Guerilla Training Blog by Matt Jones

The Science of Online Marketing (Part 4)

In this Part we’ll examine the subject of online advertising.  I am probably going to use some terminology that is new to you, but I will attempt to either keep it simple or provide explanations as I go so even the most un-tech-savvy agent should have no problem taking something of value away from this article.  I need you to forget everything you’ve ever heard about advertising while you read and I want you to turn on your common sense — not very common these days — and see if this doesn’t resonate with you down deep inside.  I believe it will, and I believe it will result in your changing the way you look at advertising, and particularly online advertising forever.

First let’s talk about advertising.  What is it?  The dictionary definition of advertising is the act or practice of calling public attention to one’s product, service, need, etc., especially by paid announcements in newspapers and magazines, over radio or television, on billboards, etc.: to get more customers by advertising.  We all can agree on what advertising is.  Where we have some problems agreeing is how.  The confusion really comes down to a changing industry.  In the old days the old “build it and they will come” was the way of advertising.  We were taught of branding and positioning and we worked hard to get our name “out there” so customers would find us.  Now the rules have changed.  Now it is “go and get them and they will come” and those who passively wait for business to come to them are now starting to say, “Would you like fries with that burger, sir?”

What do I mean?  I mean that we need to think direct response in our advertising.  We need to put a very specific value proposition out there with a clear call to action.  Here is an example of a successful Google advertisement.

Waterloo Iowa Real Estate
Search All Waterloo Homes
Using the Local MLS Database
http:FavoriteAgent.com

Note the headline.  It is exactly what the customer is searching for when he sees your ad.  It doesn’t include the agent’s name, his photo (God forbid!), or lots of superlatives about how great the agent is.  It simply gives the customer exactly what he is searching for, in very simple terms.  Next it clarifies the value proposition to the customer with a very specific call to action.  Anyone seeing this ad will know exactly what to expect when they click on the ad.  Having tested hundreds of different ads, the format above has repeatedly pulled the highest response rate from the people who matter — customers.

Now let’s discuss advertising key words.  When you advertise on a search engine (like Google) you get to choose the key words, or the words your customer will search for when you want your ad to be displayed.  For example, if you wanted people searching for real estate in Waterloo, Iowa to see your ad, you would want to use the key words “Waterloo Iowa real estate”  or Waterloo IA real estate”.  We have tested hundreds of different combinations of key words to measure which ones have the greatest reach to the real estate shopper.  Here is a list of those 65 most popular key word combinations:  (Feel free to copy them and substitute your city’s name for the name “yourcity” and your state’s name for “yourstatelong” and the two letter abbreviation for “yourstateshort”.)

appraisal yourcity
appraisal yourcity yourstateshort
appraisal yourcity yourstatelong
appraiser yourcity
appraiser yourcity yourstateshort
appraiser yourcity yourstatelong
home value yourcity
home value yourcity yourstateshort
home value yourcity yourstatelong
home values yourcity
home values yourcity yourstateshort
home values yourcity yourstatelong
homes for sale yourcity
homes for sale yourcity yourstateshort
homes for sale yourcity yourstatelong
homes yourcity homes
yourcity yourstateshort homes
yourcity yourstatelong house value
yourcity house value
yourcity yourstateshort
house value yourcity
yourstatelong house values
yourcity house values
yourcity yourstateshort house values
yourcity yourstatelong house values
yourcity appraisal yourcity appraiser
yourcity home value
yourcity home values
yourcity homes
yourcity house value
yourcity house values
yourcity yourstateshort appraisal
yourcity yourstateshort appraiser
yourcity yourstateshort home value
yourcity yourstateshort home values
yourcity yourstateshort homes
yourcity yourstateshort house value
yourcity yourstateshort house values
yourcity yourstateshort real estate
yourcity yourstateshort realtor
yourcity yourstateshort realtors
yourcity yourstatelong appraisal
yourcity yourstatelong appraiser
yourcity yourstatelong home value
yourcity yourstatelong home values
yourcity yourstatelong homes
yourcity yourstatelong house value
yourcity yourstatelong house values
yourcity yourstatelong real estate
yourcity yourstatelong realtor
yourcity yourstatelong realtors
yourcity realtor
yourcity realtors
real estate yourcity
real estate yourcity yourstateshort
real estate yourcity yourstatelong
realtor yourcity
realtor yourcity yourstateshort
realtor yourcity yourstatelong
realtors yourcity
realtors yourcity yourstateshort
realtors yourcity yourstatelong
sell homes yourcity
sell homes yourcity yourstateshort
sell homes yourcity yourstatelong

Now that we have the ad and the search key words, let’s discuss where to advertise.  Having done lots of online advertising, we’ve had our very best results using pay-per-click (or pay-per-visitor) advertising in the major search engines.  By creating a campaign in both Yahoo and Google’s search networks, you have effectively covered 98% of all US based web searches.  Here is the latest data (April 2008) from Hitwise: Google has the largest market share of U.S. based web searches at 67%; Yahoo is second with a market share of 20%; MSN is third with a market share of 7%; Ask is fourth with a market share of 4%.  Combine those four and you have nearly all domestic searches.  And by advertising on the Yahoo and Google search networks, you reach all of those search engines and many more.

Advertising doesn’t have to be complicated either.  When I was managing all my own ads I spent about a month getting them all perfected, and then I left them alone and checked on them about every quarter.  They were on auto pilot.  I didn’t ever use an advertising agency because it was so simple I could manage it myself in a few minutes a quarter.  I could pause the campaigns with a couple of clicks if I had too many leads to keep up or if I wanted to go on vacation.  The beauty of online advertising is that it is simple, it’s scalable, and it’s inexpensive, assuming you have good lead capture in place.

Oh, a final note about search engine optimization or SEO is probably in order.  First, for those of you unfamiliar with the term, here’s Wikipedia’s definition: “Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the volume and quality of traffic to a web site from search engines via “natural” (“organic” or “algorithmic”) search results for targeted keywords. Usually, the earlier a site is presented in the search results or the higher it “ranks”, the more searchers will visit that site.”

Now in order for SEO techniques to work, it is imperative that those techniques fool the search engine bots (robots that constantly scan every website on the Internet and catalog the content on each) into thinking that the optimized website is more important, relatively, than it really is.  For that reason, in order for a search engine to remain competitive, it must continually defeat the latest clever SEO technique or it will lose market share to search engines that do a better job.  In other words, you must continue to optimize forever or you may temporarily gain top organic ranking but you will soon fade away as the search engines become wise to the techniques you are using to defeat them.

As someone who tried search engine optimization, I will offer my advice.  It is much better to spend your money on PPC (pay-per-click) advertising than SEO because it is predictable, scalable, and inexpensive.  SOE is expensive and unpredictable.  With PPC you know exactly what results you will get within a day of placing the ad.  I know there are quite a few companies that do SEO out there and they are offering to help agents with search engine ranking.  I get an email from one of them practically every day.  Don’t get fooled by promises of easy web traffic.  It’s not that easy and it’s very expensive.  OK, enough about SEO.  Spend your money on PPC.  It’s honest, it’s cheap, and it’s predictable.

Next we will talk about your website.  What do you need to include on your site? We will talk about the value proposition, the graphic appeal, and we will discuss site abandonment.  I’ll share with you how you can make your site exactly what the typical home shopper is looking for, so don’t miss it!  In the mean time, you need to think about how efficient your site is at lead capture, or what percentage of visitors register or identify themselves. Until the next installment…



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