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Austin’s largest venture raise this year will surprise you

(MARKETING) Opcity is the Austin startup making big changes to the ways that lead generation happens in real estate.

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Real estate start up

With the accelerated growth of real estate in today’s metropolitan markets, it’s no surprise that innovation and growth from this is highly valuable. With $27 million dollars in funding, Austin startup Opcity is proving that through and through.

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The company just closed a Series A round of funding, and it is the largest round of funding raised by an Austin startup this year.

Opcity’s pitch

According to Opcity’s website, the startup performs lead generation for real estate brokers, to ensure that brokers receive “the right referral…in real time,” for both buyers and sellers. Traditionally, according to CEO Ben Rubenstein, the process that connects real estate market participants and brokers “has historically been complex and at times extremely frustrating.”

Opcity aims to both simplify and optimize that experience.

They certainly have a point; lead generation can eat up a lot of work bandwidth for brokers. It requires managing multiple marketing channels, both online and offline. So much so, that there are entire Quora threads and articles dedicated to these very topics. Some of them specifically lament the existing pay-for-leads system that exists in the online marketplace, citing how difficult it is to convert these leads into clients.

Opcity assumes this role for these agencies, and all without upfront costs to them; brokers pay up only when the transaction closes.

Not only has the startup proposed a better solution to lead generation, but they have developed it in a city with a thriving real estate ecosystem, and that’s more important than you might think.

“You build a successful venture WHERE the regional economy, market, and ecosystem of experience, talent, and resources support what you are trying to accomplish,” MediaTech Ventures founder Paul O’Brien said. To that end, “Austin (and Texas) are distinct from the coasts given the tremendous room for residential and commercial development, met with demand – as thousands are moving into Texas every day. [It] is the market ideal for innovation in real estate and Opcity helps establish that fact.”

On the up

Texas isn’t the only state catching on; since their launch in 2016, Opcity closed 350 brokerages and over 4,000 agents to work with their platform. In addition to the industry’s top independent brokerage firms, Opcity also works with Century 21, Keller Williams and other classic brands.

That attention caught the eyes of venture capital firm Icon Ventures, who led this round of funding with support from Georgian partners and LiveOak Venture Partners.

The funding will allow Opcity to scale into other markets.Click To Tweet

As this model catches on, it could significantly shape the marketing and communication interactions between brokers, buyers and sellers. Anyone in the real estate industry should be paying very close attention to this journey.

#Opcity

Born in Boston and raised in California, Connor arrived in Texas for college and was (lovingly) ensnared by southern hospitality and copious helpings of queso. As an SEO professional, he lives and breathes online marketing and its impact on businesses. His loves include disc-related sports, a pint of a top-notch craft beer, historical non-fiction novels, and Austin's live music scene.

Business Marketing

Take Google classes online for free to give your brand superpowers

(BUSINESS) If you own a business or lead one, take one of many interesting free Google classes to brush up or learn new info to gain a competitive advantage.

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Staying competitive means not only hiring the right people, making the right product, and being a good leader – it means investing in your own development.

Especially if you’re an entrepreneur – it pays to invest in your own development by taking classes, webinars, and other forms of education.

Online courses in particular are useful if you have competing roles (or multiple roles!) that keep you from being able to attend a local course. Google offers a few free Google classes that are listed on platforms like Udacity.

There are many courses available that could benefit your company; here are three worth starting with:

  • App Monetization – Ultimately, most of us are in the business to make money. This course is useful because it equips you to consider profitability from the beginning, and then introduces monetization models and from there, prompts you to develop a strategy and gives information to track a strategy. This course is focused on sharing best practices, and makes you a better manager even if not developing an app, per se. Course is available via Udacity.
  • Localization Essentials – If you want to compete in the global market, and you are ready for that, it is essential that you consider how your product will need to be adapted both in terms of language and culture. This course is especially valuable for developers, product owners, or localization newbies. Knowing the fundamentals of localization makes you more prepared for dealing with a global audience. Course is available via Udacity.
  • Responsive Web Design – People like it when things work. I’ve said before that people are visual, but they also crave intuition. This course talks about responsive web design and discuss what works across different devices (because we don’t always go on our computer!) with a focus on optimization. This class does require a good comfort in reading HTML and CSS. People interact with products first online many times – make sure your website is responsive to any device. Course is available via Udacity.

There are of course a much larger amount of online courses on everything from history to design, and beyond. Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are sustenance for knowledge seekers. Check out for example, the Science of Happiness from UC Berkeley, or learn about Analyzing and Visualizing Data with Excel directly from Microsoft.

Before engaging in an online course, make sure:

  • You are interested in the topic.
  • You have the pre-requisites and key knowledge. Read the course description!
  • You make the time.

Many MOOCs are free, not just Google classes – but time and your own work are still valuable. It’s easy to write off something for free, but you want to maximize your time and make sure you get something out of it. Being educated can give you an advantage, but keep learning relevant to your interests and goals.

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Business Marketing

5 ways voice is changing the SEO game

(TECH NEWS) As voice assistants take over our lives, you may worry how your SEO fares in this new, uncharted territory. Let’s discuss.

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SEO is a moving target. The standards change constantly so, despite years of experience, many web designers struggle to meet all the optimization guidelines. How, then, can any business confidently approach the web design process? It starts with recognizing those evolving norms, the newest of which is voice search.

Why Voice Search Matters

For years, the dominant SEO rule has been mobile first. The introduction of voice recognition systems, like Siri and Alexa, to smartphones has dramatically changed how we interact with devices. In fact, 20% of Google searches are voice searches with that number expected to grow rapidly over the next few months. Businesses and web designers, then, need to make sure their sites are voice ready if they want to stay relevant. Though the sites may stay the same visually, they need to gain a new edge functionally.

From The Ground Up

Modifying your website to support voice search isn’t as simple as many other SEO transitions, but if you take a ground up approach to the process, you’ll be able to reshape your website around those changes. Still, you’ll need help to do this correctly. When adapting your website for voice, SEO consultant Aaron Rains recommends hiring an expert for a full site audit and analysis to maintain your page ranking. You don’t want your page to take a rankings hit because you’re trying to keep up with the trends.

Expanding Your Device Options

In addition to its advantages from a mobile perspective, making the move to voice search also means expanding your site’s horizons by making it more accessible to new devices, particularly the smart home speakers that are gaining in popularity. Users are particularly comfortable with these devices because they rely on natural speech patterns rather than half-formed search terms. Children growing up with these smart speakers in their homes seem to view them as part of the family and will be native voice search users as they grow.

Snippets For Search

Part of updating your website for speech is optimizing the content to match changing search patterns. One of the key ways to do this is through the use of featured snippets.

Featured snippets are designed to help put your website in the #0 spot – the top ranking. To do that, you’ll want to put the answers to your most popular queries in the first few sentences on your page. This is especially for purchasing and local search since people frequently use voice search to find local businesses. If you can optimize for the most important snippets early on, you’ll be way ahead on the competition and have a greater ROI.

Rebuild and Reassess

After modifying your website for voice, you may find your rankings initially drop. That’s because you need to request your site be re-indexed. Otherwise, search engines won’t be able to match queries with your new site content. Re-indexing will put all of your new information into effect and make it possible for users to search using the featured snippets. Re-indexing your site will also help you ensure that you haven’t interfered with the crawl-ability of your site.

Experts expect half of all searches to be voice-driven by 2020, but since 50% of users with voice search access already use it at least occasionally, now is the time to act. Even if many users are still wary of voice search, you can’t afford to fall behind. Those users will still be able to rely on traditional text search mechanisms, but that won’t help voice enthusiasts. If you lose those early adopters now, they might not come back when you’ve caught up with the voice search revolution.

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Business Marketing

How to use offline marketing to your advantage in a digital world

(BUSINESS) We often become obsessed with new marketing strategies, favoring the internet over some traditional methods that continue to drive traffic timelessly.

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Everywhere you look, people want to talk about digital marketing. In fact, if you don’t have a digital marketing strategy in today’s business world, you’re not going to last long. But just because digital marketing is popular, don’t assume that offline marketing no longer yields value.

When used together, these strategies can produce significant returns.

“Some people will argue that traditional marketing is dead, but there are several benefits to including offline advertising in your overall marketing campaign,” sales expert Larry Myler admits. “Combining both offline and online campaigns can help boost your brand’s visibility, and help it stand out amongst competitors who may be busy flooding the digital space.”

How do you use offline marketing in a manner that’s both cost-effective and high in exposure? While your business will dictate how you should proceed, here are a few offline marketing methods that still return considerable value in today’s marketplace.

1. Yard signs

When most people think about yard signs, their minds immediately go to political signs that you see posted everywhere during campaign season. However, yard signs have a lot more utility and value beyond campaigning. They’re actually an extremely cost-effective form of offline advertising.

The great thing about yard signs is that you can print your own custom designs for just dollars and, when properly stored, they last for years. They’re also free to place, assuming you have access to property where it’s legal to advertise. This makes them a practical addition to a low-budget marketing campaign.

2. Billboards

The fact that you notice billboards when driving down an interstate or highway is a testament to the reality that other people are also being exposed to these valuable advertisements. If you’ve never considered implementing billboards into your marketing strategy, now’s a good time to think about it.

With billboard advertising, you have to be really careful with design, structure, and execution. “Considering we’re on the move when we read billboards, we don’t have a lot of time to take them in. Six seconds has been touted as the industry average for reading a billboard,” copywriter Paul Suggett explains. “So, around six words is all you should use to get the message across.”

3. Promotional giveaways

It’s the tangible nature of physical marketing that makes it so valuable. Yard signs and billboards are great, but make sure you’re also taking advantage of promotional giveaways as a way of getting something into the hands of your customers.

Promotional giveaways, no matter how simple, generally produce a healthy return on investment. They increase brand awareness and recall, while giving customers positive associations with your brand. (Who doesn’t love getting something for free?)

4. Local event sponsorships

One aspect of offline marketing businesses frequently forget about is local event sponsorships. These sponsorships are usually cost-effective and tend to offer great returns in terms of audience engagement.

Local event sponsorships can usually be found simply by checking the calendar of events in your city. Any time there’s a public event, farmer’s market, parade, sporting event, concert, or fundraiser, there’s an opportunity for you to get your name out there. Look for events where you feel like your target audience is most likely to attend.

Offline marketing is anything but dead.

If your goal is to stand out in a crowded marketplace where all your competitors are investing heavily in social media, SEO, PPC advertising, and blogging, then it’s certainly worth supplementing your existing digital strategy with traditional offline marketing methods that reach your audience at multiple touchpoints.

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