Internet


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You have information to share. Wonderful and insightful knowledge about your business and changing industry. You are an expert. You are smart, alert, and creative when dealing with change. With RSS you can share that knowledge with the world 24/7. According to the a recent article by RISMedia, RSS allows you to become the information source and the authority of your profession, virtually distributing it to the desktop of the very people you want to reach.

In the past year “RSS Feed” has become a very popular buzz word in Internet marketing. Questions like “What is RSS?” and “Why do I need RSS?” are commonly heard at industry conferences and coffee shops around the world.

What is RSS?

Really – Simple – Syndication.

RSS may be defined as being simple, yet the concept and application of RSS is anything but simple. An RSS feed at the most basic concept level collects content on the Web and categorizes it into a simple structure so that another person can easily download the content and be notified of when it is updated.

The technology can be used for many purposes:

– Product information
– Opinion and observation articles
– Business and professional tips
– Travel logs
– Press releases
– Personal and professional journals

As a business owner, RSS gives you many advantages in distributing your information online and promoting it to the right demographic.

Easier Distribution: RSS doesn’t have the many pitfalls of mail or e-mail marketing. There are no permission lists or databases to maintain. Everyone subscribes by choice and has complete control over the distribution of your information to them.

Control of Information: RSS supports the ability of teaser paragraphs and introductory information. You don’t need to send out everything through RSS- which allows you to include links to other information, lead generation forms, and industry partner information that is hard to squeeze into one communication.

“Pull” or demand marketing, rather than PUSH: Subscribers are in complete control. They don’t endlessly worry at six o’clock that they are going to get a telemarketing call interrupting personal time. If they choose- they can get more information or simply cancel the subscription. Giving control of this process increases the quality of distribution channel and strengthens the relationship.

Link-building, traffic, and promotion: everyone wants more traffic and eyes viewing their site information. By including links within articles going out on RSS feeds, a percentage of readers will be pulled back to the main site and source of the information. This means that one newsletter distributed via RSS could result in a reader flipping through ten pages of your site: which means more education, better branding, and a possibility of having a new client.

Up-to-date content: One of the main reasons that RSS (which is supported by blogs, community sites, and other social media) has gained popularity is that users have learned that 95% of the content is recent information. Rather than read about last weeks news, RSS subscribers are reading today’s news. If you compared it- it is just like have the nightly news on your desktop, laptop, or mobile phone 24 / 7 on demand.

Search Engine Marketing with RSS

Before you run out and get a RSS feed setup on your site, understand a critical item in having one. The words you choose for your RSS feed name, description, and source files are very important.

If you are a real estate broker, you probably know that having a domain for your site such as “newyorkrealestate.com” will drive traffic to a New York real estate office. The same is true of RSS feeds.

When naming the file structure of your RSS feed-don’t choose something like “tomsdailynewsartcles,” but choose a detailed three to four keyword phrase for your feed. It will help you rank for those key phrases. If you have several areas of content, more strategic uses of search marketing are possible by using multiple RSS feeds for your search marketing goals.

Getting People to Subscribe to a Feed

Feeds should be prominently displayed on your site with a call to action to subscribe. Users can use many different methods to read your feed, including built-in services in an Internet browser, e-mail application, or mobile phone. As your audience subscribes to the various RSS feeds on your site, those subscribers help add to the overall recognition and strength of how your site produces natural, organic traffic through multiple sources. An important call to action on any site, newsletter, or feed is to encourage current readers to share the information and articles with like-minded friends and associates. Full Story

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According to RISMedia, a recently released report compiled from analytics and user statistics for the real estate industry reinforces the fact that the real estate consumer is moving increasingly toward real estate Web sites as their source for listings and industry information. The report was released by VisiStat, a provider of real-time Web site visitor statistics.

Supporting indicators include:

– Overall traffic growth for 2007 (over 2006) was 36.8%
– Return visitors made up 47% of all Web site visits
– The average visitor clicked through 14 site pages during each visit
– Monday and Tuesday were the most trafficked days of the week, with the
highest activity in the 9 p.m. hour
– March received the most visitor traffic of any month of the year

“We provide data for thousands of brokerages and agents across the country, and because of this, I have been working closely with brokers and agents for some time. It’s no surprise that the figures in this report coincide exactly with what I have been hearing from them, and that is, home buyers are using the Internet to educate themselves and find properties, often long before they engage an agent,” said Tina Bean, director of Sales and Marketing for VisiStat.

For more information, visit The VisiStat Real Estate Trends report.

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(This excerpt is just the beginning. Click on “Full Story” below to read on.) 

Do you need a basic introduction about search engine optimization (SEO)? RISMedia’s recent article is an introduction to being able to understand conversations about SEO, Spyders, Black Hat, and a variety of buzz words used by online marketers.

Why is everyone so eager to be on search engines?

In 2007, advertisers spent billions of dollars on search engine marketing. Projections for search engine marketing efforts are slated at over $12 billion dollars by 2010, with some statistics going as high as $25 billion. The online market place is constantly shifting and evolving, producing large amounts of targeted traffic for various types of businesses that know how to convert visitors into clients.

In 2006- Forrester Research released these basic statistics about search traffic:

– 93% of all Internet traffic is generated from Internet search engines
– 89% of them are first-time visitors
– 99% of Internet searchers do not search beyond the top 30 results
– 97% of them never look beyond the top three results
– Top 10 positions receive 78% more traffic than those in positions 11-30
– 65% of online revenue is generated from Web sites in the top three positions on search engine results pages (SERPs)
– 93% of global consumers use search engines to find Web sites
– 76.7% of Google users use the natural search links (organic unpaid listings)

What is search engine optimization (SEO) and why is it important?

SEO is the process of analyzing elements on a site so that the code maximizes the combinations of keywords contained on the site when a search engine looks at it. While text elements are visible to a human eye, dozens of pieces of code within a site are also important to showing up for specific keywords: this includes structure, HTML code, directories, images and content on the site. The selection of the keywords a site shows up for is radically important to a business, as the competitiveness and importance of those keywords could potentially send thousands of viewers a day to a site.

What is search engine marketing (SEM) and why is it important?

SEM is the understanding of how a target site relates to other sites on the Web. Some SEO techniques allow a site to show up for relatively low competition keywords, but as the number of sites on a given keyword becomes more competitive, SEM allows a business to coordinate dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of sites to increase the relevancy of how a search engine views it. SEM can also include pay per click (PPC) or unpaid organic results.

What is the primary difference between SEO and SEM?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is primarily done with code work on a target site. It includes images, text, and information on the site.

Search engine marketing (SEM) is primarily done with work not on the site. It includes link-building, business partnerships, and other online marketing efforts. Full Story

Here’s a list of our favorite real estate-related websites and services (in no particular order) that we came across in 2007:

And here’s looking forward to a great 2008!!! 🙂

As the holidays and long winter months quickly approach, December brings many real estate professionals extra time to anticipate their success for the upcoming year. Instead of facing a bleak and potentially slow month of business and leads, utilize this exclusive downtime to your advantage. Try these 10 actions from RISMedia to lay the groundwork for a successful and profitable 2008:

1. Create a specific, realistic and competitive business plan for next year and stick to it! Develop short term goals for each season and set aside four specific days each year to assess how you’re reaching these goals. You want to make sure to set goals that help sustain your drive and vision of success for the whole year. Don’t push yourself too far and remember that a lot of your learning will come from the mistakes you make.

2. Define your marketing niche and go for it! Seek out a professional to help you focus on a particular market segment if you are unaware of successful marketing techniques. Look at the area surrounding your properties. Should you appeal to expecting parents? New college graduates? Retiring, older adults? What generation are you trying to target? Make sure your advertising appeals to whichever market you’ve selected. If you’re very ambitious, look into becoming a short sales expert. The short sale occurs when the net proceeds from the sale of a home are not enough to cover the sellers’ mortgage obligations and closing costs. Lenders will pay a reasonable commission to the real estate professional as an incentive to get into short selling.

3. Incorporate new technology into your Web site. Add moving graphics, virtual tours and request forms for potential clients to elicit more information from you. Ensure that the message “I’m available to help you” is loud and clear. The more accessible you are, the more opportunity you give potential clients to make contact with you. Remember – people need a fast response to an e-mail or phone call. If they don’t hear from you within a couple of hours, they will find someone else to answer their questions.

4. Make phone calls. Set a minimum number of phone calls to make each day and stick to it! Figure out how many phone calls you usually make during the busy season and double that number during the winter months. Call past clients to wish them a happy holiday season and check in with them to see if they have any friends or relatives looking to buy or sell a home. Call your prospects and figure out if they are hot or cold leads. The stronger the connection you have with a potential client, the more likely they will choose you to guide them through the home buying process.

5. Host a seminar. Choose a topic that is pertinent to the local community.

6. Volunteer. By getting involved in the local community you’ll be able get your name out and make connections. Community service gives you the chance to express yourself outside of work and to develop the personal relationships that you need to promote growth and future referrals. The more people that recognize your face, the more likely they are to turn to you for real estate advice.

7. Master your home staging techniques. Read a few books or articles on what real estate professionals are doing now in terms of staging and make sure that you’re equipped to do the same for your customers. Look into a home staging training program that upon completion will provide you with a certificate as an Accredited Staging ProfessionalTM. This certificate provides you with a competitive edge and yet another free service that you can offer to potential clients.

8. Attend open houses. Take time to see what’s available in your area so you are aware of the close competition and how other real estate professionals are selling. (While you are perusing the open houses note the other real estate professional’s home staging techniques for tip 7.)

9. Improve your ad copy. By practicing your writing techniques you will increase your ability to make your ads more appealing. Focus on spelling out amenities and highlighting any benefits that homeowners would want to find in their ideal home. Make sure the description is not vague and avoid euphemisms. Practice by reading current listings and try to spruce them up.

10. Get a designation or certificate. The more qualifications you can add to sell yourself and widen your client base as the best agent in your area, the better. There are several different areas that you can get a designation in from becoming an Accredited Buyer Representative to becoming a Certified Real Estate Brokerage Manager. Turn a professional weakness around by becoming an expert!

Full Story

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Real estate Web site Zillow.com launched Zillow® Smart Search, a dynamic new version of its search system, along with enhanced Neighborhood Pages that make it easier than ever for consumers to zero-in on homes most relevant to them and become smarter about the characteristics of surrounding areas.

According to the company, Smart Search uses patent-pending search technology that tightly integrates Zillow’s vast amount of real estate data with its mapping technology to provide users meaningful results through an intuitive, dynamic display. The technology enables Zillow visitors to customize their searches and view results in real time across multiple regions, simplifying real estate search in ways not previously available.  

Specifically, Smart Search offers:

Geographic boundaries. No need to scroll through pages and pages of data, Smart Search presents information at-a-glance through a map-based display that now includes boundaries at the state, county, city, ZIP code, and in many cases, neighborhood levels. Choose to view all homes, or those that are for sale, recently sold, or have a Make Me MoveTM price and further narrow searches with details such as number of bedrooms or price range. Results will identify the number of homes that match each search within the boundaries.

Dynamic, real-time updates. Designed to handle complicated and simultaneous queries, Smart Search enables users to alter search parameters or zoom in or out on the map and see results update on the fly, without the need to refresh.

Detailed Snapshots. See quick-read details of a specific area via a pop-up window. Based on the criteria, this could include population, median sale price and the Zindex® home value indicator. Unlike most real estate sites, Zillow tracks data on nearly all U.S. homes, not just those that are currently on the market or have recently sold, which is helpful to those looking for broader perspective on a particular market.

Improved results for multi-unit buildings. It is now far easier for users to find details about condos or multi-unit buildings through the initial results page. A special icon denotes these types of homes so users can easily identify a specific type of home.

“Smart Search sets a new standard for online real estate search and solves one of the biggest challenges on the Internet today by taking an enormous amount of data and displaying it in a way that is easy to digest and meaningful to each of our users,” said David Beitel, chief technology officer at Zillow. “At Zillow, we recognize one size does not fit all when it comes to homes and we’ll continue to introduce cutting-edge technologies and resources like Smart Search and neighborhood pages to help users customize their experience and quickly locate relevant information in a simple and seamless way.”

Zillow also launched more than 7,000 re-designed neighborhood pages in more than 130 cities nationwide, incorporating valuable user feedback. These revamped pages provide an in-depth look at a neighborhood, integrating public demographic information as well as data that is unique to Zillow like the Zindex and home value trends across neighborhoods and other regions. These pages now include snapshots on Affordability, Homes & Real Estate, People, and Discussions, a popular forum Zillow introduced earlier this year to help community members ask questions and have conversations with current or potential neighbors.

The company says that the neighborhood pages are also now easier to find, accessible through the home page, through links embedded in Smart Search results, and on individual home detail pages, which Zillow provides for more than 70 million homes nationwide. Zillow Blog

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Springwise points us to a new online marketplace with the descriptive name Home Equity Share matches home buyers with investors. To be exact: it brings together buyers who can afford monthly payments but not a 20% down payment, and investors who want to get into real estate but don’t want to become landlords or make monthly payments.

Potential home buyers post a profile listing their preferences, including the area they want to buy in, and the price range they’re looking for. They’re automatically matched with compatible investors, come to an agreement and sign a preliminary commitment. This allows the buyer to become pre-approved for a loan, and to start looking for a property. Once buyer and investor agree on a property, the investor provides the down payment, the buyer arranges a mortgage for his home and moves in. At the end of a specified agreement term—usually three to seven years—the buyer can purchase the investor’s interest in the property, or they can sell the house and share its appreciation in value.

Home Equity Share provides the matching service and contracts at no cost to buyers and investors, but requires that they use a real estate agent who is registered with the company. Agents pay a referral fee of 20% of the commission earned on transactions referred by Home Equity Share.

Unlike P2P lending services we’ve written about in the past, such as Zopa and Prosper, Home Equity Share is targeting a very specific niche: real estate down payments. It matches the parties and provides them with contracts, but doesn’t facilitate the exchange of money. Other niche P2P lending matchmakers to follow?

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