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Commentary by Peyman Aleagha

RISMEDIA, May 1, 2008-In today’s market, your real estate website better do a lot more than look pretty. While there was a time not so long ago that having a website at all put you on the leading edge of real estate marketing-that’s no longer true. Now, the vast majority of agents and brokers have a website and some even have two or three.

aleagha_peyman.JPGTo compete today, your website has to do much, much more than simply put a pretty face on top of your real estate activity, it has to be an integral part of your real estate marketing activity. Here’s a quick checklist of the minimum things your real estate website must do for you to stay competitive today:

1. It Must Bring You Traffic. Your website needs to be truly search-engine optimized (SEO) and not just by throwing in a few general keywords. All of your competitors are also optimizing their sites for the search-engines so if you want to maintain a high-ranking in your local area, you have to constantly adjust and “tweak” your keywords and content for your area. Start by examining the keywords being used by your competitors, make sure you have those covered and then add other words that buyers or sellers might use in their searches. Make sure that your website content also uses the same keywords that you’ve associated with your site.

2. Evoke Trust and Confidence. Your website has to evoke trust and confidence in the prospective buyer or seller. That has to happen the minute a visitor begins to browse your site and must continue on every page of the site. To establish trust and confidence, your visitors need to see credibility. That means: good solid information, testimonials from other clients, and other evidence that you can do the job for them.

3. Add Value to a Buyer Search. If all your competitors have a website, what will yours offer the visitor that your competitors can’t? Like it or not, having a website puts you in the publishing business and the consumer will only read your material if it’s interesting, relevant, and fresh. This means that you have to have Web content and listings that matter to your site’s visitors: good information about your area, attractive listings that are up-to-date, and a useful network of real estate services that they aren’t able to get elsewhere.

5. Capture Leads. Having someone visit your website and then disappear into the night doesn’t do you any good at all. You want names, addresses, and e-mails. In addition to having a compelling website, your site must ask visitors to register, or sign up for listing information from you. Otherwise, you have no way to follow up.

6. Respond Rapidly. Once someone has visited your site and once they have contacted you via your site, time is of the essence. They’re on a mission to buy or sell their property. They’ve decided to act on your site. Now, it is vital to act quickly to cement their interest in your services. You need to respond right away or they’ll find someone else who will. A modern website will use “auto-responders” to acknowledge the visitors query quickly and that will notify you promptly – wherever you are – of their interest. Auto-responders, as the name suggests, will automatically send an e-mail back to your visitor and send one to your PDA or cell phone too.

7. Stay Up-To-Date. If you have an existing website, make sure you review it at least once a month to make sure that your content is up-to-date, that your keywords are refreshed and are mirrored in the content, and that every page on the site evokes trust and confidence.

Of course, all these suggestions, presuppose you have a website. If you haven’t yet invested in a website, do so soon. Take advantage of some of the excellent values that are now available for websites. A good website service shouldn’t cost you more than $25 to $50 per month – but make sure that your site addresses each of the points above to ensure that you get the most out of your website investment.

Peyman Aleagha is the founder and president of RealtySoft provides Web-based marketing solutions, websites, MLS IDX integration, contact management, and listing management and syndication.

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