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4 Most Important Features of an Effective Real Estate Website in 2014

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By Burke Smith, Chief Communications Officer at HSA Home Warranty

real_estate_website_iconThe National Association of REALTORS® says more than 90% of potential homebuyers and sellers will start their search online. That is why your website is the most important tool in converting business from your marketing, both online and offline. It will hopefully be the destination point for all of the weary buyers and sellers traveling along the information superhighway. It is no longer a simple digital business card used to snag drifting internet traffic. Instead, it’s a valuable platform to convey your brand and your value. It can (and should) still act as your personal connection to both clients and potential clients whenever they visit your site. Like many basic websites from the beginning of the dot-com era, yours should show why you are an expert in your market.

Keeping your website current is as important as your content, and can help you move ahead of your competitors. To have a successful real estate website it must be: conversion-friendly, consumer-friendly, search engine-friendly and mobile-friendly:

1. Conversion-friendly. This is #1. Why? Because you only get paid on conversions! It doesn’t matter how many visitors your site gets if you don’t convert them into clients. But more than anything, your website is usually your conversion point. The single most important thing your website can do for you is CONVERT those who visit into sellers, buyers or referrals. Statistically we know most consumers will visit at least three real estate-related websites before contacting an agent. Make sure your website has plenty of powerful calls to action to encourage them to take the next step. You can do this by adding specialized widgets. Many times, a user will have a quick question, or need to know the definition of something. Helpful widgets include a mortgage calculator, home value estimate chart and simple survey questions. By including widgets onto certain pages within your website, users won’t have to leave your site to find the answers they need.

2. Consumer-friendly. Believe it or not, most real estate websites are NOT consumer friendly. That’s because most agents don’t build their own websites. Someone else builds the site and typically builds it for the agent instead of potential clients. Your site should be designed for potential clients, and today’s consumer wants instant gratification (“what’s in it for me?”). If your website gives them something of value, then they will be more likely to return the favor, and the most valuable thing they can give you is their business. Bottom line: design your website for the consumer, not for you.

3. Search engine-friendly. We know busy buyers and sellers will start their search on the web. But with so many choices and distractions, how will they find your website? Make sure your website is filled with descriptive key words and phrases that match what a potential buyer or seller might type into Google. For example, people probably won’t search by “Your Name.” Instead, they search for what they want and where they want it, so your goal is to make sure your website is filled with content describing what you do, and where you do it. With so much content on the web, you will probably have to do even more than that. Unfortunately, the web is often like high school all over again: one big popularity contest. You can use this to your advantage by utilizing social media. Having more links pointing to and from your website help boost the awareness of the site through search engines.

Bonus tip: Use lots of video. Search engines love video, and so do consumers. Buying and selling real estate is emotional and few things convey emotion better than video. Be sure to include video tours of your listings and more importantly, of neighborhoods. By highlighting your listings through video, a potential client will get more information than a simple description. This method is also more interactive, and lends itself well to other social media involvement, like commenting and sharing.

4. Mobile-friendly. According to the Pew Research Center, more than half of American adults own a smart phone, and 35% of people 16 and older own a tablet. This means your website needs to be accommodating to these devices. If it’s not, they will most likely seek out another company for their information.

If you’re thinking this is a lot of work, you’re not alone. The good news is hiring someone to do these things for you can be an option, and may be less expensive than it was just a few years ago. By using these strategies effectively, you could increase site traffic and sales, making it well worth the initial investment.

Remember: in the business of referrals, a website is often the first impression many potential clients get. If your site hasn’t been updated since 2002, they will probably head somewhere else.

If you’re interested in learning more, head to www.onlinehsa.com for more articles, webinars and videos on how to generate more business from your website.

 

Realtor® University Happenings: The course, “A Consumer Advocate Approach to Real Estate & Mortgages” has been created to help you go from “real estate agent” to “Real Estate Professional.” Find out more here.

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