Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Troubling times for Newspapers

A post at JRA refers to a BBC Today interview with Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian and Andreas Whittam Smith, the first editor of The Independent, discussing the prospects for 2009.

This is worth a listen as it comes on the back of Google announcing it was pulling out of its attempt to sell print advertising.

When asked if print is dead, the reply was "people still want to read newspapers they just don't want to pay for them". The digital generation expects this type of information for free and the newspaper groups are desperately struggling to provide such a service for free.

Where does this leave the agent? Both interviewees agreed that this will leave regional papers in the cold and almost certainly out of business. I am not sure about you, but the property section of my local rag is used to dry out my football boots and I ought to be one of the few who actually looks at it.

If google are telling me they can't make it work and two editors of some of the leading papers in the UK are saying the next 2 years will see mass casualties and change in the landscape forever, one shouldn't need any further encouragement to embrace the Internet.

Look upon this as opportunity, ask yourself how property will be advertised online, will it be advertised online? Simply displaying your property on a portal is not advertising per se, so where and how will the customers of the next two years view property advertisement online. Can we have property classifieds online?

The papers are investing heavily in new media and asking how best to push news through various platforms. The short answer is they don't know what the consumer wants?! But they know they have to change! Amazon Kindle was mentioned a few times, which if you haven't seen yet is a large PDA looking device that displays papers, books and magazines. Don't dismiss this off hand as I can see a day where everyone is walking around with something similar, being fed blogs, newspapers, their favourite books.

Paper is dying, Long live the Tree!

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Flaming Sambucas

My chemistry was always a little poor at school, but I am sure I learnt a few things, namely: alcohol burns, this reduces the alcohol strength, it is hot. So why then set fire to it and try and drink it?!

My colleague, who shall remain nameless, skipped chemistry lessons at school and the following is what happens if you don’t take your hand off the flaming sambuca drink. You will know who it is next time you shake hands with him.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Stats, measuring, analytics, conversions, cost per lead, metrics

There is a healthy ongoing discussion at JRA regarding portals. One of the issues raised during these discussions is that of agents measuring their online marketing.

This is a huge area and I have been banging this drum since this blog started. Perhaps at last the message is starting to filter through. The SPF blog posts about an estate agent who has just started to look at his Google Analytics. His experience is documented in the post, but it is plain that his introduction is the joyous beginning of his understanding as to what 'actually' goes on out there in the online space.

We need more education. I know we have an interest in JRA, but there are some good videos appearing about how to set about the early stages of dealing with the online space with advice and ongoing debate in these areas. We just need to steer more agents to this space (another challenge!!).

Agents still need to grasp the basic fundamentals of what happens to their properties when they leave the computer terminal. The agent in the SPF post clearly thought that Rightmove was the Internet and had no idea about leads, conversion and who actually looked at his properties. We say that the tools are there, but as this post proves agents are only just starting to look at google analytics. They need to be educated in the basics first.

Primelocation and FindaProperty have now launched a marketing analytical tool (Insight) for their customers and Mark Milner states "we are trying to put in the hands of estate agents the same media tools that we have, so they can measure their return on investment with our sites." I am not sure what education tools they are also offering, but without such basic advice these tools will go the same way as Rightmove's back end system; very good, but underused as not understood by agents.

After a year of moaning about this and a global recession I have an optimistic feeling that agents are finally waking up. Indeed, I am sure I speak for all commentators and the like when I say I can't begin to stress enough the importance of understanding online marketing and how this ought to be every agents number one priority.

The best advice I have read so far is 'hire an online marketing manager', courtesy of Zoomf.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Rightmove online advertising spend?

I read with interest a post from FOREM which stated that one of the big real estate players in the US, Century 21, is moving all their media spend to online. Surely this begs the question of how much of the purported £10 million Rightmove marketing spend was channelled for online media? Indeed, how much do all the larger players actually channel towards online advertising. (PPC is not included for the purpose of this post).

I haven't seen any online ads for Rightmove yet. This doesn't mean they are not coming of course and may already be out there (I just haven't seen any), but I get the impression the marketing is aimed more at TV and print. If this is the case then one would have to question this spend and ask why more has not been channeled online. 90% odd start their search online and whilst I wholly agree with the policy of cementing the brand with users (I even commend it), I am at a loss to understand why Rightmove would ignore the space where their brand needs it the most.

The Century 21 move from TV spend to online spend is big news in the States and shows quite clearly where their priorities lie. Indeed, seasoned online advertisers are now chasing the video adverstising market and still Rightmove (and others) do very, very little in terms of online advertising.

Perhaps one of our rightmove readers can comemnt and let us know (broadly speaking) what the marketing mix was, i.e. 30% tv, 60% online, 10% print ?? As a user, it feels like 50% TV, 50% print.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Estate Agent babe of the month

Soldout magazine is running a 'babe of the month' competition for female estate agents.

Demeaning cheap shot that doesn't show the industry in a good light or just harmless fun? Is this just Loaded for estate agents or much needed entertainment? Should there be a hunk of the month as well? The prize is £500 so we shall see.

Debate aside, sex and titillation obviously still sells. One of my most hit blog posts is Louisa Fletcher naked (she is not and it was posted to explain this very point), it is also now second in a google search for Louisa Fletcher. To this end, I am sure Soldout will do very well out of the competition. Indeed, here I am writing about it!

Anyway, it was called bird of the month, but they changed it after we sent in some saucy pictures of the Owl :)

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Too many portals - poll results say no more than five please

The results of the Property Owl poll clearly show that 50+ portals are too many. Our poll shows that 41% would be happy with between 1 - 5 portals and 37% would prefer just 1. So a total of 78% voted for either 1 or between 1-5 portals.

The minority plumped for 10+ which says to me that we do indeed have too many. Whilst we didn't have thousands of votes, I do feel it is common ground that the magic number is somewhere between 1 and 5.

I will still mix it up and ask, do we really need more than one portal for the purpose of searching for property and there is a healthy debate ongoing at JRA on this very issue. Whilst one individual portal will of course never happen, I do believe there is strong argument to have less.

Anyway, our readers say 1-5 portals please.

Yelp for the UK

Property Portal Watch posts on the launch of Yelp in the UK.

Yes, it is another site to enter details, update a profile, analyse and consider in your marketing mix, but this is where your customers live so embrace. There is real opportunity here to write about your local neighbourhood. We have said in the past, be an expert on your local area and here is an opportunity to shine.

There are a few possible routes in here. One, commenting upon your local area, two, allowing customers to review your business/service and three recommending other associated parties, but be honest.

The basic premise about Yelp is that people are honest. So if your service is great people will say so or if your agent kept pestering a female customer to go out with him, his penis and your firm will be mentioned accordingly! Well done Davis and Gibbs.

Continuing the theme, have a look at Nob Hill (honest) in California to see how the Americans interact with this site at agent level.

Anyway, keep it in your trousers chaps and put the effort into your online marketing.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Where did all my subscribers go?!

If you have ever wondered why the feedburner reader fluctuates, here is an excellent post on the subject.

I was a little worried that I must be writing posts that really offended some of you as I get 30 or 40 readers drop off at any one time. More often than not it drops off at the weekend and then comes back on Monday or Tuesday. Apparently, this is all down to feedburner’s inability to track subscribers and the feed count should therefore be taken with a pinch of salt.

It is nice to know I am not alone and in fact my reader count should be twice as high!

Friday, 9 January 2009

Estate agent blogs and general site content - what you should be doing

The Real Estate Tomato has a great post entitled 8 things you are not doing on your real estate blog but should be. Many of these suggestions can be applied not just to your blog but other channels within your online space.

Have a read of the post, but as a taster, here are the 8 topics and a little bit from me.

1. Microblogging.

RET uses Twitter as an example. I posted a while back about using social space, microblogging and the like and recommending using three to four sites that reflect different aspects of your audience and your business. Twitter is certainly one of them. There is a good tip which states one should use Twitter constructively, i.e. what were you doing today (not in your personal life, but in your estate agent life). I must say I haven't used Twitter as much as I ought to and will now be doing so.

2. Video Blogging

It goes without saying that there are many high quality, easy to use cameras out there. So use one, upload to your site, blog and generate content and interest. I have bemoaned this point many times before. Users want to see properties, all of it in high quality mode.

3. Extending your soapbox to other community experts

This is a good point. My blog is aimed at the industry, but agent blogs and sites should be aimed at the customer. There is a danger of commenting on the industry you know and before you know it, you and a few other agents are discussing matters on your respective blogs that have no bearing on the interest of the user. Keep your site/blog fresh with user based information.

4. Using google maps

Have a look at the example provided by RET. Lori Toruff's post shows the use of google maps to display open houses. Whilst the concept of open houses has yet to take off in the UK (I don't know why, but it should!!) this shows how you can better use google maps.

5. Calls to action

Often forgotten. You need calls to action. Invest in this element, a good graphic etc. After all, you want that user to call you, email you, visit your property!

6. Update your contact information

Make this visible and easy to find. Open a linkedin account (good for links as well) others and ensure your business can be found and moreover a user can contact you easily. You would be surprised how many people bury this information.

7. Check your links

Check your links are not dead or broken. We are all guilty of this, but RET rightly points out that as a user if I find a page with 3 or 4 broken links I won't be very impressed.

8. Write to your ideal reader

It is easier to write niche or micro level. If you serve a small area write about that area. I have mentioned this in the past. The user finding your site is not interested in the world economy from your point of view, they may be interested in your town's economy, what happens, what is life like. This is all information you will have in your mind. Become an authority of your local area and write to educate, inform.

9. High quality Photos (it just needs to be said again and again)

I have added this in as I still see poor quality images of property. Perhaps we are banging our head against a brick wall, but one of my many mobile phones can take better pictures than I still encounter. It can't be the camera these days so must be the user. What is the problem, lack of interest, simple understanding of basic photography? An agent who takes poor photos is guilty of negligence in my book and if I were his employer it would warrant disciplinary proceedings.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

House Raffle fails

Yet another property raffle fails and another is launched

We have discussed before the pitfalls when raffling one’s house, but there seems to be an increasing trend despite the constant failures. Perhaps it is sheer desperation or perhaps as I mentioned earlier, sellers see it as a win, win situation. Either way, it has got me thinking again.

How about we start a company that runs property raffles, get approval from the various governing busy bodies, provide the raffle system and the website and take a percentage per ticket sold and perhaps a success fee if by some miracle the property actually makes its reserve in ticket sales. Apply a little more business logic to it, i.e. Higher ticket prices, transparency, better marketing etc. Reading the comments from my last post it was suggested that a company called prize home was already offering this service, but when I checked their website is down. Perhaps a gap in the market?

Just as an aside (and a rant), why shouldn’t I raffle my house if it is mine. If it isn’t mine, well surely it would up to the bank to complain. More nanny state, big brother interference. We will have health and safety knocking on the door next!

See you all in the Lotto que.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009


I owe look4aproperty an apology.

Not only did I spell their new Chairman's name incorrectly, but I didn't even link to them from the Blog. Shameful on both counts, unprecedented and inexcusable (well the linking is unprecedented).

Now that they are on the radar however, we may as well have a chat about 'another' portal. So, what will make look4aproperty stand out? The Blog indicates there is more to come along with '... a series of new products to kick-start the struggling UK housing market...'.

With respect, it will take more than a portal to rejuvenate the economy, but I like the sound of new ideas. That said, if these are largely agent focused ideas I am not sure the poor old agent can cope with more 'offers' from portals.

There is a good discussion going on at JRA where the issue of the increasing number of portals is being mooted. One concurrent theme flowing from these discussions is that of analytics, measuring stats and online marketing, a theme we have banged on about for some time. Agents need to be educated in these matters and if this is where new products are coming, this would be great news.

I am expecting insipiration to come from Connect in New York and I will certainly be holding off from making any changes until I have reflected on the feedback from this great thinktank.

Good luck to all.

Blackberry Storm or Apple iphone

I was a good boy last year and Santa gave me a Blackberry Storm and and Apple iphone.

I have now tried both and can sadly report that I have gone back to my old blackberry. My conclusion is very simple, both are great pieces of technology, but whether one is better than the other or neither are any good will depend very much upon what you want to use it for. I use the 'phone' for a good number of calls, a whole heap of email and a little texting. What I was hoping for was all of the above with a better Internet/browser experience.

My findings below:

Blackberry Storm


- gps, satnav is excellent
- click screen makes typing 100% easier than the iphone, but typing is by no means as quick or easy as the traditional blackberry
- keyboard automatically switches to landscape view
- good camera
- the browser is quick, clear and easy to use
- similar blackberry commands
- screen is bright and can be used as a torch in the dark


- battery life is very poor and very little warning of shut down
- mains power lead is different than all the earlier blackberries (why oh why!) I have hundreds of blackberry chargers that are dotted around the country so when I forget one there is an excellent chance I have a spare.
- it is very difficult to talk on the phone without cutting people off/muting them/putting them on hold when your ear touches the phone
- refuses to sync up with my MAC (syncs everything but the calender!!!)
- copy and paste is difficult
- very little third party development as yet

The iphone


- syncs perfectly with the MAC
- looks and feels better than the storm
- my ear doesn't turn the phone off whilst speaking
- better navigation of functional aspects
- the browser results in a good experience
- an abundance of third party widgets and developments


- typing is a pain, yes you can get landscape mode, but it is not straightforward and typing at speed produces some very strange results. I spend more time on the delete button. I am getting better, but I find I now leave longer emails until I am on the laptop.
- battery is not great either, especially if I use any of the other functions, such as music
- screen is great, but far too sensitive, especially when typing (although you can change this a little)


The Storm is certainly more robust and aimed at the business market (as it should be), but in its current state it cannot handle what I need it to do. The iphone just isn't for the sort of business I need to do.

There are some great widgets being developed for the iphone that may help agents, businessmen and women, but for people who actually use a phone to speak and email neither of the phones are really up to the job in my opinion.

Monday, 5 January 2009

James Cann Chairman of Look4aproperty.com

The EAT report that James Cann, one of the Dragons on Dragons'Den, has been appointed Chairman of Look4aproperty.com.

There are the usual comments within the EAT forum, but I for one would like to welcome him to this space. The industry needs more people like James, Lee Bramzell, Dan Lee, Mike Carter, Ed at Nestoria to name a few. These are all entrepreneurs and innovators with the mindset to improve the industry and the end user alike and this industry needs them.

Mike at Zoomf mentions looking forward to round one between Miles Shipside of Rightmove and James. I too look forward to this as I have seen Miles speak about his company with about as much passion as a small child pulling the legs off a spider. Listen to the likes of James speak and they will be right behind the product/company, enthusiastic and constructively positive. I am predicting a knockout in round one.

Good luck to them.

As an aside, search for 'James Cann look4aproperty' in google and nothing of interest comes up. The EAT ought to have a look at their SEO as I would expect the next time you search this query, my post may just appear. Furthermore, look4aproperty doesn't appear either. The appointment is reported in their blog, but this was also a little hard to find??! Sign me up to the Board gents!

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Rightmove new home page

Happy New Year to you all

And Rightmove start the New Year with a new look home page as below:

I am guessing this is the beginning of their marketing drive and I suspect there may be a few comments on the choice of design/style. Do I like it? Well, one has to ask why, what is it doing there, is it functional, usable and secondly, one has to remember that this is not a start up changing the style of their page, this is the market leader updating a 10 year plus strong brand so one would hope a little research has gone into these changes.

I suspect the 'eye' theme is going to appear in their marketing literature that will soon be hitting us online and in the newspapers. If I am correct then I sense a classic branding mistake whereby they have probably produced a respectable marketing campaign targeting the user by adopting the 'eye'. The mistake is that they have then realised the marketing literature brand has no synergy with the website and thus have quickly updated the home page. I must say I can see no other explanation for the new home page look. It does draw my eye (sorry) to the search box, but no more so than if this space was white and it does feel to me to make the rest of the page redundant, i.e. the eyes are too strong and the rest of the page pales into insignificance. If this were the intention then why not just have white page and search box. Indeed, the Rightmove logo (and recognised brand) is equally diminished.

That said, I note it is also appearing as secondary navigational banners throughout the site and it may be clearer when the marketing drive kicks in later this month (my guess on timeline). I may be completely off on this one, but it just feels like a mistake I have been guilty of in the past.