Search shows Santa what we all want for Christmas

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To introduce myself, my name is Sean Wyld and I work for Google as the Industry Manager in their Local & Classifieds team in Australia. I’ve been reading Business2 for the past couple of months and am excited about sharing some insights into the role ‘search’ plays in the real estate industry. For my first post, as you probably gathered from the title, I thought I’d start with something seasonal.

During this time of year, most people are more focused on Christmas shopping then visiting open for inspections and with the last weekend of auctions for the year only days away, most real estate agents are preparing to put their cues back in the rack for the seasonal slow-down over the Christmas period.

However as we all know the Internet never sleeps, being available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. So with 87% of Australian home buyers/sellers now using the Internet as part of their research process (Nielsen Australian Property Report 2008), the question of how Christmas affects their usage of the Internet is something which all real estate agents should be considering.

With search being the number one upstream provider of traffic to real estate websites, along with being a tool used by 69% of active home buyers/sellers throughout all stages of the home buying/selling process (Nielsen Australian Property Report 2008), examining search trends over the Holiday period is a good indicator of the affect Christmas has on potential buyers’ and sellers’ browsing habits.

As you can see from the above graph, while there is definitely a lull in people searching for real estate agents in the days immediately preceding Christmas, the drop isn’t as dramatic as one might have thought, with a lot of people still researching buying or selling a house. Perhaps more interesting however is the spike in searches for real estate agents between Boxing Day and New Years.

So with real estate agents offices closed but buyers and sellers still active over Christmas and New Years, it poses the question… how can real estate agents continue to engage with existing and potential clients during this period?

The answer to this question is to remember that your website is an extension to your physical office and that just as the Internet is open for business 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year, so is your website! I was surprised this morning that when I visited a number of local real estate agent websites, I couldn’t find one which had their opening hours over Christmas displayed clearly.

It’s important to remember that with your office closed but potential clients still active, that it’s more vital than ever that your website contains all the information which you would normally have given to clients in person or over the phone if your office was open. See below for some of the ways you can ensure your website is ready for the Christmas period.

  • Ensure your opening hours for the Christmas period are prominently displayed on the front page of your website
  • Ensure you set expectations with existing and potential clients about realistic response times for phone & email enquiries over the Christmas period. This includes ensuring that you have an out of office message activated on your email.
  • Include content on your website about what people should expect from the real estate market in 2009, along with tips for buying and selling etc
  • Email Christmas Greetings along with your opening hours etc to your email list.
  • If you are using Google AdWords or Yahoo Search Marketing etc to drive traffic to your website, try using Christmas & New Years specific ad text.

I’d love to hear from anyone who has any other tips to add to this list. Lastly, for anyone who’s interested, the above graph was generated using Google Insights for Search, a great free tool which at the risk of blatant self promotion you can try at

I hope everyone has a great Christmas and a happy New Year. Cheers, Sean

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  • Peter Ricci
    Posted December 18, 2008 at 4:04 pm 0Likes

    Welcome aboard Sean, we hope to see more articles like this from you in the future 🙂

  • craig pontey
    Posted December 18, 2008 at 4:13 pm 0Likes


    thanks for these comments

    So what next with Google………..

    I havent heard from anyone yet……….

    2009 will be fun and interesting

    Regards to all Merry Christmas

    Craig Pontey

  • Robert Simeon
    Posted December 18, 2008 at 4:13 pm 0Likes

    Greetings Sean,

    Nice to have a Google commentary at B2. Any insight into what Google is proposing for the Australian real estate markets? Time frame when the direct Google upload facility will be available to real estate agents?


  • Peter Ricci
    Posted December 18, 2008 at 4:15 pm 0Likes

    Geez you guys are quick 🙂

  • Robert Simeon
    Posted December 18, 2008 at 4:17 pm 0Likes

    The early bird catches the Google 🙂

  • Mark Illingworth
    Posted December 18, 2008 at 4:32 pm 0Likes

    Hi Sean,
    I read you email showed them the stats and recalled all of my staff back from leave to cater for the Internet numbers.

    Well bugger me, the staff came into my office, beat the crap out of me and went home. They said something like 2008 was a tough year and were tired and needed a break !!

    I now have to have a forced holiday through bruises.

    Where did I go wrong Sean?

  • Ian Bellmore
    Posted December 18, 2008 at 4:50 pm 0Likes

    Mark –

    Maybe the break will do you good. Might give you some time to re-read Sean’s post. Pretty sure he didn’t suggest you keep the office open over Christmas.

    In fact, I thought his tips were geared towards getting the best out of your website while your staff can’t be at the office to convert the hording masses.

    Get well soon,

  • Trevor
    Posted December 18, 2008 at 4:57 pm 0Likes

    “……. the Internet never sleeps, being available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year”.

    True, but I you would be silly to take your laptop down to the beach and I still prefer to read a newspaper in the loo, rather than have a computer there:-)

    On a serious note, Christmas closing hours should be shown somewhere and an agent’s website is the perfect place, so that’s good advice Sean.


  • Glenn Rogers
    Posted December 18, 2008 at 5:59 pm 0Likes

    Hi Sean,

    What you say is very true, some agents think nothing happens over the Christmas period but that isn’t the case, usually the agent who is available during this time will do deals as there isn’t much competition around.

    Some buyers and sellers prefer to be active during this time as it’s the only free time they get to do something without the distraction of their work and other commitments.

    In short make sure you have some staff available over this period and advertise it on your web site, make sure that staff responds to any inquiries immediately, that always impresses people and usually there will be business done it happened that way for me many times when I was still an active agent.

    The web is an absolute must in this situation

  • Glenn Batten
    Posted December 19, 2008 at 10:34 am 0Likes

    Welcome aboard Sean!

    Thanks for the tip as it was something we overlooked as well.

    Your probably not going to give us a heads up on a date for Real Estate and Australian Google Base but seeing a Google Manager for Classfieds getting involved in an industry blog is surely a good sign the time is fast approaching. 🙂

  • Peter Ricci
    Posted December 19, 2008 at 10:42 am 0Likes

    I have noticed a lot of my clients posting information on their blogs about trading hours, great tip!

  • Robert Simeon
    Posted December 19, 2008 at 4:24 pm 0Likes

    It certainly was a great tip as I posted our messages immediately on our homepage. Now all we need is a heap of expats with cash 🙂

  • Sal Espro
    Posted December 19, 2008 at 4:41 pm 0Likes

    Sorry to be the old wet blanket, folks.

    However, despite Google’s attractive power (no pun intended), with respect to our industry, nothing it has done to date with Classies (Cars, Real estate, Employment), imbues me with any hope that apart from being able to say they can do ‘it’, ‘it’ will be fitted some place to seismically benefit the RE industry (vendors and purchasers) . It is one thing to have technology, it is another to be able to implement it effectively! (And my measure will revolve around using as the standard comparative in terms of lead generation per property across the Australian market’s volume).

    Google needs some focus on marketing services.

    Geez, this Xmas I’m hoping for a cure for my grumpiness!

    Sal 🙂

  • Rhino
    Posted December 21, 2008 at 7:51 am 0Likes


    I tend to agree with you as the Google model is currently based on sending users places rather than retaining users on Google to find the information.

    Google are likely to offer only a real estate search engine which will show one image, the property headline and a few property features. This isn’t that great for property seekers as it means they are constantly redirected to agent’s websites.

    Some agent websites are great others are slow and useless. Also, not one website is the same (apart from the template sites the major software providers roll out) making it hard for users to compare properties.

    Do users really want this? They may get the variety of properties because it is Google but it really sounds like a pain in the neck to sort through properties. REA already have 95% of properties listed in the market and because they have all the property data on their website it provides uniformity of data making it easy to search and compare.

    I think real estate search engines like Google.Base, Enormo and DotHomes are good for agents to market their properties for free but they will always need to list their properties on real estate portals like REA, Zillow and Trulia because of the value they provide property seekers.

  • Greg Vincent
    Posted December 22, 2008 at 11:29 am 0Likes

    Great tip Sean…another thing I would recommend agents be mindful of at this time of year is to take a note of any listings they have with Christmas Decorations displayed in the photos.

    Whilst having the Christmas Decorations in the images can look good over the Christmas period, they will also act like a time & date stamp for your listings.

    It may not seem like much to consider now, but in late January early February it will make your listings lose their fresh appearance.

    As they say, a picture paints a thousand words & an online browser reads so much from your images for your listings.

    Simply make a note to change any of these images in the New year.

    Merry Christmas to all at Business2…Cheers Greg:)

  • maxallen
    Posted December 31, 2008 at 12:44 pm 0Likes

    yep, I have never been able to understand what some agents think Google are going to be able to do thats going to knock the portals around… a real estate ‘googlebase’ that leads potential vendors and purchasers to ads.. gee sounds like a portal, a portal owned by an even larger company who are even further away from our market!

    Also I would suggest such a product would be looked at fairly harshly by the ACCC.. Google owns search in Australia and using that dominant position to own the portal market MAY not make the boonies at ACCC happy.

    Another point is Australia has one of the most mature Portal markets in the world. Why go up against that when Google make a decent amount of cash from the portals paying them for traffic..

  • maxallen
    Posted December 31, 2008 at 12:45 pm 0Likes

    oh yeah, but Seans points are 100% correct.

  • Craig
    Posted January 1, 2009 at 8:51 pm 0Likes

    Maxallen, you are correct Google won’t create a portal. But they can easily tweak their search products which could have a detrimental effect on the portals.

  • snoop
    Posted January 2, 2009 at 11:03 am 0Likes

    Google wont be the disruptor the industry thinks it will be.
    I dont know what all the fuss is about.

  • Greg Vincent
    Posted January 8, 2009 at 11:27 am 0Likes

    Sean, I know it’s a bit off topic, but I was wondering…Do Google spend anything in offline media or do they simply rely on PR to do that for them?

    I know they probably don’t need to advertise on TV, radio, newspapers etc. but do they spend money in offline media at all?

  • Craig
    Posted January 8, 2009 at 11:54 am 0Likes
  • Greg Vincent
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 6:26 pm 0Likes

    Thanks Craig…interesting find Google’s “Lets Take It Offline” Blog

    It looks like Google are going to change the advertising landscape again.

  • Sean Wyld
    Posted January 12, 2009 at 4:33 pm 0Likes

    Hi Greg,

    Google aren’t huge offline media spenders. The offline media which it has done tends to be market specific depending on the country. For example, they’ve done a fair bit of TV in Japan.

    As far as i’m aware, in Australia most of the focus to date has been on community based initiatives and events such as Doodle for Google and Developer Day. There’s also been a little bit of print advertising for AdWords in trade magazines.


  • Greg Vincent
    Posted January 15, 2009 at 7:46 pm 0Likes

    Thanks Sean, Did you see that Tom Kunz, president and CEO of Century 21 the biggest real estate network in the world has openly announced last week that they are moving away from TV advertising & are allocating there spending online instead?

    Here’s the interview ( He announces it about 3-4 minutes in).

    Interesting to hear what he says about the Global & Local markets too.

  • Robert Simeon
    Posted January 16, 2009 at 1:48 pm 0Likes


    I read this announcement with interest as there is obviously a move away from generic advertising of the major franchises. Although some never appear to learn given that today some still ban individual offices from hosting their very own websites in this day and age. No secret that these franchises struggle to understand the basic fundamentals of online.

    Already in 2009 we are seeing vendors cancelling print campaigns until such time that they see anecdotal sales evidence in the marketplace. So there is a very strong possibilty that the market will officially open in 2009 with minimal print and all the new properties being online – which will be an industry first!

    Agency focus this year will be much more dependent on their very own online operations just that for some it is too late to play catch-up. The global economic crisis is fundamental in already changing consumer influence across the globe where what was previously the norm may not be the case in 2009.

    It is a lot easier for consumers to identify the IT savvy agencies over the pretenders. With the property markets set to officially open in 2009 after the Australia Day weekend – there are a lot of questions being asked and head scratching. Just that purchasers will be online to “read all about it.”

  • Greg Vincent
    Posted January 16, 2009 at 3:04 pm 0Likes

    Robert, over the internet, real estate agents don’t have the benefit of non-verbal communication and the ability to show their well trained scripts & dialogues in full swing.

    The key to a successful career in 2009 is about a real estate agencies ability to build trust online.

    I recently read this in the book ‘The Speed of Trust – The One Thing That Changes Everything’.

    “Trust is a function of two things: character and competence. Character includes your integrity, your motive, your intent with people. Competence includes your capabilities, your skills, your results, your track record. And both are vital.” Steven M. R. Covey

    As you said Robert, “It is a lot easier for consumers to identify the IT savvy agencies over the pretenders.”

    I agree. A real estate agencies competency or lack of competency online will have a resounding affect on their success. For some the internet will act like an accelerator for others ‘the brake’.

    That’s the transparent nature of the web.

  • snoop
    Posted January 21, 2009 at 9:07 am 0Likes

    I think the probelm with print is you dont know if it worked or not
    you know how many property views and enquiries you get online.
    Print seems more a vanity thing esp in the higher priced suburbs.
    I used a service called sell my castle ,the differnce in vendor pid advertising quores/suggestions from the three different agents was mind boggling.
    If i have a quality listing i dont expect to pay for the advertising.
    one agent quoted 800 for listing on portals!!!!
    Needless to say he went straight to trash.

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