What is digital marketing? To me, digital marketing means using internet-related technologies to generate sales or leads for your business. For a real estate agent that mean generating potential buyers and sellers. We all know it is a numbers game: X leads to get Y appointments which will give you Z close of escrows. It would be nice if we could build a website, buy some ads, and just wait for the escrow checks to role in. That isn’t the case yet – there is still a need for the knowledgeable, experienced real estate agent in the picture.
A good digital marketing strategy helps increase the number of leads, so you can have those initial meetings and more escrow closings.
Below I list nine major areas to consider for a good digital marketing strategy. Over the coming weeks, I’ll be sending out an email with more detail about each area.
A Website provides your digital footprint on the web. The first thing a potential client will do when they are thinking of working with you is to do a Google search. You don’t need to have the most advanced website possible with all the bells and whistles. But you should at least have a good basic site with your photo, contact details, and some information about yourself.
Many larger brokerages will provide some sort of basic website, or at least a page on the corporate site. If you don’t already have access to a website, GoDaddy has a website builder, as do Wix, Squarespace and many others. There is a bit more of a learning curve, but WordPress is a good option. You can setup a site at WordPress.com with hosting included. At WordPress.org , you can download the software for free, but you have to install it and pay for your own hosting.
A domain costs from around $15 / year. On the low side, a website and hosting would cost $150-$200 / year if you do all the setup yourself. Of course, if you pay for development, prices can quickly increase beyond that.
2. SEO – General
Once you have your site up, you want to make sure that people can find your site. That is what general SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is all about — making sure Google, Bing and other search engines can find, read, and understand your site so they can direct traffic to your site.
You want to make sure that you have basic SEO items dialed in such as your title and meta description tag, and your sitemap.xml.
It is very unlikely that you will hit page one of search results if someone types in “San Diego Real Estate” – there are too many big companies dominating the space like Zillow, Trulia, Redfin, and the big brokerages. That’s why it might be best to really focus on a specific neighborhood “Hillcrest”, or a specific type of real estate “Relocation expert San Diego”, or “downsizing expert San Diego”. Even then, it will take a while to start appearing at the top of the page. That’s why our next item is very important – Local SEO.
3. Local SEO
If you have ever typed in “Coffee shop near me”, or “Indian Food near me” Google has optimized the search to show you results in your area. If someone searches “San Diego Real Estate” on their phone, and they are near your office, there is a chance that you will show up in the Google 3-pack. Ranking for the search term ‘Realtor San Diego’ in general search is quite difficult; however, it is much easier to show up in local search results. If I search ‘Realtor near me”, it will give me results near where I live in the North Park neighborhood of San Diego (see screenshot below).
You need to register your real estate business with Google My Business at the very least. You can also list with Bing Places for Business, and Apple Maps. There are several other directory listings that will boost your rankings with Google and the other search engines such as Yellow Pages, Yelp and Foursquare.
When you feel like you have your website and SEO dialed in, you might want to run some ads to help generate leads. You can advertise on Google, Bing, Facebook, and several other social media platforms.
Before you start running any ads, you should have a clear idea of what you want to accomplish. Are you trying to get seller leads, buyer leads, seniors who are downsizing leads, people moving into San Diego leads, etc. You want to build a simple landing page where users will be directed from your ad. The idea of a landing page is to keep it simple, convey the message (“Call me if you are moving to San Diego”, “I’ll get your home sold within 30 days!”). Then you have a clear “Call to action” (“Book an appointment now”, “Call now to speak about selling your home”).
You want to make sure to install a Google UA tracking code for and Facebook tracking pixel. Google Analytics will allow you to measure web traffic to your site in a very granular way so you can what is performing well on your site, and what is not. You can also use GA to track how effective your Google ad campaigns are. The Facebook pixel allows you to measure traffic on your Facebook page and track performance of your Facebook ads.
Without properly tracking, you are just wasting your advertising dollars, as you won’t know what is working and what is not.
6. Social Media
Posting on social media can be very effective: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest etc. But don’t try to conquer all of them at once. Start with the platform you are most active on and most comfortable using. It’s more important to have a consistent strategy you can stick with.
Content is king these days. It’s worth pushing yourself out of your comfort zone to blog, podcast or make videos on a regular basis. It could be a two-minute video once a week talking about your listings, how your business is going, what struggles you are having. It’s ok to share a bit about yourself. People love that but keep it professional. You don’t need professional video. Just shoot the video from your phone or computer’s camera. It is easy to get bogged down on this and spend tons of time. It might take a bit longer at first, but once you are up-and-running, aim to spend no more than 30 minutes total – including writing content, making the video and posting it. Facebook live is a great medium for videos. You can also do it on a YouTube channel.
If you are more comfortable blogging, that’s fine too, but don’t spend too much time on it. Whether your blog or make videos, you will probably be a bit rough at first. Everyone is! Just keep at it week-by-week and you’ll get much better.
8. Email Marketing/Automation
Once you have your website up, creating some content on a weekly basis, and maybe doing some ads, you want to setup some marketing automation to nurture those leads and turn them into clients! This is where email marketing comes in. Most people are familiar with MailChimp. It has some limited automation capabilities. I use a software called ActiveCampaign that lets me setup email drip campaigns and other marketing automation to nurture leads. You want to put people that come to you via your website, ads, or content, into a nurture campaign. That’s what the automation part is – behind the scenes ActiveCampaign or another automation system is keep those leads engaged and, on the journey, to becoming a client.
Once a lead is toward the bottom of the sales funnel and close to becoming a client, you want to have a good CRM (Client Relationship Management) system to make sure you keep in touch and follow-up on a timely basis. There are dozens of good CRMs on the market. It really doesn’t matter so much which one you pick, as long as you pick one and start using it. Of course, you should look around at the options, but at the end of the day, it is more important to be using a system, than waiting to find the perfect system. Many large brokerages provide their agents with a CRM. Be sure to ask your office manager to set you up for the appropriate training.
What if I’m a new agent and don’t have a deal pipeline?
If you are a new real estate agent, without any deals in the pipeline yet, make sure you talk to your office manager and ensure you are making full use of all the tools they provide. Be sure to setup a basic web page with a professional photo. Make sure to learn how to use any CRM or email software the office provides. Start with a social media account and post content regularly. Post the listings of other agents in the office, if you don’t have your own listings. Start a weekly video or blog. You can setup a blog on Medium.com or WordPress.com for very little if you don’t have a blog on your website. When I was a new agent, I was bombarded by calls from people selling Google Ads, website development, etc. I wasted a lot of money because none of the efforts were coordinated.
My advice would be to hold off on any big expenditures. Make sure you are using all the free tools you have at your disposal. If your broker doesn’t provide it, you can get a basic website, a Mailchimp account or some other email automation system, and a decent CRM for low cost. Then start making some content on social media and make a blog or vlog. I would also suggest find an area to specialize in – such as the Hillcrest neighborhood or focus on military families if you are ex-military. That doesn’t mean you have to turn down deals outside of your area of focus, but it will be easier to build a name for yourself if you have your niche or area of specialty.
What if I have a deal pipeline but want to increase my leads and closings?
The key to this is to generate more leads. You might want to review your website to make sure it has a modern look and is easily navigable. Have an SEO review to make sure you site can be easily found by Google and the other search engines. Make sure your local SEO is properly setup. You might want to consider running some Google or Facebook ads, but make sure you have Google Analytics installed so you can track the effectiveness of your ads.
Try creating some content once a week – whether you write a blog, podcast or make a video. Come up with a strategy and a content calendar (plan out what you will write or vlog about each week over the next 6 months) and stick to it. Don’t get bogged down in it – spend an hour max then move on. You might decide to have “Tips for selling your home at top dollar” to be the theme for October – break it into 4 smaller segments for each week of the month. At the end of September, sit down and write or video all four segments at once so you can complete a month in one setting. Depending on your platform, you might be able to load and schedule all of the posts at once too.
You likely have some email lists and send out a monthly newsletter or a notice on new listings. Be sure to setup some drip campaigns and landing pages for specific areas of focus: “Working with sellers”, “First time buyers”, or “empty nesters looking to downsize”, for example.
You probably have a CRM whether you call it that or not – most likely a list of people, phone numbers, postal addresses and email address in an Excel spreadsheet. An Excel spreadsheet can be a good option when you are first starting out, but over time it can become unwieldy to manage clients off a spreadsheet. Buy a decent CRM system, and have someone help you get it setup properly if you need the help. Consistent and regular follow-up with leads and clients is the key to closing more deals!