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Make the most out of your Real Estate Website

This article can also be found in the Summer 2011 edition of the Real Estate LEADER magazine. This article is directed at Real Estate websites, but also provides insight that will help any business make the most out of their website.

Get a website

I am still surprised when I run into business owners without a website. In this day and age, being online is almost a must. Consumers, especially those looking for real estate, are looking for as much information as possible. And more and more consumers are turning to the internet, the fastest source of information, first. Not only is it fast, but its available 24/7.

According to the most recent statistics from the National Association of REALTORS®, 74% of people used the internet to search for a home. 45% said they walked through a home after viewing it online, and 29% found an agent to help them find a home online. If you don’t have at least some presence online, you could be excluding yourself from nearly 30% of consumers.

If you don’t have a website, I encourage you to get one. You don’t have to spend a fortune. Start small until you are comfortable. Yahoo!, Godaddy, and several other big companies offer low-cost websites and hosting for small businesses. If you want something more professional and custom to your needs, I suggest looking more local.

Improve your website

Maybe you have a website, but you aren’t getting the most out of it. First, figure out why someone would come to your site. Are they looking for listings or professional advice?  What would someone search for when they visit your site? You should offer consumers information they are looking for, or at least enough to make them know you are the best source for that information. That brings me to the second point: a call to action. Just like in any marketing piece, you want to turn your website traffic into leads. Make sure your contact information is prominent on your site, and encourage prospective clients to reach out.

Taking a fresh look at your design can help your website better present your company image and professionalism. When it comes to website design, more isn’t always better. Make sure your website stays easy to navigate so that consumers can find what they are looking for.

One major downside to the internet as a source of information is that much of it is inaccurate or out-of-date. Many real estate website have old listings, inaccurate descriptions, and old contact information. It’s important to keep your website up-to-date. Most importantly has to be your contact information. If a prospective customer is trying to reach you, you want to make sure he’s seeing your current phone number. Make sure you update your contact information on any sites you are listed on. You may be on other sites that you don’t even know of. Maybe you have a profile on your broker’s site, or other 3rd party real estate websites. Here’s a helpful trick. If you changed phone numbers over the years, Google your old phone number and see what sites come up.

Get more traffic

Most website owners have no strategy for increasing hits to their website. They sit back and hope people will just find it themselves. Search engines like Google will very likely find your site and direct people to it, but to get the most out of them, it will take a little effort. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is making changes to your site or sites linking to you to increase your position on search engines. Many companies use professional SEO firms or consultants to develop a custom strategy, but with some simple tips you may be able to drastically improve your traffic. Search engines read, or “index” text. They can’t read images or Flash, so make sure you’re whole site isn’t just images or scanned documents. Choose several phrases or keywords that you want to improve your ranking on. Obviously, keywords like “Mississippi” and “homes” are going to have a lot of competition, so you want to be more specific. Let’s say you have several listing in a subdivision called Oakwood. Create a page on your website dedicated to that subdivision. At the top, put in big bold letters “Homes in Oakwood”. Include some related information describing the subdivision, the surrounding area, maybe links to schools, and make sure to showcase your listings. Use keywords when linking to your pages. Instead of having a link that says “Listings” or “Click here”, make it more descriptive, like “Homes in Oakwood”. When you link back to your home page, name the link your company name or your name. That will improve your results if someone types in your name at a search engine.

Consider advertising on local websites where your prospective clients visit. There are some inexpensive opportunities that can be very effective. Also, make sure you include your website on any marketing you do, including business cards, flyers, perhaps even yard signs.

Track your results

Knowing how many hits your website gets will help you improve. There are several options, and probably the best is Google Analytics, a free service that tracks how many people visit your site and what they do there. Analytics will show you where your visitors came from, and if they came from a search engine, it will list what keywords they typed to find your site. You can also view reports and charts of how your traffic changes over time. It is a must-have tool for any website, especially if you want to see how your changes affect your traffic.

Like many things, running a successful website can be very complex, but you can start small. If you spend just a little bit of time every month improving your website, I’m sure you’ll be surprised at the results.

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