real estate agency or developer to instantly establish contact with consumers and provide them with essential property information via a smart phone.

An R.E.Mobile site takes a companies existing website content and transforms it into an easy to read format ready for any multimedia phone allowing buyers to research whilst on the run.

R.E.Mobile can display listings, projects, rentals, staff profiles, latest news and more, all updated instantly from the companies own website (which also eliminates the need for manual updating).

“RE Mobile allows buyer’s to research property information whilst on location via their smart phone. It can provide them with all the information they need instantly, in an easy to read format to make a calculated decision”, said Brightfox Managing Director, Cameron Black.

“With people now viewing less homes per purchase thanks to the Internet, and with RE Mobile, buying property has now become a lot easier”.

An R.E.Mobile website is a fully customizable and can be setup and running in under 3 weeks and for as little as $25 per week*.

For more information on R.E.Mobile and its innovative technology, contact Brightfox.

Brightfox Launch New Mobile Website Service

Brightfox today announce the launch of a new service called R.E.Mobile to build websites compatable with and optimised for viewing over mobile phones. The new R.E.Mobile service makes it very easy and cost effective for any property firm to quickly create a full mobile compatable website within weeks. Brightfox will take the existing content, including dynamic listing data for real estate offices, and build a searchable mobile friendly site that will enable the millions of mobile phone users to visit and search for properties or projects.

For more information on this product, and an example of a R.E.Mobile website, go to http://www.brightfox.com.au/au/remobile.asp