Tech@Work: Web Site Makeovers

Look your best online. We cast a Web eye for the sales guy (and girl).

February 1, 2004

At last November’s REALTOR® Conference & Expo, my virtual team and I adapted an idea from reality television and showed dozens of eager practitioners how to quickly and inexpensively make over their business Web sites. If you missed us in San Francisco, don’t worry. Here are solutions to the most common problems we saw.

Problem No. 1: Targeting.

The biggest reason real estate Web sites don’t generate viable leads is that they have no specific audience. An untargeted site tries to speak to everyone and thus ends up talking to no one. A highly targeted site is designed for a specific niche market, such as first-time buyers, seniors, or owners of high-end properties.

Solution: All prospects in a particular niche have similar concerns and aspirations about and emotional responses to the real estate process. Identifying these specific needs and gearing high-value, specific content to them will help ensure your site answers the unspoken visitor question, “What’s in it for me?” A targeted site may not yield you more visitors, but you’ll be much more likely to convert those people who respond to you. A great example of a highly targeted site is www.sellmyhome101.com, which generates listings for its owner by focusing only on people interested in selling their homes.

Problem No. 2: Branding.

Many practitioners fail to differentiate their site so that their target market associates their Web site with both valuable information and a unique logo, marketing line, or image that brings their value proposition to mind.

Solution: Take a cue from www.duckin.com, one of the best-branded sales associate sites on the Net. It’s targeted to buyers of Seattle waterfront properties. The site springs instantly to the minds of past users because of its clever use of duck motifs.

Problem No. 3: Design.

Too often, practitioners let their own taste—or that of the Web designer—dictate the look of the site. Like any good marketing piece, your Web site’s design should be congruent with the target market you serve.

Solution: Begin your Web redesign with a clear picture of who your clients are and what they’ll respond to. For example, too-cute graphics might turn off high-end, sophisticated buyers. It’s also important to keep your site’s look consistent throughout.

Problem No. 4: Content.

You’ve seen them, sites that have everything but the kitchen sink—and none of it seems to apply to you.

Solution: Your site’s text should be personal (as if you were having a conversation with your visitors), engaging (inviting interaction by asking open-ended questions and including words such as “imagine” and “describe”), and customized with high-value content that’s consistent with your target market. Alice Held’s site at www.come2az.com is a great example of these ideas, as well as design.

Problem No. 5: Navigation.

Your site needs a makeover if content is more than three clicks away.

Solution: Maintain a consistent navigation scheme on every page, as www.revateams.com does, so that visitors can locate information easily. Ideally, you should also have a site map that provides a link to every element on your site from one page. The easier you make it to get around your site, the more likely people will stay there.

Problem No. 6: Orientation.

Beware of site content that doesn’t reflect the unique needs and desires of Internet-empowered consumers, who usually want to keep control of the relationship with you and decide when to contact you.

Solution: To reach these consumers, be sure to include a link to your privacy policy on every page. Likewise, don’t expect Internet-empowered consumers to complete forms and give you contact information until they’re ready to divulge it. My own site, www.russer.com, is scrupulous about assuring visitors that their privacy will remain sacred.

Michael Russer, a.k.a. Mr. Internet®, is CEO of Russer Communications. He is a leading speaker and author in the real estate industry and has been writing about Internet marketing and virtual outsourcing since the dawn of the commercial Internet.

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