Many still say the Internet is like the Wild West. When it comes to the proliferation of scams, this is certainly true! As webmaster for over two dozen legal, real estate, and other business oriented websites, we receive a lot of email and phone solicitations. Often our clients ask our opinion on an Internet service or software product. We have researched and found the majority of offers directed toward real estate firms are what I call the half-truth variety.
It is interesting that these offers directed at small to mid-size firms are like live Internet viruses, they seem to mutate over time. The core remains, but, the exterior packaging (a.k.a. sales pitch) appears totally different.
One of the most enduring of such Internet scams is the offer to list your real estate site in an Internet real estate directory at what appears to be a huge savings over a legitimate real estate directory. The perpetrators of such scams provide impressive ‘traffic’ figures, and in many cases, even show that their directory is listed on the first page of a major directory.
Looking at one scam in detail revealed the following facts:
A. Traffic figures can be manipulated. For about $50, anyone can purchase ‘traffic’ directed to any site. The way this ‘traffic’ is generated is the problem. The majority is machine generated overseas, or funneled through MLM /porn/music sites. In either case, your site will register visits but no business will ever be generated.
B. For placements on the first page of major search engines, there are two highly used methods. The first method, usually just makes the statement that the site has page one placement. Ask further and it is usually the name of the directory that has page one placement. The directory name might be www.real-estate-intercontinental-directory1.com and a search for real estate international directory1 could appear on page one of many search engines. However, how many potential real estate clients in Houston, Texas, will be likely to type in this exact directory name into their search engine? What they may use will be phrases like: Houston real estate, Houston TX MLS, Houston Texas agents, etc.
The other method used is bidding on popular real estate phrases on the major pay-for-click search engine programs. The problem here is that these ‘sponsored’ ads have to be differentiated from the real or ‘organic’ results. Once spending limits on the bids are reached, or the bidding program is terminated, the standing vanishes. After all, these standings were only achieved by cash payment, not a properly designed and optimized real estate website. Another factor to consider here is that current webmaster opinions suggest 50 to 70% of searchers skip over such ‘sponsored’ listings in favor of the ‘organic’ listings.
Almost any high school student can create a ‘real estate directory’ with an impressive sounding name like www.professional-real-estate-advice-directory1.com, but do you really want to be listed there? Believe it or not, many naive agents have taken the bait. I asked one such agent what results he had achieved during almost a year with the listing. The reply was NO BUSINESS, and he believed they never received any phone calls. I then asked why he chose to advertise with this firm. The reply was because they only charged $49 for a full page ad for one year.
The old adage of “You get what you pay for” really applies here. Be careful out there, very careful!