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SEO, the Real Estate Blog, and Competition

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Sun Tzu: The Art of War

At REBlogWorld 2010, I moderated a panel discussion on whether the real estate blog was dead or not.  My friend Garron Selliken, a technologist and broker in Portland, wrote up a post that stemmed from a long discussion he and I had with several others in Las Vegas, in which he argues that the “real estate blog” as he defines it is indeed dead as the Monty Python parrot:

When it comes to generating leads from search, the past, present and future of real estate sites is SEO, not blogging, transparency, authenticity and finding your voice.  The way to get clients is to show up where the most concentrated group of most motivated buyers/sellers are hanging out and ask for the business. This is why SEO focused content kills blogging…it is targeted directly at the relevant phrases and lands on pages designed to satisfy needs AND convert into conversation.

Then the brilliant Gahlord Dewald, a SEO consultant and an all-around smart fella, chimed in with his own post on the topic.

Both of them are worth reading in full.

While agreeing with both Garron and Gahlord in terms of what works for lead generation, conversion, and actual revenue generation for a real estate professional… this whole line of thinking raises a couple of questions for me, so I thought I’d puzzle them out with you all here.

Basically, the question is whether a SEO-focused strategy is viable competitive strategy for a real estate agent or small brokerage.

Either-Or

As a threshold matter, there are a few “either-or” type questions that need to be answered.

  • Either SEO experts actually know what they’re talking about, add value, and help a site’s rankings, or they do not.
  • Either paid search campaigns enhance SEO, or they do not.
  • Either organic SEO strategies — such as link-building, monitoring and modifying metatags, landing pages, etc. — work, or they do not.

If you believe that none of these things make a difference in organic search results, then the New York Times has no particular advantage over some blogger, and a lot of companies are wasting a lot of money on useless search optimization stuff.

On the other hand, if you believe that all or some of these things do make a difference, then it’s hard to understand why you believe an individual real estate agent can make SEO a cornerstone of his/her business strategy.

Competitive Advantage

At heart is the issue of what grants competitive advantage.  With SEO, if you answered “Yes” to any of the Either-Or questions, then you have to agree that money constitutes a competitive advantage.  A big company can hire the best SEO experts, spend millions on paid search, and engage in expensive professional-led campaigns with monitoring, modifying, and so on.

One tech-savvy realtor, Jeffrey Douglas, touches on this in a comment to Garron’s post when he writes:

What surprises me is that following you over the years you seemed to be an advocate of “hyper local” content. This is the key to success for any blogger, since competing with the Zillow, Trulia, REALTOR.com, and countless IDX sites is nearly impossible. (Emphasis mine)

Why is competing with Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com, and so on nearly impossible?  Why is hyperlocal so much the point of agent blogging?

The answer, to me, seems to be that when a Big Company decides that it wants to compete in SEO for some desirable keywords, it will simply outspend the little guy and just crush him.  The focus on hyperlocal and “long tail” strikes me as the result: small companies and individual agents pick up the crumbs that the big guys let fall from the table.

In other words, their SEO-based strategies are viable only insofar as some Big Guy allows it to be viable.

Relative Size, Relative Advantage

Thing is, “Big Guy” seems to me to be relative.  Even if the national players don’t care to focus on some local search terms, maybe the big local player does.  If spending money makes a difference in SEO, then it seems to me that the individual agent or small brokerage is at a significant disadvantage compared to the local Big Boy.  Said local Big Boy may get crushed in turn by the national franchises or national players, but it can in turn crush the little guy by outspending them on experts, paid search, campaigns, and the like.

This is now 2010.  It isn’t as if search optimization is some unknown, archaic thing that only the most bleeding edge interactive marketers know about.  I imagine there isn’t a marketing person in the world today who isn’t aware of the importance of search optimization.  (Which is not to say that they all do it well, but they’re at least aware of SEO.)

Given all of the above… could someone explain to me why SEO-based strategies are the key to success for the small brokerage or the individual agent?  Because from where I sit, they all look like fighting on the opponent’s chosen battlefield, using tactics that the opponent is really good at, and trying to out-Walmart Walmart.

In thinking about competition, my question is: What is the advantage that the individual agent or the small broker has over the Big Boy or Big Guys?  How can that advantage be exploited systematically?

As always, your thoughts are welcome…

-rsh

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Rob Hahn
Managing Partner of 7DS Associates, and the grand poobah of this here blog. Once called "a revolutionary in a really nice suit", people often wonder what I do for a living because I have the temerity to not talk about my clients and my work for clients. Suffice to say that I do strategy work for some of the largest organizations and companies in real estate, as well as some of the smallest startups and agent teams, but usually only on projects that interest me with big implications for reforming this wonderful, crazy, lovable yet frustrating real estate industry of ours.

38 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve always viewed SEO as icing on the cake for a real estate blog. Most people who blog primarily for SEO don’t succeed and quit. The unfortunate result of the growth of Active Rain and all the Google love it spread in the early days is the association among real estate agents that BLOG stands for “Better Listings On Google”. Indeed, B.L.O.G.s are dead.

    • I guess as I’ve said before, Todd, since I blog to get that whole frustrated writer thing out of my system, I’ve always been skeptical on the “business ROI” of blogging per se. As I’ve always seen it, if you happen to generate some leads and biz from something you love to do (writing blogposts), then fantastic! But perhaps I can learn something from other people’s experience…

      • Blogging is not therapeutic for me. It’s very strategic. The best book on blogging was written by Dale Carnegie. There’s other ways to succeed, but SEO does not need to play an integral role for a real estate blog to flourish as a business tool.. It just depends on who you are and how you do business.

    • The problem is SEO is NOT the point!

      SEO is a tool to tell us what our audience is LOOKING for. We as experts know many things at a high level and use words like QE2, short sale, recourse loan, SEO, etc. But, we need to find out what our audience knows and what words they are using in their searches. So that we can explain the issue, topic, or our position at a level they will understand.

      Remember, SEO is the tool that unlocks that treasure trove of information. The most useful blogs will expand an audiences understanding and that is where our focus needs to be, not the tools of the trade.

      PS. I love the “B.L.O.G.s are dead.” line!

  2. This is the very question I struggle with in terms of an SEO strategy. And I don’t have an answer for it so I will be interested to see the responses. For a small brokerage that relies on the success of their SEO strategy, it seems like a vulnerable place to be if tomorrow a ‘Big Guy’ can come along and crush your efforts.

    From an individual agent perspective though, Gahlord talked about blogging with a different strategy, as well. Maybe for the average agent that wants to blog, maybe the focus is in deepening and strengthening existing relationships with past clients and one’s sphere. That’s an entirely different and much more accessible strategy for the average agent.

    As Krisstina Wise states, the individual agent is going to find all that is required for online success to be incredibly overwhelming. I think she’s right. So, I’m really wondering about SEO. It’s really a huge one to tackle for an agent and for most, not very realistic is my guess.

  3. Great thoughts as usual, Rob. I suspect I’ll end up writing another post as a result.

    In the meanwhile, I must note that I do not have to agree that “money constitutes a competitive advantage.” Money, in and of itself, is not a competitive advantage.

    I’m sure that we could all think of several real world examples of a large organization spending large amounts of money and ending up with no competitive advantage. Microsoft for past ten years comes to mind. I’m sure there are more examples, maybe even real estate specific examples.

    The money isn’t the competitive advantage. Focused and knowledgeable expenditure of resources is a competitive advantage.

    Assuming that the large organization and small organization have similar focus and knowledge then yes, the greater resource pile will win. But that assumption probably isn’t a safe one. Few large organizations seem able to maintain the same focus as small organizations.

    If you’ve ever read Cryptonomicon or The System of the World trilogy it’s very much like the Mars vs Athena strategic perspectives. If you haven’t read Cryptonomicon I highly recommend it to you, Rob. I know you will love it.

    I’ve written a little bit on how focus can be brought to bear on these issues here: http://thoughtfaucet.com/strategy/decision/where-to-start-importance-and-viability-in-digital-strategy/

    Great post, thanks for injecting the relative strengths of competitors as a dimension of this conversation.

    • Oh, no doubt, just because you have money doesn’t mean you spend it well. I suppose I should have added that “Depending on your competitors being stupid is not a strategy”. 🙂

      Having said that, more money does mean that you can afford to make more mistakes; “wasting” $25K isn’t going to kill Long & Foster. A small independent doesn’t have that margin for error. That’s significant as well.

      I have read Cryptonomicon, of course, as a self-respecting geek, but not sure I see the direct application. I’m thinking actually more about Art of War, U.S. Counterintelligence Strategy, 4th Generation Warfare, and Netwars in trying to puzzle out the relative strengths/weaknesses, and strategic positioning based on capabilities and assets. 🙂

      -rsh

      • Depending on competitors being stupid is definitely not a wise strategy.

        But if having money equates to an automatic competitive edge, then all small shops should just fold, right? They don’t have the resources to compete. It’s a bit deterministic or, as my brother-in-law might conclude: “you’re just calling a dog a dirty name and hanging it.” But I’m sure we agree more than disagree here.

        4G warfare, being an outgrowth of Boyd’s work (which is itself just a contemporary retelling of Sun Tzu and putting Clausewitz to bed for once and for all), specifically includes if not focuses on the use of smaller and non-traditional forces–asymmetric warfare and the proliferation of special forces as a preferred tactical unit, etc. Smart application of forces as opposed to massive application of forces.

        Cryptonomicon has a passage about the methods used by Nazi Germany symbolized as the methods of Mars-god of war: bigger bombs, longer range missles. This was contrasted with the method used by the Allies symbolized by another god of war, Athena–code cracking, smarter science.

        I see a parallel in the money-as-competitive-edge conversation where more money might perhaps be a Mars-model and effective use of resources as an Athena-model.

        But now I’m waaaaay out in geek land. I can see that we’re going to have to get to Gahm Mi Oak sooner rather than later.

      • If anyone ever needed proof that you’re effing brilliant…

        On 4G War, that’s exactly where I’ve been thinking about things like social media. The Big Guys can roll you with greater resources in known tactics like SEO. No enemy of the United States is willing to engage in open-field traditional 3G combat with the U.S. military: we’re too good, too advanced, too well-trained. The way we just rolled over the Iraqi military in a matter of hours and days was proof that you just don’t engage the American military in open battle. You have to go asymmetric, go for soft targets, go for media warfare, etc.

        Similarly, if I’m an agent or a small broker, of course I’ll use SEO-based strategies in the short-term as long as the Big Guys either (a) ignore me, or (b) remain stupid and mired in bureaucratic red tape. But I’d be looking for asymmetric methods for gaining strategic advantage. If invisibility (going under the radar, the basis of hyperlocal and longtail marketing) is my advantage, then I’ll look for ways to press that. If nimbleness is my advantage, then I have to be a step ahead of the Big Guys such that by the time they react and roll in with force, I’ve already moved on to something else, something new.

        -rsh

        BTW, I disagreed with Cryptonomicon on that front. American industrial might simply overwhelmed German advantages in weaponry, tactics, training, etc. I remember reading that a Panzer could take out three Shermans, but we produced five Shermans for each Panzer…

      • You’ll make me blush, Rob. Plenty of evidence to contradict any claims of brilliance.

        I’m not certain I see the distinction between SEO and social media as it relates to scale and distribution of resources: the “big guys” can overwhelm via social media just as easily as any other channel.

        It seems to me, primarily, a nimbleness issue: how quickly can an organization deploy a well executed and co-ordinated social media presence? The resources of the “big guy” should, as in SEO, grant them access to all the best minds in social media, the best tools and the human power to staff the execution of their strategy.

        Many of the best tools for social media campaigns are well beyond the means of the “little guy.” Many of the advertising and paid data services (and flat-out looted data services) on Facebook are also beyond the means of the “little guy.”

        Nimbleness is the competitive advantage of a small organization. This is no different when it’s long tail marketing via SEO or social media or any other marketing channel. It’s just another way of using invisibility.

        The difference between channels is much more interesting and relevant to strategy: social media traffic and SEO traffic tend to display a different intent, the intent of the visitor. SEO traffic has a specific problem inherent in their search. The social media traffic has a specific relationship to the site owner which is inherent in their receiving a motivating signal via a social channel.

        Each of these intents can be strategically leveraged if your business objective requires it. If you make money by solving problems people ask search engines about then SEO is a channel to explore. If you make money leveraging your relationships then social channels are worth exploring. Or the relative mix of the two that makes sense for each individual business.

        Or something like that. 😉

        Re: Cryptonomicon: Sherman tanks didn’t win WWII–they weren’t even capable of piercing Panzers except in specific zone and even then had to be within 100 yards. British cryptographers cracking the Enigma code allowed for the landing in Europe (assisted by asymmetric forces). Yamamoto’s assassination was made possible by American cryptographers (and the hubris of his fleet admirals post-Pearl Harbor in not securing Midway hastened the demise of the Japanese navy). The bomb (aka science) won the Pacific theater. But I’ll agree to disagree on this one and/or be schooled over some kim chee next time I’m in NYC.

      • Definitely worth a discussion when next we meet.

        I distinguish social media from SEO because I fundamentally do not believe that companies/organizations can do social media. I fundamentally believe that social media requires human-to-human connection. (Note that I do not consider corporate use of Twitter, as ESPN does, or the local bakery to be “social media”; I consider it to be a new broadcast medium.)

        The tools you refer to almost always has to do with monitoring, rather than actual implementation. The best strategists in the world cannot help you form a human relationship with another person. Brand loyalty is nowhere near the same thing as a personal relationship. This is the one area where money really doesn’t make that big a difference, if any.

        In contrast, SEO belongs more in the area of corporate/industrial capacity. You could have a legion of people in India optimize every single page for on-page attributes, or do mass link-driving campaigns. Just like you could spend more on TV advertising.

        (Let it also be said that while I believe SEO experts could and do provide value and insight that can improve search rankings, I’m not as yet sold that social media gurus could and do the same. Teaching someone how to properly use FB is not, as yet, in the same league as defining the efficient frontier for paid search spends or rewriting site architecture with 301 redirects and javascript techniques.)

        I don’t think Big Guys can’t be nimble. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that Big Guys like Google, Apple, Amazon, even Microsoft these days, can be nimble. It’s harder to be nimble when you’re big, but with strong leadership, I think they can be nimble enough — the U.S. military is an excellent example of a very large, yet quite nimble, warfighting organization.

        What they can’t be, no matter what, is be human. That’s why I find that vector of inquiry so interesting, as a competitive matter.

        PS: We’ll also have to talk more about Cryptonomicon and the ultimate cause of the Allied victory in WW2; I think it has less to do with codebreaking and espionage and far more to do with gasoline….

  4. Rob, I am curious to know if the folks making these judgement about whether or not the real estate blog is dead or not are in the field testing their views. Is this empirical results, or just debate?

    I am not savvy enough to keep up with the latest and smartest. I’ve got enough Future Shock going. However, after updating my short sale blog 10 days ago, I have listed three new properties, two in Westchester and a 3rd was referred to a colleague in Manhattan. These results are real, and they were all in response to my own original content.

    I have to wonder why the SEO experts, if they really have the secret, don’t jump in and reap the benefits for themselves. All this “if, then” makes me dizzy.

  5. Rob, As usual an excellent look at the latest “blogs are dead” post. We should be up for another wave of real estate dual agency posts soon. Kinda like the guy of the street corner with the world is ending soon!

    I kinda like to avoid any statement that something is dead. Things happen pretty slowly and even the fax machine continues to be the best technology tool for some.

    I don’t know why I continue to want to get my dog into this fight as I have given up trying to convince most of my associates to blog – it is hard word and certainly not for everyone. I guess I just hate to see so many “social media experts” taking hard earned cash from desperate agents.

    What is critical is some internet presence which builds you as an authority in your local real estate market. You have to own and control your data, you cannot rely on a Facebook, Active Rain, Trulia, or Zillow which should be outposts for your own domain. You certainly don’t want it controlled by your Broker. This takes time and if you give up today, you will be lost tomorrow as the most successful on the Internet rise to the top. That is my continued battle cry with no hidden agenda or product to sell.

    I can list a property tomorrow and have my San Diego Lifestyle listing on 1 of the 3 top google results. When I am hired by a Seller to market their home you certainly want to have that ability. This cannot be done without an understanding of SEO, some tools, and hard work. The only company that I will never beat is Google, but then I use a api feed to provide the information.

    When I first started blogging several years ago I was clueless to SEO. Over the years I have picked up valuable tips by attending bar camps, reading blogs, and subscribing to experts in the field. While writing lots of good content is wonderful, it won’t do anyone good if they cannot find you. Type in Jeffrey Douglass or RealtyV2 and see I am doing more than talking.

    Over the last 4 months I have used a service called Scribe. It is a plugin for wordpress that has been a great help to me in optimizing my content when I am writing for a specific topic. My point that you quoted above is no one company will be able to capture the home search traffic. That is why IDX was proposed and accepted many years ago, it leveled the playing field for all those that want to republish the data. I don’t believe I will ever get an organic “San Diego Homes For Sale” link, but I have thousands of longer tails searches in all aspects of our business.

    In working with Clients I find that most have their own favorite home search site, be it REALTOR.com, Trulia, Zillow, Redfin, or a local IDX site. Even after educating them of the importance of using a site with a direct data field to our local MLS, they usually continue to use their favorite site. The cat is out of the bag on trying to keep up with the big boys on functionality, mobile use, and features.

    What the real estate consumer wants is not where to search for a home, but how to understand a purchase agreement, how best to negociate in a given market, or what real estate agency is about. I constantly use my site as a resource when I answer questions on Trulia or Zillow, with existing clients and prospects when they have a specific question, and to continue to look for like minded individuals that appreciate the knowledge being shared without trapping them into a drip mail campaign.

    Sorry for the long post. Keep up the good conversations!

  6. Rob- I think that hyperlocal really is the key to success here, either for an agent or an agency and it’s not because that’s the default. I honestly don’t think the Big Guys can win for the long tail search terms because they don’t know what those terms are and they can’t find them. Google maps in my area has all sorts of names of historic towns and villages that no one has heard of and no one is searching for. If Realtor.com or Trulia want to fight me for those terms, they are welcome to them. Buyers are looking for specific neighborhoods and they want to find an expert who has the inside scoop. So what if you have the money to win the SEO battle? In real estate you better be able to walk the walk and the consumer can smell a fraud. If you beat me out on search terms like “Kahler Glen condos” you better know about the inventory, the trends, the avalanche, and why the HOA fees are so high. CTR isn’t the same as ROI.

  7. Rob- The short answer is yes the little guys can win at this game and I don’t think this will change anytime soon. The basics of SEO and the work associated to employ winning tactics are within reach of many agents. I would even contend it is more straightforward than becoming a great blogger.

    An agent can focus on a small niche in a way a big company probably won’t. An agent can produce content and make connections while leveraging their actual activities. A big company would be hard pressed to reach the same level with hired help.

    jphillip – the SEO guys are reaping it they just keep their mouth shut unlike us SM people:) and yes I manage multiple blog sites for our team and have 20+ agent I work with at M that all blog as do I. So the questioning is a genuine quest for best use of talent and resources applied to an agents RE practice so we can make a good living.

    • So how would you answer the three Either-Or questions, Garron?

      Because if you think that SEO expertise, money for tools, money and resources for a dedicated campaign, etc. work… I can’t imagine how an agent competes.

      In other words, I agree 100% that learning the basics of SEO, work associated with it, and creating SEO-focused content is within reach for an agent. But you’re considering it either in the absence of competition (because the Big Guys have ceded smaller keywords/terms — the niches you mention), or against bad competition (Big Guys spending money loosely and without attention to detail).

      So when you say “the little guys can win at this game”, I guess I’m left asking, win against whom? Simply making money is not, from a competitive sense, winning.

      I suppose the only way we might find out is if a Big Guy goes and hires someone like you to run things and hands you carte blanche and a $10m annual budget to crush the little guys. Somehow, I think you’d rather end up dominating wherever you contest the little guy. The little guy will survive only upon your good graces and decisions not to bother with small niches and very, very long tail stuff that isn’t profitable for you anyhow.

      Am I mistaken in that?

      -rsh

  8. Rob, you have long spoken to many different areas that the big guy could crush the little guy with effective use of technology. While I agree with you, that they could accomplish this, if they chose to move in this direction, I do not expect any of them to make that choice. The undertaking for a big guy to scale multiple hyperlocal markets concurrently remains elusive, and therefore in the domain of the little guy.

  9. When buying or selling, people generally choose an agent they know and trust, or someone known or trusted by someone they trust. This has been documented in annual studies by NAR, also by our local Board HAR. Plus we know this from experience and observation. Having an epic SEO website will surely attract readers and the inquisitive. But you don’t make money from readers and the inquisitive, you make money from closings. Having epic SEO and lead generation isn’t all that rare, like you said, if you have the money you can make it happen. The problem I see is conversation. Conversion rates are generally horrific. What good is it to capture email address and phone numbers if the conversion is crappy. I think conversion is crappy because strangers don’t generally work with other strangers on major life purchases, and lots of other reasons.IMO because most people choose the agent/person and not necessarily a company. Being associated with the right team or brand can enhance an agents choosability, but people don’t generally hire the company, they hire the agent. A smaller brokerage, or team, or individual or even a big brokerage, will improve their odds for success if they focus deepening their relationships and Top Of Mind Awareness within their personal networks. I agree with Kathleen Buckley, it’s the same in our market (The Woodlands TX & Houston), the vast majority of productive agents are successful because they focus on in-person and on-purpose contact with their networks.In conclusion, the advantage the small or street smart have over the big and funded is personal relationships, hyper local knowledge and expertise. All the web, blog, social media stuff is awesome when it attracts a new and unknown prospect, but the real value is how it allows an agent to connect, engage, inform and share with their networks, create Top Of Mind Awareness, and also demonstrate that they are reputable and trustworthy. My 3cents.

  10. “So when you say “the little guys can win at this game”, I guess I’m left asking, win against whom? Simply making money is not, from a competitive sense, winning.” rsh

    Thinkin’ The Boss might take serious umbrage with that thinking. 🙂

    As President for Life of TechTards Anonymous, I plead guilty to what surely must be inferior SEO on my blog. That may be beneficial to this discussion if only to demonstrate the importance of blog content. As Ken Brand said, closed business is the ultimate measuring stick. The rest is HappyTalk generated by those who aren’t closing enough themselves — or not. I’m willing to be wrong, as it’s not an unknown position for me when it comes to tech in any form.

    Suffice to say, it took my blog about eight months to grow discernible legs. From that point on it’s consistently produced an average five figures monthly. I published my first post 7/25/06. Furthermore, the entire time I’ve been blocked from leveraging my own local market, due to it’s ugly investment numbers.

    I respectfully disagree with my friend Ken Brand. I don’t discount, outa hand, the income producing potential of ‘sphere’ and/or developing personal relationships. But the BigDogs out there aren’t closing 100-800 sales/yr from their sphere of influence, their Optimist Club, or their board membership in Little League. They’re successfully converting massive numbers of folks who didn’t know they existed, much less were an agent.

    I’m now building a local online infrastructure for the purpose of returning to my local market. I’m anticipating, (hoping?) my newly installed IDX, along with superior blog content will jumpstart my return. We’ll see. If my experience blogging outside of my own market is any indicator, I’m about to get a huge raise.

    The Boss won’t take umbrage at that. 🙂

    Finally, to those who say agents generating large numbers of leads via IDX aren’t doing things right. In my market an agent who closes one home sale monthly at median price through their IDX, will make about $135,000. Betcha those folks are wondering why they’re considered failures. 🙂

    Please, somebody, anybody, make sense of all this.

  11. Is a SEO-focused strategy viable for a real estate agent or small brokerage? Yes, if customers are searching Google with a query for “best agent in Miami” and the ROI proves to be profitable for the agent that was “picked” from the search results.

    But IMO, SEO and blogging add the most value to those agents and small brokers that offer customers something special.

    Niche plays, differentiation, lower cost and complete transparency will be the ingredients for success in the very near future – a laundry list of agents on page 1-10 of Google will hold very little value. So, use your SEO dollars wisely. As far as blogging – I agree with what someone stated above – great for venting or in my case – talking up my book.

    Thanks,

    teardowns.com

  12. This is one of the best posts I’ve read regarding SEO/Blogging and the RE.net. My 2 cents, the big guys can focus but so much of their efforts without diluting their power to the point of being ineffective. That’s why so many markets are completely dominated by the small guys, who are able to focus their efforts solely/completely in a hyper-local level.

    Would I keep a blog updated if I thought it had zero SEO value? Not likely. After all, for me the point of blogging is to engage my target audience/market in a more personal level (in ways that static pages can’t) and if I can’t reach my audience then perhaps I’d have to re-evaluate how to spend my efforts.

    Great stuff, Rob.

  13. Rob – Our real estate and property management companies are 98% fueled by SEO, and have been since 2005.

    However, you raise a good point about the Big Guy competing in our local market for strategic key word search terms. We’ve noticed over the past few years that our main competition are not the local agents, but the Realtor.com, Zillows, Trulias….

    So, I do believe that a real estate business built primarily on SEO strategies will require full-time labor and financial resources in order to have a sustainable model.

    But, in my experience, buyers, borrowers and sellers are also looking online for an expert that they trust.

    Depending on the niche, this is where the little guy can have a competitive edge against the lead gen warehouses.

    If agents approach SEO as a way to game the search engines for trophy phrases, then they’ll probably lose against the Big industry content producing machines.

    But, if agents apply basic SEO principles to their content and sites as a way to reach a very targeted audience with a deliberate message tailored to answer their unique needs and questions, then it is possible to gain more than just the “table scraps” left over from the Big guys.

    The main challenge in this market though is finding a balance between building your business online and effectively serving clients on the street.

    Good conversation.

  14. So, what we need is a major brokerage to set up a great wordpress platform with hundreds of thousands of pages ( Like the size of a Zillow, realtor.com, Trulia etc ) where their agents could blog from? Said large company would probably screw it up unless they could recruit agents to add content to the site while linking out to their own blog sites capturing large and small key terms? Would / could this work? Best of both worlds? Why isn’t this being done effectively?

  15. […] Also interestingly, Hann devalues the hyper-local approach that we have seen evolving in the last few years. We have been invited by the Internet Marketing “gurus” to go local, to focus on local search keywords. here is what Hann has to say about it: “When a Big Company decides that it wants to compete in SEO for some desirable keywords, it will simply outspend the little guy and just crush him.  The focus on hyperlocal and “long tail” strikes me as the result: small companies and individual agents pick up the crumbs that the big guys let fall from the table. In other words, their SEO-based strategies are viable only insofar as some Big Guy allows it to be viable.” (read the full article by Robert Hann) […]

  16. […] I read an old (October, 2010) but still relevant post by Rob Hahn (The Notorious Rob) on SEO, the Real Estate Blog, and Competition By disposition and vocation, Hahn is an industry gadfly. Plus, he has the mental and verbal […]

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