Real Estate Brokers – What’s the Cost of Neglecting SEO Now?

By | September 26, 2011

It’s obvious many brokerages have neglected their web presences. My question for real estate brokers is this.

How much will postponing your investment in your web presence for another 2-3 years cost you?

Let me explain a bit.

Once you start looking around the online real estate landscape, it’s obvious there are innovative and tech savvy brokers around the country who clearly, clearly understand the SEO game. I’m referring to the likes of Garron at MRealty in Portland. Dominic Morrocco in Washington DC. Jay Thompson in Phoenix. Eric Bramlett in Austin. These are just a few brokers who I happen to be friends with, but I’m willing to bet that within several years, there will be one or two of these tech savvy brokers in each market (if they don’t already exist) — and it’s my hunch they will leave their brokerage competitors running websites built in the 1990′s or early 2000′s in the dust.

Brokerages who remain in the dark ages of the web will lose market share to the innovative players in the next few years. Sadly, losing market share and hard dollars is likely the only thing that will cause brokers to “wake up” and commit to competing against those new brokerages who now dominate their local market online. At some point, to remain relevant to their target audiences, brokerages will HAVE to invest in their web presences — because consumers are spending the vast majority of their time ONLINE, and brokers have no choice to chase their clients down online if they wish to remain in business over the next 5, 10, 15 years. When incumbent brokers choose to compete and invest and how much that’ll end up costing them overall — that’s up in the air.

To succeed with a real SEO campaign for a keyword like “Los Angeles Homes for Sale“, it takes the following:

What does SEO cost?

Your Foundation

A solid foundation can be had for anything from $500 (and a lot of your own time) to $20,000 (and up). WordPress is a great platform to build on, but you’ve got to put page architecture and internal linking in place to cover all your bases. You either need to do this work yourself, or pay someone to do it for you. For a full brokerage site built on WordPress, your estimated ballpark is $20,000 for a top of the line website. But, remember, market prices for services like this change constantly — just because that’s what it costs today doesn’t mean that’s what it’ll cost tomorrow. Based on supply and demand, prices could go up…or down.

Linkbuilding

For linkbuilding, I’d budget about $3k a month to cover either hiring an external firm to handle your SEO (disclosure that my employer, Virtual Results, offers SEO services) or to hire a full time marketing assistant to write content and build links for you. The days of SEO for $399 per month have been gone for a decade; there is simply no way that anyone can expect to get you ranked for a competitive keyword for a few hundred dollars a month (frankly, for a few hundred dollars a month, no one will CARE enough to take you to the top of the rankings). If you’re paying less than $1,000 a month, it’s very likely you are getting scammed or your desired keywords are extremely non competitive terms — or both.

For those that outsource, you are probably wondering what you are paying a “SEO” for? Link building is STILL the name of the SEO game — and good SEO’s have a network of websites and webmaster & SEO contacts at their disposal that you wouldn’t have access to if you were to do your own linkbuilding. Remember, time is money. An external firm already understands the SEO world, so it allows you to focus on doing what you do best — running your business.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to search engine optimization, the national franchise and large brokerage players have an advantage — resources and money, but also a big weakness — they are slow to adapt and innovate. SEO is a constantly moving target — and succeeding isn’t something that just happens by throwing a bunch of money at it once. I can tell you — it’s going to be extremely difficult to catch someone who has been investing time into his website day in and day out for 3-5 years (which is what someone like Jay Thompson has been doing).

If you are a broker reading this — think through what it will cost to play catch up if you postpone your investment for another 2 to 3 years. Unfortunately, SEO isn’t something that you can throw 100k at and expect immediate dividends. It requires TIME since Google specifically rewards natural organic growth. If your site gains 2,000 inbound links in a month when your entire website previously had fewer than 100? Guess what — you’ll likely get flagged by Google and penalized — and worse off than before you started because you’ll be in the Google sandbox until they decide to let you out.

Your cost of neglecting SEO is the 2-3 years at $3k per month for a total of $72k if you wait 2 years or $108k for 3. The cost of the initial investment is not really a “cost” to neglecting SEO since you’ll need to spend that money either now or in the future — but the difference between what it costs for a top of the line site now and what a top of the line site costs 2-3 years from now (which is impossible to predict) should be factored into the cost of neglecting SEO unless you think website development is going to get cheaper.

For every day, month, and year that you are late to the online party is time your competitors are building links — and there is no replacement for that time. You either get the links first, or fight your competitors tooth and nail for the links later from a position of weakness.

For tips on how to leverage SEO, read this article

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