Have you ever thought, “I’ve seen that guy’s picture everywhere! Who is he??”
Oh, and everybody else has too. That’s why you need to invest in Real Estate SEO.
Why? What does the recency illusion have to do with organic search marketing for real estate agents?
I’m glad you asked.
Before we start
I had the pleasure this week to be interviewed on another podcast. So we continue our Real Estate Marketing Podcast Series with my interview on the Future of Real Estate Podcast.
The F.o.R.E Podcast is a project of PropertySimple, and the team includes some awesome people. I spoke to Charlotte Waldmeir and coordinated logistics with Amalia Trocea, both of whom were perfectly accommodating and professional.
What follows is a write-up of conversation, with key actionable takeaways at the bottom of the page.
Check this out—
Table of Contents
- Podcast video
- Introducing TJ Kelly & Mxt Media
- Real Estate SEO Elevator Pitch
- Why Realtors Struggle with Branding
- Facebooks Algorithm Update
- Will Friedner’s Facebook Groups
- 3 Steps for Real Estate SEO
- Realtors are Community Managers
- The CREW Facebook Group
- Do one thing today to grow your business
- What’s the point
- Want to talk shop?
Watch the Real Estate Podcast Video
Nobody likes to listen to podcasts on YouTube, so we did our best to make an engaging video version. Turn on your captions to follow along with the dialog.
Or if you’re like me and you’d rather read than listen, here’s a written recap of what we talked about.
Name drop: TJ Kelly @ Mxt Media
The host of the show, Charlotte Waldmeir, was kind enough to introduce me as “real estate SEO expert, part writer, part designer, and full-on digital marketing nerd.”
She points out that I’m also the owner of Mxt Media, a web marketing company specializing in real estate. We’re a full-service online marketing agency, with a focus on content marketing and organic search channels.
We’re a distributed team—no central office—but my wife and I run the shop from Massachusetts, about an hour west of Boston in Central MA.
And it’s cold here!
What we do
We work with agents, brokers, and everybody else in the industry. We’ve done closing attorneys (required here in MA) title reps, lenders—the whole industry.
- Paid — Google AdWords
- Organic — SEO & Content Marketing
- Paid — Facebook Ads
- Organic — Groups & pages
Our company specializes in the organic side: most people think that means only a blog.
The blog is definitely a big part of it but there’s a lot of social media involved in organic, and some research too. We do the paid side also: Google AdWords and Facebook ads, mostly.
I happen to like organic better. It’s where I like to focus my energy.
But I wouldn’t be a very good practitioner if I didn’t add members of my team to build out the skillset and make us a full-service team.
Listen to this segment
Real Estate SEO: the Elevator Pitch
Imagine that you and I step onto an elevator together. We’re both riding up a few floors, and I have only a few seconds to convince you to buy what I’m selling: SEO for Real Estate.
- Me: What do YOU think SEO is?
- You: Uhhh…. google?
Right. That’s what I thought you’d say.
Sure, “SEO = Google,” but it’s more than that. It’s a lot more than just keywords meta tags, like lots of people think it is.
In 2018 and beyond, it means control the conversation.
What does that mean?
People are curious, and we have a bad memory. When meet someone new or learn of a cool new company, we start trying to figure them out — we want to see if we should join the club.
But we can’t remember everything about everyone, so we have to ask questions to get our answers.
And when those questions are about a business online, we turn to one source to answer our questions:
Not if, but when.
When you are advertising in any capacity: you have billboards up, or you’ve got graphic/decal on your car, or you leave a business card at a showing, or you run a Facebook ad—all of those things are driving traffic in some way.
They’re all attracting attention to you.
And if I get your business card, or I meet you on the street, I’m going to wonder about you. And where do I go to find out answers to my questions and learn more about you?
I go to Google. Everybody goes to Google.
So when that happens—not if, but when that happens—you should be able to control that conversation.
You want the right information about you and your business and your market to be easily accessible. And Google is the channel that you have to use to do that. It’s not the only channel but it is a very, very important one.
And it’s often overlooked.
Listen to this segment
- 01:55 — Real Estate SEO elevator pitch
- 02:05 — What do YOU think SEO is?
- 02:15 — More than just keywords & meta tags
- 02:35 — All advertising brings attention. Google answers questions.
- 03:10 — When clients Google, you need to be in control
Why Realtors struggle with branding
Branding is hard. Personal branding is even harder. You’re both a person and a brand, and those two priorities don’t always align.
And even within just the brand part of that, there are times when your brand has to feel personal—when you want clients to connect with you and build rapport.
And there are times when your brand has to feel professional—when you’re negotiating with the other side, for example.
Agents’ brand is a weird hybrid of being personal and professional at the same time—you serve two masters.
Most people have a really easy time and a really hard time talking about themselves, depending on the situation.
The Personal vs. Professional Self
If I asked you about your favorite foods or hobbies, you’d have no problem telling me all about that.
But if I asked you why you’re the best choice to list with, or why I should work with you instead of some other agent, you might have a hard time selling yourself—selling your value, and the professional side of you.
So it’s both easy and hard to talk about yourself.
And when that’s your business—when your livelihood depends on your ability to talk about yourself, and sell yourself—that’s a challenge!
And that’s essentially what most real estate agents have to do when they’re marketing their own brand: establish themselves. Put their name, face, and words in front of strangers.
It can be pretty intimidating.
Listen to this segment
Facebook’s Algorithm Update
Just last week, Facebook announced that it would be changing their News Feed algorithm.
It’ll now be harder for business pages to make it into the News Feed. That space will be reserved mostly for your friends and family.
How will that impact Realtors?
It’s a good thing, because it does two things. People might get mad at me when they hear me say this, but hear me out—
It does 2 things that will make the industry better:
- Less noise, more signal
- Force agents to get real
1. SNR: Signal-to-Noise Ratio
There is a lot of noise on Facebook already and this is just one tiny step in the right direction of cleaning up some of that noise.
I’m not saying that your Facebook page is noise, but consider what that means.
If you’re selling yourself or you’re putting out a message, and you’re hitting the wrong audience— or you’re hitting the audience at the wrong time, your signal might come across as noise.
This algo update will force real estate agents to improve their quality. Become less noisy and more signal. Be more relevant to the industry, to your audience, to your community.
It will force agents to move the goalposts a little bit, and become better at what they’re doing.
2. Get real. Be helpful.
The second thing it will do i force people into a more valuable method: relationship marketing.
Rather than just getting a Facebook page and posting articles or pictures or videos, it will force agents to establish real relationships in a much more personal way than an anonymous or semi–anonymous Facebook page.
I will say this all day, everyday. I tell everybody this…
Personal relationships build business relationships.
Personal relationships build business relationships. Especially in this industry.
That doesn’t have to be true for Jeff Bezos and Amazon.com, because that’s not what Amazon is. That’s not why you shop at Amazon.
But real estate agents are not a drop-shipping retailer. This is a personalized, customer service industry. And so personal relationships build business relationships.
This algorithm update from Facebook is going to move realtors away from just a megaphone effect from your Facebook page into connecting on a real, personal level with real people and making friends.
And that’s how you can still show up in their News Feed—just be friends with them!
That’s gonna be better for your relationships and your business in the long term anyway. Personal relationships build business relationships.
At least one major publication agrees with me on this. Vice’s Motherboard has very different reasons for praising Facebook’s change, but I still count it as a win.
Listen to this segment
Will Friedner’s Facebook Groups
Will Friedner is a career agent in Whitefish, MT. This guy gets it.
As you may expect, the population totals in his communities aren’t as high as some other places around the US.
But that’s never bothered Will.
He created a series of Facebook groups for folks in his area, all specifically aimed at real estate:
- Billings Homes For Sale or Rent — 12,352 Members
- Flathead Valley Homes For Sale or Rent — 8,524 Members
- Missoula Homes For Sale or Rent — 4,014 Members
- Bozeman Homes For Sale or Rent — 644 Members
- Flathead Valley Homes For Sale By Owner — 499 Members
That’s 26,033 total. Granted, there’s definitely some overlap between group membership, but still. Those are SERIOUSLY impressive numbers.
Will gets 50% of his business from these groups. And here’s the key:
He doesn’t let any other real estate agents into his groups.
Therefore, when someone mentions a real estate question, Will has exclusive access to addressing the question, building rapport with the user, and proving his own authority.
If you’re looking for a Real Estate Facebook Group strategy, Will Friedner has the example to follow.
Check out Will’s interview on FoRE here.
Listen to this segment
3 Steps for Real Estate SEO
I get this question a lot. SEO is so big, and it can take so long, that many agents—and publishers in general—get overwhelmed or impatient, and they want to cut right to the chase.
“I know I need more. Where should I start?”
Sound like you? If so, here’s your answer.
- Publish more — But not just an auto-blog-feed service
- Do research — More than just market updates
- Build relationships — The cup of coffee method
Sounds easy enough, right? And most of the time it is. Here’s what I mean:
But not just an auto-blog-feed service. It’s the 5 o’clock news model: become THE person that is bringing community info to the masses.
Lots of towns have Community Access cable tv stations. Those stations are a goldmine. They have the personnel and equipment to produce video content, but they don’t usually have the resources to fund it all.
I smell a partnership.
See if you can become a sponsor of your local cable station.
Offer a small monthly donation ($100 mo? $250?) to in exchange for their help covering events and producing community videos.
Your mileage may vary, but the concept is valid:
The more entertaining, informative, helpful, enjoyable stuff you can provide your area with, the wider your audience grows, and the stronger your local community brand becomes.
Original research is the most linkable asset on the internet. Everyone wants to be an authority, but no one has time to actually do the work and become a real authority.
So we take shortcuts. We find research and info that other people have compiled, we repackage it, cite our sources, and hit the Publish button.
Your job is to become the source.
Statistics and data are highly linkable. When someone cites your data, they link to you. These links add up QUICKLY.
So go beyond market updates.
One of my favorite examples is a 3,000-word mega analysis called How Long Does it Take to Sell a House in North Andover?
We helped one of our clients create that piece and it did so well that we repeated it for other towns in their area.
This is a big one. And honestly, it should probably have been tip #1. It’s the umbrella strategy that should guide and define the rest of your real estate SEO efforts.
I call it the cup of coffee method, and you should do it right now.
Here’s how it works:
- Reach out to other local businesses in your area
- Ask if you can buy them a cup of coffee
- Spend 30 minutes listening to them
- Record the conversation (video preferred, but audio works too)
- Promote the other business on your blog. Tell their story.
- Politely ask if they’ll link back to your blog post from their site.
- Rake in the local links.
Not to mention connecting with real people to grow your network of influencers/referrals, AND to put your brand in front of their audience when they inevitably share your blog post in their blog or their social channels.
It’s a win-win-win, and you need to start doing it immediately.
Cup of Coffee Method example
Check out Bob Wahl of Wahl Real Estate in St. Louis, MO. He’s had a podcast and YouTube show for 2 years, and he has some outstanding examples of local business features on his show.
Check out the view numbers in the video below.
Of course, The Stellar Hog BBQ place shared Bob’s video with its several thousand fans. All of that is free* exposure for Bob and his brand.
Obviously “free” needs an asterisk because Bob pays for the video production, and there’s a time-cost involved in planning, recording, and promoting the video.
But agents have to pay to play. If you’re going to spend your marketing budget somewhere, you need to consider spending some of it on this!
The Bob Wahl Show came to check us out! Check out their review. So glad they came.
Seriously, look at the view numbers. As of this writing, it’s at 8,624. What real estate agent DOESN’T want their name, face, and charm in front of 8,000 local residents?
This method is incredibly powerful.
Listen to this segment
Realtors are Community Managers
Charlotte and I didn’t spend much time talking about this one during the podcast, but we should have. It’s a really good point.
Think of yourself as a community manager.
What’s that, you ask? Glad you asked. It’s a job title you’d probably associate with millennials on iPhones and MacBooks in rustic-yet-modern-looking Brooklyn offices. And you might not be wrong.
But it’s a lot more than that.
Forbes wrote about the 4 pillars of community management: growth, engagement, listening, and improvement
Tasks include things like:
- Making personal connections with users by speaking with them on a regular basis
- Creating, distributing, and/or sharing relevant content
- Testing new social media platforms to determine which are a good fit
Sound like anybody you know?
The Forbes article was written 6 years ago, and the job is still going strong. In fact, LinkedIn shows more than 55,000+ community manager jobs open right now.
If you think about yourself this way and incorporate some of those tasks into your week, you’re well on your way to building a community around your brand and your area.
Listen to this segment
The CREW Facebook Group
Google, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram… none of them will ever buy a house from you.
Put people first. Put relationships first.
My business partner Courtney Brophy and I started a Facebook group of our own in 2017. We started the group to build a community—duh—and to bring value to as many people as we could in this industry.
Charlotte asked what makes our group unique and different from other real estate and marketing groups. In my opinion, it’s our community.
We don’t preach. We don’t sell. We foster a group learning, together.
The CREW includes a unique combination of realtors and industry pros from across the country, and even internationally.
It’s a collaborative help group where agents ask real questions and get real advice.
Most agents know that your sphere of influence is the best place to start when drumming up business. I was approached by an agent recently who asked for unique ideas to work a sphere.
I immediately posted the question to the group—after 10pm on the East Coast—and this agent had 14 responses that same night.
It’s nothing Earth-shattering, to be sure. Lab Coat and the other huge groups with 70k members can get 1,400 responses in a night. But for us, it was a great response rate.
And for that worried agent, it was meaningful.
Listen to this segment
Do one thing today to grow your business
Making your bed in the morning makes you more productive.3
Little things add up, and they can influence our lives (and businesses) in a big way.
So start with the little things.
What’s one thing you’ll do TODAY to grow your business?
When Charlotte asked me, it was an easy answer: this podcast. It may not seem like a business decision, but it absolutely is.
I aim to capitalize on other people’s audiences as much as possible, by joining forces—and you should too.
Team up to collaborate on some project together: videos, interviews, podcasts, mailers, events, sponsorships—you name it. The more audiences you can tap into, the better.
Reach new audiences
You can only work the same sphere for so long before you start to annoy people. Hustle hard to grow your audience by sharing someone else’s.
Here are some ways to do that.
Different Facebook groups for Real Estate agents, church groups, school/parent networks, activity clubs, event goers—all of these collections of people tend to organize themselves conveniently on Facebook.
Join the groups and start talking to people.
BE PATIENT. It will take time. At least 3 months of regular (daily or close to it) activity, maybe more like 6 months to a year.
Exploit your children
Don’t call DSS on me. My kids are doing just fine, thank you. But YES I think you should exploit your kids! Don’t call it “exploit” if you don’t want to. But use your children to your advantage.
Most adults seem averse to friendliness. We walk by strangers on the street and pretend we don’t even see them. We go out of our way to avoid human contact for no reason other than that isolation is easy.
Kids don’t do that.
Any parent on earth will tell you that kids are natural-born icebreakers. Even if the kids themselves are shy and don’t want to talk to other kids or their parents, just having a young child standing near you is enough to make other adults smile at you and sometimes even—GASP—initiate conversation.
And, as if that weren’t upsetting enough, kids have this nasty habit of wanting to socialize with each other A LOT—and they never bother to consult with their parents about whether or not mommy and daddy want to meet little Susie or Stevie’s mommy and daddy.
Anyway, you see what I mean— it’s a simple connect-the-dots scenario:
- Kids play with other kids
- Those other kids have parents
- Those other parents are humans
- THEY CAN JOIN YOUR SPHERE
Meet these parents and socialize. Play it all cool and whatnot—we are talking about actual IRL socializing here—but build some rapport. Warm them like they’re prospects….because they are.
When you eventually friend them on Facebook or Instagram, etc., they’ll see all the awesome community content and social/fun value you provide, and—since you’re OBVIOUSLY sprinkling in friendly reminders to your social sphere that you’re a Realtor and want their business—they’ll see your content and be reminded that they should work with you.
Get in front of a new audience.
Listen to this segment
Ok, so what? What’s the point?
This podcast is aptly named: the future of real estate. There are lot of thinkers and strategists out there who warn of disruption, or a dramatic shift in the way the RE industry operates.
I can’t say if Facebook, Amazon, Google, Zillow, or anybody else will revolutionize the industry.
But can say with confidence that Realtors who embrace the camera-first mentality or “media company” attitude will lead us to the next chapter.
Agents who stick to door-knocking and FSBOs will miss out.
Those methods can and will still deliver value. I’m not knocking them. But with every new advancement the marketing tech world makes, the less relevant those tried-and-true tactics become.
Listen to this segment
- 17:20 — Why real estate?
- 19:10 — Is TJ getting a real estate license?
- 19:50 — Why digital marketing?
- 21:40 — TJ’s first website in 1996
- 22:40 — Where to find TJ online
- 24:00 — Wrapping up
Want to talk about your marketing?
How’s your sphere? Need help with organic? Heard about this whole “content marketing” thing, but not really sure where to go?
We’ve got you covered. Fill out the contact form below or schedule a call to talk asap!
- Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, or the Recency Illusion — Arnold Zwicky/Stanford University, Aug 2005
- Do we really see 4,000 ads a day? 4,000 ads, does it add up? — Business Journals, Sep 2017
- Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life… And Maybe the World — William H. McRaven, US Navy (Retired), Apr 2017