With Promoted Posts, Facebook is Targeting Google’s Adwords

After writing my last post on why I think the ability to promote posts on Facebook is going to be huge, I realized I didn’t capture the “why” very well…  We already know that Facebook recently passed google.com in terms of raw traffic, and yet the industry around turning that traffic into real business is still in the infant stages…   So, here’s my attempt to summarize where things currently stand between Facebook and Google:

Here’s how to think about this table:

  • Google is best used to target search traffic, while Facebook is best used to target friends of existing fans.
  • Google’s algorithms are optimized to figure out what you’re going to like (or click on) based on what other web searches are clicking on… and the industry around that is called SEO. Facebook’s algorithms are optimized to figure out what you’re going to like (or click on) based on what your friends are click on (I’m calling this NEO).
  • You can use Google’s Adwords to buy targeted search traffic, which is relevant because you can surmise someone’s interest (or intent) based on the keywords they entered into Google’s search box.   You can use Facebook’s Ads to buy targeted traffic, which you can make relevant by buying terms that are related to your business page.
  • With Google, the most effective strategy for increasing the relevance of your website is to generate backlinks from other relevant and quality sites. With Facebook, the most effective strategy for increasing the relevance of your business page is to generate quality engagement from your existing fan base
  • With Google, you can increase your relevance by sending paid traffic to more relevant pages on your site (i.e. not your homepage) that are likely to convert at higher rates.  With Facebook, you can now send relevant people (i.e. friends of fans) to posts that are likely to convert at higher rates and having higher levels of engagement.

In web traffic, it’s all about relevance and Promoted Posts are Facebook’s way of letting your pay to improve the relevance of any given status update by sending more (and hopefully relevant) traffic to the update!

Are there 5 reasons you do NOT want to create a Facebook Business Page?

homestomperMark Echenrode listened to our conversation yesterday and went on to point out 5 very interesting reasons that real estate agents should NOT set up Facebook Fan Pages:

  • Why? Why would a prospect (or even a client, for that matter) want to become a fan of an agent?… [I took a bit of liberty in summarizing this first point, but it’s an important one, so I wanted to include it]
  • Traffic: If you’re trying to build up your fan pages then that means they need traffic. Now, we all work to get traffic to our own websites and blogs but by diluting your traffic getting activities by splitting up the clicks – send some traffic to your website, others to Facebook – you have to work twice as hard for the same results.
  • Content: Your Facebook fans are probably looking for exclusive content. As time pressed as we are, you now have to create content for both your blog and your fan page. By publishing original content to your fan page your blog loses out on the additional content. If you’re simply posting teasers and redirects to your fan page, why bother with a fan page?
  • SEO: Building upon the previous points, there’s no SEO benefit to Facebook fan pages. The links are no-follow. Again, you’re cutting your blog/website off at the knees here.
  • List Building: You may be building a list of fans on Facebook but you’re relly not build YOUR list. It’s Facebook’s. You’re denying yourself a highly profitable business asset by not building your own in-house mailing list of folks interested in what you have to say.

He makes some very interesting points, so I’m going to take my best shot at providing the “other” side.

Why? The ONLY reason I could think that someone would want to become a fan of your business is if they are getting some benefit from it.   On my Page, I do my best to regularly provide useful tips, links, advice around social media marketing.   I’d like to think that if you’re wondering how to do a better job marketing your small business online, then you’re going to be a smarter person by becoming a fan of my page, following the links I provide and engaging with the community I’ve created.

Is it possible for a realtor to do the same with a community that they’d like to create?   I definitely think so, although I think we’re just at the very beginning of marketing with Facebook Pages, so what those communities look like and how people will engage on those communities is yet to be determined.

Traffic. I’d go the other way and say that if you don’t have a plan to tap into the massive traffic that Facebook can send you’re way, then you’re missing out.

When I first started blogging on Rain City Guide 4+ years ago, I got new readers because other bloggers either linked to me or google sent me visitors (a small portion of which became regular readers).  Today, the game has changed.  Many of the good real estate bloggers have become so SEO focused that they almost never link out to other bloggers, so that source of new readers is gone… and while google can still be a great source of new readers to your site, the social networks, and Facebook in particular can be an incredible source of traffic.

And what’s so interesting about the traffic that facebook sends you is that it’s often the “friends of fans” which is so much more targeted (and often so much more relevant!) than anything google can send.  By simply allowing users to notify their friends when they leave a comment on your site (as I do with both RCG and this blog!), I’m allowing people to easily reach into their network to notify them about my site.   This type of targeting is something that the search engines could only dream of!

Content.  The content of your FB Page should be totally different than the content on your blog.   It’s two different beasts serving two different purposes.   If I’ve got something interesting and informative that’s completely original content (especially stuff I *hope* other bloggers might link to!), then I write a blog post like this.   However, I come across links all the time that I think my community will find interesting.   I *used* to blog those as one-line updates and became known as a microblogger before just about anyone in real estate had even heard of twitter and similar services.

However, those small updates were only going out to the people who received my RSS feed… and while I’ve always had a decent number of readers, the reach I have by using my Facebook account instead of my blog to give these micro-updates is incredible.  My guess is that the number of people in my community who will ever subscribe to an RSS feed will never get above 10%… But based on the number of people who have facebook profiles, my ability to reach a MUCH larger audience by using FB for similar updates is tremendously higher.   And I see that already with my updates.  I haven’t quite had my business page for 2 months and most of my micro-updates get comments with many of them soliciting an active conversation.

Despite the fact that I’ve got more “followers” on twitter than “fans” on Facebook, the conversation around business type topics are already much more active on Facebook.  People subscribe to my Facebook Business Page with the expectation I’m going to provide them with helpful business information.  When I deliver on that promise, my community is built.     Most of the people (and by that I mean probably 75%) who follow me on twitter are spammers or people trying to game the system in order to get as many followers as they can.  These people are totally irrelevant to my business and it shows in how they never interact with my tweets.

SEO. This is a huge weakness of using Facebook to market your business. Facebook is optimized to get Facebook to rank well, not  your site.  Totally agree with that one.  In many ways, you just have to bite the bullet and accept two things.  1) The quality of the traffic you will be able to generate from Facebook is so much higher and relevant than google that it’s worth taking the SEO hit and 2) the interest you’ll be able to generate from having an active community around your Facebook Page will mean that you’ll be able to generate more inbound links from people in your community than if you didn’t have that community.   I’m convinced of the first point, and the second point will work for some, but definitely not most.

List Building. Here’s an area where I think you’re missing out on the true benefits of Facebook. Getting people to self-identify themselves and provide you with information like their name, their facebook email (or at least enough to send them emails when ever you want), their sex, their location, their photo, etc. is TRIVIAL when compared to your blog.   All a visitor has to do is click the button “become a fan” and they’ve given you permission to market to them.  Stay relevant and interesting and they’ll likely stay fans for years to come, which means you can let them know about events, blog posts, awards, testimonials, etc… and you can target those messages in some pretty interesting ways.

At the end of the day

It’s not an “either/or” game where someone is either going to register on your blog and give you information OR they are going to sign up for a Facebook account.   The number of people with Facebook accounts means they’ve already made the choice to be there.   If you can use short updates to both build a community there and also drive interest in your business, it’s an obvious win-win.  And what’s so fascinating about Facebook is just how easy they’ve made it to reach out to new people in a highly relevant and targeted way thanks to things like the “friend/fan” recommendations and the highlight section of the homepage.

How much value do you get out of listing on Craigslist?

Visits per ad type
Visits per ad type

One of the websites I mentioned at the Inman presentation a few weeks ago was listing number.   One of the most interesting elements of the site is just how trivial it can make tracking ROI of an agents marketing spend… and along those lines, the folks behind Listing Number just published their first set of results for the average number of hits generated by different marketing types.

The dataset is (presumeably) pretty small still, but it is interesting to see just how many hits a craigslist ad generates relative to other marketing options.

Localism2.0 Launches

I got an early tour of the next version of Localism and I like much of what I saw… It’s a clean design that will give real estate agents plenty of opportunities to promote themselves (including by buying and/or creating new local communities). My guess is that this release will be very popular within the ActiveRain community.

Here’s my main criticism: When I put my consumer hat on, the purpose of the site doesn’t jump out at me at first glance.  As a new user going to Twitter, I know what I’m suppose to do (i.e. answer the question: “what am I doing?”). As a new user going to Facebook, I know that I’m there to connect with friends and family.   With localism, I’m asked to “go hyper local”… but I’m honetly not sure what that means… and it’s not particularly compelling when I get there since, as a consumer, there’s not a lot of ways for me to interact on the site… yet.

So here’s the good news.   The ActiveRain team mentioned that (1) they did their SEO homework and they’re convinced these sites will rank really well (only time will tell) and (2) they’re working hard to add more consumer interaction points (text, photo and video upload for non-ActiveRain members).   Assuming that at least some of the communities starts to get some serious traffic and the agents involved start to get some leads from the site, then I think they’ll have another winner on their hands.

One of the many reasons to blog on WordPress.com is…

…that the wordpress.com domain does REALLY well in google searches for the various “tags” that get associated with posts.

For example, the wordpress.com tag for REALOGY shows up just below the wikipedia entry for the company and above the Inman news page on REALOGY:

realogy search results in google

And because Rob and I are the only people on the platform talking about Realogy, we get an outsized influence in how Realogy is represented on the web.

David G: What if Zillow got “Quantified”?

We all know that external sources of traffic are off, but what if you guys “quantified” the site so that a third party could transparently track your traffic?

I think that would be a great way to nip the traffic question in the bud.

And by the way, I “quantified” RCG about two weeks ago and, not surprisingly, the uniques from Quantcast are really close to Google Analytics (maybe 5% lower at most).

The 1st 4RealzEd event was yesterday and…

4ealzEdI think I’ve recovered enough now to actually post about it! 🙂

Despite our best efforts to be prepared, the day started off a bit rough with a nearby mudslide taking out power in our building in the morning (meaning no hot coffee and no projector) and a 9-car pileup on a nearby freeway slowed me down tremendously. AHHH

So, to say it started rough would be an understatement… But once it started, things seem to get on a roll quickly.

I started with an overview of consumers expectations in a web2.0 world to set expectations for the day… Jim followed up with presentation on optimal features and design for a real estate website. Then it turned back to me for a presentation on social networking… lunch… then another presentation by me on creating value through blogging about communities. And we returned for the day’s finally with Jim giving a engaging presentation on measuring and tracking marketing results to ensure a positive ROI.

All around, it was a wonderful day! And, maybe they were just being nice, but the attendees who talked with me said only good things about the education.

Because I promised attendees I would give them a list of all the sites I mentioned in my presentations (so that they wouldn’t have to ask me to spell out each URL), here is the list for everyone’s benefit.

Consumer Expectations in a Web2.0 World:

Engaging in Social Networking to Earn Clients

Using Blogs to Build Communities

I wasn’t tracking the sites that Jim mentioned, but there were not nearly as many of them in his presentations…

And thanks again to all the bloggers who have helped spread the word about the event, the sponsors who helped us keep the price low and all the attendees who made the day possible!

I received some incredible feedback from all three groups, which is going to lead me to make some changes to the upcoming events (I’ll announce those early next week!). Great stuff all around. Thanks again to everyone!

rsh hits on the fact that very few (if any) brokerages have…

…done even attempted to add value to their brands/websites by capturing the contributions/knowledge of their agents.   I fully realize that brokerages don’t see themselves as publishes (except of listings!), but it would just take one large brokerage to substantially change the game if they could build the right tools and incentives that would encourage their agents to build up the company’s site(s).

Highlights of the Hitwise data for real estate traffic…

Inman just published the latest Hitwise traffic data for the month of January: Yahoo up, MSN down in latest Hitwise real estate site rankings

My commentary:

  • The fact that Hitwise had Move.com bouncing up to #2 last month only only to fall back to #8 the following month says less about Move.com’s traffic and more about the erratic nature of Hitwise data.
  • MSN real estate is dropping like a dead weight (below whitefence???). The homepage of MSN probably accounts for a substantial amount of the traffic to MSN Real Estate, so maybe they just put such a large emphasis on election news this month at the expense of real estate stories.
  • Trulia got bumped out of the Top 10 by HUD. 🙁

Hitwise Top 20 real estate sites

Finally, in reading over the fact that Hitwise is giving stats all the way down to real estate websites ranked beyond #1000, I can’t help but wonder where traffic to my websites stand… As bad as Alexa is, some data is better than no data, so I thought I’d plot out a few sites to give me a better perspective:

Alexa Real Estate Traffic

Here’s what I learned (permalink) about the “Alexa Reach” of some real estate sites:

Armed with the realization that I run two sites that should be included, I can’t help but wonder how I get my sites on the radar of the Hitwise people.  It would probably never amount to much, but I figure that sites like RCG and BHB definitely deserve to be included in this list!

I spent some time on the Hitwise website and I can’t seem to find a way to submit a new site for inclusion in their list.   Does anyone know what it takes to get a site included in their “real estate” data?

(Also, there’s a small chance that sites like BHB and RCG are already on their list, but unless someone with access to the full list wants to check that for me, I’m assuming we’re not.)

No one is talking about trying to attract irrelevant traffic…

…and I’m surprised that Greg has such a lowly view of Google’s algorithms. I’ve found that the traffic that comes to RCG from search terms like [moving to seattle] and [agent recommendations] is highly relevant and RCG contributors get more than a few clients out of search terms like these each month. Having talked with many people who do lead conversion for large brokerages (including being on a panel at an Inman with a group of these people), I can confidently say that the conversion rate from leads to RCG blows away what any big company is doing today.  I attribute much of our success at converting leads to the fact that the users who contact us are highly relevant and seeking out exactly what we offer.

In terms of people who transact with us, there are two types of people (Note it is “people” not “traffic”):

  • Type 1: Those people who did a couple of searches on google, came up with are now looking for someone who can help them find a home.
  • Type 2: Those people who are soaking up all the local real estate information they can get and they contact one of the contributors when they are ready to transact. Google Analytics trending shows that in the past month RCG has had over 2000 people who have visited the site more than 200 times… Often when I gets emails from these people, they appreciate and feel like they know everything about the site.

Type 1 tends to be home buyers while Type 2 tends to be home sellers.

To reach the first type, you really need to do well in search engines (or by buy the traffic) because these users aren’t doing a lot of long-term research and are often making their agent selection in a matter of minutes (no kidding…. you get 10 minutes to get back to the potential internet buyer or they move on to someone else they find in a Google search).

So, I’ve always assumed that Greg’s “local” site is really a play after the second type of person… i.e. home sellers who generally do a bit more research before contacting an agent. To create real estate content that will inspire these people to return day after day (or better yet, subscribe to your feed) takes a tremendous amount of time. It could very well be worth it, but there’s no free cake here in terms of time.

There is a third option in that I’ve heard some people talk about being the local online newspaper for an area (i.e. reach everyone in a local farming area).  This appeals to a lot of agents (Blogging Systems has tried to made an entire business around this idea!) who haven’t tried it because it would be somewhat powerful to “own” the site that attracted a large swath of your local community.    However, if that means you’ll need to start answering questions about when the next community council meeting is, when little league start-ups are or what the best coffee shop in an area is, then we’re talking about hugely irrelevant questions to the process of transacting.   With that said, Marlow has done something similar to this in the Capitol Hill area of Seattle, so she’d be in a much better place to talk about this type of site.  But even if she said it was successful, Marlow is no ordinary blogger and could easily be the exception that proves the rule.

Overall, I always recommend that agents create a place on their blog that is a great resource for the Type 1 person (i.e. buyers who are moving to an area).  While this may not be a majority of the people who transact in any given area, I’d argue it is the majority of people who are looking to the internet to help them make decisions before they contact an agent.   It should be no surprise that the best way to get in front of the Type 1 people is to rank really well in the search engines, which means you’ll want to seek out any and all quality links you can get to your domain.

The Type 2 person is tricky…   My guess (and I’ve seen data but don’t have it in front of me) is that most users will not bookmark a site (or subscribe) on the first visit.  It takes multiple visits before someone decides that a resource is really useful.   The most obvious way to get in front of someone who is interested in local real estate content multiple times is to show up well in the search engines when they are doing their searches related to local real estate.  There are many cases where word-of-mouth has been enough to spread a good site, but you’d better be one hell of a writer if you are going to get others to share your local real estate site with their friends/family/co-workers.  Again, it should be no surprise that the best way to get in front of the Type 2 people is to rank really well in the search engines, which means you’ll want to seek out any and all quality links you can get to your domain.

Either way, it would be a huge mistake to discount the value of people that Google can send your way just because there are a ton of them!   Google sends very relevant traffic from people who are looking to transact with a real estate professional each and every day.