For the High Street agent who is juggling completions and compliance, digital marketing can feel overwhelming to the point of ignorance. Others simply don’t have the time or the resources to undertake the learning, implementation and monitoring required to run successful online campaigns. Many don’t have a bottomless pit budget either, so they need to spend wisely.
We’ve spoken to industry experts to distill what’s available, picking out the ‘easy wins’ for agents to pursue. Granted, our contributors couldn’t always isolate the ‘just one thing’ an agent should select from the digital marketing pack but what follows is a relevant snapshot that narrows down the often-perplexing field.
Easy wins with property listings
Probably the easiest digital marketing method to understand is portal listings but merely uploading a property is not enough, especially when everyone is in the same marketplace. “Quite simply, more clicks equals more leads, more instructions and more sales,” says Lee Wainwright at FocalAgent, when explaining why agents should upgrade their portal efforts.
Lee is steadfast in his view that professional photography will make a listing stand out from the crowd, but he adds that video can’t be overlooked. “Video is the new best-in-class digital marketing asset, providing another level of immersive content in a format that is quick to access and super engaging. The general public are consuming 20-30 mins of video per day and people are increasingly expecting this level of visual content when moving home,” adds Lee.
Video is the new best-in-class digital marketing asset, providing another level of immersive content in a format that is quick to access and super engaging. Lee Wainwright CEO, FocalAgent.
Understanding which device people are using for their property searches explains why video is such an important digital marketing tool. “Research shows that 97 per cent of all searches start online and over 70 per cent of those are on a mobile device or tablet,” comments Lee. “Mobile device consumption lends itself to video, which is much richer and more enticing for the customer; it means they’re more likely to click the all-important call-to-action button.”
So, what video content should agents be uploading? “Short video trailers with information on the local area, a walkthrough of a property and 360-degree content with dolls house-style floor plans to offer movers a truly immersive experience.”
Easy wins with websites
When asked what singular change an agent should make to its website for improved ROI, Ben Sellers at Starberry is on the same page as FocalAgent. “Make use of video! Video is a great way to bring your brand to life, showcase your personality and bring your team forward in an engaging way – this all builds trust with your online users and creates credibility. Video is also great for engagement, helping boost SEO and keeping potential customers on your website for longer.”
Make use of video! Video is a great way to bring your brand to life, showcase your personality and bring your team forward in an engaging way – this all builds trust. Ben Sellers Co-owner, Starberry.
Video can play an important role in building a ‘killer’ home page – a critical digital touchpoint where business can be won or lost. “You want to grab attention and a video will certainly do that. Once engaged, agents should prioritise the actions they want users to take and organise the home page based on those primary objectives.”
Ben says other cornerstones of a good home page include clear actions at the top, an easy-to-use navigational menu, bespoke copy that helps users understand who you are and how your agency is different, clear jump-off points to the most important sections of your website and calls-to-action that float as the user scrolls through the pages. “Converting leads to make the most of your digital marketing investment is crucial. On that note, we also advise that any data capture form is easy to complete and continuously tested. Experiment with colours, words, form fields and different data capture types to keep increasing the conversion rate on your website. And don’t forget to add tracking to every form so you can understand the marketing attribution and ROI ,” adds Ben. By this he means tracking codes in all of your weblinks, so you can see where the traffic comes from.
Easy wins with digital imagery
“Hire the professionals,” is the first and foremost piece of advice Pete Burnham from NicheCom would give to agents trying to get the most out of digital imagery. “Experienced property photographers will know exactly how to achieve the very best photos and can help pick out the details that will sell the lifestyle that a prospective buyer might envisage themselves having.” While Pete, like Lee, believes an eye-catching set of professional photographs is essential when you have just seconds to attract attention, agents should also consider adding fully immersive 3D scans (also known as virtual tours) to their marketing pack. The NicheCom team has found scans quickly help a buyer decide whether to book a physical viewing and can prove fantastic lead generators.
Experienced property photographers will know exactly how to achieve the very best photos and can help pick out the details that will sell the lifestyle . Pete Burnham Managing Director, NicheCom.
“Fully immersive 3D scans should be used in a certain way to maximise their lead generating potential,” advises Pete. “Don’t give too much away on the portals – load up a teaser version and only present the full scan once prospective buyers have registered their interest.”
Easy wins with pipeline business
Creating something out of nothing is where digital marketing excels and using big data to accurately forecast future buying/selling patterns is far more sophisticated than cold calling.
If you have a database of dormant clients who may not sell for one, three or five years, Sam Hunter at Homesearch says it should be mined to fill your pipeline. “Markets, and types of home buyers and sellers, run in cycles,” says Sam. “The Homesearch data team works hard to statistically analyse every home in every market to understand these cycles at a micro level, as well as identify the two to three per cent of a market that is in ‘real estate mode’ at any one point in time. As a result, we can better point agents in the right direction of which properties to market and to whom.” Sam feels it’s the perceived lack of ‘next homes’ available that prevents many moves, and the best agents overcome this by nurturing their database – delivering relevant, interesting and timely information through digital marketing.
People can feel uncomfortable about selling when they have a high level of uncertainty about buying. Agents use Homesearch to feed the curiosity of homeowners. Sam Hunter COO, Homesearch.
“People often feel uncomfortable about selling when they have a high level of uncertainty about buying. Agents use Homesearch to feed the curiosity of homeowners and provide them with the confidence to sell, whether that’s through presenting them with properties for sale, the opportunity to book a valuation or local property news – aspects that may be the catalyst for coming to market. We also help agents with brand awareness by listing their agency on every off-market home on their patch.”
Easy wins with social media
Social media is the community noticeboard, local grapevine and school gates all rolled into one – the perfect platform for agents to get in front of home movers but with so many channels to choose from, which should an agent plump for?
Tom Davis at Digital Munkey doesn’t hesitate in recommending Facebook and Instagram. Easy enough but the matter of what to post and how to measure success is where agents need steering. “With Facebook, it’s best to be consistent with posts and not just be property focussed. Remember, agents are in the know and should share local information as well as available properties. Instagram is very visual, so there needs to be a good supply of photos – sneak peaks, area imagery and snaps of thank you cards can work well. Many digital marketing agencies, including Digital Munkey, post to social media on behalf of agents and we find a WhatsApp social group with a few active agents as members is the best way to gather content and ideas.”
Reaching out to Facebook and Instagram users in the agent’s location is key to getting more valuations, so they will need to actively engage with people. Tom Davis, Digital Munkey.
Tom does have news for agents who just ‘post and pray’. “Reaching out to Facebook and Instagram users in the agent’s location is key to getting more valuations, so they will need to actively engage with people. Although posts are essential, social media also presents the opportunity to launch targeted adverts and remarket based on user behaviour.”
If posting on social media feels like shouting into an empty room, then analytics need to form part of your digital activity. “Let’s be honest, it’s all about data that leads to valuations,” concludes Tom. “Digital Munkey pulls all social media activity back through Google Analytics to track key forms on agents’ websites in order to clearly measure ROI.”
Easy wins with Google & SEO
Propelling yourself up the Google rankings relies on well-crafted digital content – so it’s one thing agents should strive to get right. We’re not just talking about beautiful, bespoke blogs (although that is exceptionally important as Google will penalise a website if it publishes duplicate copy that appears in numerous places. It views anything facsimile as trying to manipulate ranking and will reduce traffic to that site as a result).
Jane Gardner at JP Gardner & Associates says unique copy tailored to an agent’s business is a must but adds that it should also be elevated with some marketing magic. “When it comes to content, the singular action that will propel an agent’s website up the Google rankings is knowing the best long-tail keywords for your business/location and using them in the text on every page, e.g., “Who is the best estate agent in Ealing?”.
Install a plug-in, such as Rank Math, into your website. It will give you top tips on how to improve your SEO and put together better articles that Google will love. Jane Gardner CEO, JP Gardner & Associates.
It’s here we enter the world of SEO – search engine optimisation. “Over 63,000 searches are made on Google every second but despite its behemoth status, Google isn’t the only search engine. You also have Bing, Yahoo, YouTube and Pinterest – so ignoring SEO is never going to be good for business,” says Jane.
How well an agent performs hinges on multiple factors and it changes all the time but Jane has an easy way for agents to keep afloat, rather than sink down the rankings: “Install a plug-in, such as Rank Math, into your website. It will give you top tips on how to improve your SEO and put together better articles that Google will love.
Other simple yet effective SEO pleasers include getting credible backlinks to your site by collaborating with other local bloggers and complementary companies.
“Google verified agents can tag images with their business details, then add an alt-text description to the photo, for example, ‘A 3-bedroom semi-detached house for sale on Acacia Avenue in Aberdeen’. Do this and you’ll immediately increase your visibility to the search engines.
Easy wins with online advertising
Online advertising is a ‘catch all’ phrase that encompasses many different digital marketing approaches. It’s such a broad area that Nelly Berova at Art Division could write a weighty book about it (and has contributed many useful features to The Negotiator, breaking down the different strands). When pushed to nominate one thing an agent should explore, Google MyBusiness gets her vote, although Nelly stresses that multichannel online advertising always yields the best results.
Google ‘estate agents’ plus your location. You’ll see a map and a listing of three estate agents in your area, with contacts and reviews. This is known as the ‘Local Pack’. Nelly Berova, Managing Director, Art Division.
“If the budget is tight and you have a physical office address, I would recommend properly optimising your Google MyBusiness account. If you’re not sure what this is, go to Google and type ‘estate agents’ plus your location. You’ll see a map and a listing of three estate agents in your area, with contact information and review scores. This is known as the ‘Local Pack’. Click on any of the pack entries and you’ll see a more detailed listing with photos, reviews and more,” explains Nelly.
“The top three agents listed in Google MyBusiness will get the most clicks and, therefore, enquiries from potential clients. To rank in the top three, you need to have your profile well optimised and pay attention to your reviews. It may take a while but it will be worth it.”
Nelly is also a champion of remarketing – a form of online advertising that, while very effective for agents, is hugely underused due to a more complex set up “Dynamic remarketing illustrated? If a buyer looks at a property for sale on your website but does not book a viewing, you can automatically chase them around the web with the same property dynamically placed in a banner.”
Easy wins with email marketing
“A hard sell email is unlikely to deliver new business. We all have inboxes full of hard sells from unknown companies that we ignore,” are the wise words from Raj Dosanjh at Rentround when asked what one type of database email would generate the most leads.
Raj says the best type is one that veers away from selling anything directly at first glance. “The offer of guides or tips that resonate with the reader increases the chance of the email being opened and the reader eventually clicking through to the content hosted on your website.”
We often email our database of 40,000 landlords and when we mention the person’s actual postcode or their name in the subject line, open rates increase by eight per cent. Raj Dosanjh CEO, Rentround.
The open rate can depend on the subject title alone, so that needs thought. “At Rentround, we often email our database of 40,000 landlords and when we mention the person’s actual postcode or their name in the subject line, open rates increase by eight per cent.”
The content clients are directed to also needs to be customised; Raj is in total agreement with Jane that copy must relate to local people and reflect the local market. “It’s then within the content you’ve directed the reader to – usually a blog or news story – where the sales pitch is placed. You can promote your services within the text itself, add a banner within the content or place your advertisements within a sidebar.”
Responding to email tracking reports is another easy win for agents. “Reports will tell you who clicked through to the content from the email. These people now have familiarity with your brand and may be more receptive to phone calls. You can start the conversation even by saying “I noticed you read our blog today, I was wondering if you had any questions”.
Easy wins – now go and win!
These expert opinions and tips should give you the confidence to get started in any one of the areas outlined and as you work through them, you’ll find you are actually building your digital marketing strategy. Easy!