Don't Compete - Give them Something the Big Guys Can't!!
I recently spoke to an agent...she refused to join an office because her MLS would not feed anything to her personal website.
The natural question I asked, "How many buyers and sellers does YOUR website attract monthly?"
She had no clue!
I can't compete with the "Big 3 Websites" but I can make sure when someone GOOGLEs a question about something in my service area, they see Laura Giannotta, Little Egg Harbor REALTOR, representing buyers and sellers in southern Ocean County at the Jersey Shore!
Can I just come out and say this? The Big 3 have taken an insurmountable lead in capturing the real estate listings web traffic out there. Or stated another way; if someone is looking at listings in your market they are almost guaranteed to be doing so on a Big 3 website.
Do this exercise: try Googling the address of any property, anywhere in your market area. What you’ll find is that the first three results are dominated by either Realtor.com, a Zillow website or Trulia. If you’re really lucky, your broker website will rank in that bunch as well in many instances (ours do). However, when you turn to your Listhub broker reporting (you ARE buying those, right?) you’ll notice something – the Big 3 will dominate the online views of your listings. We’re talking north of 95%, folks…
As Brad Inman wisely pointed out in a session with Pete Flint of Trulia when I was in the room at Inman Connect in NYC this past January, the Big 3 sites have “got listing distribution handled”. It’s a difficult observation to counter, certainly on a macro level (counties or metro areas). This leaves us wondering what the role of a broker website really is, if it’s not searching for listings.
Now, of course your broker website is going to have to have a great searchable database of listings. Within the confines of your own world of clients and agents, there’s a need to demonstrate that you have inventory to show them. However, please don’t fool yourself into thinking that lots of your customers are using it.
So what else are your online visitors going to be looking for? Or put another way; what is it that you can provide via your website that won’t be found anywhere else? Here are a few suggestions to modernize your real estate broker website:
1) A compelling account of your mission and values. Most agents and brokers apply minimal brain power to their “bio” or “about me” statement, and even fewer use the power of images and video to tell their story. But potential clients today want to experience a story that moves them from their seats, that provides additional reasons to make them think they made the right choice in considering your brokerage. Most real estate companies, happily, are model small business success stories; mine the history, traditions and people surrounding your firm.
2) Testimonials from happy clients and agents. Do I really have to say this again? However, try searching the website of your local brokers – nothing. Real Estate company websites are generally lacking in providing the “social proof” today’s potential clients are looking for. This would both written testimonials, video testimonials and even recommendations from social media channels. By the way, your best source of testimonials are your own agents; don’t think clients aren’t moved by agent videos talking about why they’ve stayed with you for 20 years, or why they joined you this year over your competitors.
3) Bite-sized chunks of local content. My personal suspicion is that the “power of the blog” is waning (and I say this with great gravity, given my status as one of the original ‘Rainers) and simply because of the ever-shortening attention span and changing search algorithms. People just don’t want to read paragraphs anymore. However, the power of long-tail keywordiing is greater than ever in Google-land. And, customers still search for local keywords in your market and expect to at least learn something about your area from you. Therefore, your broker site should cover this by providing bite-sized chunks of searchable content on your market: cities, towns, attractions, lifestyles, etc. etc. it’s not blogging, it’s a skimmable travelogue
4) Big, beautiful images. The one enduring contribution of Pinterest to the online marketing evolution is the cementing in the public mindset of the need for images, everywhere. Your broker site should be image-rich; pay a pro photographer to shoot beautiful scenes of your market area (this is a great time of year for that, BTW). The era of text-intensive, dry homepages is long gone – just check out all the new Wordpress templates hitting the streets this year. Add a slideshow of your hottest people and nature or urban living photos to your landing pages, and even add a portfolio page chock full of images of your market in every season. People want to see your world, not read about it.
5) Cleaner web design – fewer menus. This is just a general observation but visitors clearly want simpler over more complicated. Many broker websites are still in 1990’s mode of having busy headers, busy sidebar menus, busy footers with links and silly key phrases to try to fool Google. Do yourself a favor and redesign to clean all that up and eliminate the outdated animations and colors. White and bright rules in 2013!
There will be other bits you’ll want to add depending on your specific markets & business concentrations (new homes, relocation assistance, military, rentals etc) and you should thoughtfully add pages/content to support those without overwhelming your core content.
But what about those listings? Personally, I would recommend featuring the absolute coolest listings in your inventory in some form or fashion and leave the rest buried in the “search homes” link.
As you rethink what your broker site is really for, just keep telling yourself this – they aren’t coming for your IDX search anymore. They are coming to check you and your agents out, and to a lesser degree to learn about your area. Make sure you are ready for them.
(crossposted on my marketing blog at: http://jeffg.me/2013/05/beyond-the-listings-the-changing-role-of-the-broker-website/)