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3 Features EVERY Real Estate Pro Needs on Their Website – Part One

February 15 2012

Do you have a website for your real estate practice? You most certainly do, right? But do you REALLY have a website?

What do I mean by this? Simple. What I mean is: is your website an interactive destination that gives clients and perspective clients a reason to come back again and again? Does your site have lots of useful content that search engines will index? OR, is your site nothing more than an "online brochure" that includes MLS Search?

When we have a new, perspective client drop into our office, or schedule a webinar for a consultation, we're finding that, more often than not, REALTORS® simply have a glorified "online brochure" and NOT a proper Real Estate website.

"What could be wrong with simply giving the general public information about yourself, and an easy to use MLS search," you ask? Technically nothing. But, the truth is that a website such as that offers nothing unique that will make you stand out from the rest of the crowd and certainly gives nothing to a prospect that they can't easily find on one of hundreds of websites (including your local MLS consumer-facing portal).

If you have one of these websites, fear not! We have a few tips for how you can turn your "online brochure" around and make it the destination of choice for homeowners that are interested in buying or selling property in your marketplace.

1) Interactivity Is the Name of the Game

We've been designing real estate websitesreal estate websites for quite some time. One thing that we consistently see in a perspective client's existing web solution is a surprising lack of interactivity. What do I mean by this? The agent may have a contact page that details their phone number and email address, but that's about it. There are no lead capture forms anywhere to be found on the site, no compelling calls-to-action to collect a perspective client's information, and no tools that allow website visitors to easily share content on the site with their friends that might be interested in an agent's services.

So basically the agent has no way to track who has been to their website, and has no hope of generating any leads from their website. This is tantamount to meeting a prospect when you are out in the field, and then handing them a business card that doesn't have any of your contact information. You would never do that, right? Then why would you have a website that doesn't allow people to interact with you?

Ask them for their information
There are many ways you can make your site more interactive and make it generate leads for you. Some are easy and some are more complex. The first, and perhaps easiest interactive element to your website is what is called a "web to lead form." These forms should be placed throughout your website. The idea is to ask a visitor for their information, with the promise of giving them something in return. For instance, perhaps a free home evaluation, a free report, or even something like a listing alert sign up form. These forms should be different from page to page, specifically targeting the opportunity to give a visitor more information about whatever that specific page is related to. With the use of hidden fields in the form, you can pass information through that will tell you specifically what page the visitor was on, when they submitted their web to lead form.

Remember: Web surfers are impatient
One interactive feature we put into many of the websites we design for REALTORS® is the ability for the website visitor to get in touch with the Realtor® immediately. The truth is that while web to lead forms are helpful, in all reality, you have about two (2) minutes to get in touch with the visitor, before they leave your site and move on to another agent's site, in pursuit of getting the information they desire. This is the human nature of a Web surfer.

By installing click-to-call, or click-to-chat features in a REALTOR's® website, we can vastly change the game, and keep that Web visitor on the site and engaged. For instance, take the click-to-chat feature. A visitor can type a question to the REALTOR® and, and the REALTOR® is instantly notified that someone wants to speak with them. We set things up so there is a desktop client that works on the REALTOR's® computer, when they are in the office working, AND also a smartphone application that works while they are out in the field. The notifications pop up, just like a text message, and the REALTOR® can converse with the website visitor in "real time".

Does a feature like this work? You bet it does. I can actually speak from experience. We just finished a very lucrative project for a Real Estate team in Delaware that is going to include a ton of ongoing work as well. My offices are based in California. The broker that found our services on the Web, did so at 8 AM or so, Eastern time. When she called our office (5AM in California), of course nobody was there to answer the phone. Rather than move onto the next guy, she happened to notice that we had click-to-chat capabilities on our website, and because I was up and getting ready to go to the gym, I had already activated it, stating we were online to help people.

I got the notification, got her info and set up a webinar to demonstrate our services, for later that morning, when I got in the office. A perfect example of how interactivity can work in your favor.

Help people help others, and therefore help yourself
It is important to remember that some visitors to your website, are not visiting for themselves, but for others. This is especially true when inventory is low and competition is high for listings. For instance, maybe your son or daughter is looking for a home and having no luck. In the evenings, while watching TV, perhaps you go online and look for homes in areas they want to move to, to help them out.

By putting sharing buttons on your site, visitors can easily take pages, listings or blog posts they find interesting, and share them with those they are helping, or even on their social media walls. By making things easy for people to share, you set yourself up for extra opportunities to get business.

Even more, with a little creative web programming, and the use of a social media management panel, such as our Status 5 Social Media ManagementStatus 5 Social Media Management tool, hootsuite, or many other offerings, you can tag those sharing links to track specifically who is sharing those things on your site and who they are sharing them with, giving you extra opportunities to communicate with prospects.

This is only part one of this article. For the second and third features you need, read part two. To learn more about Leading Agent, you can visit our product directory.