Real Estate SEO for Beginners

The world of real estate is going through dramatic change and I don’t mean the current market upheavals caused by the change from a Seller’s market to a Buyer’s market.

Independent of price level there will always be buying and selling of homes going on. But the way people search for and find homes is in the middle of a dramatic change. The Internet is the great equalizer but also the great differentiator.

People searching online are not aware of your achievements, everybody is equal at first. If your website does not offer the design and services people appreciate they will not stay long enough to find out. This is where you can differentiate yourself.

But design and functionality are a secondary issue to the problem of how to get found in the first place. Use the analogy of websites being online business cards. New business cards are deposited not at the top of the pile but at the very bottom. Customers are picking up business cards from the top of the pile. SEO or search engine optimization deals with efforts to move ones business cards further up the pile so that customers can find one’s site through popular search engines.

So you have a new website. So you basically just had your business cards printed but nobody knows how to find them. Or even more dramatic you don’t even know if somebody is picking up your business cards and you don’t know if your business cards are in the big pile yet.

I would define SEO as the efforts to purposefully move ones website to be placed higher on the results page in response to a search query at a range of search engines.

But there are thousands of search engines out there. True. But all but 3 are irrelevant to your optimization efforts. Google, Yahoo and MSN control about 98% of all searches performed on the Internet. Focus on the three big search engines and the rest will take care of itself.

What is there to optimize? The aim is to be found by people searching for things that you offer on your website. When people search they do this textually by querying a search term or phrase. For you to optimize your site you first have to understand for which keywords or key phrases you want to be found. As I am practicing real estate in Aspen, Colorado and appropriate search term could be “Aspen Real Estate”.

Make sure you repeat your keywords and phrases on your homepage. Make the most important key phrase a headline and type it in a bold font.

It is important to understand that search engines are automated computer systems programmed by humans to evaluate the webs content without human interference. This means that search results are based on what is called a computer algorithm. This is basically a set of instructions for the computer on how to evaluate certain criteria and translate the results into a sequence of importance. Most important website first, least important website last.

The art and science of Search Engine Optimization is to try to understand what the search engines are looking for in a good site and then giving the search engine just that. The Google search engine algorithm probably looks at hundreds of different criteria. It is so complex that not even the engineers inside Google know the whole picture. Well you might say, how should none Google employees then know what to do?

Basically the most important fundamentals of what makes a good websites are known. Google for example uses a patented mathematical concept they called “Page Rank” at the root of their systems. Links are seen as votes. The more links are pointing to one website the more important that website must be. The more important the website is that votes for another website the more weight that vote caries.

So, try to get people to link to your website. It is important to know that links from website that have the same topic as your website seem to be more important than links from website that do not fit the subject. Links from other real estate related website are more important to my website then links from websites promoting toys.

Search engines like content rich websites. The more pages with useful content the better. Blogs are a great way to accumulate great on-topic content over a period of time. This is all the more important as search engines like website that have fresh content on a regular basis.

DMOZ.org is a human compiled directory of websites. Read their instructions carefully and submit your website to a relevant category. Yahoo and Google use this directory and it helps to be listed.

Generate a site map and place the xml file on your web server. A site map is basically a long list containing all your web pages in a format that is readable by computer programs employed by search engines to browse the web. These programs are called “bots” or “spiders”. This will help the search engines to find all the pages on your website. Remember, the more web pages the search engine knows about the better for you.

Search engines cannot read certain content. Graphical content is one such thing. If your site consists of mainly pictures the search engine will not understand what your site is about and therefore will not offer it as a result of a search. Make sure your site is text rich.

Real Estate website can have pages for the different subdivisions in the area serviced. Write a blog on the property of the week. Incorporate a section of “Frequently Asked Questions”. Write about yourself and give people a bio on you. Explain the buying and selling process. Offer sales statistics. The list goes on.

Get a program Like “Advanced Web Ranking” to search the search engines for search results containing your keywords. Optimization is fun when you start to see results. But manually looking for your website in search results is labor intensive and a good job for an automated program.

Read web forums and a couple of books on SEO once you are past the basics. The field is constantly evolving and there us tons more to learn.

How To Start Investing For Financial Independence, Part 1

Today, I am going to start a multi-part series about how to go from being a beginning investor to being "financially independent" in a steady and predictable way. At our website, we get tons of e-mails about how do I start, how do I start with little $ 's, etc., etc., etc. If you are asking this question, congratulations because you are ahead of most. All of us have been there at some point.

I must warn you …. What I am about to share here for free is what "gurus" across the nation charge thousands of dollars for in weekend seminars. The "secrets" disclosed are going to seem pretty simple because quite frankly, there are no secrets. The methods used here have been done for centuries and there is no real reason to complicate them. Let's apply these principles to see how fast someone might become financially independent without betting the farm.

Realize that everyone has wildly different starting points and different financial goals. For this series of articles, we assume that an individual has access to at least $ 15,000 liquid capital (or home equity) to start, is at least breaking even with their current income income expenses, and has decent credit to obtain financing. Note there yet? …. See the footnote below.

To start, what you need is to make your money grow while keeping your current income stream, and current expense level in place. I can not say this more plainly ….. To change your current financial path, you have to us your money and your time to grow additional income streams that increase wealth. There is many ways to do this but we are going to use investing in real estate as an example.

Now for beginners, here is the really bad news …… As an investor, you reap rewards by placing your money in HARMS WAY. You do everything in your power to minimize your risk but bottom line is that real investors make money by taking CONTROLLED risks. As investors get better, they learn how to make fantastic investment returns doing things that all their friends and relatives thing is crazy ….. However, they know exactly what risks are small in comparison to the potential Rewards.

One reason people really like real estate investing is leaseage; Ie, you can purchase an expensive property using 0-20% of your own money while financing the rest. So if you put 10% down for example, and then the property goes up by 20%, you have made a 200% return (ignoring expenses, taxes, etc. for simplicity). Of course this works in reverse … If the property drops by 20%, you have lost not only your original investment but have to come up with another 10% as well ….. Ouch!

For someone beginning, here is what I would suggest:
1) Look for an opportunity that will return at least 150% in 2 yrs or less;

2) Be mentally and financially prepared if the investment does not work out;

3) Have VERY good reasons why you do not think you will lose money …… You may not make as much as expected but you would rather not lose money at this stage.

4) Be patient. This single result should not either make or break you but it is crucial to a longer term plan.

In our Mastermind Group, we are bringing out a land project (see related article Land Investing that appears to meet these criteria (each investor has to decide for themselves.) So let's say the purchase price is $ 150,000, with 10% down and another $ 3,500 In closing costs. With good credit, then the financing obtained would make the land payments for 2 years while waiting for growth.

Now let's say after you did your analysis, looked at what had happened in the past, looked at why you thought more and more people would want this property, etc., you decide that you think this property will average 20% / Yr escalation over The next 2 years. MORE IMPORTANTLY, you decide that barring a major meltdown in the market, you think there is little chance that you can not at least break even after 2 years.

So if you end up being right about the growth, then you might net a tidy $ 43,000 (before taxes) or so after everything is considered. After long term capital gains at 15% let's say, then you just picked up about $ 36,000 of the "market's money". That is money that if you take a loss on the next investment will not be nearly as painful as if you lost your original money. When you combine this with your original investment amount, you now have around $ 55,000 of operating capital for step 2.

Realistically, you can not predict how much you will make from the investment. When I invest, I try to establish in my mind what is reasonable. Frequently, I have been surprised to the positive and made much more than expected. Sometimes I have made less. The key being put to yourself in a low risk situation where you have a strong reason to believe the market will go in your favor.

To accomplish this first step, let's look at what you really had to do:

1) Had to be willing to put $$ in harm's way;

2) Had to educate yourself enough to evaluate the risk and the opportunity;

3) Had to find the opportunity or be in a position to have the opportunity presented to them;

4) Had to act.

I would like to comment on the education side. As a former professor, I have seen very smart people spend 1,000's of hours and 10,000's of thousands of dollars educating themselves to "earn a living"; This is a great move in many cases. On the other side, I have seen very smart people who want investing to be a major source of income but will not spend any time or any money educating themselves.

To me, this is a recipe for disaster. By the time we finish this series, you will see that with a few simple steps, implemented over time, many people can easily produce more money than their regular job. Tomorrowmore, many people will put 100's of thousands of dollars at risk but know almost nothing about what they are doing. If you chose the path of making your investment dollars grow steadily with time, I hope this does not end up describing you.

** Footnote: If you are not yet at that level, here is what I suggest. First, read Michael Masterson's book called "Automatic Wealth". This is an excellent book on how to quickly change your financial position while staying employed. Next, I would read Van Tharp's new book called "Safe Paths To Financial Freedom". Van uses a very different thought process from many and so adds a great deal of rounding. Like anything else, you will not agree with everything written in these books but they provide some great thought processes. When you have some capital and are cash flow positive, they come back and revisit this article.

Thinking Like An Online Entrepreneur – E-Commerce Tips

So much has been written about entrepreneurial thinking that I won’t try to distil it here. However, there are certain behaviours I have noted about how some web owners approach the development and running of their e-commerce websites which deserve a little discussion.

Let me start with the most important, influencing factor to any web owner’s success: belief.

Belief

Starting your online entrepreneurial activity with the right mindset and beliefs is like winning the match before you’ve stepped out onto the court. It’s what separates the really successful businesses from the average ones.

Ask any sportsperson or sports psychologist and they’ll tell you that your beliefs profoundly affect your performance.

What we believe is possible in our online entrepreneurial life is the limiting factor in our success.

Let’s take an example. Lots of people wish they were millionaires, but of those who want to become millionaires, very few actually believe they will be millionaires. Those that do, however, stand a far greater chance of becoming what they believe. Why? Because at a conscious and subconscious level they are doing everything they can to pursue that one objective. Now I’m not suggesting that being a millionaire should be your life’s goal; I’m just using it as an example. The point is that your underlying beliefs in what you are capable of fundamentally affect the actions you take and the choices you make.

All this may seem more like some New Age incantation rather than hard-edged business-speak, but there is good reason I mention it. Owning and running an e-commerce website is not for the faint-hearted. It is complex and demanding and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. Be prepared for long hours, headaches and hard work, but also be prepared for more customers, a growing bank account and a sense of achievement. Your belief that you are doing the right thing is what will see you through and keep you on course for success.

Owning an e-commerce website can be a wild ride but how you handle it is totally dictated by your mindset and your beliefs. For example, many e-commerce websites fail because their owners give up – they lose confidence, interest and commitment, especially in the early days of their website’s life. It’s easy to give up if you’re struggling or faced with outright failure. However, those who believe they will succeed don’t see failure as a setback but as a learning experience – they have the right mindset and they will do well because of it.

I’m telling you this because you know that success isn’t a set of purely mechanical step-by-step processes. (If it were, we’d all be millionaires.) Success comes from your mindset: what you believe you can achieve and the expectations you set yourself. This mindset is as important as knowing how to Search Engine optimize your e-commerce website or write compelling sales copy.

What is Internet Marketing? Define Internet Marketing

What is Internet Marketing? In broad terms Internet Marketing refers to promotion of commerce or business through the Internet medium. It is the way in which products or services are promoted and sold over the Internet. Internet marketing, also called web marketing, online-marketing and even “i” or “e” -Marketing uses the Internet to deliver all types of media to a global and even local market. The relatively low cost to disseminate information to a global audience makes it very unique compared to marketing of the past.

The interactive nature of the Internet has forced the evolution of its marketing strategies to include specialist skills to deal with the instant response and eliciting responses now present with this unique medium. A device must be included in your Internet marketing system to accommodate this instant response.

The term is also inclusive of the post-sale relationship between a business and its customers because it encompasses digital customer data management and electronic customer relations. It is widely used in the business world today and referred to as ECRM – Electronic Customer Relationship Management. This makes the scope larger as it refers to the on-going relationship supported by the Internet, e-mail, and wireless media.

Internet marketing ties together the technical and creative aspects of the Internet including design, branding, promotion and advertising, as well as sales. Here are three main objectives to help define Internet Marketing:

(1) Deliver a company’s message or presence in a marketplace. Branding its culture, mission and value as well as educating or detailing its products or service via the computer screen.

(2) Collect data research not limited by demographics, individual preferences or past requirements of both existing customers and (different groups, classes, stereotypes, etc.) as potential new customers.

(3) The actual selling, collection of fees, tracking of distribution and follow up of goods, services, or advertising space over the Internet.

The way in which one reaches out via the Internet to its prospective client is through different strategies. The more popular Marketing Strategies utilized by Internet Marketers are Social, Content and Paid marketing approaches. Each has their own attributes as well as limitations or short-comings.

There are several Business Model terms associated with Internet Marketing.

E-COMMERCE (electronic-commerce) refers to business over the Internet. Web sites such as Amazon.com and eBay are all e-commerce sites. The two major forms of e-commerce are Business-to-Consumer (B2C) and Business-to-Business (B2B). So, while the neighborhood baker doesn’t sell his cupcakes on the Internet, he utilizes the benefits of the Internet to search and find the supplier with the best price for flour.

LEAD-BASED WEBSITES are organizations or groups of websites that create value by capturing prospective clients or sales leads from the Internet to be utilized by or sold to a third party.

AFFILIATE MARKETING is a process in which a product or service is promoted by many people or entities that receive a percentage of the profits when the product is purchased. The Affiliate did not develop or produce it themselves. The owner or producer of the product has authority over whom and how their product is sold and customarily provides the “affiliate” with marketing materials; i.e. Website links, capture pages, and banner ads that have encoded tracking – the device used to ensure the affiliate gets credit for the sale.

LOCAL INTERNET MARKETING is the process used by a company with a “local customer base” that traditionally sells by warm market referrals, signage, location visibility, and utilizing the Internet to find and cultivate relationships with potential customers to later interact with offline.

BLACK HAT MARKETING is a form of Internet marketing or search engine optimization (SEO) commonly referring to the practice of using unethical techniques or employing deceptive, abusive, or less than truthful methods to make your search rankings go up to drive more traffic to your website.

The birth and growth of Internet marketing has also made a mark on the “personal worlds” of many individuals. With Internet Marketing offering individuals infinite ways to promote and market themselves, products, services and opportunities, the world of home-based-business has exploded.

Initially for the person that desires to capitalize on this medium for their own person commerce, Internet Marketing can be confusing or even overwhelming for most. Each method seems to have its own language to decipher and obstacle to overcome. A system or platform to manage all of these strategies can be very useful if it includes support training. It’s best to only choose 1 or 2 initial strategies to focus on at one time. The best strategy for one person may not be the best strategy for you. Most important is that you discover the strategy that you like most and are comfortable performing. If you enjoy the process you will be certain to be better at it. And the better you are at it, the more likely you’ll become consistent with its implementation. You will find that the strategy you choose is much less important than your ability to do it consistently in order to achieve results.

I agree it can seem overwhelming at times, but actually the process can be quite simple if you focus on just one strategy at a time. There are unlimited training courses, Internet tools, websites and programs to help you be more effective and efficient in each category or strategy you choose. Having someone to help guide you through the process, pointing out which tools and programs offer the most help, not only will save your sanity, but also can save you hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars in the process.