Realtor Reaches Clients Through SEO Marketing, Hyperlocal Blogs

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Realtor Karen Benvin Ransom’s listings have moved far beyond the newspaper classifieds. With a Twitter account, a Facebook page, a personal Web site, and a series of articles she’s written about her local community online, Ransom has honed in on the exact sites and search terms that her clients at Houlihan Lawrence are using to shop for homes in Westchester County, N.Y.

How did your launch ads on Main Street Connect’s new Bedford and Lewisboro sites come about?
Well, it turns out the head editor for real estate section, Cathleen Stack, used to be the head of technology for Houlihan Lawrence, and she’s now working for Main Street Connect. She started with them in Connecticut and now they did their launch for the new sites in Westchester. She contacted me early on because she knows that I’ve always been up on the latest in internet advertising. For example, I was perhaps one of the first people in the company or the area to have a personal real estate Web site. I’m not the manager [at Houlihan Lawrence], I’m just an independent person. I’ve always managed all of my advertising and looked for inventive ways to advertise. So, with the digital age I just jumped on that horse as quickly as I could.

How important is online advertising as a realtor in Westchester?
Well, now way over 90 percent of people begin their search and continue their search for real estate on the Internet. It’s well over 90 percent at this point. So, you have to be there for your clients. I also write articles for a blog run by Leading Real Estate Companies of the World.

How did the articles come about and how’ve they impacted your business?
Houlihan Lawrence is a member company of Leading Real Estate Companies of the World. They offered this program and 24 companies, such as Houlihan, partake in this blog. You know, it’s custom-designed for their companies. It’s done with their logos and everything, but they run it out of Chicago. I saw that [writing articles about the local community] was a wonderful way to increase my SEO on the Internet. I am on the top of Google searches for any topic on real estate in Northern Westchester or Westchester. I am very involved in the community up here and I am a great resource for activities and children — having raised two, both a boy and a girl — in this area. I am also very involved with local events, charities, museums, and town events and people know that. If they want to sell their homes in this market where the inventory is so huge, they need someone to be out there with their product and home at the forefront. For example, the new Main Street Connect – right on the Bedford and Lewisboro page – there’s a rotation of my listings constantly on the screen. So, it gives excellent coverage.

There are so many ways to advertise nowadays. How do you decide which sites and publications are worth using?
You know, there’s still low-tech advertising. I’m even reconsidering advertising again on my church bulletin to capture the very local market and people that know me from seeing me and my family in church over the years. So, I just look for any venue that I think is meaningful.

How do you gauge the effectiveness of an ad?
Well, I watch the hits on my articles. I can go behind the scenes and see how many people are clicking on my articles. Then I go to my Web site and see the hits on my Web site and I see if they are coming from those articles. Then I can click on what [people are] googling. It means these are things important to people.

So do you keep track of the search terms people are using to get to you?
Yeah, but it’s not that hard. It’s just not that hard. [People search for terms] like “houses in Bedford” and “living in Katonah.” This is what matters to people.

How do you see the real estate market changing in terms of advertising?
Well, you know, we used to read those little cryptic black and white ads in the classifieds in the New York Times on Sundays, but that’s gone. So, you just have to stay current with what’s going on on the Internet. For example when Main Street Connect was coming about, I just saw that opportunity — and it’s huge. I can see people tuning into them every day and my being out there at the same time is very important.

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.