Stefanie Hahn is the vice president of operations at Coldwell Banker Hearthside, REALTORS® in Collegeville, Pa. Visit her Web site: www.StefanieHahn.com.
Best Practices for Your Real Estate Website Home Page
Here are 8 ways to make potential clients fall in love with your real estate website and give you more business.
February 12, 2013
Your website should be working for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, capturing leads and marketing your brand. Your site should be helping consumers search for homes, find local market data, and get answers to some of their burning questions. And all of this can be handled on your website’s home page. Yes, really.
I’ve come up with a few best practices to consider for the home page of your real estate website, which will provide potential clients with a better overall online experience while boosting your credibility as a go-to resource in your market.
1. A full IDX search that is front and center
Make no mistake, consumers come to your website to search for listings. And they want to search all the listings — not just your or your office’s listings. Give them a full IDX search or don’t bother having a website. Keep your search obvious, as it should be the first thing the consumer sees on your home page. Offering a school district search, short sale and foreclosure search, and other advanced search filters would be nice as well.
2. Calls to action and contact forms
Say it with me: “The purpose of your website is to get more business.” If not, then why bother? Use calls to action to ask the consumer to take action on a specific item. Asking a Web visitor to “click here to view” some information will typically garner more clicks then just embedding the link in your text. Be sure to have contact forms (in addition to displaying your contact information) to entice visitors further. Ask them to make an appointment, get more information, sign up for local market data, get a CMA, and so on. These forms cannot be ignored – this is how a website viewer becomes a lead.
3. Clear and uncluttered layout (and nothing set to automatically play, please)
Always focus on the visitor experience when thinking about your home page design and layout. Be clear with your purpose and don’t overwhelm them with words. Remember that white space is okay. Avoid heavy code, as this will affect your page’s load times. Please (pretty please) do not have something automatically play when visitors land on your home page, such as music, a video, or a voice recording — you are outing the consumer when you do this and you’re likely to have them frantically searching for the mute button, or, worse, quickly bouncing from your site.
4. Fresh and useful content
Content is your not-so-secret weapon. The good news is, even though we know how important content is, most real estate professionals still are not providing fresh and useful information on their websites. What is useful content? Try to keep a local flair to a large part of what you post. Focus on the neighborhoods you work in (or want to work in) often. Talk about the local market statistics or events around town, spotlight a business, try a “man on the street” interview, or just showcase a subdivision or a section of a neighborhood. Nonlocalized content can be anything from real estate news to DIY projects and from FAQs to financing information. A mix of text, photos, and videos is ideal. Need ideas or fresh content that you don’t have to write or record? Check out HouseLogic from NAR at members.houselogic.com for free and shareable content. When in doubt, just ask. I recently had an agent call Zillow to see about reposting an article from the Zillow blog – they were cool with it provided she gave credit to the author and a link back. (Video screenshot courtesy of Stephanie Crawford, a REALTOR® in Nashville, Tenn. – www.NestingInNashville.com)
5. Add links to your content
Use links on your home page to provide the visitor with a deeper dive into your site. For your website to have value, set up your home page as the portal that allows users to easily move through to the internal pages of your site. This can be accomplished in two ways – have clear menus with obvious navigation and add in links to your existing home page content.
6. Use the video stick
These days, we prefer to watch our Internet rather than read it. Look at this shift as an opportunity. I know that many of you have already ventured into video by highlighting your listings and your community or maybe even creating a profile video. Embedded video or video that will play on the page is a big win right now. As video continues to rise in popularity, adding an embedded video or playlist is a great way to increase both traffic and the time visitors spend on a page as well as to build rapport with visitors. Videos make your home page stickier by keeping the visitors engaged for longer periods of time. If you have the right search engine optimization behind your videos, you can increase traffic to your site as well.
7. Social media HAS to be part of your Web strategy
By this, I mean more than just linking to your Facebook business page and LinkedIn profile. In fact, you might be better off downplaying those profiles so you don’t lose visitors to the social media suck. “Share this” buttons or a similar solution should be on all of your content pages, if possible, and woven throughout your site in a meaningful way. “Share this” is simple to set up and allows users to share your content on their network of choice. Use social media to drive traffic to your website – share your own content when you have a new post or page or if you just want to draw attention to a page on your site.
8. A word on SEO (or several words)…
Stop overthinking search engine optimization. Try to focus on your content above all else, and make a great experience for the consumer. I know that you have been taught that keywords and on-page SEO are important to a good search ranking – and they are, to a point. But don’t be keyword silly and pack your home page with the little gems. On-page SEO will only take you so far. If your site stinks, you might get the traffic from the on-page SEO, but you will lose the lead. For those who are link crammers … the same goes for you! If the experience stinks, you won’t get the business anyway.
So let’s review our best practices for your real estate website home page:
- Have a full IDX search, front and center
- Use calls to action and contact forms
- Be sure your design is clear and uncluttered
- Create or repurpose fresh and useful content
- Use links to drive them deeper
- Try the video stick
- Use social media to share and drive traffic
- Don’t overthink search engine optimization
Last but not least, remember, experience matters. Try to create a fantastic experience for your website visitor. There are lots of tricks to drive people to your site, but it’s another thing altogether to keep them there (and hopefully coming back). Don’t wait — begin optimizing your home page and get your website working for you today!