Thank you, Canada! We have reached the 1-Million mark in the number of visits to Century21.ca. I'd like to share with you the incredible journey and learning experience that helped us get to this landmark moment, two and half years in the making.
Going back to pre-redesign, in November 2007, Century21.ca had very little content - It was essentially an online brochure. We wanted to move away from that and towards the creation of a compelling Internet destination for real estate buyers and sellers in Canada.
Also, part of our web strategy was the development of exclusive online marketing tools for CENTURY 21 Canada System members. The goal was to provide Century 21 Sales Professional with an online marketing portal that would eliminate the need to go out and pay for web designers, hosting, marketing material and other services to promote their clients’ properties.
We were ambitious. We set ourselves the ultimate goal: to be at the top of Page 1 in search results offered up by Google and other major search engines to Canadians looking for information about real estate.
To achieve this, we selected the web development company, WheretoLive.com (WTL), because of their experience both in building real estate sites and in Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Ed Kohler, their director of strategic Internet marketing and development, worked with the WTL team to ensure that the site would be as "Google-friendly" as possible.
Content Counts...a Lot
For SEO to work well, we needed good-quality content - lots of it. We needed to build Century21.ca in such a way that every single realtor and broker across Canada (7,700 at last count) could contribute content to the website.
The folks at WTL are continuously working to make our content publishing systems faster, more powerful, and even more intuitive for users. For example, we rebuilt our photo uploader, added a tagging system for properties, community and neighbourhood websites and the ability to embed videos into blog posts and agent websites. Now the agent simply fills out pre-set templates, using our Web Wizard tool, and uploads their digital snap shots of their listings (which they can display as full-screen images on their Century21.ca sites).
I'd like to quote our partner, Ed Kohler, here: "Attempting a project that relies on 7,000+ individuals for content creation is not for the feint-of -heart! It's a tremendously difficult thing to do. Yet the rewards can be tremendous for those who have the leadership to pull it off."
Breaking the Language Barrier
A year ago, we wanted to determine which agents and brokers were taking advantage of Century21.ca and which were not. One group we identified as non-participants were Chinese-speaking brokers and agents. (Chinese dialects are the third most spoken group of languages in Canada right now.)
So, in early 2010, we launched a Chinese-language version of Century21.ca (an industry first in Canada) - joining the existing English and French versions of the site. Our decision to offer such a large volume of content in Chinese was driven by the changing demographics of the cities and towns across this great nation.
Early Adopters of Social Media
CENTURY 21 Canada was ahead of the curve in the world of social media marketing - using the conversational "web 2.0" channels to talk to customers, prospects and each other within the industry.
In the early days of 2009, we charged into this area with a full social media strategy, encompassing:
- The blog, Talk 21 (in French, English, and Chinese)
- YouTube channel
- Twitter stream
- Facebook page
- LinkedIn profile
Sites that help solve consumer's problems or entertain people are generally the most successful online. In the case of Century21.ca, we try to solve people's problems - i.e. find a home, find an agent to help sell a home, find a career in real estate, or find tips on home ownership.
We also know that people like browsing homes for entertainment value. They'll only do this if the experience is fun and the content is awesome. Our participation in social media has definitely augmented the strength of the online presence of CENTURY 21 Canada.
It's All in the Numbers
We are thrilled (but not surprised) to reach the 1 Million mark of visits to Century21.ca. The month prior to our new site's existence - November 2007, we saw 92,000 visits to Century21.ca. In the month of February 2010, that number of visits reached 850,000 visits. Today, we have finally met our target and reached 1,002,202 visits between February 13 and March 15, 2011.
You could say that clicks speak louder than words.