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As we near 2017, many REALTORS® will start to examine how to increase their sales and productivity in the new year. For many, this means upgrading their real estate website or switching to a new website provider. However, this isn’t 1999, and having a large online presence doesn’t come overnight. We’ll examine the best routes to having a great internet presence and the realistic timeframes and expense you can expect. When we talk about online presence, this article is about organic rankings and not about social media presence.

Caveat before we begin: if you are going to try and compete in the online game in 2017, you must be 100 percent committed to it. Anything less will not cut it. If you don’t have time to be 100 percent committed to building your online presence, you might as well stop reading now and try and figure out a different approach to building your business.

If you’re still with me, keep reading…

Organic vs. PPC
There are two ways to achieve excellent online exposure: organic rankings and PPC (pay per click). Organic rankings are the rankings search engines find and pull for a user’s specific search query and PPC is where an advertiser like a REALTOR® would pay to have their ad at the top of a search query. Organic rankings are much harder to achieve; however, they also have much more potential to grow your business.

PPC for real estate is the easier way to get traffic to your site, but it also costs a ton! So, how long does it take to establish good organic rankings for a new real estate website? There are no firm answers to this question; however, the quickest I would expect to see significant results would be approximately two years. “Two years!?” Yes, approximately two years. The competition for organic real estate rankings is stiff. As REALTORS® we now have competition for those organic rankings with other local websites and the huge syndication sites like realtor.com®, Trulia and Zillow.

Google’s ranking algorithm literally takes into account thousands of “signals” and “signs” in order to rank websites appropriately for their users. Google is obsessed with having their results be the most relevant and reliable for their users; therefore, gaining the trust of Google isn’t easy—and website trust is definitely a ranking factor for which Google ranks websites.

Here’s the kicker: two years is not a mark which is set in stone. Don’t think you can just create a lazy, stagnant website and magically rank well after two years. Nope! Google likes original, fresh content on websites for their users. Google loves feeding new information within their searches. Look at how Google has recently implemented Twitter feeds into their search results. Again, Google likes fresh and new. So remember, a new site must constantly be updated with new and fresh content.

How’s this done? By blogging. Yes, you are going to have to write and blog if you want to rank well in organic rankings. There is no way around this…none. It is this easy—if you blog quality content, your site will get noticed by both consumers and Google. If you do not blog, your site will be considered static and stale. Google hates static and stale.

Google’s theory is this: when you write awesome content, people will link back to your content. When people go out of their way to link back to your content, Google sees this as a sign that you are an authority on a certain topic. Backlinks from other sites are also the way you start to gain trust from Google.

I cannot stress enough that you are going to have to work very, very hard to get your site to rank well in organic rankings. However, once you achieve great rankings, the rewards in traffic, leads, clients, and, ultimately, sales will be tremendous!

Anticipated Costs
In most educated opinions, Real Estate Webmasters is the top real estate website company in existence today. A typical Real Estate Webmasters site averages a starting cost of around $5,000. In addition, a lot of their clients choose to customize their websites at a cost of $125 – $200 per hour. Some Real Estate Webmasters sites can run into the tens of thousands of dollars. You may be thinking, “That’s insane!”—but there is a method to the madness.

In almost every market, you will see a Real Estate Webmasters site in the top organic rankings. I believe the reason is two-fold. One, I believe the structure of the Real Estate Webmasters’ website framework is superior to most other providers, and second, most REALTORS® with a Real Estate Webmasters site are very, very serious about their online presence and do the necessary customization to their sites to give them just enough of an edge to beat other local competitors in the rankings game. I do not know of one other website provider with these kinds of options; 99 percent of other real estate website providers provide true template sites which cannot be customized.

Better yet: let’s say you end up spending $25,000-plus on a Real Estate Webmasters site. Let’s say you work your way up to the first page for some major organic keywords. Let’s say you sell just three homes because of your organic rankings. Most likely you’ve just paid for your website. Starting to get the drift?

Still don’t want to spend $5,000-plus on a site? That’s fine. The other companies I would recommend which can start you in the direction of good organic rankings are Sierra Interactive and Real Geeks.

Just like anything else, the more work you put into your website, the better your results will be. I wish you the best of luck in 2017!

This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. Visit the blog daily for housing and real estate tips and trends. Like Housecall on Facebook and follow @HousecallBlog on Twitter.

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