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What SEO and social signals mean to online real estate marketing

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One of the challenges real estate practitioners face is understanding the importance of online real estate marketing and how it figures in their success. According to a survey commissioned by real estate tech company ReachFactor (recently acquired by digital media company RealBiz Media Group), 70 percent of the 1,910 participating real estate agents said they have no idea on how to measure the effectiveness of their marketing initiatives. In addition, 88 percent of real estate brokers “felt they should be getting better results.” And they should be, considering they spend $36,000 on average yearly on marketing as the report also noted.

So what was wrong? Are they investing their marketing budget in the wrong strategies? Are they simply misinformed?

The root of the problem lies in the nature of the industry itself. The online real estate marketing industry is fragmented—there’s Zillow, Trulia, Realtor and a whole gamut of online real estate marketing web sites offering all sorts of services to real estate professionals. With so many options to choose from, and with little guidance, real estate brokers are torn on choosing which web site or online marketing strategy is the right fit.

But how do these web sites work exactly?

Online real estate database are web sites where real estate agents can create their own listings or pages as a premium partner. These memberships are paid and allow agents to syndicate their listings to the databases’ partner web sites be it a search portal like Yahoo or MSN, or individual agent sites.

Now here’s where SEO and social signals come in. Search engine optimization and social signals play an important role in getting those listings found.

Search engine optimization, which more or less involves content production and marketing, optimizing the design of web sites and codes and a whole range of offsite and onpage optimization, is what’s going to help an broker’s listings on a particular site turn up higher in search engine results.

This should not be a problem with web sites like the abovementioned, since they are “authority” sites that already rank highly on Google.

Social signals, which are the number of likes or shares your listings get on social media, are also a measure of authority. They get your listings found on search results, which means the more your listings are shared, the more they come up on search engines. According to Forbes.com columnist Jayson deMers, social signals will factor into search engine rankings more in 2014.

“Since the goal of Google and other search engines is to provide users with the most relevant and highest quality content possible, it makes sense why they would factor in the number of social shares that a blog post, article or product page receives,” he said.

“…Besides this, social shares can serve as a stamp of approval (i.e. a trust signal) for visitors landing on a page. If they see that it has hundreds or thousands of shares, it’s likely that there’s something of value. That’s a big reason why so many businesses are installing social share plugins and encouraging consumers to share as much as possible.

“While it’s difficult to predict algorithms will evolve in the future, there’s a reasonable chance that social shares will match or even outweigh traditional inbound links by the end of 2014,” he said in his column.

Many real estate agents and brokerage firms swear by their memberships on big listing sites and online databases, however, it does not necessarily put them in control of who see their listings or profile pages. In a nutshell, it is still a gamble for them.

This is where online real estate marketing programs like the Video Microsite Marketing Program from RealBiz Media’s (OTC: RBIZ) come into the picture. The enterprise version of the program, according to RealBiz’s presentation on Vimeo, offers agents the flexibility and ease of creating their own video microsites, complete with photos, videos, an SEO optimized design and content, unique URLs, and most importantly, social integration functionalities.

The social media sharing function of the sites allow both home buyers to share listings to their network. Brokers and agents meanwhile can cross-post new videos and updates on their social media accounts "to reach and build relationships with home shoppers."

Apart from these, the microsites are HTML5 mobile friendly, which make them accessible even on mobile devices.

The Video Microsite also features automatic lead capture, routing, backlinking and custom linking, and SEO capabilities, making it one of the most intuitive online marketing technologies invented today. The microsite also allows agents to create “call-to-actions” and schedule home events or tours within the same platform.

Those features were just the tip of the iceberg, however. The Video Microsite has a fully integrated analytics dashboard where agents can track the progress of their campaigns. This also puts the agent in control of how to tailor their campaigns to their audience.

Since launching the Video Microsite, RealBiz observed an increase in impressions and views per month on its clients’ microsites. Based on its data, RealBiz has noticed an 86 percent increase among visitors on its websites. It added that a typical website visitor watches videos on the microsites on an average of 8.5 minutes. 50 percent of the views also came from mobile devices like smartphones and tablets.

As Google’s focus on determining the value of websites shift from plain SEO to the authority reflected by social signals, real estate agents are seen to benefit largely from programs like RealBiz’s Video Microsite.

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