It's Not Just the Numbers

By Bob Schwartz, CRS, GRI co-owner of

If you have a business and an email account, you no doubt get tons of spam, both through email and phone, promoting various schemes to get more traffic to your site, a listing on a site at extremely low cost, a national directory listing, or even an exclusive ad or web page just for your city or state.

Working with many real estate and legal sites, our clients continuously inform us of these offers that all seem too good to be true. Over a period of one year we have investigated some of these offers and were not at all surprised to find that the chance of getting new business from them was like handing out your business cards at a local shopping mall. Actually, this may not be a perfect analogy, as you might get a new client at the mall!

First, let’s observe the very inexpensive listing in either a national or local Internet directory. We asked one San Diego real estate agent why she was listed in a particular national real estate directory. She replied, "It was just $20 with my picture included.” Our second question asked if she received any leads or direct business from this listing. Answer: "No!" She had been listed with this site for nearly a year.

The lesson to be taken from here is that it's not the cost that is important, but the potential for getting new clients! Almost any high school student can set up an inexpensive, and attractive website 'directory'. Now, if they named it the Jimmy Jones High School Law Directory, not too many lawyers would even consider a $20 listing (unless it was for a school support function). However, slap on a name like The Western States Legal Internet Bureau, and some will most probably say “Well it's inexpensive; it's worth a try.”

Sometimes these sites will proclaim how much traffic they receive. Even though this figure may sound high, here are some facts to consider:

A. Pay no mind to any figures quoting 'Hits.’ Depending on the graphics on a web page, one visitor to a page with 15 graphics, will show as 15 hits.

B. You should ask for the number of 'unique visitors' or 'visits' to determine a much more correct traffic count. Plus, as the saying goes, “talk is cheap,” so be sure to look at some type of site traffic log to verify the numbers. Below is a such a log for our own site,

The above table shows 1,455,803 hits and 58,370 total visits for the month. Keep in mind, numbers can be easily changed before to publication. So, just use this as an indicator in your decision process.

C. How is the sites traffic created? Where is the traffic coming from? So, a site shows you had the 58,000 visitors last month. Impressive? Maybe, maybe not! Look at the actual traffic table below:

For May: 8,170 visits, June: 58,370. July: 10,521. See something wierd? Why the huge jump in June traffic? As an experiment, we tried an offer to have one of our sites pages visited 50,000 times in June. Sure, we received the 50,000 'visits,’ but, were they actual people as the offer stated or from another computer-generated program which 'visited’ the site? Perhaps, someone in Asia received a quarter each time they visited the site. We highly doubt any real people actually visited the site.

Our usual site traffic runs 8 to 10 thousand per month, all arriving from high search engine keyword rankings. This traffic generates a predictable number of sales and a much higher number of free trial software downloads from the site.

D. Don't forget, high traffic to a national directory may not equate to high traffic for your regional business. Many real estate agents and attorneys only do business in their local city. In a national directory, one should confirm how much traffic comes in for your particular locale, as anything else is not going to be meaningful.

So, with the above points in mind, how do you pick a true cost-effective site on which to advertise? The absolute best way is to see if the site has relevant, high keyword phrase standings on the major search engines. As an example, during July 2002, our Los Angeles/Orange County legal directory ( showed these keyword standings on Yahoo (only a partial listing):

Just clicking on the Yahoo Web Pages name will take the interested advertiser to the Yahoo search engine. Once there, fill in the individual keyword phrases shown above in their search box and verify the results!

The second best way to determine website credibility and effectiveness is to look for testimonials on the site or on their sign-up form. Contact these people to verify their results. In this same vein, whether you are a real estate agent or lawyer, look for fellow practitioners in your town who are listed on the site and contact them.

The Internet is tool} for communication and business, but one must use {{sound judgment in evaluating various advertising opportunities. Caveat Emptor is alive and thriving on the Internet.

This material is subject to copyright and any unauthorized use, copying or mirroring is prohibited.


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