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By Kurt Lynn

RISMEDIA, June 18, 2008-As few as five years ago, real estate professionals who wanted their own websites could look forward to a lot of technology-intensive work. Now, thanks to advances in the field, it is easy to create and maintain a quality website. However, having a website does not mean it will produce sales. In fact, according to the 2007 REALTOR® Technology Survey, while two-thirds of real estate professionals have their own website, only one out of five were satisfied with the ability of their website to generate leads. For many, something’s still missing.

If I Build It, Why Don’t They Come?

Unfortunately, many real estate professionals have contracted for a website under the assumption that having a website is enough. Like in the movie “Field of Dreams,” the tendency has been to think: if we build it, they will come. Turn the website on; leads will pour in. Not so. Simply having a website is no guarantee that you will get visitor “traffic” to your site and traffic is a pre-requisite for leads.

No traffic, no leads.

This was the experience of Nina Kashefpour, a sales associate for HomeLife Real Estate Solutions. “I had a website from the very first day I entered the real estate business. Frankly, it didn’t help. Having a website alone was not a very effective tool and getting traffic to my site seemed a lot more complicated than building the website in the first place!”

Getting a steady stream of visitors to your website generally requires certain coordinated activities and skills. Activities such as syndicating your listings with online real estate search engines and classified websites, using search engine optimization (SEO) techniques to improve the “findability” of your website, online and print advertising, and the coordination of your website to all your other marketing activities, all help. Unfortunately, all of that requires either skills, or time that a Realtor typically does not have.

“In my real estate business, I’m busy; very busy. I’m always in a hurry, and it seems like I rarely have enough time to do the things I’d like to do for my website or Internet marketing program,” says Kashefpour.

“Sticky” is Tricky

Visitors coming to your website do not necessarily add up to new leads. Once visitors begin to visit your site, you have to find ways of keeping them there-making your site “sticky.” Web experts suggest that your site has less than five seconds to capture the attention of a Web visitor. If they cannot find what they are looking for in that time-or if they find nothing else to hold their interest-they will leave. They will go on to browsing someone else’s website instead of yours. Therefore, the content of your site has to be “sticky.” It has to glue your visitors to your site to keep them from going elsewhere.

You can make sure that your site is sticky by ensuring that the content on your site is updated frequently, has access to compelling information (real estate news, listings, community information, etc.) and by including content that is “actionable”-i.e., offers for services or information. Very few real estate websites have “actionable” or frequently updated content. This makes them “static” sites. Static sites are not sticky. But, once again, the time and effort necessary to make a site sticky-and to keep it that way-requires more attention, and sometimes more cost, than most Realtors have available to give.

If I Build It, If They Come, and If They Stick…Then What Happens?

You have to give your website visitor a good reason to contact you, and you must provide them with an easy way to give you the information you need to assist them. Then, you have a true lead.

The formula is simple: bring more traffic to your site, make your site as sticky as you can, make it easy to contact you, and you will get leads. And, if you want a high volume of leads, then do those things consistently-and well.

An Integrated Approach to Websites

That was the frustrating part for Kashefpour. “Who has time for doing all that fiddling with your website?” she complains. “I’m not interested in being a Webmaster. I want to be a successful real estate agent.” She began looking for alternatives and came across a new real estate website technology company, RealtySoft. RealtySoft claimed to be able to provide a quality website and make it easy for the Realtor to manage the site, keep it sticky and get leads.

For just a few dollars a month, Kashefpour was willing to try it.

“The RealtySoft solution gave me the tools needed to turn my site into a true lead-generating engine,” says Kashefpour, of her experience with the company. The integrated website solution provided by RealtySoft made it easy to manage her Internet marketing.

Every week, she updates her website with any new listings and then “tweaks” the community-related information on one of the pages to boost her search engine rankings. “Generally, everything I need to do can be done in about 10 minutes,” says Kashefpour. “The entire site is fully customizable, including keywords, images, forms, and other content.”

Once her changes have been made, RealtySoft automatically resubmits her site to all major search engines and automatically syndicates her listings with ten major real estate online marketplaces including Google, Zillow and Trulia.

Using RealtySoft’s integrated approach has paid off. Kashefpour now claims to get more than 35% of her business from her website. The NAR technology survey found that less than 12% of Realtors get that level of business results from their websites.

Peyman Aleagha, founder and president of RealtySoft, does not find Kashefpour’s experience surprising. “Her frustration with managing her Web and Internet marketing is exactly what we’ve tried to confront,” says Aleagha. “We’ve put everything associated with real estate Internet marketing into a single, integrated package-website, listings, e-mail, domain management, SEO, syndication-and it can all be managed from a single point, easily and quickly.”

The company has also recently introduced a free MLS/IDX connection and will soon be adding a tool to their package to help real estate agents prepare online and print advertisements. “Our goal is to see that the agent or broker gets everything they need to market effectively, all in one place, managed through a single control panel, and that they can get all that affordably,” says Aleagha.

If Your Website Is Not Giving The Results You Want, Ask Yourself…

What am I doing to drive traffic to my website?

-Do I use my Web address in all my literature, business cards, stationery, ads, and property sheets?
-Do I regularly optimize my website for search engines (SEO)?
-Is my site listed in local Internet business directories?
-Have I posted listings to sites such as Google, Trulia, and Zillow?

Is my website “sticky?”

-Do I update the website content often (i.e., weekly)?
-Is my content useful to a prospective buyer or seller?
-Do I use website analytics to see which pages are popular or not?
-Do I provide information that visitors would find helpful (e.g. weather, maps, etc.)?

Is my website actionable?

-Do I have content that asks the visitor to “click-through” for information?
-Do I have actionable offers for visitors-i.e., a sign-up for e-mail property alerts?

Does my website make it easy to contact me?

-Is my contact information or links on every page?
-Do I provide easy-to-use forms?
-Do I respond immediately to any contact?

Is my website easy to maintain?

-Can I update content myself, quickly and easily?
-Can I manage keywords, SEO, listings, syndication and content using the same tools?
-How much time do I need, each week, to make my website productive?

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