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Digital Realtor Roundup: Cleveland, Ohio

By Phil Butler | July 26, 2016

The Browns, the Indians, and the Cavaliers mentioned all in one sentence leads one inextricably to one US city. Cleveland, the host of the recent Republican National Convention starring billionaire presidential candidate Donald Trump, it's slated to be the next boom town. Curious as to the city's real estate businesses, I decided to take a look at the digital footprint of the best Realtors on the shores of Lake Erie. Here's the rundown.

Cleveland's Steel Arch Bridge

Cleveland's Steel Arch Bridge

As in previous assessments of agent online prowess, I use Google as a gauge to determine essentially, whether or not a real estate company places its priorities. A lot can be said for the successes of some agents, in some cities, by making the best use of all the marketing tools possible. And the digital billboard is key these days, as anyone knows. That said, agencies have a responsibility to sellers in particular, so an online footprint is vital to expanding the potential to sell any particular property. In the list below, I have excluded major brands, and what are known as "cookie cutter" sites/results from chains like Coldwell Banker.

Howard Hannah

Clean, interactive, and easy to understand - it does not get better than this

Howard Hanna

The real estate company established in 1957 by Howard and Anne Freyvogel Hanna, is actually a chain. The founder actually still plays a role in the company headed by his son, Howard W. “Hoddy” Hanna III. The story of the company is fascinating, a real "American Dream" tale of hard work, diligence, and growing with the times. But I am here to assess how well the company has engaged in the digital age. The fact I am listing them first says a lot. For the rest of Cleveland is absent from the first page of a Google search for "Cleveland Real Estate".

Outside HH's SEO predominance, a cutting edge website with very good user tools shows an investment in what works. As yo can see from the screenshot provided, I have done a Cleveland search and discovered a really nice user interface that allows buyers to drill down and find the right property. As for social media and engagement, I was also delighted to find HH rocking Facebook (8,000 plus fans) as well as Twitter (3481 followers). I say"delighted" here because the team at Howard Hanna is not just "on" social media, they clearly hired someone who knows how to operate too. This is important for obvious reasons, but most of all for how HH clients are best served (see above) by such engagements. The company maintains a LinkedIn and a YouTube presence as well. Here's their assessment:

  • Estimated visitors per month – 522,000 overall – this puts HH in the top 1% of realty sites
  • Facebook – 8740, with multi-daily posting, full images, and contextual topics
  • Twitter Engagement – Joined 2009 – 3481 followers – tweets a multiple times daily
  • LinkedIn – 11802 followers overall –
  • Google “Mobile Friendly Test” – Passed, the site is rocket fast too

This real estate company is one of the best on the internet. While I bent the rules a bit allowing HH passed my "cookie cutter" criteria, it is clear the company uses organic value rather than ad-centric laziness. I cannot say enough about what they do for their clients. I give Howard Hanna a 9 on a scale of 10 (a first).

Progressive Urban

The Progressive Urban site has a nice aesthetic, but amost nobody sees it

Progressive Urban

Moving down the search engine pages we find a local firm, Progressive Urban Real Estate Inc. Founded back in 1986, the company makes one big mistake in its signboard from the get go. The "about" page contains not an inkling about who runs this show. Unlike the Howard Hanna example above, the Progressive Urban web entity is devoid of personalized branding. In the end, this is a huge PR mistake where credibility and trust are concerned. Bottom line, even this nice site will not convert owing to what I suggest.

  • Estimated visitors per month – Hundreds at best – Alexa 3.75 million usually equates to owner visits only
  • Facebook – 192 fans, no engagement, and without even a button on the website
  • Twitter Engagement – Joined 2010 – 310 followers – a placeholder essentially
  • LinkedIn – Yes, with 4 followers - the BIC of Progressive seems to be a Yoga Teacher?
  • Google “Mobile Friendly Test” – Passed

I give Progressive Urban a 3 on a scale of 10 for somehow landing on the first three pages of Google, and for at least having a decent website. Sorry, it's the best I can do.


Russell Real Estate Services

Moving past the Keller Williams types and a score of "wanna be" Trulias in Cleveland, finding this company under Progressive Urban puzzled me. With most real estate brokers opting for the lazy method, and just buying ads, the search engine results pages (SERPs) are cluttered (littered) with paid results. Russell Realty is a tad more useful and personalized that Progressive is, but only marginally. The ugly website has functionality, but finding out who owns this outfit requires some effort. According to the agent roster, nearly everybody in Cleveland works for this company (insert tongue in cheek).

I'll admit that Howard Hanna had given me hope for this northern Ohio city, but I guess I was being too optimistic.

  • Estimated visitors per month – 38,000 plus – which shows Google SEO is not what it should be
  • Facebook –  479 fans, last post was in May
  • Twitter Engagement – Joined 2011 – 88 followers – "Ugh"
  • LinkedIn – Yes, with 635 followers
  • Google “Mobile Friendly Test” – Passed

Russell Real Estate Services has failed to take advantage of decent branding and positioning. I give Russell a 4 on a scale of 10 on the strength of their LinkedIn fans alone.

How sad is this? Cleveland must be dying

How sad is this? Cleveland must be dying

Google Maps

And I thought Pittsburgh and Dallas were doomed digitally! No wonder Howard Hanna has such a nice digital presence, clearly they make all the money selling real estate in Cleveland. After searching through page 5 of Google for a local agent, I decided to swap search terms to "Luxury Cleveland Real Estate" - Nope, that did not work either. "Cleveland Properties" availed more ads and Trulia results too. So I thought; "Google Maps, maybe I can find more agents using maps!" Eureka! Cleveland Real Estate Pros can manage my properties for as little as $79 dollars a month! Ruffin Real Estate Company's website would not load, but they have 42 pals on Facebook! McMullan Realty Inc. does not have a website listed with Google.

Ahh, but Chestnut Hill Realty does have a website. I only had to spend 15 minutes expert searching to find them, and it. How amazing is this? Facebook and other key marketing funnels in place, but somehow nobody registered with Google for business or? Why these guys even have an Instagram (see above), this is a first for me, I will admit. How is it that Cleveland, Ohio Realtors are so invisible online? Secondly, what mysterious force prevented CHR from being visible? I tried Bing search, but only a company called Bassichis Real Estate showed new. Then I used my Windows Phone to search - no luck again! By now the reader has caught on to why Howard Hanna owns Cleveland property transactions. Or at least I hope you have.

The obvious is sometimes not so obvious I guess. Real estate people are by far the most resistant professional group I know of where change is concerned. I would simply call the industry "lazy" except for the fact I know so many hard working agents who go the extra mile. Stupidity is also out of the question, but ignorance must be considered a factor, but not the main one. There has been ample time for professionals to know the necessity of digital ads, marketing, and PR too. So what is the big rub as far as nationwide mediocrity in using mobile and the web?

Realtors are penny pinchers to a flaw. At least this is my experience beneath the very high end luxury practitioners. While Howard Hanna has obviously invested in the spectrum in their markets, most others only claw briefly at the fringes of digital success. My question for these agents is; "What about your client's preferences?" What happens when home buyers go full mobile? They already are, you know. Don't take my word, read the 2013 study by Realtor (PDF). 90 percent of home buyers research online, and 89% hunt via mobile. We've reached the point where some agencies should decide to either close up shop altogether, invest in a correct presence, or join full on the Howard Hanna type entities. Leads. Where are yours coming from, and how many good ones are there?

As for Cleveland, it is my opinion that somebody could overtake HH, or at least be second for less than $50 grand. I wonder if this spurs anyone to action.

Phil Butler is a former engineer, contractor, and telecommunications professional who is editor of several influential online media outlets including part owner of Pamil Visions with wife Mihaela. Phil began his digital ramblings via several of the world’s most noted tech blogs, at the advent of blogging as a form of journalistic license. Phil is currently top interviewer, and journalist at Realty Biz News.
  • 2 comments on “Digital Realtor Roundup: Cleveland, Ohio”

      1. Hi Joe, thanks for stopping by. Yes, I saw in the ad results, as well as in the organic results too. Maybe I did not make it clear enough, that national entities, the "Trulia" type results, and "cookie cutter" local entities would not be included. If I am not mistaken, Redfin was launched in Seattle back in 2006? I'll tell you what though, if you guys would like for me to do a property startup evaluation to include Redfin, I would be happy to?

        Anyway, Redfin goes against my purposes in these articles, which is to help agents "balance" out their marketing funnel, and to understand how brand is built. Please let me know if your CEO is willing to comment on the value of Redfin, as compared to direct approaches and the mega-agencies like Zillow etc.

        Oh BTW, if Redfin would big higher a bit with Google, the ad results would migrate over to page one.

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