A few weeks ago I conducted a test to see if I could get a home listing ranked on Google with a Facebook post. The short answer is I could, but it wasn’t the Facebook post that got ranked, it was the tweet I have automatically sent from Facebook. Right now, I’m super excited about the search ranking capabilities Twitter has.
This is especially true for real estate agents. Agents have many challenges getting their sites to show up in search results. First off, many broker sites aren’t SEO friendly. Secondly, agents tend to move brokerages. If they managed to build any search rankings at their previous employer, it all goes away…unless the agent is personally branding instead of brokerage branding. Third, they lack time. Uploading a full real estate listing is time consuming. If they don’t have an IDX feed on their website, it doesn’t typically get done.
Let’s shift gears for a minute and think from the consumer side of things. Home buyers are much more savvy about searching than ever before. Realtor.org says 42% begin their search online. Over the course of their search 92% of home buyers will use the Internet.
Consider this scenario – A couple decides to buy a house. They do their research and identify say six properties to drive by. While at a location they see another house they like that wasn’t on their list. For whatever reason, there’s no pricing information. And they don’t want to call the agent on the sign because they don’t know the price. A quick Google search should bring up the listing and the price. Right? What if it doesn’t? How about that other search engine people use on their phones…Twitter? 2.1 BILLION searches are done on Twitter every day. That’s what I would do. The average age of first time home buyers right now is 31. They are connected wirelessly and they use Twitter.
Remember that address I used for my test? Here’s what the search of it looks like on Twitter -
My Twitter account is the top result. One real estate agent tweeted that listing and they’re not even the listing agent. Do you see the opportunity?
Let me demonstrate further. Here’s what Google looks like for this listing at the time of this post -
My test tweet is on page one…ahead of the MLS. The listing agent at Coldwell Banker holds the top spot, Trulia is second and a handful of other Realtors fill in the middle. Agents relying solely on their MLS listings to sell homes are going to be disappointed. The WFRMLS is out of touch with their technology and their strategy.
This is why real estate agents should be using Twitter.
In my last article, I wrote my biggest Twitter regret was using auto-follow tools to follow a bunch of people I didn’t know. If I had to do it again, I’d rather do it organically. Well, now I have that opportunity! I’ve started a new business and Twitter is a key part of how I’m going to build traffic for the site.
Since I’ve been racing to add all the pieces I want to the site, I haven’t been promoting it very much. However, I have been using Twitter. These are my techniques.
Use keywords – My new site is about starting a business. Its geography is Utah for now. Business startups have their own set of jargon, so I’m using those keywords. For example, my first article was about the minimum viable product. I sent out a tweet and got a follower. I retweeted a different article about growth hacking from my Swaby Media account and got a dozen new followers from it.
Interact with others – The Twitter interface and ecosystem are pretty simple to interact with others. When you publicly interact with an account, that user can see it as well as their followers. Activities like replying, retweeting and favoriting are all of benefit. If people are doing that with your content it’s a good thing. Even without creating content yourself, you can build a following by sharing others’ content.
Following others – If you follow someone, there’s a good chance they will follow you back. Don’t auto-follow otherwise you’ll get overwhelmed. It’s also a terrific idea to put people you follow in lists by subject matter. Those lists can be publicly followed and they’re another good reason people will want to follow you.
Use hashtags – Hashtags are searchable. If your subject matter is popular, it’s a good idea to use a trending hashtag. Be careful that you know what the hashtag is about. Companies have made serious errors with hashtags on Twitter.
Use tools and repeat yourself – On Twitter, it’s ok to repeat yourself. It’s also ok to send out the same content with a different description and different hashtags. Tools like Hootsuite make it easy to shrink URLs, write tweets and schedule them throughout the day.
Place a twitter feed on your website – It’s another way to share content, get indexed by Google and pick up new followers.
Remember that Twitter is a real-time search engine. Except for the portion of users who automate their activity, an activity on Twitter can be significant. If someone follows you and you think they have value, follow back!. Follow people who retweet your content. The whole goal of your Twitter strategy should be to make contact with people who are interested in your subject matter.
Back in the day, when Twitter was still a hatchling, and before it had wide-spread acceptance, there was only one metric anyone cared about – the number of followers. And, back in the day, before anyone had a clue what Twitter was to become, some very smart people created automatic follow programs.
One of the key tactics to growing followers on Twitter is to simply follow other people. It’s the first step Twitter has people take when they register a new account. It works off the law of reciprocation. If I follow you, you’re likely to follow me. This is especially true if users interact by following, retweeting or favoriting a tweet and Twitter sends an email notification. It’s just easy to follow, particularly if the user’s bio resonates.
Twitter began with an open API and developers quickly made programs that would autofollow users based on any number of criteria. I used some of those programs and it’s my biggest regret. Even though I used a set of keywords to find users I wanted to follow, I still got plenty of people not worth being connected to.
It also screwed up my follow/follower ratio. Twitter and Klout look at that ratio to determine how much influence you actually have. It’s better to have more followers than you’re following. As you can see in the screen grab, I don’t have a good ratio. This is even after spending hours using tools and manually unfollowing every spammer, scammer and network marketer I’d inadvertently followed using software. I’ve given up on getting rid of them and just spend my time providing content which is attracting quality followers.
Twitter caught onto the follow tools, banned users and changed their API so it could never happen again. Unlike Facebook business pages, I haven’t created a lot of Twitter accounts. My personal Twitter account is private, so I don’t care about growth there. I am using Twitter for my newest venture and am enjoying the process of growing a follower base organically. In my next article I’ll tell you how.
I started a new twitter account today and I don’t care if you follow me on it. In fact, I don’t care if I get any followers on it…ever. Why open one then? Because Google’s little spider bots will follow me. They’ll follow my tweets. They’ll put my tweets on their little search engine that everyone uses. And they’ll put those tweets on that search engine pretty quickly. Then I’ll get followers…that care about my content.
“Findability precedes usability. In the alphabet and on the Web. You can’t use what you can’t find.” – Ambient Findability by Peter Morville
Over the past few years I’ve been thinking if I were a new business I’d start with a Facebook page. Since I ran my ranking experiment, that thought has changed. I’ve been using Twitter more for this site and business and been getting new followers, retweets and all the signals reflecting my content has traction.
I’ll still create a Facebook page for my startup. But with limited time and resources Twitter brings a marvelous bang for the buck. First of all, my blog posts get published to Twitter automatically. There is no extra time taken to post content.
By displaying my Twitter feed on my blog, I don’t have to write full posts to bring value to my site. Twitter does that for me in 140 characters or less.
When I retweet others, I get the benefit of sharing content I think my audience would find useful, I add relevant subject matter to my website through the Twitter feed and I get the opportunity to grow my followers on Twitter.
Since I’ve returned to creating content on a regular basis here, my followers on Twitter have increased both in number and in engagement. Because Google indexes those tweets which link back to here, I’m improving my search engine optimization as well!
Returning to my original statement, I don’t care if I don’t have followers on Twitter. I know if I post content there it will improve my search rankings which will lead to more qualified followers on Twitter.
Though I shouldn’t be surprised, I still am when I talk to a business about their marketing tracking. John Wanamaker is credited with saying “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” With online marketing, that problem can be easily solved, yet many businesses don’t do it.
I learned early on with this business how critical tracking is. What I do is intangible until it produces results. That doesn’t mean I’m not working and doing things. Reporting gives my clients something tangible to see while the effects of my work build.
A huge challenge I keep running in to is the lack of existing tracking. Every thing you do online can be tracked, yet so many businesses don’t take advantage of it. You can track web traffic, keywords, search rankings. You can track traffic from social media. You can track phone calls. All of this is practically automatic! A little prep work and maybe a little money is all you need. Then you won’t waste half your advertising.
Now I’m going to share three tracking methods you should have in place right now.
Analytics track everything that goes on with your website. From the number of visitors, to the pages visited, analytics tracking software will tell you everything about your website. Google Analytics is robust, easy to install and free. If you don’t have it, get it now.
Some businesses need better software than Google and it’s out there. The most used premium analytics package is Adobe’s SiteCatalyst.
People often ask me how social media can be tracked. Using analytics is one way. You can see which social media channels are providing traffic. The tools within each channel are another way. Likes, comments, re-tweets and follows are all signals of engagement. But if you want to be more specific, you’ll want tracking links. I provided a pretty solid tutorial here.
A tracking link doesn’t even have to go to a page. It can go to an image or a file. You can place specific tracking links for each ad campaign you run. Tracking links are even usable for offline advertising! Do you have any print advertising or billboards? Use a specific URL like http://www.yourdomain/adchannel or a URL shortener that’s customized. You can track every bit of advertising you have!
What about phone calls? I’m glad you asked.
Tracking Phone Numbers
Phone intensive industries should have tracking numbers on all campaigns. If you have a phone number on your website, it should be unique so you know where that call came from. Dynamic Interactive offers customized 800 and local phone numbers for tracking. Their interactive menu allows you to track calls, record calls, offer voice mail and mark inbound calls so even the smallest of businesses can answer professionally. Any advertising you do with a phone number should be tracked in this manner.
Once you have marketing tracking in place, you must have a system to track leads. Otherwise true return on investment can never be calculated. It’s also helpful to figure out if you’re missing sales opportunities due to poor follow-up of leads.
A business really doesn’t know how its marketing is doing unless proper tracking is in place. Website tracking analytics, tracking links, tracking phone numbers and sales tracking are the foundation of measuring your marketing and advertising. You’ll never have to wonder what part of your advertising is being wasted if you prepare with tracking.
The recent announcement of the merger between Zillow and Trulia has a lot of real estate agents concerned. So I did a little research to see if real estate agents could compete post merger. The short answer is they can. You can find the long answer and ways how here.
While I was researching the guide, I decided to do a little test. Could I make a real estate listing post on a Facebook business page and have it show up in a Google search result? My hypothesis was it would get ranked. A few days ago I checked Google to find out. Here’s what I found.
I was a little surprised this site showed up. I have feeds set so when I publish something to Facebook, it also goes to Twitter. My Twitter feed shows up here on my right sidebar.
The entire Twitter post showed up as well. So did another page from this site. That one post on Facebook got three search results on Google.
But I haven’t found the Facebook post itself to be ranked…and it was the source for the content.
My takeaways from this experiment follow-
1. My hypothesis was the Facebook post would get ranked. It didn’t…yet. (I’ll provide an update if that changes.)
2. Social media posts do get ranked. Even if I had no followers on Twitter, a thoughtfully written tweet would get ranked.
3. There is so much power in syndication. I made one post that went multiple places and got ranked at least three times. Every serious online business should be doing this! It’s one of the reasons I said in my guide that every real estate agent should be using an IDX feed.
Despite Google’s never ending algorithm changes…think Hummingbird and Panda…there are still search engine optimization tactics that continue to work. One of these is image optimization through tagging. Taking the small step of naming your images with your keywords used to have enormous benefit.
It still does. If you click on the image in this post, you’ll notice several things. First of all, I found this in reviewing my web stats. The photo is sending me traffic from Pinterest. Pinterest links to my article that contains the photo and it even shows other photos that are found on this blog.
Secondly, the photo was found on Google image search and then posted to Pinterest. What was the reason it was found on Google? I renamed the image with the keyword I was using for the article! So parts of the article title were repeated in the image and even four years later, the image is still ranked in the top five of Google images.
Now this is the part I find really interesting. The searched image was then pinned to Pinterest so it can be found using social media channels as well. I’m entirely convinced social media will decrease the influence search marketing has. However, examples like this show how complementary social and SEO can be. Social is impacting search in a major way. It’s up to online marketers to survey the landscape and make adjustments as necessary.
It seems to me image tagging is still an effective tactic for search and social.
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