First, your message passes through the Internet, a channel with its own challenges for online marketers. Then, the audience on the receiving end of the channel defines what your message means by the actions that they take (or do not take). Your message is not what you intend, but what your audience perceives and acts upon.

So what can you do to make online marketing effective? One key is managing visitor perceptions. In fact, aligning three types of perceptions – personal, peer and credibility – provides a powerful formula to move prospects to take action. Think of these perceptions as a three-point strategy to improve response:

1. Personal perceptions

Personal perceptions are what website visitors think of you and your value proposition. Agents typically spend most of their time managing personal perceptions. The most important success factors include presenting information clearly, specifically, and in the right order. It sounds simple, but if you visit a dozen real estate websites, you will find lots of focus on wonderful agents and brokers, and significantly less information on benefits for prospects and clients.

– A clear value proposition should answer this important question for site visitors: Of all available agents, why should they choose to work with you?

– Use your Web presence to clarify the benefits of doing business with you. This goes back to your unique value proposition … can you do something for the website visitor better than everyone else? If so, make it clear. "Contact me for all your real estate needs" sounds vaguely positive, but it's a weak call-to-action if you want prospects to pick up the phone.

– Many agent websites also have no clear starting point to get visitors' attention, and no reason for them to become further engaged. Interactive marketing gurus Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg call the process of converting prospects to satisfied customers AIDAS – Attention, Interest, Desire, Action and Satisfaction. Jumping ahead to the Action without establishing Interest or Desire means trouble. In marketing, as they say, marriage is better than a one-night-stand.

2. Peer perceptions

Peers may include current and former clients, and other professionals involved in the real estate transaction. Peer reviews and testimonials can be critical to conversion success. A recent study by Deloitte Consumer Product Group found that 64 percent of online shoppers read reviews by other consumers in deciding whether to buy. More than 80 percent of the survey's respondents said reviews affected their buying decision, and a remarkable 98 percent found consumer reviews "very" or "somewhat" reliable.

Adding testimonials can make your website more effective, especially if for newer or less-known agents. Be sure your testimonials are current, brief, and mention specific benefits you provided. "Fred is wonderful" is not as good as "Fred helped me find an affordable home near an A-rated elementary school." Adding client photos can help personalize a testimonial, particularly if that person is well-known in the community. The moral? Do not blow your own horn. Ask your loyal fans to do it for you.

3. Credibility perceptions

Accreditations and association memberships are important sources of credibility. For real estate professionals, these may include the REALTORĀ® design, as well as various accreditations such as Accredited Buyer Representative (ABR), or certified resident specialist (CRS). Also, do not forget to include academic degrees and other licenses and certificates that may help.

To make the most of credibility indicators on your website, be sure to explain their significance. Do not just add an e-Pro logo to your website, explain how that training benefits clients who work with you. Have other academic degrees? Use these on your Web site and in your promotional materials. Prospects may not know what a GRI is, but they are familiar with a CPA or MBA, and may have one of these designations themselves.

Even in traditional mass marketing, when there were three fuzzy television stations and no Internet, consumers controlled their perceptions of marketing messages. Today, consumers have even more control and more options to manage their media experiences. Digital video recorders, SPAM filters, pop-up blockers and do-not call lists are all popular ways to fend off unwanted advertising. To make your marketing messages more successful, check them for perceived value and credibility before sending them out to the world.

For more real estate marketing ideas and insights, visit http://www.eneighborhoods.com