Organic and locally grown SEO

Organic and locally grown SEO as a test toward validation of core assumptions.

In the online surveys and in-person interviews I have done concerning how people would like to chose a real estate agent to sell their home, essentially everyone has ranked knowledge, experience, and demeanor as their top priorities. These are so consistently top of mind that other enticements such as a lowered commission, or promise to sell within a given time frame are minor concerns at best. It is hardly surprising, then, that two thirds of people rely solely on the recommendations of family or friends or their previous experience with the agent. Given that they _want_ to know about knowledge, experience, and demeanor before deciding, there are few to no other ways to collect this information.

Even today with the rise of home search sites like Zillow or review sites like Yelp, the information available on each agent is severely lacking. Nearly all have 5 star ratings, and the reviews are about as in-depth as those for taco trucks. I, personally, would not make a decision based off such limited information unless I had no other choice. There seems to be an opening in the market for more complete and trustworthy information on an agent. The essential question then is, will consumers look for this information online and trust it? And, following that, how can we provide them with it?

To determine the trifecta of an agent’s knowledge, experience, and demeanor, I propose concentrating on a single neighborhood or area of town and providing:

1. A list of all homes the agent has helped buy or sell in that neighborhood. The sales need not be too recent; I was impressed by the litany of homes my agent had worked on which she pointed out as she drove us through neighborhoods while viewing homes. This takes care of experience (and could give potential clients a list of people to contact as a reference).

2. A few in-depth testimonials from recent clients. These should contain specific details of how attentive the agent was, what they did above and beyond the ordinary for the client, and how likely they are to recommend this agent to others. This should give a reasonable measure of demeanor; at least enough keep them in the running.

3. One or two short articles written from the agents perspective detailing a interesting past sale or giving insider information about the neighborhood. This should demonstrate knowledge of their profession, hopefully to the extent that a prospective client is convinced that whatever happens during their process will be handled expertly.

What, then, can I offer an agent who is willing to put in the time to collect this information on their practice and history? Since nearly a third of most agents’ time is spent prospecting, the above information must be more valuable as a source of leads than the current methods of collecting them on the internet.

Taking one agents’ experience with collecting emails from traffic to his website, approximately 2 out of 110 visitors per day will enter their email address, of which, approximately 1.5% will convert to signing an agency contract that month. This agent spent $30/day on Google AdWords to drive about 50 clicks per day to his site, leading to a cost to acquire a customer of $900 or so.

Another example, on the higher end of conversion rates, is 1 out of 14 visitors giving an email address or phone number and 1 out of 9 of those agreeing to an appointment after being called personally by the agent. I do not know the agent’s cost to run the site or time spent on the phone to achieve these numbers.

In any event, it appears that anything at or above 1 converted lead per month would be a reasonable benchmark of success for the time and effort needed to keep the information listed above up to date as well as pay a monthly listing fee of up to $100.

To determine whether any of this is feasible, I propose the following test plan:

1. Choose one to two neighborhoods in Greensboro

2. Find one to two agents with experience selling in the neighborhoods

3. Collect the information on past sales and reviews from the agent

4. Interview them to collect their stories of a past sale or inside scoop on the neighborhood

5. Write up, edit, and post all relevant content and start the SEO process

6. Monitor and measure to see if/when the following benchmarks can be hit (ordered roughly by difficulty)

* At least 50 organic hits per day for the whole site

* At least 10 clicks through to see agents’ websites

* At least 2 email addresses collected per day on average

* At least 1 converted lead per agent in two months’ time

Depending on where in the funnel the conversion drops off considerably, I can change the targeting of the neighborhood/area of town, the focus of the agent-specific information, or the specific call to action to gather the email or phone number.

As an aside, current estimates of CPC from Google for real estate in Greensboro are around $1.50, thus putting it too high for driving a lot of traffic unless the conversion on the site is much higher than anticipated or the housing market in Greensboro heats up really quickly.