Lead generation is the most important aspect of building your real estate business. If you don’t have anyone asking you to be their real estate agent, you don’t have a customer base. Whether you should pay money or not for leads is a business decision only you can make. You have to think about your budget, your goals, and your marketing strategy. Only you can decide whether paying for your leads or letting them find you organically is the right option for your business.
An organic lead is someone who finds you through a web search or learns about you through any method you’re not paying for. Amazing (and consistent) blog content that uses some basic search engine optimization (SEO) techniques will show up in search engines. A happy client might share your Facebook page or website with their friends on social media. The neighbor of the house you sold for higher than asking price could call you after they see the “SOLD” sign.
When someone learns about you and approaches you through the internet or in person without you paying to get their attention through ads, that’s an organic lead. They become a much stronger lead when they set an appointment, register for your website, or pick up the phone.
Every banner ad, Google Adwords campaign, enhanced service on Zillow or Realtor.com you pay for, and any other advertising technique you use to get someone to click to your website or contact you is a paid lead. They wouldn’t have known you existed if you hadn’t paid to have your name or company placed in front of them. Paid ads on Facebook and business filters on Snapchat count, too.
Potentially interested people approach you online without knowing anything other than your slogan and your name. They don’t have a connection to you yet, but they’re interested in buying or selling. They don’t know anything about you as a real estate professional It’s their need as a buyer or seller (and your advertising) that brings them to you.
Knowing which option is best for you requires creating and understanding your own marketing strategy and finding what brings in the most credible leads for your business. The answer isn’t one-size-fits-all.
Organic leads take time to build online. Your website needs to have enough fresh content to get the attention of Google’s algorithms. It needs to speak to the type of audience you’re trying to attract. You also need to use terms and keywords to help find your target audience. It’s not a quick or easy method online.
Once you have a strong web presence and people are consistently coming to your website to learn from you or to search listings, your leads can and will grow exponentially. You’re bringing people in with the value of your web presence, but you’re keeping them by offering what they need and being seen as authentic and credible. However, without a strong presence, good content, and a “voice” people can connect to, organic lead generation will fall flat.
Paid leads certainly have a place in your lead generation. When you have a new website or you’re in a highly competitive market, you need people to know you exist. Pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns can be an easier (although more expensive) way to get people to your website. You’ll be the name they see when they perform a specific type of search.
People need to see an ad, on average, seven times before they act. Paid leads in a variety of online spaces, or those bus stop, grocery cart, or home magazine ads, can build your name recognition. If someone doesn’t know a real estate professional already, it may be your name they think of first when they’re ready to buy or sell. The downside to paid leads is the expense. Fewer good leads come through and the risk is often higher than the reward.
For some companies and agents, you may want to focus on both organic and paid leads. Build up your website so you become a credible authority on real estate, your community, or a specific niche. Let people get to know you through your website and social media presence so they feel they have a connection by the time they register or call.
Paid leads can drive some traffic to your website, and you can keep them coming back because you offer what other agents don’t – good information and a sense of who you are. As your website ranks higher thanks to the traffic and content you’re generating, you can cut back on what you spend for paid leads.
Paid leads come often seem like the easier choice, but the costs can quickly get out of hand. Organic leads require time and effort to figure out what draws people to you. You also need the patience for your search rank to build. Neither is a perfect option for everyone. It’s important to be realistic about your goals and where you can afford to put your energy, time, and money. The most important part, of course, is what you do after you get the lead – not always where they came from.
Former Communications Director for a local Realtor Association and a big cheerleader for all things real estate related, Michaela is now a full-time freelance writer specializing in real estate and other business industries. When she's not writing the serious business-y stuff, she's likely to be found writing about the hilarity of being a Mom to two rowdy boys.