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I’m the Greatest SEO Alive!



Google wouldn’t lie

Don’t believe me? Take a moment, go to and search for “jack leblond.” You’ll see that my web site is the number one page listed. In fact, 99% of the listings within the first three pages are for content I created.  Wow, am I good or what?  Just think of it, whenever anyone searches for information on me, I know they’ll be getting the right stuff. Amazing. It would be even more amazing if people actually searched for me.  Unfortunately, for the entire month of September the phrase “jack Leblond” was only searched for on Google 36 times, and I think 23 of those were my mother (Hi Mom!).

On the flip side, the word “seo” was searched for more than a million times, and I am lost somewhere in among the nearly 2.5 million results. Perhaps I am NOT the greatest SEO Alive. How do I know this? Thanks to the tools Google provides to pay-per-click users, anyone can research how popular (or unpopular) words and phrases are on Google with just a few mouse clicks.

Let’s try the Google tools on some Real Estate terms. Pretend I want to leave the paradise that is Central Texas and move to Chicago. I think I want a condo, but have no idea what’s available. I might search Google for something like “Chicago condos.” According to the tool, 135,000 people did that very search last month. Like many of them, I’d browse through a few dozen pages of the 500,000 plus listings and try to gather some information. After I felt I’d gathered enough information (or more likely just got frustrated), I’d probably try a new search, with more specific words…and then another search, and another until I finally decide to move to Phoenix instead. Now, had a friend in Chicago suggested I might be interested in the Hyde Park area; I might search for “hyde park condos Chicago.” If I did, I’d get a much narrower set of results…and some videos – bonus. But, if I got that far I would be in the minority as only 170 people searched for that phrase in September.

How do people search?

It’s important to understand how people search so that we can help them to find us. Generally people use two techniques when searching. First, they will do an information gathering search using vague, broad terms. Once they have figured out what they want, they will do a more focused search using specific terms. Ideally, your web site should be found by both types of searches. This is when your key word research and strategy comes into play. Your web site should act like a funnel pulling people in with the wide, general search terms and directing them towards the specific interior page that they need to see.

Get found for the best search

I know someone will comment that the people that use “long tail” searches are the ones you want on your site. They are right, study after study has shown that people that use long search phrases are ready to buy. However, before they can do a long phrase search they have to do some research to find out what they want to buy. If there is no info about you are your products in the information gathering phase, how in the world can you possibly expect them to find you in targeted search?

In conclusion, while it is important to rank well in the search engine results (SERPs), it is even more important to rank well for searches people actually do.

Jack Leblond is a SEO/SEM professional working for a large corporation full time in Austin, TX. He is not a Realtor, he is our in-house SEO expert. Jack is the Director of Internet Strategy and Operations for TG ( In addition to managing the team that develops and maintains the company's multiple Web sites, he focuses on Search Engine Optimization (SEO), e-marketing and Social Media. Jack's background ranges from Submarine Sonar Technician/Instructor for the United States Navy, technical writer, pioneer in internet/intranet creation for McGraw-Hill and Times Mirror Higher Education, former Adjunct Professor for two Universities teaching web-related courses, has served as a city council member and co-founded Net-Smart, a web design and hosting company, where he managed networks and oversaw the development of hundreds of Web sites. As a free-lance SEO consultant, Jack performs SEO Site Audits for small/medium businesses that want their web sites to perform better in the search engine listings.

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  1. Steve Simon

    October 28, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    This was probably the simpliest explanation of the SERP concept and how it actually applies to the bottom line that I have read to date.
    A hearty “Well Done” 🙂
    I actually rank OK for the long tail in my field (RE License Schools offering Online classes for Florida RE Licenses); but as Jack says, not a lot of those searches going on. Oh well, buy another hosting account and start another business while it is a little slow 🙂

  2. Vicki Moore

    October 28, 2008 at 7:52 pm

    So do you have to be a pay per click user to find out this information? Where are the Google tools to learn this info? Sorry – but you’re ahead of me. Am I randomly searching words to see what words people are using when searching? Or is there a more methodical way of doing this? Maybe I should do some research before I ask all these seemingly super basic questions. 🙂

  3. Jack Leblond

    October 28, 2008 at 8:19 pm

    Steve – thanks! glad to make some sense of it.

    Vicki – you DO have to have a Google PPC account, but there is no cost for that. If there is interest, perhaps I’ll write about that in a future article.

  4. Understanding PPC

    October 29, 2008 at 1:25 am

    I just came across your blog about and wanted to drop you a note telling you how impressed I was with the information you have posted here. I have a site Understanding PPC so I know what I’m talking about when I say your site is top-notch! Keep up the great work, you are providing a great resource on the Internet here!

  5. bestnicheseo

    October 29, 2008 at 1:25 am

    Very simple explanation of the SERP concept.Thanks for the info

  6. Mack

    October 29, 2008 at 4:26 am

    Of course having anchor text with your keywords that link to your site or the desired landing page doesn’t hurt either.

  7. Jack Leblond

    October 29, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    Mack – unquestionably back-links do help with SEO…some say they are critical to a successful SEO plan.

  8. Atlanta Real Estate

    September 2, 2009 at 4:51 pm


    Nice post, good explanation and example.

    I apologize for the (very) late reply. I was impressed with one of your other posts and am now going back and reading older ones.


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Disputing a property’s value in a short sale: turn a no into a go

During a short sale, there may be various obstacles, with misaligned property values ranking near the top, but it doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker!



magic eight ball

magic eight ball

It’s about getting your way

Were you on the debate team in high school? Were you really effective at convincing your parent or guardian to let you do things that you shouldn’t have been doing? How are your objection-handling skills? Can you flip a no into a go?

When working on short sales, there is one aspect of the process that may require those excellent negotiation or debate skills: disputing the property value. In a short sale, the short sale lender sends an appraiser or broker to the property and this individual conducts a Broker Price Opinion or an appraisal, using special forms provided by the short sale lender.

After this individual completes the Broker Price Opinion or the appraisal, he or she will return it to the short sale lender. Shortly thereafter, the short sale lender will be ready to talk about the purchase price. Will the lender accept the offer on the table or is the lender looking for more? If the lender is seeking an offer for a lot more than the one on the table, mentally prepare for the fact that you will need to conduct a value dispute.

Value Dispute Process

While each of the different short sale lenders (including Fannie Mae) has their own policies and procedures for value dispute, all these procedures have some things in common. Follow the steps below in order to conduct an effective value dispute.

  1. Inquire about forms. Ask your short sale lender if there are specific forms that you need to complete in order to conduct a value dispute. Obtain those forms if necessary.
  2. Gather information. Your goal is to convince the lender to accept the buyer’s offer, so you need to demonstrate that your offer is in line with the value of the property. Collect data that proves this point, such as reports from the MLS, Trulia, Zillow, or your local title company.
  3. Take photos. If there are parts of the property that are substandard and possibly were not revealed to the lender by the individual conducting the BPO, take photos of those items. Perhaps the kitchen has no flooring, or there is a 40-year old roof. Take photos to demonstrate these defects.
  4. Obtain bids. For any defects on the property, obtain a minimum of two bids from licensed contractors. For example, obtain two bids from roofers or structural engineers if necessary
  5. Write a report. Think back to high school English class if necessary. Write a short essay that references your information, photos, and bids, and explains how these items support your buyer’s value. This is not something that you whip up in five minutes. Spend time preparing a compelling appeal.

It is entirely possible that some lenders will not be particularly open-minded when it comes to valuation dispute. However, more times than not, an effective value dispute leads to short sale approval.

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Short sale standoffs: how to avoid getting hit

The short sale process can feel a lot like a wild west standoff, but there are ways to come out victorious, so let’s talk about those methods:



short sales standoff

short sales standoff

What is a short sale standoff?

If you are a short sale listing agent, a short sale processor, or a short sale negotiator then you probably already know about the short sale standoff. That’s when you are processing a short sale with more than one lien holder and neither will agree to the terms offered by the other. Or… better yet, each one will not move any further in the short sale process until they see the short sale approval letter from the other lien holder.

Scenario #1 – You are processing a short sale with two different mortgage-servicing companies. Bank 1 employees tell you that they will proceed with the short sale, and they will offer Bank 2 a certain amount to release their lien. You call Bank 2 and tell them the good news. Unfortunately, the folks at Bank 2 want more money. If Bank 1 and Bank 2 do not agree, then you are in a standoff.

Scenario #2 – You are processing a short sale with two different mortgage-servicing companies. Bank 1 employees tell you that they cannot generate your approval letter until you present them with the approval letter from Bank 2. Bank 2 employees tell you the exact same thing. Clearly, in this situation, you are in a standoff.

How to Avoid the Standoff

If you are in the middle of a standoff, then you are likely very frustrated. You’ve gotten pretty far in the short sale process and you are likely receiving lots of pressure from all of the parties to the transaction. And, the lenders are not helping much by creating the standoff.

Here are some ideas for how to get out of the situation:

  • Go back to the first lien holder and ask them if they are willing to give the second lien holder more money.
  • Go to the second lien holder and tell them that the first lien holder has insisted on a maximum amount and see if they will budge.
  • If no one will budge, find out why. Is this a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac loan? If so, they have a maximum that they allow the second. And, if you alert the second of that information, they may become more compliant.
  • Worst case: someone will have to pay the difference. Depending on the laws in your state, it could be the buyer, the seller, or the agents (yuck). No matter what, make sure that this contribution is disclosed to all parties and appears on the short sale settlement statement at closing.
  • In Scenario #2, someone’s got to give in. Try explaining to both sides where you are and see if one will agree to generate their approval letter. If not, follow the tips provided in this Agent Genius article and take your complaint to the streets.

One thing about short sales is that the problems that arise can be difficult to resolve merely because of the number of parties involved—and all from remote locations. Imagine how much easier this would be if all parties sat at the same table and broke bread? If we all sat at the same table, then we wouldn’t need armor in order to avoid the flying bullets from the short sale standoff.

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Short sale approval letters don’t arrive in the blink of an eye

Short sale approval letters may look like they’ve been obtained simply by experts, but it takes time and doesn’t just happen with luck.



short sales

short sale approval

Short sale approval: getting prepared, making it happen

People always ask me how it is that I obtain short sale approval letters with such ease. The truth is, that while I have more short sale processing and negotiating experience than most agents and brokers, I don’t just blink my eyes like Jeannie and make those short sale approval letters appear. I often sweat it, just like everyone else.

Despite the fact that I do not have magical powers, I do have something else on my side—education. One of the most important things than can lead to short sale success for any and all agents is education.

Experience dictates that agents that learn about the short sale process
have increased short sale closings.

Short sale education opportunities abound

There are many ways to become educated about the short sale process and make getting short sale approval letters look easy to obtain. These include:

  • Classes at your local board of Realtors®
  • Free short sale webinars and workshops
  • The short sale or foreclosure specialist designations

As the distressed property arena grows and changes, it is important to always stay abreast of policy changes that may impact how you do your job and how you process any short sale that lands on your plate.

The most important thing to do is to read, read, read. Follow short sale specialists and those who blog about short sales on AGBeat, Google+, facebook, and twitter. Set up a Google Alert for the term ‘short sale’ and you will receive Google’s top short sale picks daily in your email inbox. Visit mortgagor websites to read up on their specific policies and procedures.

Don’t take on too much

And, when you get a call from a prospective short sale seller, make sure that you don’t bit off more than you can chew. Agents in most of America right now are clamoring for listings since we are in the midst of a listing shortage. But, if you are going to take on a short sale, be sure that it is a deal that you can close. And, if you have your doubts, why not partner up with a local agent that can mentor your and assist you in getting the job done? After all, half a commission check is better than none!

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