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When Dimitris Georgakopoulos and Michael Monteiro launched Buildium LLC in 2004, few firms offered online property management. Now it’s offered by about a dozen vendors.

But Quincy, MA-based Buildium is still holding its own, growing its web-based property management product by 10% to 15% increases in subscribers per month, the owners say. Georgakopoulos credits the product, niche marketing and maximizing Internet search.

“It’s hard to say which of those things is responsible for which percentage of our growth in business. But the money we invested on search engine optimization was well spent,” he says.

The challenge for any small business owner is finding ways to stand out from the competition. And for Internet-based businesses like Buildium, that means harnessing the power of search engines.

Websites with first page rankings in the major search engines attract the most qualified visitors, industry experts explain. It’s the Internet equivalent of a great location–a business so easy to find that it generates a steady stream of new traffic.

Of course, even a business in the best location will fail unless there’s market demand for the product it wants to sell. So before they promoted it, Georgakopoulos and Monteiro adapted their product to increased competition and changes in the real estate market.

Buildium was designed for landlords, but evolved to a tool for small and midsize property managers. “We moved up the food chain,” he explains.

Buildium’s software is now targeted to managers of 100 units to 1,000 units, and priced according to the number of units. The manager of a 150-unit property, for instance, pays $75 per month or $800 per year.

Landlords with fewer properties don’t need such an extensive application and the largest–properties of 5,000 or more units–are generally served by Santa Barbara, CA-based Yardi Systems Inc., Georgakopoulos says.

Buildium refocused its product, revamped its website and hired a search engine marketing firm. “We were looking for a company to partner that could help us with our SEO to improve our rankings without breaking the bank,” he adds. They hired Submitawebsite, a Scottsdale, AZ-based company offering search engine marketing and placement solutions.

The objective of search engine optimization is to achieve high natural search engine placement for relevant keywords or keyword phrases. SEO is a hot topic on the web and the focus of a growing numbers of businesses.

Georgakopoulos says Buildium’s search rankings “have steadily improved in the past year.”

Andrew Wetzler is president of MoreVisibility , a Boca Raton, FL-based company. The firm is among five search engine marketing/search engine optimization cited for excellence in the Feb. 2008 JupiterResearch Search Engine Marketing Agency Constellation report.

Wetzler says real estate companies should take advantage of both search engine optimization and search engine marketing.

“SEO–also known as organic or natural search–is the process by which a site is designed to be aligned with the algorithms of the search engines. Key ingredients include robust content, search engine friendly architecture and effective linking strategies. Each major search engine has a paid component to their search results as well. This involves paying for site visitors on a ‘per click’ basis,” he explains.

Before starting any search campaign, however, business owners should consider several variables. “These include keyword selection, geography or where do you want your listing to show up, bid strategy or how aggressive do you want to be, as well as your budget,” Wetzler adds.

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