How to Make Google Work for You

BEN BRADSHAW, CEO of SponsoredLinX, is a talented sales and business professional and one of Australia’s most respected authorities when it comes to the finer points of online marketing. He is well versed in the areas of Google AdWords, SEO marketing and traffic generation: all important if your goal is to generate leads online. Interview by Samantha McLean.

Let’s get straight down to business. If you were a real estate agent, what would be your top tips for building an effective business website?
For the front end of the website, the key thing is making sure that you’re building credibility. For the ‘back end’ it needs to be search engine friendly. Make sure the website is built with search engine optimisation in mind, and around a specific set of keywords about real estate in your local area. However, don’t try to rank for everything. Trying to rank for too many keywords actually dilutes your potential success.

To get traffic to your website you could start by running a Google AdWords campaign with Google for a week, starting at as little as $10 per day, running a code on your site that will let you know which keyword triggered each lead. Using that sort of strategy works really well. You can then figure out which keywords really make you money online, and which ones actually cost you money.

What terms are people likely to be searching for? Is it going to be ‘real estate for sale, [suburb name]’, or something else?

Sometimes people will type in something like that, but we’ve found terms like ‘real estate’ won’t convert anywhere near as well as something like ‘investment real estate CBD’. For instance, you might type the word ‘loan’ into Google and get a bunch of different results: car loan, home loan, and so forth. But if you’re more precise and type in ‘split rate variable home loan’, see an ad or an organic  listing for those exact words and click on that, there’s a very good chance that you’re going to convert.

One thing to remember is not to go straight for the obvious keywords, as those won’t have the highest conversion rate. The broader the keyword, the lower the overall conversion rates.

Do you still have to be on page one as far as search engine results go?
You do. Roughly 95 per cent of people do not click past page one. We also know that a lot more people are using mobile devices to find information, especially in regard to local real estate searches, so mobile compatibility is important. Roughly 50 per cent of local searches are from mobiles.

These days, if you build a great website and it’s not geared for mobile you will be penalised by Google. A lot of people will be visiting your site via a mobile interface. Something like 78 per cent of all websites are still not mobile-responsive, yet 50 per cent of the traffic comes in via mobile devices. That’s definitely a huge opportunity to be seized. Make sure the site is mobile-responsive and it will immediately increase your traffic rate.

What do you recommend for generating leads on your own website?
Visual images are good – a banner, image or graphics that really illustrate your specialty are excellent. A good title is essential. If your keywords are ‘investment real estate’, the site’s home page should say something along the lines of ‘Welcome to Brisbane’s leading real estate investment brokerage’, incorporating the keywords.

There should also be an effective call to action, so a form on the website to help facilitate that action is a must. Short forms are desirable, because people don’t necessarily have the time to type out a lot of information and today’s user prefers convenience.

You’ll also want to avoid distracting the visitor with too many other things. If I’ve been looking for information on real estate investment and then I’m told, ‘Hey, check out my blog article and my About page and all these other things’, I’m easily distracted from filling in that form.

It does also help to be succinct. People don’t really have time to do a lot of reading, so if you can keep things brief and easy to skim with bullet points and lists, that’s ideal.

Don’t forget that your traffic doesn’t always land on your home page. People put a lot of emphasis and time into making sure the home page is perfect. However, when you look into the analytics, particularly in regard to organic search traffic, people are finding the site via the blog pages and other pages as well. Site owners should take that phenomenon into consideration.

There are a lot of ‘portals’ for real estate in Australia. While the market is becoming fragmented, there are still some big players. In the next 12 months, do you see the portals losing strength or getting stronger?
We’re definitely living in a more fragmented world now with the internet, so that’s a factor. If I were a real estate agent, knowing what I know about online marketing, I would feel that I could generate more listing leads from other sources, like search engines. If you’re not doing that then there’s a lot you’re missing out on. You can also get massively ahead of your competition if you’re doing some SEO, AdWords and social media and they’re not. You’ll have a much better result.

Somebody said to me that if you add up all the advertising fees an average agent pays various portals over a year, it can be well into six figures. If you were to spend that on your website…
I’m not too familiar with agents’ costs, but I know for a fact if you were to spend $20,000 on your own Google advertising you could generate leads for both sales and property management really cheaply! It takes a month to figure out which keywords people are typing in and so forth. Bottom line is you’re going to be in much better control of the whole exercise and once you’ve done it you can scale it.

Once your website is ranking on Google, it’s going to rank on Bing and Yahoo and all the other search engines. You set up your marketing processes and, as your business is built, it becomes a money machine. In this case it could be a lead machine as well. I would much prefer to do things that way than be completely reliant on one or two websites.

You’ve recently visitied Google in San Francisco. What new developments can we expect in the next 12 months?
The latest thing that would be great for real estate agents is using the Google+ Hangout feature. That’s a user Hangout via which you could stream an auction or event, live. You could have a community of people register for an event. You could send your email list a link, like advertising for an auction. But if you stream it live via Hangout it can go anywhere in the world in real time. That’s pretty powerful when you think about overseas and interstate investors.

You could host an open inspection via Hangout, for example, where everyone wants to see the inside of a house but perhaps they don’t have the time to come and see it in person. You could literally walk around with your phone on the inspection day and they could log in and get a bit of insight at a distance. You can create a bit of social media buzz around that as well.

Using Hangouts as an agent is definitely a cutting-edge thing to do and it’s easy too. You just need your smartphone and a bit of technology nous to get involved.

For more info about SponsoredLinX visit sponsoredlinx.com.au.

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Samantha McLean

Samantha McLean is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of Elite Agent and Host of the Elevate Podcast.