Tag : search-marketing

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.

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]

28: Highway to (Web Traffic) Heaven

Night TrafficOn the way home from my emergency room visit in 1995, my dad pulled our Nissan pickup onto the four-lane highway that would lead us home.  One small problem with this, though: he mistakenly steered onto the near (left) set of double lanes—heading straight into oncoming city traffic.  You can imagine my panic as a passenger.

It must run in the family.  Eleven years later, after driving on the left side of the road for two weeks in New Zealand, I accidentally replicated this stunt on the way out of the airport in Baltimore.  My younger brother blurted, “Other side!  Other side!”  from the shot gun seat.

“Whew!  Thanks, Tim.”

I run into a lot of auction marketers and small business managers haphazardly using only half of the information super highway.  They pull their companies out onto the Internet but wonder why they don’t seem to be making headway.  They send their buyers from their ads and brochures and signs to their web site but harvest little, if any, traffic already on the road.

The world wide web allows you the irony of being able to reach a wider audience than any other media outlet while, at the same time, targeting niche groups smaller than the subscribers to a trade publication—usually for a fraction of the cost of traditional media.

So, how do you use all the lanes?  How do you attract traffic from more than your own referrals?

Leads-generating web sites.  Whether you’re just waiting for searchers to hit your google adwords toll booth or exploring targeted signs on the Internet’s back roads, the more web site lanes you occupy, the more drivers will see your message.

Have you made any of these sites standard practice?
Auctioneers.org, AuctionMLS.com, AuctionZip.com, GlobalAuctionGuide.com, MidwestAuctions.com, PropertyAuction.com, your state association(s) site(s)

Do you take the time to list important items on any of these?
CraigsList.com, ebay.com, classifieds.com, CityFeet.com

Are you posting on sites of local, regional, and national publications?
Not everyone searches the paper editions.  Usually, the web listing is free or inexpensive with paid print advertising.  For magazines, you might be able to get online, when monthly (or less frequent) printed issues carry inconvenient deadlines.

Have you tried any of these for your applicable residential real estate?
OldHouse.com, LakeHouse.com, HistoricHome.com, Uniquehomes.com, duPontRegistery.com, BedAndBreakfastForSale.com, InnMarketing.com, bnb4sale.com, BedAndBreakfast.com

Have you listed your land at any of these sites?
Landandfarm.com, LandFlip.com, LandWatch.com

Do your commercial properties ever make it here?
LoopNet.com, CoStar.com

Do you have engaging material on social outposts like these?
YouTube.com, Facebook.com, MySpace.com, LinkedIn.com

These sites are just options to consider—not necessarily recommended . . . just media my clients have tried (some with remarkable results).  These lists stand far from exhaustive, especially as more sites come online.  But until you use both sides of Al Gore’s electronic interstate, you won’t know the full potential for more robust and (even) easier web marketing.

So many churches wait for the secular world to come to them.  “We’re here when you’re ready.”   They put their quips out on the sign, their ads in the phone book, maybe even a ministry overview on the web.  Pastors ask their parishioners to bring their secular friends into their shared religious environments.

True New Testament Christianity takes the church with you—in or out of a gathering building.  If we Jesus-followers fully mingle our spiritual lives with our secular, the transition for our unbelieving friends to visit a building is less intimidating.  If we bring them Christ’s compassion, his grace, his mercy, his kindness—and it’s real, where the tire rubs the road—why wouldn’t the beneficiaries of such want to follow you to where you refill?

You don’t have to head out into traffic head-on with street preaching or door-to-door Gospel sales calls to reach the unchurched.  You just have to blur the lines between your Sunday and your Monday—between your church and your world.

[footer]Stock image(s) used by permission through purchase from iStockPhoto.com ©2008[/footer]

7: Prospect Mapping

Mind ReadingIf you’re reading this email, chances are at some point in time you’ve asked me to find a list of people who buy [insert your property here]. “I need all the people who invest in real estate in these towns.” Or: “I need everyone who buys greenhouses in Arizona.”

In this information age, we expect to be able to tap big brother to find out the kinds of people who buy the stuff we want to sell. Like a Minority Report database, there should be a record of people who are thinking about buying our stuff.

Of course, we can’t read peoples’ minds, let alone their intentions—at least not in advance and from a distance. So, we try the next best thing: reach people who already own one of whatever we’re selling. We assume that people who have bought one will want to buy another. Many times, they do. And sometimes, it’s something publicly recorded like a house or a fishing license; and we can grab their addresses.

For specific items, it can be trickier. Who owns the list of people who buy Mazda’s? Mazda, maybe a few of their venture partners. It’s proprietary information. Mazda might trust you to tell you how many people bought which cars and maybe per state or age or gender—if you can find an information officer or public resource to divulge that. Each state’s DMV office may have their citizen’s information but are unable or at least unwilling to share that.

So, what do you do? You have to reach them, or you won’t have auction bidders. And your tested and proven in-house lists don’t have a category for this property.

Find web sites and publications that market to the specific buyer prospect. Take your clues from the seller. What do they read? What web sites do they bookmark or visit often? Where do they interact with other owners, collectors, or enthusiasts? Where and how did they buy it? These offer great marketing leads.

The more specific the demographic, the less often a publication typically publishes—even bimonthly, quarterly, or semi-annually. However, their web sites typically allow for immediate placement. Sometimes, the publications even sell classified listings on their respective web sites. If the sites allow text searching, even better. Some will also insert your direct mail piece or a synthesized page into the publication already going to your prospect. This way, they pay for the postage and the recipient demographic mapping.

It might be worth buying some distinct google adword(s) about specific items [1929 Indian] or real estate features [infinity pool] to grab internet traffic, when there isn’t a related site or one with significant traffic. It takes time to do this, especially when you’ve got a long list of unique items or features; but the best bidders for some items or features are rarely in your home county. Like the online used car site’s commercial demonstrates, there’s a buyer out there for your seller’s lime green Honda Del Sol.

You may have a great direct mail piece you want to distribute, and direct mail response rates remain strong. Sometimes the answer is a purchased mailing list. It doesn’t hurt to supplement your other media with such. Just don’t depend solely on it to find your buyer(s) or to do so with the quantity efficiency of your proprietary lists.

It’s always been unreal to me how followers of Christ mesh. People from different socioeconomic and family backgrounds unite over a common experience and a shared cause. I have friends all over the country that are like family, people whose lives have truly reached into mine, sometimes briefly yet often profoundly—people I met solely through the universal church.

But it’s easy for American Christians to get comfortable with the club, to carry an aura of exclusivity. That tendency fully fledged in one generation could halve the true church. Or worse. Too often, it keeps people from feeling welcome in local assemblies and wanted by God.

For the movement of God to keep moving, we believers have to keep moving—out of our comfort zones and into new environments with new people. God gave us circles of influence—clues, if you will, as to other people to whom he can relate through us individually.

It’s cushy in the circle, but we can make a bigger circle when we take time and energy and courage to venture from it.

[footer]Stock image(s) used by permission through purchase from iStockPhoto.com[/footer]

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