By Robin Wilding

The world of online marketing and advertising can be more confusing than a Rubix Cube (apologies for the frustrating ʼ80s throwback). Between SEO, SMM, PPC and other TLAs (Three-Letter Acronyms), it is hard to know which one is right for you.

To help demystify this online Rubik’s Cube, let’s break down Realtors’ online marketing and advertising options.



1. SEO
  • Effort: Long-term
  • Results: Long-term
  • Cost: High to begin ranking well – but lower overall

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is the practice of optimizing your website for Google so that it shows up at (or near) the top of search results. An example would be ranking at the top of Google for “Calgary homes for sale”.  It requires regularly publishing relevant and unique content, adding SEO elements to your website like alt tags and getting other websites to link to your content.

While SEO is a great long-term strategy if you’re successful, it takes time, effort and/or money invested to get there. So prepare yourself to be invested in this strategy for the long term (six months minimum, although be prepared for a year or more to see good results). It’s important to know yourself and your budget, because most agents give up on this strategy before they see results. See the previous REM article The Truth About SEO for more details.

2. PPC
  • Effort: Easy(ish)
  • Results:  Quick
  • Cost: Steady overall

Google’s Pay Per Click Advertising platform is great for agents looking for immediate results. Within hours of starting your campaign your website will begin appearing in the “sponsored results” at the top of Google searches for real estate in your area.  The upside of Google PPC is that results are immediate and you have an exact cost per click (great for budgeting).

The downside with Google PPC is that you can’t target your audience via demographics as granularly as you can with Facebook ads. This means you’ll receive more generic traffic, as opposed to those attracted to your website for a certain offer or information. Also, it can get more expensive (especially in larger markets with more competition) than other alternatives. Having said that, if you really nail your website conversion ratio and continue to lower your cost per click, you can be quite successful over the long term.

3. Social media marketing
  • Effort: Long-term
  • Results:  Vary
  • Cost: Free

Doing social media marketing via Facebook, Twitter and other networks, is one of the lowest cost options that real estate professionals have. This makes it especially appealing to younger and newer salespeople (who have lower marketing budgets, but tend to have pre-existing larger social network contacts). It also works for more experienced sales reps who have large social networks.

Social media marketing can mean Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest or a smattering of other social networks. Your goal is to build your following to as large as you can, engage your audience and get clients from your social media posts.  It’s a great strategy and free (other than time), but it takes a lot of time invested to grow the strategy…and not every agent is good at it.

4. Facebook advertising
  • Effort: Minimal(ish)
  • Results: Quick
  • Cost: Steady overall

Facebook advertising (and other social networks advertising) is a great way to do a few things: get clicks to your website, get likes to your Facebook business page, boost your existing social media marketing posts, get people to claim your offer, get video views and increase your brand awareness.

The costs can be equal to or lower than Google’s PPC (although this depends on your target market, geographic area and other factors) and you can create specific, attractive offers – like “click on the link to see homes for sale in X city for less than X dollars”. This can increase the number of leads you receive from the traffic you purchase. Another upside is that you can specifically target geographic areas (like Google PPC), but you can also drill down to specific target markets, like newlyweds, age, income and job. These demographic categories are a huge plus for targeted campaigns.

The conclusion

If you read all of the above but are still thinking, “Great, but which one is right for me?” here is the conclusion. SEO is the lowest cost overall – if you endure the hard work long enough to succeed. There’s no better marketing than being at the top of Google.

Google PPC and Facebook ads are great strategies for those looking for results right out the gate (and aren’t afraid to invest a little cash for it). You can also test out the waters with a small investment, unlike SEO. Then there’s social media marketing, which is a great strategy for those with pre-existing social network contacts (however it can be limited as it only shows your content within your social circles).

An important point for SEO, PPC and Facebook Ads is that you need a website that converts that traffic into leads.

If you’re still unsure which option you should be throwing your hat into, feel free to contact me for advice on what might work well for you specifically.

  • Thanks for the article Robin. I’m sure you could write extensive articles on each of these options. It would be interesting to see some case studies from some of the readers about first hand experiences they’ve had.

    Does anyone have feedback from using Pay Per Lead services like Agent Finder or Agent Pronto?

    What about review sites like Yelp or Rate-My-Agent.com?