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Q&A With Chicago Agent’s Own Web Expert

by Chicago Agent

Agents often ask us for tips on what they can do to improve their websites without breaking the bank. We asked Chad Gardner, CA’s marketing coordinator who also developed the new ChicagoAgentMagazine.com website, to answer a few of the common questions we’ve come across.

Q: Are there ways that the independent Realtor with a limited marketing budget can get the same breadth of exposure that large corporate real estate companies get?
A: Fortunately, there are many cost-effective resources online that can be utilized to broaden exposure. The key is to remember that you may not actually be directly competing with the well-established, large real estate companies. Instead of worrying about competing, focus on developing and implementing a strategy that reaches your target audience.

The days of needing to hire an expensive web developer to build a site and online presence are long gone. There are simple blog publishing platforms, such as WordPress and Moveable Type, that are affordable, search engine friendly and easy to use. These platforms are based off a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) concept in which content displayed during editing will look similar to the final result, so it isn’t necessary to learn special code.

An opportunity to differentiate your website from the larger companies is to focus on your neighborhoods, areas or niche. Regularly update the content on your site with local information (e.g., listings, events or insights) to create value for potential clients. Not only will this added content create a personal feel, it will also help create location-based keywords for search engines to catalog.

If the resources are available, it is worthwhile to learn more about local search engine optimization, keyword and competitive analysis. But my rule of thumb for those not wanting to submerge themselves that deep is to focus on creating quality content for your clients and readers.

Q: What would be the best use of social media in terms of my website?
A: Integrating social media into your website and business plan is always encouraged. This part of your online presence can help establish you as an expert in your field, which is most often seen by groups of consumers that are looking to their peers for information.

Successful social media strategy requires participation, which can be time consuming. Do not spread yourself too thin over multiple mediums — stick to the networks that your target audience uses most.

Here are some extra tips for your website and social media approach:
Listen to your audience. Knowing what kind of content your network is interested in is essential. What is important and interesting to you may not always be what they are looking for. Take a look at what your audience is saying on Facebook and Twitter to see what topics are hot. In addition, listening to feedback can lead to additional content creation and ideas for new features on your website.

Participate in the dialogue. Steer away from flooding networks with self-serving, one-directional messages. Showing your interest in a variety of issues within your field will instill your values, trust and opinions across the board. An ongoing presence will keep you in the forefront of users’ minds as a valuable resource.

Be authentic. Don’t hide behind technology. Being transparent about your identity and the nature of your message will enhance all other online marketing tactics by showing your consumers the respect they deserve. Social media is all about creating a rapport with others.

Chad Gardner is the marketing coordinator for Chicago Agent magazine. He can be reached at chad@chicago.staging312.com, or at 773.296.6001.

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