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When the Market Blows: Grand Rapids Pros Suck

By Phil Butler | June 22, 2012

Another #Follow Friday on Twitter leads me back to searching the web for the best and worst of digital realty. And once again, we have run into a familiar snag, the almost total disregard for the web as a real estate communications conduit. Even for agency customers. This week, Grand Rapids, Michigan is the target market. As you will see in the review below, we had to go pretty far afield to find good work being done on the web.

Grand Rapids Real Estate.

Hard At It

When the going gets tough, property professionals need to get tougher, engage more. So far, Grand Rapids' online engagement sucks, look why.

In order of appearance in the Google SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages), Grand Rapids searches for "Grand Rapids homes" ends in a dismal listing of cookie cutter national sites, and a sparse few local agent ones. Grand Rapids Association of REALTORS ®, Trulia, Yahoo Real Estate, Zillow,, Grand Rapids Craigslist listing, and will be left out of this review, for obvious reasons. What remains is, well, you'll see.

Marc Brace put himself up a website, at some point. The Prudential Preferred Realtor, to be honest, has so little to compete with in Michigan, his smiling face and personal details appear quite refreshing when compared to competitors. He did not have to go far to beat out other Grand Rapids agents though. That being said, it's safe to say we have a new champion city for the title of "WORST ONLINE REALTY REPRESENTATION" - Grand Rapids does not even exist folks.

To give the reader some idea how disappointing Grand Rapids is where online buying and selling of homes goes, let's rate Marc's smiling face, in all honesty. He gets a 1 of 10 for being in the SERPs at all. No Facebook to see, or Twitter, blog, limited info, mediocre pictures, any user stopping at Marc's site is apt to pass on by. That is unless they need to move to GR FAST! Here is his website.

Grand Rapids real estate sucks

That was the top position for independent agents folks. At least where searching Google for a house in Grand Rapids goes. Next you would find a fellow named Robert Young via a site domain, Not exactly keyword optimized, this site is in the top 10 SERPs too! Here, the enthusiastic home buyer can:

  • Read Robert's resume
    Contact Robert via a form fill (lead generation)
  • Call his office directly at 616-248-0000 (YW Robert)
  • Read wonderful testimonials about Robert (is this site all about Robert?)
  • And amazingly, find out stuff like utility companies and etc.

Robert, I have never given one of these before, but due buyers should pray I decide to position something above you to knock you and that other fellow out. At Page Rank 1, and Alexa 15 million, I should be able to do that with this post. Grand Rapids Real Estate rates 0 our of 10. If you have to ask why, don't comment for your own good. No image needed. Let's move on.

Grand Rapids Homes Live afforded me some hope, and a bit of wonderment too. Situated just beneath Robert Young's site, Joe Jovanovic of Keller Williams Grand Rapids at least offered a nice image of a fireplace, and even his LinkeIn link to help buyers out. Let's make this painless, for Joe and the reader. Scrolling down like a Wikipedia page to find a sparse LI profile, this does not equal digital savvy, cutting edge house marketing, etc. Joe gets a 1 of 10. Add the Twitter or FB Joe, and get one or two more. Join the real conversation, and we'll offer help for free maybe. Sheesh. Grand Rapids Live, is dead.

Joe Jovanovic website

Next up? Grand Rapids Real Estate Info. Andrew Ingram, who you can find "listed" atop the web 1.0 website, evidently heads up something called Realty Executives Platinum Group? Don't click on the mail link in Google Chrome tho, it won't work in the new browsers. I fact, hardly any of the links will work from the old site. About the best I can offer Andrew here, by way of bones, is: There was a lot of data added over the lifespan of this site. Once upon a time, home sellers and buyers might have found a cottage or two here. Sadly, at Alexa 8 plus million, no one really sees this site anymore. Rating: 0 of 10 (that's two zeros in one review)

Wow. Last in the search results, Mr. Brown Sells Grand Rapids (Bellabay Realty) - Robert Laurence Brown has a BA in Political Science from Aquinas College. He also looks like a very nice man. His digital know how and engagement online for Grand Rapids is - 0 of 10.

Huber Property Group Grand Rapids Twitter

Huber Property Group Grand Rapids Twitter

BUT WAIT! A tweet led me to investigate a possibility for Michigan. On a hunch I followed the link found via the feed of Huber Property Group, landed on their Facebook aspect, then searched their company name. The company having just joined Facebook apparently, has a decent website standing up, SM buttons in place here. So it appears, Owner Clay Huber, and his team, may just pull Grand Rapids out of the dungeon of homes sellers worldwide soon. Maybe.

I won't go into analysis of Huber's SM presence, suffice it to say he has beaten all the others by light years even out of the gate. Form fills, mediocre images, and limited media (stock images etc.) put his online branding somewhere in the middle, nationwide. We have now analyzed a few hundred key markets, for the reason being - the industry needs more excellent players. Unfortunately, so few are willing to make even small sacrifices. Huber at least, is venturing to help broadcast client values to the web. Looking at his SM effort, tied to the site, the rating should be 6 of 10 for now. For Grand Rapids, just in my view, this is tantamount to Huber being King Leonidas in 300. Let's hope he can hold of the Persians around him.


This one is not so difficult to break down for you. In fact, I am almost insulting the reader by summarizing here. If Grand Rapids Realtors had any conception of how they might be perceived, their brands harmed, all would make some minimum of improvement. Just linking their Twitter to their sites, if nothing else, would be superior to apathy. So far as I could find easily (and this is one of the keys) only Clay Huber even has a clue. That said, no one should have to hunt for a professional's own website. Grand Rapids sucks where finding a face to trust in real estate goes. This is my view.

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.
  • 13 comments on “When the Market Blows: Grand Rapids Pros Suck”

    1. Phil ... I thought of this poem as I read the thoughs from your negative mind.


      I watched them tearing a building down,
      A gang of men in a busy town;
      With a ho-heave-ho and a lusty yell
      They swung a beam and the sidewalk fell.
      I asked the foreman: "Are these men skilled,
      And the men you'd hire if you had to build?"
      He gave a laugh and said: No indeed!
      Just common labor is all I need.
      I can easily wreck in a day or two
      What builders have taken a year to do!"

      And I thought to myself as I went my way,
      Which of these roles have I tried to play?
      Am I a builder who works with care,
      Measuring life by the rule and square?
      Am I shaping my deeds to a well-made plan,
      Patiently doing the best I can?
      Or am I a wrecker, who walks the town,
      Content with the labor of tearing down.
      - unknown

      1. @Greg,

        I am sure many would call me a wrecker, others might say I am the measuring sort. I have taken care, tho it might not show in these analyses. I see that you evacuated Grand Rapids for California. I wish you luck and good things there. As per my other reports, I hope my suggestions for genuine engagement met with notice.

        As for my critisisms, and poetry, we have:

        “Life has no meaning a priori … It is up to you to give it a meaning, and value is nothing but the meaning that you choose.” - Jean-Paul Sartre -

        You choose to see me as a negative person, to perceive my just critiques as without value - for transparent reasons, perhaps? I am sorry you see me this way, but I cannot change that. Did you take the time to see the building I did? Ah, but then I did not clearly portray each little league game a Realtor attended, coached, donated hot dogs to, etc. Oh, we are talking about relative use of social media and the Web in a profession tho.

        Anyhow, I think the correct approach might be to think about if my criticisms are correct or not. Make the argument, if you can.

        I think - as Oliver Wendell Holmes once said; “there are no innate, intrinsic differences among a human being , a baboon or a grain of sand.”



        1. Phil ..

          It’s like the old Psychiatrist toast. When everyone is scrutinized and analyzed, who’s left to analyze the analyst?


        2. Update: The comment reply was directed as has removed the content on the page mentioned and linked to below. He has also cut loose with even more intelligent discourse, as his latest approved comment suggests.

          Comments for this post remain open, but will exclude Mr. Greg Alkema henceforth under our TOS. Thanks.

          For those of you who are interested in Alkema's 007 Real Estate activities, here is a PDF outlining at least one of his Investigative REALTOR® Services - there are more.

          The REALTOR® has moved his offices from Grand Rapids to Roseville, California. If the address listed on Mr. Alkema's Real Estate site is correct, and if Google Maps has not misplaced this address, the image below is the Sunny California abode of the former Michigan Real Estate Cabballero.

          California offices of Gregory V. Alkema

          Point well taken on this one Mr. Alkema. I will ever more use the appropriate REALTORS® - as you suggest. I personally apologize to every agent in the world for that. Sincerely. Point in fact is, however, that you yourself used the simplified term REALTOR in a brief to the Michigan Supreme Court. And I quote directly from here:

          When I first became a REALTOR® in the 1970’s, the Grand Rapids Board of REALTORS® ran a simple ad in the Grand Rapids Press seven days a week. The ad read:

          "REALTOR: A name that protects you."

          A bit if the same thing perhaps? I dully note you almost always apply the trademark terms tho. And on the same page of your site with the American flag, superimposed star field with swastika. Hmmm.

          As for insulting agents in this article. Their best advice is in the article, an apology is due their clients for having missed an entire world of possibility. Nobody's perfect, but accepting mediocrity - apologizing to is as you suggest.

          This ain't gonna happen Mr. Alkema. Ever. Wake up and do better.



    2. Hi Phil,

      Thanks very much for the critique. I agree the site is dated as it was created in 2004. I have since added a custom WP site listed above and am currently in the middle of transforming onto another WP based platform as to have the integrated blog and custom "indexable" IDX to assist in search engine ranking.

      The site you critiqued above has served me very well over the years. It has always been a very good lead generator for me. While it is optimized for "grand rapids real estate", it has always been a solid performer on the search engines (google) for many keywords. It currently ranks 3 to 4 position for its main keyword and still gets lots of traffic and leads.

      However, I totally agree with you that an update is well overdue and that is what I am currently working on as time permits!

      Thanks again.

      Andrew Ingram
      Realty Executives Platinum Group

      1. @Andrew, Thanks for taking your time to come and respond. As I mentioned to Rob, it takes a big person to admit a mistake. And too, I should note that keeping up websites is tantamount to babysitting too, even more, outright raising a child. That said, the biggest reason I so negatively critiqued all these sites was not actually the site optimization or design. While this is a huge factor, your brand to the world in fact, lack of engagement via social channels is more critical for agents these days.

        I know, so many Realtors have ramped up their SM profiles, tried this and that, but the point is not instantaneous leads, nor get rich quick SM marketing either. The point is, if I hire you to sell my house, even if i want to buy one, on what can I be assured will take place? Somebody puts a sign up in the front yard (a website)? An agency snaps photos (usually crappy ones) of my house, and lets Trulia or Zillow chug out another listing?

        I don't have to rant on, I expect you already have your views on Twitter and etc. Fact is, I probably was even more skeptical than any real estate person in the world early in Twitter and Facebook development. But did you know of the 23 top PR CEOs in the world I have interviewed, every single one was engaged via Twitter? That's right. I tweeted Ronn Torossian and Melissa Waggener, or tweeted PR peeps subordinate to Margery Kraus or others, and did a Q & A within a day or so. Michael Kempner, CEP of MWW Group, tweeted back within 20 minutes. Now.

        I know you do not know these people, the relevance seems passive. I will tell you this though. I could personally engage any real estate potential in the world with a Twitter account, let alone one who reads Google News, has a Facebook presence, uses the web at all. LinkedIn, Flickr, YouTube, all these places have been endeared to hundreds of millions. And real estate agents broadcast Bob and Carol's house, then head to the local club for cocktails. You can't deny you've seen that Andrew.

        So, the question should be; "Hey, how do I speak to the property public?" I hope all that made sense, I assure you guys my time costs exactly what yours does. I hope I helped some.

        SM Pioneer, believe it or not

        1. Hi Phil, Just to clarify, I am very active on all of the social media channels. I am definitely aware of the importance of engaging using the various mediums... including Pinterest and Instagram now.


          I have my personal FB page as well as two business pages. One for real estate and another for condos.

          All of these are displayed prominently on my site.

          So I completely agree with the importance of social media. Unfortunately the website you critiqued is old and dated and like I mentioned, I am currently in the process of changing and updating it. My other website (blogsite) is much more up to date.

          Thanks again for your time.

          Andrew Ingram
          Realty Executives Platinum Group

          1. Now, as I said. There's how one communicates and makes more rich the conversation. While Andrew is not exactly my old pal Brian Solis, he is making a substantial effort at working out SM for his clients and business. Thanks again for taking time Andrew. Not many, would do so. To be honest.


    3. Hi Phil.

      Rob Young here.

      I have a busy day ahead of me so unfortunately I'll have to keep this brief. Your critique is dead-on in a lot of ways. My website no-doubt has cobwebs. Except for the custom integrated IDX portion of the website, I coded the rest of it myself via MS FrontPage many years ago. While it no doubt needs a major overhaul, there was a day and time when it was arguably one of the best agent websites in our market (at least in functionality). I was the first agent in the area to have custom integrated IDX, I was on the first page of Google, Yahoo, and MSN for years. I had non-cookie-cutter unique content such as the differing millage rates and how to calculate property taxes, etc, that I was often complimented for by visitors. It has generated in excess of 25,000 leads for me since its inception, and I closed many deals as a result. It absolutely have its place in time. There, now I feel better about myself. 😉

      Having said this, I'm fully aware of how dated my site is currently and that it is not helping my professional image. It has been on my to-do list for too long and this article today may be the push I need to make it a priority.

      One of the reasons my personal website has been neglected for so long is that I find personal agent websites to be less and less relevant as sites like Trulia and Zillow become more and more dominant. They have multi-million dollar budgets, and though I could make a site with some unique local content that was more aesthetically pleasing, integrated with social networks, etc, I would have a difficult time competing with these sites in terms of their overall functionality and dominance. As agents we have a limited amount of both time and monetary resources, and although I think having an effective web strategy is important, even having a dominant local agent website no longer guarantees a significant flow of income. Despite the fact that my website has gray hair, I'm one of the top agents in this market. I find that many of the top producing agents in our market have relatively low web presence (at least in terms of their personal website). I think like me, many are finding that a killer website is not a prerequisite of doing a lot of real estate sales or serving our clients well.

      This is an interesting topic, but I'm afraid I'm out of time. Thanks for your critique. I plan to address this over the next few months. If anyone has suggestions, comments or strategies they would like to offer, I'm all ears. Please email me from the contact page on my lousy website.


      1. @Rob,

        First off, thanks sincerely for taking the time to come here and comment. I have been at this a while, and I can categorically attest to one thing I have learned in about 22,000 such posts. People that readily admit and adapt, like you have, are the three percent that actually do what they say they will. And, they are almost always the ones that can. That said, if I ever hear of anyone needing a house in Grand Rapids, you can rest assured I will tell them to contact you Rob.

        Phil Butler
        Editor - Everything PR News
        Editor - Argophilia Travel News
        Contributor or author: The Epoch Times, Silicon Angle, Search Engine Journal, RealtyBiz News, Travel Tweaks, The Successful Blog, Sexy Social Media, and about two dozen others.
        Former Author: Mashable, ReadWriteWeb, Sitepoint, Profy.
        CEO - Argophilia Travel
        Partner - Pamil Visions Public Relations
        And - Super Dad and Husband, friend to lots of folks.

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