Seven easy steps to building a real estate website
The purpose of a good website should be to instill trust, amplify brand awareness and, ultimately, nurture prospects that will later turn into clients. Here are some “musts” for any agent’s first website:
1. Plan Your Course – The initial step in building a website is to first determine whether it’s a necessary measure. Plenty of brokerages offer their agents easy to use and maintain template websites that might better suit their purposes. Agents should carefully evaluate the website options offered to them before deciding to pursue an independent page, examining functionality and intuitiveness, among other things that will largely depend on what the particular agent is hoping to get out of their online presence.
2. WhatShouldICallIt.com – Nearly two-thirds of people will start their online home search using local search terms, which means, unless an agent has a strong brand name known by thousands, the domain should reflect the relevant market. Additionally, buyers and sellers will likely include additional search terms specific to what types of properties they’re looking for, so including a hint to a specialty is another surefire way to draw attention – keeping in mind that your URL should be as concise and easy to spell as possible.
Once agents have an idea of what their domain might be, testing its SEO effectiveness through Google Adwords Keyword Tool (found through a simple search) will help determine how much traffic might be driven to their site. And through additional online applications, like Valuate.com and EstiBot.com, professionals can get a feel for how much that domain might cost.
3. From Header to Footer – The banner at the top of a site is going to stand out, and whether that’s a good or bad thing will depend on the site’s creator. It’s important that agents use their header wisely, including emphasizing their brand – usually through a well-designed logo – and offering a short tagline to sum up their business. Adorning the header should be a selection of navigation links to help visitors streamline their search process.
In the same vein, a website’s footer should be equally well-designed, including additional navigation and social media buttons, as well as contact information and a call to action – something along the lines of a newsletter sign up.
4. Quick Sidebar – Without sidebars, an agent’s site can come off as somewhat barren. One of the telltale signs of a good website is how effectively it encourages engagement. Sidebars are an intuitive way to inspire interaction. There are any number of sidebars, or widgets, a site can have, but for the purposes of driving real estate transactions, some good options will be: a search function, featured posts (if the site contains a blog, which it should), a more pronounced newsletter call to action, recent listings and contact information.
5. A Lesson on Color – More than anything else, when a prospective client first visits an agent’s website, what they’re going to notice is the color scheme. Does it fit with the logo and brand? Does the scheme make sense? Is it appealing to the eye? Those are questions that should already be answered before the site goes live. There is an entire psychology to color that deserves its own book (red implies love and passion, orange, comfort and warmth, etc.) but for starters, agents should stick with choosing complementary colors that fit their existing brand without going over the top. Visitors don’t want to be visually bombarded with a thousand color collage. The trick is to keep it simple and pay attention to contrast (i.e., put dark colored text on light backgrounds and vice versa).
6. Content, Content, Content – The SEO landscape changed with Google’s 2013 Hummingbird update. All of a sudden, instead of focusing exclusively on keywords, the search engine was considering the quality of a website’s content, translating that evaluation into search rankings. But content does more than just drive traffic to an agent’s site. It also helps establish trust in the professional’s abilities, positioning them as both an expert and a resource, which will keep buyers and sellers coming back. Additionally, producing quality content provides agents an opportunity to further promote themselves on social media (i.e., posting blogs and articles that link back to their site).
7. IDX for MLS – Finally, a real estate agent’s website is going to be made discernably better if it allows visitors a direct portal to the local MLS. And to do that, the website will need one of three Internet exchange (IDX) data setups – iFrame, FTP or RETS. Incorporating an IDX might require a bit of coding and, in turn, a professional designer, but it will be worth the time, effort and money. While each IDX has its own merits, RETS is the industry standard and should be used if available.