Over the past few years it's become more important than ever for any business
to have its own web presence. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Real Estate
Everyone now expects to see photos and information about a particular property
on the web!
The fact that you're reading this means that you probably already have
your own Real Estate site and have spent good money getting it to where it
is now so we won't bore you with reasons on why you need your own website. We're
just going to give you little known secrets that may help you reap more benefit from
Suffice it to say that a Real Estate agent who doesn't have
their own website is pretty much analogous to a Real Estate Agent
in the 90's who didn't have their own telephone number.
That said, developing a good website for many can be a scary task due to
their lack of knowledge on the subject. Without the correct knowledge,
marketing yourself on the web can be a very expensive and time-consuming task.
Armed with the proper knowledge however, a good website has the potential to make your
business more profitable, faster and easier.
Knowing the following 10 secrets will give you some of the tools to
immediately increase the value and usefulness of any existing Real Estate website many times
over. Let's get started!
1 - Making a Great First Impression
Studes have proven that in any first time meeting with a client, you
only have seconds to make that first impression. With a website, the website itself
will often become someone's first impression of you. Therefore it's
that your home page or entry page to your website is a good one.
Characteristics of a Good First Page
To ensure a good first impression, make sure
your home page has the following characteristics.
- loads in very few seconds, anything more than 5 to 10 seconds is
pushing it. Internet users are very impatient.
- sets the tone for the rest of the site for appearance and consistency
- it is very clear how to navigate the site. Buttons or
descriptive links to the main pages on your site should be on the home page.
If customers don't stick around because your site loads at a snail's pace or is too
cluttered, or too hard to read, or difficult to navigate, you won't get a second chance,
Characteristics not recommended for your home page.
The following is a list of characteristics you don't want on our home page:
- Shouldn't require the user to download anything to view it, or have
the latest browser software in order to properly see the page. Many
users are leery about downloading software and if they are browsing
from their place of employment they are likely not allowed to perform downloads.
- Your main page links only to your own site.
You worked hard to get clients to your site, so don't throw them away. Have
any links to sites other than your own on a separate page and make sure
that they open in a separate browser window. That ensures the clients always
return to your site once they close that window.
- Keep your site open. Don't make the user search for a doorknob or keyhole to click on
to get to the next page or force them to load an entirely new page before getting a menu.
This generally means that you shouldn't use a large image map on the
first page where the user has to wait to load the entire picture before
they can click to where they want to go.
- Avoid sound. What may sound cute once does not when you
come back again and again and the goal is to get your visitors to return.
Plus, anyone looking at your properties from their place of work in this era of the
open-concept office environment will definitely
not appreciate it.
- Don't use flash. While flash can be attractive it should never be
used on the main page without a bypass. That said, even if you have a bypass,
other versions of browser software may not display the bypass to the user
thereby still forcing them to watch the video everytime they arrive. You are
stealing your clients valuable time if you force them into a video everytime they
come to your site. If you're going to be taking their time like that, it's best that
you ask or warn them first. Not providing that courtesy almost guarantees
that they won't be back often.
2 - Simple Consistent Navigation
The old KISS principle - Keep it Simple Silly definitely is paramount here.
Make sure that you have a consistent method of navigation throughout the
site. People are here to get the information they want, and they shouldn't
require a training course or a map on how to get through your site.
The standard methods of having a list of menu items or links along the
top of each page or down the left side still works the best. If your pages are
long it helps to have another set of menu links at the bottom
of the page as well. People are
comfortable with the familiar and if they automatically know how to navigate
your site because it's simple, they are then free to focus on absorbing the content.
If they get irritated or can't
find the right page within one or two clicks - they're gone!
Make sure that every page has a link back to your home page. This is
especially important when people have clicked down into deep levels
and want to look at something else. You don't want them have to
repeatedly click the back button to get back to the top. Odds are they'll
click it once too often and back right off your site. (If per chance they have to
load a large graphic or flash to get back in, they likely won't.).
3 - Links
Text or Buttons
Text Links are much quicker to load than buttons and are
also searchable by the search engines. If you want to use buttons, make
sure they are quick loading and keep in mind that if you're using buttons that change when you
hover over them, they are actually loading two versions of each button and therefore
taking even more download time.
Note: If you are using buttons, rather than text links, be sure you fill out
the "ALT" tags for each of the images with a description of where the button goes.
There are several reasons for this, the user will see the
text before the button loads, so they can click it without waiting: they'll also see the
text if the button fails to load, or if they have graphics turned off on their
browser software (dial-up users may use that setting to speed up loading). Another reason is that
the search engines will pick up the words in the ALT tag and add it to the
searchable items on your page. (Search engines cannot detect text that is
displayed on a button)
Picking Link Names
Make link names descriptive - i.e. Valuable Resources and Tools tells the
user a lot more than Extra Stuff.
Limiting the number of links
Limit the number of links on a page. You've probably all been to Real
Estate brokerage pages plastered with dozens and dozens of links, some flashing,
some different colors, different sizes, making it very confusing to anyone as to where
to go next. You may notice. when looking at an agent's
listings on one of these sites, most of the links take the user away from the
agent and toward the company's marketing material. That's because the purpose of these sites is
to market the agency, not the agent. Always keep the viewer on your own site focused on
what you want them to see.
When including links within text, such as in a paragraph, it's best to keep them in the standard
accepted format, which is blue text and underlined. This is almost universally
understood and everyone will know right away what is a link and what isn't.
When emphasizing text that is not a link, it's best to
use bold or color rather than underlining. Otherwise people will naturally try to click on it.
A general rule of thumb is to limit your text colors to no more than three,
including the black text. Also darker text with a lighter background is easier to read
for the majority of people.
4 - Valuable Content Brings Repeat Visitors
If you want people to return to your site more than once, you need to have
content and it needs to be content that they are interested in, and content that
works for you, not against you.
Remember, any links that lead the user on to someone else's site
should not be on the main page.
Some valuable offsite content that you might want to include are:
- Area Neigbourhood Links
- Area Shopping Links
- Community Links
- Local Weather
- Real Estate News Links (maybe)
- Local News and Radio Links
- Mortgage News, Mortgage or Financing Links
- Some of your Favorite Web links
- Articles about you.
- Useful Real Estate Info
On site content that is great to have is bio information about your and your
team, achievements, testimonials are extremely important, info about your area of
specialty or neighbourhoods. Most importantly, you need to display your properties
on your own site.
5 - Always Have Your Property Listings on your own Site
We can't stress enough the importance and value of displaying your properties (and only
your properties) on your own website.
Don't link to a group listings site
If you're forwarding your visitors to another group site to see
your listings, you're increasing the odds that your prospects will find another agent as well.
Simply having a link on your site that goes to a slow agency site, or the multiple
listing service for your area, or any other pool of listings that displays
other agents as well, is a definite no no. People will know they can see the same listings from
any other site so they don't bookmark yours to return. You pay good money in advertising to
get people to come to you. Don't throw them away into the fray of other agents out
there. Keep your clients on your site by having everything they need to know
right there. Make sure that the information is better on your site and
easier to view on your site than elsewhere. That means you need to completely control
the content of the listings on your site.
Don't Force Visitors to Use a Search Box
Don't make your clients use a search box to look at your properties. Most agents
don't have more than half a dozen or so properties for sale at any time. Why
would you make them type or search for the correct
words before showing them to them. Just show them. Always make it easy on the viewer.
Display Your Past Sales Successes
Keep a portfolio of your best sales as well. Show people your stuff: make them excited:
make them want to deal with you.
Also the more listings you keep around means more text for the search engines to pick
up on. The more properties that you have that list a particular neighbourhood
raises your level in the searches.
Control Every Word of Your Content
No real estate agency site or multiple listing service can do a property
justice like you can on your own site. While many agents avoided doing their
own listings in the past, with new automated technology available such as that
from HouseFlash.com, it's now become
so easy, you can place great listings on your site in
Show Them More than Anyone Else
Don't succumb to having some software just extract the same
listing info from the multiple listing system and display it on your site,
unless it allows you to add more photos and embellishments to the listing. The
agencies and multiple listing services are limited to systems designed for older
technology and are restricted by having to handle any type of property that they list.
Therefore they usually displa empty fields or data that is of no interest to
Use Your Time Wisely
If it only takes anyone 10 minutes to place a listing on their site, that
is guaranteed to be much nicer and more effective than the same listing shown
elsewhere, why wouldn't you do it. It takes at least that long to send
someone an email about a property. Just place everything on your website
where it will always look good and use your email to direct them to your website.
The 10 minutes that you spend putting up a great property listing will save you
hours in the long run.
6 - The Best Layout for Displaying Properties on a Website
The important things to keep in mind when displaying properties are making sure they
are quick loading, full of useful information, look terrific and are easy to view and understand.
One of the easiest ways to accomplish that is to follow the guidelines below.
Property listings on the web should always consist of two parts, a summary list of
properties available for viewing and separate detail pages for each property.
List of Properties Page
The List of Properties page should summarize the properties available with just enough info
so that the user can make an easy selection on which ones they want to look at in more detail.
The property list page should have the following characteristics;
- viewers can get to your property listings page in 1
click from your home page.
- the property listings page has a small photo, brief
overview and link to the property details. The description should include
the address. If they're clients who drove by the property and saw your sign,
they'll recognize the photo or address easily and then be able to click right into the details
in 2 clicks from the home page.
- all available properties are displayed within the first
page of the property listings page. If you have more than 6 or 8 available
listings, you may have to break them up on to more than one page.
- viewers can get the details on any of your available
properties within 2 clicks from the home page.
- your best sold properties are also displayed on your site.
- available properties are displayed before the sold
properties, so clients don't have to wade through unavailable ones to get the one they
- the most attractive
properties are at the top so they'll be noticed right away. Even if these aren't
the properties viewers are interested in, it will boost their image of you as being someone who is
- using a search form is an option for viewing your listings
and not a requirement.
Property Details Page.
All property detail pages should follow the same format to make it easy for the users
to find info and compare listings. The format should be flexible enough to allow
for unlimited amounts of text and a variable number of photos as best show
off a particular property.
A good property details page should have the following characteristics:
- all of the text details for the property are on one webpage.
This means they have all of the property details within 2 clicks from the home
- the small photo that was in the listings page is displayed
in a larger version on the listing page. This tells them right away that they're on
the correct detail listing page
- if there are additional photos, small versions of
them are displayed on this page.
- clicking on the smaller versions of the photos
will bring up larger versions. Inform the viewer that
they can do that.
- each listing page displays your contact phone number and
email address spelled out.
- larger pictures are brought up in a window that includes your
contact info, including your name, phone number and email address spelled out as
well as a clickable link. Basically you need to make sure that anything they print includes your
name and contact info.
- provide a map or driving directions on how to get to a property.
The property layout setup described above ensures that people will find the
properties they're looking for very quickly and easily, anytime they come to your
site. Viewing your listings will appear so easy compared to the majority
of sites that when they visit yours, they'll be tempted to browse around
at your other listings as well.
Any listing that is printed out will be easily recognizable due to the
large photo. It will contain all of the property details they need, plus small
recognizable photos displaying other features of the home. Most importantly
every sheet they print will contain your name, phone number, email address and
website address, so they will have it
handy. You could even pass it out as a feature sheet at your open houses. Even
printing an individual photo, will also advertise your phone number,
name and email address, so it's always available to anyone looking at the sheet.
To see a sample of what listings in this format look like visit
HouseFlash.com and take a look.
7 - Photo Optimization for the Web
It's very important that all photos be optimized for viewing on the web. It's not
just a matter of getting a digital image from a digital camera or scanning a photo and transferring it to
Simply loading a picture taken on a digital camera most likely will result in a
picture that is very slow to load. Photo optimization compresses the picture in a
manner that makes the picture look virtually the same on a screen, but makes it's file size
many times smaller resulting in a quicker load time.
The width and height of all of your photos should stay roughly the same throughout your listings so that the
format looks consistent. You will need to have either 2 or 3 different size versions of
each photo. The smaller ones are displayed on pages where more than one photo or listing
is shown. The smaller picture should always bring up a larger photo or more details when clicked.
Doing the photo optimization and resizing manually using even good photo manipulation
software can be a very tedious and time-consuming process. Sometimes the manual manipulation of
a single photo can take an hour in itself. For this reason many amateur
designer's and html generating packages may skip the process. Though it looks like
they're displaying smaller images, they are actually downloading the same large image and
telling the browser to display it smaller. This makes for very slow downloads and lost
customers. Using an automated service such
as that of HouseFlash.com does all that automatically
for you in seconds behind the scenes without incurring any designer costs.
With HouseFlash.com you can simply
point and click at a photo on your PC that you wish to use. The system then automatically
uploads the selected photo to the website, then makes a large, medium and small version of the
photo, all of them optimized for quick loading. That is done in seconds automatically.
The various photo sizes will be used by the system in combination with the latest details to
automatically layout and present the detail and summary pages to anyone visiting your website.
8 - Directing Visitors to your site
Now that you have an excellent site to show off, you need to get people
there. First of all don't get caught up in one these companies that tells
you they'll submit your site to 400,000 search engines. There aren't 400,000 search
engines, those websites are
not sites where anyone would find you. They are simply there for the
purpose of collecting email addresses like yours so they can send you junk mail.
Search engines can be valuable when used properly, and there are a few main ones that you
should probably concentrate on getting listed in. Those such as Google, AltaVista, AOLNetfind,
Excite, Hotbot, Infoseek, Lycos Webcrawler and Yahoo are the cream of the crop.
Join Banner & Link Exchanges
It certainly doesn't hurt to try these services because they are typically
free. The banner exchanges usually give banner impressions in return for
impressions you produce for them. The ratios for the number of impressions
you'll get for the number of impressions you generate will vary from
service to service.
Using banners may not be quite so easy depending on your
current web design and one disadvantage is that you may not have control over what
ad appears on your site.
Some sample Banner Exchanges are Link Exchange, Exchange It!, Trafficx,
and HyperBanner Network.
Generally, you want to stay away from exchange programs where you don't have any
control over the type of sites where your banner will be displayed. You want to make
sure it's displayed on sites where your prospects are likely to be.
You can also exchange links with other sites without joining a service--link to
some of the top sites in your category and ask them if they'll link to you. Remember
to restrict these links to a separate links page and don't place them on your home page.
Join Newsgroup Discussions
Newsgroups are a great place to make yourself visible in your
Web site's interest area and to position yourself as someone
who has knowledge and interest in a certain subject area.
For instance, if your Web site is about Real Estate, you should follow
and respond to Real Estate newsgroups. As your "calling card," have your
URL and a sentence about your site or your slogan in your signature block of
your e-mail. Here's an example:
Instant Do-it-yourself Real Estate Listings for any Website
While this is a good way to let others with similar interests know about your
site, stay away from posting commercial messages when posting to newsgroups--that's
a big no-no in the online world. It is considered Spam (unsolicited commercial
e-mail), and your inbox may fill up with heated messages from newsgroup members.
Join Web Rings
Web Rings allow you to join groups of Web sites with similar interest
areas and link together to trade visitors and drive new traffic to your site.
This helps visitors already interested in your site's subject matter, to
find your site easily. Use the search engines to find web rings that suit you.
A great place get listed is on as many of your local community or
city websites, business directory websites or even friends websites. Particularly
for those planning to move to your area from out of town, they will likely
be browsing the community sites so you want to be there. Because of recent
changes to search engines it's a good idea to get yourself listed on as many
sites as possible With search engines such as Google the placement of your site
in the search engine placement is boosted partially based on how many sites link to you, and the type of sites that link to you. (So Stay away from Gambling or Adult sites)
All Your Print Material
This will be your greatest source of qualified visitors to your site. It cannot be stressed
enough. Now that you have a website, make sure you list your website address and
email address everywhere you display your name
- Business Cards
- For Sale Signs
- Bumper Sticker
- Bench Signs
- Feature Sheets
- Even leave your website on your voicemail
Ensure that every email you send out, or reply to carrys a signature at the
bottom which includes your contact info, your email address, your website address
and preferably your tagline as shown in the example below.
Do It Yourself Instant Real Estate Listings for any Website
9 - Direct visitors from your Real Estate office site and the
multiple listings service in your area to your own website.
This is so simple and powerful yet most agents do not do it. Instead
they do the opposite and direct the traffic from their own website to these groups.
As cumbersome as these search systems are, there are still many people
who will use them to search. The fact that they are slow, hard to use
or confusing actually works in your favor if you use it to your advantage.
Having your properties listed in these services is a bonus, but doesn't
necessarily draw people to you. Everyone now knows that their own
agent can get them all the details for any property they find in these
systems so most often they will not call you directly.
How do you get these systems to bring you traffic? Simple.
For every listing that you enter in any of these services such as your local
multiple listing service just make
sure to add the following info in your listing's text description.
For more photos and details on this property
visit my website at http://www.yourwebsite.com
If you receive phone calls from anyone looking at your property in those systems,
direct them to your website as well. Even if you're already meeting them later, they can still
look in the meantime and get more info and see how well organized you are and the quality of
work that they can expect.
Then, make sure that your own website does indeed display more photos and more
info than any other service. If you've followed the other guidelines above you
can be sure that your site will be much easier to
navigate and look at, than these large archaic and generic systems.
People will be so relieved to come to a site that actually works properly
and is easy to use, they'll likely take a look around at your other properties
and maybe they'll just decide that they should call you if they want things done right.
"The best no-risk decision you'll ever make!"
SIGN UP NOW
10 - Using Automated Listing Software for your Website
Once you have a fully designed working website, most of your pages will remain relatively the
same. In fact on most Real Estate sites, the only information that changes regularly is
the property listings.
Why are web designer updates to my website so expensive?
If you have a web designer making your property listings changes, it gets very expensive.
You may wonder if your designer is overcharging you. More than likely they are not. It's
just that when you do HTML coding (web programming) manually, it is very time consuming and thus
the high cost.
If processed manually, each addition of a listing requires the creation of a new web page. You may
wonder why they just can't copy a previous listing page and cut and paste the content. Sometimes
they can, but other times there may be more text or photos than the last one and maybe the layout
has to be adjusted to accommodate the difference while still maintaining a consistent look.
Then there are the photos. Each photo must be optimized for display on the web, resized into
smaller and larger images, then loaded up to the website and then formatted, which may take
several tries before it's looking good. Sometimes, just re-working the photos for a listing can
take several hours in itself. Then they need to re-work the listing summary page to put a link
to the new page. Possibly, they will have to change the order of the listings based on where the new one is to
go. Sometimes adding one more listing means you need to have a second or third listing summary page
to handle a long list and then they all require links to navigate back and forth
Virtually any change whether it's simply a price or a word will take a minimum of a 1/2 hour.
The person doing the work needs to find the source for your site, analyze and make the change,
then transfer the appropriate files up to the website, test them, document the change and close
everything up, send you an email etc. etc.
That's why using a designer or technical person to make changes to your listings will always
be a costly experience.
Automation Saves Time and Money
Using an automated system takes all of that manual labour away and therefore, also the cost.
Adding a listing is immediate, the system already knows how to lay out a 2 photo listing or a 10
photo listing and simply does it on the fly. The system knows to put the new properties at the
top of the list unless you choose otherwise. It automatically moves the other listings,
adding new summary pages if needed. All the necessary navigation links are
also automatically added.
The system is entirely on the web, so there is no need for people to manually develop the pages
on the PC and then transfer them up to the web.
The system knows how to size, resize, and optimize all of the photos and does it in seconds
automatically. What might have taken a technical web designer several hours to do is
done in seconds. Want to change something, just go online and do it and the results are
Listings will always change, but the format will stay basically the same. Why pay someone to
re-invent the wheel each time when you can do it automatically in seconds.
HouseFlash.com doesn't even store
your web pages anywhere. It simply stores your photos and data. The webpages are generated instantly
using that data whenever someone accesses your site. That's why they always see the latest data that you've
Programming Costs Versus Service Costs
Many years worth of web development has led to the creation of very innovative software at
HouseFlash.com. This software has
automated the generation of Real Estate Listings to the point that you no longer need a programmer
to add or change your listings. Therefore you no longer need to pay for those costs. The only cost
is a small regular monthly
membership fee with no surprises.
The Bottom Line for Choosing Automation
People using the automated system at HouseFlash.com to
manage their online property listings will pay less per month to
manage all of their Real Estate property listings, than they would typically pay to change a single
word or price on a manual website. Add to that the enormous time savings, and the added value of
having your site up-to-date and totally controlled by you makes the question of whether or not to
automate a non-issue.
We hope you'll try some of these secrets and tips. Even implementing a portion
of them will bring you more clients and save you money in web design cost.
If you like these tips make sure that you're on our mailing list and stick around,
because it's only going to get better. As always, if you have any questions, please
email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Do-it-yourself Instant Property Listings for any Website!