Search & Rescue (Your Online Listings)

Search MarketingOne of the things I love about working in the auction industry is the seemingly endless supply of unique items to sell—from 1800’s cane guns to “green” condos, Putzmeisters to personal amphibious vehicles, colonial farms to nonprofit camps.

Invariably, these auction campaigns come with a common question: “Where do you recommend we advertise this sale?” And, invariably, I just google the key words my client just spoke.

That gives me a list of specialty web sites and/or print publications I can research for viability. It also shows me if anyone is buying those google AdWords® found in that right-hand margin.

Why do I start my search this way? Because that’s what the buying public does, when it’s searching for something. Collectors and power users are probably already on those specialty sites and/or subscribing to those publications. In fact, your seller might already be on those subscription lists or visiting one or more of those sites.

But other potential buyers are going to hub sites like AuctionZip and GlobalAuctionGuide, LoopNet and ebay—and many, many more. So, how do you capture bidders from those environments?

Avoid adjectives in subjects and titles.
You can often create effective headlines in direct mail or print advertising by selling the sizzle with adjectives and vivid descriptions. But in search marketing, you have to sift your headlines down to concrete attributes and proper names. For instance the “scenic retreat” on your postcard should be a “3 bedroom, 2 bath mountain log cabin home” on a listings web site.

Choose headlines based on search criteria.
Your headline should include the most important aspects of what you’re selling. How many bedrooms and bathrooms does it hold? How many square feet? What model year or famous seller? Is location the biggest asset? Rental income? Size of collection? Determine your core buyer groups and then the elements or attributes that would attract them. There are your key lines.

After the headline, describe thoroughly.
Transcribe everything you can list about a property or item. Auction Technology Specialist, Aaron Traffas, says, “Web crawlers eat text.” These crawlers, in turn, feed search engines like google, Yahoo!, and MSN. So, give them a lot to eat. The more applicable words you can include, the more likely your item(s) will be found.

Be careful not to fill the space with meaningless sales pitches, like “Don’t miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!” or “Investors, take notice!” Just pretend you’d be in the market for this item. What are all the things you’d want to know? Answer those questions. Make them easy to read by formatting them as bulleted lists or at least lots of small paragraphs. Differentiate your item from other offering by addressing its unique qualities.

Look at your form fields in advance.
Many sites have non-standard form fields, some of which are required for posting. Commercial and specialty real estate sites often ask me questions I can’t answer with my clients’ base text. I highly recommend printing such site forms and answering them during your initial text writing. You’d rather be asking your seller(s) these more in-depth questions at the beginning of the marketing period than scrambling to answer them on auction day or at open house inspections.

Understand the caste system on most sites.
Many listing sites offer varying levels of visibility or priority by paying for more than the standard/basic listing. Before you promise a web site to a seller, determine whether “featured” upgrades are worth their cost—as well as your explanation for why you choose the access level for which you pay.

Know that some sites require a listing price to post your item(s).
Determine in advance how you’re going to meet this obstacle. Many sites (such as the MLS and ebay listing ads) use this price field to determine where your property will be listed in its search results. Whether you’re putting “$1” or your reserve price or your seller’s de facto “buy it now” price, decide your strategy in advance—so that your auction marketing isn’t delayed or neutered during the critical days between contract signing and auction day.

List under categories, not events.
A very small fraction of the bidding community are shopping for auctions. The vast majority are searching for items. So on community classified sites such as CraigsList, list your auction by the item, not as an event.

It’s impossible to know all of the words your buyers are going to type into their search bars, but you can capture more page views by making your listings as left-brained as possible. Sell the sizzle in your print advertising and on your own web site. At other stops on the Information Superhighway, though, play by the searcher’s rules. Sell the facts, and find as many facts as possible about what you’re selling.
[tip]

What makes you unique? What makes you who you are? What sets you apart in your family or community?

How are you leveraging that for God? He can use your physical handicap and your hobbies, your favorite sport and your circle of influence, your professional expertise and your vacation pictures. I’ve experienced enriched relationships (vertical and horizontal) through my love of the outdoors and adrenaline rushes, as car rides create authentic conversations, and hikes reinforce personal journeys. I’ve seen God take my (seemingly) Rain Man-like memory for people and their cars and blossom it in ministry within a parking team fraternity.

God allowed your story and empowered your passions to reach people for him. You could be the introduction to life that others wouldn’t expect in a church or work environment. Finding a common bond in you could help someone find a saving bond in Christ. So, keep your eyes peeled. And don’t hide your identity. What makes you special makes you that much more useful to your Creator.

[footer]Image(s) used by permission through purchase from iStockPhoto.com ©2010[/footer]

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