Mobile Readiness for Real Estate: Google’s New Update

Brace yourselves. Mobilegeddon is coming. Okay, maybe “mobilegeddon” is a little dramatic, but the search engine world is all atwitter after Google’s latest announcement.

Last month, Google announced that as of April 21st, it will incorporate mobile-friendliness into its search algorithm’s many ranking factors. In their words:

“…we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results.”

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App Alternative: Save Websites to Your Mobile Home Screen


Frustrated that the websites you frequent don’t have apps? Sick of opening your browser for every quick check-in? It’s a hard life, having a smartphone. I get it.

Here’s a simple hack to make your mobile browsing that much easier: next time you’re on that website you can’t live without, just save it to your home screen.

Voila! You just made an app.

For iPhone users, simply select the Share icon at the bottom of your browsing screen (the arrow coming out of a square) and choose “Add to Home Screen”(shown in the picture).

For Android users, save the website as a bookmark first, then go to your browser’s settings menu, open the Bookmarks folder, press and hold your finger on the bookmark, and choose “Add to Home Screen.”

Our real estate clients sometimes ask us why we don’t make apps for them. Our answer is simple: we make you great mobile sites that are even better than apps! Now, just tell your clients about this neat little trick and they’ll have easy access to your site and the app they so desire.



Creating Mobile Websites for Real Estate Agents and Offices

As any marketer knows, you should always think about your audience and their habits.  When designing your mobile site, make sure you’re keeping the mobile user in mind rather than the desktop user (yes, they are different).  While someone who visits your mobile site might also visit your standard site, their behavior may be different.  Someone visiting your site on their phone is more likely to be looking for specific information on the fly and may bail out faster if they have to dig to find it.

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QR Codes for Real Estate – Hype or Here to Stay?

Invented in Japan in 1994, QR codes are short for “quick response” and can be read by camera-ready smart phones with an app. Much like with a bar code, which have been used for decades, it is easier to scan something than it is to type something.

The sudden hype around this type of technology today is due to the explosions of smart phones.  Scanning QR codes from a phone is easier for users than typing, which personally I still find finicky on an iPhone, for example.

So, What Kinds of Uses Do They Have Already?

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Video is the New Photo – WellcomeMat Video App

Wellcomemat real estate video appI’ve been a fan of WellcomeMat for a while now for it’s effortless ease of use, attractive interface and the fact it’s a dedicated real estate platform for video. The latest offering from them is an iPhone app that allows you to post  geo-coded real estate videos to WellcomeMat, Twitter, Facebook, Posterous and YouTube for FREE.

The news was rolled out by their founder here and you can learn more about what WellcomeMat does here and even see a few of our in house offerings on our Union Street Media channel.

We would be interested to hear from anyone that has used this application and their thoughts on its effectiveness, however  the app is currently usable only on the iPhone 3G.


Changing Media Landscape

I had an interesting phone call from a longtime client yesterday who decided to stop advertising in his local print real estate monthly for the next four months and will instead be engaging our report, recommend, revise process.  “RRR” helps our clients improve the search engine placement of their web site and generate more leads from the web.  This client understands the shifting media landscape and I was pleased to see him make his marketing investments accordingly.


The upcoming Media Convergence Conference in New York City, put on by The Economist, launched a video called Shift Happens, that helps put these changes in context.  They posted a fascinating video about the event here:

My favorite statistic: The average American teen sends 2272 text messages a month.

With numbers like that, and the often quoted 2008 NAR study that shows 87% of home buyers use the internet when making a purchase, I wonder how much longer people will continue to disproportionately spend money offline?


Real Estate Apps on the iPhone

Apple is running TV commercials focusing on the applications available on the new iPhone.  They recently released one that highlights a real estate application geared towards students looking for apartment rentals close to campus.  You can see the advertisement here.

Although college students perceived as market leaders when it comes to technology adaptation (just behind middle schoolers), they’re not the only ones using their mobile devices to look up real estate.  As iPhone sales skyrocket even in this down economy, users are expecting that your site will load on their mobile device.  The trend is catching on amongst real estate data sites too.  Some newspapers like the Gainsville Sun and sites like Trulia & Zillow are making their sites easier to search using a mobile phone.

You should check with your web developer to make sure your site is mobile friendly.  Some real estate web site developers (like Union Street Media), can create a new mobile template for your site that strips away non-core images & content, which increases the speed that the site loads on the mobile phone.  Check out the two variations of Brian Boardman’s web site to see what it looks like on a web browser and on a mobile phone.

We generally see three types of REALTORS requesting mobile-friendly sites:

  • REALTORS who are technology savvy and browse the web on their mobile phones
  • REALTORS who’s clients are technology savvy and use mobile phones for real estate searches
  • REALTORS in a second home markets

Check out if you’d like to see one person that fits all three categories (and was one of the first clients to get a mobile-friendly site from USM).

There are a lot of other cool examples of mobile-friendly real estate web sites out there.  Please share any that you have come across in the comments section below.  Thanks!


Other Readings: Thinking about Search

Legacy 2400 baud modem for leased lines. Proba...Image via Wikipedia

A lot great articles about search lately. Not just search engine optimization, but the whole concept of what search is and how it can be used for engagement etc. Here are some that I’ve been reading:

Mobile Search

People search for things in a context. They are somewhere in the universe and they need to know something. Ten years ago if we wanted to search for something we could use this fancy new thing called the internet and it was awesome. We logged in on our dial up modems and typed our questions. We used computers weighing at least eight pounds to interact with the data. The screens were maybe a foot wide or more.

Increasingly, we’re out in the world and looking for something. We use devices weighing a few ounces. The screens are a few inches wide. We can’t type into them and a noisy real-world environment surrounds us. But we still want to search for something.

Mobile Search Engine Optimization” describes some of the different ways we use search on the go. We think and act differently when using mobile devices. Your search engine optimization that works so well on a desktop at your office, might not be reaching and engaging a customer who is standing within ten feet of your product or service. This is an emerging area of research so expect more in this vein.

Want to get ready for a mobile search world? The future of the mobile web is available to you every weekend.

Lifestyle Real Estate Search

While Union Street Media customers have been using our One Click Real Estate Search technology to craft custom lifestyle real estate searches on their sites for some time, there are an increasing number of services and aggregators focusing on creating real estate searches that highlight more than just price and location. Joel Burslem gives a roundup of several, including the Onboard Infomatics Lifestyle Listings Engine (which looks pretty sweet).

How do people search for real estate?

Understanding what people type into search engines is very important to getting the reach you need for your site. It helps you put your site in front of people that may find your site relevant. There’s been a fair amount of chatter about “natural language search” vs the “old” checkbox-zip-code-how-many-bathrooms approach. The FBS Blog (quickly becoming one of my favorites, by the way) gives a quick take on natural language search and whether it applies to real estate.


Mobile Internet Advertising with Google Adwords on G1 and iPhone

Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase, source unknown

If your web marketing strategy incorporates search engine advertising and you want to reach consumers wherever they are: good news. Google is now setting up mobile-specific segmenting options that reach the G1 and iPhone operating systems only.

So, for example, if you have mobile real estate web templates enabled on your site, you can set up an ad campaign targetted at a mobile audience. And only pay for those who click through.

If you’re in ecommerce or retail, Google notes that “last Christmas, the iPhone drove more traffic to worldwide than any other mobile platform.”

One of the advantages of mobile search marketing is that you’re reaching a customer exactly when they are looking for something. Not when they’re at work or at home or tethered to a laptop. Right when they want to find something. Combine this with geo-targetting and things can get pretty interesting.

More details at

See also: Joel Burslem’s Future of Real Estate Marketing blog where he gives this practical tip to real estate marketers: “…create unique campaigns with mobile-ready landing pages as well as mobile-specific calls to action (e.g. “Call 1-800-XXX-XXXX for help with your home search”).”