Early 2016 seems like the perfect time to talk about the top elements for the real estate websites. Real estate throughout the country is exploding, particularly here in Southwest Florida – and it’s time for the annual New-Press MarketWatch event. We’ve worked on a lot of real estate websites over the years. Atilus is based in Sunny Southwest Florida, which, in addition to gorgeous beaches and year-round sunny weather, is also primarily known for Real Estate. Literally, if you look at the stats, you can’t throw a stone around here without hitting a real estate agent. It seems everyone has a license.
And so it’s fitting, that, among our clients, we count agents as a top group. But, it’s not just South Florida real estate web design we concentrate on – no we’ve worked with agents, agencies, and brokers from all over the country – developing everything from analytical databases on real estate purchasing trends, to the tried-and-true agent website, helping our real estate agent clients attract and retain an online audience, converting these potential buyers and digital window shoppers, into home purchasers or listings.
We’ve compiled a list of the top elements a great real estate website needs in 2016 to help agents, no matter where they are, no matter what their audience or focus, best utilize the web and their website to bring in business. We’ve compiled this list to focus on 4 major elements: Business, Web Design Style, Technical and “Nice-to-Haves.”
Top Elements for Real Estate Websites 2016
We’ve broken the following up into 3 major sections – 1) real estate web design style | 2) technical | 3) nice to haves (not necessary, but great additions). Each concentrates on what’s important with additional supporting details and information.
Your Unique Selling Proposition – Before you go plopping down $100, or $10,000 for a new website (or frankly ANY kind of marketing/advertising) ask yourself who you are and why you’re different. Maybe you have a special network of only the best, maybe you concentrate in a particular area, maybe you work in a specific community. Regardless of what your shtick is… have one, and know it. Your website, and all of your marketing should reflect that – and a great site will simply be a mirror and reflect your existing persona, personality, and expertise back to your website visitors.
Real Estate Web Design Style Tips
Ahh, the ever important design of a website. Although we’d argue this comes after a lot of other conversations and decisions, it is one of the most fun things to concentrate on. So here’s our list of the most important design elements to feature on your website:
Broad and non-specific… have some style. Gone are the days where it was acceptable to have a sub-par website if you’re going to be a “real” real estate agent. The Internet is how people are searching for properties and a website with style is the only way to convince sellers your the agent to list with, or attract buyers. As the web’s dominance marches forward, style will become more important (not just for your audience, but for search engine reasons) and those lacking style or unwilling to invest in their site’s design will be left in the dust by agents that understand it’s importance.
2) Great Navigation
Navigation is the bed rock of great design. Great navigation is simple, easy-to-use and allows visitors to drill down the content or sections that are most important to your visitors and provides clarity on the structure of your site and your services. Great navigation is probably best defined by what you shouldn’t do:
- Don’t over complicate things
- Don’t try to be cheeky – be consistent with your wording and don’t try to reinvent the wheel. For example “about agent name” makes a lot more sense then something trendy like “the difference”
3) High Quality Imagery & Video
Here’s a secret about web design – now-a-days photography and videos make or break a website. Great, large, high-quality images literally make up the bulk “design” of many websites – without it, there are some old tricks and design techniques to pull off a great site, but they’re foolish. Invest in high quality imagery and video (you should be anyway for your listings!). A great video will tell your story, introduce you to your prospects, and sell you via your website 24/7. Great imagery will bond visitors to you, your website, and your listings…
4) Registration – Great Looking Forms (CTA)
Your website should have registration or contact forms everywhere – on every page, that are tracking the page users are on when they fill out the forms. Many site forget this tiny step and contact form submissions suffer greatly.
5) Calls to Action
Throughout your website’s content, copy, and imagery should be calls to action. No single technique increases contact form submissions or phone calls as well as a simple call to action.
How is a potential client going to feel comfortable with you as their agent? Taking care of this list is one big way. Great imagery about you, and a 20-year old picture might also help 😉 but ideally you’ll feature testimonials of clients you’re already working with or have worked with in the past that are willing to sing your praises. This concept is called “social proof” and is one of the best ways to instantly achieve credibility when someone lands on your website.
Real Estate Web Design Technical Tips
Outside of design, there are some undeniable technical elements that MUST be handled by your new or existing real estate website. The short-list we’ve come up with include:
1) IDX Integration (or other method of handling property listings)
IDX Integration goes hand-in-hand with SEO. What we mean here is that IDX providers typically include very rudimentary tools for showing your listings or giving your visitors access to the MLS via your website. These default tools are typically NOT search engine friendly. One way you can tell is by looking at the address of the website, or listing page.
It should look something like this:
If instead it looks something like:
You’ve got a problem. We see this on 99% of real estate clients’ existing websites. This is effectively helping your IDX service providers’ website, not your own – you’re effectively linking OUT to their website… this is a big no-no.
Similar to the above, your website must be search engine optimized. At Atilus each of the sites we develop go through a rigorous 50+ step process to accomplish this. On-site SEO isn’t rocket science, but it does take a special technical eye, an attention to detail, and an understanding of your business. Regardless of whether you have a site or not, or whether your website was built on an “optimized CMS” like wordpress – it still probably is missing some key elements. The worst part is – these small hurdles can cause big problems when it comes to making sure your website is getting the traffic it deserves. But the good news is this can often be fixed pretty quickly.
3) Analytics & Tracking
Analytics (we prefer Google analytics) and other tools are essential in figuring out what’s happening on your website. We have one agent we work with that consistently gets 6,000+ visitors to his website every month. To put that in perspective, the areas’ largest market conference (conference on real estate) struggles to bring in 200 people… his site gets that EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
Analytics is the tool you use to see this, and it gets deeper – where are these people spending time? What pages are they engaging with? You can only understand this (and understand your business/audience) by looking at these tools.
Blogs are still a beautiful tool in online marketing and we still can’t recommend them enough. Although we continue to hear opposition on this topic, the idea that people are interested in relevant content, and that it’s a huge indicator to Google about the passion, knowledge, and commitment you have to your business (and website) – almost no single element is more powerful than a blog (as long as you grasp how to use it and stay consistent).
Nice to Haves
Finally I figured I’d include some elements that, although not absolutely mandatory, are growing in popularity and might make your life (and digital marketing) that much easier:
- General Site Search – Either across your entire website, or specific to your listing/IDX integration, site search is helpful, and great listing search is even more helpful.
- Social Media Integration – Imagine if every time you posted to your website it ALSO went to your social media accounts keeping your networks informed. This isnn’t just possible, but is a standard practice on every real estate website we build.
- Personalized CRM Integration – Probably the coolest element on this list, and gaining popularity thanks to services like ReFindly, having a customized/integrated CRM (customer relationship manager) built into or connected with your website can be extremely powerful for sales and marketing.