Being an agent is hard work. As busy as we are at Atilus, and as hard as all of us think our jobs are at times – in talking with our Real Estate Agent clients I realize that agents operate on a whole other level. Just last week I sat down to lunch with one of our best clients to review progress on their digital marketing and learned more about the personalities, personal problems, and small details an agent has to go through – all to make a sale.
Whether it’s helping a former client house-sit, coordinating flights, or recommending a remodeling company, Agents, like many businesses, often coordinate things that might seem to be unrelated to their actual role. But, in juggling all of these duties it helps you to build your business and reputation.
So, we’ve written this article to help remove at least ONE duty from your plate… what do I do online? There is a SEA of misinformation out there, a ton of products, many of which are less than worthless – instead zapping agents of their time and hard-earned money.
The most important thing to understand is that your audience is overwhelmingly online. First let’s address millennials (which are about to overtake baby-boomers) in terms of size and collective buying power:
When asked if they [millenials] planned to purchase a home in the next year, 18–34-year-olds were twice as likely as 35–54-year-olds to say yes (Google)
So this generation that (mostly) grew up in the digital age, has grown into a tidal wave and is about to crash into the housing market. Again this is counter to the local sentiment we see more broadly in Southwest Florida, but allows you – the smart agent – to capitalize on this coming siege.
Next, let’s address boomers and their Internet use:
The 50+ age group is the fastest growing demographic online… [and they spend 50% more time online than watching tv – on average 19 hours/week!] – Immersion Action
Pretty self-explanatory. So let’s recap:
Both major purchasing segments (boomers & millenials) are both ONLINE and use the web (and primarily search engines) to help them make home buying purchasing decisions.
Real Estate Agent Web Design Tips (10)
1) A Great Website
The biggest difference between agents that are killing it and agents that aren’t is immediately visible if you visit their website. Although there are a lot of details that will be hard to include here (and are a little technical) your website should be where you center most of your marketing efforts now and for the foreseeable future. Why? Well, it’s 2015 and more than 90% of purchasing decisions are researched online – people do searches, find products, vendors, services, and then visit, contact, and buy.
Don’t take our word for it though, according to a recent in-depth study on the real estate market:
- Half of people begin their formal home search 6–12 months in advance, with about three-quarters starting within a year of the purchase.
- Two in three researched prospective agents extensively online prior to working with them.
Nearly 70% of your customers will research you EXTENSIVELY before you EVEN HAVE A CHANCE TO LOOK THEM IN THE EYE. As a consumer this is fantastic news. It means we can make informed decisions, and research and decide at a pace that makes sense for us. As a business, and in particular a business where SO MUCH of that research is done ONLINE and via search engines – it means you MUST concentrate on communicating to your prospective customers through your website as well as you do in person.
You are the best judge of whether your site does that… questions to ask yourself to help ensure (outside of anything technical a company like ours can recommend):
- Who is your prospective customer(s)
- For each kind/type/location of customer – does your website answer their most common questions? IE for sellers or listings – do you address your process, your unique selling proposition, your past-results?
- Is your site clear and straight-forward?
- Does the overall look and feel of your site match your own personality?
- Does your site communicate your own personality and approach to real estate?
2) Your Website’s Navigation
One of the KEY elements to a successful website is navigation – or that big bar that helps direct visitors to the pages that interest them. Time and again, on all projects, and particularly on real estate agent websites – we see major problems with the navigation. One of the most important tasks we perform when working with a client is sitting down and working on a complete “sitemap” of their site – what major sections, sub-sections, and pages should the site contain?
When creating a sitemap we’re simply combining common-sense, your clients/customers questions, and a little bit of Internet marketing know-how. For most local agents navigation probably should look something like this: home | about | communities (with sub-sections for every community you have experience or serve) | news/blog | and contact. Very simple! Here are some quick tips on navigation:
- Keep it Simple Stupid (KISS) – Do not get fancy… we’ve seen a lot of businesses and agents obscure great content behind playful titles in their navigation. Don’t do this – your audience will not understand. Use conventional titles for the elements in your navigation. IE “about” is better than “the motto.”
- Users Don’t Mind Drilling Down – Users do not mind clicking into sections that make sense.
- Bucket – Bucket groups of pages into sections that make sense. Remember you can link to relevant pages in your content as well.
- Use Keywords (sparingly) – For major sections you might have a tendency to label things to help your rankings – IE “about the best real estate agent in bonita” – don’t do this. In some cases it makes sense, but more generally it does little to help your SEO and more often than not just clutters up the screen and makes it that much more difficult for your users to find what they’re looking for.
This is a simple one, but it’s a basic principle for every site we develop – feature calls-to-action. Direct users attention, and actions – by prompting them. For example, if you want them to contact you make sure it’s clearly on your website, on buttons, and in content. If on a particularly page you’d like them to sign up for your newsletter on the real estate or housing market – ask them to do so. It’s a very simple addition that you can probably add to your existing website RIGHT NOW that can have a profound effect on your results.
Some agents get this, some agents don’t. Imagery (and to a lesser extent content) is key in the real estate industry. Our best agent clients have photographers on speed dial that produce great imagery. If the above stats are to be believed – and they should because we wouldn’t link out to liars – then your buyers are forming an immediate impression of you as an agent through your website, as well as the properties you are featuring or listing.
- Have great photos
- If possible also produce videos of each property – there are some easy ways to put them on your website in a search engine friendly format too
- Make sure your own pictures (you, your office, etc.) are also up-to-date, clear, and attractive
Atilus has worked with almost every IDX service provider out there. From our perspective almost every vendor out there causes us to pull our hair out, but it’s a necessary evil. The most important thing to understand about IDX and the one we wish more agents understood is that:
NORMAL IDX INTEGRATION DOESN’T HELP YOUR WEBSITE
In fact, in some ways it hurts your website.
If at all possible, we’d love more agents to upload their own listing on their website (somewhat duplicate work) for various reasons, but because you don’t have much time, there’s another solution – integrate IDX on your website in a search engine friendly manner. This requires some coordination between your web company, your website, and your IDX provider – but once implemented can boost traffic tremendously. There are some caveats however:
- Like IDX in general, your website will be limited by your IDX service provider
- IDX providers DO go down, causing issues with websites
- IDX Integration is often time-consuming and expensive (initially)
6) Ignoring Mobile in Real Estate Web Design
As recently as June of last year mobile phones accounted for nearly 30% of all searches related to buying a home—up 19% since 2013 (Google). With mobile accelerating we could see 50% or more of searches done in the home buying process on mobile devices. Do not ignore mobile as an agent! Mobile is the fastest growing technology in the history of man – growing MUCH faster than even the personal computing movement of the 80’s and 90’s.
The most important things to keep in mind in terms of mobile:
- Google may limit your site in the future if you’re not mobile-friendly
- Mobile-friendly takes on 2 major forms. 1) Mobile Sites – when a website serves up a separate version for mobile users. 2) Responsive – when a websites code is developed to change based on a users’ screen size.
7) Building Out Your Referral Network (Online)
Building out a referral network is a huge part of every agents’ business. Ideally (and for some) the dream is to operate 100% on referrals alone. A large part of this is building out your own referral network – those resources that you can recommend (and rely on) for your own buyers and sellers. Great inspection companies, contractors, re-modelers, interior designers, etc.
We encourage our clients to feature these relationships and partnerships on their websites as key-differentiation, and helpful additions for their prospective customers. But an even larger advantage comes if you’re able to get your partners to link back to you. Reach out to all of those that you work with to see if they’d be willing to do a quick write up of you as an agent and feature it on their own website with a link back to your website.
Additional Helpful Research on Referral Network:
On top of that, [home buying] is likely to happen around other significant moments. For example, people searching about real estate listings are 5x more likely to search about planning for retirement and 4x more likely search about finding child care. These consumers are dealing with a lot of change, and it’s in these moments that shopping habits and brand loyalties shift dramatically. People will buy things they’ve never shopped for (or even knew existed). In this way, big decisions can trigger many smaller ones for years to come. While real estate brokers should care about home buyers, so should CPG brands, luxury retailers, financial services companies and more.
8) Coordinating Digital & Physical Marketing
Another big area we see that needs some help is coordinating digital and physical marketing. If you think of your website as your digital retail location or office – think of all of your marketing and advertising as ways to get them into the door. But, getting your clients in the door is half the battle. You want to make sure to measure the effectiveness of each campaign you perform in order to maximize what works best (and is cost-effective) and minimize what doesn’t work (and is expensive in terms of time and money).
Some simple strategies to coordinate your digital and physical marketing:
- Have mailers direct to sub-sections of your website
- Have mailers re-direct to pages on your site through tracking tools like “bit.ly”
- Record in your CRM where your clients came from
- Make sure messaging on your website and in your marketing pieces is consistent (colors, text, images, etc.)
If you build it, they will not come. Hell, if WE build it they will not come. It’s only through a sustained marketing and advertising effort that you will get visitors, traffic, leads and sales. One guaranteed way to (eventually) get traffic is to continually add to your website content about the area, about homes, about the buying process, etc. but not everyone is passionate or capable of generating tons of helpful content on their own.
This is where digital advertising comes in.
Although there are a TON of options out there, one that time and again has shown a return for our Real Estate clients is Google AdWords (and other forms of Pay Per Click Marketing).
10) Growing Your List
Much like life, the business of being an agent is a marathon – not a sprint. Slow and steady wins the race. Be it an email newsletter, your CRM, etc. be directing people through your website to a list of some kind where you can cultivate and manage the relationship.