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How to Target Your Internet Advertising/Users/adamp/Desktop/MAR_IMGS/RealtorAdvantage

If you’re trying to market a home by posting a listing on your Web site, good luck. It takes a carefully targeted Internet strategy to attract prospects.

Take it from me, without a carefully focused online advertising campaign, only a handful of potential buyers will ever find your Web site.

When I moved to Vero Beach in 2005 at age 57 as a new RE/MAX sales associate, I had no customer base. Since nobody was calling me, I turned to the Internet to start building my business. After learning by trial and error, I’ve developed a highly successful pay-per-click strategy that ensures my Web site is visible to prospects using the leading search engines, like Google and Yahoo.

While I don’t consider myself a techie, I do have a background in publishing and have been around computers for many years. Therefore, I decided that it made more financial sense for me to spend my own time learning about Internet advertising than to hire an expert. At this point, I spend about four hours a day doing Web site–related activities—time well spent in growing my business.

If you’re considering this type of targeted Internet advertising strategy follow these tips:
    
1. Establish a Personal Web Site
Using a template purchased from a Web design company and an ongoing Web hosting service, I set up a personal Web site. Next, I considered hiring a firm that provides search engine optimization services, which would have helped place my Web site high on the list of search results that come up on the screen when a prospect types in certain keywords. But for this placement strategy to work, I would have had to hire a firm that specializes in this service and be willing to pay the fees, which can be substantial.

Therefore, I decided on a pay-per-click advertising approach. This means paying a fee to an online search company like Google, Yahoo or RedZee every time a prospect clicks on the sponsor link to my Web site. At a cost of 10 cents to $3 per click—based on a number of factors—my site is placed high on the page when a prospect types in search words. For instance, I want to be sure my site is seen when a potential buyer types in “Vero Beach homes” or “Fort Pierce real estate.”

2. Use Multiple Domains
Depending on your local market, you should consider buying specific, targeted names. This is important because buyers often search for specific communities: “Vero Beach,” for instance, rather than “Indian River County” or “Treasure Coast.”

Currently, I have eight active domains, including www.VeroUSA.com, www.FortPierceUSA.com and www.SebastianUSA.com, for three cities in my market, and www.HarbourIsleSales.com, for my own Harbour Isles neighborhood. All these domains are linked back to my main site, www.RandyJChapman.com.

3. Get Online Marketing Advice
If you’re just getting started, you may want some assistance in planning a pay-per-click campaign.  For a fee, Yahoo offers a personalized service, http://searchmarketing.yahoo.com/arp/sponsoredsearch.php?o=US1852. Google has online answers and support on its site, http://bizsolutions.google.com/services.

Finally, you could attend an online marketing seminar in your area. Check with your broker, local Board, advertising agency or just do an
online search.

4. Carefully Choose Search Engines
You can’t afford to advertise with every company. Don’t trust anyone who calls or e-mails you saying they can get you top positioning for a one-time fee. The search market just doesn’t work like that. On the other hand, you may be able to incorporate free sites, like craigslist.org, into your marketing program by placing ads there.
    
5. Budget for Pay-per-Click
As with any advertising program, you need to determine what you can afford to spend each month. Companies like Yahoo and Google will let you set a budget and automatically turn your pay-per-click program on or off at any time. If you suddenly get more clicks than expected and you exceed your spending limit, your sponsorship is dropped until the next budget period (unless you want to increase your spending).  I currently spend about $600 to $1,100 per month for pay-per-click sponsorships. That doesn’t include the ongoing costs of hosting my Web site and other online services.

But I look at that online spending as an investment, as it helped generate more than 75 percent of my sales in 2007.

Property owners today are also looking at the Internet when considering a sales associate to list their home. If your site comes up at the top of the search page, you have a clear advantage over the competition. In today's world people are busy and value time. Once a seller hits on my site the chances of them calling anyone else is slim.

6. Invest in Better Placement
In my experience, it’s better to pay more for your site to appear on page 1 of the search results—even part of the time—rather than be on page 2 all the time. Again, these are highly flexible programs, and you can constantly adjust your exposure and payment options.

7. Regularly Evaluate Results
Some search terms will generate more clicks than others—and the most expensive key words don’t always produce the best results. Compare your monthly fees with the number of clicks, the number of online or phone inquiries and the number of online prospects who turn into actual customers. My hosting company tracks those clicks for me, so I don’t have to rely on the search engines for feedback. After building my business for two years, I’ve found that about half my clicks come from Google and Yahoo.

8. Advertise Consistently
You’ll need to advertise your Web site in all your marketing materials. You might also consider using a marketing phrase like “Your Online Expert.” I include my Web site on my cards, signs and print ads, and I also offer free online information as an incentive for prospects to visit me online.

Finally, if you’re going to invest in a targeted Internet program, you need to be sure that visitors find your site attractive, informative and easy to use.
 
Randy J. Chapman is a sales associate at RE/MAX Connection in Vero Beach. He entered the real estate profession in 2005 after a career in publishing and is known today as the “Fido-Friendly Realtor®” for featuring his basset hound, Dewey, on print and online marketing materials.