Why Your Real Estate Agent Website Sucks and How To Fix It
Most real estate agent websites suck. Period. 95% of them are template bought, have poor IDX systems, and don’t generate any leads, and offer little to no value to the consumer. I cringe at most sites, and quite honestly it’s not as hard as you might think to dominate a local market on the web. Now let me warn you, that dominating local search on the web aka “your digital farm” doesn’t immediately translate into transactions, but what it does do, is give you instant authority when you are sitting down with a client. In other words, when you are sitting down with a client, and he or she asks:
Q: “What makes you special versus Joe Shmo down the street?”
Your response will be:
A: “Thank you for asking. 98% of all buyers begin their search on the Internet. If you look up (NAME OF CITY) Real Estate Agent you will see my name and website on the first page of Google.”
🎤 Mic drop. Instant credibility. Doesn’t matter what your age is. Doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in the business. That’s the power of being on the first page of a search query.
The whole purpose of your website is to make it so attractive that they come back. Your online competition isn’t Joe or Jane Blow. Your online competition is Zillow, Redfin, and all the big franchise websites. These companies spend millions of dollars a year to get eyeballs on their sites and invest a lot of effort into the overall experience for the consumer. They actually care about the user. Why? The longer the user stays on their sites the more valuable their advertising spaces (aka Zillow premier agent spots) are, and for the franchises the more valuable their lead distribution is.
You can advertise with Zillow and get leads that are very expensive. The model does work, but most agents don’t have the budget to pay for the advertising.
You can join a Mega-Team who advertises with Zillow and distributes the leads to his or her buyers agents, typically add a 50/50 split I recently wrote an entry about the benefits of joining a mega agent team. In short, you have the benefit of working leads, albeit at a lower commission split, without all the overhead.
You can create a website that dominates hyper-local real estate search. It’s actually easier than it sounds, and when you focus on these micro markets, the competition gets thinner.
For instance, when a buyer does a search for a home in Los Angeles, he or she will be very specific and precise about the town, neighborhood, burrough that they want to live in. Many agents want to brand themselves for broad area, when in fact they should be going after the micromarkets. In many ways this is a lot like the old school traditional farming that many real estate practitioners have grown up with. Traditional real estate farming techniques teach us to start out with a small neighborhood and to repeatedly make contact with the members of this “farm” via mail, phone, email, and now through social networks. I refer to this as e-farming. The foundation of your website should be designed with this in mind.
It is my humble opinion that you SHOULD NOT buy a template based website. These companies that sell you these sites will pitch you on “lead generation”, low price, convenience, and plug and play. I will admit that some of them look good enough to present a professional image, but these platforms give you little to no options to modify the sites, thereby limiting the abilty to optimize them for search engines. These real estate web providers will argue that their give you the ability to create blank pages using html coding – but honestly, do you really want to learn coding? I didn’t. (Coding can be outsourced at a moderate fee that I will share in a separate post.)
I am a big WordPress user and am going to recommend that you utilize WordPress as the platform for your site. It easily customizable and is almost an industry standard.
What do you need to offer on your site that Zillow cannot? Hyper local content. Zillow is going to crush you (and me) on every level when it comes to real estate content. They’ll have articles on design, architecture, color palettes, and much much more. Where you can beat them is on a local level for every neighborhood you want your expertise showcased on. While they’ll have the public information available on EVERY home in your neighborhood, that won’t include content on the school district, community activities, farmers markets, blocks with the greenest lawns etc. This is your secret weapon-and yes it will take effort, but it will be worth it. This is how you will earn your badge as local expert.
All I Need is an IDX Feed. Wrong.
Your IDX, and quite frankly my IDX, isn’t robust or strong enough to keep the visitors coming back. I’m sorry. Concede now. There are better Multi-Million, even a Billion Dollar platforms. Zillow will crush both you and I in terms of properties as they get unlimited feeds from thousands of real estate boards, agents, and even consumers who want to sell their home. This is not the battle you want to fight. You will need a strong enough and user friendly IDX to keep the user browsing, should they be home shopping or comping out their home, but the user experience will never be as fluid as Zillow’s site or the franchisor’s master sites (and I’m not talking about the franchise template sites agents get for free or $99.00 a year). Your $99 one ain’t gonna cut it buddy. Sorry. Not sorry.
But there’s hope.
One trick is to have pre-set pages with very specific home searches or, as it goes in SEO, use long tailed search phrases. In other words, if a consumer was searching the phrase “Spanish Mansions in Beverly Hills.” you’d have a fighting chance of being ranked as the search phrase is much more specific, and more importantly, it demonstrates user intent. I’ll cover user intent later on and how important it is. You can get even more specific and use a phrase like “Cheapest California bungalow homes in Pasadena”. Again, these searches are much more specific and while the keyword research will indicate that fewer people are searching these phrases, that also means less competition and more serious home buyers specifically looking for a certain type of property. One of my favorites, if you haven’t noticed it yet, is to have a “Top 10 Most Expensive Homes in XX city” page.
Another trick is to have a community map page. This one will take effort but will be worth it. Using My Google Maps you can create maps with all the local businesses on a Main St. for instance. Google, of course, loves it when you use their properties on your site and these maps are easily embeddable and can be shared. Reach out to all business owners on a specific street ala “Main St.” and let them know you are creating an online community map dedicated ONLY to the businesses on that street FOR FREE. Include photos, reviews, virtual tours, and videos in your maps. Virtual tours are big and Google now offers something called Indoor Street Maps. We offer free Google Indoor Street Map setup to any business 2000 square feet or under. As a courtesy we’ll place these tours on our community Google Map, and will help upload it to the business owners Google My Business page and Google Maps Listing.
Sounds like a lot of work Paul. It is, and it’s worth it.
Blogging & Vlogging
The last trick is the tried and true blogging and vlogging. Both of these are very effective when it is specifically about the community. When you’re blogging about the latest fall trends for interior design, you not only have to go up against Zillow and their team of writers, but you now have to battle HGTV, Home Depot, & Inman to name a few other online publications who also have writers pushing out content of similar categories fighting for the same eyeballs you are.
I’m not trying to discourage you. I’m just telling you to pick your battles. Home Depot isn’t going to write an article on the home with the best Halloween decoration on Mockingbird Lane, but you can and your intended audience is more likely to hear your message as it applies to them. Be hyper local and specific. This will make your site more of authoritative in the eyes of Google and show up more often in specific city searches.
Here is where I’m going to lose some of you. You will need, at bare minimum, a :
- Facebook Business Page
- Google+ Page
- Yelp Business Page
- Apple Maps Listing
- Twitter Page
- Pinterest Page
for every city you want to rank in. That’s right. For every city. My suggestion is outsource this. There are high school kids who love social media and can create these pages for you in a matter of hours. Egghead SEO is my go to marketing agency and can set these up for nearly nothing, considering the time it will take to learn how to set these pages up correctly.
These social links MUST appear on your page as they make your page legitimate. Google isn’t going rank a page that seems like a scam. Scam artists aren’t going to go through all this trouble to set up all these social profiles. These social profiles in the forms of icons or links MUST be prominently displayed on your site.
I mentioned it earlier, but Google loves when you use their content like Google Maps, YouTube, Google Trends, Google News, and gulp-Google+. The more you can find ways to incorporate embedded content from these Google properties the more Google’s bots will love you, and the longer the user will stay on your site. The longer a user stays on your site-the more valuable it is deemed in the eyes of the Internet Gods. Adding videos and blog content that is more than 250 words is a sure fire way to keep people on your site longer-so long as it’s good content. The quicker someone “bounces” from your site, the higher your bounce rate. Sites with high bounce rates don’t rank well.
What value is your site truly offering? What can they get there that they CAN’T get anywhere else? More often than not it will be your content or your service. I had to think long and hard about this as a real estate practitioner. Truth is, they can get home evaluations anywhere on the Internet now so me offering it on my site isn’t of any significant value. Local news and content is where you will win.
I’ve taken it a step further. One of the things I do is offer all local businesses a free 3D Virtual Tour that they can embed on their site and embed on Google Indoor Street view FOR FREE. I have been including a 3D virtual tour of all my homes as part of my marketing strategy and have become very proficient at it. Local businesses can benefit from my free 3D tours as it :
- Gives the web user an inside look at their establishment
- Keeps the web user on their site longer
- Keeps the web use on their Google Map Business profile longer
- Increases the chances of the web user visiting their location.
- As a real estate practitioner it benefits me as I meet more members of the community and ultimately, that’s what this is all about.
I can go on and on about this topic. If you ever need advise on your site or a free audit of it feel free to email me at paul@REHcorp.com.