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Mapping Done The Right Way in Your Next Single Property Site

According to the Internet vs. Traditional Buyers Survey conducted by California Association of Realtors (C.A.R.), mapping technology continues to be one of the highest-rated features used by Internet buyers. Yet when I look around, many real estate Websites are either not leveraging maps at all or using old mapping interfaces to display homes and community info. Now don’t get me wrong, I do understand that this technology can be expensive to deploy. But as a real estate agent you do have options. Why not include the latest mapping on your next single property Website? Check out these two killer features from RealBird and MyMarketWare.

RealBird
Is Google street view available in your area? If so you are going to enjoy the directions from Zoltan over at RealBird. He recently posted on a very simple way to manually embed Google’s street view into your next listing publisher design. This view will give home searchers an up close view of local streets and neighborhoods as if they were driving down the street. Potential buyers can visualize their drive to the freeway or downtown without leaving their chair.

MyMarketWare
Our own NikNik offers MarketSites to real estate agents utilizing the latest in satellite imagery called pictometry. These visually pleasing aerial photos come from Microsoft Live and the give your web audience a surprisingly clear view of the neighborhood. Click your mouse on the satellite image and drag to explore new areas. Zoom in to 20 meters for an extreme and detailed close up. Take a look at backyard conditions, as well as distances to schools and park–you can do it all.

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Clean Duplicates in your Real Estate Database with a Free Add-In Technology for Excel

Do you have duplicate contacts in your real estate database? If so, you know that removing those duplicates can be a daunting project unless you are running the new Microsoft Excel 2007 or know visual basic. However there is a really cool add-in by Brett at VBA Express that will do the trick, and you don’t have to buy any new technology. Simply download the handy Excel Add-In titled “The Duplicate Master” for Excel 2000 and later. With this add-in you can filter out those duplicates by cells, entire rows or even multiple workbooks.

Use this Excel Add-In for your real estate business if you would like to:

  • Highlight duplicate cells
  • Delete duplicate cells
  • Extract unique cells or rows
  • Extract and count the number of duplicate cells or rows
  • Run a row match on any number of columns

Instructions for installing the add-in:

  1. Extract the “The Duplicate Master” for Excel.
  2. Open Excel and select Tools, Add-In and then select Browse. Now locate the add-in file we have saved top the computer.
  3. Select The Duplicate master.xla and select OK.
  4. Check The Duplicate Master.
  5. Now look for the new options in the Tools menu. You’ll see The Duplicate Master.
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Real Estate Marketing Strategies for 2008

Joel Burslem handed me a Flip camera and press pass at the Inman Real Estate Connect New York. And, I’m pretty honored that he thought I’d bring him back something worthy of Inman TV. Good thing I kept it clean. Those blogger parties can get pretty wild!

Actually, my goal was to uncover real obstacles facing agents in this market and the strategies being used to get a leg up! A special thanks to Dan Green, Brian Wilson, Sara Bonert, Diane Cohn, Jay Thompson, Christian Sterner and Reggie. They not only provided me with great real estate insight and perspective, but also professional wisdom from the heart! Thanks for sharing your expert knowledge and for getting “deep inside real estate” with me!

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Tune in next time, as I sit down and get “deep inside real estate” with Max the HomeGain Monkey for an in-depth interview on boosting buyer traffic to your Website.

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Windows Vista for Real Estate Agents

Part II: The Windows Experience Index

What is the Windows Experience Index?

“My computer is a 5.5. Yours is a 4.8. My computer is way better than yours!”
This just might be the future of technology bragging on the elementary school playground.


The Windows Experience Index is a technology, native to Windows Vista machines, that assigns a numeric value to the performance of a computer. The higher the number, the faster that computer can perform common tasks.

Windows Vista runs 5 different tests to determine the performance of the processor, memory, graphics, gaming graphics and primary hard disk. At the conclusion of each test, a number (from 1 to 5.9) is assigned to that component.

The most important of those numbers is whichever is the lowest. That number becomes the Windows Experience Index Base Score. For example, my monster of a desktop ranks 5.9 for 4 components and 5.5 for the fifth. That makes the system’s base score a 5.5.

When you discuss a Windows Experience Index score, it is the base score that you concentrate on since it is the limiting factor for performance.

The Windows Vista Team Blog offers a comprehensive look at the Windows Experience Index.

How can a real estate agent use the Windows Experience Index for making technology purchases?

Besides bragging rights (notice how I shamelessly included my base score), what good is the Windows Experience Index to a real estate agent? The Windows Experience Index will simplify every real estate technology purchase you make.

New Computer Purchases:

Purchasing a new computer is a confusing task. How do you know what processor to buy? Is the upgraded video card necessary or a waste of money? The list of questions that will flood your mind when you are buying a new computer is virtually endless.

The Windows Experience Index allows you to ignore clock speeds, dedicated memory and all of that technical mumbo-jumbo. Just look at the Windows Experience Index scores to tell you how that system performs.

Microsoft claims that a computer with a base score of 3 or higher will be able to handle any standard business applications. I see this as a bare minimum.

The real estate industry has become so multimedia driven that a base score of 4.5 or better is advised. The future of real estate technology lies in video presentations and audio files (podcasting). These technologies need a higher base score.

The good news: the price difference between a 4.5 and a 3.0 computer can be only a couple of hundred dollars.

Upgrading a Computer:

As I mentioned in my last article, I don’t recommend upgrading a computer to Windows Vista, it should be purchased with it already on the system. You may be in a situation, though, where you purchased a Windows Vista that just isn’t meeting your performance needs.

The Windows Experience Index identifies what components are holding your system back. I worked on a system with a base score of 2.1. Every other index score was at least a 4.1. By replacing the video card with a more powerful model, that awful 2.1 base score was increased to a 4.1.

Purchasing Software:

Ever look at the minimum hardware requirements for a piece of software? Those requirements will usually list minimum processor speeds, video card processors, amounts of RAM, etc.

Software manufacturers are changing this practice by using the Windows Experience Index number instead. In the future, the software you buy will clearly state that any Vista machine with a base score of 4 will meet the minimum requirements.

A little known tip for increasing your Windows Experience Index number.

According to Microsoft, once your computer is assigned a Windows Experience Index number, that number won’t change unless you upgrade your hardware components. I have seen to be not true.

When Windows Vista was first released, most hardware manufacturers had a difficult time writing Vista-compatible drivers for their products. The delivery of my own system was delayed by a month due to a delay in the release of a sound card driver. Even after I got the machine, my video card drivers were considered a “beta” version.

Over the course of the past year, hardware manufacturers have greatly improved the performance of their components on Vista through the release of updated drivers. This means that by updating the BIOS and drivers for your chipset, video card, sound card and other components on your system, you might see your computer’s base score increase (along with the performance of the machine). This is especially true of Vista machines bought in the first half of 2007.

To see if you can increase your Windows Experience Index base score, visit your computer manufacturer’s downloads page and install any updates that apply to your system. To assist you, here is a list of download page links for the most common computer manufacturers:

Dell Drivers and Downloads

Gateway Drivers and Downloads

HP / Compaq Drivers and Downloads

Toshiba Drivers and Downloads

Sony Drivers and Downloads

Acer Drivers and Downloads

Lenovo / IBM Drivers and Downloads

Fujitsu Drivers and Downloads

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Marketing Your Real Estate Blog

Recently I was invited to the Inman Connect in New York to speak on a panel about “Marketing Your Real Estate Blog”. As you may know this can be a tricky topic. Please enjoy this video:

Remember that marketing your real estate blog will come in many forms. Here are a few more ideas:

  1. Start with properly formatted HTML
  2. Create remarkable and link worthy content
  3. Syndicate original content: Ezine Articles, GoArticles
  4. Social Bookmarks: StumbleUpon, Digg and Del.icio.us
  5. Participate in communities: ActiveRain, Zolve, RealTown, Trulia Voices, etc
  6. Guest post on popular blogs
  7. Analytics Software: Google Analytics, Clicky, CrazyEgg
  8. Conduct interviews with opinion leaders
  9. Widgets: MyBlogLog, WidgetBox
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8 ways analytics software will help build a broader audience

Analytics software displays details about your visitors that can greatly help you both retain current visitors and gain new visitors. These metrics can also help you identify previously unnoticed website trends. But what metric is best for your real estate blog? This is where many real estate agents get stuck. My advice is to ask yourself a few questions that you would like answered by your analytics data.
Here are 8 useful metrics that I watch on a regular basis:
  1. Unique Visitor Tracking: Visitors are a good way of tracking your website or blog traffic. So Unique Visitors are a great way of monitoring new traffic. You will be looking for your monthly number of unique visitors to trend upwards month after month.
  2. Referring URL’s: I absolutely love this feature of analytics software. In my opinion Clicky is the best at giving me complete URL’s for referring pages. This data is extremely useful when tracking marketing campaigns for your listings, blog interviews, carnivals and lots more. You can see a specific number of unique visitors that came from a particular page or domain.
  3. Searches & Keywords: Knowing what your website / blog visitors are searching to find you is very useful. Think of viewing your visitors search terms as understanding their goal in coming to your website. Gold mine! You’ll understand the content that is working so you can write more in that area.Also use the searched terms provided by your analytics software to track the effectiveness of your optimization strategies. Say your primary search term is “Dublin Ca Real Estate.” Analytics software will help you identify whether or not any searchers are finding you with those search terms. If you see they are not, you can increase your keyword density around those words.
  4. Outgoing Clicks or Exit: Understanding where your visitors are leaving your site is important. Did they leave because they were uninterested, confused, or just because they didn’t want to proceed the way you were offering? Based off your exit page stats you can make adjustments to slow abandonment rates. For example you may learn that users are getting to your IDX MLS search but you require sign-in. The website visitors are leaving your search tool, looking for another site without registration. A simple fix may be to move the registration, and give more information upfront.
  5. Screen Resolution, Browser etc: When first developing your website / blog you probably didn’t know a lot about your potential readers screen resolution. So you had to build your layout based on what little information you had available. However with analytics software you can track your visitors screen resolution. How many visitors have resolution lower than your site width can fit? If it’s a big segment you may want to redesign to stop unneeded scrolling.
  6. Filter Viewers: As you take a closer look at particular characteristics of your visitors, you may have the need to segment your results. This is where Filters come in. Filter only users of a particular Web browser, Country, or even referrer domain. Maybe you want to filter out a specific IP address of your work? By eliminating those visits you gain a deeper understanding of your true visitor count.
  7. Bounce Rate: If the bounce rate is high, you may need to tailor that page better…maybe redisplay the content. You may also look at the referrer URL and compare bounce rates. Are some traffic sources higher quality? If so, you can focus on gaining more traffic from those referrers.
  8. Site Overlay: Google, CrazyEgg and a few others provide the ability to overlay your metrics on your website / blog to see exactly where users are clicking. Wouldn’t it be powerful to understand how Digg users are interacting with your site compared to StumbleUpon users? How about Google search traffic, how do they interact with your site compared to Yahoo search traffic?
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Are you missing hidden opportunities to grow your real estate blog readership?

If you’ve started blogging for your real estate business, it’s likely the major reason was to grow your online presence or lower your monthly communication costs with potential clients. Both are very important byproducts of blogging. However soon after you start publishing posts the question comes up, “How can I get more visitors to my blog? And how do I retain more of my current traffic?”

Although there are many strategies for attracting new readers to your real estate blog, one basic strategy is to closely follow your website analytics software. If you don’t already use one…start now! I use three different analytics packages: Google Analytics, Clicky Web Analytics and CrazyEgg. Google Analytics is free up to 5 million page views a month. Clicky and CrazyEgg both have a limited free version and a few tiers of paid plans.

However before you jump in to your metrics and get overwhelmed, start by asking yourself a few key business questions about your real estate website or blog that you would like answered. The questions could be:

  1. How do I convert more visitors with my IDX MLS tool?
  2. How do I gain more subscribers to my Buyer or Seller eBooks?
  3. How do I get more visitors to search local communities on my blog?
  4. How do I get more visitors to subscribe to my RSS feed?

Once you’ve come up with the questions, you can analyze your data to help find the answers. This method should prevent you from being overwhelmed by the aggregate data and make better use of your time.

Next I will explore specific ways analytics software can help build a broader audience for your real estate blog.

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Windows Vista for Real Estate Agents

Part I: You’ll Be Migrating Sooner Or Later

In the last week, I had 2 separate conversations with real estate agents that concerned me. The first was with an agent who just ordered a beautiful Lenovo Thinkpad X61 Series Tablet, complete with Windows XP Tablet Edition installed.

The second conversation was with a real estate agent who had been using Windows Vista on his HP Pavilion laptop for the past several months. The agent asked me how difficult it would be to remove Vista and install Windows XP.

Why did both conversations concern me so much? It has to do with the idea of equipping new technology with an operating system that just celebrated its 7th birthday. In technology years (much like dogs years), that is ancient.

Windows XP versus Vista

While I am the first to admit that Windows Vista is not as amazing as it had originally been billed, it is a positive step forward in the evolution of operating systems.

Think back to 2001 for a minute. There was no such thing as spyware, worms or trojans. Few people had digital cameras and video cameras. A 10 gigabyte hard drive was a ton of storage space. Home networks with Wi-Fi and network-connected printers and hard drives were just starting to gain in popularity.

Windows XP was built for the technology needs of 2001. Simply put, Windows Vista can better handle the technologies and security threats of 2008. It is less prone to spyware infestation. Network and peripheral connections are simple to establish and maintain. Best of all, the hundreds of gigabytes of music, photos and videos that we have all collected are easy to manage.

Vista Endorsed By The National Association of Realtors

In light of the beating that Vista has taken over the past year, I must commend NAR for going against public opinion by endorsing the use of Windows Vista for real estate agents. With an “it’s here to stay, so make the best of it” sort of attitude, NAR embraced Vista at the recent Realtor convention in Las Vegas by offering the presentation, “What Can Windows Vista™ Do For Your Business” (purchase the audio file of this course).

John N. Frank takes a more cautious approach to recommending Windows Vista for real estate agents in his Realtor Magazine article Walk, Don’t Run, to Vista. Although Frank has reservations about the operating system, his article makes a compelling argument for including Vista in your next computer purchase.

Software Compatibility

One of the biggest concerns with migrating to Vista has been software compatibility. While your old software may not work on Vista, all current programs are compatible. Even real estate specific programs, such as Zipforms (Winforms), have released Vista compatible versions or patches.

Before moving to Vista, take an inventory of the software and peripherals (printers, scanners, etc.) that you use. Go to the manufacturers’ sites for each program and device to determine if they offer a Vista compatible patch or if you must purchase a newer version or model. This means that you must budget for software and peripheral expenses.

Vista Is For Your Next Computer, Not Your Current One

I could not close this post without touching on the subject of upgrading to Vista. As you can tell by this point, I am a fan of Vista. I have had a wonderful experience with the operating system since its release.

While I wholeheartedly recommend Vista for your next computer purchase, I don’t endorse upgrading your current computer to it. If your computer was built for Windows XP, stick with it. You will be very disappointed with Vista if you run it on a machine that doesn’t have enough power run it smoothly.

For those who have already made the jump to Windows Vista, Part II of this series will provide tips on improving your Vista experience.