Brian Summerfield is the former manager of business development and outreach for NAR Commercial and Global Services.
How to Get More Business From the Web
So you’re getting visitors to your sites and making connections online. Now what?
November 1, 2012
You’re making connections on social networks, generating traffic to your blog, and drawing consumers to your site via search results. All of that doesn’t mean much if you aren’t getting those connections to supply their contact info, request more information about your services or listings, or ask for an appointment.
Your online efforts should all point toward a single aim: generating leads. Here are four ways to get more business from your Web presence, recommended by user-experience experts at the Real Estate Connect conference hosted by Inman News in San Francisco in August.
1. Keep it simple.
Too often, real estate companies pile everything they have onto their Web site’s home page. “Brokers want everything on the page—title, escrow, mortgage,” says John Hensley, chief product and technology officer at Real Estate Digital, a provider of integrated technology solutions. “But consumers don’t come to broker sites for that.”
Featuring too many options on your site tends to affect visitors with a kind of mental paralysis that may lead them to close their Web browser in frustration, agrees Galen Ward, cofounder and CEO of listings site Estately. “Every time you add a new button or choice [on your site], you reduce the number of people who will make any choice. For me, it’s about removing clicks and being transparent. It’s about bringing features to your users,” he says.
2. Give the people what they want.
What are real estate consumers looking for online? “People want photos. They want to do an analysis of the house from their computer. Real estate search is doing a lot of what we’re already doing for our clients—price and location filtering. But it’s also about making it more responsive,” says Ward.
Knowing that, make sure your site is presenting the information people are searching for in the simplest, most intuitive way possible, says Andrew Machado, CEO and founder of Open Home Pro, which provides a virtual form to collect visitor info at open houses. “It’s all about delighting people,” he explains.
For example, Rogers Healy, a broker-owner in Dallas, prominently features a property-search function and includes an extensive collection of client testimonials on his business site (www.rogershealy.com). “That’s what people are looking for—a demonstration of market knowledge and experience and a track record of success,” he says.
3. Test and measure interactions.
One way to figure out what consumers want is to assess how visitors engage with your content and design. This involves user testing to determine if your current setup is getting results. User testing doesn’t have to involve focus-group testing, which Ward says is “unnatural” because of how often it involves contrived scenarios and leading questions.
Ideally, you can track how people use your site by gathering behavioral metrics through measurement tools, such as recordings of visitors’ scrolling patterns and heat maps that register the most-clicked items. “You can’t lead them on,” Hensley says. “Let them play; let them get lost on your site.” Once you’ve got data that shows how users interact with your site, examine it to determine whether they’re doing what you want them to. If they aren’t, use that information to figure out what content you should have—and where it should go.
4. Make sure the site represents you.
Even as you change the design, structure, and content of your site to simplify it and align it to consumer expectations, you have to protect your branding.
Ultimately, the site should reflect your personality, business niche, and services. “Some of it is your gut, and some of it is what your customers say,” Machado says. “Just make sure it’s not a hodgepodge of what people say they want. Then the product isn’t yours anymore.”