By Craig Proctor
RISMEDIA, Sept. 10, 2008-While it is true that most agents have websites that promote their services, it is also true that 90% of real estate websites make common mistakes that hinder their ability to effectively and inexpensively generate good quality leads.
A discussion of effective web layout and content is a topic for a future article. The purpose of this article is to highlight a simple but effective strategy that any agent can use to significantly increase lead generation and give them the important ability to track and test their advertising: i.e. the proper use of multiple domain names. (NOTE: The terms “domain name,” “URL,” or “website address” are often used interchangeably.)
Why would you need more than one domain name? The answer to this question stems from the universal truth that “prospects don’t want to be sold.” While it is important to have a main website, usually with your name as the domain name, this site is unlikely to be your main source of lead generation by virtue of the fact that it is linked to you, a salesperson. This “named” website address should be used in all your communications with your existing clients (e.g. on your letterhead, business cards, referral requests, etc.) because this will help you reinforce awareness of your name and make yourself easy to find. When you market this domain name, it is important to link it with a real consumer benefit. People won’t visit your website just because it’s there; they need a compelling reason to do so.
In addition to your branded site (e.g. www.JohnSmith.com), however, you should have a second, less-branded website developed which might have a name such as www.TownNameHomeSales.com (where you would substitute “TownName” for the name of your town or region.) While this second site will still be branded (for legal reasons), and while full disclosure about the fact that the site is yours must be easy to find, your name will be less obvious to someone who visits the site.
With these two sites in place, it will benefit your business to have multiple, benefit-rich domain names that you will use in your marketing to prospects. (It is highly affordable and easy to do this as domain names are inexpensive — less than $25/yr — and easy to register.) A benefit-rich, or generic domain name is a website address which is NOT branded — i.e. it is not obvious that it is an agent’s site from the name. These additional domain names can be set up as the name of a site itself (for example, as the name of the less branded site referenced above), but can also be setup to point to specific pages within either your branded or less-branded websites. This latter strategy is called URL forwarding, and it is an incredibly powerful strategy for improving and tracking your advertising.
Some examples in my own business are:
The use of benefit-rich, or generic domain names (i.e. domain names that do not have your name in them) is a highly effective method of lead generation when connected to a universal offer on postcards, in the newspaper, etc. You should use these domain names as a key strategic component of your total lead generation marketing efforts to fly under your prospects’ advertising radar, motivate them to visit either your branded or less-branded (and thus non-threatening) website, and leave a follow-up trail. Let me explain the idea behind generic domain names and how you can get started yourself.
The first domain name mentioned (www.YorkRegionHomeSales.com) has been set up as a complete duplicate site to my branded site (www.CraigProctor.com). The only difference between these sites is that YorkRegionHomeSales.com is less-branded – i.e. it is not obvious that the site is mine. My name, photo, logo and company name have been removed from the top banner and instead, at the bottom, it says:
“YorkRegionHomeSales.com is brought to you by” after which it states my name and contact info. Apart from this kind of disclaimer on your less-branded site, the copy will not mention you or attempt to promote you in any way. It looks much more like an impartial consumer information site than a typical agent site. When prospects visit and leave their contact information on this less-branded site, they will have no idea that you (or any other agent) is behind this site. This, of course, makes it a highly non-threatening place for prospects to visit.
The two other domain names mentioned have been registered, but have not been set up as separate sites. Instead, they each point to a different page within YorkRegionHomeSales.com. For example, www.BankDistressSales.com points to a page within www.YorkRegionHomeSales.com that speaks directly to the issue of Distress Sales and how prospects can seek further information and listings. You might run a simple classified ad to promote this benefit-rich domain name that reads like this: Distress Sales – Bank Foreclosures. FREE list of Bank-owned properties. Visit www.YourDistressSaleSite.com (where you would substitute the benefit-rich, distress-sale related domain name you register for yourself.)
Why would you want to do this? Because if you used your named domain in such advertising, it would clearly thwart your efforts and blow your cover. The more this domain name looks like it points to an independent consumer organization with nothing to sell, the better. These domain names reinforce the message of the ad and make the source of the information appear more independent. Think about it — where would you expect to get more reliable information on foreclosure properties in Toronto: www.TorontoForeclosures.com or www.JohnSmith.com? If you left your contact information on both of these sites, which one would be more likely to lead to an agent pestering you? You will probably want to register several of this type of domain name.
How To Use Your Domain Name
As mentioned above, many agents think that just by putting their web site address everywhere they can think of, they will automatically generate lots of leads. In actual fact, however, it is highly unlikely that anyone will visit your web site just because they see your domain name. Think about it. Everyone has a website these days. Domain names are now so common in advertising that they have no magic just on their own. As in all the marketing you do, you must give your prospects a compelling reason to visit your site (i.e. a credible and motivating benefit.) Every time you mention your website address, you MUST include a tagline that provides a strong and compelling reason for someone to visit your site. Whether you are promoting your site on your business card, letterhead, listing signs, billboards, editorial-style ads, classified ads, t-shirts, your car, or anything else, providing a compelling reason to visit your site is essential.
Let me give you a few examples of good taglines (with fictitious, generic and benefit-rich domain names):
Learn how to sell your home fast and for top dollar. Visit www.TownNameHomeInfo.com. Beat other buyers to HOT, NEW Listings. FREE List of Homes. Visit www.TownNameNewListings.com For a FREE, Over-the-Net Home Evaluation, visit www.TownNameFreeHomeEval.com.
You’ll notice in the examples above that I have used different domain names for each of the ads, and there’s a very good reason for doing this. Since each of these campaigns has a different url, you will be able to very specifically track which ad is getting you the most leads.
Domain names are registered on a first-come first-served basis. There are over 100 million domain names registered worldwide. With over 100,000 new domains registered every day, you’ll likely have to make several choices before you find an available domain name, but, that being said, domain names like this are surprisingly easy to find. You might have to try several ideas before you find a domain name that’s free, but with a little creativity (e.g. adding your town/city name in the domain such as www.YourTownBankDistressSale.com) you should be able to find something that works for you.
Here are some things to consider when selecting domain names:
Select a domain name that is easy to remember, spell and convey verbally. Simpler is nearly always better.
In most cases, you’ll want to use the “.com” extension for your domain name (i.e. TownNameHomeSales.com). Domain names are hard enough to remember without forcing people to remember a different extension. However, with the introduction of the numerous other top level extensions, don’t stress too much about this. Depending on availability, you might also wish to consider “.info”, “.net”, “.org”, or “.ca” (if you live in Canada).
Domain names can be up to 63 characters in length, including the “.com”, but in most cases you’ll want to limit your domain names to about 20 characters.
Domain names are NOT case sensitive. However, when you display your domain name, using mixed case will usually make your domain name easier to read (i.e. HomesForSale.com vs. homesforsale.com).
I’ve found the use of generic, benefit-rich domain names to be a highly profitable method of lead generation and so have many other agents. It’s a very simple strategy to get started with and one I recommend you incorporate into your business.
“The use of benefit rich domain names is important in several ways. First, it allows me to track how well an ad or marketing piece is working. Secondly, it becomes easy for prospects to remember the domain name when they are at a computer. I try to always apply the WIFM theory in everything, including when a prospect is reading a domain name. What’s in it for me to go to this website? As a quick example, one of my very best urls that I use extensively in classified advertising, under homes for sale, is www.PhoenixRepo.com. Such a domain name explicitly tells the consumer what to expect, and as well, it is simple to remember.” – Lester Cox, Tempe, AZ
To find out more about effective use of domain names in your real estate marketing, you can visit http://www.hypertracker.com/go/cp/a28a080910/ where you can learn about my 3-day SuperConference where I train agents on proven website strategies that help them increase lead generation.
Billion Dollar AgentTM Craig Proctor has been in the top 10 for RE/MAX Worldwide for 15 years.