Realtors: An Effective Web Presence Part 1
In many cases, being a successful Realtor means making the best use of your time and marketing budget. As a Realtor, you will have limits to both of these, and it is very easy to take the easy route and put the majority of effort and funds into areas that are comfortable or do not require much commitment, such as business social mixers and BC Transit Bus Ads (which by the way do work well), and neglect other areas that can be just as effective.
One of the advantages of Internet marketing is that you can adopt a “work smart, not hard” approach by making the best use of the tools available, and tracking the responses to tailor your efforts to be most effective. This is often very difficult and harder to track with traditional marketing efforts.
While there are a large number of successful Realtors who do very well despite NOT having an effective web presence, this is a crucial area that should not be overlooked for any long-term business. Feedback that has constantly come back to me over the years is that as a Realtor, they are doing well, but are finding that they are now more and more being judged by the quality of their personal real estate website and how effective is their marketing tactics. Nowadays many sellers will compare different Realtors and choose the one with what they believe is the most effective marketing package – It’s not always about commission structures, regional expertise, or a referral.
After working on real estate websites for over 10 years, here are some tips gleaned that every Realtor should be doing to make the most out of their website presence:
- Make sure the domain is your name (i.e. www.johndoe.com) and not a clever alpha-numeric combination such as www.homes4uinvictoria.com. Clients can never remember these when told and they do get confusing. As a realtor, you are the brand. If you work on your own, position yourself in a manner that people will remember. “Visit John Doe at www.johndoe.com” is quite a bit easier to remember than “visit John Doe at www.homes4uinvictoria.com”. Having more than one domain name is fine, but is not going to have a tremendous effect in the Search Engines like many think. Register alternative domains to protect your name or brand, or to edge out a competitor, but having a large quantity of real estate related domains all converging on your website is not going to bring you a substantial increase in visitors. If you are operating under a team brand and your domain reflects it, that is fine, but make sure each individual also owns their own personalized domain name.
- Make sure your website is professional, and don’t neglect the details. This shows both buyers and sellers you are serious, and take your business and their relationship with you in high regard. If you have a biography page that says “coming soon”, or awards and stats that are many years dated, this does not instill confidence. Give your own website presence the same level of attention to detail that your customers would expect to see of your representation of them. Many cookie-cutter Realtor websites that essentially add your company logo and your profile picture and your current listings. With this small amount of effort, all you are doing is demonstrating to consumers that you couldn’t be bothered to spend the time to market effectively.
- Look at your website activity. Review the traffic that comes to it on a regular basis. See where users come from (Search Engine, MLS, etc.). Routinely check the activity on your website to see which pages are popular, and which ones seem to indicate users leaving. This is exactly the same as traditional retail merchandising. Find out what brings people to your website, and what they like and dislike. Then use that information to make changes to your website to facilitate longer visits, and more opportunities to initiate dialogue with your leads. Could your pictures be bigger or do you need virtual tours? Do you offer free consumer information on your site? Are you actually asking for the business? Many sites do not, and the percentage increase on leads once added to the website would surprise you.
- Do you have a specific niche or special aspect to what you do that differentiates you from other Realtors? Many do, and if you sit down with them for half an hour you can learn a lot about their unique qualifications, contacts or way of doing business – But their website does not convey this at all. Prospective clients may never properly qualify you based on how they perceive you before they talk to you. Do you properly convey your specific qualifications to your prospects effectively?
- Search Engines are important, but don’t rely exclusively on them. It is very important to show up well in Search Engines for out of town buyers, and for those that may have missed your other marketing efforts, plus it always looks good to prospective clients when you are showing up well. It is not the only method for website traffic. Do not overlook the advantages of traditional marketing of your website in addition to Search Engines. It can sometimes be cheaper, and because you offer services in a local region you can advertise cost-effectively. Some methods that have proven to work well:
- Make sure you use domain-based email referencing your website instead of your local internet provider (email@example.com vs. firstname.lastname@example.org). This always looks more professional, and it is one more way for people to identify your website address.
- Put your website address on every flat surface you own. Anything you can use to promote your website should be taken into consideration. Personalized pens, stationary, signs, and yes even vehicles can be used. If you don’t want a permanent sign use a magnet sign for your vehicle occasionally.
- Take out smaller advertisements to direct users to your website rather than big ads to showcase specific properties.
In Closing, keep in mind that you really get out of your website what you put into it. If all you have is a basic business card online with your current listings, and not promoting it effectively you are literally handing prospective clients over to your colleagues that are more proactive and detail oriented with their own business and marketing efforts. Usually in peak periods this does not seem to matter, but whenever there is a negative shift in the market it is the Realtors that market themselves effectively that still manage to keep business on the upswing. Determine what your advertising budget and time allocation should be for your web marketing, and make sure you leverage the website and your online marketing to be the most effective for your personal business plan now and into the future. Sticking to this plan and constantly tracking the effort and cost against the new business you are getting will help you adjust and promote accordingly. Remember, “work smart, not hard!”.