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December 2007
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February 2008

Google Street View - amazing neighborhood virtual tours

We could not wait until Google provides access to the amazing Steet View imagery via their Google Maps API, so we went ahead and for the first time in the industry, we made Google Street Views available for RealBird members with a very simple manual embedding process.

As many of you already know, Google started to take 360° panoramic photographs of streets in 2007, starting with major metropolitan areas. Many in the real estate blogging sphere covered Google's product release and most of them including me found it an amazing and a very valuable tool for real estate virtual presentations. Slide-shows and interior panoramas provide virtual walk-through of the house; maps and aerial photos give great information about things in the vicinity including buildings, schools, points of interest, roads and more and now, finally, with Google Street View, home buyers from remote locations can "walk around" in the neighborhood, virtually, without ever leaving their own place. From interior virtual tours through neighborhood walk-thrus to bird's eye views, finally you can provide virtual presentation for all aspects of your property.

While Google still does not provide API access to this feature (i.e. enabling 3rd parties like us to automatically use this imagery), they quietly released a feature in December, which allows you to embed the interactive Street View  widget into your website and blog. And now with RealBird's capability of handling any kind of embeddable widgets, you can use the Street View on your single property websites built with RealBird Listing Publisher.

How to add Google Street View to your RealBird single property website

Let's see a live example for demonstration, then I will show the simple steps it actually take to do it for your own listings for free.

Click the image below, then on the property website, click "Street View".

Amazing, don't you think?

OK, so  here  are the  steps for setting up a single property website like this. (You  will need to have a free RealBird account)

See if Street View is available for your location

Go to http://maps.google.com, type in the address and see if the Street View button appears on the top right. If Street View is available, drag the little yellow icon to the location where you want your viewpoint to be set . The streets with "Street View"  capability will be highlighted once you click the "Street View"  button.  Drag the person-icon to a location on one of the highlighted streets. As you will see it in the next step, the actual, current Street View will be provided as widget, not your initial location. In other words, fine tune the view of the location before you continue to the next step.

See if Street View is available for your location

Grab the code

Click the "Link to this page" link above the map on the right.

Link to this page option

The second text box contains the default iframe code, which you can copy and paste just like that. You can further customize the widget. Click the link: "Customize and preview embedded map"

Step 3 - Customize code

There is another feature, which can be very useful, but is not obvious as an option on the configuration screen. In some design layouts, you may want to have a full bleed 100% width for the widget. Just take the code Google provides and replace the width="xyz" with width="100%". The Street View widget's width will automatically scale to whatever design you embed it into.

Embed the widget into RealBird single property website

Login on RealBird (or get a free account in a few seconds).

RealBird

Add a new listing or edit an existing one. On the listing editor page, click the Embedded Media tab (it can be used for any widgets: video, slideshow, audio, iframe, in this case we are going to embed the Street View into a listing website)

Post Street View on your RealBird site

Enter "Street View" in the "Tab text" field and paste the embed code into the large text box. "Publish" or "Save as draft" and it's done.

~~~ Easy, elegant and absolutely cool presentation. ~~~

I believe, this is a must have widget for any online listing presentation if Google has coverage for your area. While these manual steps will not be necessary once the Google Maps API gives access to it, but until then, this feature on your RealBird sites can be a great marketing vehicle for virtual presentations and to separate your listings and yourself from the crowd.

-- Zoltan Szendro
RealBird.com

 


Perfect listing presentation

Below is a new listing on RealBird posted by Anna Gandamana. I like that Anna puts the extra effort in the marketing process and utilizes all the advanced features of the RealBird single property website builder:

See Anna's listing website here

 Gorgeus Ocean View Home in Daly City

  1. Great use of the background image to communicate one of the most important characteristics of the property: ocean view
  2. All information provided: features, description, photos, embedded Yahoo neighborhood information
  3. Application syndication: this novel feature of RealBird enables agents and brokers to embed the private labeled RealBird Map-based Property Search and syndicate the service with the featured listing to capture buyer leads from portals. Click the "Nearby homes for sale" button to see nearby IDX listings.
  4. Open homes posted

-- Zoltan Szendro
RealBird.com


Put your real estate business on the map

We have partnered with Lat49, a map based advertising service provider to deliver your real estate ads - your listings and your business information - through high profile, online, map-based applications, including our own real estate yellow pages at SearchOnMaps.com

From Lat49's website: "Lat49 is a new mapvertising system that finally enables advertisers to reach the enormous number of people who use online, interactive mapping technologies such as MapQuest, Google Maps, and the long tail of map mashups. Lat49 puts your ad right where you know the user is looking — on the map. As users travel to different regions on Lat49's partner map sites, your geo-targeted ad appears where it matters to your business.  Your Lat49 ad provides users with locally relevant, interactive map content.  There is no competition for the user's attention. You own every block or region of the map that you buy — and you own it across a worldwide network of map sites that cater directly to your target market."

It is a very cost effective and innovative advertising network and distribution publishers include major map sites such as MapQuest's GasPrices mashup so there is a good chance of receiving sufficient traffic for your ads to actually generate leads. You can buy and reserve several blocks of "geography" for your advertising for only a few dollars a month. Geography coverage is provided at four zoom levels: Local, Neighborhood, City or Regional. I also like the fact that the Lat49 service enables you to do effective and low cost "trial and fail" advertising campaigns. That is, the low cost of reserving map tiles lets you experiment with different messages and different coverage to maximize the return on your advertising dollars. Tracking the click-through rates makes it easy to adjust your campaign and once you find the ideal promotion, you can lock that geography for exclusive advertising. This is truly your first mover advantage with a very low barrier to entry.

Suggested uses:

  • Create a single property website with the RealBird Listing Publisher for your featured listing and advertise it via Lat49 by reserving the full city extent for your ad
  • Create a business listing on Lat49 using your photo and logo and link it to your website or blog

To learn more and to get started with your "mapvertising", click the banner below:


-- Zoltan Szendro
RealBird.com

Disclaimer: We have revenue sharing, referral relationship with Lat49 


Capturing buyer leads from portals

Our CEO, Gabe Gross, wrote a whitepaper published by some major real estate media outlets recently (Rismedia, Brokeragentnews, Inman News).

The concept described in the whitepaper and supported by RealBird for the first time in the industry is  the following: A large segment of online home buyers start their searches on major classifieds portals. By "pushing" your real estate services (e.g. IDX Search) with your featured listings close to these portals, you can create new channels for capturing some of this traffic and not only for your own listing (the original value proposition of listing syndication), but also for your local IDX  search services (the new value proposition). Some portion of these home buyers, once they arrived to your single property site, will continue searching for comparable properties on your own, private labeled tool embedded in your own featured listing website. Furthermore, since your RealBird single property sites are indexed by Google and other search engines while they are active, once the property is sold, you can still use your sold listing sites with the embedded IDX Search to continue capturing buyer leads. In other words, rather than waiting for home buyers to visit your website and eventually contact you for assistance, you create multiple entry points for your services via your own featured listings and sold inventory at high profile portals and search engines. The concept is very similar to the value proposition of real estate blogging. Blog syndication (via RSS, blogroll, search engines) enables you to capture visitors on remote online locations and after you "pulled" them back to your blog, you can provide additional real estate services (comparables, IDX search, market stats etc.) With RealBird's new listing publishing technology, you can use your featured listings and sold inventory to do the same: use it as a marketing vehicle to "push" some valuable content the meaningful online locations and "pull" visitors back to access your additional services on your single property websites.

Gabe's article is below.

-- Zoltan Szendro
RealBird.com

====

A Novel Approach to Lead Generation for REALTORS®

by Gabriel Gross, President, RealBird.com

A “virtual” paradox is happening in real estate: the Internet has become the major medium for real estate information, yet real estate agents find it increasingly difficult to generate good leads using their Web sites. The cause for this is quite simple: The majority of early-stage home buyers will start their search with the major classifieds portals and so individual agents rarely stand a chance to be even “seen” by these consumers. Yet, these are clients that could be the most valuable leads because at this stage they have probably not yet committed to another agent.

Another way of looking at this problem is that no matter how interesting or informative an agent’s Web site, it will be only as useful as the traffic it gets. This of course leads to the need to generate traffic to the Web site, and the options for this are limited and expensive: keyword advertising, search engine optimization (SEO), banner ads, blogging, e-mail farming, or “traditional” media advertising. In truth, agents will find that in most markets even these methods will only produce spotty and unpredictable results because the majority of agents and brokers employ those same strategies, and therefore it is increasingly difficult to achieve differentiation even with the best agent Web site.

Another problem with the traditional traffic-generation methods is the low quality of leads that they produce. The best leads for an agent are those consumers who are early in their home-buying process, the ones who have just started “looking,” as these clients have not yet committed to another agent. However, surveys show that the majority of consumers will start looking for listings that are on the market on the major online classifieds portals- Realtor.com, Craigslist, Google Base, Trulia, Zillow, etc. Most consumers will not start their home buying by looking for an agent to work with, and so they may end up establishing a relationship with a listing agent that they contact from a listing that they see and like on the classifieds portal that they happen to visit.

So what can a Realtor do to “fish” for leads in the big Classifieds portals pond? The obvious solution is to post (syndicate) featured listings to these portals using one of the several Single Property Web site services. These services allow you to create compelling Web sites for your featured listings, with photos, slideshows, even video, and then post them with a click of a button to several classifieds ad portals and search engines. Many brokers and agents already are syndicating their listings, either on their own, or using one of the many service providers available.

A common mistake that agents are making is to assume that their listing will be indexed by the search engines simply because they are available in the “featured listings” section of their own Web site. This is not the case. Another common perception is that simply because their listings are syndicated in bulk by their broker it is not necessary for the agent to promote these on their own. Listing syndication works just like advertising - the more the better, and given the low effort and cost involved this should be a “no-brainer,” must-do activity.

As with any marketing activity, the results achieved are usually depending on how unique your approach is, and how you stand out from the crowd. With listing syndication it is no different, and in most markets the majority of listings are already being posted on classifieds portals, so posting a few listings will not be as effective as it was one or two years ago. Also, it is quite unlikely that a homebuyer who finds your listing will actually consider it to be a good fit with their need, and if that is the case then they will just click on to the next listing and you will have lost them forever!

An out-of the-box, novel approach to increase the effectiveness of your lead generation using single property Web sites is to embed an interactive MLS search into each featured listings Web site. The resulting benefit is that if a home buyer finds your listing on one of the classifieds portals, they can immediately see MLS properties and start a full search, directly from this listing that they are looking at, instead of having to click over to your Web site, which they would never do because at that time they are in the frame of mind of searching for and viewing listings on that particular portal.

In other words, instead of just trying to “pull” potential clients to your site you are “pushing” your branded MLS search to the best locations where most early-stage home buyers go when they start their search for a home.

This ability to search the whole MLS with an interactive map focused automatically on the area of the client’s interest greatly increases the probability that they will contact you for more information for any of the listings that they find using your MLS Search and can produce dramatically better results.

For an example of such a listing, please see this Single Property Web site: http://www.58Northgate.com. Note the “Nearby Homes for Sale” button and “MLS Search” tab.

With each active featured listing that you publish to the major classifieds portals, you create several additional “touch points” on the Internet. Compare this with only 1 - your own Web site where normally the MLS search resides. What’s more, you can do this even if you don’t have any listings of your own - all you have to do is borrow some nice, sellable listings from a colleague (with the listing broker’s blessing) and ask for their permission to advertise those on the Internet (make sure that you have written and that you display the listing broker and that you comply with your local MLS’s rules). All this takes maybe 30 minutes to do, and you can do as many as you have time for, with each published listing creating multiple locations on the classifieds portals where they can find your own, branded MLS search.

But wait, there is more: once the listing is sold, instead of deleting it from your account you can change the status to “sold,” and so your “sold” listing Web sites which by now are already indexed by Google will accumulate on Google to a growing number of additional “touch points” for your active MLS search tool. Again, this cumulatively increases over time the likelihood that home buyers will find you and will also create an “organic” lift effect for your search-engine standing. If, for example, you sell 10 listings each year, then the number of Google-indexed “entry points” increases in one year to 10 and after two years to 20, in addition to the active listings to be found on the major classifieds portals, as outlined above. Again, each of these sold listing Web sites will have your MLS search embedded, and thus whoever finds these listings on Google or some other search engine will be able to search for active properties on the market from right there, each “sold” listing thus becoming a potential conduit for new leads.

For more information, please visit http://www.RealBird.com