NAR 2010 Highlights

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For those of you who couldn’t make it out to New Orleans this year for the National Association of Realtors Convention, I thought I would hit the highlights for you.

LOWES
Let me just start off by saying I can be bought with cookies. Lowes had (by far) the best give-aways at the show. I walked off with a 1 gig jump drive, a mini mouse for my laptop and freshly baked cookies (with coffee to boot!).

This friendly booth made me remember why I do my home improvement shopping at Lowes. Not only great products and services, but great customer service!

Terri Murphy
If you ever have a chance to hear Terri Murphy (@terrimurphy) I would suggest you take advantage. Her insights on real estate and technology are right on the mark. I have seen her speak at a Century 21 regional event and now at the Kodak booth in New Orleans.

As a top producing sales person in the Chicago area for over 24 years, Terri understands the unmatchable power of strategic alliances that truly create a strong differentiation in the market today.

Terri is the President of Terri Murphy Communications and Chief Information Officer of U.S. Learning in Memphis, TN. She is the founder of www.WomensWisdomNetwork.com., an online resource network for women in business.

RealBiz Media
Next One Interactive, Inc. (OTCBB: NXOI) and RealBiz Media have launched a unique real estate marketing platform for real estate companies and professionals called “Connextions”. In a nutshell, these two companies have developed a technology platform that is able to take virtual tours, make them broadcast ready, and feed them to the largest real estate websites (Realtor.com, Trulia.com, etc), social networking sites (Facebook.com, Youtube.com, etc) and now …. television! Connextions is the only real estate marketing technology platform that is able to combine the power of the Internet and Television and provide it in a single automated marketing solution for the real estate professionals.

I caught up with Steve Marques at NAR to brefiely go over the new program.

Wells Fargo MTG
Winner of this years “Fun” booth. At the Wells Fargo booth, visitors are able to play a series of games including Texas Hold-Em and “Bop the Mole” in hopes of winning cash, cooking gadgets and the coveted Wells Fargo stuffed horse. It is always fun to see what Wells Fargo will come up with next.

QR Codes
QR (Quick Response) Codes made an appearance at this years shows. Several companies are trying to turn the QR hype into a business. A few companies were offering the QR codes for a flat or monthly fee. You are able to add listings, and create the QR codes that will redirect visitors with a QR reader to the listing page you created with the company. The issue I have with this product idea is that you (the agent) can create QR codes for free using Kaywa and you can send the visitors directly to the listing page on your website. Seems more cost effective and less time consuming to do it that way – no? It will be interesting to see how this pans out.

We (ListingDomains.com & RealEstateSites.com) are in the process of adding a QR code generator to our Listing and Agent websites service. We do not plan to charge anything additional for this service. We will also offer a sign rider with the QR code for an added fee. More to come on that …

Why Does Craigslist Drive the Most Traffic?

The short answer: Because of its huge volume of traffic! Craigslist is a fascinating Internet phenomenon. It reminds us of Facebook: a site that started small, based on a simple, localized idea, but then ballooned into a huge site that everyone wants to use.

Ask any seasoned agent and they will tell you that Craigslist is an incredible tool for agents. There’s absolutely no comparison – when you place a listing on Craigslist, it gets you more traffic than any other listing.

Craigslist was started in 1995 by Craig Newmark with the modest goal of helping people find affordable housing in San Francisco. It is now the most popular online classifieds website in the world, with over 10 million monthly visitors. Agents can take advantage of this huge traffic by posting free ads and by scanning ads seeking homes and answering them.

In addition to its huge amounts of traffic, another useful feature of Craigslist is that it is divided by localities and categories. So as an agent, you can post to the areas that you service. In addition to cities, the real estate section of Craigslist is divided into specific sections, so there are separate sections for apartments/houses for rent, office & commercial, real estate for sale, vacation rentals and more.

In most locations, posting an ad on Craigslist is free. You can create single ads for specific properties, or an ad listing all your available properties for an area. Craigslist ads are easy to create and require no coding design or HTML knowledge. You should definitely include images in your ad – these have been shown to vastly improve response rates. Choosing a great title for your ad is also very important. Try to write a catchy title that includes the words people might search for when looking for the properties you sell.

Listing Syndication: a Good Idea?

Listing syndication makes a lot of sense for agents. You obviously want your listings to reach as wide an audience as possible, and placing the listing on your site and social media accounts and in the local newspaper, while definitely useful, will likely not reach a huge audience.

Benefits of Listing Syndication

Listing syndication allows you to reach a much wider audience, and spread your listing all over the Internet, including major search engines, and high-profile, high-traffic sites such as Zillow, Trulia, and of course Craigslist.

Zillow and Trulia: Supporting Agents or Potentially Undermining Them?

But while sites such as Zillow and Trulia are excellent for buyers and sellers, are they really that great for agents? We need to remember that these sites are focusing on increasing their own traffic, not necessarily on sending traffic to agent sites. Their goal is to keep visitors on their site. Which begs the question, are these sites great partners for agents – or are they a possible threat?

Recent features added to Zillow make it pretty clear that the site’s ultimate goal might be to become a real estate marketplace, independent of real estate agents, that charges a fee for transactions completed through the site. Zillow now enables homeowners to upload information about their homes, it has the “Make me an offer” feature where homeowners can get direct offers on their homes, and it has also added a Wiki where buyers and sellers can learn about the complexities of handling a real estate transaction.

Listing Syndication Still Useful

So, is listing syndication a good idea? We think it is. You should definitely syndicate to major search engines and to Craigslist. As for property website portals such as Zillow and Trulia, we believe you SHOULD take advantage of the huge traffic these sites receive. After all, you can post your listing on these sites along with your information and a link back to your agent website. But you also need to make it very clear to buyers and sellers that your knowledge and expertise are invaluable, and that going into such a huge, complex transaction without the help of an agent is extremely risky.

Spam Harvesters Are On Your Website!

“If it were possible to redirect the time and effort poured into antispam and antimalware code over the last 10 years, we’d already have colonies on Mars and probably a new form of renewable energy.”  (InfoWorld).

We have to agree! Spam now accounts for between 95-98 percent of all email and is not going away anytime soon. The main issue is that current solutions focus not on eliminating spam altogether, but on preventing it from getting into our inboxes. But this causes many legitimate emails to get buried in the spam folder, and also does not solve the issue of spam floating out there on the Internet, consuming bandwidth and resources.

We have recently installed a program called Honey Pot, which works to blacklist spam harvesters. We have been able to report hundreds of suspicious IPs to be blacklisted. While doing this we were SHOCKED at the number of suspicious bots out there crawling our websites.

We have become more aware than ever of the importance of protecting ourselves against spam. Never, ever just put your email address on the Internet, unless you’re willing to deal with an overwhelming amount of spam. If you need to place your email address online, you can either use a graphic that spam bots cannot read, or break the address so that it cannot be harvested by the bots. So, instead of me@mydomain.com you should type me (at) mydomain (dot) com.

Of course, as we said above, any measures we take to protect against spam are costly and limited. For each IP we report, another one will pop out in its place. The real solution needs to come from IT companies. SOMEONE needs to find a way to kill spam before it is ever sent out. Just imagine how much faster and more efficient the Internet will be without spam!

Real Estate Websites: Choosing the Best Keywords

You probably already know that having a real estate website is a necessity rather than a luxury. We simply can’t imagine not having a website these days! Any business that doesn’t have a website seems dated and unprofessional – and this is true for the business of real estate too.

But having a website is not enough. Your realtor website should be optimized for search engines, to make it easier for prospects to find you. While the vast majority of clients still find their realtor via referrals from friends, a growing number of people start their search for a home online, typing certain keywords into the search engine search box. If their search results include your real estate site, and if your site is professional and filled with relevant information, they just might contact you and turn into leads, and maybe clients.

That’s why it’s important to choose a few main keywords for your site, and to optimize your site for those keywords. Optimizing means that ideally, your main keyword should appear in your realtor website URL, in your site’s title tags, and sprinkled generously into your website copy. Don’t overdo it though! Just write naturally, as you would write for a human reader. Writing for search engine bots is never a good idea.

For example, if you specialize in San Francisco real estate, a wonderful URL for your site would be SanFranciscoHomes.com (keep in mind that the best URLs are already taken, so you might need to compromise); your homepage’s title tag should say something like “San Francisco Real Estate | San Francisco Homes For Sale | Your Name” and your website copy should include these keywords too.

Optimizing your real estate website for search engines is pretty straightforward. Take the time to learn the basics of search engine optimization and do it. It could bring you clients down the road and will certainly help you to establish yourself as an expert in your area.