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RISMEDIA, May 9, 2009-When you’re developing a real estate website plan, there are a great many things to consider, but from a very broad perspective, there are two major areas of concern:

Site Look and Design – This is important, but don’t place your planning emphasis in the wrong areas. You want a visually pleasing site, with colors and a presentation that invites the visitor to stay a while. If you’re working with a site design or theme vendor, they have probably researched visitor behavior, and their template and design choices are likely structured with this in mind.

A major area of design is the navigation structure. Well designed real estate websites make it easy for the visitor to get around, and to locate specific information they need. Part of this is your responsibility, though. Naming of links and buttons to clearly indicate where they will take the visitor is critical.

Content and Marketing Focus – You simply cannot short-change planning in this area. What are you trying to accomplish with your site? Most of our clients tell us that they want their real estate website to bring them qualified leads and business that eventually becomes commissions. With that as the mandatory goal, you’ll want to provide content on the site that is in demand by the real estate consumer, whether a buyer or a seller.

What do your customers want? Consider what they ask you about as your first hint. All of the questions you answer on a regular basis become your Web page content topics. Statistics, information about the area’s businesses, shopping, cultural activities, education and employment are all the subject of search engine queries.

Taking these ideas into account, you’ll want to provide a lot of content that answers questions about real estate and the specific area you serve. But, what else can you do to provide value to a site visitor that will make your site more “sticky?” You want your visitor to “stick around,” and widgets, or gadgets, are useful tools that will provide added value and services to your visitors, allowing your site to be more “sticky.”

Think a bit about what a real estate site visitor is searching for on your website. Of course, they want to look at listings, but what goes along with that desire? Once they locate a few homes that are appealing to them, what else might they want to know?

The Calculator Widgets – Whether you are dealing with first-time homebuyers or those who have done their fair share of moving over the years, nobody has payment tables memorized, so providing calculator widgets on your site is an easy way to provide value to your visitor. The payment calculator provides the visitor with the amount of the monthly payment that will be returned to them once they enter the sales price, mortgage interest rate, and expected down payment amount.

There are also widgets for loan qualification, which determine the visitor’s purchase ability based on their income and expenses and loan amortization gadgets show how their payments are broken out into interest and principal over time. Each of these calculators is not of value to every visitor, but one or more of them will be useful to many of your site visitors, prolonging the length of time the visitor will stay on your site.

Featured Properties – Let’s forget for a moment the thrill of getting a buyer for one of your listings, with a chance to handle both sides of the deal. A featured property widget allows you to display your listings prominently on your home page or elsewhere, with images and basic information to prompt a click for more information. The real value here is to show a prospective listing client how you’ll prominently display and showcase their home. It’s one more nail in the lid of the listing presentation box.

Weather and News – You want to present yourself as the local real estate expert, but you also want to bring your visitors other real estate news, even from a national perspective. Again, everything they can find pertaining to real estate on your site is one more reason to stick around for awhile. For site visitors who don’t already reside locally, a weather widget is usually appreciated. If they are relocating from far away, they may return to your site regularly to see how the climate is in your area.

Language Translation – The Internet allows your site to be viewed by prospects world-wide, so don’t assume that everyone who comes to your site speaks English. A language translation gadget will allow a European site visitor to read your site in their own language. They will appreciate it, and likely continue to visit your site until they make a decision to do business.

There are numerous widgets and gadgets that can be added to your website to provide your site visitor with all the information they need in one convenient location, but make sure you evaluate any widget before adding it to your site in regards to its value to your visitor.

Peyman Aleagha is the founder and President of RealtySoft.com. RealtySoft provides Realtors with Real Estate Web Design (http://www.realtysoft.com), Real Estate Print Marketing and Free IDX (http://www.realtysoft.com/freeidx.php) solutions.

For more information, visit realtysoft.com.

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