In a market inundated with multiple devices, information overload and a battle for user engagement, ensuring that your website’s search function works effectively could be the difference between receiving a viewing request – or not.
Search has always been about speed and results but now the market is shifting, user habits are changing and there is a multitude of other criteria that needs to be considered. One estate agent recently told me that 80 per cent of properties bought would not have fallen into the ‘Search’ category the purchaser initially enquired about. So how can we incorporate this information about human behaviour into our property search?
Google is a good starting point. Most of us use Google daily and are accustomed to how we each individually navigate this entry point to the Internet. If we treat our search in the same way as we browse in Google and ‘spit’ out a few words that capture the essence of what we want, ‘house in central London with garden,’ we broaden our relevant search results as opposed to being confined to postcode searching. This is ‘free form sentence searching’ a trend that’s on the increase. Good examples are Air B&B and Pinterest whose success came on the back of the ability to search data in a non-linear fashion.
Offering viewers a fully responsive Search, viewable from all platforms with one click for results is critical.
THE INFORMATION CHALLENGE
Comprehensive user profiling will ignificantly enhance lead generation and subsequent sales. Introducing relevant lifestyle information, whilst filtering out irrelevant search results, is a challenge but very possible with a new range of data products now available. We advocate ‘Heat Maps’ (a Google product) and ‘TravelTime’ (an Igeolise product) as essential elements for any new search. ‘Heat Maps’ are maps overlaid with additional local information; schools, crime, council tax bands, proximity to stations, shops and other areas of interest.
‘TravelTime’ measures the time it actually takes to get anywhere as opposed to a traditional search providing distance information, which has been a notoriously unreliable gauge of how long it really takes particularly in the commuter belt where rush hour can bring traffic to a standstill. Users are able to determine how long a journey will take, be it to their work, child’s school or the local coffee shop.
Behind the scenes there are new features that enable estate agents, residential and commercial, to influence Search success. Property Boost is a new tool that can apply a weighting to an individual property or a group of properties.
Your agency or branch can ensure these property details are coming up more frequently in search results. It can be hugely beneficial in shifting sluggish property.
Quickly engaging visitors by providing a snapshot of relevant available properties for sale or rent on your homepage is simple to achieve. This ‘personal homepage’ can be based on past searches or tracking cookies or information you have on your users. The more personal you can be the better.
Speed and efficiency is equally important. A good, fast, property search is critical with enhanced flexibility to refine search results enabling users to see the information in a desirable format. Key word, or sentence searching, speeds up the filtering process and prioritises user preferences. Be sure to offer a variety of formats.
Offering viewers a fully responsive Search viewable from all platforms with just one click for results is critical. Mobile searches overtook desktop searches for the first time in May 2015, making the ‘one click’ rule even more important. Mobile is definitely the future.
The technology behind searches is continually evolving bringing us better results. Intuitive, exploratory visual search can enhance your lead generation and subsequent sales. So, ask yourself:
- Is your ‘Search’ working hard for you?
- How many searches does it take to generate a viewing?
- Are your users returning to your Search? And, have you saved their search criteria?
- Are you able to influence your search results to shift sluggish property?
- Would your users benefit from TravelTime and Heat Maps? For example, do you appeal to commuters?
If you are in any doubt as to the answer to any of these questions perhaps it is time to talk to your website agency or World Archipelago (we are happy to offer preliminary advice free of charge).