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Nobody Needs a Stinkin’ Web Site

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Charlottes has a great Web siteAs a guy that earns his living as an Internet Marketing Professional, I am naturally just a *LITTLE* biased towards businesses needing great web sites, so when I read “We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Websites” it struck a nerve. When I first read the article, I took it to mean Bill was saying all you need is your listings.  However, after reading his replies to the comments, and having a brief conversation with him, I came to realize what Bill meant to say was you need more than listings, and more than a cookie-cutter static site.  You need to demonstrate that you are a trusted adviser, you need to be strong in your community, you need to show that you are the expert.

This post is a little too long to be considered my 2 cents worth, but I offer my thoughts as an expansion on Bill’s post, hoping that it helps others understand the importance of a strong web presence.

Bill’s post presents a bit of a chicken & egg dilemma.  It may be true that many of your prospective customers don’t care about all the extra “stuff” on your sites, and just want to see the listings, but how will they find your site (and YOU) if the “stuff” is not there?

When I was a small business owner, there were three things that played a critical role in our success; Community involvement, word-of-mouth referrals and advertising.  Community involvement and word-of-mouth brought in a good deal of new and recurring sales for my company, and traditional advertising helped to build our brand.  But, you can only be so many places at one time, and the bills still need to get paid.  A well constructed Web site allows you to keep a virtual office open 24×7.  Prospects can always find answers to questions, read testimonials from past buyers & sellers, browse your listings and most importantly – they can let you know they are ready and want to be contacted ASAP.

How do you reach those that need to hire you, when they don’t know YOU exist?

The best way to bring in new business is to be found at the exact moment somebody needs your product or service, in the exact place they look.  That used to mean being in the yellow page directory.  When was the last time you used one of those?

Today, like it or not, being in the right place at the right time often means having a Web site that is in the first 3 pages of a Google search.

Unless you work for one of the big agencies, with big corporate advertising budgets, there is a good chance that your potential customer has never even heard of you.  On the web, just like in the yellow pages, people search for what they want, not who they want.  Will you be found?

Good web rankings can be a very tough thing to accomplish.  When I search Google for “Philadelphia real estate agents”, 32,700,000 results are returned, a search for “Philadelphia home listings”, returns 215,000,000 results.  In both cases the first few pages are dominated by links to sites like zillow, truila, activerain, yahoo and other national listers.  There are a few “local” agents, but not many.  How will you get hired if you can’t be found?

As you all know, I am not a Real Estate Agent, and therefore will not profess to be an expert at how you do your daily job.  However, I am a pretty good at Internet marketing, and I have to say I think many of you are missing the mark when it comes to how you handle your web presence and it seems to me that you have not given your internet strategy much thought.

Your Web presence is a tool, one of many you use to promote yourself and your business.  But, like any tool if it’s not used properly it can (and will) hurt you.  It appears to me that many of you spread yourselves too thin when it comes to the web, posting content in as many places as possible, just hoping somebody will find it.  That is a double edged sword.  It gives you the illusion of having more potential for being seen.  I understand how having more content at more locations might look like a good thing.  What actually happens though is that each time to you carve off a piece of yourself to put at another location, the search engines think you become less and less important.   Meanwhile, all those sites collecting content from you and others like you, they become more important.  You are creating more competition for yourself.

What you should do is spend more time working on YOUR site and less time feeding your competition. Put more of your “stuff” on YOUR Web site. Yes, you still need to have some participation on the national sites, but just enough to get the links back from them to your page.  You should also take advantage of your community involvement.  Most organizations have member directories, with web links – Rotary, Kiwanis, Optimists, Chamber of Commerce – get involved with these groups, turn the other members into your sales team (I  LOVE word-of-mouth), but also make sure they link to your Web site from theirs, with good keywords. You might be surprised how much power well constructed links have.

I mentioned earlier that there were a few local agencies listed in my Google search results.  You might think that in order to rank that well, in the same results as the “big boys” they must have stellar web sites.  You would be wrong.  The sites I looked at were good, but not great and certainly had room for improvement.  That’s good news for the rest of you.  It means that if you just put a fair amount of effort into your Web site, you can – and will be found on Google.  You have to know that could mean a nice bump in phone calls, emails and contracts, right?

I guess it’s true, you don’t need a stinkin’ website.  You need an GREAT Web site!

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 (www.tgslc.org). 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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20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. Laurent Perrier

    September 16, 2009 at 12:22 am

    Thank you for this. Bill has no clue what’s going on and should be dropped from AG’s roster.

  2. Catherine Mallers

    September 16, 2009 at 2:26 am

    As a virtual assistant business that supports Realtors with this quest, I cannot begin to thank you. We continue to stress with our clients not only advertise appropriately but also that feeding pertinent information into their blog and website consistently is going to bring the major traffic. This is another great article I can add to our arsenal of social proof in educating the mainstream residential Realtor.

  3. Elad Kehat

    September 16, 2009 at 7:43 am

    You’re right on the money, Jack.
    Your own website is the only piece of property that you truly own on the web, and that should be the place you invest most in – the hub of your online marketing. Participating on other places around the web is a must – that’s where the prospects are – but it’s smarter to do this in a way that promotes your own website.

  4. Portland Real Estate

    September 16, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    Good web design is imperative. Too many agents still have a FrontPage designed website that they put up years ago and have completely forgotten about. How are people supposed to find you when your site does not even have a PageRank?

    -Tyler

  5. Bob Gibbs

    September 16, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    Having a generic website like everyone else is a waiste. You absolutely need a site that is relevant and easy to navigate. Additionally it should address the specific concerns of your intended audience.

  6. Jack Leblond

    September 16, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    All – Thanks! Just trying to clear up some of the confusion that is still going on over on Bill’s post.

  7. Bob

    September 16, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    [quote]Good web rankings can be a very tough thing to accomplish. When I search Google for “Philadelphia real estate agents”, 32,700,000 results are returned, a search for “Philadelphia home listings”, returns 215,000,000 results. In both cases the first few pages are dominated by links to sites like zillow, truila, activerain, yahoo and other national listers. There are a few “local” agents, but not many. How will you get hired if you can’t be found?[/quote]

    The problem with these two examples is that they are low volume searches, so maybe what we have are agents who are targeting search queries that people are actually using.

    From Google Insights:
    Top Searches related to ‘”philadelphia real estate agents”‘
    Time range: Last 90 days
    Not enough search volume to show results.

    Top Searches related to ‘”philadelphia real estate listings”‘
    Time range: Last 90 days
    Not enough search volume to show results.

    A little kw research shows the first query doesn’t get enough to chart, and the second search term shows an average of 5-6 a day on Y! and Google.

    Take a look at philadelphia real estate, or homes, or homes for sale and you will see agents and brokers mixing it up with the aggregators.

    I wholeheartedly agree with the point you are making about spreading their content to thin. Build your authority first.

  8. Bill Lublin

    September 16, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    Jack;
    Thanks so much for your insight – and your articulate exposition 🙂

  9. Jack Leblond

    September 16, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    @Bob – OUTSTANDING point! Keyword research is a vital first step. Just because *I* chose the phrases I did does not mean the rest of the world will. You have to know the language of your target market.

    @Bill – No worries, I’m glad we were able to connect and get it straight in my head, hopefully it helps others too.

  10. Hollie Steel

    September 20, 2009 at 8:23 am

    I agree – a web site that both serves the needs of your customers and helps markets is critical. There are some businesses where it is not as important but for many a good web site is the best customer service and marketing vehicle available. The focus should be in making it useful – not making it conform to what is seen as cool today.

  11. yseoc

    September 21, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    A great and balanced response to the original article. Emphasis should certainly be on becoming or re-inventing yourself as an authority on your chosen business sector or industry. This is easiest done online, and a professional SEO consultant can usually apply the principals of reputation management to achieve this. Yet it works even better when coupled with a referral and word-of-mouth strategy in the offline world of marketing.

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Coaching

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!

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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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Coaching

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:

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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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Coaching

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.

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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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