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There used to be a time when someone would pick up the phone, send you a fax, speak to you in person or even write you a letter to tell you about their experience with your company.

But more often than not today, your clients – past and present – are instead jumping on to social media, Google or any number of real estate review sites to check you out or voice their opinion about your brand to thousands of others.

In this episode of Real Estate Pros, we’ll explore the rise of online ratings and review sites in real estate and strategies to help you become the leading authority in your local market.

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Josh Cobb: The Rise Of Online Ratings & Reviews In Real Estate

Every day it seems there is yet another new ratings and reviews site launching on the web, and there is no shortage of TV ads promoting these new and upcoming websites with big advertising budgets. Real estate agent reviews are everywhere.

Is just me, or is your LinkedIn feed also flooded by agents posting their most recent reviews? You only ever see the positive reviews by the way.

But for every good review, there is equal – if not more – negative reviews, and they could be on websites or forums that you didn’t know existed. Have you Googled your own name followed by the word review recently? You might not like what you find.

A recent study conducted by BrightLocal found that 79% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. 79%!

There is no doubt that online reviews are critical to the success of your business – but ratings and reviews are just one small part of your digital marketing strategy and should certainly not be the core focus.

Why?

Because those who are checking out your reviews online are people who are thinking of doing business with you and if you think of a traditional marketing funnel, these people are at the bottom where the funnel is smaller and there are fewer people. Compare this with the top of the marketing funnel where there are more people and those who are not yet thinking of selling – but merely researching.

Josh Cobb: The Rise Of Online Ratings & Reviews In Real Estate|

For every single person thinking of selecting an agent right now there are far more people at the top of the funnel, asking questions like:

These are all questions you’ve most likely been asked in your career and we know – because Google gives us this information – that people are asking these questions online.

These people aren’t looking at ratings and reviews. They’re not ready to pick up the phone to speak with a salesperson or property manager yet.

According to a study conducted by Google, customers reported to being nearly 60% through the sales process before engaging a sales rep, regardless of price point or industry, and during each month in 2015, there were 2.5 million real-estate-related searches on Google in Australia.

So there is a lot of people – including your local market – searching for information well before checking out your online ratings and reviews, and if they’re not landing on your website during their search for answers, you’re missing a huge opportunity.

Put yourself in the shoes of someone thinking of selling their property soon. What questions do you have? Where would you go to find the answer if you weren’t ready to speak with an agent just yet? You guessed it – Google.

Next time you’re on the web, type in this question: “How much does a real estate charge?

Depending on what country you’re in, chances are you won’t find any real estate agents’ websites on page one or even page two, but we know people are asking this question – a lot of people – because Google tells us.

By answering your customers and potential customers questions on your website, you are establishing visibility of your brand well before someone is thinking about looking at ratings and reviews. By answering your customers’ and potential customers’ questions on your website you’re also creating credibility for your brand because you’re most likely the only agent in your local market who has taken the time to provide helpful information on your website for someone on their journey to selling their home – and the next time they’re ready to speak with an agent, who are they going to call?

It’s you! Because you helped them when they needed help.

Don’t get me wrong, ratings and reviews are important – but if they are the core focus of your digital strategy, you are missing out on attracting a much bigger audience who are looking for helpful, educational and informative content – not just ratings and reviews.

A strategy we’ve seen work extremely well for real estate businesses and individual agents who are already providing helpful information on the web is they include their ratings and reviews on every appropriate page of their website – instead of what most typically do, which is have an entire page dedicated to client testimonials.

Let’s recap.

We know there are more people at the top of the funnel looking for helpful information than there are at the bottom of the funnel looking at online reviews. We know this because Google tells us.

We know that most people research online before picking up the phone to speak with a salesperson or property manager. We know there are a tonne of agents who post their recent reviews all over the place on social media and we know that most of the businesses answering real-estate-related questions online are not real estate agents themselves.

So what are you going to do about it? Are you going to continue to only post your latest reviews all over the place, like those other agents are doing?

Or are you interested in becoming the leading information provider on real estate in your local market?

My guess is some agents will opt for the easy batch and blast approach with their online reviews, while others will invest the time and resources to publish inherently helpful content for the much larger audience of people looking for answers online.

Good luck.

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If you enjoyed this episode of the Real Estate Pros podcast, please head over to iTunes, leave us a review and subscribe. If you have any feedback for us on how we can improve, we would love to hear from you because this show is all about helping you, the real estate pro. Please email us at info@stepps.com.au.