First, a little story. Once upon a time there was a Realtor’s web site found in a location that shall remain nameless. It was attractive enough, but frankly we’ve been visiting that site regularly for about five years and it hasn’t changed. That’s right, other that the photos of featured properties, not one thing about the design or content has changed in FIVE YEARS! And those photos of featured properties? So small you can’t even see what the house looks like. Don’t ever be fooled by people who tell you it’s just a matter of designing your site, launching it out into cyberspace, and then sitting back waiting for your phone to ring. It really isn’t that easy. But don’t be intimidated either. Attracting visitors to your site can be fun and fulfilling and watching your site and your business grow and thrive makes it all worthwhile. Here are five hot tips for developing and nurturing your web site audience.
- Be findable. Or in tech-speak, learn the basics of Search Engine Optimization, otherwise known as SEO. That means when someone does a Google search, your site is at or near the top of the list on page one. Oversimplified, it means that when someone types “single family homes Yourtown” into Google, there you are. Now SEO is a science about which countless articles and even books have been written. Best advice to get started? Find someone who does this for a living and get them to critique your site and offer suggestions. Then follow their advice.
- Be welcoming. This means that you need good introductory content right at the top of your home page. The casual click-through visitor needs a reason to want to get to know you. Give it to them. You do that by answering the age-old question, “What’s In It For Me?” Your prospective client cares a lot more about him/herself than he does about when you were founded, how long you’ve been in business, or how many properties you sold last year. Your content should be casual and conversational, as though you were having a one-on-one chat with your visitor. Use “you” and “we” frequently. Make them feel at home and immediately imagine themselves doing business with you.
- Be informative. Home buyers and sellers are great at research. You need to provide them with content that tells them what they want to know. They want to know what Yourtown is like, how many schools there are, what kind of health care is available, how city government works, what kind of property taxes they’ll be paying, and how much their monthly utility bills will run. Most of this information could be provided simply by linking to other sites, but it needs to be obvious and easy to navigate.
- Be entertaining. Does your web site content appeal to your client’s emotions and senses? Does it make the visitor want to come back for more? If not, change it! A seasonal slide show or video that lets people immerse themselves in the fall colors or the summer sand sculpture festival in Yourtown is wonderful surprise bonus. You’re basically telling the client, “I understand—you want to know what it’s like to be here and I’m going to give you a guided tour. I’m not just trying to sell you a house.”
- Be interactive. Of course you have “Contact Us” page with an easy email form so visitors can drop you a note or ask questions. But that’s only Step 1. You need a place where people can talk back, ask questions, even post their own ideas, comments, and relevant information. For example, a blog (which of course you will update frequently) can provide a comment feature where by you can start a conversation about anything from the new Asian restaurant to the latest market trends. Stay away from confrontation and controversy, but make it feel like friends sharing what they know over a cup of coffee. Make it a point to respond to any comments promptly, of course.
And finally, yes, we know—your title is Realtor, not Webmaster. We don’t expect you to get sidetracked from your core business and spend valuable sales time writing your blog or posting videos. But if you’ll focus on a few essentials, like keeping your site regularly updated with fresh, interesting content, launching a lively discussion forum, or any feature that gives your visitors something else they want, they’ll keep coming back for more (and yes we can help with all of that – just ask). And sooner rather than later they may become just what you’re looking for—a real, live client.