In the past year, I have found myself working tirelessly to educate my clients and the larger real estate community about the wonders of inbound marketing. The problem is that this group of professionals has a very distorted understanding of what SEO is (was) because they’ve been educated by the reigning charlatans (coined by Brian Boero) of the digital marketing space: the $500, all-in-one, guaranteed #1 ranking, “trust me I’m an expert”, no report providing, Easter European link building, blog comment spamming, fake profile creating, directory submitting…SEO vendor.
It’s Just My Website…
So, as you can imagine, it can be very difficult explaining how old form SEO is dying and how inbound marketing based on doing “real company shit” is the only way to move forward. The real estate community (for the most part) is stuck in a world of rankings, keywords, link building and spamming. They have very little patience for the long-term commitment that inbound marketing takes. They desire: traffic now! leads now! sales now! links now! But this is exactly the problem: most real estate professionals do not view digital marketing through the same lens that they view the other aspects of their business.
Would you expect to open a new brokerage and immediately start selling or listing homes? Would you expect to move to a new town, set up shop and immediately start getting leads? Would you cut corners by hiring, working alongside or recommending cut-rate cheap lenders, home inspectors, title guys, appraisers, staging experts or photographers?
I would hope the answer is a resounding: NO WAY!!! Why? Because you know that these are integral pieces of your overall business: Tangential service providers that all feed off of the services and leads that you provide. They live off the business that you generate, and you live off of their strong services. The quality of the service they provide and their reputation is a direct reflection on you, because you recommend them. Essentially, their business is your business, so you don’t dare cut corners.
Digital Marketing Vendors Are People Too…
Then why would you hire a cut-rate digital marketing vendor? The answer is in the first paragraph of this post. Real estate professionals have been trained to expect digital to be cheap, quick and low touch. Well, these days are numbered. Your website IS your first impression now, and your digital footprint needs to be rock solid. Consumers are savvy, and only getting savvier. All of those other vendors that you work with and that depend upon you to generate business won’t mean a thing when the consumers migrate to the brokers and agents that “get it”. The ones with beautiful clean websites, intuitive property searching, responsive design, well-written blogs about real things (ie not written for search engines), stunning photography and video, and integrated social media (if that’s your thing).
…Pay Them As Such
Honestly, there’s a part of me that would like for you to continue to contract these lowlife SEO vendors, because it’s going to ensure that my clients will out perform you. However, I know that’s not the right way to look at things. I challenge each of you to take a step back and consider the reasons why you are not holding your digital vendors, namely SEO & website builders, to the same levels of accountability as the rest of your partners. These people hold the keys to your customers’ first impression. If you’re not getting serious about creating an amazing, real and multi-device digital experience, that first impression will certainly be their last.
The Bottom Line: Quit thinking about “real estate SEO” and start getting real. It’s time to wake up to the new reality: if you’re doing kick-ass stuff in the real world, but cutting corners on the digital representation of “YOU” online, then you’d better start planning for the long slow decline into obscurity. FYI, “long slow decline” in digital years would be sometime around the end of 2014, if you’re lucky.
For a good overview of how hiring cheap SEO vendors will end up costing you more in the long run, I highly recommend reading this great post from Jordan Kasteler: The Hidden Cost Of Cheap SEO & Social Media Labor.
You get what you pay for…