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5 Must-Haves for Your Real Estate Website Redesign

Capturing the attention of a prospective home buyer is one biggest marketing challenges in any industry. There’s tremendous competition, regardless of where you’re located, and appealing to everyone’s particular tastes can be nearly impossible.

However, if you’ve identified your target market, there are a few things you can do to attract the interest of potential home buyers, over your local competitors.

The following are the top 5 most important elements that many realtors and real estate developers forget to include in their real estate website redesign.

#5. Recently Sold Listings or Units

Realtors and developers alike, need to promote themselves as already being successful.

For developers, nobody wants to buy into a residential community that isn’t already occupied by others. Displaying homes that have already been sold reassures buyers that you sell quality homes, in a good location, and others have already recognized the value your company offers.

As a realtor, your sold listings are kind of like your career portfolio. Sellers can immediately see that you are very capable of selling homes, and buyers are instilled with confidence that you are trustworthy and that you understand your clients’ needs.

#4. Basic Home Specs

I’m surprised I even have to list this as something that’s overlooked, but there are actually realtors and developers out there that don’t include this stuff on their website!

You need to include ALL the basics:

  • Square feet
  • # of beds & baths
  • Garages
  • Flooring materials
  • Kitchen features, appliances & brands
  • Outdoor living spaces
  • Property acreage & features
  • Etc, etc…

You need to tell your customers about anything that will differentiate your homes from everyone else out there. There’s no excuse for not putting this stuff on your website.

#3. The Surrounding Community

For those customers who are looking to relocate (or willing to travel) to find a great new home, there’s few things more important than the neighborhood and the surrounding community.

Take them on a tour of the town, give them pictures of local landmarks, shopping centers and school sporting events. Tell them how long it takes to get to the grocery store and the center of town…

In other words, let them imagine living there, before they even come around for a visit.

#2. Quick Sale Units & Active Listings

This one’s pretty obvious for the realtors out there, but some of you developers are missing an enormous opportunity to tell people about your move-in-ready units…

You can’t just wait around, hoping interested buyers will ask for a tour. You have to tell them that homes are available TODAY! If a home fits a buyer’s requirements, once they hear you’ve actually got one for sale, they’re all but guaranteed to arrange a tour.

#1. Fantastic Photography

It baffles me time and time again… Imagine yourself in the market for a new home:

You’re browsing the web and you find a beautiful new residential community, with many homes already built and more to come. It’s located in a family-friendly, suburban neighborhood, in a great school district and just a few minutes from the heart of town. The builder’s got a great reputation for quality construction and it seems like a perfect fit.

But then, you get to the pictures…

It’s hard to tell if they’re “before” or “after” shots… and then you see the befuddled plumber trying to figure out how to put the kitchen sink together…

A Bad Real Estate Website Photo
Make Sure Your Real Estate Website Photos Are Better Than This One

We’ve all seen ’em. Those hideous photos of potentially gorgeous homes. Now imagine, after seeing those, how many people have stopped browsing and moved on to the next community, right down the road.

Please, do yourself a favor and hire a great photographer.

How to Find the Perfect Website Design Estimate

Finding the right company to build your business website can be challenging, to say the least. There’s so much to consider… and price is just a sliver of the overall website design estimate. Choosing the right web designer upfront can save you months of frustration and delays.

When interviewing potential web designers, it’s hard to see the big picture. There are many unknowns…

  • How you will work together?
  • Will they understand your business?
  • Will they grasp what you want to achieve?
  • Will you end up with a website you are happy with?
  • When will it launch?

By taking a practical approach to finding the right designer, you’re much more likely to end up with a effective website that you’ll be proud of. The following are some of the best ways to narrow your search to the best web design company for you.

Finding Your Web Designer

Figure Out Why You Need a Website

A new website can bring many improvements to your existing online presence, but it’s important to focus on your most important needs in order to get the most out of your investment. For some, it can be as simple as incorporating new technology like social media or revitalizing an outdated appearance. Others may want to increase their exposure by attracting new visitors and generating new leads. If you already have lots of visitors, you may be more interested in educating potential buyers and converting those high-quality prospects into sales.

Even though all of that sound enticing, it’s important to focus on the most important reasons, so you and your potential designers know what needs to be accomplished.

Start With the Quality Web Designers

There are thousands of “web designers” out there. And, unfortunately, finding one that will give you what you want can be a craps shoot. The spectrum of design styles is broad and many will not appeal to you as “good looking websites”. Fortunately, the vast majority of established web designers have website portfolios which you can browse to see if they’re a good fit for your business.

Take time to start your search on the customer portfolio page so you can get a good idea of their design capabilities. Don’t even bother with web designers whose past work you don’t like. Here’s our website portfolio by the way.

Consider Your Content

Written content is considered by many to be the most important element of a website. What most don’t realize is that copywriting can also be one most expensive and time consuming aspects of a new website, as well. Having a solid understanding of what you want to say on your website (and how you want to say it) can have a dramatic impact on the final web design estimates you request.

If you can write, consider writing the content yourself to reduce the cost of your website. Most competent web designers will still offer advice about what you should write about and how to organize it.

Don’t Underpay

When it comes to web designers, you get what you pay for. The truth is, you can find plenty of people who will offer to build you a website for a fraction of what you might expect to pay. In the end, however, looking for the cheapest option is rarely the best way to go. The money you save can quickly be overshadowed by the frustration of poor communication, lack of technical or design skills and a general disinterest in your project.

Keep you budget expectations realistic and don’t jump immediately at the prospect of a cheap website. It’s completely fine to consider lower cost options… but do your best to ensure your web designer understands your needs and can provide you with what you want.

Don’t Overpay

Experienced web designers come in all shapes and sizes… and so do their website design estimates. Most small businesses don’t need a website that costs tens-of-thousands of dollars… In fact, many smaller web design companies will provide you with a comparable result to that of a big marketing agency, at a much more affordable price. Get a web design quote from us, for example.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to the big guys. But remember, a big price tag doesn’t mean the website they build for you will be that much better.

Say Goodbye to Worthless Social Media Groups

I just love joining new social media groups, especially on LinkedIn. It’s so exciting to see all those new faces. So, imagine my own sad face when I realized that I had reached my LinkedIn groups limit of… 50? !

What’s up with that? Why would LinkedIn, the preferred business social media platform for millions, not let people join more than 50 groups, especially when Facebook allows us to join up to 6,000?

In any case, it’s time to bite the bullet and detach myself from a bunch of dead-beat social media groups that I don’t benefit from anymore. That’s what I have to do if I want to grow my network and find referrals and customers that are a good match for my business.

Time to Weed!

Experienced gardeners purchase mulch by the truckload and pile it onto their flower beds 6 inches deep. Mulch suffocates the weeds so they can’t, in turn, suffocate the classy flowers. Unfortunately, we can’t just pour mulch over our LinkedIn social media groups and expect our clutter to magically disappear without putting serious thought into which ones are worthwhile and which ones are not.

Here are a few questions that helped me decide which LinkedIn groups to leave:

  • Which groups do I rarely visit?
    Make a list of all these groups and then leave them.
  • Which groups don’t I participate in?
    Unless you really want them to show in your profile, leave any groups you do not participate in.
  • Which groups are dominated by one or two people?
    This was true for a lot of my groups. These groups are worthless unless the participants are true thought leaders in your industry.

(Be patient because LinkedIn only allows members to quit groups one at a time.)

My only other exception to these quitting rules are social media groups that tout good causes, like Susan G. Komen for the Cure and The Jimmy Fund. I will keep my memberships in these because I support their causes and want to learn all I can.

Time to Replant!

As I was deciding which groups to leave, I have to admit that I may have joined a lot of these groups for some pretty shallow reasons…

  • how many people were in the group (popularity)
  • whether or not the group had a pretty logo (visual appetite)
  • I got invitations from people I didn’t know (ego)

Not terribly effective ways to choose groups.

Choosing LinkedIn Groups that Matter to Me

With these wrong reasons for joining still in my head, it should be much easier to find new groups that will help me. Here’s the criteria that I will use…

  • the group must be relevant to my business… and therefore me
  • I can visualize myself participating intelligently
  • it will have active and current posts by more than a few people
  • my expertise will stand out from the crowd

With social media being such a big part of business networking these days, it’s important to be thoughtful about which groups will produce the highest-quality referrals, and maybe even some customers…

And, now that I have used my own advice to break up with a bunch of groups, I’ve also decided to take it slow and only re-add one group per month at the most. I think it makes sense, for me, to participate with depth… instead of trying to be all things to all groups.

In any case, I’m down to 20 groups and it feels great!

The Art of Website Writing: The Top 5 Ways to Jump In

You’ve cleared your desk at least three times. There’s a nice cup of sweet tea sitting on the immaculate surface. You’re all set to write your website copy but you still have no idea where to begin. So, you get up and find something else to do.

Sound familiar?

As web designers, our customers often feel they can slap together some website copy. And it would seem to make sense because who else would have such a clear vision of their business.

Then, after a few weeks have gone by with no news or updates, we realize the disease has struck again. Another talented business person has come down with a bad case of writer’s block while attempting to write their own website copy.

In the spirit of finding a cure, here are the top 5 things that you might try BEFORE sitting down to write:

#5 Write the following on a post-it note

“Speak directly to your customer and show them you understand their pain.”

Stick this note on your tea cup. Apply this advice often while writing your website copy.

#4 Make a detailed list of your business offerings

This seems so simple, and yet who hasn’t attempted to mould themselves into what someone else wants them to be.

Well, businesses often make the same mistake. They lose sight of who they are and morph into what they think their customers want. All of a sudden, they’re selling what they don’t do best, just so potential customers will buy “something”.

You laugh, but you know it’s true.

Refer to your list of offerings while writing your website copy.

#3 Outline a description of your perfect customer

Having a detailed vision of the person who needs your products and services is very important. This imaginary person is called a “customer persona.” Give your persona a photo and get to know him, or her, like the back of your hand.

Refer to your persona often while writing your website copy.

#2 Help your customers realize their frustration

A good business idea fills a niche and soothes a person’s pain. This pain can be real, like achey muscles, or it can be in the form of a frustration… like not being able to access information quickly. Google spotted their niche early on when they realized that we humans wanted knowledge at our fingertips. That’s when Google put all their efforts into search engine technologies.

Your customers really want to blurt out their frustrations, but they may not even be aware of what they are. As every good shrink knows, it’s all about asking the right questions.

Refer to these questions often while writing your website copy.

#1 Jump into your website writing as if it were a cold lake!

It will be painful at first… but you’ll adjust quickly and soon become invigorated.

When you get stuck, refer to the work you’ve done above.

Remember that your website isn’t really about you. It’s about showing customers that they need what you have to offer.

Soothe your customer’s pain!

Once they get that your business can ease their pain, and can ease it better than anyone else, your job is done.

Remember this. Writing effective website copy always begins with simple honesty and ends with clear solutions that soothe frustration. Be true to yourself, do some of the work I suggested… and your website content will miraculously write itself!

My work is done here.

It’s Time to Overlook the Obvious and Clean Up Your SEO

Since my last post on building an effective website through blogging, a number of concerned business owners have asked about ways to clean up their SEO. Specifically, they understand the benefits of topical articles, but don’t see value in going after those less popular keywords.

To address those concerns, you first have to acknowledge that the technical landscape of SEO has changed dramatically in the last few years. No longer are there surefire methods to rank on the first page for your desired search terms. Google’s ranking algorithm is a moving target that becomes more advanced on a daily basis. Elements that were once a priority for on-page search optimization have been replaced with new factors that Google wants to see.

As a basic example, a year or two ago, the meta description (a short block of text hidden to visitors) was weighed heavily by search engines in their ranking formula. Today, however, many experts agree that it has very little weight, if any at all.

This example is truly indicative of what Google has always tried to do: give its users the most relevant search results possible. At its foundation, the concept of a search engine is to provide wholly unbiased information, prioritized by relevance for its users. The meta description, while useful for a long time, is easily manipulated by marketers… and that’s the opposite of what Google wants.

So, we’re really not talking about Google’s algorithm here. We’re talking about what led them to change it.

It’s Time to Acknowledge Your Competition

Face it, without all that pesky competition you’d rank #1 for whatever you want, right? So, if you can’t join ’em, you really only have 2 options for those highly competitive keywords:

Try to beat ’em

OR

Admit defeat

Obviously, you’re going to try and beat ’em. But, before you suit up for battle, think about the long road ahead. Attempting to outrank your competition for the most desirable search terms will usually end up as a demoralizing, fruitless endeavor. Unless your company provides an abnormally unique product, there will always be a bigger competitor, with more brand awareness, more clout with Google and more money to spend on marketing. So what are you supposed to do?

It’s Time to Overlook the Obvious

I know, ever since 5th grade, you’ve always been told “don’t ignore the obvious”. I’m not here to argue against that age-old wisdom. My point is, if you truly want to clean up your SEO, you need to take note of your most obvious search phrases, recognize the stranglehold that your more powerful competition has on those premium keywords, and then look beyond that glaring first level to a place that’s a bit less explored.

In other words, by modifying those very apparent search terms with appropriate adjectives, locations and less common synonyms, you can find and tap into small niches within the market. While you’re attempting to attract a much smaller group of people, you’re also much more likely to be found by them at all.

At its foundation, these markets are much more accessible to smaller businesses. Plus, if you take this technique and apply it to a variety of niches, what you’ll have is a well diversified and testable marketing campaign. A marketing campaign that can be as focused or broad as you and your team can handle.

In the near future, I’ll expand on the idea of using a diversified keyword portfolio to attract different types of people, and learn which are your best customers.

4 Website Design Features to Keep Your Visitors from Leaving

Don’t you just want to scream?

You’ve finally gotten some traffic to your website. You know this because you dilegently study your website analytics and, clear as day, your visitor sessions are finally up. You are so happy! You love traffic. You are in love with the internet.

But then, you make the mistake of digging deeper into your stats and you see that your bounce rate is really high, maybe even as bad as 90%. This is not good. Bouncing means that people leave directly from the page that they land on, without hanging around long enough to learn anything. You’re really upset. You hate the internet!

Calm down. We can fix this.

The first thing to do is figure out what happened…

  • Did your visitors get bored?
  • Were they confused by something you showed them?
  • Did you insult their intellegence?
  • Were they unable to immediately find the informational links they were looking for in the first 5 seconds?
  • Did your website load too slowly for their impatient brains?

For whatever reason, they didn’t even stay long enough to read all your excellent content!

Maybe it’s time to add some features that might encourage people to stay longer and click through to your other pages.

1. Be unique with a custom home page

Two choices here. Your home page can be structured like all your other pages …or it can be completely different. To make it different, you would deviate from the template and add elements that enable you to show off your product or services in a way that highlights the most important sections on your website. Of all the website design features available, this one will have the most impact on the longevity of the visit. A custom home page allows for an elegant overview of your business, while enabling the visitor to go off in the direction that interests them most.

Here is an example of a custom home page:

consumerspetroleum-screenshot

2. Stand out with slideshow

And now that you have your custom home page in place, be sure to hang a colorful slideshow on the wall of your entryway. Few things speak more clearly than a set of handpicked images. If one image can say a 1,000 words, imagine how well 5 images would be able to tell an entire story… your story.

Your images can be superimposed with titles to help them electrify your message, or at least clarify it. The photos themselves can be clickable and lead each visitor directly to the information they are looking for.

Well-designed slideshows require a bunch of visual, written and technical skillsets; they need to be timed, cropped, color-corrected and sized just right. Each image should be pleasing unto itself… but still play nicely with all the others. The images should relate to each other without being redundant, yet still repeat the style and tone. Be creative!

3. Sidebar your honor?

Another idea is to stick a creative sidebar on many of the pages that follow your custom home page. Sidebars are great when you want your visitors to see something specific, no matter where they are on your website. A slideshow of your clients’ logos, your Twitter feed, a list of your latest blogs, an email subscription box, links to your social media pages, promotions, organizations you support or are a member of, and who knows what else.

A sidebar frees up your header so only the most important things are displayed at the top. I feel sidebars tend to be more comfortable on the right side of each page, but they do work pretty well on the left in certain instances. Sidebars come with some mobile layout considerations, (because they become “belowbars”on phones) but a quality responsive website will handle all of that quite gracefully.

4. Navigation is about style, performance and clarity

Our lives are interspersed with wonderful moments we barely notice. A silent laugh, a big stretch, the sight of colorful flower outside the window. Your menu bar items need to be one of those moments. When your visitors click on your navigation links, there should be a nano second of that same happiness regarding how smoothly that link hovered, changed, flowed, and took direction.

A click on a link should never distract from the message. However, the user should be able to “feel” the click… and immediately know that something is supposed to happen while they’re waiting for the transition.

Implement these four website design features and watch your bounce rate go down.