4 Things That Can Beat Zillow in Search Engine Rankings

26 . 10 . 14

If you are going to try to get real estate leads through search engine rankings you are going to find yourself up against Zillow and Trulia.

They have dominant market shares online in almost all major cities — ranking number one to three on the majority of profitable real estate keywords. They spend millions of dollars in search engine related advertising and marketing. Their traffic and revenues are increasing:

  • Record Quarterly Revenue of $66.2 million, up 70% over first quarter 2013.
  • Record quarterly and all-time traffic, and April 2014 hit another record of nearly 79 million monthly unique users on mobile and Web (up 50% year-over-year).

Your chances of competing successfully against this juggernut will be improved if you understand the reasons for its overwhelming success.

  • They are highly disciplined in using their dominant brand to ranking in search engines through: extending users time at their site through forums, market data, connecting agent to buyer conversations, etc.,
  • They have amazing apps.
  • Genuinely useful tools for the average consumer

I could probably fill this page for all the right things they do. But their Achilles’ heel is their consistency.  They are always predictable. It helps to win battles when you can anticipate the enemy’s strategy.

They can be beaten. But there’s hardly a secret sauce to beating them in the three major search engines. You have to market a better product.

Here’s my basic strategy:

  • Build better, more precise market data.
  • Better way of telling — and showing — stories about your community. Have a first-person, active voice.
  • Better search experience — focus on giving better results of listings.
  • Solid Link building strategies backed by remarkable content in your site.

Here’s some parts of an email I sent one of my potential clients about competing with the likes of Zillow:

  • Create a Distinction: Producing remarkable content and having people find it is perhaps the most important factor in converting online leads to clients.
  • Think long-term, but work consistently towards that goal.Don’t let up for more than a month.
  • Digital marketing should be treated as an investment expense not advertising — like setting a new brokerage at the busiest part of town.
  • Be creative! And take risks. One of the biggest advantages we have is we know our area better than them. They can’t scale to our level.
  • Target long-tail keywords that are usually more profitable.
  • Comprehensive local SEO.
  • Tell a story. And find ways to do it in remarkable ways. Consistently.

This is basically just an introduction. More details, strategies and examples on this topic…in future blog posts



My Darling Digs: Why Business Thinking is Not The Answer

16 . 09 . 14

Reno Tahoe Digs

“All nonprofit organizations must be governed by performance, not merely good intentions… In the social sector, as in business and government, performance is the ultimate test of an organization. Every nonprofit organization exists for the sake of performance in changing people and society… “ – Peter F. Drucker

I read Good To Great, by Jim Collins, almost five years ago. I haven’t read much business-themed books after that. It’ll take a lifetime for me to understand and live that book’s core findings.

Good to Great was a massive bestseller, selling four million copies and going far beyond the traditional audience of business books.  What caught my attention was the level of research Jim Collins and his team went through to get to their conclusions:

“Collins used a large team of researchers who studied 6,000 articles, generated more than 2,000 pages of interview transcripts and created 384 megabytes of computer data in a five-year project”.

Not too long after the publication of Good to Great, Jim published a ‘monograph to accompany Good to Great.’  He wrote it especially for the social sectors.

Of course, in reading Collins, you are bound to bump in to Peter Drucker’s teachings — one his business heroes, who strived to make business leaders see the community as the responsibility of the corporation.

That hit me. This country through my local community has given me so much and greatly shaped me the last 10 years.

Those were the days when I seriously started thinking about  Reno Tahoe Digs.

I had the idea when driving through my city — smack in the middle of the Great Recession — I saw rows and rows of commercial spaces empty. Many of those spaces used to house local businesses I knew and loved.

I thought that if some of them just had a little bit more help on the marketing side — attracting a few more handfuls of loyal customers in the process — maybe, just maybe, these local stores would have a better fighting chance to weather the economic storm.

I am at the tail end of my first full year on making my darling digs a priority (I started tinkering with it a few years before).  I am past the honeymoon stage, but can honestly say I am more motivated to work on it than ever before.

But there’s many things to work and improve. First, getting the right people to volunteer and more importantly, I have to do a better job making clear of what I need from them. And what the organization expects of them.

I learned I can’t beg for volunteers — it needs to be their decision to join and theirs alone.

There’s pages and pages of things I learned and need to do. But the bottom line is “getting better than last week”. Leaning from mistakes and correcting them.

Drucker’s reminder to the social sector for leaders to embody “the Spirit of Performance” by exhibiting high levels of integrity in their moral and ethical conduct; focusing on results; building on strengths.

Committed to doing the right thing and to getting the right things done.

Where I am on My Journey

08 . 09 . 14

Gentleman With Brains Tom West PICTURED: Tom West, Soul of a New Machine

Data leads to better experience.

Now I understand why Google search is not only the best search engine on the planet but it’s one of the most successful human inventions in history. It takes years and countless dollars to acquire empirical knowledge on a given field, it then takes at least three times that amount of time to really know what to make of the data.

My digital real estate marketing model has improved since ’07 when I stumbled upon an idea — have real estate leads come to me, instead of looking for needles in a haystack.

But, how?

The past seven years has been a bachelor, um, master’s degree, on learning how to make money on the real estate online world.  I can’t say that I haven’t loved it.  To my delight, regrets have been few and far in between.

Some things I’ve learned:

  1.  You don’t need a lot, but having a revolving capital at the launch of a new website sure makes life easier. Double your expense/investment projection.
  2. *Ideas can take a few years before it becomes a reality. Be patient with yourself.
  3. “Not everything worth doing is worth doing well.” I learned this from the Pulitzer price winning book, **Soul of a New Machine.

(*My idea of see-the-neighborhood-even-if-you’re-10,000 miles away took me three years from idea to #1 in Youtube. Here’s my favorite:

**Here’s the plot. Sorry, I can’t resist:

The book opens with a turf war between two computer design groups within Data General Corporation, a minicomputer vendor in the 1970s. Most of the senior designers are assigned the “sexy” job of designing the next-generation machine in North Carolina. Their project, code-named “Fountainhead”, is to give Data General a machine to compete with the VAX computer from Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), which is starting to take over the new 32-bit minicomputer market. Meanwhile at the corporate headquarters at Westborough, Massachusetts, the few remaining senior designers there are assigned the much more humble job of improving Data General’s existing products. Tom West, the leader of the Westborough designers, starts a skunkworks project. Code-named “Eagle”, it becomes a backup plan in case Fountainhead fails, and then the company’s only hope in catching up with DEC. In order to complete the project on time, West takes risks: he elects to use new technology, and he relies on new college graduates (who have never designed anything so complex) as the bulk of his design team. The book follows many of the designers as they give almost every waking moment of their lives to design and debug the new machine.)


Last week, while on a pleasure trip to San Francisco, I came across a hip-looking real estate marketing office and when I inquired further, it turns out this was the office that was offered to me 5 years ago to lead.

Back then, the owner had a different business, and he was doing really well, but he wanted to expand to “real estate” marketing of luxury condos from an Asian country, as the biggest opportunity for new clients was in Northern California. Through a common friend, I was referred.

It was a crossroads time for me: a plum job with car and apartment benefits, commission, monthly wage vs. barely making it, but learning this internet real estate business stuff.

Wild guess.

When I was sitting at their couch, looking at their schnazzy brochures and *branded high rise condo towers for sale, strangely enough, I didn’t feel an iota of regret for not taking their offer. (Maybe I am also insane.)

(*I saw so much’ brand names’ attached to selling the condos — ‘Versace Furniture’, ‘Paris- Hilton-inspired Club’, that sort.. — I thought I was zapped into Rodeo Drive for a moment there.)

It took me years to really be confident that I can make a real living out of this. I am still paranoid that maybe all of this is a sham. But nowadays, it’s mostly “productive paranoia”. I don’t think I would’ve gotten to this point without some irritatingly, rough lessons along the way — and lots of small failures.

But sticking it out and not quitting does play a huge role in eventually finding a good, sustainable business model.

From now on, I will be working on this site more — blogging, doing  interviews, building tools, reaching out to other digital marketers.

I can’t wait.


Reno Tahoe Digs for Progress is GOOD challenge

03 . 04 . 14

progress is GOOD challenge


I totally fell for Progressive’s “Progress is GOOD challenge”. I stumbled upon it this morning as I was working in Starbucks. I opened the “starbucks browser” with the latest announcements..and saw the link to the challenge. Thought Reno Tahoe Digs — my darling organization (website is in BETA stage) could maybe get some free press to spread the org’s message.

About the Progress is GOOD challenge.

We’re looking for innovative and forward-thinking individuals with unexpected stories who make progress with their work. You don’t need to own a company with 100 employees–you don’t even need to own your own business. What counts is your story: Help us inspire others to support progress and drive our world forward.

Are you or someone you know making progress in creative ways? Submit your story today.


The reward if we win?

” A Custom GOOD video and a feature on GOOD.is”

Wouldn’t say NO to a nice, FREE, cool video. Hope we win….


Reno Tahoe Digs Logo





Our Story in Pictures

21 . 11 . 13

About GentlemanWithBrains.com

Just finished the About page. Who thought it took terrible hours to write about a fairly young company?

Fees Gentlemanwithbrains

Was easier than I thought. Talking about fees and services was actually pretty satisfying, knowing that all three of our services are guaranteed.

digital real estate marketing strategy

The GentlemanWitBrains way…Here’s our strategies in creating remarkable real estate websites.  That was actually a pretty fun experience. Tedious, but fun.

gentlemanwithbrains.com "As Seen In"

We shared past articles in top real estate marketing that have featured us in the past.

And the pursuit of what we do not yet know.

And the pursuit of what we do not yet know.

Pursuing the unknown…Getting ready for official opening day.

Gentleman With Brains .... Coming soon.

20 . 11 . 13

About gentlemanwithbrains.com

We should have started this years ago…but never gotten the nudge to make us go over the hill. Well,  a few weeks ago there was a start-up conference at the local university. I wanted to volunteer and meet some local tech start up junkies — but what do I have to show for? I needed a site. And build the site we did.  It’s almost done…