Each year we work directly with hundreds of realtors–both brokers and agents–concerning Internet Marketing and Lead Generation.
Each year NAR publishes a Technology Survey. That’s where that 87% number came from a couple years ago–87% of the potential home buyers were searching for homes on the Internet.
Our skepticism of the NAR report’s numbers has always been based on the relatively small return they receive from surveys sent. Also, the quality of the response is worth examination. For example, in the last one, REALTOR® Technology Survey Report
2010, 16% of the respondents had not done ONE DEAL in the last 12 months!
So, one needs to use such global survey data with a degree of caution when it comes to serious decisions like how to spend marketing funds in a brutal market…like now, in other words.
Here’s what we do know, based on observation and anecdotal information gathered by interfacing with realtors daily for the last 10 years on the subjects of websites, IDX searches, SEO, and Internet Marketing in general:
During the last three-four years the top 12-18% of the realtors have continued to complete successful volumes of transactions and invest in marketing. Dollars have moved rapidly from print advertising to Internet Marketing.
Brokers and agents who understand that Internet marketing is not a passive, do-a-website, post-my-listings, and they-will-come, kind of process, are generating outstanding lead flow and return on investment for their marketing expense. These realtors actively engage with work that improves SEO. They also know how to use IDX searches on their own websites to drive traffic and leads.
In a counter to the good returns being achieved by some realtors, most realtors have squandered time and money with website providers. We rarely encounter a broker or agent who has not had an unfortunate past (or current) experience with a web provider. Tales of over-priced, under-delivered websites; lost money on pay-per-click (PPC) programs; long-term contracts with penalties for early termination; SEO scams; abound–but, still the serious competitors have pushed forward.
The range of technology knowledge, experience, and patience, among individual realtors is extreme. A significant portion–my best estimate is 20-30%–are still on realtor.com and aol.com. In the next group up, agents who use the MLS to search for homes for buyers and then email them the property detail pages. These realtors tend to have websites, and are still surprised when one of their buyers finds a property on their own, searching on the Internet. They should be thankful that the buyer called them back. (Buyers today increasingly want to have control over their home search. They enjoy home-hunting at odd hours of the day, when they can fit it in.) This second group comprise another 30-40% of the industry. The third group (so the market has three basic segments) use their web presence to attract buyers and market sellers. They provide the buyers with an effective IDX program, to be able to search all the listings in the MLS, and so the realtor generates leads on all the listings, not just their own.
REALTOR INTERNET MARKETING SEGMENTS:
Lower Third: Clueless. Some of these folks have the good fortune to be working with an effective web provider, and may have nice sites.
Middle Third: Have websites, but don’t actively push traffic, don’t refer buyers to their own IDX search on their own websites, don’t understand keywords, or how SEO works in general.
Top Third: Actively drive traffic to website that features a leading customer-friendly IDX search. Uses blogs, reciprocal links, and organic SEO programs. Updates website regularly. Features own listings as a benefit for sellers, achieves non-listing lead generation that provides a positive return.
Segment Size Possibility: In an industry where some pundits say the 80/20 rule is really 90/10, with 10% of the players generating 90% of the revenue, the Top Third could be smaller–as much as 15%–and the other two categories could in turn be larger than a third.