Over the course of my career serving the real estate industry, I have spoken to thousands of agents and brokers and there hasn’t been one that ever said their consumers were “national”. Not one has told me they want to attract a consumer located 10,000 miles away nor have they told me they do not want a local buyer or seller. When you ask an agent where most of their business comes from they will almost always say a referral or past client. This has been true for as long as I can remember, but even knowing this, brokers and agents practically turn inside out when you talk to them about a national portal like Trulia, Zillow or REALTOR.com.
For years the industry has feared the portals and many have pulled their listings, or created focus groups to “bring them down” but the fact remains, these search portals have only grown bigger, more powerful, and even more attractive to the consumer.
But if real estate is local, why does it actually matter what these national portals do? More importantly, how can you make your business more relevant to today’s consumer on a local level?
As you may already know, Google is really starting to pay more attention to data accuracy and consistency across the web. The real estate industry, unfortunately, is historically bad at this. With that said, you cannot blame the portals for being inaccurate either. This has nothing to do with listings. This has to do with your personal information.
I have searched agents in the past and I have gotten the same agent at three different companies on three different profiles. This is a huge issue and Google actually punishes you for this inconsistency of data. You cannot get mad at the publisher, in this case Google, because you are not managing your online presence appropriately.
Manage your online professional profile: The challenge with this is we need to get better at managing more profiles more effectively and consistently. You will actually be rewarded for the highest quantity of profiles, but the key is that you need to be sure your business name, address, phone number (NAP) are all consistent. The format is exactly the same across all directories and profiles. It is also a good idea to be consistent when posting, blogging, or in press releases.
Become best friends with Google+, Yelp, and any other local directory site: Google controls search so it is no surprise that they want you to drive your customers to these sites. Create your business page on both Google+ and Yelp and encourage your past clients to review you on these sites and incorporate it in your marketing and closing strategies to encourage reviews and feedback. Getting reviews on Yelp could be the difference of your company’s page ranking high or not at all. The more honest feedback the more influence it will have in attracting them to want to do business with you. Don’t be afraid of getting negative reviews either.
Video and High-Quality Images: As real estate professionals, we should be masters at video and photography, but we are not. Spend the extra bucks to invest in a good camera and set your settings so that you take high-resolution images of you, your business and the community you service and upload them onto your profile pages and your website. Update them often so it is fresh and relevant. Upload videos about your business to YouTube, another Google owned company. Doing this pushes your videos into the Google search and it gives you extra weight in search rankings.
These are simple, but highly effective strategies that will make a huge impact short term and long term in your business. You can’t just create a Google+, Yelp and YouTube profiles and never go back and engage. It is not a “set it and forget it“ strategy. You actually have to manage your info here, and if you do it right it will make the difference of you showing up or not in local searches. Find a day on your calendar very soon and clean up your online image. The few hours it may take you will be worth it in spades. The same goes for Zillow and Trulia. These same principles that Google is now recognizing as important in search have always applied on these sites: data accuracy, creating free profiles, always using the highest quality images, and get reviews and recommendations from your clients.