RealWITS Smarter Real Estate Websites

The All-In-One Real Estate Web Design Handbook

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HOW TO BECOME THE LOCAL ZILLOW EBOOK

Learn how savvy real estate companies are using web design to engage, retain and convert visitors into closed transactions.

Real Estate Web Design EBook realWITs.com

TIP! To download the EBook in PDF, click on the EBook image.

The design of your real estate company’s website plays a significant role in determining how many closed sales will occur as a results of someone visiting your website.

As a matter of fact, it maybe the biggest roles in converting new clients as well as keeping past ones.

An optimal real estate website design can help you in a variety of ways, including:

  • Attracting new buyers and retain past ones.
  • Providing visitors with the ability to share your content and help it go “viral.”
  • Customer engagement and loyalty.
  • Accelerate brand awareness and trust worthiness.
  • Recruit and retain agents.
  • Amplify credibility and authority with Google.

It is not fresh news, but important to reiterate that buyers begin their home search online. As a results, you’ll need a website that is purposefully designed so those clients will be the most apt to do business with your brokerage.

Chapter 1: TRAITS OF A “SMARTER” REAL ESTATE WEB DESIGN

There are numerous real estate company website design traits that will inspire online exposure, create meaningful conversations with new perspective buyers and sellers, grow your contact base and close more transaction.

Make a Great First Impression or Ward Off New Sales

There are two types of visitors that will come to a real estate company website:

  1. New visitors
  2. Return visitors

It is important to have both.

A new visitor is someone who has come to your website for the very first time. Therefore, before a visitor can become a returning visitor they first need to be a new visitor.

Creating an experience that captives and makes each and every new website visitor feel compelled to stay is important. And on their first visit, the average consumer pays more attention to the surface aspects of a website such as layout, typography, and color schemes.

Within just moments will take an action. They will stay or they will leave.

So, what’s the number one worst thing that can occur when a new visitor comes to your website?

They immediately leave your website. I call it website abandonment.

Think about this.

You work hard for each and every new visitor and losing them is costly. Especially if they leave yours to only land on your competitors website.

We just established what you want new visitors to do. Stay on your website. When a new visitor stays on your website, you increase the chance they will become a returning visitor. A returning visitor is an encouraging signal they may do business with you at some point.

Having a balance of new visitors and returning visitors is a healthy mixture to generate more business.

So how do you encourage those first time visitors to stay on your website?

It begins with credibility.

A company’s website design affects its credibility and professionalism.

This is universal and does not just apply to real estate website development, but all industries. Think about the last time you landed on a website, and hit the back button within moments.

Why did you do this?

Who is a home buyer or seller more apt to do business with? A company whose website commends professionalism or one that does not demonstrate immediate clout?

A website has just moments to produce credibility and these precious moments begin with the design of a real estate website.

Only after a visitor consciously decides to stay on a website do they take more time to interact with the website. Therefore, establishing instantaneous trust is a must.

A Lesson from Your Arch Enemy

A powerful takeaway from the giants.

So how do you establish this instant trust factor? How do you know if your real estate website development incorporated the necessary features? Luckily we can eliminate most of the guess work by learning from the online real estate giants.

These companies spend millions of dollars to test and learn what keeps visitors on their website. Why? A visitor is valuable to them. A returning visitor is more likely to make them money.

According to Experian Marketing Services (formerly Experian Hitwise) 10 real estate listing portals capture nearly “half” of all non-mobile traffic to U.S. real estate-related websites with a total of 482 million visits in January, a 12-month high. These top 10 real estate websites captured 42 percent of total visits in this space!

Leading the Pack Was…

  • Zillow (9.17 percent market share)
  • Trulia (7 percent market share)
  • Realtor.com (6.09 percent market share)

Source: http://www.inman.com/2013/02/13/top-10-real-estate-websites-get-nearly-half-traffic

If these websites are the most popular amongst buyers and sellers what can we learn from them?

Here are screen captures from these top 3 websites at the time this eBook was written…

Top 3 Real Estate Website Destinations

 

 Zillow

trulia

realtor_com

Three Most Common Traits of the Top Real Estate Websites:

  • Clean and non-cluttered.
  • Property search feature front and center.
  • Easy to navigate.

real estate website design

It is not a coincidence these top 3 online real estate destinations all have real estate website design commonalities.

They have harmoniously integrated elements that instantly establish credibility, they make it incredibly simple for website visitors to search for properties and they make it uncomplicated for their visitors to quickly find what they are looking for using a clean site structure that provides a good user experience.

Chapter 2: Producing More Closable Leads from Your Real Estate Website

The better you understand your visitors behavior on your real estate company’s website, the more progressively you can effectively enhance it’s design to convert them into closed transactions.

What is a real estate company’s website primary purpose?

We just established a real estate website needs both new and repeating web visitors to reduce missed sales opportunities and lost company revenues.

So, what is a company’s website primary purpose?

  • Brand awareness?
  • Recruit & retain top agents?
  • Allow buyers to search for properties for sale?
  • Inform sellers why they should list their home with your company?
  • Create exposure?

All of the above are good answers. But…

Think about this…

What happens when a real estate website creates brand awareness, aids in agent recruitment, helps retain top agents, provides buyers with online robust property search tools, informs sellers about your superior real estate services and increases exposure to the World?

A “smart” real estate website generates property buyer and seller leads.

Focusing on What Matters Most, Fosters Closed Transactions

Defining the true purpose of a real estate website.

The purpose of a company real estate website is to generate quality sales leads for its agents.

More leads equal more closings. This may be obvious, but what might be surprising to most, is the fact there is a direct correlation between online real estate lead generation and real estate website design.

Frequently real estate websites are designed with standard pages such as our agents, about us, why sell with us etc. that are cluttered with content that confuses the online visitor. Often little conversation in the website development process is devoted to designing a layout based upon preferred lead capture results.

The development of the best real estate website design must pay close attention to two different objectives to generate maximum sales leads.

The Visitor

What are the goals of the web visitor?

When designing a real website the visitor intentions have to be prioritized. After defining these intents, an optimal real estate website design will cater to visitors by making it easy for them to quickly navigate to the section or pages on the website that target their desired information.

The Company

What are the real estate company’s goals?

Acquiring visitor contact information, understanding where they are in the sales cycle, enticing them to share your content, inviting them to pick up the phone to inquire about a home for sale or requesting a property market valuation are all ligament website goals for the real estate company.

How to Entice Web Visitors to Do What You Want Them to Do

Incorporating suitable design elements into real estate websites increases lead generation by eliminating confusion for the visitor.

Referencing the most popular online real estate destinations once again, make sure your website:

  • is clean and non-cluttered.
  • incorporates property search front and center.
  • it is easy to navigate.

Use these proven best practices to encourage your website visitors to do what you want them to do. Give concise call to actions with prominent placement and reduce unnecessary noise.

Chapter 3: Creating a Mobile-Friendly Real Estate Website Design

Today real estate companies need to masterfully design a real estate website to draw in, engage and convert web visitors to buyers and sellers. However, that is not enough to effectively capture the whole targeted audience.

Big Business with Real Estate Mobile Apps

In early 2013 two industry leaders came together and conducted a survey to better understand the evolving role of digital media in the consumer home search process.

NAR’S and Google’s findings are not surprising, but for those who need hard facts to justify investing in real estate mobile web technologies, the results are in and they cannot be ignored if the broadest reach is desired.

Real Estate Mobile MarketingMobile survey results that can not be ignored.

49% of home buyers and sellers used a mobile device at the beginning of their real estate search according to the study. The study also tells us 90% of buyers searched online before purchasing real estate.

How much real estate business is lost if a company or brokerage does not market to the mobile user, when 49% of those 90% who used search engines in the beginning of their home buying process began their search on a mobile device?

You do the math.

Real Estate Mobile App Activity Stats & Takeaways

The Stats

  • 89% of new home shoppers use a mobile search engine at the onset and throughout their research.
  • Mobile applications are used by 68% of new home shoppers at the onset and throughout their research.
  • Realtors® can employ various mobile marketing techniques to make sure they are discovered at the mobile zero moment of truth.

The Takeaways

The study states “mobile new home shoppers offer an additional source of qualified leads for Realtors®.”

The following graph represents a breakdown of how home buyers used mobile devices as part of their home searching process.

This data should help brokers understand the financial benefits of real estate mobile apps.

These real estate mobile device usage stats should not be surprising.

Real Estate Mobile App for Realtors

Gathering home information, getting directions, comparing property prices and features, searching a real estate companies inventory, calling a real estate company, locating a local agent, reading reviews, researching mortgage financing, starting a conversation with a brokerage, watching a property video are all common home buyer activities.

Today, these actions are occurring on mobile devices at rapidly swelling numbers.

The study proves home buyers research “on-the-go.”

Interestingly, 77% of these mobile searches were conducted at home and 31% at work, locations that a desktop or laptop computer are more than likely accessible.

Home buyers are choosing to use their mobile devices to research and learn about properties for sale.

Go Mobile or Go Say Goodbye Google

Google confirms: Grow your business with real estate mobile marketing.

An excerpt from Google…

The Google study looked at all the screens consumers use over the course of a week and found that a full 90% of all media interactions are now screen-based: they take place on a smartphone, laptop, PC, tablet or TV. Radio and print now account for only 10%. If your real estate company still allocates marketing dollars for radio or print, today it is time to change that.

Source: Real Estate Mobile Marketing NAR Google Study

On June 11th, 2013 Google published an article titled “Changes in rankings of smartphone search results.” And when Google talks, brokers need to listen, learn and take action.

Google states…

…smartphone users are a significant and fast growing segment of Internet users, and at Google we want them to experience the full richness of the web. As part of our efforts to improve the mobile web, we published our recommendations and the most common configuration mistakes.

Avoiding these mistakes helps your smartphone users engage with your site fully and helps searchers find what they’re looking for faster.

To improve the search experience for smartphone users and address their pain points, we plan to roll out several ranking changes in the near future that address sites that are misconfigured for smartphone users.

It could not be said any clearer.

Best Real Estate Mobile App Design for Marketing

Responsive Websites Verses Mobile Friendly Real Estate Apps

Not only do we know home buyers use mobile devices to search for real estate, Google will favor and reward mobile friendly real estate websites or those that direct to a well-crafted real estate mobile app more than those that choose not to cater to this rapidly growing audience.

Real estate companies that choose to ignore this information provided by Google will more than likely suffer financially if they reply upon or desire traffic from the search engine giant.

Source: http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2013/06/changes-in-rankings-of-smartphone_11.html

A laptop or desktop computer website experience is much different than viewing or researching real estate on a smartphone or iPad. The biggest difference, of course, is the screen size.

Real estate mobile apps must incorporate features that satisfy users on the go by offering an equally superior experience on these popular smaller screens.

Responsive Websites Verses Mobile Friendly Real Estate Appsreal estate mobile marketing quote

Today, most real estate company websites are responsive.

A responsive website is one that will adjust its size based upon the device being used. This type of website maybe ideal for some industries, but not for real estate companies.

Simply shrinking down the website size to adjust to a smaller screen, most often will provide a bad user experience. Therefore, a real estate mobile app is preferred over a responsive website for maximum marketing outcomes.

The previously mentioned “New Home Shopper Activity on Mobile Devices” graph (viewable in previous the How Important is Mobile Marketing for Real Estate Business section) tells us what information, mobile real estate visitors are seeking.

The best mobile real estate app will masterfully accommodate these needs, making it effortless for the visitor to find and view this material, no matter what size screen they are using.

Real Estate Mobile App Design Best Practices

Less is more.

The temptation to put too much into a real estate mobile app is tempting. After all, you want the visitor to see all of the services and information you offer.

However, when someone has to scroll down on a real estate mobile app to find what they are looking for, they are apt to go. They are looking for every specific real estate information, don’t make them scroll or dig for it.

Remember, it is all about uncluttered, easy to navigate and intuitive property search functionality.

How much is too much?

People stay on the front page of a web app 7 to 15 seconds. For that reason, you have 7 to 15 seconds for them to find what they are looking for.

Buttons are innate and offer easy navigation. However, the more buttons presented to the user at one time, the more difficult it is for them to make a selection, especially for the first time user.

Maximize the screen’s real estate by keeping to less than 7 buttons on your apps front page and include the most useful ones such as a click to contact, directions, social sharing such as Facebook (use one social button and link that to a page that has all social media links), property search, property pages, save favorite properties and neighborhood highlights.

Close the Sale with these Extra Real Estate Mobile App Tips

Can we talk?

Think of your real estate mobile app as a communication channel.

The objective is make it effortless for the app user to call, send a text or email message and communicate to your agents or company.

Size and GPS Matters.

  • Button sizes should be large enough so without difficulty larger finger sizes can click them.
  • Make sure your real estate mobile app communicates with GPS. If it does not, the app will be useless.

Take your smartphone out.

Open Safari or Chrome and navigate to your website. Is this a website or app you would use when researching for property information on your mobile device? Now navigate to your competitors website. Which one is more user friendly?

Chapter 4: Why Choosing the Right IDX Solution for Your Real Estate Website Matters

It is an IDX vendor or company that has the technologies that allow MLS property search functionality, property detail pages plus more that directly impact an appropriate real estate website design.

IDX (Internet Data Exchange) uses a type of data feed provided by your MLS membership to display information about real estate for sale on a website. This data feed typically mirrors the data available on your MLS’s website.

If your MLS provides access to this data feed, you may use that access to promote all listings on your website, not just your featured listings.

Real_estate_web_design_-_IDX_chart

Not all IDX’s are Created Equal.

As earlier discovered, property search is front and center on the homepage of the top 3 most popular online real estate website destinations.

Because every IDX vendor has its own unique technologies that ultimately impact the visual look and feel of property search features, property detail pages, map search functionality plus more choosing the right IDX vendor should be an intricate part of your real estate website design development.

Many brokers are unaware of this and end up using the IDX provider their website developer partners with.

Features normally controlled by an IDX vendor include:

  • the layout of property detail pages.
  • map search functionality.
  • the ability to search by price and other sorting capabilities such as waterfront, subdivisions, neighborhoods, property type etc.
  • property showcases such as featured properties or open house listings.
  • contact forms.
  • social sharing.
  • lead registration and generation.
  • lead management.
  • extras such as mortgage calculators.

Real estate website developers either use their own IDX technologies or third party IDX solutions to bring property search and property details into a website. This facet of real estate website design maybe the most important, but often least discussed when choosing a company to build a website for a real estate company. 

Non Existent for Google Verses Find-able Property IDX Solutions

The property search functionality and property listing page design elements utilized by an IDX supplier play a critical role in the overall usability of the real estate website design.

Equally important, when choosing an IDX vendor, or a real estate website developer is understanding how they convert the MLS data feed onto a website.

Framed Verses Non-Framed Property Competencies

Website design for real estate

Framed IDX

Some IDX vendors use frames (aka iframes) to embed property details onto a website. Google and others have problems reading content contained within a frame, making this content invisible to the search engines. This means Google may not know about the properties listed on your real estate website if frames are used.

Non-Framed IDX

Non-framed IDX cohesive listings are view-able by Google and other prevalent online reference resources. Landing pages, such as property displayed page results, created by quick links or predefined searches can be optimized and entirely detectable for the search engines to deliver targeted traffic to the website for relevant search queries.

A quote from Google regarding framed website content:

Google supports frames and iframes to the extent that it can. Frames can cause problems for search engines because they don’t correspond to the conceptual model of the web. In this model, one page displays only one URL.

Pages that use frames or iframes display several URLs (one for each frame) within a single page. Google tries to associate framed content with the page containing the frames, but we don’t guarantee that we will.

Source: http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=34445

If Google does not know your website has information about a particular property listing, because the listing content uses frames, Google is probably not going to display your website in its search results.

Therefore, when a prospective buyer has driven by a property for sale or heard about a particular listing and uses Google to search online for information about the property, a website using frames is most unlikely to appear in the search results.

This is a huge missed opportunity.

How to Detect Frame Usage on Your Company Real Estate Website

The easiest way to determine if your real estate website uses frames to pull in and display properties is to call your IDX vendor or real estate website developer and ask if they “use iframes, or frames” to display property listings.

There can only be two responses, either yes or no, making this is a straight-forward discovery method.

Another is intuition. When a real estate website struggles to get high search rankings on Google for active listings, this may be a signal frames are being used.

Pictures Sell Homes

Interesting Visual Tidbits’

  • Visuals are processed faster in the brain than text.
  • According to a research by 3M Corporation, we process visuals 60,000 times faster than text because our brain deciphers image elements simultaneously.
  • Text content is decoded in a linear, sequential manner which takes more time to process.
  • 90% of information that comes to the brain is visual.
  • People respond better to visual cues.
  • Visual content stimulates engagement.

Pictures Leave Buyers Wanting More

In your opinion which property details page is more apt to grab the attention of a prospective buyer?

This one, or…

web design for real estate

 

this one?

real estate web designs

 

The proof is in the imagery.

Amazon, Pinterest, Instagram, the wide spread usage of info-graphics, Google image search and the list goes on of successful online marketing strategies that use imagery to engage web visitors.

Remember “copy what works, ideas are less important than execution.

This is proof people engage with imagery.

The best real estate website company design will incorporate takeaways from others who have mastered the usage of imagery by providing visually appealing property display and property search pages to engage their online visitors.

Chapter 5: Local Real Estate Domination: How to Become the Online Neighborhood Connoisseur

To become the local online go to resource a company real estate web design must satisfy and provide prospective buyers with more than just the standard property search functionality most commonly associated with a real estate website.

To fully participate and offer meaningful information a real estate company’s website must purposefully present local information in such a manner that keeps buyers connected with the website.

This material must help them determine if the neighborhood or communities they are looking for properties in coincides with their desired lifestyle expectations.

local real estate marketingLocation, Location, Location

How does this phrase impact a home buyers buying decision?

Location influences housing pricing, but location also speaks to the lifestyle associated with locations.

In a perfect world your company real estate website has been optimally designed to become the online “go to” resource for its locality. In order to achieve best results, it must provide valuable content specifically related to a vicinity that goes beyond what every other real estate website offers.

Mastering Hyper-Local Living

Neighborhoods are the greatest shared and most natural way for people to talk about an area, whether having a dialogue about where someone lives, outdoor recreations, the best pizza parlor, social events, shopping, schools and the list goes on and on.

The most popular mobile apps and websites, such as Facebook or Zillow strategically incorporate the usage of neighborhoods to selectively target a specific audience and cater results to what that audience cares about most, their living environment.

Boundaries Sell Homes

Boundaries make searching for a home easier by focusing on specific locations that fit a desired lifestyle.

The Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens are all different New York neighborhoods. These well-known communities each have their own unique characteristics and a home buyer could expect to have different living experiences depending on which neighborhood a home is located.

A Smartly Designed “Neighborhood Friendly” Real Estate Website:

  • Provides unique and useful neighborhood information that makes a buyer say, I want to live here.
  • Empowers neighborhood home searches that take buyers to the right listings.

Chapter 6: Designing a Real Estate Website that Generates Free Google Leads

There are numerous factors that ultimately determine how Google and other major search engines conclude which web pages to display when a search is conducted. To get free real estate leads from Google, a company real estate website must be developed to be SEO friendly.

I am not going to quote numbers and tell you why it is important to be found on Google when a home buyer or sellers searches for real estate for sale or a real estate company in your local marketplace. We all know online search is where people go to for information and services. Being listed on the top of Google for search terms relevant to your business can have a tremendous impact on the number of closings or sale transactions that occur.

As a SEO expert, I can tell you there are numerous factors that ultimately determine how Google and other major search engines conclude which web pages to display when a search is conducted.

How to Gain Authority and Get Google Love

Did you know the design of a real estate website can play a major role in search rankings?

A great real estate design accomplishes much more than converting new visitors into returning visitors. It also is intensifies real estate SEO (aka search engine optimization).

A SEO Friendly Designed Website:

  • Lowers bounce rate: a bounce is when someone comes to your website and immediately leaves.
  • Increases page views: a visitor navigates different sections or pieces of content on your website.
  • Increases time on site: a visitor shows engagement by staying longer.
  • Receives more links: people will naturally share your website by creating links to your content.
  • Earns online mentions: a mention can occur anywhere online, such as Facebook or Twitter.
  • Establishes Google trust: signals authority to Google.

Google is Smart.

Google knows your website’s bounce rate, how many pages or how deep into your website visitors go, how long they stay before they leave, how often others refer to your content with links and how popular your website is due to mentions and social likes.

Trust me, Google uses this data to establish “website authority” and all of these factors directly affect your ability outrank online competitors.

google local - real estateHow to Manipulate Your Friendship with Google

There are numerous real estate website design elements that influence real estate SEO.

Much of the data necessary to discover ways to evolve your relationship with Google can be found in your website analytics.

I suggest you take time and regularly view these reports to learn how visitors interact with your website. Use this powerful information to identify areas that need improving. And because data doesn’t lie, you will know what your website visitors think about your real estate website design elements and content.

More than likely if your online visitors like you, Google will too.

Conclusion: realWITS Coined the Phrase “Smarter” Company Real Estate Websites.

But what does “smarter” actually mean?

You don’t need to have deep pockets such as Zillow, Trulia or Realtor (dot) com to have a “smart” real estate website for your company.

But…. you do need to know what makes a “smart” website for real estate companies and change accordingly. 

In Summary, a Smart Company Website for Real Estate Excels in these 6 Areas:

1. Real Estate SEO

  • Property pages that can be found and indexed by Google.
  • Usage of SEO friendly URL structures.
  • Optimized and unique meta tags for all pages including property and agent pages.
  • Fresh content with integrated on-site blog.
  • Google analytics in dashboard (be proactive, not re-active!)
  • Fast loading web pages

2. Generates Quality Real Estate Leads

  • Ability for visitors to save and share property searches.
  • Leads are viewed and tracked – you can “spy” on or view visitors activity.
  • Leads can be auto forwarded to appropriate agents in real time.
  • Auto email generation alerts when a similar property hits the market, or a saved property has a price change.
  • A well thought out website design integration with strong call to actions.

3. Photo Centric Website Design

 More pictures. Less Noise. More Sales.

Pictures sell homes. No matter how well written a property description is, it will never grab the attention of a buyer better than a picture will.

The visual emphasis of any real estate website should be on imagery that tells a story and conveys “I want to see more” from buyers.

4. Real Estate Website Design that Caters to Different Personas, Your Visitors and Your Company.

  • It incorporates best practices that satisfy both online visitors and your objects.
  • A/B testing is conducted to learn what your visitors like and change what they don’t respond favorably to.
  • Website analytics are reviewed monthly to look for trends and opportunities.

5. Select the Right IDX Provider: Traits of a “Smart” IDX

  • Customize. Separate yourself from others.
  • The ability create custom searchable  landing pages for neighborhoods, or just condos, or waterfront properties, or featured properties or foreclosures etc.
  • Agent pages should auto-populate their listings.
  • The capability to pull in specific properties to create slideshows and showcases.
  • Property display and property details page layout options – don’t be limited.
  • On-site SEO built in.
  • Crawl-able an index-able property pages for search engines.
  • Engagement with web visitors
  • SEO friendly URL structure for property pages – get more clicks. 
  • Get found online for highly targeted search queries – such as high rise condos or waterfront properties and short sales.
  • Offer customizable and multiple property search functionality options.
  • Use interactive maps searches – custom and unlimited – very popular with online home shoppers.
  • Ability to narrow searches by any field offered by your MLS.
  • Subdivision property searches.
  • New listings updated every 24 hours (or sooner).
  • Social sharing – encourage visitors to share listings on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and more

control real estate web develpoment6. You Have Control

While I did not devote a section of this EBook to this topic, it is imperative you control your website. After all, it is your website. You should control it, not your real estate website developer or vendor.

Signals that indicate you have control of your website include:

  • It takes hours or days verses weeks for updates or change requests.
  • Technology is updated regularly.
  • An online WYSIWYG editor to make it easy to update, change or create pages and posts.
  • Minor tweaks should be the norm, not the exception.
  • You do not get push back when asking for change requests.

There are many features that make a real estate website intelligent.

These examples are worth paying attention to if you want to generate more closed transactions from online activities.

Want to Learn More?
Contact me to learn how to make your company web design smarter.

This is my first EBook and I am excited to share it with you about a subject I am very passionate about. Please leave comments below and let me know if you found it valuable or how to make improvements for me next EBook. Thanks for reading! Randi Thornton

 

 

 
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