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Now Is the Time to Solidify Your Online Presence and Reputation

May 20 2020

homesnap solidify your online presence and reputationOrdinarily around this time of year, we'd be publishing content to help agents prepare for the start of busy season. But with COVID-19 still a day-to-day worry for all of us, the peak home-buying period has been suspended indefinitely. And like you, we've had to change our plans.

So, we asked ourselves: If agents are not as busy as they normally would be, what could they be doing with their time now to prime themselves for success in the future? After all, the house marketing will eventually return to normal, and there's even a strong possibility that the coming months will see more volume than usual, as those consumers who've suspended their plans look to make up for lost time.

To that end, we recommend agents do three things. The first is to take advantage of all-time low advertising costs on Facebook and Instagram to promote their brand and the listings they do have, including those in "Coming Soon" status. The second is to create virtual tours. The third, which is the purpose of this blog, is to solidify their online presence and reputation.

We recommend three ways to do that.

Create or update your Google business profile

If you're not aware, a Google business profile is a sort of digital storefront. It displays details about your real estate business—contact information, client reviews, photos (both of yourself and your listings), any articles you produce for publication (e.g., market insights, thought leadership), your website address, etc.—and it sits on the top right-hand side of the Google search results page.

It's important for a variety of reasons.

One, as you probably know, the vast majority of consumers use Google to conduct their initial home searches or look up specific agents. So, having a well-maintained, professional presence on the platform that attracts the greatest number of customers is paramount. Further still, even when consumers find you on another online platform—say, via your Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram profiles—chances are exceedingly strong they Google you anyway as part of their due diligence. Why, then, not give them what they're looking for? What happens if they can't find you? Does your credibility tank? You cannot assume your website will suffice.

Two, a Google business profile helps bolster your search result rankings for more general and frequently used terms like "best real estate agents near me"—a phrase that has grown in usage by 92%. To be transparent, there's a whole lot of data inputs and esoteric algorithmic stuff going on to determine exact page rankings—workings no one but a handful of people at Google know—so there's no one single trigger to pull. But our data scientists have found that a regularly updated Google business profile is a heavily weighted factor in appearing high-on-page for general search terms. Think of it from Google's perspective. It's in the company's best interest to serve relevant content to its consumers. So, why would Google want to display a shoddy, defunct, or incomplete business profile over one that's complete and updated frequently? You create a business profile on Google; you get priority in rankings.

Additionally, a Google business profile is a significant contributing factor in appearing in a Google Local Pack, which are those boxed in search results that display local businesses and an area map related to a search query. Appearance in a Google Local Pack is a significant boon to any business, as 44% of all users click on a link contained within a Google Local Pack before any other result.

And finally, three, a Google business profile helps strengthen the reach of your Google advertisements. For ads buyers with a Google business profile, there is a location extension for Google maps that significantly expands your ad presence (reach/volume), so you show up more for location searches and not just your business name.

Furthermore, if you pay to run display ads on Google, why have their effectiveness undermined by an incomplete or shoddy Google presence? If a consumer sees your ad and then chooses to stay on the platform and Google you, what happens if they can't find anything more about you—or worse, view your lack of an online presence as a deterrent? Why even risk it?

Take the time to get more reviews from clients, colleagues, friends, and family

Today, consumer decision-making is largely influenced by online reviews, with Google being the most trusted of any review site. Ninety-one percent of consumers read reviews before making any sort of commitment, regardless of the good or service. When it comes to real estate specifically, 86% of consumers read online reviews before choosing an agent, and of those, 91% weigh online reviews more than personal recommendations.

Having a healthy amount of positive reviews (about 5 or more) on your Google business profile isn't just about reputation management, though; it can also positively impact your search results rankings and lead generation numbers.

We wrote a whitepaper on the subject last year, but the short of it is this:

  • Agents with one review appear in nearly double the number of searches as those with none.
  • Agents with an average review rating of 4.0 or better appear in 350% more searches than agents with an average review rating of 0-3.
  • Agents with a 4.0 average review rating received 300% more actions (calls, texts, website views, and direction requests) than those with a review rating of 0-3.
  • The more reviews an agent has, the better they perform in search, views, and actions.

The only caveat? Reviews seem to only deliver upon the above benefits for 90 days or so. After that period, Google appears to discount older reviews, most likely viewing them as not current and, in turn, potentially no longer accurate. So, there's no better time than now to garner Google reviews for when the market picks back up.

Update and optimize your real estate agent website

Maybe you don't have a website. Maybe you do, but haven't updated it in some time. Either way, now's the time to ensure you have a modern, fully optimized website going forward—one that is also linked to your Google business profile.

What exactly does modern and fully optimized entail? Three things, really. The first is to make certain your website is branded to you, complete with the requisite headshot, contact information, and brokerage design and brand, if applicable. This is more about ensuring your website is clean and modern, so as to not appear outdated or a hastily thrown together afterthought.

The second is to ensure your website is a tool—one that can bring in prospects as well as generate new leads. This involves having calls to action that drive to some sort of lead generation mechanism. Generally, we recommend offering some sort of incentive—a newsletter or market report, neighborhood guide, or customized home valuation. Whatever it is, make sure it's both easily discoverable on your site (driven by the aforementioned calls to action) and offers tangible value to consumers.

Third, your website should be linked to some kind of home search portal, preferably one tied directly to MLS data. Not only does having a portal built into your personal website provide greater value to consumers (thereby reducing the chances that they navigate away from your site), it also helps tremendously in boosting your site's SEO value and discoverability.

To view the original article, visit the Homesnap blog.