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By Barry Hurd

RISMEDIA, June 18, 2007-For week three in our 10-part series on improving your? site’s search engine placement, we review another one of the basics of why most real estate sites fail to reach audiences online and do not rank in the search engines. Our goal is to show you how to avoid throwing valuable marketing dollars into online solutions that fail to produce a return on investment.

Reason #2: “Your site came from a template, the same one 10,000 real estate professionals bought.”

A lot of real estate professionals buy turn-key sites created from off-the-shelf templates. These offer a variety of options, but they also cause you to blend into a crowd.

Question: If you are trying to stand out in a crowd of competitors wearing gray suits, what should you wear to differentiate yourself?

This is a marketing 101 lesson: differentiate yourself from the competition.

Search engines view sites just like people do. If you follow the crowd (or buy a generic template site), you will instantly establish yourself as being “average” and be lost in the clutter of the online marketplace. This problem is true on both a local and national scale: individual agents rely on broker sites that combine them with dozens of other agents, and brokers rely on “cookie cutter” branding established by industry peers.

Be different. This requires a little bit of out- of-the-box thinking focused around your identity, the message you need to communicate, and the client demographic you are trying to reach. Setting yourself out from the crowd can be done by identifying your “brand personality,” establishing yourself as a niche expert on various issues, or even sharing your personal insight and opinion on local news. It doesn’t require prohibitively expensive or flashy design; it only requires the willingness to share a different perspective.

Social and technical change is shifting more audiences over to searching for niche sites, personal commentary, and open conversation. As this trend picks up momentum- original articles, online video, and insightful audio material will continue to dominate very competitive search phrases and have the added benefit of encouraging meaningful communication with potential clients. Professionals who adopt methods of separating themselves from the competition from both a technical and character perspective will lead the industry as it continues to adapt to the Web 2.0 era.

About the author:

Barry Hurd is president of Social Media Systems, an online marketing and advertising consultant group working with search engine marketing and leveraging social media communities. He has over 15 years of entrepreneurial Internet and online marketing experience. As an author and prolific blogger, he has reached online audiences around the world. Since the mid nineties, Barry has been involved in numerous efforts to bring forth technical innovation through online business models. Past projects have included Nike, REI, TMP Worldwide,, Verizon Superpages, Intuit, and RISMedia.

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