It seems that, as an industry, agents are so eager to have every tool available, that they might buy what’s being sold without doing their own research to see if it really works. What people interested in creating a website that works should do is analyze what makes real business sense. Just as agents cannot be all things to all clients, an agent’s website should not be all things for an agent.
With that being said, when should an agent have an individual website? What will make that website a good source for leads?
Here are some tips about what you should do – and not do – if you want to create your own website:
- Don’t waste money on cheap tricks! There are many “plug-ins” and “add-ons” available to easily add content to your site. The downside? They often distract the user without adding any real value and can cheapen your message. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen agent sites offering weather forecasts and recent sports scores. I can assure you that anyone looking for local weather and sports will seek this information elsewhere, and only find its inclusion to be distracting, overwhelming, or worse, tacky. There is no substitute for well-written, meaningful content. If you are going to spend money, make sure it is on content that illustrates your knowledge, and don’t get caught up on features that might add flash, but don’t serve to further your message.
- Do make your website look exceptional. Your site should represent you, and function as your “front door” or as an online resume of sorts. Look at your current website. Is it scattered, unfocused, and lacking in design aesthetics? If so, this confused site represents you to the world wide web, which says you are scattered, unfocused, which are obviously not the attributes you want to convey. Instead, hire a professional designer to customize a small site, one that is just a few pages for now, but that illustrates both the work you have done and the work you will do well for future clients in a clean and organized manner. Once you have that mastered, you can, in time, flush out the site with more content, keeping it relevant and specific to enhance your search engine optimization performance, offer value to your site visitors and give them a reason to reach out to you.
- Don’t focus on lead generation. Many agents have individual websites to generate leads, but lead generation is often far lower than expected. Think about why you visit the websites you visit. Most likely, you visit those sites because they have quality, interesting content. Instead of focusing on just generating leads with your site, focus on creating a page people will want to visit, which in turn, will eventually generate leads.
- Do focus on search engine optimization, or SEO, which is a process of optimizing a website so its visibility improves, coming up higher in search results. If you analyze the template-style websites that many agents have (several of these style websites let users “search the MLS” from within the site) you will see they offer very little in terms of SEO – the code and links used in these sites are all the same, which looks like duplicate content, which hurts your site’s chances of being optimized well. In addition, these websites often use java code, which isn’t easily indexed by Google; if you do have unique content on your site (which you should), your site won’t get indexed anyway. Likely, your brokerage website offers better searching solutions, so why not give your future client the best experience and have them make use of those better tools? Ultimately, you should be constantly asking yourself, “What should my website do for me?”
Matt Farrell is the managing partner of Urban Real Estate, a 30-person residential real estate company in Chicago, and is also a partner in NEOUSA, a technical consulting firm. He was recently elected to serve as president-elect for the Chicago Association of Realtors.