What You Can Do Online to Boost Your Real Estate Business
In 2019, being in the real estate business means having a robust online presence. Why? Well, because that’s where all the customers are. According to a recent survey by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), a staggering 99% of millennials, who now comprise the largest group of first-time home buyers, start their home search online, and even among older generations, large majorities hit the internet before they even think about calling an agent. You want that business? You have to be online too.
So what can you do to maximize your online presence? There are three main areas you’ll want to optimize: your social media presence, your SEO optimization, and your website. Let’s drill down into each area, and go over some of the most effective strategies.
An Active Social Media Presence
How complete has social media’s takeover of the public consciousness been? In barely a decade, the number of social media users has exceeded the number of people who watch television. So if you want to reach the widest possible audience, you’ll want to be on social media.
Social media is an amazing and versatile tool for outreach; it provides opportunities for customer engagement, publishing, advertising, branding, and messaging, all in one. But there are a lot of different platforms to choose from.
In real estate, Instagram and Facebook tend to be the leading converters. Facebook skews older than platforms like Snapchat, which is an obvious advantage when you’re talking about six or seven figure investments, and Instagram’s simple visual presentation is almost tailor made for real estate. Twitter’s an easy, low-investment way to get the word out, and if you deal in commercial real estate, LinkedIn can be a valuable tool.
Once you’ve set up your accounts, make sure you populate them with basic information like your address, service areas, and contact information. Keep your presentation professional, and include calls to action on your bios and welcome pages; direct links to your website and blog, and “Call Now” buttons can be extremely effective.
When it comes to content, you have to understand that, while traditional marketing is all about grabbing eyeballs, online digital marketing is about providing value. That means cheap attention-grabbing tactics like clickbait, listicles, or misleading gimmicks will not only fail to attract traffic, they might even alienate potential customers, who’ll view them as dishonest and unsophisticated.
The best content is high-quality, informative, and useful. For example, if you’re writing for renters, then producing a rent report like this one would be very helpful. It enlightens the reader, and helps them achieve their goals. It exudes authority, expertise, and competence. If you have a blog (and you should), your social media accounts are a great way to get out the word on your blog posts. Disseminating your latest economic study or article about how to sell your house helps establish you as a thought leader, and sets up a pipeline for leads.
And don’t forget the social aspect of social media. While you should be posting your own blog posts, high-quality photos and video tours, you should also be reposting other users’ content. Not only does this let you tap into a great, and nearly bottomless source of content, it helps establish you as a member of the community. If you want engagement from your community, you’re going to have to show it first.
One last note: when it comes to social media, be patient. It takes a long time to build up a large, organic, engaged following, so resolve to continually cultivate your social media presence.
Continuous Search Engine Optimization
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is a big term for a very simple idea: visibility. When you refine your SEO, you’re making your website more visible and relevant to the big search engines that drive the lion’s share of online traffic.
When someone searches for a term like “real estate agent,” the results that appear near the top of that first page of results get exponentially more traffic than results even a half-page down. Smart SEO will get your site high up on that list of search results, and bring in a flood of traffic.
So how do you do that? Well, picking the right keywords is a great place to start. Think of keywords as a spotlight. Your ideal customers are out there, in the dark, searching for you via search engines, and the only way you can signal to them is to pick the right keywords. That means you’ll have to do some intensive market research, so you can anticipate what your audience is going to be typing into Google or Yahoo that’s going to lead them to you.
Another aspect of SEO touches on a point from the previous section: high-quality content. As users have gravitated away from the empty sugar rush of listicles and slideshows, and moved toward more informative content, Google’s algorithms have adapted to reflect that. That means that if you offer low-quality content, you’ll be penalized twice: once by customers, and again by Google.
So how does an algorithm evaluate content? Primarily, it looks at how users interact with it. If a lot of users visit your website and click back to the search results page within thirty seconds, Google will assume your content is low quality and unengaging. That’s not going to be good for your ranking.
On the other hand, if users spend a lot of time on your site after that initial clickthrough, and click onto additional pages on your site, you’ll be classified as higher quality.
So what’s the secret to high-quality content? Well, there is no secret. You simply have to craft informative, engaging, insightful content that creates a genuine connection with your audience. Just as with keywords, that means you’ll need to understand what, exactly, your potential customers are looking for. And then you’ll have to give it to them. If you can do that, you’re going to flourish.
As with your social media strategy, be patient with your SEO; one study of top-ranked pages on Google found that the average #1 page was three years old, and the average top ten page was about two years old. SEO is a long term investment, but it’s also an incredibly lucrative one.
An Engaging, Pleasing Website Design
Presentation matters. If a house has “good bones” and huge potential at an amazing price point, but is hidden under clutter and outdated finishes, it’s going to be a struggle to sell. The same principle applies to your website. Your high-quality content is going to be wasted if it’s not presented in a way that’s appealing to users.
The numbers back this up: according to a recent report, agents who spend $1,000 or more to maintain their website get five times more leads than agents who spend $500 or less.
So how do you make your website aesthetically appealing? Much like a home, you want to go for a soft, uncluttered look. Ample white space is very important; it makes text more digestible, and keeps it that rich, longform content from becoming intimidating or overwhelming.
It never hurts to have some interactive sections like a search bar with necessary filtering options or a mortgage calculator. These options will incentivize the visitor to spend more time on your website and eventually get them closer to take action. You can even go further and add forms, forums/discussion boards or interactive maps. RentPrep.com has a nice example of the last one; they created an interactive map of US rent control laws by state.
Beyond that, you’ll want to make sure your site’s aesthetic matches your brand. Unless you’re extremely tech-proficient, you should seriously consider hiring a professional web designer to help you find visual equivalents to your company’s values.
And don’t forget that not all aspects of your website’s design are visible. The backend of your site is just as important; you want it to load quickly and easily, and be viewable on both desktop and mobile.