Real Estate SEO for Beginners

The world of real estate is going through dramatic change and I don’t mean the current market upheavals caused by the change from a Seller’s market to a Buyer’s market.

Independent of price level there will always be buying and selling of homes going on. But the way people search for and find homes is in the middle of a dramatic change. The Internet is the great equalizer but also the great differentiator.

People searching online are not aware of your achievements, everybody is equal at first. If your website does not offer the design and services people appreciate they will not stay long enough to find out. This is where you can differentiate yourself.

But design and functionality are a secondary issue to the problem of how to get found in the first place. Use the analogy of websites being online business cards. New business cards are deposited not at the top of the pile but at the very bottom. Customers are picking up business cards from the top of the pile. SEO or search engine optimization deals with efforts to move ones business cards further up the pile so that customers can find one’s site through popular search engines.

So you have a new website. So you basically just had your business cards printed but nobody knows how to find them. Or even more dramatic you don’t even know if somebody is picking up your business cards and you don’t know if your business cards are in the big pile yet.

I would define SEO as the efforts to purposefully move ones website to be placed higher on the results page in response to a search query at a range of search engines.

But there are thousands of search engines out there. True. But all but 3 are irrelevant to your optimization efforts. Google, Yahoo and MSN control about 98% of all searches performed on the Internet. Focus on the three big search engines and the rest will take care of itself.

What is there to optimize? The aim is to be found by people searching for things that you offer on your website. When people search they do this textually by querying a search term or phrase. For you to optimize your site you first have to understand for which keywords or key phrases you want to be found. As I am practicing real estate in Aspen, Colorado and appropriate search term could be “Aspen Real Estate”.

Make sure you repeat your keywords and phrases on your homepage. Make the most important key phrase a headline and type it in a bold font.

It is important to understand that search engines are automated computer systems programmed by humans to evaluate the webs content without human interference. This means that search results are based on what is called a computer algorithm. This is basically a set of instructions for the computer on how to evaluate certain criteria and translate the results into a sequence of importance. Most important website first, least important website last.

The art and science of Search Engine Optimization is to try to understand what the search engines are looking for in a good site and then giving the search engine just that. The Google search engine algorithm probably looks at hundreds of different criteria. It is so complex that not even the engineers inside Google know the whole picture. Well you might say, how should none Google employees then know what to do?

Basically the most important fundamentals of what makes a good websites are known. Google for example uses a patented mathematical concept they called “Page Rank” at the root of their systems. Links are seen as votes. The more links are pointing to one website the more important that website must be. The more important the website is that votes for another website the more weight that vote caries.

So, try to get people to link to your website. It is important to know that links from website that have the same topic as your website seem to be more important than links from website that do not fit the subject. Links from other real estate related website are more important to my website then links from websites promoting toys.

Search engines like content rich websites. The more pages with useful content the better. Blogs are a great way to accumulate great on-topic content over a period of time. This is all the more important as search engines like website that have fresh content on a regular basis.

DMOZ.org is a human compiled directory of websites. Read their instructions carefully and submit your website to a relevant category. Yahoo and Google use this directory and it helps to be listed.

Generate a site map and place the xml file on your web server. A site map is basically a long list containing all your web pages in a format that is readable by computer programs employed by search engines to browse the web. These programs are called “bots” or “spiders”. This will help the search engines to find all the pages on your website. Remember, the more web pages the search engine knows about the better for you.

Search engines cannot read certain content. Graphical content is one such thing. If your site consists of mainly pictures the search engine will not understand what your site is about and therefore will not offer it as a result of a search. Make sure your site is text rich.

Real Estate website can have pages for the different subdivisions in the area serviced. Write a blog on the property of the week. Incorporate a section of “Frequently Asked Questions”. Write about yourself and give people a bio on you. Explain the buying and selling process. Offer sales statistics. The list goes on.

Get a program Like “Advanced Web Ranking” to search the search engines for search results containing your keywords. Optimization is fun when you start to see results. But manually looking for your website in search results is labor intensive and a good job for an automated program.

Read web forums and a couple of books on SEO once you are past the basics. The field is constantly evolving and there us tons more to learn.

Porter’s Five Forces Model And Internet Competition

According to Porter’s Five Forces Model, in my opinion, competition has increased overall as a result of the internet and e-Commerce. The internet and IT has made it possible to both focus on the top and bottom lines and market share is expanded and costs are cut. Many products and services exist just online, major companies have gone online to successfully augment the brick and mortar corporations, and the playing field is all the way to edges of cyberspace, wherever that is. We will further evaluate this stepping through all five forces.

Buyer power is higher when buyers have more choices. Businesses are forced to add value to their products and services to get loyalty. Many loyalty programs include excellent services that customers demand on-line. Customers want to solve their problems and many times they are more successful on-line than on-phone. Also, we see internet savvy businesses springing up offering more valuable goods and services at lower costs. Now with the advent of eBay, many people are assuming roles as drop shippers. Individuals can have a thriving business selling goods of larger companies without having to carry inventory.

Supplier power is higher when buyers have fewer choices from whom to buy. As mentioned earlier, drop shipping has increased the amount of suppliers available. All an individual has to do is form and agreement to sell products for the company. The company takes care of all the logistics. The same is true of associates programs that Amazon.com and Google.com offer. Associates allow a webmaster to earn money by recommending products from others. This increases supplier offerings.

Threat of substitute products or services is high when there are many product alternatives. This is different than having many suppliers. Examples of alternatives are exchanging brand names, substituting credit card capabilities, and looking at better values from cheaper sources. The internet allows this with the “global economy”. I can substitute my product by purchasing from companies overseas where labor, services and products are cheaper, but of comparable quality.

Threat of new entrants is high when it is easy for new competition to enter the market. Well, what have we been talking about? Now, small operations can open shop with less than $10.00 per month and make a lot of money. As inventive as people are, there are always opportunities to do improve a product or service or just create and sell something new. Recently, many new entrants have made even more money authoring Ebooks that tell others how to do what they did. Rivalry among competitors is high when competition is more intense within industries.

On-line book stores and catalog companies are an excellent example. Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com are very competitive. However, there are many also smaller niche affiliate bookstores that when combined take a great deal of market share. They offer even more competition. However, both major bookstores have used IT to create value for their customers. These values include associates programs, ease of payment and shipping and many, many others.

The internet offers avenues of competition to existing companies and opportunities for start ups. Now businesses can enter the market on-line with few barriers to entry. Porter’s Five Forces Model can help demonstrate the attractiveness of starting your on-line business. A business person should use the model to identify competition, make a plan, and implement the process.

What is SSL (the "little padlock")?

SSL ("Secured Socket Layer") is a protocol used to encrypt the communication between the user's browser and the web server. When SSL is active, a "little padlock" appears on the user's browser, usually in the status line at the bottom (at the top for Mac / Safari users.)

This assures the user that sensitive data (such as credit card numbers) can not be viewed by anyone "sniffing" the network connection (which is an increasing risk as more people use wireless networking).

Common web site owner questions about SSL:

How do I get the little padlock on my site?

To get the little padlock, your site must have an SSL Certificate from a Certificate Authority. Once an SSL Certificate has been purchased and installed, it provides three things:

  1. The ability to show a page in "Secure Mode", which encrypts the traffic between the browser and the server, as indicated by the "little padlock" on the user's browser.
  2. A guarantee by the issuing Certificate Authority that the domain name the certificate was issued for is indeed owned by the specific company or individual named in the certificate (visible if the user clicks on the little padlock).
  3. An assurance that the domain name the certificate was issued for is the domain name the user's browser is now on.

Once obtained, the certificate must be installed on the web server by your web host. Since your web host also has to generate an initial cypher key to obtain the certificate, very often they will offer to handle the process of obtaining the certificate for you.

My web host has a "shared certificate" that I can use. Should I?

It's still fairly common for small sites to use a shared certificate from the host. In this circumstance, when a page needs to be shown in secured mode, the user is actually sent to a domain owned by the web host, and then back to the originating domain afterwards.

A few years ago, when SSL Certificates were quite expensive (around $ 400 per year), this was real attractive for new sites just getting their feet wet in e-commerce. Today, with a number of perfectly functional SSL certificates available for under $ 100 (exclusive of installation, etc.), it is a lot less attractive. Since your user can look at the address line of his or her web browser and see that the site asking for the credit card number is not the site he or she thought they were on, the cost savings is probably not worth the risk of scaring off A sale.

What's the difference between the expensive SSL Certificates and the inexpensive ones?

Usually, mostly price. Some expensive certificates have specific functions, such as securing a number of different subdomains simultaneously (a "wildcard" certificate), but the effective differences between basic single site certificates are very slight, despite the wide range of prices:

The encryption mechanism used by all of them is the same, and most use the same key length (which is an indicator of the strength of the encryption) common to most browsers (128 bit).

Some of them ("chained root" certificates) are slightly more of a pain for your web host to install than others ("single root" certificates), but this is pretty much invisible to the site owner.

The amount of actual checking on the ownership of the domain varies wildly among sellers, with some (usually the more expensive) wanting significant documentation (like a D & B number), and others handling it with an automated phone call ("press # 123 if you 'Ve just ordered a certificate ").

Some of them offer massive monetary guarantees as to their security (we'll pay you oodles of dollars if someone cracks this code), but since it's all the same encryption mechanism, if someone comes up with a crack, all e-commerce sites will Be scrambling, and the odds of that vendor actually having enough cash to pay all of its customers their oodel is probably slim.

The fact is that you are buying the certificate to insure the safety of the user's data, and to make the user confident that his or her data is secure. For the vast majority of users, simply having the little padlock show up is all they are looking for. There are exceptions (I have a client in the bank software business, and they feel that their customers (bank officers) are looking for a specific premier name on the SSL certificate, so are happy to continue using the expensive one), but most e -commerce customers do not pick their sellers based on who issued their SSL Certificates.

My advice is to buy the cheaper one.

I have an SSL certificate – why should not I serve all my pages in "Secured" mode?

Because SSL has an overhead – more data is sent with a page that is encrypted than a page that is not. This translates to your site appearing to run slower, particularly for users who are on dial-up or other slow connections. Since this also increases the total amount of data transferred by your site, if your web host charges by transfer volume (or has an overage fee, as most do), this can increase the size of your monthly hosting bill.

The server should go into secure mode when asking a user for financial or other sensitive data (which may well be "name, address and phone number", with today's risk of identity theft), and operate in normal mode otherwise.

Shopping For Camping Chairs

If you have purchased camp chairs before, you know that you can find them almost anywhere: discount stores, sporting goods retailers, websites, even supermarkets and drug stores. As a result, you have probably never given much thought to where you should buy your next one.

On the other hand, would not you like to find the chair you really want and feel like you got the best price without running all over town or spending a bunch of time surfing the web? Assuming you know what you want, which of these many choices will give you the best deal? Let's take a look at each of these options.

Let's start with the least reasonably sources. Without you spot something in their weekly ads or happen to see the perfect chair when you are there shopping for other things, places like pharmacies, supermarkets and office supply stores (Yep … I've seen camping chairs there!) Are not going To have what you are looking for. You may get lucky, but these retailers should not be your first choice.

Shopping for camp chairs online looks like the easiest route. You can sit in the comfort of your home and browse through different websites while keeping your other eye on the ballgame. What could be simpler?

Unfortunately, it is pretty rare to find the best camping chair prices online. Generally speaking, you will find better deals in brick-and-mortar stores. Even the discount chain websites usually do not feature their least-expensive chairs … you have to get in the car and go look for those in person. On top of all that, you will probably have to pay for shipping, and then wait to have the chair delivered.

So, shopping for a camping chair online may not be the best plan, but it can save you time in researching the different types of chairs available.

The big discount chains often seem like the obvious place to look for a camp chair. They emphasize low prices, and they will indeed beat out the other retailers much of the time.

On the other hand, there selection is not always that good. You may not find more than four or five choices, none of which may suit your needs. Remember, these stores sell everything from groceries to dresses to HD TVs, so they will only allot so much space, sometimes one aisle, to camping equipment, and only a small portion of that to chairs. Still, if you just want a cheap, basic camping chair, these are not bad places to look out.

Your best bet for finding a camp chair, however, is probably one of the sporting goods or outdoor gear chains. These retailers will give a lot more space to camping chairs … sometimes more than one aisle. This means a lot of choices, so you can find exactly what you want.

Not only that, but because these retailers know how easy it is for you to just pick up a cheap chair at a discount store, they are almost always running sales that will save you a few bucks. Finally, if you have questions about a chair, the staff at one of these stores will probably be able to answer it. That beats the heck out of a blank look and a shrug.

After reviewing these options, you should be able to find the camping chair you want with less hassle and at the price you want. Take a look at your local discount store if you already have to go there for something else. Otherwise, you will save the most time and effort by heading over to the sporting goods place. Happy shopping!