With the advent of the Internet, selling real estate has changed dramatically. It is now very important for a Realtor to have a web presence - his own website. It is also important that he follows a few simple steps to set up and promote that site properly. Doing so can make the difference between a website that languishes and a website that stands out above the rest and helps to generate prospects and business.
This article covers the basics, but to gain a full understanding of how using your website and other internet marketing tools can effectively promote your business, it's best to take a few classes in business management and marketing. Luckily for busy realtors, these courses can now be taken online at a schedule that is convenient for you.
Obtaining a Real Estate Website
The first step to obtaining a website is obtaining a domain name. The domain name is the URL by which the site will be known (e.g., www.my-real-state-web-site.com). The second step is to find a vendor who will host a website for you.
This is not as difficult as it may sound. Often, the office for which a Realtor works has a preferred vendor who provides "standard" real estate websites for real estate sales people and brokers. Some of the larger national real estate companies also provide their Realtors with Websites.
Whichever is the case, the Realtor is provided with a "standard" website that is most often based on a template or templates that they then modify to fit their purposes. The modifications are typically done through simple interfaces that require little or no technical know-how. These same vendors may also help a Realtor to obtain a domain name. For the national Real Estate companies, the site is usually set up off of their main site and domain.
Tips for Setting Up Your Real Estate Website
Following are some simple and easy to follow tips for getting the most out of a real estate website.
- Selecting a domain name. If you will have your own domain then there are a few simple rules to selecting a domain name:
NOTE: The domain name will be all lower case. When promoting the site, adding the initial capitalization to words in the domain does help the words to stand out and make them easier to read and remember.
- Which template to use. You may be given the option to pick between site templates. You should avoid Macromedia Flash-based templates if you can (if the site has a lot of movie-like animations then it is probably Flash-based). The reason for this is Flash-based sites are not very search engine friendly. They hide text and links in graphics and animation files that the search engines cannot read (crawl). If you would like for your site to eventually score well with the search engines, which should be a primary goal, then avoid Flash. You give up a little pizzazz for more potential visitors to your site, which translates into more leads and business.
- Your website's title. Most of the template sites will allow you to give your website a title. This may appear both on the home page of the site and actually be in the HTML title tags (the words that appear in the very top bar of the browser window). As such, the title is very important from a search engine optimization stand point. You should carefully choose a title that uses descriptive keywords of what you do (e.g., Boston Residential Real Estate by John Smith). A title such as the one in the example contains a location keyword (Boston), keywords that describe the service offered (Residential Real Estate), and identification keywords (John Smith - for very common names you may wish to include a middle initial).
- Your home page text. A common mistake made by many Realtors when setting up their web site is paying very little attention to the opening text that is on the home page of their website. Some ignore it altogether and have little or no text on their home page.
Search engines live on text. It is how they "figure out", through the words on the page, what a given site is all about. This makes the home page text very important. It should echo the theme from your site title, and be well written and descriptive. A good example of opening text would be something like: "Residential real estate and home buying services for the communities of... from John Smith, Realtor....". A further description of the services provided can help, such as: "Providing comprehensive real estate services for home buyers and home sellers including home appraisals...".
These openings serve two purposes. They are clear and descriptive for your site's visitors. They are also keyword rich, helping the search engines to identify what the site's purpose and content are about.
- If you like to write, do so! Along the same theme as home page text, the more unique and high quality pages of text on a site, the better will be the chances of obtaining more search engine "hits" and more visitors to the site. A website never does itself a disservice by containing a lot of high quality and useful information. Realtors who like to write, should do so. They should write descriptive pages about the communities they serve and the services they provide. They should write pages about unique home architectures, unique home styles, or unique historical homes. They can even write about their area's schools, or arts and entertainment attractions. All of these things provide more useful information to their visitors and more reasons for people to visit the site.
Realtors should, however, resist the temptation to write sales pitch after sales pitch. Such information would become monotonous and boring, and provide little value to the site's visitors.
If the Realtor does not know how to put these additional pages on their site, the vendor who hosts their site can typically help them. Some may provide such a service for free, others may charge a fee.
- Submit your website to the major search engines. At this point the work is not done. The site is set up with some nice search engine-friendly content, but the search engines know nothing about the site. This can be easily remedied by submitting the URL for a site to the three major search engines. The links below will help with this process:
Realtors do not really need to spend a lot of time submitting to the many other search engines. They will learn of the site's existence from the big three.
- Don't waste time indiscriminately swapping links. The next task is to try to increase the traffic to the new real estate website. This can be done by obtaining links to the site. Having other sites link to the new site will serve two functions:
- It will funnel visitors to the site
- It will help to raise the sites value in the search engines, which means that the site will appear higher in search results further funneling visitors to the site
As with most things, there is a right way to go about acquiring links, and a wrong way. Realtors should not waste their time indiscriminately swapping links with other sites. Links from sites whose content is unrelated provides little to no value from a search engine standpoint. In fact, the search engines tend to ignore such links. Follow the advice of the following few sections to obtain links that provide value and help with search engine ranking.
If a Realtor does engage in link swapping, they should restrict it to high-quality sites in the same or related business (for example, mortgage sites, building inspector sites, home renovation sites, etc.).
- Get listed in directories. One of the easiest ways to obtain links is to get the new real estate website listed in various business and real estate oriented directories. The first two such directories should be obvious. Realtors should include a link to their site in their National Association of Realtors and State Association of Realtors profiles. In addition, if a Realtor belongs to any Chambers of Commerce, they should make sure that a link to their website is included in their Chamber profile as well.
Often times, sites dedicated to the cities and towns that a Realtor serves allow the Realtor to register to include their contact information and website. In addition, Realtors should look at the ShopinUSA.com site and register to have their site listed (which typically gets them listed both at the US level and associated city level). Spending a few minutes searching with Google, Yahoo, or MSN for other local business and real estate directories will probably yield a few more directories where a Realtor can get their site listed.
- Use eZine articles to obtain links. Again, for the Realtor that likes to write, writing a few articles for eZines (electronic magazines) can be beneficial. eZines take content on many different topics and aggregate it for others to read and republish. Part of the agreement is that the eZine allows the author to include an author biography or attribution paragraph with links to sites of the authors choosing. Anyone republishing the article must republish it as-is, in total, with the biography and links intact. Some eZines to submit to include:
There are many other eZines. The Realtor should focus on producing articles that are related to real estate and home buying and selling (for example, tips on preparing your home for sale, interesting home styles, etc.).
Any Realtor who follows these simple and easy steps will establish a presentable and valuable web presence that attracts many visitors. Many of the visitors to the Realtor's website will be potential home buyers and home sellers. A well-done website can and will bring in prospective customers and business; to keep these customers is up to you! Some online classes in business management can help you take your new business to the next level.
Rob Pirozzi is a freelance writer for Moving Traffic, Inc., the publisher of City Town Info.
Rob has spent many years working in mortgage sales, and has been a licensed realtor for more than 4 years. Rob also publishes a web site Nutty About Sports.