8 Keys to Dominating Your Market Online
Seems like yesterday real estate investors could start their investment company with simple techniques like bandit signs, low-cost letters, postcard campaigns, cold calls, door knocking, driving for dollars, and networking with realtors. Some early investors were fortunate and picked some low hanging fruit while it was good, and adjusted as the industry grew. And with untold thousands watching HGTV and entering the game, how do you compete?
And then you have the onslaught of new tools on the market. The methods for finding distressed properties were pretty static until just the last few years. With the dawn of the smartphone, Google, social media (particularly Facebook), and internet bots and more, a new day is upon us.
The U.S. is no stranger to tech revolutions. Innovations born here or elsewhere had a major impact on the founding of our country, our development as the worlds greatest superpower (at least for now), and fueled the capitalistic efforts to improve the quality of life for billions across the globe.
But operating a business amid rapid tech developments requires an adaptive mindset. Every American industry has fallen prey to tech changes. The American system, by and large, has given us the freedom to fail, as well as the same freedom to generate wealth for our families.
The current tech revolution affecting real estate investors includes:
- Massive internet communications
- Cheap high-quality video production and distribution
- Advanced smartphone development
- Online real estate information databases
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) for the masses
- Outsourcing platforms and labor pools overseas
In 2019, a lone entrepreneur operating out of his car with a smartphone can command resources that his father could only dream of a generation ago. And it’s a good thing. Especially with big business stalwarts like Zillow, Amazon, and Open Door getting into the home buying business. As it’s always been with our free market economy, it’s Adapt or Die.
The real estate investment industry is maturing. Companies are growing and organizing. Formerly a “rag-tag” bunch is turning is quickly maturing. And mom and pop local investors are getting squeezed out of the market.
Here’s a graphic showing just one of the changing marketing channels, showing the shift from desktop to mobile. In the next year, voice interfaces will add further dramatic effects to graphs like this.
Facebook grew its mobile PPC revenue from zero in 2012 to a staggering $11.9B in 2018. It’s not uncommon for our motivated sellers to find us at work on the PC and then do all their business on a mobile device. Even though visits are over 60% mobile, the actual number is higher than that because folks simply are doing less on a PC at home. We must adjust to this change.
Attacking Our Market
A number of new companies have popped up on the scene with some new (and old) methods of finding distressed properties and their owners, as well as communicating with them in an effective manner. This includes , automate mail, text, phone, email, and social media campaigns.
We don’t mind mentioning the names of who we like. This is only a partial list.
Each of these companies provides a specialized service. Stitching these services together is a daunting task, but can be done. The good news is that you don’t have to do it overnight. The list can be intimidating, but you only need to chew on one item at a time.
- Website hosting
- SEO optimization consulting
- Pay-Per-Click consulting
- Real estate data sourcing and tools
- Real estate motivated seller targeting tools
- Driving for dollars automatic campaign app
- Motivated seller specialized training for effective close of sales
- Cold calling services
- Specialized targeted campaigns (Clickfunnels)
- Text messaging services
- Back office database and CRM
- Application Programming Interface (API)(Database automated information transfers)
- Skip tracing
- Website traffic, SEO, backlinks analysis software
We see our competitors going strongly in this direction. We must compete. Taking on all the above at once is daunting, but there are thousands of real estate investment companies doing several of these activities successfully and without a big staff. Mastering several of these aspects can help you build a strong business for your family.
There’s more good news. Done-for-you services companies like ours are popping up. Many in our industry (like us!) love to solve problems and help others. U.S. Direct Home Buyers collects many of these services under one package and does them for you at an attractive price. Further, some of these companies provide you a price break with bundling and partial use. See the bottom of this page for more info.
There’s more good news. You don’t have to implement every service outlined above. Many investors dominate their niche with only a few tools. But if you want to be dominant over the long term, understanding each service will greatly benefit you.
Let’s talk about you dominating your market. Of course, dominating online takes more than a web page. To grow to the point you find yourself with organic inbound marketing leads without an expensive PPC campaign, you will need an effective online presence and lead management system for your company.
You will need a presence that communicates the four key attributes you work so hard to establish:
If you have neither a ranking presence on Google nor a vibrant social media presence, here are some ways to lay the cornerstone of a healthy real estate investment business. It’s a lot of work, even with a thriving business where you’re simply maintaining your market presence.
Study these action items and implement them as you can. Of course, this is just a partial list, but this post is getting long already! Some of these, like Nos. 1 and 4, you likely already have, but if you’ve stubbed faltered in developing your brand or maybe chose the wrong domain name, this post is really good for you.
Before we get started, let’s be clear: we are not inventing anything here. Google uses over 200 factors to rank your web site. Here is a really good list developed by BackLinko.com.
This exercise is mainly a game of understanding web crawling bots, giving them what they want, and delivering solid content which will help motivated sellers. While we focus on finding sellers, the same principles apply in searching for buyers and private money lenders.
Also, in this blog Carrot provides 16 steps to optimize your website. It is from 2015 and Google has had a few changes, but it is very relevant on all points. Here is a HUGE INFOGRAPHIC found on that same Carrot blog. With that said, here goes.
1. Develop Your Brand
This post is mainly to discuss some key changes to optimize your website for long term success. I’ll be brief on branding. In short, branding is much more than choosing a logo and colors.
Branding is how you act and show yourself. It represents the emotions you wish someone to feel when they see your company, when they interact with you, and when they do business with you.
It is inherently personal and intimate. Your brand becomes your business’s personality. Real estate is very much a people business. That’s why, while a really polished logo can help, almost any simple (clean) logo will do when you inculcate your team with a sound set of core values and a system of communicating those values in everything they do.
While much literature is around on branding we leave you with some notes on a logo. According to accomplished logo designer Jacob Cass, there are five characteristics that make an effective logo. A logo should be
As you can probably tell, we’re a little partial to our logo. For a quick narrative on branding and logos, look at this blog from Carrot on branding. But while branding is good to dwell on when starting a business, it doesn’t make a company. You make the company with what you do. As the blog says, “don’t over think the process.” Actions speak louder than words. Your behavior, as long as it can be seen, becomes your brand.
2. Consistency in Your Presentation
You’ve determined your branding scheme. Now it’s important to be consistent in how you present yourself to your potential clients (mainly motivated sellers). If you apply the principles below, you will have folks coming to check you out. They will typically check out your Facebook or web site first, depending on how they got there.
You should make your visitors feel comfortable with both your website and Facebook page. The two sites provide similar material, but your Facebook presence should be far more personal. The first impression will stick. The seller will determine whether they want to get to know you, whether you can solve their problem, and whether you deserve their confidence.
Four things you should keep in mind when presenting yourself:
- Authenticity (or Transparency)
You might think the list above is a bit out of order, that humanity and transparency should come first. But here’s what we’ve noticed about the new tribe of top-ranking sites. They center their content on the problem at hand and do their best to educate their audience. The best at effective transparent communication on the web and social media may not be the absolute leading experts in real estate, but they care deeply about their audience and genuinely want to help.
In the new environment, the importance of trust and character has gone through the roof. You will do well showing your humanity in your presentation.
In looking at the prospects of dominating your market, it is indeed “too crowded”, “too busy”, “cluttered”, “too much.” But our research has shown that Google and Facebook have been incredibly effective in creating opportunities for average people with unusually outsized hearts and creativity. Enter U.S. Direct Home Buyers.
And don’t think you need an elaborate system. The video thumbnail shown is from Cristina Ortega with Mrs Property Solutions in Los Angeles. She’s killing it in Los Angeles with a simple approach, and that’s without doing much of what we lay out in this post.
She quite nicely sets people at ease about nos. 1-2 (Branding and Presentation) above with an overwhelming dose of nos. 3-4 (Web Platform and Functional Domain). And an SEO evaluation of the sites ranking in Los Angeles shows her web traffic outpacing her closest competition by a factor of 3 or 4. It’s not even close! Well done Cristina!
You’ll notice that Mrs Property Solutions was consistent in applying its brand. Pink is an easy color with which to stand out! Cristina chose a brand that easily went with her color scheme (or vice-versa.) She presented consistently. And in her case, she didn’t try to do too much. It was so effective, she didn’t have to! And it seems she sacrificed nothing in the way of her values. She clearly states them and you have every reason to believe she means every word.
And she didn’t even apply many of the suggestions we list here. But she executed a plan and it worked.
Not everyone will have a brand, name, logo, colors, and way of communicating with the warmth and transparency Cristina does, but everyone who is reading this blog post absolutely has something special to offer their clients. And Google and Facebook make it possible to communicate that to a population hungry for real people to solve their problems.
3. Web Platform Literacy
I’ve run across some real estate investors that have told me their Carrot web sites didn’t do much for them. But when I asked what they’ve done on their end, they usually indicate “not much.” I’ve studied more than a few markets across the country and am amazed at how few of the Carrot sites, even those that rank, implement more than a couple of the techniques found in the ample training they offer.
For the price (free), you can’t beat the Real Estate Content Marketing Roadmap. If you’re already a Carrot customer, you have access to the 3 Lead-Per-Day training. It is one of the best values we’ve had in our online training. Also, a good amount of this training can be found free of charge in their many blog posts and YouTube videos.
The training resources above will give thorough, easily understood, and user-friendly explanations of the items we discuss in this post. Included are:
1 – Getting Started – Introduction to SEO
2 – Keyword Research Essentials
3 – On-Page Optimization
4 – Off-Page SEO
5 – Dominating Page 1 with YouTube
6 – Instant Leads with Pay-Per-Click Marketing
7 – Crushing Your SEO Competition
8 – Tools and Services We Use
9 – Outsourcing Your 3-LPD Work
When we first went through the 3 LPD training we developed this outline for our staff. This helped, since the video units are typically short segments, and it’s easy to get lost without a good syllabus. And it’s yours, free!
There’s more we can say about the web platform literacy you need, but we’ve found that rewriting content for readability and adding video content with transcripts is the shortest path to getting your content unique and to a point where Google recognizes that it has added value.
There’s not a lot to say about domains. Seems all the really good ones are taken. I would suggest that if you don’t have your domain yet that you put the words “homebuyers” or “housebuyers”. The number one keyword across the country is “we buy houses”, so if you can get “webuyhousesyourlocation” that might be your best bet.
Don’t do what we did, getting heritage-home-buyers.com. We were disappointed when we realized the hyphen isn’t a friendly key on smartphones. We were glad to get www.HeritageHouseBuyer.com. Carrot has a good article here on domain names. Here are some of their suggestions:
Don’t over think it! Don’t buy the domain just for SEO, but if your keywords are in the domain, AWESOME!
- Keep it Simple
- Avoid Dashes
- Location can be a good thing – but not required
- Easy to remember
- Go with .com or .net (I would avoid using “.net” unless the name was really good.)
Some other useful suggestions to think about:
- Base it on your company name
- Base it on keywords
- Base it on your keywords + location
One thing I would add is that you can get multiple domain Top Level Domains (TLD). You can get the extensions “name.com”, “name.net”, “name.org” with the same name, and have everything pointed to your “name.com” for the price of a cup of coffee every month, and be covered.
If you are still in the domain choosing phase and have 15 minutes to watch a video from Moz.com, click on the link below and get more information.
In this video, the following eight rules are explained.
1. Make it brandable
2. Make it pronounceable
3. Make it short
4. Bias towards .com
5. Avoid trademark infringement
6. Make it intuitive
7. Use broad keywords
8. It’s okay to append or modify it
When managing a domain name, we highly recommend you pick NameCheap.com. I’ve dealt with domain name headaches since 1999, and had never run across a truly user-friendly domain name manager until NameCheap. What I really like about them is that a night person like me can chat with them on any problem I might be having with an intelligent person on the other end 24/7. They give outstanding service, and never make you feel subordinate to them because you don’t understand all that’s going on.
5. Blogging Strategy
Blogs are perhaps the most underutilized tool Carrot provides. I could write a bunch about this subject, but focusing on the following few points can get you started down the road to having a content-rich web presence in your market.
- Blog SEO. If you’re a Carrot customer, you are provided with tons of blog content tailor-made for your local area SEO ranking. You often hear SEO coaches give methods of determining what keywords you wish to chase. I would start by loading all the blog posts available and backdating them. This will take some work to figure out which blogs to post when. I guess you can be haphazard about it, but I worry about the Google Bots looking at the dates of your posts and looking for a regular pattern. If the bots see 350 blog posts happening on May 15, 2019, that can’t look good, even to a faceless bot!If you are interested in what we did with our blogs, reach out to us and we can discuss. Know also that blog strategies are changing with the times (driven by Google’s ever-increasing AI). Consider this article by our friend, Neil Patel. There are two phrases that jump out at me, “Content > Keywords”, and “Focus on searcher intent instead”. You can thank your lucky stars that Carrot is here and thinking ahead for you. This strategy fits perfectly within the platform Carrot provides us. Really, all you have to do is load the blogs and then follow a few guidelines to increase their value greatly. But remember, while it might be simple, it isn’t necessarily easy.
- “Unique” Content. When I first discovered Carrot in 2016 and started listening to Trevor’s whiteboard presentations, I was skeptical about using Carrot’s blog content, as well as how Google would see all that duplicate content. Turns out that Google (unlike my high school English teacher) isn’t worried about duplicates as long as it’s a system and you add value by making it unique, but they are looking for added value. This added value can come in many forms. In the Carrot ecosystem, you can accomplish this by adding the following:
- Text content
- Tags (see below)
- Video content
I’ll address text content here. Below we will touch on tags, photos, and video content. This item may not be as important in your area as it was in mine (Houston). We bit the bullet and edited each blog (all 315!) for approximately 20%-25% change.
I’m fortunate to have a writer on staff who likes correcting papers and knows the real estate investing business pretty good by now. We publish 8 blogs a month now. It takes several hours to download, edit content, select photos and check everything over before leaving it till the next month.
But even though we do more with our blogs than anyone else I know, I’m not so sure that all that we’re doing is necessary. Some of our Carrot competition seems to be doing well publishing blogs with nothing added. Those blogs don’t rank, but the main keywords on their home page do well. This should be good news for most of you.
- Create lots of content. In order to create lots of internal links, you have to have lots of internal pages. For us, the Carrot blogs give us plenty to work with. If you’re a talented writer, you can produce your own blogs around selected keywords. You might easily rank for long-tail keywords if you rewrite the post for uniqueness and readability. Adding a video with a transcript is also a shortcut to be creative, organic, and add various uses of keywords, all at the same time. Be sure to look at the number of entries per month when doing this. Know that though you may rank for a long tail keyword, there typically are fewer searches out there to capture. The good news is that there are a lot of these long tail keywords. We know of a company that focused on the long tail keywords instead of simply the top keywords like “we buy houses [your_city]”.The result is they are ranked on so many pages at #1 or #2 that overtaking them is a difficult task. They’re the best example of targeted keyword content marketing we’ve seen. Following their example is a difficult task, but if you have access to a good copywriter you can start down the path toward domination. Because it takes work, though, if you’re willing to do it, you could be the only kid on the block taking advantage of a top position on a growing list of keywords. Here’s a good article on the subject. Also, consider this. If you’re a natural teacher type, you can pull out your smartphone and start recording short videos talking about minute aspects of problems motivated sellers face and you can build a bevy of unique material which will rank well for the keywords chosen. Tons of content possible.
- Internal Links. Again, our friend Neil Patel has some advice for sprucing up your site for better SEO performance. When you Google “SEO blog linking strategy” these seven “commandments” pop up at the top of the Google SERP:
- Create lots of content. In order to create lots of internal links, you have to have lots of internal pages.
- Use anchor text.
- Link deep.
- Use links that are natural for the reader.
- Use relevant links.
- Use follow links.
- Use a reasonable number of internal links.
We won’t go into too much detail on these items, but adding internal links is something that anyone can do with their Carrot site. Most Carrot sites do none of this. You can simply take a group of blogs, say, on foreclosure, selling your house quickly, or deciding between selling to an investor or with a realtor. Place the links on one of the entries at the bottom of the page and simply copy to all the other pages. After you do this, delete the one link on each page referencing itself, and you have a relevant network of links Google can understand. Further, you’ve added structure and hierarchy to your site.
The possibilities are endless on cross-referencing blog posts. Most of the difficult work is already done for you. All you do is use the simple tools Carrot provides and your site can grow to be content rich. But one word of caution: internal links must be logical, hierarchical, and sensible to a bot crawling your site. If you game the system and pack the post with links that aren’t logical, Google will likely figure it out and your rankings could suffer.
With the high number of blog posts Carrot has already provided, you can publish them back-dated and generate low-hanging opportunities for building a robust site right out of the gate.
At U.S. Direct Home Buyers we created specific pages (see pages for foreclosure, for inherited properties and divorce and Direct vs. Listing). Each of the issue-specific pages has links (photo buttons we created for each topic). We rotate the social media posting of these pages every Sunday, as well as prolifically post on Twitter.
We also took advantage of the WordPress system of displaying blogs of specified categories as found on our foreclosure blog list. You can do the same thing for any category you have in your system. When Carrot provides new blogs on the particular subject, the blogs automatically appear on whatever list you referenced.
A couple of notes on Patel’s post referenced above. Neil recommends in Commandment No. 3 to not link to the home page too much. Carrot sites coming out of the box tend to link to the home page with the general CTA. We’ll be checking this on our sites.
The other tidbit is Neil’s admonition not to link to the “Contact Us” page unless it’s absolutely necessary. We will be studying this as well.
The best links are deep in the site, making blog posts the perfect target for an internal link.
At the bottom on nearly all of our pages and many blogs are the photo buttons to the blog categories and problem-solving pages.
I’ve emphasized internal links as much as any subject here because I believe its a way of differentiating your site from other Carrot sites without rewriting the playbook. It will take work and organization, but the rewards are worth it.
If and when your page ranks, you will have a difference maker in your pocket. Best of all, it’s low maintenance! Read below for a couple more great strategies that take little effort because of the simplicity Carrot provides for you.
- Categories & Tags. My biggest regret with my first Carrot site was that I failed to recognize the power of tags. This is something Carrot could provide, but doesn’t. I think it’s great that Carrot doesn’t do all the heavy lifting for us. We have ways to tweak our site so we can be dominant!
- Video Content. See below for a discussion of video content for blogs. This tool can be a real game-changer for you.
6. Social Media
We don’t have a lot to say about social media presence, other than it’s a great opportunity to extend your brand and relate to your website presence organically in a way that leaves no doubt that you are who you say you are and do what you say you can do (assuming you didn’t misrepresent yourself!) We also don’t say a lot because when it’s well done, it takes on a life of its own.
Consider this article here indicating that social media is changing the face of business. My biggest surprise in real estate was the salt-of-the-earth people I found, as well as some of the crooks. Social media has a way of letting your motivated sellers know you and feel comfortable with you well before you even talk to them. Again, Carrot makes this easier with some of their tools.
“Brands obviously want to sell their products, and that top line motivator will influence their communication decisions, but the findings here suggest that consumers want more openness, more communication, as opposed to businesses simply using social as another broadcast channel for their ads.”
― Andrew Hutchinson, Social Media Today: New Report Looks at the Importance of Transparency in Brand Communications on Social Media
Video is an important element Facebook is now featuring heavily. We are aiming to have two video posts a week, one live and one pre-recorded. These will be organic educational posts. One might be a simple driving-for-dollars live post and the other a recorded post while we are working on a mailing list or right after a seller appointment. We work hard, and we want our motivated sellers to see us in action.
Below is the social media schedule we derived from studying Carrot and others. We’re tweaking this schedule and will adjust it as we examine the data feedback we get from Facebook. It’s important to note that there is no magic formula. Download PDF here.
7. Video Content
The development of the video blog tool from Carrot is a real game-changer for the organized real estate investor who’s bold enough to create video content. You can do so many things with it.
For instance, if you’re good at pre-foreclosure, you can make an outline and record a series of short videos lasting 3-5 minutes each. Just tell motivated sellers what you know and explain it just like you have to other your real life clients, and you’re set.
Load the video into Carrot’s system and have the audio transcribed. A little cleaning up and you’ve got it! You then take the transcript and load it onto YouTube so Google can point users to both the video and the blog post (with embedded video).
Typical professional narrators speak an average of about 160 WPM. If you have the “gift of gab” you might speak at that rate. If you’re verbally challenged like me, it may be 120 WPM.
Google likes blog posts of 300-500 words or more. So a 3-5 minute video will make for a good video blog post. Best of all, you can edit the transcript for keyword use so Google knows your intent. I also like the strategy of providing one video for the overview and another “going deep”. This provides ample content for Google to examine and rank, while your viewers only look at the video after you warn them how long it is. This is another practice I never see but has tremendous potential for those who can simply explain themselves on a video.
A quick note on camera equipment. Typically no more equipment is needed other than your smartphone! My son, a professional photographer, told me not to waste my money on a new HD video camera. My iPhone X was better than any low-level professional camera I could get. No arguments from me!
Plus, with the recent saturation of social media with Facebook videos, professionally produced videos have lost value while organic home-spun videos have tremendously gained. Transparency trumps professional video quality.
Since the main advantage most real estate investors have against the big companies is authenticity and transparency, this gives you a leg up on competing for the attention of the motivated seller who wants to find someone they can trust.
It’s no secret that video content has become an important element of marketing. Though no one knows the direction video use will take in the near future, there is an ever-expanding range of options available to the real estate investor.
The best news is that you have just about all the equipment you need with a smartphone and a PC.
Facebook and Google have given mixed signals on exactly how they will treat video in the future, but there is ample opportunity to produce content that can be immediately used as well as saved for future re-purposing.
For your Carrot site we recommend preparing videos for the following:
- Home page introduction
- About page regarding core values
- Specialty pages like avoiding foreclosure, inherited properties, and divorce
Carrot has found that video content for the web page should not be at the top of the page. This affects the Click Through Rate (CTR).
We’ll likely place video content near the middle or the bottom of the page. Certainly, it should not appear on the screen at the top of the page upon loading. These videos are simple conversations you want to have with the motivated seller after they see our page content. Remember, most people likely won’t read your copy, so your video should give them the information they need to take the next step: “Fill out the form or call us today!” After they view one or several of your videos they’ll tend to pay attention to the portions of text which addresses their pain point.
Normal blog posts are also a good place to add video content. This has the added advantage of adding 150 words of SEO transcript for a one-minute video. Again, this video should not be placed at the top. We plan to do this for the “sweet 16” videos we rotate in our social media posts.
Your possibilities are limited only by your imagination. Consider the list below of 2019 video trends we found from Wistia.com. We really think the 1:1 videos have lots of potential for U.S. Direct Home Buyers as we roll out our company.
- Spontaneous stories
- Accessible video
- Video thought leadership
- Live Q&As and “Ask Me Anything”
- Podcast tapings
- 1:1 Video
- Virtual presentations
- Mobile-first video
- Video in email
- Paid video courses
- Transparency with video
- Splitting the screen
- Recurring video series
8. Back Office Systems
Back office systems are important. But more important is maintaining your focus on the task at hand. Hence, your systems should work FOR you. Your first task is developing a system in the first place.
Many investors do just fine with a legal pad and ballpoint pen, but this can take you only so far. With the many new relatively inexpensive systems available, you can implement a Podio system or go to Investor Fuse and save hundreds of hours previously spent record keeping.
At U.S. Direct Home Buyers we developed our own in-house system which has proved to be quite robust and flexible. Why is a back office system so important? Consider the statistics below coming from Jackie Ulmer. ‘Nuff said.
Well, this list of eight is plenty to chew on, and there’s much, much more. Below are other important aspects to consider. You can read more in the Carrot blog.
- Using SEO friendly URLs
- Modifying keywords for local and optimizing tags and content
- Adding outbound links
- Sprinkle LSI keywords
- Optimizing images with keywords
These are just some of the key methods we’re implementing in our system at U.S. Direct Home Buyers. Click on the link below if you are interested in finding out what we do.
Founder & CEO
U.S. Direct Home Buyers
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