What’s a website?
As you’re probably aware, a website is an internet-accessible collection of multimedia pages from an individual, organization, or company that conveys information or provides a service.
Websites are typically accessed via a browser by typing in a domain name (i.e., “URL” or a “web address”) from a computing device such as a laptop, a mobile phone, or a tablet.
But what actually is a website, and how does it work?
These files are typically made viewable by people via their computing devices at a URL by placing them onto a web server, which is itself a collection of code files bundled together to make a “software application.”
Software developers have now also written applications to make it easier and more convenient for anyone to create, host, and support a website for themselves or their business without having to be a software engineer.
These applications are known as “WYSIWYG” or “What you see is what you get” applications.
That means you can “drag and drop” modular components like images, text blocks, or videos onto a webpage via a tool that then builds the appropriate files for you to host as a website on a web server.
How do people get to my website?
On the internet (much like in the real world of real estate), addresses can be looked up and visited via browsers, similar to how homes are built on a piece of real property with an official address.
For websites, this address is the domain name (or, again, URL) you choose and register with a domain registrar. Conceptually, this is much like your local government offices where real property addresses are created and filed.
Many domain name registrars exist worldwide, such as Google Domains or GoDaddy.
Once you register a domain name, you can associate it with the web server address (or “IP address”) where your website's files are stored. That makes it possible for people to type in your domain name and see your website.
A global system of directory servers facilitates this mapping of domain names to server IP addresses called the “Domain Name System,” or just “DNS.”
You can think of DNS like the Dewey Decimal system used in libraries for locating books within the library stacks.
Why do I need a website in real estate?
Google, "why is a website important for my business.” You’d get back page after page of entries that tell you things you’d probably guess anyway if you thought about it for more than a minute or two:
- Your site lets people know who you are and what you do.
- A website makes you look professional.
- A website helps people get in touch with you.
- Your site helps differentiate you from others.
- People expect you to have one.
- A site helps establish credibility and trustworthiness.
- Without a website, it’s hard to get leads from online sources.
Real estate resides in the services industry. That’s people or groups offering valuable professional services to others, companies, or organizations. Other examples of services businesses include:
- Law Firms
- Restaurants & Bars
As such, there is competition wherein consumers who want or need something must seek service providers that fit their needs from the available pool of offerors.
Much like the phone book in days past, the internet and its collection of websites are the primary way people find the things they want or need.
Most consumers look for service providers via the “phone book of our day,” a web search engine. Google is the predominant search engine people use to find information on services businesses.
To “get found” by consumers seeking what you offer, you minimally must have a website indexed by a web search engine such as Google.
The bottom line? You must have a website if you don’t want to be invisible online.
How can I use my website?
In real estate, agents and brokers can have different objectives for their websites:
- As a simple “online business card” for contact information.
- As a brand “vanity plate” to showcase individual style and personality.
- To generate new client leads and grow business.
- As an informational “portal” for clients
- A way to showcase agent authority or expertise (via a blog, videos, or other published content).
Since each of these objectives varies in the intent, level of effort, and cost required, it’s essential to set your goals before embarking on a website project.
For example, lead generation (or gathering new clients from the web) is multifaceted, complex, and time-consuming. It can be expensive, too, as you must compete with - and overcome - others doing the same things.
Most importantly, a website is just one part (the central “hub”) of a more extensive, de facto standard methodology of doing digital marketing called “Inbound Marketing.”
Inbound Marketing is defined by the software company Adobe as:
“Inbound marketing refers to marketing campaigns where engagement with the brand is initiated by the consumer. Instead of directly contacting consumers, inbound marketing focuses on earning a customer's attention. Blogging and search engine optimization (SEO) are two examples of inbound marketing.”
Click here to learn more about generating leads and growing your business by setting yourself up to do Inbound Marketing.
How do you get a website?
It may sound like a silly question because websites are a ubiquitous part of our lives, but many real estate professionals don’t know where to start.
To get a website, your options are as follows:
- Sign up with a real estate website services provider (e.g., Placester, AgentImage, Boomtown, etc.).
- Hire a national, international, or local web development firm to build and host your website.
- Hire a freelance web developer to build your site.
- Build your own website using a WYSIWYG website builder.
- Use a social media profile page as your website (e.g., a Facebook page).
- Use a web page provided by your real estate brokerage.
Each of these methods has pros, cons, and costs to be weighed against what your objectives are for your website and your bigger marketing goals, as well as:
- Your marketing budget
- Your level of tech-savviness
- Your available time
- Your resources for supporting your digital marketing
- Your local market and competition
- Market trends for buyers and sellers
These are just a few top-level considerations you should consider when planning a website (and a larger marketing strategy).
What are the latest trends in real estate websites?
Over the last decade, I’ve built hundreds of websites for real estate companies and agents. I’ve also collected data on each of them, from the initial meeting with the client about what they want to 24/7 performance metrics collection on traffic, clicks, and engagement of the live site.
What I’ve learned is that nearly all agents go into getting a website with the following thoughts topmost-of-mind:
- I need a beautiful/cool/slick/elegant website that will get noticed above my competitors.
- I need a website that lets home buyers search for homes and contact me.
- I need a website that builds my brand locally.
The common denominator in all these thoughts? Almost everyone plans, pays for, and publishes a website they want - not what will engage and convert site visitors to clients.
If you “flip the script,” so to speak, and plan your website around what your prospective home buyer and seller clients want in a real estate site, you will:
- Avoid wasting money and time.
- Generate leads from your site more consistently.
- Grow your website traffic and shares.
- Make your web marketing easier to maintain.
- Grow your business.
There are dozens of reasons I could lay out here for why this approach is best, but this simple “how-to” post would end up being a book.
Suffice it to say there’s one reason for building your site differently than you, like 99% of my past clients, may think you need to make it (i.e., the three reasons enumerated above):
Over the last decade, Zillow has become the first website destination for home buyers (and sellers now, too!).
What my data collection and analysis have taught me is that the overwhelming majority of real estate consumers use the web this way now:
- Go to www.zillow.com on their phones, tablets, or laptops, and search for homes in a) a given price range, b) a given location, or c) with specific criteria (e.g., number of bedrooms, pool, and a number of garage bays).
- Find a home (or homes) they like/want to see and “Favorite” (i.e., save) them.
- When ready to see homes, they a) hit the contact button on Zillow or (most often) b) go to Google to find highly-rated/best-reviewed/top-listed real estate agents in the local market where they are looking to buy.
Zillow, and others gaining momentum, like Homesnap and Realtor.com, have totally altered buyer and seller behavior regarding the internet.
Also, given the web experience real estate consumers have had over the last several years and this “Zillow first” behavior they’re exhibiting now, the data says web searchers now choose agents they’re drawn to the same ways they would be to other people when meeting them in social or work situations.
In other words, people choose agents they feel compatible or comfortable with based on what they can learn about them “as people” from their websites, social media, and reviews.
So, what’s this mean for your real estate website? It means you must think differently before you push out the “same-old, same-old” website every other realtor in town has.
What makes an effective website, given these trends?
Without getting into what your objectives are for your website (as mentioned above), the safest, least expensive, and most effective website you can build is one that:
- Tells visitors who you are as a person, what your hobbies are, what you’re like to work with, and how what you do (and how you do it) will benefit them specifically.
- Speaks more about their needs (and how you’ll help) than your qualifications.
- Is simple, concise, clear, and to the point.
- Stresses specific benefits to your client of working with you as opposed to “features” any agent can boast (e.g., luxury Realtor®).
- Emphasizes what others you’ve worked with think of your performance (i..e reviews and testimonials).
- Is kept very current and looks professional and “business-ready.”
Remember, buyers and sellers are looking at your website to help them make a decision:
Whether to choose you or not as someone they can work with OR whether or not you can answer the questions they have (or specific help they need).
The bottom line is your website must, above all else, build confidence in you as the choice in real estate agent for wants and needs shared by an overwhelming majority of home sellers and buyers in the market today.
In practical terms, you need a solid, branded website that’s simple and effective at communicating your bona fides and who you are as a person.
Where do you get a solid (and free!) website?
If you don’t currently have a website (or your website has never delivered any leads or new clients for you), the best way to approach your new web project is to start simple, free, and fast.
Then grow iteratively as you fully flesh out your digital marketing strategy.
Since the “Zillow first” phenomenon described above is in full force among real estate consumers today, I recommend building a simple-but-solid free, single-page website with Carrd (https://carrd.co/).
Around two million people have built effective websites with this DIY WYSIWYG website builder. If you can work your way through online banking, you can build your website with Carrd.
As far as what you need to put on your simple website, here’s a short list of the most essential items:
- A simple logo (it can be as simple as a text logo with your name in a nice font).
- Professional images of you and relevant real estate imagery for your market.
- Clear contact information in the footer and in appropriate places on your website (i.e., a “Contact Me” under your profile image or simply your phone number).
- Your brokerage or real estate company logo and information.
- Text (in the business, we call it “copy”) that spells out what you do, how you do it, and who you help.
- Copy that clearly states specifically why buyers and sellers should work with you (NOTE: Spell out the benefits to them and their needs, not just your qualifications!)
- Copy that introduces and “humanizes” who you are as a person behind your website and real estate occupation (e.g., your hobbies, movies you like, family info, and a few of your favorite things).
- At least one contact form to capture leads from your website.
That’s it. Nothing more is needed to start. And it’s free.
You simply don’t need to spend a lot of time, money, and effort building a site when a simple, effective landing spot will work just fine until you’re ready to take the next step with a full Inbound Marketing implementation.
Helpful links for building your website:
Carrd Website Guides
Free AI Stock Images for Your Website