You spend all your efforts and marketing budgets to get consumers to entrust their property requirements with you, so surely the least you can do is to help build and maintain that trust by having a brilliant website?
From the business cards on your desk to the boards outside the properties in your portfolio, all forms of marketing are important. All methods should generate new valuations and property enquiries and, even though I am a great believer in the growing importance of social media, websites also play a major part of ensuring you stay ahead of the competition and gaining you your market share.
Here are my nine secrets of a ensuring you achieve website success.
1. DESIGN AND BRANDING
This can be an easy section to master, though it may take a few attempts before you have that ‘ultimate designed website.’ You must make sure you have consistent branding within your agency so whatever your logo is, the font you use, the colours you adopt, they all have to be reflected on your website.
Make sure that when people find you on the internet that they immediately know they are at the right place. Many estate agents in the UK share the same name or very close to the same so avoid confusion by branding your website consistently.
2. CLEAN AND TIDY
Nobody likes to see clutter or industry jargon. Keep your design and build clean, easy to use and well-organised yet embracing the latest in technology.
I see many estate agency websites and the variation is immense in quality, ranging from those that haven’t seen an upgrade in years to those embracing innovation with video introductions, live chat and some great educational blogs and latest local news.
Remember that decisions on which agency to use will be affected by how you convey your agency on your website.
There are many estate agency website providers that can help you, from those exclusively servicing this industry to general agencies. Many offer great new designs and templates for you to choose from and have an established relationship with estate agency software providers that facilitate listing properties on the major portals etc. Take your time to choose the right website design agency to work with who have listened to you and understand your needs.
3. LEARN FROM OTHERS’ MISTAKES
Spend some time looking at your competitors’ websites and work out what they are and are not doing right.
Nobody likes a messy and confusing website and that includes your visitors. Clean, simple and organised works best.
When using images on your website – and, by the way, these help to increase the popularity of your pages/blogs – try to use your own rather than commonly used ones from stock libraries. All too often we see the same old photos used on multiple websites and this can make your agency look a little amateur. When the sun is shining take pictures of your local region to use and concentrate on features that make your community special, such as architecture, landmarks and tourist attractions.
4. LAYOUT AND CONTENT
Good navigation on your website is crucial – remember that those searching for property range across all ages and may have varied English language skills, so make sure your site is easy to use, quick and clear to understand and fast to respond to website visitor requirements.
Check your spelling and grammar. It is a basic point, but it is incredible how many basic grammar errors there are on websites.
A website should always be built around your clients’ requirements. Think of things from your clients point of view, what do they want to see when they reach your website, what does your website offer them upon their initial visit – are you capturing their attention?
5. CUSTOMER CARE
The best websites are customer-centric. Most web designers will recommend that you think about two things when having a new website built – functionality and impact. Make sure your property sections are easy to view and to search through. Engage your audience with clear, high quality images of property and use videos/ audio tours if you want to increase exposure and the length of time people stay viewing your properties.
Think local. Make sure that your website is built around you being the expert agency for your location. Is there clear content about the areas you cover, keywords, blogs, images and even regional video tours? By adding local content you will increase your chances of being found via the likes of Google and be seen as more applicable to those looking for a ‘local agency.’ If you have multiple agencies or are a national brand, make sure you have a dedicated page per agency/area covered. Try to keep your content and especially your blogs as current as possible so to avoid people seeing and being put off by out of date content – make sure that your last blog wasn’t over a year ago and featured last year’s ‘turning on of the town’s Christmas lights’ etc.
6. MAKE IT WORK
Your website should build your agency credibility and trust from those who visit it. Make sure that your website appears fine across all web browsers such as FireFox, Chrome, Internet Explorer etc and that is ‘responsive’ – adapting automatically to display well on mobile devices such as mobile phones, iPads etc.
Consider introducing your team and give each their direct contact details. Many estate agents are filming their offices and trying to demonstrate the depth of their expertise and team to give confidence to those looking for an agency ‘who can’ rather than an agency’ who might be able to.’
Use your website to share your local knowledge and expertise of property.
7. INTERACTION: SOCIAL MEDIA
Yes, mostly people are visiting your website to view property, but take advantage of these visits to engage them for longer. It is very easy to lose people’s attention online very quickly so think about forms, live chat or social media icons to tempt them to like, follow, comment or share details get them in to your network. You may need to entice visitors by way of competitions, an offering of the latest updates or the likes of SMS text messaging for latest listings of their exact requirements.
Try and have a call to action on every page – invite comments, social media sharing or feedback to engage your visitors.
Most of the estate agency software providers will make each property you list able to be shared; those who view the listings can share it out to their networks and this is important as recommendations/referrals are good! If your content is shared and commented on then it improves your search engine optimisation (SEO).
Make sure that all the content you share when working on your social media updates point back to your own website, this includes blogs and local property news to property details. You are better off sending someone to property details on your own website rather than to a property portal where they may wander off and spot another property with another agency.
8. PROPERTY SOFTWARE
There are many great companies offering estate agency software management platforms that not only list your property on your own website, but on to the major property platforms. They like to stay ahead of the game and whichever provider you decide to run with you can expect to have functions such as matching clients to your property listings, keeping client details and activity reports or analytics to detail property performance results.
There are many estate agency property management software packages to choose from, and most will be constantly improving their services to stay ahead of the game. Make sure you are fully aware of all the functions you are able to take advantage of, if you use one of the larger suppliers.
These suppliers will also provide frequent updates, online live webinars, regional trainers and organised monthly/ yearly conferences to make sure your agency stays ahead of the competition.
9. ANALYSE THIS
As with any business that wishes to have an online presence, it is important that you are seen as the experts and the company to choose to engage with. You only have a few seconds to capture peoples attention so make sure your website is full of related content to appeal to your target audience.
Be sure to study your web analytics and do not be afraid to change and drop elements that are not working and improve on things that are delivering results.
Make sure your website is a mine of information and expert knowledge that deals with the current requirements of your local community, use local knowledge to further engage your web audience. Be active, up to date and social to maintain your ranking on search engines. You’ve plenty of choice on property management software so take your time to chose the platform you feel would perform the best and keep up to date with the latest innovations they offer.