I had made a promise with myself to be open about my efforts in developing and marketing this site. One reason is that part of my audience are other real estate professionals who have subscribed to my blog to find information that could help them, but also to pull the curtain back to reveal the wizard at his machine. I have detailed some of my tasks, but I wanted to have one post which goes over everything.
For now, I think that the elements are in place for a destination point for people interested in real estate (especially for real estate in Houston). The effort now is to have these elements become active to help the community here. What use is a forum with no one who adds to it? Or a listing service which has no homes listed? I was surprised by how easy it was to create these aspects of the site. Really, anyone could jump into the game of offering such services to the consumer, but you have to hold the content on your site to draw them in. I think that I have done pretty well with that fact, but I am reviewing posts to see how I can improve their use to the visitors here.
My big effort on this site is marketing. I do not expect most internet users to be my clients. I actually expect that most will not, but for this site to grow in its mission to help the consumer, I need to bring consumers in to provide their own voice, hence marketing. Leading up to and just after Hurricane Ike, I discovered a huge jump in the number of visitors here. In part, I could not engage these visitors well, because I had no power, and no access to the internet. Once power was restored, my first concern was to give out any information that I had which could help my fellow residents of this city. A light bulb went off, when I was examining my internet marketing campaigns. I should not advertise my service, but rather advertise the information which could help the people that I was trying to reach with these posts.
Being in the real estate industry this year means that I have no budget left for marketing, so paying for ads which are not encouraging people to use my home inspection service (no immediate return on investment), but just to read my blog for free advice may appear dumb. Well, maybe it was. The benefits from such a move are in the long term, and I would rather take a long term view for this site and my business at this time. That means building a community here. My current ad is focused on encouraging people to list their homes for sale on this site. I hope it will work. I really need to find a way to tie this into an effective offline campaign.
One tool which has surprised me in its ability to aid me in my marketing efforts is Google Analytics. I did not have much use for this, since I was quite happy with the analytics programs available to me. What I found though is that Google’s service offered me a quick way to access information in the way that I wanted it. It is not completely what I want, but two factors have really assisted me: being able to use this program to analyze my AdWords campaign; and being able to drill down the data for a particular day. The better understanding that I have of macro and micro data makes for better efforts to find ways to serve the visitor here, which in turn leads to improved marketing. I think any website owner should spend sometime examining how visitors interact with their sites if they are looking to draw visitors into them.
I still have to flesh out my marketing plan, and there is another piece to the puzzle to add here (pdf files- ebooks to help the consumer). I have decided to refashion my static site into a blog about “Life in Houston”. Again, it will not help my business directly, but these websites are becoming more of a great hobby than anything else, and it will eventually spread my home inspection business name around town, or I could focus on business consulting.