Designing an Effective Lead-Generating Real Estate Website

Cole Wiebe
October 3, 2014
Read time: 4 minutes

A site designed to give you, the owner, exactly what you wanted may actually be the single greatest obstacle standing in the way of rankings, traffic and leads.

Even a drop-dead gorgeous award-winning website may not be a "good" design. What is good design? For the real estate professional, the website must generate leads, and increase sales; not overhead.

Design is not art. Art does not have to be functional.
- Massimo Vignelli

An attractive website can potentially increase page views, lower the bounce rate and enhance the number of earned links to its pages. But is a beautiful site necessary to perform well on the bottom line? Sadly, that would be a no. Four of the ugliest websites have made millions: Facebook, Google, Plenty of Fish and Craigslist.

So what makes a website design good?

1. It all begins with great content. The design then focuses on presenting your extremely valuable content in its best light. Most sites have it backwards. They design a new site the owners like, and then replace the "Lorem Ipsum" filler text with hastily-written copy, or just paste the old stuff from the last site that didn't work back in.

2. Value is perceived in under 3 seconds. Visitors should know within 3 seconds if they’ve arrived at a site that is likely to answer their question or have what they are looking for. What are you doing to convince them they've arrived at the right place?

3. It differentiates you from the ambient noise? Your USP (unique selling proposition) should be plainly visible. All other factors being equal, you will succeed to the degree you contrast yourself from everybody else.

If you look like the competition, and sound like the competition, there's no reason to choose you over the competition.
- Ben Hunt

4. It connects you with your audience. Your visitors aren't going to contact you because your IDX widget is cooler, or the design is sexier. They have to like you, trust you and genuinely believe you can help them. Your content must convince them that you're the one.

5. It takes visitors where they need to go. Calls to action on the home page should grab visitors by the hand and lead them to the content they want by the shortest possible route. No desired page should be more than 3 clicks away.

6. The visitor doesn't have to think or work. Where there’s a lot of content, consider using accordion or overlay panels to reveal additional information, so visitors don’t have to click away to other pages. Bring the content to them.

7. There's something for all three types of visitors. For search-oriented users, make the search field is prominently displayed. For menu-driven visitors, be sure the menu is easy to use, and choose only the most common menu terms rather than trying to be cute. For lazy users who want content to come to them, a video on the home page can tell your story without clicking anything.

8. The pages are fast loading. Good websites avoid resource-hogging JavaScript features and huge images. Consider using CSS3 instead of image buttons, box shadows, border radii, gradients, animated transitions and transformations, etc. You will beat your competitors by providing better content; not more gimmicky features and larger, slow-loading graphics.

That being said, images do help sell real estate. If you feel you must show large images, consider using the lazy-load feature, so the visitor's device doesn't have to load images until they are actually needed.

9. Your content has killer titles. A great title will lead visitors to read your page or post. Titles also improve rankings and increase click-throughs from search engine results.

10. A photo is worth a thousand words. Choose images that not only support your content, but also intrigue your audience. Remember that Google can’t “see” your photos. Make sure you optimize your image file names, titles and ALT tags.

Take it easy on hi-res images. Not everyone has Retina displays. Serving up enormous image files to people who can't enjoy them unnecessarily increases load times.

11. Interaction and sharing are encouraged. A successful website encourages commenting and sharing of content. Some of the "evergreen" (will still be relevant and useful a few years from now) content has a high value and this encourages links from other sites.

12. There's a proven conversion strategy. Behind it all, there's a strategy that pulls visitors into your sales funnel, onto the mailing list and gets them registered in your CRM for future lead nurturing. You're going to need ridiculously valuable content to earn traffic, a fantastic user experience, and strong conversion copywriting on your landing pages. Nobody said it was going to be easy, but it is definitely doable.

Final thoughts

Good web design is so much more than just lookin' pretty, and having the latest bells and whistles.

Cole Wiebe, content marketing expert, Vancouver, BCCole Wiebe helps brands and professionals grow their influence and value online; so they can “out content”™ their competition. Cole is a content strategist, content writer, conversion copywriter and online marketing coach.

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