The world is moving towards an entirely digital age and if you think your industry won’t be affected, think again. If you’re a real estate agent and have worked based on referrals, cold calls and other traditional methods, let me share some thoughts with you.
According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), in 42 percent of home buyers in 2017 took their first step towards their purchase by looking online for properties that were available for sale. Compared to that, 17 percent contacted a real estate agent first. If you’ve got a frown on your face from that disparity in numbers – be worried, as it will only get worse.
You’ve heard of the age-old phrase; “If you can’t beat them, join them”? That’s exactly what you should be considering doing.
Thanks to digital, home buyers are entering the process more educated about market conditions, what to look out for in a property and more. Most often start their education process before they’re even in contact with an agent.
Make use of this change and educate your prospective clients first – with your own website.
The actual process of setting up a real estate website isn’t difficult. All you’ll need is a domain name, website hosting, and perhaps either use a website builder or a WordPress template to make things pretty and functional.
1. Setting Up The Foundation: Domain, Hosting, Website Builder
The domain name is the address your online identity will use to allow people to get to your website. It’s something so common that most people hardly think about it, but as a realtor, it needs to matter to you.
Your domain name needs to be something simple and representative, so that prospective clients can see it and remember it easily.
The first could mean many things, but the second is hardly disputable. It also adds your identity as an agent to the business.
With the Internet being so highly populated today, it can be challenging to find an available domain name. If you can't get your first choice, consider using alternative Top Level Domains (TLDs). If not, you will simply have to choose another domain name.
Next up is what you’ll use to build your software. Website builders today are advanced and easy to use. They are also, in many cases, free. All you’ll need is a bit of a flair for design and you can just use building blocks to put your site together.
There are many good choices in website builders such as Wix, Weebly and more which also package in domain names and hosting, if you’re looking for an all-in-one solution.
If you're looking for something a little more different, Weblium, an AI-powered website builder, is also a possible option. It might offer an alternative website building experience to you.
Another option I highly recommend you explore is WordPress.org. This application comes with tons of themes that you can use to design any space you want. More importantly, the WordPress ecosystem has a massive number of plugins that you can use to perform additional functions your site should have (more on this later).
WordPress also has the benefit of being originally intended as a Content Management System (CMS), which allows you to use content for grow site traffic.
2. Adding Features to Your Real Estate Site
Ok perhaps I could have chosen a better word, but as an agent I’m sure you know that first impressions count. If you can’t show a property in all its stunning glory in a beautiful manner on your site, well, you aren’t going to get very far.
Most home buyers are in a sort of dreamy mood when they’re looking for something to buy. I call this the honeymoon syndrome and even the seasoned home buyer is susceptible to it. They’re building a dream in their minds – can you fulfil it?
Of course, the investor isn’t likely to fall for that, but who knows, right?
It also goes without having to say that you need to have great images of the properties you’re listing. Again, according to NAR data, of buyers who used the internet during their home search, 89% found photos about properties for sale very useful.
Quick tip: Branding your site consistently is also a key factor in demonstrating professionalism. You don’t even need a professional designer. Some reputable web tools can help you build your entire brand identity.
I’m not talking about a simple search box that users can type something in to and scan your site with, but something that helps how most users search for in real life.
For example, they are likely to want properties in specific areas, between certain price ranges or even with a certain number of bathrooms. Make sure they can find what they’re looking for!
Quick Tip: Being extensive is important but don’t inundate your visitors with 20 drop-down boxes to choose from – make sure they are key choice elements!
Be Mobile Friendly
I’m sure that you’ve experienced surfing to a site on your mobile device and finding that it looks terrible and doesn’t make sense at all. That’s because the site likely isn’t mobile friendly. Mobile devices are small and standard websites often don’t play well with small screens.
Whichever tool you choose to build your site with, remember that ultimately, your site must be mobile friendly. According to Statista, since early in 2017, the number of people accessing the web from mobile devices has steadily exceeded 50%.
Building a site that is not also mobile-friendly will likely alienate half of your potential clients!
Quick Tip: WordPress has themes that automatically help make your site mobile-friendly. These are usually called ‘Responsive Themes’.
As real estate agents, I’m sure that you know of the needs of most people who look for property. Remember those sales pitches you’ve had to run each time? Good.
Transfer that knowledge to your website. Apart from just information about the property itself, remember to provide comprehensive supporting information, such as nearby amenities, highways and education zones.
For investors, make sure you’re able to provide some form of market reports as that’s likely what they’ll be most interested in.
Quick Tip: A little research goes a long way. Remember, Google is your friend. Go that extra mile so your prospective buyers won’t have to!
Allow for Quick Follow Up
All this while I’ve been sharing information with you on how to set the hook. Providing information and having beautiful site designs are all necessary, but don’t forget to set the hook! Always have easy options for the prospective client to get in touch with you.
For websites, that’s what we term as a call to action. For example, a bright red button that says, “Call Now!” just leaps out at your users. Or perhaps a link to your email for them to make an enquiry? Always locate this near where a prospective buyer might be standing on the edge of deciding.
Quick Tip: Be bold but not garish. Red is one thing, but a button that’s in bright red with flahing light is just – ugh!
Again, this is something that you may or may not like to do but let me put it this way – If your prospective buyers aren’t listening to you, you can be sure they’re listening to someone else. Instead of that, step forward and offer them the information needed to make good buying decisions.
Tell them about the benefits of buying in certain areas for example, or that this house is near an awesome shopping mall that has everything under the sun. Let them know how easy it is to access a major Interstate highway or anything else that helps.
Quick Tip: I know most of us aren’t writers, so focus on your core business. Engage a writer to tell compelling stories about your properties and see the interest soar!
There are literally billions of websites on the Internet and if you’re hopping on to the bandwagon as well, it will be N+1. Make sure your prospective buyers know that you are an expert at what you’re doing and that others have acknowledged this.
Include any awards you’ve won, or list testimonials from happy buyers you’ve had in the past. Create a level of trust between you and your prospective buyer before your first meeting even takes place!
Quick Tip: No matter your choice of bohemian or simplistic, remember to portray professionalism at all stages – No Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck please!
3. Market Your Real Estate Website
Just because you have a website doesn’t mean that you can just let it sit there and expect customers to come flooding in. Remember that N+1 I just mentioned a few paragraphs above? That fact remains, and you need to make sure your website is seen.
Social Media Marketing
This is one aspect of marketing that has been revolutionized over the past few years. Social Media has taken over so much of advertising space that many traditional businesses just crumbled. Make sure you leverage on this by choosing one Social Media platform to focus on and use that to promote your website and interact with prospects.
Social Media is more fluid and interactive than websites, so you can let your personality shine through by communicating with them. They are also excellent for creating hype and excitement, so consider running contests or just simple giveaways. Remember the open house showings you do? Social Media promotions are exactly that, albeit in digital form.
If you’re using Facebook as your chosen Social Media platform, you’ll have an added advantage – Chatbots. These automated response systems are an upcoming form of efficient communication tool that will help you win more customers.
Done the right way, you can leverage on these free (in some cases) and powerful bots to offer customers information, speed up response times and generally, act as you while you’re otherwise occupied. Read more about chatbots in marketing here.
All of this adds up and when redirected to your website which will have more comprehensive information, you’ll be a winner.
Search Engines and SEO
One of the easiest ways to get a little more traffic is to make sure you list your website on a search engine’s directory. Make sure all you content is index-able by the good people at Google or Bing and that will help you out when people are searching for services like yours. Best of all, these listing are free.
When you’re building the content of your website, make sure that you keep an eye on the keywords that clearly identify your nice, such as: Real Estate, Property, or other similar terms.
Remember that long tailed keywords help very much as well. These will help you make sure you get the right traffic and if you match those with strong content you’ll be sure to get noticed by the search engines.
Note: Building effective SEO content is likely one of the most important things you can do to drive traffic to your website. Spend time on this! Here are a few SEO Tools which you might be interested in to help you track trends, formulate effective keywords and more:
Aside from keeping search engines interested in you and driving traffic to your site, quality content that is relevant to your visitors will help you in converting prospects to buyers. This need not be directly related to selling property, but even something as innocuous as “10 Home Renovation Ideas” will give your visitors ideas and generate more traffic.
I strongly recommend you add a ‘blog’ segment onto your site where you can list this type of content out. This will help immensely in generating traffic for your site. You don’t have to write too often, even once a week or so is fine, but focus on building strong content that is informative and interesting.
Ideally, write content that others will want to share, and you’ve got your own free advertising scheme going on!
List on Google Local Business
Google is not just a search engine, but it’s what I like to call the world’s largest marketing company as well. Submit your site to Google Local Business and not only will they do that for free, but they’ll give you more tips on how to promote your business.
Encourage Your Visitors to Register
Although it seems as if many people don’t like to register, I find that in many cases it’s mainly because so many registration forms are extremely intrusive. Remember, what you need is relatively simple – name, email address and permission to contact them with marketing material. Anything else is usually just greed.
Create a fast, one-two step registration process that is smooth and easy and build your potential customer database. This will be invaluable in your future marketing endeavours, especially with your website and I’ll show you how next.
Best Marketing Channel for Realtors: Email Marketing
When visitors come to your site, they’ll look around and generally just do your own thing. In contrast to that, your website needs to have a lot of information to attract a variety of customers. This is where email marketing comes in handy.
Targeted email marketing can help you organize campaigns for specific purposes. Take for example if you have a glut of beachfront properties to promote. Theme up an email marketing campaign along those lines and blast it out to everyone who’s ever registered on your website before!
In this endeavor, thankfully there are a huge number of tools at your disposal. Early on in your site’s existence, your email marketing list will likely be small and can be managed with a free or cheap service. As you grow, there are also numerous pro options you can choose from.
As your list grows you’ll also gain experience in using email marketing tools and grow with it.
Why Email Marketing is For You?
Email marketing should be your focus in your sales efforts. It is extremely powerful and can be a tremendous business boost if done the right way. They offer you the unique opportunity at a cost-efficient means to customer outreach – at any time of day.
According to market research leaders at McKinsey, Email is almost 40 times more effective than Facebook and Twitter in helping your business acquire new customers.
With strong and effective email marketing tools, you can build strong and lasting relationships with your prospective buyers.
Every time a marketing email of yours circulates, your brand is staring people in their faces – consider the mileage that will get you.
It also gives you something most traditional methods won’t – data. Data can be analysed for patterns and will let you learn the likes, dislikes and inclinations of your customers. This lets you modify your future campaigns for maximum effectiveness.
It’s fast and simple to get started. Like websites, many email marketing tools today offer easy-to-use drag and drop interfaces so that you can build your newsletters quickly. Even if you’re not a designer, it’s likely there are templates you can make use of.
Generate leads, even if the content isn’t what some of your outreach wants. Some may follow a link back to your site and e captivated by other information there as well.
Besides sending out information, you can use email marketing to generate hype. Build excitement about upcoming events and get people waiting eagerly for it!
Weichert has an extremely traditional and simplistic site that’s laid out very cleanly.
All the distinctive main elements are in place, including first impression items for what their clients want – in this case, to easily search for properties. Differentiating it from others is an extensive informational section offering buyer and seller guides and other research.
Core has taken the mobile friendliness a little too far in the sense that it is now a little desktop unfriendly. Sure, because desktops have larger screens it’s use-able, but the immediate call is not there for that category of users.
The cleanliness of the site ends up hiding everything and leaving the visitor to search the screen for where to go.
At first glance, Alison James has it all – beautiful design, modern feel and all the right info sections.
The only little niggling doubt I have here is the way their branding is overly muted at the bottom of the landing page. There is a visually small impact on branding there which might affect first visitor impressions.
Tidy, modern design
Incorporates critical industry elements
Slightly weak on branding
By now I’m sure that many of you are getting a little dizzy. Yes, I admit that it’s a lot for a first-timer to absorb but relax and take a deep breath. While all of this may sound way out of your field of expertise, I assure you it’s not.
Having and maintaining your real estate website is something that is simply priceless in this line of business. It represents professionalism, stability, reputation and many other things to your customer – all of them good.
Dedicate a little time to work on this as a side project and you’ll never regret it. Building websites and other associated tasks is also something MANY people do, so there is help around if you simply look for it when necessary.
It may take you some time and – I’m not going to gloss it over – some heartbreak, but isn’t everything in life an educational experience? Make that experience work to your advantage and gain a leg up on the competition today.
Timothy Shim is a writer, editor, and tech geek. Starting his career in the field of Information Technology, he rapidly found his way into print and has since worked with International, regional and domestic media titles including ComputerWorld, PC.com, Business Today, and The Asian Banker. His expertise lies in the field of technology from both consumer as well as enterprise points of view.