May 15 2008

Internet Advertising Strategies 2

INTERNET STRATEGIES – Part 2

North America has a population around 334,538,018.  234,788,864 of those people are Internet users.  That’s over 70% of the population. That’s incredible! Basically, almost everyone is on the Internet. Where is the one place we need to be found? On the Internet.  The vast majority of new home consumers do not know the name of the builder or the builder website address. They do know where they want to live and for the most part, how much they can afford.  So what do they do?  They go to the Internet and they start looking.  A popular way of finding new homes on the Internet is going to Google, Yahoo!, or MSN and typing ‘new homes’,  ‘new homes San Diego’,  ‘new condos Miami’, or ‘active adult communities phoenix’. You get the gist of it. Consumers type into the search box a search term relevant to what they are looking for.

INTERNET STRATEGY #2 – Be found on the Internet

I remember the first website I ever had.  Once I got it, my first thought was ‘How are people going to find my website?”  So I proceed to print up some flyers and magnets with my website address on it and walked the entire neighborhood hanging them on doors.  After three, eight hour days, I thought ‘There’s got to be an easier way’.  That’s when I discovered search engines.

The Internet is made up of billions of pages.  Over the years, many companies have made attempts to organize the chaos into a place where we can find what we want (i.e. Search Engines).  Many have tried and many have failed.  Without a doubt and thankfully, Google has done an excellent job providing relevant results to our searches.  Currently Google has about 60% of all Internet searches with Yahoo! holding a strong second.  For the most part, MSN and Ask bring in the rest.

That tells me that I need to make sure I am found at least in Google, but preferably in Google, Yahoo!, and MSN if I want to cover the majority of the Internet.  So how do I get found on Google, Yahoo!, and MSN? 

4 THINGS YOU CAN DO TODAY TO BE FOUND ON THE INTERNET

  1. Get a website. If you don’t already, this is the easiest way to be found on the Internet. Promote that website address on every piece of marketing materials that you have.  Everything should display your website address.
  2. You can pay for a sponsored listing in the search engines.  Google, Yahoo!, and MSN all have a Pay Per Click fee model whereby you can set up an account, and pay to be the number one results for any search term you choose. 
    1. Pros – You can get immediate traffic to your website
    2. You can become the number one listing for any search term you choose.  
    3. Cons – It can be costly. 
    4. You will pay a fee each time someone clicks on your ad.
    5. You must bid on the cost you are willing to pay to be the number one result.
    6. Others can out bid you in real time.
    7. Click fraud will always be a part of sponsored listings.
    8. You must have a person manage the sponsored listings; so that costs also.
  3. You can get your website to display in the non-paid results.  To do this, you will need to understand the complex algorithms that Google uses to displays its results. Then you will need to understand the same thing for Yahoo! who uses a different algorithm. Then you will need to understand the same thing for MSN who uses yet another algorithm.  Algorithms are mathematical formulas used to calculate relevancy in a search engine.  When a website is found in the natural results, it’s called an organic listing. 
    1. Pros – Organic listings are considered of great value to consumers.  I have spoken with numerous consumers that do not like sponsored advertising. 
    2. Getting an organic listing for a competitive term such as ‘new homes’ is very difficult, takes a lot of time, and costs a great deal of money.  
    3. The most difficult of all; you will need to find someone with the skill that can actually do it.  I have met many “Search Engine Optimization” people claiming they can ‘get your website to be found in Google’.  I have found that most of those people are hacks.  
    4. List your homes on targeted consumer websites.  Targeted consumer websites are websites that entertain consumers looking to buy what you are selling.  Good ‘New Homes’ websites include NewHomesDirectory.com, NewHomeSource.com, and Move.com.  All three of these sites serve thousands of targeted new home consumers each day.  NewHomesDirectory.com is found for most ‘new homes’ search terms across all three search engines including Google, Yahoo!, and MSN.  Search terms include new homes, new condos, new home builders, active adult communities, and master planned communities.
      1. Pros – You don’t have to pay for sponsored listings
      2. You don’t have to pay someone to manage the sponsored listings.
      3. You don’t have to spend the time, money, and risk of getting organic listings.
      4. Cons – Your ads aren’t always viewed.  Bigger isn’t always better.  Do you remember when Google was just a speck next to Yahoo! and MSN as a search engine?  Most are aware that people don’t like to search through too many pages whether it is on a search engine or another website.  If you are on page 5, let alone page 19 of anything, your ad most likely will not be seen by the majority of consumers.  So make sure your ad on the targeted consumer website is found easily.
        e. It can be challenging to keep all the websites you’re advertising on updated. No consumer likes outdated pricing.

Here is a list of questions to ask when choosing ad sites.

  • How do consumers find the site I want to advertise on? If you can’t find the website it’s probably not worth spending money on.
  • Can consumers find my ad on the site I want to advertise on? If not, it’s a worthless expenditure.
  • Am I paying for Traffic or Leads?  Both are viable but have different ways of measuring success
  • Am I paying for Impressions or Clicks? Impression advertising is popular on high traffic but not so targeted website such as the local newspaper website.  Remember, Impressions are displayed ads and Clicks are people to your website.  Clicks turn into clients, not Impressions.
  • What is the cost?  What is the effective cost?  The paper cost and the effective cost are rarely the same.  Effective cost is what does it really cost with all things considered.

Internet spending can deliver a tremendous return if spent strategically.  If you do your homework, you can do some powerful things using the Internet. 

Jim Adams - CEO
New Homes Directory.com


May 14 2008

Internet Advertising Strategies 1

INTERNET STRATEGIES – Part 1

Online Dilemma - Forrester Research reported a few years ago that consumers spend 1/3 of their time online, while only 4% of total ad dollars go toward online media.  Today, comScore reports consumers spend at least 17% of their media time online, online advertising only accounts for 7% of advertising spending.  comScore, a platinum sponsor of The Advertising Research Foundation’s 54th Annual Meeting and Convention in New York City, March 31 - April 2, 2008, presented a special session called “Online is the New Primetime,” and addresses the growing size of the online audience and its evolution as an advertising medium. Here is a webcast that was broadcast on April 16th.

(Updated June 30, 2008 - InternetNews.com recently posted an article entitled Advertising’s Digital Disconnect. This references several reasons for the slow adoption of online advertising; very powerful.)

Conclusion - There is an enormous opportunity and upside for builders to incorporate more effective and integrated online marketing programs, thus reaching a wider range of home buyers.

While Internet ad spending has gone up considerably and continues to go up year after year, businesses are still struggling to figure out how much of their advertising budgets on traditional forms of advertising and how much to spend on Internet advertising. 

INTERNET STRATEGY #1 – Spend a greater percentage of your budget on Internet advertising.

There is no media in the world like the Internet. The Internet is always on. The window to reach consumers is ALWAYS OPEN. It’s like a store that never closes. It’s an ad that never goes away. 

Today’s real estate market has driven new home marketing professionals to look more closely at ad spending than in the past. With new home sales plummeting and marketing budgets being slashed, marketing directors are paying much closer attention to what yields are returned from their advertising dollars.  Consequently ad spending has shifted from the long standby, Newspapers and Magazines, to the cheaper and more effective Internet.  This is just the beginning.

Newspaper and Magazine advertising, in the new home sector, is struggling to stay alive. Why?

  1. It’s so expensive.  A full page color ad in a Newspaper can cost $30,000 for one single day. For $30,000, you could advertise 11 communities for a full year on NewHomesDirectory.com. $30,000 for one day or $30,000 for 365 days. To any bean counter, the answer is clear.
  2. The window to reach consumers is tiny. Sure, Newspapers will tout a distribution of hundreds of thousands or millions, but how many people are looking on that one particular day you spent $30,000 for your ad?  Exactly. I met with the marketing director for Standard Pacific Homes of Orange County a few years back. She said they spent $30,000 on a full page ad in the Orange County Register for a Sunday and that she was not able to account for one single person coming into any sales office because of that ad.
  3. Tracking print effectiveness is near impossible.  Website log files can record whether consumers just type in your website address or if they click from another website to yours.  This feature can more accurately track the return you are getting from advertising on other websites.
  4. Poor Return On Investment (ROI).  When Newspapers and Magazines were the only real options for consumers to find new homes, they were effective. Expensive but still effective.  The Internet has changed all that.  It’s cheaper. People spend more time on the Internet than read Newspapers and Magazines combined.

Newspapers and Magazines will always have a place in advertising, but the shift we are seeing is only the tip of the iceberg.  We have only just begun to see the transfer of power.  Newspapers and New Homes Magazines, if you are listening, you will do well to have an Internet presence just as powerful as the presence you had in the pre-Internet world.

5 THINGS YOU CAN DO TODAY

  1. Advertise on 3-4 of the most visible ‘New Homes’ websites.  Remember, over 80% of home buyers are starting their home search on the Internet and consumers will visit several different websites in their search.
  2. Spend money on the website. A powerful and professional website will cost anywhere between $30,000 and $150,000.  Your website represents the entire company. If the website looks like a teenaged neighbor kid down the street built the website, then that will be the image consumers have of the company.
  3. Spend money on maintaining the website. The Internet is a real time environment. Make sure it is up to date at least weekly; daily is best.
  4. Spend money on human resources to manage the Internet leads that come in.
  5. Spend money on a system that will capture Internet leads and provide a way to EBlast those same leads in order to keep the relationship progressing toward the sale.

The Internet is the best dollar you can spend on advertising. The Internet is not just a place to advertise, it is a place of commerce.  No other media can you advertise and do business at the same time.  You can’t do that with T.V., billboards, newspapers, or magazines.  The Internet is the most powerful media in the world. 

Jim Adams - CEO
New Homes Directory.com


May 13 2008

Green Home Expo

Green Home Expo – May 8, 2008 – Sacramento Convention Center

The Sacramento Convention Center was a buzz today with the Green Home Expo event.  The convention center floor was filled with booths showcasing products to make your home more efficient and green for the environment.  In addition to the wide array of products there were seminars going on in meeting rooms that talked about how to build “Green Homes”, make your home “Green”, and utilize the power of the sun, and on and on. 

Attending this event was important for me because in my work I do not build homes so I am not as knowledgeable about the requirements to making a home or community “Green”.  On that same note, as an advertiser I want to understand the standards so that when I list a green home community I am sure that it is in fact green according to the California standards. 

I wanted to sit in on the “Marketing and Selling Green Homes” seminar to understand the difference builders are facing when advertising green homes.  This was an interesting seminar that touched on many aspects of the selling process and outlined a definite need to make sure those selling green homes were educated and knowledgeable about the differences and the benefits of this type of home. 

I was running a few minutes behind so by the time I got to the expo the first session had started.  I went in and they were already going through the presentation.  There were maybe 10-15 people in there.  Everything that I heard was geared toward how to sell the homes and market them, not advertise them.  They spoke to the point that the sales people had to have training and the different types of sales offices with fancy videos that they play.  They then showed a video but the overhead wasn't working so they turned around the laptop that they were using and well it was hard to see!  After that they asked for questions and I don't believe anyone asked any.  Most people just got up and left.  I was hoping there would be more ‘how to advertise green homes’ but the content was still excellent.  The presenter was Rochelle Barcellona from The Barcellona Group.  I liked the presentation from Justin Dunning because even though I am not a builder I gained a better understanding of what our clients go through to get these homes to market.  I think we are right on target with the Internet being the best fit for the Green homes because the profile for the Internet shopper and the Green Home buyer is virtually the same.

I also sat in on the seminar, “Cost Effective Green Building”.   This to me was an eye opening look at green homes and the impact they make on the environment and the people who occupy these homes.  As I listened to the presenters what struck me the most was that these homes engineered and designed to be easier on the environment are actually proving to be easier on the owner, as well.  From floor to ceiling and beyond, these homes save energy, water, resources, time and effort.  How often do you turn on the faucet and wait for the hot water to get there?  I know I can usually do something else while I wait.  With the new green standards they have designed a way to use smaller pipes to limit the amount of cold water that is wasted going down the drain before the hot water arrives.   Another feature of these homes is focused on the air quality inside.  Homes are being designed with better filtering systems that not only provide improved air quality, but lessen the dust particles in your home, this means less dusting!  This concept even goes outside the home.  Planting drought resistant plants and limiting the percentage of yard that is covered with grass saves so much water and yard maintenance time.   Less mowing seems like a great trade off!  The list keeps going.  One other important detail shared during the presentation is that a recent study from a builder that built and sold a community of green homes reported no service calls to the home builder.  What a great bonus, better for the environment, the builder, and the consumer.

“Going Green” can mean a lot of things when it comes to your home.   One of the most important things to remember is everyone can have a green home.  Not only are green homes affordable, they are efficient and save time and money.   And who doesn’t want to save a little Green?”

Ruth Kincaid - Executive Assistant to the CEO
New Homes Directory.com

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