Creating a real estate website can be as simple or complicated as you can imagine. Of the many things to consider, some of the important items are a thoroughly detailed plan for how your site will look, what its core functions will be, and what goals you are hoping to accomplish with your site.
Below you’ll find a number of questions that absolutely need to be answered before you even pick out your URL and domain name. These will not only help you avoid any pitfalls, but it will keep you on track as you approach your launch date.
1) How much do I want to spend on a new website? What’s my budget?
The first priority in creating a real estate website is determining the budget you can allocate to your online presence. As a real estate professional, you’ll face various expenses to keep your business operating smoothly. Everything from health insurance costs to commission splits to Realtor association dues must be detailed in your personal finance reporting. Once you’ve finalized your fiscal situation, you can then accurately determine how much you can afford to put toward creating a top-of-the-line site.
Regarding specific website costs, you’ll consider domain name, hosting, template provider and IDX. First one up is the domain name, which you can secure from a site like GoDaddy for about $10–$20. Then there’s hosting, which can run you up to $100 a year (various hosting sites exist — HostGator being one of the more popular ones out there). Finally, there’s WordPress, which is arguably the most popular publishing platform around. Downloading the WP client is free, but you will have to pay for themes, which generally cost between $30–$200. Also, don’t forget an IDX plugin, which’ll bring your listings to your site.
2) Should I go with a template site? Or one I can customize?
Whether you choose a real estate website with templates that make for simple setup and maintenance (like ones you can create on WordPress with Placester), or one with more freedom to customize CSS and HTML entirely depends on mostly two things: your expertise in updating and tinkering with the finer details of web construction and your time limitations.
If you don’t want to spend a great deal of time and energy on developing a website and prefer a ready-to-run system off the bat, you likely want to go with the template option. If you think you’re game to develop your website with your technical skills (or know someone who has these special set of skills and can update your site with all the bells and whistles you want), then perhaps the customizable site is ideal for you.
3) What are my goals for my website? What do I hope to accomplish with it?
Setting up a website isn’t simply so your audience can only read up about you and your history as a real estate pro (though having an awesome bio is important). It’s to get more visitors to your site, convert those visitors into leads, and get those leads to buy or sell homes. Specifically, common agent goals for their sites include:
- Getting X amount of clicks on listings pages
- Reducing bounce rate on certain landing pages by X percent each week/month
- Securing X amount of email newsletter subscribers via landing pages
- Getting X amount of people to read their blog daily, weekly, monthly, etc.
- Getting X amount of leads based on their marketing
- Securing X amount of sales based on leads
Your goals will entirely depend on which ones are important to your business, but these are some that many agents and brokers monitor, so they could serve as great metrics to monitor off the bat.
4) What vital information do I need to communicate on the site? What does my target audience want to see?
For starters, your IDX will need to be integrated well so you can ensure your target customers are getting the listings they want. For instance, WordPress users can integrate their IDX listings with certain plugins, and certain services even allow for agents and brokers to customize their sites as they see fit.
Regarding actual content you’ll want to fill in throughout your website, there are a few key areas to focus on, including:
Bio page: Develop a clear and concise biography for yourself that details your experience, training/certifications and any other pertinent information you think buyers and sellers will want to see. With a detailed, intriguing bio, you can earn the trust of potential clients.
Blog: Next up is your blog, which should be updated regularly with original content. Think about what your target market wants to read about: Is it housing/mortgage industry news and trends? Do they need advice and tips on home finance? Whatever pain points they have, that’s what you should write about. And don’t worry if you’re not a writing expert: You don’t need to be a world-class blogger to be effective.
Contact page: Those interested in your services will want to know how to get in touch with you, so be sure to provide a thorough contact page featuring your phone number(s), email address(es), social media account(s).
You may decide to add other pages over the course of your site’s lifespan, but these ones should exist at its onset so prospective clients know everything they need to potentially hire you to represent them.
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” ― Benjamin Franklin
5) I’ve heard of keywords before — what role do they play for my website?
Simply put, your site won’t gain ground in Google if you’re not properly optimizing the copy on your site. Take the time to learn the keys to optimization. Once you know the basics, you’ll have the tools needed to better understand the search conglomerate’s algorithms and what they favor. Learn more about what keywords work well for your services and market and use them strategically across your website so you can draw in visitors. This kind of data can be determined by using tools like Google AdWords and Trends.
In addition to keyword research, learning about how inbound marketing and SEO go hand-in-hand will give you the opportunity to gradually move your way up in search results and into the bookmarks and RSS feeds of visitors and leads.
6) Will I be able to fill my entire site with top-notch content?
As mentioned, blogging is one core component of any complete real estate website. However, it’s just that: only one component of your site. High-quality copy is a must-have across every spectrum of your site, including your blog, landing pages, homepage, and bio page.
To make an impression on your audience — and keep them coming back for more — it’s crucial to add other types of content on your site. This can range from informative SlideShares that provide tips and pointers for buyers and sellers to infographics featuring the costs of homeownership to videos in which you reveal your thoughts on your local market’s conditions.
Just remember that whatever content you add to your site, search engine optimization (SEO) needs to play a big factor. After all, without optimizing accordingly, it’d be as if your site didn’t exist at all. To optimize your homepage right off the bat, check out these invaluable SEO tips.
7) What will help my site become the best real estate site on the Internet (or close to it)?
Blogging regularly — even if it’s just a few times a week — will increase traffic. Special offers and free content, like ebooks, SlideShares, infographics and videos, are also primary content types you can put together in the lead-up to your site’s unveiling. Creating a plethora of this content before your site is live can give you the chance to hit the ground running. In other words, when visitors come to your site the first days it’s operational, you won’t have to worry about not having anything to show them just yet. As you grow with your content, visitors will come to expect your expertise and remember you when it’s time to consider buying or selling.
Don’t feel like you need to be a design expert or even know how to be a Photoshop master. Developing top-tier graphic content each week can be accomplished — just be sure to do your research early on.
8) Should I take the time and resources to promote my site?
While you’re carving out a few hours here and there to write that new blog post on home values or that budgeting checklist for first-time buyers, you need to also consider social media activity and how using sites like Facebook and Twitter can generate organic traffic. Here are your premier methods for promotion:
Social media. Thanks to advancements in social media, marketing on Facebook and Twitter affords you the opportunity to engage with buyers and sellers on the fly has never been easier. When people take the time to respond to your messages and Tweets, clear out time to thank them for engaging in conversation and answer their questions or add to their comments. That person could be your next client.
Email. On top of posting to and monitoring social, focusing on tactics like email campaigns is essential. Set up automated emails that go to visitors who sign up to receive them at different points of the sales lifecycle. This provides leads with new information, like listings and new content.
Ads. From PPC ads that appear in search results, to display ads on social media sites, and combination of effective keyword research and smart investments can make ads a great tactic for lead generation. Just be sure to write five-star copy for your ads to entice clicks and link to relevant webpages.
Eventually, you can produce guest blog posts for leading industry websites that you can reach out to, but to begin, these are supreme promotion methods to make your name become more well-known online.
9) How can I keep track of my site to ensure it’s performing well?
With a great site comes great responsibility. You’ve got to make the site’s creation worth your precious time by making sure it functions correctly. The best method to ensure this? By consistently going over analytics. But also recognize that your traffic isn’t going to spike after one day of being online. Or two. Nope, websites require patience. Once you’ve had it up for a while, though, you can analyze not only how much traffic you’re seeing, but also where that traffic is coming from.
There’s organic traffic, which are the people who found you via search. Then there’s direct traffic, which are those who type in your site’s URL to visit (if you’re getting a lot of this traffic, that means people know your business well — a fantastic sign). And then there’s referral traffic: people sent to your site from other sites, including social media. Knowing where your site viewers are coming from can give you tremendous insight into how to develop and modify your overall marketing scheme.
To track this traffic (and conversions), you’ll find plenty of analytics providers out there. Google Analytics is the most widely used option, and for good reason. With software like this, you can keep tabs on conversions, click-through rates and other pertinent metrics. Ultimately, programs like this will help you determine if you’re meeting your goals or if adjustments need to be made to your site, keywords or promotion.
10) How do I convert my site’s visitors into great leads?
Before you focus on converting visitors to leads, you’ve got to ensure those visitors have a means to convert. That’s where landing and squeeze pages come into play. These pages need to consist of information about your services and a form so leads can provide you with their personal information. The best way to do this? Include an appealing call-to-action (text or button you implement to entice clicks from your site visitors).
Once you start getting customers to fill out forms on your site, you can immediately contact them and start tracking them using your CRM. The key to tracking leads in your software of choice, though, is to not ignore them: Your leads need to be constantly monitored and nurtured, so finding the right organizational system that allows you to check in with potential buyers and sellers is essential. Even if you check in with leads and no one bites to buy or sell, you’ve established or continued the relationship. And after all, building relationships is how agents and brokers make their living.
Creating a website is arguably the best way for agents and brokers to brand themselves.