In the not-so-distant past, the majority of real estate transactions were sealed with handshakes and property listings found within the pages of newspapers. Today, the game has changed dramatically. The bulk of Malaysian property buyers – a staggering 93% – initiate their search online. They frequently browse through property listings, explore virtual tours, and carry out the entire Sales and Purchase process online. 

This shift in consumer behavior isn’t a passing trend; it’s a fundamental transformation that’s reshaping the industry. As a real estate professional, you have the opportunity to harness this digital revolution and thrive in a marketplace that extends far beyond geographical boundaries.

Now, let’s talk about the engine driving this transformation: digital marketing. For 86% of real estate professionals in Malaysia and Asia, digital marketing isn’t just a buzzword – it’s a game-changer. It’s the key that unlocks doors to success, and it’s the reason they are staying ahead of the curve.

Digital marketing in the real estate context encompasses a wide array of strategies. From social media advertising and search engine optimization to email campaigns and content marketing, it’s a multifaceted toolset that can supercharge your business. The beauty of digital marketing is its versatility – it allows you to tailor your approach to reach your target audience in a more personalized way.

Before we look into the challenges of real estate marketing, we need to first understand what was the catalyst behind this rapid shift in customer behaviour in the property industry.

Acceleration of Digital Transformation in the Property Market During COVID-19

The simple answer is definitely this – COVID-19. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a significant acceleration in the digitalization of the property market. It has prompted a rapid shift in how real estate transactions and property-related activities are conducted. With lockdowns and social distancing measures in place, in-person interactions became challenging, making digital solutions essential for property professionals and clients alike.

Being a traditionally face-to-face conversation is now limited by Movement Control Orders (MCO). Property agents and potential clients are now only able to view listings and rooms via video calls. However, this turned out to be a catalyst in digitalizing the property industry. 

One of the most notable changes was the widespread adoption of remote work and virtual property transactions. Property buyers and sellers turned to digital platforms to conduct business in a safe and efficient manner. Virtual property tours and 3D imaging became invaluable tools for showcasing properties and allowing potential buyers to explore them without the need for physical visits.

Spurred by a need for contactless approaches, companies offering innovative solutions, such as contactless rental and property management, gained prominence. These technologies helped property managers adapt to changing conditions and ensure the safety and satisfaction of tenants.

With remote working arrangements and changes in tenancy patterns, property managers increasingly adopted digital tools to manage tenants, handle rent collection, and conduct inspections virtually. These tools such as electronic signatures and e-tenancy agreements have helped to improve efficiency and tenant satisfaction.

Challenges of Digital Marketing for the Property Industry

The COVID-19 pandemic served as a catalyst for the digitalization of the property market. It underscored the need for flexible and digital solutions that could adapt to changing conditions, ensure safety, and provide access to real estate services and investments in a virtual environment. As a result, the integration of digital technologies and platforms has become an integral part of the evolving real estate industry.

With restrictions on traditional marketing methods, digital marketing became a lifeline for real estate professionals during the pandemic. Online advertising, social media outreach, and email marketing allowed agents to reach potential clients when physical meetings were limited. This also brought into limelight the importance of appearing and being visible online. Whether through paid media or SEO, agents needed to find a way of putting their names and websites out there. 

Intense Competition in the Real Estate Industry:

In the bustling world of real estate, it’s a bit like being in a crowded marketplace where everyone is vying for the same basket of juicy apples. The industry is highly competitive, and that’s putting it mildly. Agents and agencies are all clamoring for the same set of golden keywords and the attention of the same audience. 

It’s like trying to stand out in a packed stadium. This, my friend, can make achieving those coveted top rankings in search results or securing prime ad placements feel like a monumental task. Especially when almost every other property agent or company has a website of their own. But hey, with the right strategies, you can find your spotlight in this bustling market.

High CPC in PPC Advertising:

Now, when it comes to Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising, it’s like entering an auction where the price tags can surprise you. Keywords related to real estate tend to be, well, on the expensive side. In fact, CPC for property related keywords are more often than not some of the highest around. 

Bidding on these popular keywords can result in something called “Cost-Per-Click” (CPC), and sometimes, that cost can feel a bit like a grand splurge. It’s like buying a fancy coffee every time someone clicks on your ad. It can strain your advertising budget and directly impact what other marketing channels you can still invest in. Without a proper strategy, you may easily blow your budget within a few days. But don’t worry, with clever budget management and strategic bidding, you can make your marketing dollars work wonders.

Dealing with Constant Algorithm Changes:

Picture this: search engines, like Google, are like those ever-evolving puzzles where the pieces are always changing. They frequently update their algorithms, kind of like how we get new smartphone updates. Keeping up with these changes and adjusting your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategies accordingly can be as tricky as keeping up with the latest fashion trends. It can be time-consuming and challenging, but it’s all part of the ever-evolving digital landscape. And hey, change can be a good thing if you’re prepared for it.

Tackling the Complexity of Local SEO:

In the world of real estate, it’s not just about being present on the internet; it’s about being present in the right places. Real estate is often all about location, location, location. So, to optimize your local SEO, you need to have a deep understanding of the local market and neighborhood dynamics. Without a doubt, property buyers are almost always driven by either price or location, with the latter being more often than not the deciding factor. Therefore, ensuring that your site is well optimized to rank for location specific keywords can help to attract the right audiences.

It’s like navigating a complex maze where the prize at the end is your listings are appearing in local search results. It might sound a bit like solving a puzzle, but with some local knowledge and a pinch of creativity, you can make it happen.

Approaching Digital Marketing as a Property Agent

Now, with a bit of creativity, you can make your digital advertising campaigns shine in this vibrant and competitive landscape. Let us share with you some easy steps that even the most beginner of digital marketers can use. 

Keyword Research – Understanding What People Search for:

Image source: Google Keyword Planner

When embarking on your SEO journey for your property listing website, the first step is to understand what your potential buyers and renters are searching for. Think about the phrases they might type into search engines when looking for properties. For instance, they could be searching for “Malaysia homes for sale,” “KL condos for rent,” or “2-bedroom apartments in Penang.” These phrases, known as keywords, are the compass that guides your website’s visibility in search results. Especially in the property industry, location queries are your best friend and you would do well to include them in your keyword strategy. You can even check out specific locations such as “new apartment near Bangsar South” rather than just “new apartment Bangsar”.  

Tools like Google’s Keyword Planner can be your trusty sidekick in this endeavor. They provide insights into which keywords are most relevant and frequently used by your target audience. Aside from that, Google Trends can also be a good tool for you to identify which keywords or areas are especially trending at that particular time. By incorporating these keywords naturally into your property listings, you’ll be making it easier for search engines to connect your listings with the right search queries.

Image source: Google Search Results

Optimize Property Titles and Descriptions – The Art of Description:

Now, let’s delve into the heart of your property listings: the titles and descriptions. It’s essential to craft clear, compelling, and informative titles and descriptions for each property. Think of these elements as your virtual property tour guides. They should provide a snapshot of what the property offers and why it’s worth exploring further.

Aside from that, they also serve another purpose which is to improve Click Through Rates (CTR). Being the only thing that users read on the results page, it is even more important for you to attract their attention either through a catchy phrase or something different from the other listings. 

To enhance your SEO efforts, be sure to incorporate the relevant keywords you discovered during your research naturally into these titles and descriptions. However, be cautious not to overdo it with keyword stuffing, as this can make your content seem forced and unnatural. Aim for a balance that offers valuable information about the property, including its location, features, and price, while seamlessly integrating your chosen keywords. 

However, do keep in mind that meta titles and descriptions have a character limit and longer ones will get truncated, resulting in a broken message. A good place to start is to ensure your meta titles do not exceed 65-70 characters while meta descriptions do not go beyond 160-170 characters. 

Image source: Unsplash

High-Quality Images – The Visual Allure:

In the world of real estate, visual appeal reigns supreme. After all, the first thing a property has that catches someone’s attention is typically the design. The images you use to showcase your properties can be the virtual windows through which potential buyers or renters peek into their future homes. Therefore, it’s important to use high-quality images that do justice to the properties you’re listing.

Additionally, for a seamless user experience, optimize these images for the web. This involves compressing the images to ensure they load quickly on your website. After all, nobody likes waiting for web pages to load, and search engines take page speed into account when ranking websites.

Local SEO – Location, Location, Location:

Given that property listings are often location-specific, local SEO is your secret weapon. This entails tailoring your content to cater to the geographical areas you’re targeting. In your listings, mention the city, neighbourhood, and nearby amenities to provide a rich, location-based context. This helps search engines understand that your properties are relevant to people searching for homes in those specific areas.

To take local SEO a step further, consider creating dedicated landing pages for different areas you serve. These pages can dive deeper into the unique features and attractions of each location, making your listings even more attractive to local searchers. While tedious, this has been one of the most effective ways for you to rank for long-tail keywords and location specific keywords. In fact, most major property listing websites in Malaysia tend to use this strategy, ensuring that they are able to reach out to most property buyers out there. 

Regular Updates – Keeping It Fresh:

Finally, to maintain your SEO momentum, remember the importance of keeping your listings up to date. As properties get sold or rented, promptly remove those listings to avoid user frustration and negative experiences. Updating pricing and property details as needed is essential to ensure the accuracy of the information you provide.

Additionally, consider regularly adding fresh content to your website. This can take the form of blog posts, market updates, or news about the real estate industry. Fresh content not only keeps your website engaging but also signals to search engines that your site is active and up to date.

Pulling it all together

While it may seem intimidating just hearing about all the various challenges that one may face in this industry. However, it is very rewarding if you do it well. Real estate is one of those industries that will always be present, especially in Asian countries like Malaysia where property ownership is highly valued and regarded. As the world becomes increasingly connected, and technology continues to evolve, the real estate sector is poised to harness the full potential of digital marketing strategies. 

Property agents, agencies, and professionals are now adapting to the dynamic landscape by embracing SEO, PPC, social media, and content marketing. The result is a more efficient, user-centric, and competitive real estate market where prospective buyers and sellers can seamlessly navigate the digital realm to find their dream properties. With continued innovation, data-driven insights, and a commitment to user experience, the future of digital marketing in real estate holds the promise of unprecedented growth, enhanced accessibility, and a more vibrant, engaging, and interconnected property market.