The change is here. In recent months, the property industry has awoken to a seismic shift in both business strategy and digital marketing. Until now, the method of developing a new client base and marketing a property has been to rely on the main portals, but increases in advertising rates and the ongoing education around up-to-date digital marketing have caused many in the property game to question ‘the way it’s always been done.’ To capture new leads, sustain existing client bases and drive footfall into offices, more property businesses understand the imperative to make their own websites stronger then the big portals.
But how do we break the reliance and ensure that our own websites get the traffic – and the resulting Google equity, they deserve? Getting page one ranking takes time, effort and commitment. Analysts predict that within the next ten years, with the growth of social media, that larger portals will slowly decline in traffic (and conversions) unless they re-engineer their usefulness to new customers. A new user searching for property has little brand loyalty to a portal, outside of how useful and easy that portal is to navigate.
So how do we position individual estate agents as authorities – in Google and otherwise – on their property stock, as sites worth visiting in their own right? Content. But how can you generate useful content for multiple online channels on an ongoing basis while keeping up your daily business? Easy. Content Strategy! We’ve now started to run workshops with clients on content generation because our golden rule is that no matter what their budget is, it is always smart to “invest in the content not the platform.” If you take time to produce a content strategy in line with the demographic you seek to appeal to, you will always come out on top.
The social media landscape is a constantly evolving entity with new platforms rising up through the ranks very quickly (such as Pinterest, discussed last month). The only sure fire way of growing with these platforms is to plan your content from the start so that you will be able to deliver across multiple platforms in different formats with ease.
When creating a content strategy, the first thing you need to think about is who uses your site and what they want to get out of it. Usually, with most estate agencies, it is easy to segment the audiences you want to address by the motivators they have for purchase or rental. The real art is making segmented, audience specific content alongside generic content. Your content needs to appeal to both a new vendor instructing for sale and a new corporate tenant looking to rent an apartment on a short let.
At Streetsmart we rely on the ‘Golden Ms’, simple rules that will allow you to successfully navigate the content creation process on a consistent basis:
Make it useful. The first step is to understand what is useful to your users. Do they want a 360 photo carousel view of a living room, or do they want to know more information about the area, streetview glimpses of the property location, mortgage calculators, etc? Don’t forget to create content that sings your own praises. New customers want to understand what makes your business special, so ensure you create content that addresses your USPs and core service offers. Write a blog piece on how to prepare your home for marketing, turn it into a series of tweets, Facebook updates, questions and answers series on LinkedIn. Each and every single piece of content you create needs multiple outlets across all the platforms. Not engaging with content in this way means you are wasting your time and effort.
Make it mobile. Remember that your content needs to be able to displayed on both mobile devices, tablets and PC/Macs so always try and cater for the biggest market possible. The advent of HTML5 is making it all the more easy to create websites and content that will be visible on all devices; however, having a ‘visible’ website (ie one without Flash) isn’t enough. You have to think about how your customers use their mobile and when. Context, in the Content world – is Queen. We have large fingers and tiny screens and very specific, sometimes urgent needs while utilising a mobile. Make your customer’s journey to your content as easy as possible to increase dwell time on your site and more importantly, conversions. Placing a simple ‘call Acme Estate Agents now’ button on the front page of your mobile website which prompts the phone to dial your directly is the most frequently missed trick we see.
Remember that your content will need to be displayed on mobile devices, tablets, PCs and Macs too…
Make it short. Another big no-no is making your content too long. No-one wants to read War and Peace on their lunch break. Pick your most relevant messages and your top images that illustrate the message you are trying to deliver. People scan read on the internet rather than a full scale ingestion of content. They want it fast and they want it now.
Make it personal. Identify with you users by putting a bit of personality in your content. Deciding your tone of voice for all written content is essential. Like a human being, your business’ tone of voice has many facets. You speak in a different way to corporate investors than you do to your friends at the pub. There’s a fine line between being engaging and professional or just plain boring, so it’s always worth doing some testing on what works with your end user.
Make it fresh. If you go through the trouble of generating content, you need have a strategy to ensure that the content is kept up to date. Again, this comes down to planning and organising your key stakeholders (directors, staff specialists, related business partners etc) to produce a set number of articles each month. There’s nothing worse than finding that a useful source of content turns into a one hit wonder. Do a good job once and you will keep them hungry for more.
GETTING IT OUT THERE
Once you’ve discerned your strategy and you’ve decided your ‘tone of voice’, and you’ve commissioned a content writer to start producing your raw content, you need to think about delivery.
The format you deliver your content in needs to be relevant to the platform you deliver it through. For example, the content you push through Twitter would be holistically different to Facebook or Pinterest.
Here’s a few tips to get you through: content for blog posts – these are usually longer articles of between three to five hundred words on a specific topic that you can write about with authority. Create an identity for yourself as a key market commentator or industry expert.
Content for Facebook. Content for Facebook can vary to a much bigger degree. From sharing your blog articles, asking questions, running surveys, sharing photos, to making useful widgets (such as currency converters, search functionality for your key product portfolio) your content needs to be fun, engaging and useful. Image-based content such as info graphics get better traction than articles, but make your article topical and in line with up to date trends and you’ll see bigger uptakes.
Content for Twitter. Micro blogging is the easiest way to create content as long as you observe the very strong online etiquette that goes with this. Think ‘HEADLINES’ when you write and deliver your tweets to build a following a deliver messages quickly and efficiently. You have 140 characters so you have to make them count. Support your tweets with trackable links so you can see your click through rates.
Content for Pinterest. This is an easy win for property agencies as you have a wealth of great property shots use these to your advantage and share your photos of your best instructions over Pintrest. You will suprised at how quickly you start to see these conversions come through.
Content for YouTube. This is probably one of your best tools as Youtube is the worlds second largest search engine. For this reason producing your “How to” guides and your “market insight” video blogs are essential to empower your users to use your content to service their needs. With all video blogs, make sure that you have some level of transcript associated with this so that the Google has something to index against your video to get additional Google brownie points.
THE BATTLE IS OVER – LET WAR COMMENCE
So you’ve generated content and delivered it in multiple channels. How do you now keep the battle going and win the war for your very valuable real estate on page one of Google? Keep your eye on the ball. Review Google Analytics and the links you’ve tracked from social media content (we recommend the free ‘bit.ly’ – http://bit.ly – service) on a monthly and annual basis to discover which content was most effective with your audience.
Popularity is one indicator, but where the user journeys next and what they do (ie call you, download a brochure, etc.) are also important to analyse. The joy of the digital approach is that, for the first time in marketing, it gives you trackable results. From a commercial perspective, it will allow you to calculate your ROI for every campaign. This helps you to really understand how well your marketing spend is performing in each channel and adjust your strategy accordingly. Amazing!
When reviewing what really did well for you, ensure that you always make it easy to navigate from these popular pages to your key product pages. While it is essential to push more content onto the pages that get higher traffic, it’s just as important to capture this momentum and turn it into money in the bank. So if you blog page is getting very little traction but your key sales page with property of the week is, you need to shift how and where you deliver your content on site. By combining the twin powers of content and insight, you’ll win the war for page one. Regularly delivering your content in multiple channels, alongside converting traffic from search pages will signal to Google that you are the authority on your property stock and that you deserve to rank highly for key search terms related to your business. Good luck!
Stay tuned for our next article on Cowboy (website) Builders – how to avoid the common mistakes in website development.
Tracy Falke is Founder andd Director of Streetsmart Social.