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About 15 years ago, my father, a realtor, decided to launch his first website. He was targeting a little known niche in real estate at the time called condo hotels.
Since I was a professional copywriter besides being his daughter, he asked for my help in creating the content for his website. That lead to what became for me an exciting, hands-on test case for online marketing, the lessons of which can be applied to almost any organization looking to sell its products or services.
My father’s initial outline for his real estate website included five typical pages: home, about us, services, a description of the product (condo hotels), and contact us.
He wanted to place only the most basic information on the website in hopes prospective clients would call for more detailed information. Then he and his salespeople would have a chance to connect with them and possibly convert the lead into a sale.
My father was afraid if he told visitors too much on the website, their interest would be satisfied, and they wouldn’t call. He also worried that competitors would steal his information and use it as their own.
I disagreed with his minimalist philosophy but initially created the site as he’d requested it, knowing we could modify our approach down the road, if it wasn’t effective.
Once the site was launched, a quick review of its analytics or website stats, showed that our most popular pages were the ones with the most information. The page offering the description of what are condo hotels, for example, received the most traffic, and people stayed on that page longer than any other.
Also most callers referenced that page when they spoke to a salesperson. A few reporters had even called to interview my father for stories about condo hotels, having found his descriptive page to be educational, positioning him as the authority on the subject.
Capitalizing on the interest that the description page created, we added a section to the site called Articles. Here we posted write-ups about the condo-hotel trend, legal and financial issues related to condo hotels, and condo hotel industry news. The phone began ringing more frequently.
Finally, we began adding detailed write-ups about every condo-hotel property we could find. We started with a half dozen pages but soon were up to over 100. People were finding and reading the property summaries and then calling to talk with a salesperson. It seemed the more we told, the more we sold!
We were, as my father feared, starting to have a problem with competitors swiping and reprinting our information as their own. We’d call them out whenever we caught them. Sending out cease and desist letters became a weekly task, one we systemized to take up as little time as possible.
Yes, we could have avoided the whole issue by publishing less data, but we weren’t about to let competitor behavior dictate how we ran our business. Instead, we focused on becoming the #1 resource for condo hotel information in the world. Period.
To make our website even more comprehensive, we began adding guest posts written by industry experts. Publishing their work was mutually beneficial. It lent credibility to our site and gave the authors an outlet for getting out their message. It also helped build our brand globally.
We added an international section to our site as the condo hotel trend spread to countries beyond the U.S. By featuring foreign properties, we soon attracted an international audience. Now, unlike traditional realtors, we were no longer selling properties just in our local area; we had crossed all geographic boundaries and were selling properties in faraway places like Dubai, England, Panama and Egypt.
Our site soon surpassed the 500-page mark and became a Google authority site that dominated in the search engine rankings.
With our site receiving over 100,000 visitors per month, we knew we needed a way to capture email addresses so we could stay in touch once someone had found us. That way, if they weren’t ready to buy at that time, and most aren’t, they’d still have us in mind, and maybe one day in the future make a purchase or refer us to others.
Our solution was to offer a weekly newsletter, which we called Property Alerts. To subscribe was free. The Property Alerts introduced new properties and tipped off prospective buyers to special buying opportunities.
Subscribers felt they were getting the inside scoop, and many of our sales came from marketing to that list. Before we knew it, we had a mailing list of over 20,000 people and developers lining up to have their property featured, some even offering to pay for the privilege.
What was most amazing was that despite providing so much information online, customers continued to call us for even more. They appreciated our expert opinion and welcomed assistance from our sales people. We became their resource for learning about and buying condo-hotel properties.
We made sure all the copywriting on our website and in our Property Alerts newsletter was professional and easy to read. We verified all facts and offered professional opinions when appropriate.
Thanks to our efforts in search engine optimization (SEO), Google treated us like the industry authority, giving us multiple organic listings on page 1 of search results for condo hotels out of millions of listings. The traffic it sent our site 24/7 was the best free advertising we could ever want. If ever there was a prize for quality copywriting, this certainly was it!
The experience we had with our Condo Hotel center website taught my father and me the following five concepts:
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