- Use SEO to help attract your target audience.
- Create clear, consistent messaging within all facets of your branding efforts.
- Analyze your website’s performance and update it periodically.
Even in the age of social media, websites are an important asset for real estate professionals. They act as the equivalent of a personal billboard that announces who you are and what you stand for.
Today, many professionals have at least one dedicated website that may link to their brokerage’s website or stand on its own. Some consider it the primary way to appear professional.
“I feel my website gives me credibility,” says Lisa Kahn, a new member of Jennifer Ames Lazarre’s Ames Group team at Engels & Volker’s Chicago office.
Salesperson Sally Goldkamp, an agent with Gladys Manion Real Estate in St. Louis, agrees. “It’s confirmation and shows I’m an active professional,” she says.
And salesperson Alex Wolking, at Keller Williams OneChicago, concurs with his peers’ assessments. “Your website is your online business card, resume, and profile. So many consumers start their search online and research you before they contact you,” he says.
But even the best websites are not the way most prospects will find you, says broker Jennifer Ames Lazarre. “Google analytics are far more likely to put consumer sites such as LinkedIn, Zillow, realtor.com®, Facebook, and Instagram higher in searches, so you also should be on those, too,” she says.
Broker Stafford H. Manion, also in St. Louis, also finds it beneficial to be on those third-party sites. “Our website pushes our listings out to them,” he says.
Why Build Your Own Site?
Because a brokerage typically provides a web page on its site for an agent, some may wonder whether they need their own site. But some salespeople find it helpful to have an additional website. They find they have more flexibility and control that way. Wolking, for instance, currently has one site, unaffiliated with his brokerage, and soon will have a second focused on his forthcoming quarterly luxury report.
“Using a website provided to you by your brokerage is a great tool when you first get started and your marketing budget is tight, or you haven't yet made enough money in the business to build a website that stands out,” he says.
Creating a site unaffiliated with the brokerage also ensures the salesperson retains their leads and the work they’ve done. A firm might offer to set up a website for a salesperson independent of the brokerage’s main site. But Wolking offers this caveat:
“Before having your company set up a website for you, make sure you can take the leads that come in with you if you decide to leave and go to another brokerage,” or you’ll have to start over again from scratch, he says, adding, “When you sell real estate, you own a business—treat it as such and own your site!”
If you plan to hire someone to help develop and maintain a site for you, carefully vet your candidates. After all, the process is expensive, and you want your site to yield results. Ask your prospects how much they’ve increased a client’s traffic and bottom line. Find out what their specialty is. Some people offer only design, while others manage hosting as well. And others offer a full suite of services, with design, hosting, and search engine optimization.
Make the homepage dynamic. Good visuals and crisp copy with active verbs are critical to grabbing attention in the increasingly crowded field. Look at several sites to get ideas of what you like.
Think about how many website pages you’ll need and what information should be included on those pages.
On its company site, Gladys Manion features a bold header, navigation for more information, a photo of its office exterior, a “search by address” feature, new listings, and background information about the generations-old company.
Goldkamp’s dedicated page on the Gladys Manion site includes an “Ask Sally Goldkamp” button so visitors can pose questions. She and team partner Ally Healy are planning another website specifically for their team.
Barbara Hicks, owner of Atlanta-based B-Graphic, a marketing and graphic design firm, considers it important to limit homepage information to the key messaging you want to send to your target audience, so they can read it fast.
Use your website’s additional pages to help your audience understand why they should choose you. Maybe it’s information about your team, success stories, and properties listed or sold, says Hicks.
Contact information should be on every page, and should include a phone number and email address, not just a contact form to fill out since many wonder if a human will read it and respond, she says. She cautions against having too much information and too many links. “They’ll compete for attention, and people won’t know where to go first. Make it easy for them,” she says.
The Importance of SEO
Including the right keywords in the right places on your site is critical if you want people to find you when they search for a real estate professional. This is called search engine optimization. The content at the top of your homepage, which Hicks calls “the first impression,” is critical not only to capture the eyes of your target audience but also to attract Google’s attention.
The more specific you are, the easier you may find creating your optimization. For instance, if you sell luxury real estate, cater to first-time home buyers, or work in a specific region, you’ll want those keywords front and center. The right words bring you higher through algorithms in a search, Hicks says.
Therefore, an expert in SEO is critical. It is also one of the more costly parts of developing your own website. You’ll want an SEO expert who can do the keyword research for you and audit the site periodically to see how well it performs, says Jason Weamer, founder of Orange County, Calif.–based Visual Identity Group, a full-service digital marketing website and web development company.
“The audits collect data over a period of time that tell where you’re ranked for any particular keyword or phrase, as well as your competitors,” Weamer says.
Differentiate Yourself From Competition
Because there are more salespeople than ever, it’s important to offer more than a “great team” and “extensive experience,” because many competitors may say the same, Hicks says.
Weamer suggests, “Make them feel that they’re losing out if they don’t select you as their salesperson.”
Include information that speaks to your skill set. Maybe you share that you’ve helped 1,000 families find their dream home, Hicks says. Or maybe it’s a link to a blog you write, says Ames, who adds, “I’ve gotten clients because we both fly fish, or they were interested that I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro.” Wolking suggests another tactic—a bio video.
Keep Your Brand in Mind
Make the website a consistent part of your branding. Branding—what Weamer describes as a professionally designed, curated experience—should be consistent across all marketing materials and messaging. Manion says his firm does so by making sure colors, styles, logos, and fonts match up through its websites and all other postcards, business cards, ads, and touch points.
“But keep in mind, your brand is more than your logo, colors, fonts, and graphic elements,” says Hicks. “Your brand is your reputation, how people describe you to their friends. If you drop the ball or miss opportunities, that’s what they’ll say. Your brand must start with stellar customer service and good work to be successful,” she says.
Whatever you do, make sure the information you provide on your website is up to date and relevant and relays whatever a consumer might be searching for. Think about the site from the perspective of your prospective client.
“We live in a world where people fast-forward through commercials, FaceTime their loved ones, and can find anything they need in an instant on their iPhone,” Hicks says. “Society has turned impatient, and if your audience doesn’t find exactly what they’re looking for in the first seven seconds, they will go elsewhere.”