Search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click advertising (PPC) are the two main drivers of traffic to e-commerce websites. A well-optimized site with pages that feature unique, relevant content will gain search engine ranking for free. This is known as organic traffic. It comes from a variety of sources including search engine results, links from other sites and non-digital advertising that you might do. Pay-per-click fills the gaps in organic traffic to ensure that all pages of your website have a direct link, if you choose.
The most common PPC service is Google Adwords, although there are other advertising services such as Facebook and Adobe.
Google Adwords has improved a lot in the past few years, although smart marketers will keep a close watch on its conversion rate. A conversion rate in real estate is more difficult to track because the metric uses a visitor-to-sale ratio that is better suited to consumer goods that are purchased immediately. To find conversion, Realtors need to track where leads are coming from in a CRM and, perhaps quarterly, generate a report that shows sales with a flag for source. Divide the dollars spent on PPC by the number of leads that converted to sales and you’ll have a cost/sale. It’s very easy to spend a lot of money on PPC, so advertiser beware. The question to ask is, do these ads make my phone ring?
To increase organic search results, which are free, a good SEO plan is needed. Depending on the website you use, SEO can be straightforward (WordPress) or difficult (closed website systems). When people ask why their site doesn’t seem to rank on any search engine, we look under to hood to see what platform they’re running. Some closed system providers don’t have much to offer in terms of SEO and it isn’t always reflected in the price of the site or the hosting – sometimes expensive listings services require even more expensive SEO experts to achieve a competitive search engine ranking.
It’s always helpful to begin a project with data. That way, you know what you have to work with. If you can find out what your successful competitor is doing, that’s nice too. There are no secrets on the internet and these two free tools can help you see hidden data that the other brokerage is using to promote their site and scoop up organic searches.
Alexa.com and Spyfu.com both offer the same basic services for free. Alexa offers limited sets of tools while Spyfu offers all 21 tools available but with limited output. Both will show a wealth of information about your site and other sites, which is very helpful for making comparisons and debunking claims.
For example, it’s fairly common for someone to claim that their site is the “most visited”. Both of these tools will show how popular a website is relative to all the other sites, including yours.
The dashboard page of Spyfu shows a wealth of information at a glance. The organic search window shows organic keywords that the site has ranking for and the estimated number of clicks each month. Another window shows a graph comparing inbound Google clicks from organic and PPC plus a summary of their accounts. Their estimated PPC spend seems a little low. You might take that number and multiply it by 10 to get a more accurate picture.
The next section shows URLs of organic competitors and your paid competitors. They will have a similar SEO profile to your site. They are almost always in the same business, in the same sales area and have similar content. This is a great opportunity to distinguish your business from theirs by looking for gaps in their marketing copy and adding to your own. The paid competitors are usually bidding on the same keywords.
If you click through the example URLs, you’ll see which keywords their campaigns are using and which are the most successful.
Another window will show the most popular organic and paid keywords. If someone is searching for “Anytown senior condos” but not many agents are using that search phrase, then your site may be able to pick up some free organic traffic by including some content with that as a featured topic. A blog post can be helpful to fill out areas of your website content and these overlooked keyphrases can provide the context link you need.