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An Opinionated Real Estate Online Marketing Tell All

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Real Estate Online Marketing Tell All; Real Trends 2012 Online Performance Study Reaction

real estate online marketing quoteSpecial Note:

This is my response to the Real Trend Real Estate Online Marketing 2012 study as it relates to conversations I have had with brokers who have inquired about my real estate SEO services or a SEO optimized real estate website. When I first read it because it hit a nerve.  

Below is my reaction.

As a real estate SEO consultant, over the past 5 plus years I have spoken to many brokers about their real estate SEO needs, online marketing and their website. Repeatedly, I hear the same responses…Brokers do not have enough financial resources for these services.

The truth was they did have sufficient funds for real estate online marketing. However, they were unwilling to stop publishing featured home listings in real estate magazines, stop their yellow page advertising, reduce outbound mailings and postcards or discontinue paying for leads from online real estate portal giants.

The only conclusion I could ever formulate was they did not understand the value. While I cannot speak for others in my industry, I have witnessed real estate companies outmaneuver the online portal giants as well as those who continue refuse to pay for good real estate online marketing. Perhaps that is what makes the difference between the successful and those who are resistant to change.

Why the Real Trends Study Should Be a Broker Wake UP Call

According to Travis Saxton, Real Trends Marketing and Technology Manager “the 2012 Online Performance Study was born out of popular demand by the residential real estate industry. Through our Real Trends Consulting practice and our gathering of Eagles event, it has become evident that not only is this data important and undervalued, but it is critical in determining the future success of your brokerage.”

Repeat…. It is critical in determining the future success of your brokerage.

And Steve Murray, Real Trends Publisher says “It reports on the real results of brokerage firms in their attempt to create real value for themselves, their sales professionals and their housing consumers. The report blows up some myths about competing online and confirms some others.”

Real Estate Online Marketing: Let the Truth be Told

Having insider access to information gathered from over 420 offices representing over 19,000 agents that accounted for over 135,000 transaction sides and $37.5 billion dollars in 2011 sales cannot be ignored.

Learning what makes others successful, is just smart says Randi Thornton, realWITS FOUNDER.

Highlighting Top Real Estate Online Marketing Takeaways

If you did not read the report, or want too quickly learn about important takeaways to leverage data that eliminates guess work of running a successful real estate brokerage read on.

Home Buyers Search Online

The first takeaway is not surprising. 90% of consumers did online research before they bought their last home.

My Opinion: While this statement is well known amongst those whose career success relies upon servicing home buyers and sellers, it has been my experience many choose to ignore or do not allocate sufficient dollars on improving their websites performance and real estate SEO. They continue allotting marketing dollars into the yellow pages, home magazines and other off line media sources despite the fact people use the internet to learn about and locate homes for sale.

Lead Flow and Response Time

100% of online consumer expects to receive a response time within 30 minutes or less when requesting property information. And 89% said response time was very important when choosing an agent.

Once again, this should not be new news.

My opinion: When an online visitors makes an inquiry on a company real estate website they anticipate an almost instant response. Getting visitors to a website costs money. Well spent money on website design, real estate SEO and the systems and tools that support real estate online marketing.An online inquiry is one of the most desired real estate online marketing outcomes. When a visitor has landed on a website and raises their hand by filling out a lead form to inquire about a listing, why wouldn’t you have an arranged system in place to reach back within minutes or in real time? This person wants information that you have and if you don’t respond with adequate amount of time, they will find a real estate company that will.

Optimal Real Estate Online Marketing Budgeting Revealed

As earlier stated, 90% of consumers begin their home search online, however the study reports 42% of brokerage firms did not have a real estate online marketing budget! The average budget was 24%.

The study breaks down the results by brokerages that outsourced, combined in-house and outsourcing or in-house only for their real estate SEO (search engine optimization).

Real Estate Online Marketing Budgets Verses Search Rankings

Real Estate SEO Strategy

Search Engine Ranking Placement

Outsourced only

11.06 (between the first and second result on the second page of Google)

Both in-house and outsourced

5.25 (middle of page one on Google)

In- house only

16.2 (middle of lower result on page two of Google)


Out in the dark with no ranking whatsoever


According to the study…


Wasteful Marketing Dollars

If it is not bad enough that 42% of brokerages do not allocate any dollars to online marketing, 58% of firms said they spend money with listing aggregators such as, Trulia and Zillow.

Even More Bad News

The average of those in the study spent $3,842 monthly with, $1,110 monthly with Trulia and Zillow reaped $789 of the real estate companies’ monthly marketing dollars with brokers stating they were slightly unsatisfied with overall satisfaction.

My Opinion: It is very difficult for me to understand these findings. Why would a real estate company continually pay so much to purchase leads and not invest in their real estate website or real estate SEO? When a real estate company pays for leads they are growing the business of one of their biggest online competitors, rather than growing the value of their company.

Google Real Estate Online Marketing Tell All

Yes, Google will tell you where your real estate online marketing dollars deliver the greatest ROI and when to say no with others. Buried within Google analytics is factual data to eliminate the guess work and make wiser real estate marketing decisions. You do have Google analytics installed on your real estate company website, right?

Not too surprising only 58% of the brokerages in the study used website analytics to gauge the effectiveness of website forms, social media, real estate SEO and referring traffic sources such as, Trulia or Zillow.

My opinion: What may be interesting is that out of these 58% brokerages, 95% of them also conduct real estate SEO. What takeaway can be derived from this data?

Real Measurements Worth Banking On

Grab your website analytics and do a side by side comparison of the 2012 Real Trends large brokerage sample of participants from July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012, representing a total of 84 million annual website visitors of which 28.9 million were unique visitors.

Real Estate Website Annual Performance Evaluation per Visitor

Web Performance Metric

Average Results


Number page views

7.95 pages

Website stickiness

Time spent

6 minutes and 8 seconds

Website stickiness

Returning verses new visitors

2/3rds of traffic was returning visitors

Website curb appeal

Page depth

Worst: 36.8% traffic viewed only one page.

Best: 28% traffic viewed 20 plus pages.

Content influence

Site speed (time for a page to load)

5.55 seconds

SEO and visitor experience

% of search engine traffic (Google, Bing etc.)



% of direct traffic (visitor typed in URL)



% of referral traffic (Facebook, etc.)



Non branded keyword traffic




The above data represents minimum standards any real estate website should aim for. Similar data can easily be obtained for off-site real estate marketing campaigns such as magazine advertising, yellow pages and other previously popular marketing sources. This type of off-line data can be tracked by listing a different phone number or website domain (pointing to your website) in publications and other media to provide tactical measurements of real estate marketing dollars spent in these verticals.

My Opinion: Does your website metrics look similar to those above? If not, what is preventing you from making changes?

Alarming Keyword Data. Surprise or No Surprise?

The study pulled the top 10 keywords used by consumers to find the real estate brokerage online. A keyword is a word or phrase someone types into Google or any other search vertical’s search field box to find what they are looking for.

  • When a prospective home buyer or sellers uses a real estate companies name or similar as their keyword phrase, the consumer is more than likely aware of the company and is seeking their website address.
  • When a prospective home buyer or sellers uses a general keyword phrase such as “Dallas real estate” or homes in Dallas” they more than likely do not have a specific real estate company in mind.

Tell All Keyword Results

The study’s results revealed out of the top 10 keywords for a brokerage only .97% were unrelated to the brokerage name. Only .97%! The top brokerage drew 6% of its overall traffic from keywords listed in the top 10, search terms used to get a visitor to their website that was not related to their company name.

My Opinion: If the main purpose of a real estate website is to attract prospective property buyers and sellers, how well is a website’s performance that generates nearly 100% of its traffic from consumers already aware of them? To exceed average or below average profits, a real estate company’s website traffic should be obtained from a healthy mixture of both branded or company name related and general real estate keywords.

Money Making Keywords      

The study identified 5 common keyword phrases consumers used to find the brokerages.

  1. “real estate in” (primary market)
  2. (primary market) “real estate”
  3. “homes for sale” (primary market)
  4. “realtors” (primary market)
  5. “real estate in” (primary market)

Do a search on Google using the above 5 search phrases, replacing “primary market” with your marketplace. Does your website appear on the first page?

My Opinion: To generate optimal real estate website traffic numbers, it is important your company appears on page one of Google search results for at least 2 of the 5 keyword phrases.

Congratulations to these top 15 Real Estate Companies for Ranking in the 2012 Real Trends Online Performance

1.)     Park Company Realtors, Fargo, ND

2.)     Chinowth & Cohen, Tulsa, OK

3.)     RealtyUSA, New York

4.)     Blanchard and Calhoun, Augusta, GA

5.)     ReMax, Reading, PA

6.)     Coldwell Banker Rick Canup Realtors, Lubbock, TX

7.)     Lang, MaLaughry and Spera, VT & NH

8.)     Prudential Tropical Realty, Tampa, FL

9.)     Stark Company Realtors, Madison, WI

10.)  Dilbeck Real Estate, La Canada, CA

11.)  Prudential Fox & Roach, Philadelphia, PA

12.)  Prudential Homesale Services Group, Harrisburg, PA

13.)  Intero Real Estate Services, Cupertino, CA

14.)  Carol Jones Realtors, Branson, MO

15.)  John Greene Realtors, Naperville, IL

Will your real estate company make the 2013 list?

In addition to the above the study also highlights mobile presence, website conversations and goals, referring website traffic sources, traffic value, competitor comparison, social media, behavior engagement, site speed plus more. You can view or download the full report below.

My Opinion: This real estate online marketing study offers insightful data that can be used to implement proven strategies into any brokerage of any size or location. What was surprising was the fact the top 15 contenders were not the most populated marketplaces. There is room for every real estate company to expand their reach using website and real estate online marketing best practices.


Randi Thornton has been involved with SEO since 1985 when she used SEO to gain top search ranking for her real estate related websites. In April 2013 she launched realWITS, a real estate website platform that utilizes built-in SEO to help companies achieve better real estate online marketing results.

Follow her on Twitter or Facebook and be sure to subscribe to weekly articles including the release of her future real estate online marketing book.



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