Well over 80 percent of homebuyers nationwide begin their home search online. In response, real estate professionals and real estate companies are increasingly investing in websites. But are those websites actually capable of paying off in this highly competitive niche? Montecito Realtor Cristal Clarke, among the most successful luxury agents on California's Central Coast, knows the answer. "The success of a real estate professional's website is highly dependent on SEO, search engine optimization," Clarke says.
Show Versus Tell
Luxury Realtors overwhelmingly focus on the visual aesthetics of their websites; believing a "lean, clean" site offering impressive visuals and minimal copy will best represent their brand and appeal to sophisticated clients. Although those sites are often handsome and imply "luxury," they don't necessarily impress Google's algorithm: the process used by the search engine to scan, value and rank websites in search results.
"I've learned from my website consultant and marketing writer, as well as the site's designer and developers, that although aesthetics are important for building a brand," Clarke emphasizes, adding,
"Search engine optimization applied to strategic design, written content and technical considerations is absolutely vital if a website is to rank highly on search pages."
"Content Is King"
Every internet marketing expert emphasizes that axiom, but what does it mean?
Although "content" includes visuals, a search engine's algorithm cannot "see." But it can "read." That means the most important informational medium on a real estate website is copy: narrative representation of what potential buyers and sellers want and need. Not just any copy though. There must be a substantial amount of keyword-rich, authoritative, engaging and unique verbiage. Unique?
"Every bit of copy on the Cristal Clarke website – including over 400 blog posts – is written solely for my site," Clarke says. "I've learned if you purchase stock content that's on dozens or hundreds of other sites, or if you just cut and paste something from some publication, Google can't tell which site it originated on. That content will likely be ignored, and your site might even be penalized in Google's rankings."
The Real Estate Website's Royal Family
If amount and quality of content is king when it comes to a successful website, then properly-placed calls-to-action, social media integration, and technical aspects such as the site's speed, security, sitemap and myriad other factors are the royal family.
Calls-to-action include prompts to move from one page to another; ideally from an informational page to a sales page, and on to a lead capture form. In fact, one of the best lead capture tools is a subscription form where the site visitor can sign up to receive blog posts, newsletters and listing alerts.
Links to and from the agent's social media pages are imperative since those pages are essentially marketing outlets for the website and agent. Needless to say, the site's technical aspects are vital and are best left to a competent website designer and developer.
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