Selling Land

Staying Competitive in Today’s Land Brokerage Business

Staying Competitive in Today’s Land Brokerage Business

Before I was a land broker in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri, I was an NFL football player.

As a player, I was used to working with people who had the same goal in mind. And being part of a team, getting to that goal was easier with the support of my fellow players.

When I started in real estate, my company was a one-man show. That was a foreign concept to someone used to working with others for a collective goal.

As I’ve grown my business over the years, I’ve been able to enjoy a team dynamic again — not only among the team members in my company, but also in the land industry with my peers.

Together, we have the power to make an impact on the buyers and sellers we do business with. And as individual businesses, we’re engaging in marketplace competition. That competition includes watching what other brokers are doing to see what’s working, and putting the best ideas to work in our own businesses.

For years, we’ve been emulating those ideas in our own ways. But now it’s becoming harder and harder to do that on our own. To borrow a football term, this is the time we have to be willing to make adjustments in our respective brokerages.

Our business is always changing.

It takes hard work, and a desire to keep finding and using the right tools out there to better our brokerages. I’m reminded of something an offensive line coach told me years ago that has stuck with me: “Either you’re getting better or you’re getting worse. You never stay the same.”

I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately as my company — and yours, too, no doubt — has been working hard to differentiate itself in the online marketplace. As we’re constantly striving to make ourselves more visible to sellers in need of our services and buyers looking for our listings, I also keep coming back to another thought.

Sure, you can be the Baltimore Ravens, but if you don’t have a league to participate in, there’s no NFL. It’s the league that gives your team the power. But today, the face of the league is changing.

The operational and marketing costs associated with small business ownership are skyrocketing. That’s making it nearly impossible to remain competitive against larger, well-branded companies with established online presences and bigger marketing budgets.

Too many in our industry are faced with the inevitability of joining with larger brokerages or continuing to lose market position — or even worse, be forced out of business.

The power lies in the Internet.

The Internet has revolutionized how and where prospective buyers find the properties we’re offering for sale. A novelty five or six years ago, a real estate website is a must-have today for every broker, and every brokerage.

Just look at the numbers. According to the National Association of Realtors, 92 percent of all real estate buyers start their search online. What’s more, consumers are doing more and more business with companies that can be found on page 1 or 2 of their Internet search results.

The Internet is the power in our business. It’s the portal through which our prospects and their money flow. It’s where you must be for clients to find you.

Unfortunately, it’s becoming too expensive and competitive to remain on your own without the support of your own affiliates — your own league.

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

Google, Yahoo and Bing have solidified themselves as the Big 3 in general online searches. Similarly, when people search for land for sale on the Internet, they’ll inevitably end up on one of the powerhouse land marketing sites.

The four land sites that generate the most traffic — and therefore generate the highest rankings — are,, and

Here’s the reality check: Ninety-nine percent of you aren’t going to have your listings show up in a “land for sale” search ahead of these leading national marketing sites. The cost — in dollars and time — to keep up with SEO and related technologies is prohibitive for most land brokers.

Keep in mind, too, that it’s one thing to put your listings on these national marketing sites. However, each of them is first and foremost an independent marketer — not a collective group of land professionals.

Their concern, and rightly so, is with the quantity of listings on their sites, and not necessarily with the quality with which the listings are showcased, or the quality of the connection between you, the broker and your prospective buyers.

The real power, and the potential to survive and thrive in this business, lies within us. As land professionals, we can join together to leverage our experience, absorb some of the escalating costs, and be recognized as a force on the Internet.

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About the author

Aaron Graham

Aaron Graham is the President of National Land Realty (NLR) and the Managing Broker for NLR's Midwest Office located in Gretna, NE. Aaron oversees the activities of NLR's licensed associates in Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa & Missouri, and he also works closely with NLR's Broker/Partners across the United States. Aaron entered the real estate business in 2004 after retiring from a successful NFL career where he played for the Arizona Cardinals, Oakland Raider and Tennessee Titans. Since that time, Aaron has brokered over $250,000,000 of land transactions throughout the Midwest, mostly in the farm, ranch and recreational market sectors. Aaron has earned the esteemed designation of being an Accredited Land Consultant with the Realtors Land Institute (RLI), which only the best in the land business achieve. Aaron serves on the Board of Directors for RLI and also as the Vice-Chair on the Future Leaders Committee. Aaron was awarded the 2015 "Rising Star Award" from RLI in March 2016. He lives in Gretna, NE with his wife, Kim, and their 4 children, Cooper, Baylen, Landrie and Nash.


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  • If we as brokers focus on what the consumer needs, we’ll keep in mind that old phrase, “all real estate is local.” There are few buyers looking at the entire US for a property, but the “Big 4” you mention are the sites where many buyers start. Most buyers are looking for a specific area or region – many times one with which they’re already familiar. The listing broker knows the most about the properties they represent and the quicker the consumer can get to the most accurate information, the better they’re served. The clutter on the Big 4 sites, makes it difficult to zero in on just the right properties to consider.

    To help the consumer better find the right property, we need to think about and include those terms in our websites that people will be searching for when they type a phrase into the search engine. That way, there’s a better chance that the listing broker’s site will show up on the first page search results and the buyers can get to the right information about the right properties in the right location for them.

  • Rod, You are exactly right. Our websites have become our brokerages’ storefronts, and if we can’t get buyers and sellers inside of our “stores” to see all we have to offer, we are missing the opportunity to not only sell our listings, but to sell the unique qualities and services we each have to offer. The fact of the matter is the Big 4 will continue their dominance in web rankings, and the individual brokerages whose sites fall next in line will undoubtedly reap the benefits in the future. Associating key word phrases with not only our individual listings, but with the services our brokerages offer, is critical in order to have them show up in search engine results.

  • The internet is the great equalizer for those of us in the land business. But now everyone has access to the same spaces and only has to pay $50 month for each listing site. So again we are forced to find ways to differntiate ourselves from every other “Platinum member” land seller out there. We at AlaLandCo are constantly trying to stay ahead of the curve, and that has led us into spaces that aren’t jammed with every other broker in Alabama. Separating yourselves from the pack is essential.

  • This is my 39th year in the land business and as I see it this thread is right on target.

    More than anything else the internet is about the ability to quickly get information about exactly what we want. Land is a great example. No longer does a customer go from company to company to see if they have land listings. They go to the web and find all the land that is for sale and then decide what they want to see. Sellers expect and demand the person who lists their land be a specialist.

    Aaron is right about the teamwork. For years we did our own graphics such as it was,created marketing materials and did everything else their was to do. The pace is so fast and expectations are so high that we must find another way to do those things so we can focus on listing and selling. We cant be the whole team anymore.

    Differentiation is the key today. There is so much available that sellers and buyers don’t just expect us to do what everyone else does anymore. They want that extra step of exclusivity that clearly and quickly differentiates one company or individual.

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