Ever notice how most real estate sites have nearly identical content? The majority will include IDX (MLS Reciprocity here in British Columbia) listings. There’s an About Me page, some buyer and seller pages, and probably one or two contact forms. Usually there's a lot of bragging about awards and the level of service the agent provides.
The sad truth is, it’s excruciatingly boring for prospective buyers and sellers to wade through a bunch of local agent sites. They’re all the same. Many home page will usually have an image slider at the top. (Sliders rotate photos.) A static hero image at the top will load much faster, which is important in reducing 'bounces' back to the search engine. However, there is one highly effective use for sliders.
Lazy site owners will just throw in some scenic photos of the local area in their slider... this slows the site down and provides no value to the user. But there are a few agents who do use the slider very effectively to display large in-your-face, stunning 'highlight' images drawn from their listings, with animated text panels, linked to an on-site listing page. The top 'hero' panel becomes a visual presentation... not just a slideshow. Slider Revolution offers a great solution for building these. The home page should never link out of your website, to IDX/MLS or any other website. Your bounce rate can go through the roof! (Note: There are IDX solutions we've installed that handle MLS display properly, so all of the link URLs are on-site.)
If you’re listing homes, you want to be proudly displaying your 'My Listings' inventory. Your real estate photographer is your secret weapon. (Poor quality images look a lot worse when they're big and in-your-face.) A drop-dead gorgeous magazine-quality alternative to the slider on the home page is a masonry layout with big, eye candy photos. Images must be well lit, perfectly cropped, in focus... think Architectural Digest. Again, each image in the panel links to the applicable on-site listing page. These listing pages become part of your permanent search-engine-optimized content asset.
Why do you need to have 'real' (physical) pages built on your site for your own active listings, and then move your listings to Recently Sold, and later to Archives? The SEO value of highly optimized physical listing pages is huge, when it comes to hyperlocal content. Agents who take the easy route, and just display an IDX filtering of their own listings are missing out on this incredible content opportunity to build 'real' evergreen content. If you're active, in a few years you could literally have hundreds of permanent listing pages on your site: Current Listings, Recently Sold and Archived. How is the agent with the usual 8 - 10 pages and only an IDX feed (where listings expire and go "poof") ever going to compete with that, when it comes to search engine positioning?
Many agents believe that if they can just add a super cool IDX search interface, a flood of buyers will contact them for a showing. However, statistics indicate that visitors rarely complete an MLS search on the first three visits to an agent’s site. So if they’re coming back a 5th or 6th time, before they even consider making a connection, guess what they’re checking out… you. And they're looking for genuine value... the incredibly useful local information the other sites don't have.
Are you introducing yourself effectively on your home page? Of course, people aren’t going to slog through a lengthy bio on the home page. One of the very best introductions you can make is through a welcome video (and/or a short text teaser). Given the choice between an agent they’ve already met, by way of video, and all the other strangers, your chances just went up significantly.
Have a look at the "About Me" pages and home page introductions of other real estate sites, and then don't do that. You will succeed to the degree you clearly differentiate yourself from your competition. You're unique. Let your visitors see that.
Does your home page reflect your personality, passions and desires? If you're a sailing enthusiast, you may be the very best person to show prospective buyers boat properties in Deep Cove. But prospective buyers won't know this if your home page fails to let your audience know who you really are. The same goes for interests like golf, skiing, horses, etc.
Your video should get them to like you. Instead of bragging about your sales awards, provide some valuable local insider information. You want them to begin to trust you. And they should come to the end of the video believing you can help them buy or sell a property. Present your USP (Unique Selling Proposition) clearly, so they understand what makes you stand out from all the other agents who want their business.
Your home page should leave no doubt in your visitors' minds that they've come to the right place. For example, if they're looking for a condo in Central Lonsdale, and that's your specialty, your home page should provide evidence of that and link to more information. Do you have case studies from the Central Lonsdale neighbourhood, with testimonials, that make your clients the heroes? In other words, all the praise should come from your clients; not you.
Your visitors should know within 3 seconds of landing on your home page, that you are very likely the right person. You can't accomplish this by presenting a 'plain vanilla' nondescript image of who you are. You have to stand out from the thousands of other agents who are desperately trying to set up a meeting with this prospect.
If you need to get visitors to return several times, are you providing compelling calls to action on your home page?
1) Are you asking them to exchange their email address for a very desirable whitepaper or e-brochure with incredibly valuable local information? You could create something like: “10 Things You Must Know to Get The Best Price For Your Central Lonsdale Condo.” Subscribers to your list have given you permission to influence their decisions again and again.
Make sure your emails deliver and also link to more incredibly useful articles and blog posts. The emails your prospects receive after they join your lead generation funnel need to be all about them, and the incredibly useful information they are craving. Your emails are not the place to spam your subscribers with your new listings, recently solds and open houses. (That kind of shameless advertising would be all about you.)
2) Is your home page leading them to the useful hyperlocal “evergreen” content pages you’ve created, and your latest blog posts? Are your blog posts so valuable they’ll subscribe to your RSS feed in their reader, or email blog updates, to make sure they don’t miss a single post?
Your home page should definitely include lead-ins and links to your comprehensive hyperlocal content library. Your visitor won't know that you're different, and that you have invested in providing a lot of hyperlocal content pages unless you show them. If your 'farm' area is Central Lonsdale, North Vancouver, you should have epic pages of content for any topic searchers will look for on Google and Bing, when deciding whether the community would be a good fit for them. What does "epic" mean? It's the best damn page on the entire planet for that topic and search.
If they search for schools, they end up on your site. Each school has its own page with plenty of information... more than the local school board page. And at the bottom of the page, there's a convenient map display of the homes for sale right around that school. They look for parks; they end up on your site. And again, there's a convenient map showing the homes for sale right around that park. Best places to walk their dog... your site. Best fine dining restaurants... your site. And yes, you can have all of this content ghost written by an expert hyperlocal real estate writer.
If you demonstrate that you're the leading expert on all things Central Lonsdale, does it make sense your visitors are more likely to click your IDX (MLS Reciprocity) listing and set schedule a showing? Of course! The reason most IDX feed sites fail spectacularly is because they deliver zero value to the visitor.
While usually not part of the home page content, but rather the structural design; make sure your website’s theme or template includes your phone number in the header and additional contact details in the footer.
Your home page is the most valuable page on the site. Make it a labor of love. Your home page should answer the question: Why you? Seriously; of all the thousands of agents competing with you for the same buyers and sellers... why you? Work with an SEO professional, and be prepared to fine tune your home page regularly to reduce your bounce rate and increase the number of pages your prospective clients visit after landing on the home page.
Cole 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. He is also a UX (user experience) web designer and developer of over 20 years.
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