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5 Best Practices For A Profitable Real Estate Website

Ever wonder why so few REALTOR® Websites even come close to reaching their potential for generating new business? It’s not for lack of site traffic, I know lots of agents who have all kinds of traffic but no new business to show for it. The answer lies in the fact that most sites are not built according to proven best practice standards. Which means other than looking good and having lots of generic information, most agent sites miss the mark in terms of truly engaging with the online consumer. Here are five best practices that if incorporated into your Website will make a huge difference in its ability capture your visitors’ attention and generate considerably more profit for you…

1 - Target, Target, Target
I’ve said it a thousand times and I’ll say it again: targeting your Website for a specific niche market is the most powerful thing you can do to make your Website truly effective as a lead generation tool. The vast majority of REALTORS® make the mistake of using generic Websites that try to “speak to everyone” which results in engaging no one. Your site must be able to answer the question: “What’s in it for me?” from the perspective of a specific target market, otherwise your visitors will simply ignore it.

Targeting is so important that without it, the following four best practices will have little impact on improving your site’s ability to generate business. With it however, these next standards will make it that much more powerful…

2 - Web Copy That “Speaks” To Your Visitors
Effective Web copy starts with headlines that grab your visitor’s attention; otherwise they are not likely to read much of your other copy. Most REALTOR® Websites incorporate no headlines at all –and that is a huge lost opportunity. Your headlines need to be crafted in such a way that they reflect the “emotional profile” of your target market. For example, headlines designed for 1st Time Buyers are very strongly worded and typically tap into the fear and excitement of buying their first home. Headlines written for the sophisticated luxury buyer or seller on the other hand are much more subtle and refined often stroking the ego of this particular market segment.

Also, the body of your Web copy should create a one-on-one conversation between you and your visitor. They should feel that you are speaking with just them, as if you are sitting right next to each other. In my experience it seems that most agent Websites are written in either first person (”I”, “me”, etc.) or third person (i.e. about you, as if you were a celebrity). If you really want to connect with your visitors, have your copy written in second person, where there are lots of “you”, “your”, “yours”. This may seem like a minor point; however from the perspective of your Web visitors it makes all the difference in the world.

3 - Keep Your Site Internet Empowered Consumer (IEC) Friendly
If you are not careful, your site could end up driving visitors away rather than engage them. Here are some standards of Web design to help make sure your Web visitors feel welcome and safe:

•    Privacy Policy – having a privacy policy can go a long way to making your visitors feel safe on your site.

•    Don’t Require Visitors To Reveal Who They Are – if you have forms on your site make sure that they let the visitor know that they are not required to fill everything out. Consumers use the Internet because it affords them a sense of anonymity. Take that away by insisting they complete all the fields (especially the contact information ones) and you will likely drive many of them away. Human nature is really interesting. Tell people they have to do something and you will find a load of resistance. Reassure them they don’t and they probably will just because they like your friendly approach.

•    Have Your Forms Give Instant Feedback – when a visitor completes a form, have your site instantly show a confirmation / “Thank You” page. This adds to the perception that you “heard” their request, thus feeling more connected. Your site can also fire off a confirmation e-mail as well, however it is important that they see immediate feedback.

4 - Keep Your Site Navigation Simple
We all know that a confused mind says “NO!” That being the case, many real estate agent Websites are hearing a lot of “nos” because their home pages are offering way too many options. At most you want your site’s main navigation menu to offer no more than seven choices. Within each of these main menu options you can have submenus, just don’t go overboard with those either. Also, avoid having your visitors work too hard to find what they want. Ideally, all your content should be within three clicks reach from the home page.

5 - Visitor-Friendly Look & Feel
Make sure the look and feel of your Web design is consistent throughout the site. It should also be appropriate for your target market. For example, less sophisticated target markets (1st Time Buyers & Sellers) can have a more light-hearted design approach. More sophisticated ones (Luxury, investors, etc.) require a more refined and stylish look.

Ideally, have your site located to show up in the center of the browser window and designed to fit (without horizontal scrolling) for monitors set at 1024 x 768 pixel resolution or greater. Lastly, make sure your Web designer has your site conform to W3C standards and use appropriate Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) to globally control the look and feel of your site. (NOTE: don’t worry if you didn’t quite understand that last sentence, just make sure your Web designer does!)

52 More “Best Practices”
The five best practices given above will go a long way in helping make your site into the online lead generation machine it was meant to be. However, these are really just a few of the 57 real estate Website best practices and standards we’ve outlined in a new book I co-authored with my Web designer Brad Carroll of Dakno Inc.. It’s called The Real Estate Success Guide – 57 Proven Elements Every Successful Website Must Have. We wrote this because no one else had bothered to define and outline these important Web standards before. It also contains a handy checklist for your Web designer (written in their language of Web technology) which you can just hand to them to make sure your site maintains the best standards possible to help ensure the highest levels of online profitability.

In every profession imaginable there are well-defined standards of practice to help insure a consistency of excellence, no matter who is providing the service within the respective field. Why should it be any different for real estate Web sites? The simple answer is, it shouldn’t.

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