In the late ’90s and early 2000s, agents who had their own websites were considered cutting edge. At that time, most people still used dial-up internet, and real estate professionals were learning how to use the web to showcase listings as consumers were just beginning to search for homes online.
Then, between 2004 and 2006, the IDX feed solution was born. Holy real estate website, Batman. At last, we could embed property listings onto our site for visitors to search. This led to more agents venturing into the online world with their own websites. By 2007, if you were a broker or agent without a website, you were considered lacking in technological skills. Soon, website companies targeting the real estate industry started sprouting up like springtime weeds, and every broker in town was offering agents their own individual website.
Some practitioners had great successes in the early days — it was easy to stuff keywords into meta tags, content pages, headers, and footers. Those who were good at loading their site with keywords were rewarded with new clients and high rankings on search engines like AOL, Yahoo, Excite, and Dogpile (remember those?).
But if there is one thing we all know to be true about the internet, it’s that it’s constantly evolving. With evolution came the reign of big real estate search sites: realtor.com®, Zillow, and Trulia. It wasn’t long before those small, individual agent websites couldn’t compete in search engine rankings.
So what are today’s options for competing online?
If you’re a broker committed to a DIY approach to your website, then you have to be prepared for constant maintenance while spending many hours per week reading articles and watching videos on the tedious, ever-changing intricacies of building a great real estate website. For inspiration, one particular DIY website that’s done well is Raleigh Realty Homes by Ryan Fitzgerald. He has spent years learning how to build his website and thousands of dollars in custom work to achieve his search engine results.
However, the business card–like static individual agent websites are now a thing of the past. A strong online presence today starts at the brokerage level. A broker-owner should instead be making a serious financial commitment to their company’s online presence in exchange for their commission split structure. This entails working with website consultants who are experts in SEO to help you build a custom site that is fine-tuned for capturing search traffic that’s specific to you and your agents’ target market. Prebuilt or template-based real estate websites simply don’t rank as well in search engines. Agents should be featured somewhere on your website and given the opportunity to promote themselves through blog posts, property listing pages, and even social media posts. My advice to new agents is to go with a real estate firm that has a strong online presence, so let that be a lesson to my fellow broker-owners.
I’m always open to learning more about internet rankings for real estate websites, so I welcome your thoughts, opinions, and feedback. If I’ve missed something, please let me know in the comments below.