A website is a portal for generating leads and converting them into clients
A website is a digital door that leads customers to your business. Aside from being a vital marketing tool, having a credible online presence makes it easy for clients to find your products or services.
For realtors, a website is a portal to clients. “Nothing is more important today than your website,” says Gabrielle Jeans, Dean of HomeLife University. “Our customers have moved to the internet. It is all about digital today.”
A professional and user-friendly website is the first step to attracting clients who are likely to check out a real estate agent’s website before calling the agent. Websites that offer e-newsletter sign-ups or respond to common questions about real estate sales or purchases are some of the ways to generate leads and obtain email addresses that allow a realtor to establish a line of communication with a potential client.
“It is the first foot in the door to converting them into a buyer,” Jeans says.
Identifying a Niche
Identifying a niche is key to creating an effective website, which reflects the market that a real estate professional specializes in. A niche market can be defined based on the following characteristics:
- Demographics: Millennials, Generation X, baby boomers, newlyweds, married couples, international clients, single parents, economic status, employment, military.
- Home Type: Commercial properties, fixer-uppers, luxury properties, lofts, condominiums or townhomes, water/oceanfront houses, ranch-style homes, lake houses, gated communities, farms, new construction, smart homes, single-family homes, or vacation homes.
- Real Estate Experience: Renters, first-time buyers or sellers, empty nesters, move-up or move-down buyers or sellers, foreclosures, for sale by owners, expired listings, probate, investors.
- Location Type: Downtown, beach, park or outdoor feature, lakes or rivers, school districts, neighbourhoods, golf courses, suburbs, counties.
With a defined niche in mind, the realtor can tailor content, visuals and listings to reflect the needs of the target clientele. Focusing on a specific interest area also allows the realtor to position himself or herself as an expert in that niche.
Researching Your Niche Market
Defining a real estate niche requires research to understand the target audience and their demographic information, income level, what they value most, what experience they look for when seeking a realtor’s services, their goals and problems.
“You need to understand better the people who live in your niche that you want your website to target,” Jeans says.
Social media pages related to the website should focus on the niche; so do the articles that a realtor posts on his or her Facebook or Twitter. As well, display social sharing buttons prominently to encourage readers to share articles and propagate engagement.
Content & SEO
Giving a website a theme is critical in getting it ranked and found by search engines. “One of the most important aspects of content marketing for a new or updated website is making sure that it is optimized for search engines,” Jeans says.
The following are some of the ways of using content to leverage search engine optimization (SEO):
- Create unique, original and relevant content. Content that helps to solve a problem, answer common real estate questions and helping buyers or sellers to save money are likely to generate interest.
- Use relevant keywords in page titles and metadata.
- Incorporate hyperlinks to your website to encourage people to check out the website’s secondary pages.
- Create backlinks by linking one website to another. Backlinks to your website can garner traffic, build credibility and help your brand rank higher on search engines.
- Avoid keyword stuffing or spamdexing as your website could be penalized for violating search engine guidelines. Keyword stuffing refers to the practice of putting in many keywords into web content and meta tags to drive up traffic and increase a page’s ranking in search results.
For Members of HomeLife Realty Services Inc., they can subscribe to the Reallium Technology Pack, a consolidated technology platform offering a fully-featured website and a suite of tools built for managing real estate transactions, lead generation, marketing, customer relationship management, social media marketing and referral lead generation.
Creating engaging content that encourages people to linger in your site is also beneficial to the bounce rate, which is an important ranking factor. Bounce rate, or click on and click off, is the percentage of users who land on a website and leave without going to the website’s secondary pages.
“A high bounce rate means they came looking for something but do not find what they want, so they click off,” Jeans explains. As a general guide, a bounce rate hovering between 30 to 50% is excellent, 50 to 70% is average and 70 to 80% is poor.
An Encrypted Connection
Having a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate is another ranking factor that has become more prominent in recent years. A website that is SSL certified means its internet connection is encrypted and secure to prevent sensitive or confidential data sent digitally between two systems from being misused.
An SSL Certificate creates an online business environment that users can trust and feel confident in sharing their personal information, such as providing their email addresses or making online purchases. SSL certified websites have URLs starting with “https” instead of “http”.
According to Jeans, Google has officially acknowledged “https” a ranking factor because customers are wary of putting in their contact details in non-secure sites. Google has been flagging all HTTP sites as “not secure” since July 2018, she adds.
“Going secure is good for your customers, you and your SEO,” says Jeans. SSL Certification costs about $1,000 a year, renewable annually.
Include A Disclosure
Considering that a real estate transaction is likely to be the most expensive purchases that people make in their lifetime, it is a good practice to incorporate a disclosure statement in your real estate website to let people know what they can expect from you and put buyers at ease. A disclosure statement should include the following information:
- Disclosure and honesty
- Frequent communication
- Use of current technology
- Cooperation with other agents
- Proven track record
- Knowledge of the local market
- Knowledge of proper documentation
- Negotiating ability
In conclusion, a website is a work in progress. “Your website is never finished. You are always working on it and improving it,” says Jeans. “It is important from a planning point of view to know what you have to do to get yourself there.”
Jean Lian is Head of Communications and Brand Marketing with HomeLife Realty Services Inc. in Toronto.