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How to Create a Successful Real Estate Website

This is the feature article in this week’s RealtyBiz Agent Success Newsletter.

Have you ever wondered why only a handful of real estate sites generate tons of leads while the vast majority of sites hardly ever do? The secret to their success isn’t rocket science – it’s what they focus on.

Most agents decide they need a website because their competitors have one. So what’s the first thing they focus on? What the site should look like.

Not surprisingly, agents want their sites to look attractive and professional, with lots of bells and whistles, animations, and graphics. Next, they realize they need some content for the site, so they add information about their credentials, services, listing information, and processes.

Three Elements of Successful Websites

The problem with this approach is that it neglects the elements of what makes a real estate website successful. Specifically, successful websites:

  • Attract qualified prospects
  • Build a targeted list of prospects to follow up with
  • Convert prospects to paying clients

The site I described initially that focuses on the agent’s credentials and preferences, is, frankly, boring to prospects and does little other than stroking the agent’s ego (for instance, they can now proudly tell their friends and family that they have a website). It’s not the type of site designed to attract qualified prospects. It won’t motivate prospects to give you their contact information, and it does little to convince prospects that they should hire you.

Focus on Content – What Does Your Prospect Want to Know Most?

So what does capture prospects’ attention and get them to take notice? Content that focuses on their problems and concerns. Your prospects want tips and strategies they can use now to get that mortgage, find the right home, sell their home for top dollar, and send their kids to the best schools in the area.

They want to know if, as a single mom, they’ll be able to afford that home, or whether, as a first-time home buying couple, what type of help is available.

They want to know how to ensure their new home doesn’t have water damage or mold or termites or some other unknown that will cost them a fortune down the line.

They want tips on how to negotiate the best price – and any changes or repairs that need to be made.

Focus on Conversion – What Should Your Prospect Do Next?

Good content makes up about 50 percent of a great site. The other 50 percent lies in organizing that content so your prospects can easily find that information.

When someone comes to your website, you have about three seconds to capture their attention. Web studies show that prospects don’t read pages. They skim. So when they are looking for information, they quickly scan the page looking for something of interest. If they don’t find anything, they leave your site and continue their search.

One big mistake agents make with their websites is they assume prospects will know what to do next. They assume prospects will take the time to learn their site’s navigation and browse through all their great content.

The truth is, your prospects won’t, so you must make it easy for them. It’s up to you to guide them from one page to another, asking them if they want to learn more about Subject X, then telling them they should click this link. If they want to join your newsletter, they should click this link. If they want to contact you for a free consultation, they should fill out this form. Etc.

In other words, you must lead them through the content on your site by anticipating what their next question might be, then linking to where the answer is.

Your goal is conversion – getting them to take some action in exchange for their contact information and permission to follow up with them – whether that is joining your mailing list, downloading a free guide, or contacting you for more information.

Test and Measure Results!

Finally, if you’re not getting the results you want, you must try something different. Benjamin Franklin is attributed with saying, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Your site won’t suddenly become successful if you just attract more visitors to it. You must work to engage your visitors who are already finding your site and work on converting them to prospects and clients.

How do you do this? You test! Install Google Analytics on your site (it’s free!) and monitor who is coming to your site. Where are they coming from? How are they getting there? Which keywords are they typing into search engines? What pages do they view? How many pages do they view? And so on.

You can tell a lot by analyzing statistics and making decisions on the data you collect. Don’t simply rely on your gut instinct or what a friend suggests. If you aren’t sure which text on a page will convince prospects to fill out your form, create two pages. Send half your traffic to one page and half your traffic to the other. Whichever gets more people to fill out the form wins – there’s no subjectivity there. By testing you can see exactly what works and how well it works compared to other samples.

Is Your Website Working?

If your website isn’t pulling in a steady stream of prospects, it’s time to take a look at your site’s content and conversion strategy. With a little effort, you can put together an informative website that educates your prospects and motivates them to take action.

Why SEO is Dead

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) or Off Page Equity?

Huh? Have you ever thought about what that means? Going back to its roots, SEO meant to optimize a page so an engine like Alta Vista would like it and rank it higher than the next guy or gal. Words like density, proximity, metas all were part of optimizing a page.

Then along came Google at a time when the web was getting more and more tangled. Meaning it was ginormous!

Realtors started building two and three websites in some cases. And non Realtors-SEO guys like me were building real estate websites for affiliate money.

So what makes your site any better than your competitors?

  • IDX. Check
  • Community Data. Check
  • School Data. Check
  • Crime Data. Check
  • About You. Check

So what makes your website so unique? Every website has this stuff to some degree or another.  And honestly can we expect a machine  (Google, MSN/Live, Yahoo) to act human and judge the quality of your website? Seriously what makes your site any better than the next agents?  And honestly do you even want a machine actually judging what you offer?

So the engines in all their wisdom have come to rely on links to your real estate webpage to act as judge and jury.

Oh sure they have other quality scores to make sure your stuff matters over the other gals stuff. But when the main main SEO levers are in place, links are everything. I even know people who have made blank-empty pages rank high in the engines by just linking to them.

So ……..Get Your Link On!

If you have been around Direct Marketing or Internet Marketing for any time at all you have probably already heard how personalizing your sales message can increase your response rates and conversion rates.

One simple way to personalize your sales message is to use your prospect’s name. Just check your snail mail and see how often Your Name is used in the sales letters directed to you. There is a reason direct mail companies do this… it works!

It is a common and well known technique in email marketing to personalize the subject line and the body of the message with your prospect’s name. This technique is easy to implement with most list servers, such as AWeber and GetResponse, and results in increased open and response rates when marketing via email. It offers a more personalized experience allowing the sender to connect on a more personal level using what can be a very impersonal “one size fits all” medium.

Personalization and interactivity are not new things on the Internet. In fact, it started very early and has increased rapidly. You can hardly visit a site anymore where they don’t have some sort of feature that is meant to personalize the experience for you.

A more recent example is Web 2.0 such as Blogging, Social Bookmarking, and Social Networking. It is all about making the experience even more personalized for the users.

In the end that personalization is meant to increase that site’s stickiness or improve the delivery of the sales message and ultimately increase the bottom-line profits.

However, there is one area of personalization that some players in Internet Marketing totally miss the boat on when promoting their products… Personalized Sales Letters.

Personalized sales letters can come in many forms. One form is advanced personalization based on a squeeze page form where several data fields are gathered and then used to personalize the resulting sales letter. Another form, which is a much simpler and easier to implement technique, is personalization using the prospect’s name.

Personalizing your sales letters with your prospect’s name, which is easily passed from your list server or a form submission (opt-in, contact, etc), will get you the most bang for your buck compared to trying to implement more complex techniques. You can even take it a step further and personalize other important pages on your sites such as squeeze pages, order pages, thank you pages, and OTO pages.

So, why aren’t more Internet marketers using this technique yet?

They probably just don’t realize the surprising effectiveness of this simple technique or how simple an easy it can be to implement. Regardless, it is effective and will result in increased response rates, conversion rates, and profits.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some big names in Internet Marketing that know this technique works… they just aren’t yelling it from the roof-tops!

Implementing personalization is just like improving your headline, sub-headlines, copywriting, bullet points, testimonials, opt-in process… it is just another tool in your arsenal to plug in your sales process and raise your conversions up as high as possible.

It is simple to decide if this technique is for you by asking yourself just one question…

How much more money will you leave on the table by not personalizing your sales letters?

About the Author

Michael Chris has been marketing on the Internet for 10 years and has experience in many areas of Internet Marketing. To discover how to Personalize Your Sales Letters, please visit Personalized Sales Letters. For the most up to date version of this article, please visit Increased Response & Conversion Rates

Copyright © – Michael Chris – Personalized-Sales-Letters.com – All Rights Reserved Worldwide!

For more information on direct response personalization:

Please visit http://personalizationprecept.com to register to download our complementary special report entitled “The Personalization Precept” that is jam packed with personalization tips and statistics to help you improve your marketing ROI.

EMarketing Tips – Personalization

Personalizing your emarketing items, such as newsletters, broadcasts, etc. is not new; most people who use email regularly are used to seeing their first names in email subject lines or within an email newsletter. And, if you regularly send out emails to your subscribers, you probably have remembered the “first name” merge code by heart.

But many of you may be wondering, “What is the effectiveness of personalizing my emails?” “Does it really work?” “What else can I do besides add a name to the subject line?”

According to emailstatcenter.com, “Inserting a person’s name into an email increases open rates by as much as 10%. – Jupiter Research (2006).” So it does seem that personalizing emails does have an impact, even just a little bit. But the trick is to personalize correctly.

I would bet that you have received at least one or two emails that read like the following: “For , free ebook covers this weekend only.”

Um, there should be something before that comma. Yuck.

There are a couple of instances when I recommend NOT personalizing the subject line. 1) You DO NOT require that the name field is a “required” field on your sign-up box on your website, and 2) you already have a cramped subject line slot and adding a first and/or last name or two would just be a bit too much (stick to a subject line of 56 characters or less).

By default, most programs require an email address, but you normally have to manually define other fields, including the name field, as being a “required” field in which a subscriber must enter information or they will get a reminder to input something into that particular field.

If you feel like getting fancy with personalization, there are many personalization fields to choose from and many ways to liven up your broadcasts. You can add merge codes that contain names, dates, geographic location, email address, ad categories, URL where subscriber signed up, to name a few.

Here is one example of one way you can personalize your newsletters:

One of my clients asked that I attach a subscription management reminder at the bottom of her newsletter. Basically it reads something like, “[name], you subscribed to this publication on this [date] using this [email address].” Great idea – lends credibility and reminds your readers that you aren’t spamming them. In fact, I really liked this idea so I tried it out on my own newsletter!

Check with your shopping cart or list management program to see what other merge fields or variables you can add to liven up your publications. You can search the FAQ or support pages or do a search on their site for keywords such as “personalization” or “merge fields.” I bet you’ll get a lot of ideas just by looking!

Copyright 2008 Lisa Wells

Lisa Wells is a Certified eMarketing Associate who partners with coaches, consultants, entrepreneurs, and small business owners, managing their many online marketing needs. Move your business to the next level and up your e-marketing game – sign up for her FREE e-course “e-Marketing Toolbox Essentials” at http://www.emarketingtoolboxessentials.com, where she shares ideas, tips, do’s and don’ts, as well as programs and strategies you need to avoid!

For more information on direct response personalization:

Please visit http://personalizationprecept.com to register to download our complementary special report entitled “The Personalization Precept” that is jam packed with personalization tips and statistics to help you improve your marketing ROI.

Direct Mail Personalization

An interesting article I found while browsing Ezinearticles.com earlier:

A colleague who does work for a nonprofit organization contacted me asking if I could do research on the success rate of personalized direct mail letters (Dear Joe) versus generically addressed letters (Dear Friend). Surprisingly, I didn’t find as many statistics as expected, but I found information stating that personalized letters outperform generic letters.

The Digital Printing Council conducted a survey and the results showed “tailored direct mail pieces increase response rates by more than 500 percent over a basic, non-personalized piece.”

Gotmarketing reports that “personalizing an email marketing campaign can improve response rates by 45 percent.” This one defines customized content and the customer’s purchase history as personalization.

ClickZ shares data from a study that “found personalization was the most important factor when contributors determine which charity or fundraising direct mail they open at 62 percent.” Second place? Timing at 59 percent.

It may cost more to personalize the campaign, but the response rate more than makes up the difference than taking the cheap, generic route. When I see mail addressed to “Resident,” I promptly throw it in the trash or recycling pile.

More resouces: “Personalized donor letters always outperform generic ‘Dear Friend’ appeals. Donors deserve ‘special’ treatment and appeals should reinforce the positive relationship you’ve already established.” From FundClass.

Mal Warwick & Associates, Inc. learned “personal attention makes a big difference. The old cliche is true: people give money to people, not organizations. The more personal the contact, the more effective your fundraising will be.”

Meryl K. Evans is the Content Maven behind meryl’s notes, eNewsletter Journal, and The Remediator Security Digest. She is also a PC Today columnist and a tour guide at InformIT. She is geared to tackle your editing, writing, content, and process needs. The native Texan resides in Plano, Texas, a heartbeat north of Dallas, and doesn’t wear a 10-gallon hat or cowboy boots.

Obviously, you can learn a ton more about personalization by downloading SMB’s free report entitled “The Personalization Precept” right now by visiting http://personalizationprecept.com.

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