Friday, October 10, 2008

A Good Geek in a Bad Economy

(e • KAAAAHN!! • o • MEE)

As previously mentioned here, I need to sell my house due to my relocation to Seattle. The current economic and real estate climates are anything but friendly to this kind of venture - we plan on recouping some of that when it comes time to buy a new house in Washington, taking advantage of the buyers' market, but first we have to suffer through it as a seller.

Enter "m4d g33k 5ki11z" stage left: creating the Best House Ever site was just a beginning; it isn't really useful just sitting there, people have to know about it. Putting it on the fliers or associating it with the MLS data only serves as a limited enhancement to what the fliers and the MLS are already providing. In the strictly online realm there are so many places to find information about listings now that there's just too much noise to stand out in; especially when considering that the price range is not uncommon for the region, even though the value represented by that price is a good deal. There's just no way to immediately represent that and draw the kind of attention that will sell the place.

Our thinking, which is perhaps naive, is that with a place as gorgeous as this one, at that kind of price point, someone is bound to recognize the bargain and snatch it up. In order to increase our chances and/or decrease the timeline we need to draw attention and get as many people informed of the details as possible. We know the traditional avenues are saturated, so we'll expand our options a little bit.

On the main transportation corridor in the Salt Lake City area there are 2 LED billboards, one north-bound and one south-bound at places where traffic already naturally bottlenecks during rush hour (maximizing gridlock exposure). I don't fault the billboards with that slow-down though, they don't use any animations, they have immediate transitions (no special effects) and use 8-second exposure windows - so it's not terribly distracting, any more-so than other multiple print billboards (which typically use rotating slats to accomplish the same thing) have been: they just have excellent position. It turns out that it's really not that expensive to buy ad space on these things, so we whipped up a billboard graphic according to their guidelines and signed up.

BillboardThe thinking here is that you can't normally advertise a single property on a billboard - the address information makes it impractical. At best you can list a housing development or various real-estate offices, or things that promote developer brand recognition and the like. The URL we have positions us uniquely though, and gives us an opportunity to try out an otherwise incompatible medium. I've had Google Analytics installed since the beginning to give me a good idea of who was hitting the site and where they were coming from. I thought to use this to see what changes there were in the trend of repeat untracked traffic (coming in directly) by region to measure the effectiveness of the ad. At first I was a little disappointed by the results, showing no real change (not that we're talking about a huge volume here anyway, this is so hyper-niche). I broadened the view and found out something interesting though - visitors were coming in from Google search after having typed in "best house ever," ostensibly from having seen the billboard and/or hearing about it.

Problem is, beyond the URL that text isn't highly featured on the site, nor has the site itself been around long enough to appear on the front page search results (it's top on the second page as of this writing). This means there are a few things I need to change in the contents, and that I should use the webmaster indexing and site mapping tools to increase the relevance of the content from the spider's perspective, and find some way to increase the in-bound linkage. All those things take time to register in the index ranking though, and this campaign is live now - and potentially time sensitive, since we have an open house this weekend.

So I signed up for Google's keyword advertising (I like Google, can you tell?), and snapped up ads relating to "best house ever," "best house," and "sandy house" since all of those are potentially active derivatives from the content on the sign. I restricted the target region to anything inside of Utah and turned it on. Their plans are really economical, and the controls and restrictions available even in a basic account I'll only be spending money for legitimate interest. Being so niche as this is, that means I'm A) saving money over other advertising because I'm only going to owe them anything when it generates activity, and B) I can restrict that activity to the most likely sector and not bother with a lot of costly noise.

I've alse tied the billboard graphic into the main page in order to create a visual association so folks know they're in the right place, as well as a notice of the impending open house. These will automatically deactivate based on a timer after the closure of each event, keeping the maintenance cost low and hands-off. A little bit of technical savvy might go a very long way in this case - and for those also in the geek community, not that it will necessarily impact the sale of the home, I whipped up an ad that might help it get some viral distribution traction online: Free House with Purchase of Domain Name!

I'll let you know how it goes. If this prevents us from having to lower the price, or from having to lower it as far (which is always the standard realtor's refrain for attracting buyers) we're ahead of the game.


Anonymous said...

Careful, the kind of thinking that lead you to "ree House with Purchase of Domain Name!" may also land you on the likes of Jay Leno or The Tonight Show :)

Paul T said...

...with any luck.

TuxGirl said...

I hope you're planning on living a little ways outside seattle. Housing is still rather expensive around here. It's better as you get further out, though. Looking forward to getting more utah geeks out here, though!

Paul T said...

We'll be buying less house up here, and will also be looking outside of Seattle proper. We've been scouting our options in advance to get a feel for the place, and ate pretty sure we'll find something cozy in a good area well within our price range.

Ryan said...

Is there anything you can’t do Paul?
Computer Software Genius
And now Marketing Extraordinaire

Ever wanted to try Fantasy Football or Basketball?

Paul T said...

I can't take any specific credit - necessity being a mother and all.

Not much interest in the fantasy sports I'm afraid - am now and always have been clueless in that arena.