Own your own mobile siteRecently, we discussed why owning your own database has its advantages over paying for someone else to control your content or using a mobile site ‘included’ in another company’s offer. This post builds off the premise that by controlling your company’s content you control your own destiny. Don’t you want to be in the driver’s seat? Here are the top five reasons you need to own your mobile site.

  1. Control: By owning your own mobile site, you completely control the user experience on your website. From the URL and content to the search engine optimization (SEO) and branding! Being able to fully control every aspect of your customer’s user experience is critical to your business.
  2. Content: Content is king, and many “free” or “included” mobile websites don’t display everything customers want. Instead of being limited to information specifically tied to MLS listings, you’ll be able to show consumers information on all of your communities, floor plans, inventory, photos and more by utilizing your database.
  3. Traffic: If you don’t own your site, chances are you don’t “own” your traffic either. When you utilize a third party source for your mobile site, Google associates that traffic to that third party site and the traffic you receive to that site is not monitored through your Google Analytics account. However, when you own your mobile site, that traffc is associated to your website and can be easily tracked with Google Analytics.
  4. SEO: Similar to number four, when you don’t own your mobile site, you also can’t control your SEO. If it is your mobile site, you are able to fully utilize your company’s specific keywords to help boost your rankings. Google’s algorithm for determining the order to display sites in the search results list is based on several variables, including relevant content, quality pages and traffic (among other things). If 15-20 percent of your traffic (or more) is traffic to your mobile site, the loss of SEO value is significant if they are actually not on your site.
  5. Branding: Remember all of that hard earned time and money you have spent branding your company and building your online reputation? With a third party mobile site, you may not be fully allowed to customize the site to match your company’s colors, fonts and logos. Once again, owning your own site allows you to build the site exactly like you want from the colors and fonts to the images and logos.

Being mobile-friendly is more important than ever.  With iPhones, Droids, tablets, e-readers and more on the market, consumers are able to search for your business anywhere they are and at any time. As a business, it is imperative that you’re in control of what they see, and that they get the full picture in a format that makes sense for them.

If you’re a home building company or other business looking to take control of your mobile data, contact Marketing RELEVANCE. We understand today’s mobile consumer and can help you build a web presence that is optimized for desktops, tablets and smartphones.

Categories : Blog, FAQ

IDX versus XMLDo the acronyms IDX and XML ring a bell? Chances are, if you’re in the real estate or home building industry a little “ding ding ding” noise is going off in your head and you’re thinking “I’ve seen those letters before.” The challenge for most non-technical people in the business is that they really don’t understand these terms and the impact they have on business today.

  • IDX: This stands for Internet Data Exchange. This is the feed that is used to transfer data from the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) to your website. Basically, this ‘feed’ allows your listings (and possibly other local agent listings) to display on your website. Now, we all know that the local MLSs are very protective of those listings. In most cases, in fact all markets and MLS I have experience with, you are only able to ‘recieve’ that data for display on your website. You are not allowed to reuse that data, and send a ‘feed’ of those listings to any other website…even if they are ‘your listings.’ And, editing the listing (changing the agents remarks when they are written in all capital letters or when they use industry acronyms) is very difficult and needs to happen at the MLS before the data transfer.
  • XML: This stands for Extensible Markup Language. This is one of the ‘technical’ languages in which files are written in order to transfer information between databases. This is the most common process for data transfer in our industry. Basically, your website should be set up where it would create an XML file every night in the format that the receiver of your data would need. There are some industry standards for the format of the XML file, but because each receiver of the file (e.g. TheBDX, Zillow, Trulia, New Home Guide, etc.) stores and displays slightly different data on their sites, their XML file needs to be slightly different.

Both of these data transfer processes have some benefits, but also have limitations when not set up properly or managed within your company’s control. For example, using an IDX feed on your website may save you some time managing the homes listed by your agents, but what about your base price plans, unlisted pre-sales or homes under construction and under contract? Not to mention the ability to, and power of, syndicating your listings to other websites for distibution and lead generation.

By controlling your own data and creating your own XML files, builders are able to send all of their listing information from their database to third party sites such as New Home Source, Zillow and Trulia instead of relying on their local MLS, third party feed sources or manually entering those listings. Here’s a look at the advantages of creating your own XML feed:

  • It is easier to be in control of the data you distribute online, and reduce the possibility of duplicating your listings online. Put it exactly where you want it, control exactly what it says, keep it consistent across all sites and manage it in only one place…your website.
  • You can send and display more data than just your current agent listed properties. You can include base plan pricing, community information, floor plans and elevations, and other images and information.
  • Your XML feed can be set up to automatically deliver data to third-party listing sites as often as you like. You can even set it up to send your updated information daily or multiple times every day.  In addition, you display it on your social media sites and mobile site. Have you seen the Facebook pages that have listing searches? How cool are those pages, and how in control are those builders that are able to manage and control those listings and that user experience?

As with anything your company produces, your information and your own data feeds will have to be tweaked from time to time, but the control of information will ultimately be up to you…keeping you in control of your most important assets: your products, your brand and your reputation.

Ready to take back control of your data? Contact Marketing RELEVANCE for more information on creating your own XML feed.


Categories : Blog, FAQ, Tips

new home dataAre you still relying on a third party source to host and maintain all of your precious new home data? While there may be a cost to creating and maintaining your own database, the opportunity cost of not having your own is greater.

Let’s look at one scenario. You’re a home building company that doesn’t own your own database, and instead you are using a third party site to host all of your data. That might be the local MLS, where your agent has your ‘listings,’ or it might be an online advertising aggregator that you pay to advertise with and they ‘include’ this service. In this case, you are completely relying on the third party to not only input all of your information correctly, but to also deliver it to where it needs to go. You’re also not guaranteed that they are going to let you display all of the information you would want. Let’s face it, your agent typically uses industry acronyms and language that you will now have on your website describing your homes, and you may be limited to your actual listed inventory and not your base plans in each community. Additionally, third party data  is often priced per community, so the more active communities you have, the more you pay; and, if you stop paying or advertising with that company, the listings on your website and your information, everywhere that the information was populated, disappears.
Here’s a look at the flip side of the coin. If you’re a home building company that owns your own database, then you can control all of the information related to your listings, floor plans, inventory homes, quick delivery homes, communities, amenities, pictures and so forth. Once you have this database, you’ll then be able to deliver your information wherever you want and however you want. Your mobile site, social media pages, blog and even your own XML feed can be set up to automatically deliver your data to third-party listing sites in order to populate their site with the information you want in the way you want to deliver it, every single day. Essentially, the database would support your website and everything else that you create, and because you own it, you will be in control.

See the difference? Both sides of this coin are not equal when it comes to controlling your company’s important information and owning your own data.

If you’re ready to control your own home building destiny or for more information on website development, contact Marketing RELEVANCE.

Categories : Blog, FAQ

Social networking. It’s everywhere. MySpace. ActiveRain. LinkedIn.

Then there’s e-mail marketing, search engine optimization, blogs and pay-per-clicks.

Maybe, like millions of others, you’ve already put yourself and your business out there. Or maybe, like millions more, you’ve heard of Social Media and Web 2.0, but you don’t have any idea how to get started.

It’s time to learn. And if you’re already there, it’s time to take a second look to see what you can do to differentiate your business in a crowded field.

I’ll bet the Web 2.0 hold outs among you are asking yourselves why you should bother. After all, you have a website. The truth is, your website isn’t helping homebuyers find you if doesn’t show up it in a simple Google search. Web 2.0 applications are like the directional signs you’ve always used to get drive-by traffic into your neighborhoods. Your company name appears in more places on the Internet alongside the key words your potential homebuyers are using to find their next builder. That means the search engines are more likely to find YOU when someone types “Chicago homebuilder” or “Alpharetta real estate” into that search field.

And when online lookers can find you and you can track their experience on your website and learn from it, that’s a good thing. In fact, website usability and tracking techniques have helped builders increase direct sales by more than 15 percent, reduce marketing related expenses by 17 percent and put 3 percent directly back on the bottom line.

A couple of places you can start utilizing Web 2.0 are is Chicago’s new real estate news blog, www.ChicagolandRealEstateForum.com and Atlanta’s most popular real estate blog www.AtlantaRealEstateForum.com. These blogs offer a place for builders, developers and agents to post news, comment on the industry, talk about their homes and brag about those new certifications they’ve earned. It’s another way to put up signs on the Internet and point the way to your website and, ultimately, into your homes.

And they are free.

What’s not to love about the world of Web 2.0?

By Mitch Levinson, MIRM, CSP, MBA

Categories : FAQ

Your message light is blinking. You check it, and a reporter from your daily paper wants an interview. What do you do next?

This is the perfect opportunity to begin establishing yourself as a reliable, credible source for interviews.

Here are 10 tips for handling the call:

1. Drop everything. Chances are the reporter is on deadline and needs a quick response. If you don’t provide it, the reporter will go elsewhere – this time and next.

2. Return the phone call. It is important to maintain a channel of communications with reporters, even if you don’t have the answer to the question this time. Reporters will respect you for calling back and certainly keep you on the list for the next applicable story.

3. Ask the reporter for the deadline. If you need to respond with additional information, make sure you do so in a timely fashion.

4. Feel free to ask for questions in writing. Most reporters are more than willing to supply these, as it allows interviewees the opportunity to better prepare.

5. Send follow up information such as fact sheets, press releases and photos. However, try not to inundate the reporter with unnecessary information. They have limited time to review it, and you want the story to be focused on your key messages.

6. Don’t ever ask to see an article prior to publishing. Unless this is a paid advertorial, you will insult the publication with this request. Respect them for the professionals they are and let them report the story.

7. Give short answers to questions. In general, you want to limit your answers to one or two short sentences. Again, stick to your key messages, and it will be easier to ensure that your interview stays on track.

8. Follow up with an email after the interview. This is a great time to send bullet points to the reporter with your key messages or to ask when the story runs.

9. Find out what other stories they are writing. If the initial interview goes well, make sure to ask them to call you back in the future. Also, this is a great time to pitch your own story ideas to them.

10. After the article runs, send a quick hand written note or an email saying thanks for the coverage.

Reporter relationships are valuable to you and your company. Treat reporters with respect, and they will do the same for you. Remember, all relationships are two-way streets. This one is no different!

Categories : FAQ

When it comes to online blogging and social media, many bloggers reference published online articles for industry news blog posts. However, there is a fine line between copyright infringement and properly referencing published articles for bloggers. Before I go into detail about what you legally can and cannot do, allow me to elaborate a little on what copyright is. By definition, copyright is the legal protection for original creative works. These pieces of work include anything from newspaper articles to music to art. One misconception is that a work has to be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office in order to be copyrighted, but this is not true. Copyright protection goes into effect immediately after the article is written.

So, how do you protect yourself from copyright infringement? The most important thing to remember is that you cannot copy and paste a published article word for word. You can, however, post an excerpt from an article with a link to the original or paraphrase a few key points from the article and link back to the original. It is imperative that you link back to the original article when referencing it in a blog post. For example, when composing this blog post, I received a lot of my information from an online article published by BurrellesLuce. As you can see, I have credited the source and linked back to the article. And, if you would like more in depth information about the legalities of copyright, you can read the article in its entirety.

When discussing copyright, “public domain” is often a topic of interest. It is because works in the public domain can be used, re-used or modified without it being copyright infringement. Just because it is in a domain in which the public can see it, like the Internet, does not mean the work is in public domain. Blogs, online newspapers, online magazines and other online news sources are not in the public domain. Only works in which the copyright has expired and not been renewed are in the public domain – anything created after January 1, 1978 has been copyrighted for the life of the author plus 70 years.

I hope these few tips have helped cleared up any confusion you may have, and, once again, if you want more in-depth information, feel free to read the whole article.

Categories : FAQ

This has definitely been a roller coaster year for the housing industry. If your phone is quiet and you are wondering how to generate more business, network.

Networking can be easy. It shouldn’t feel like work; get involved in things you love and it will be fun and simple.

Do you love to entertain? Join or start a Bunko group and offer to host the event at your house. For those of us involved in the housing industry, networking opportunities are boundless: women’s councils, Realtor® councils, home building associations, sales and marketing councils, the local chapter of Urban Land Institute and more.

How about your college alumni association, fraternity or sorority? Start building your network early in your career. Attend seminars, networking events and workshops. Build your Rolodex® and call on your connections to build your business and in turn, build theirs too.

What if you don’t have a lot of time? Introduce yourself to people at the local track when you are walking laps or talk to folks in line at the grocery story. You never know who you are going to bump into or meet. Networking happens everyday; you don’t necessarily have to be at a cocktail party, trade show or other social event to network.

If you like parties though, look for opportunities to attend events thrown by local and regional magazines. Often those events are well attended by the movers and shakers, and yes, the best networkers in your area. Many times these events are grand openings of new high rise condos, restaurants or clubs and can be great fun.

If you love animals, find a way to get involved with your local shelter or animal rescue group.
Volunteer activities are another great way to meet people from all walks of life.

Set aside part of each day to network. Drop colleagues an email or mail them a birthday card or a thank you card. Find a way to stay in touch and reach out to your existing contacts; they are a source of future referrals and a valuable link in your networking chain.

Finally, don’t overlook the Internet as a place to network. Social networks such as www.LinkedIn.com provide places to meet new contacts as well as keep in touch with current contacts.

Don’t be shy; find a way to get involved. Network; it will be good for your bottom line.

Expert networker, Carol M. Flammer, MIRM, has been featured in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Jobs section for her skills in utilizing networking to build business.

Categories : FAQ

Often referred to as social media, blogs exist on every topic imaginable, and in every industry.
Anyone with an Internet connection can set up their own cyber-soapbox in a few minutes — and for free on sites like Google-owned Blogger or Word Press.

But the question in the minds of many business owners: What possible return on investment can my company receive from launching a blog? There are numerous reasons why it makes sense to blog for your business, whether on your own site or on an industry specific site. Here are the top five:

1. Establish your expertise. By writing about what your business does and how you do it on a regular basis, you “show” that you’re an expert in your field.

2. Establish “real” credibility. Your blog allows you to be a real human and share your knowledge and opinions with the world (just be careful what you say — kids’ MySpace rants are keeping them out of college). Think of your blog as the online equivalent of casual Fridays. Show the world that your business is run by real people — and cares about real people — and that you’re not another Enron hiding behind a slick corporate web site.

3. Build a professional community. The best blogs create a network of people interested in similar topics. They comment on each other’s posts, and though they may disagree at times, the controversy increases the “buzz,” attracting more readers to the blog community. This community can serve as a source of referrals as well as a way to test new products or ideas and get feedback. Smart bloggers share their business secrets with this community — and whomever else might be following the discussion — increasing their perceived expertise and credibility, advancing their entire industry while sky-rocketing their own reputation.

4. Create relationships with your prospective clients. Your blog can invite prospective buyers “behind the curtain” and create a personal relationship with them long before they step foot in the sales center or visit the next open house. They can ask you questions in the comments section of your blog posts, which you should answer. Others will join in. Eventually your blog starts to act like a fishing trawler, hauling in prequalified traffic that is looking for your product or service.

5. Drive targeted traffic to your main web site. This is the biggest reason to blog. After all, the more traffic your site attract, the more potential sales. How does it work? Well, I’m sure by now you’ve heard of SEO (search engine optimization). Basically, SEO boils down to making your site rank higher for certain words or phrases on search-engine results pages.

In other words, you want your web site to show up when someone types words related to your business into a Google, Yahoo or MSN search. The higher you rank in the search engine results pages (SERPs), the more traffic you get. The more traffic, the more potential sales.

Categories : FAQ