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This article was published on: 01/01/2005

TECH@WORK: Web marketing


New search twists

Three techniques to expand your site’s traffic.

Your competitor is getting 80 percent of his leads from his Web site. But your site statistics show a haphazard trickle of visitors. What are you missing? Probably the perfect words.

To help your target audience find you, you need to understand how they search the Web—specifically which keyword phrases they’ll enter into major search engines. Then you can embed the keywords into the programming code for title tags, the meta description tag (an HTML tag, which doesn’t appear onscreen, describing your site’s content), and keyword tags. Keywords can also appear in the text or within links on your Web page. Search engines use automated searching features called spiders to hunt for keywords on Web pages. They then rank the results of the search based on how many times they find the chosen keyword on a page.

With 46 percent and 87 percent of REALTORS® using a personal or company site respectively, according to the 2003 NAR Member Profile, how on earth can you find your own magic keywords? Are there any good ones left? There are if you know how to unearth them. These three strategies will help.

1. Stop using real estate jargon. Just because your fellow practitioners understand “MLS” or “co-op” doesn’t mean prospects will. In my presentations around the country, I’m constantly struck by how many sales associates believe homebuyers search for “MLS listings” and therefore use that keyword phrase at their sites. After you’ve developed a keyword list for your site, run it by some of your non–real estate business associates to help weed out jargon that’s meaningless to the average customer.

2. Shift your focus from keywords to prospect behavior. Instead of spending all your time trying to find new keyword variations on “real estate in Hometown, USA,” expand the scope of your keyword options by focusing on what your prospective customers really want. Besides real estate, they want “homebuying advice,” “home pricing tips,” or “Hometown, USA maps.” Learn what information customers most frequently access on your site and then start using those words in metatags, heading and body text, and links.

You first need to make sure your site offers rich, informative content, such as school, recreation, and other neighborhood details, which reflects those keywords. Otherwise your search strategy will backfire.

3. Stop guessing and get professional help. One of the obvious, but often overlooked, ways to choose keywords is to analyze which words prospects use most for real estate searches and incorporate those into your site. One tool that lets you do this is the Keyword Effectiveness Index from Wordtracker ( This subscription feature (click Order/Pricing) lets you review search words or phrases that are frequently used by prospects but aren’t used by a high number of your competitors.

Both Google ( Overture (, click Precision Match)offer simple tools to help you identify terms, such as homes, that have come up in the last 30 days in all Google and Overture searches, respectively. Overture even gives you a count of how many times each word appeared. I prefer Wordtracker because it takes the analysis a step further by showing you how many other Web pages you’re competing with for a specific word or phrase in major search engines.

Even more exciting is the possibility of seeing a pattern in the words or phrases and coming up with words that strike right to the heart of customer desires, such as “cost-of-living comparison.”

If you understand the importance of Web marketing, but are frustrated that you aren’t generating business, try these strategies. Soon you’ll find wonderful new windows of opportunity that your competition doesn’t know exist.

Alexander is the co-director of training for SEO Workshops (
He and partner Robin Nobles are authors of a non-technical guide series on achieving Web success
( Alexander is a member of the Q&A customer support team.

For more about getting your site to score high in search engines:
Finding you: How to Get a Search Engine 'High'
How to get a search engine 'high'
Web design: Extreme Web Site Makeovers
Optimize Your Web Site for Search Engines

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