Real estate has been described as a "vanity industry." Negative connotations or personal feelings aside, you can see why people think this.
Home listings almost always emphasize "gorgeous" or "beautiful" (or any one of a dozen other synonyms).
Listing pictures are typically professionally done to make Zillow surfers stop and take notice at the quickest glance.
Real estate signs and advertisements usually carry a professional photo of the agent looking as lovely or handsome as possible.
In real estate, it's clear looks are essential - or at least highly emphasized.
It's no wonder, then, that most real estate professionals want a "great looking," "super-slick," or "alluring" website.
They're also OK to spend a lot of hard-earned cash to get one.
Because, as it is with most other things in our society, good looks are believed to equal quality and value.
With websites designed to grow your business, that couldn't be further from the truth.
In fact, it will cost you money, time, leads, growth, and the dominance of your local real estate market if you focus on what your site looks like instead of what it says and does.
Already have one of these "gorgeous" sites, you say?
Read on to learn why they're not good for your business and how to fix things if you've already taken a bath, er, I mean "plunge."
Why focusing on how your site looks is terrible for your business
It may seem counterintuitive that a looks-focused site is wrong, but many things in digital marketing don't make logical sense to those who don't do it for a living.
If you want to use the web, mobile, and social media to get more leads and clients, you have to take a deep breath, clear your mind, and start looking at the internet in a different way.
Your website is the "hub" of your marketing. Digital ads, blogs, social media posts, search engine listings, other websites, and emails all point back to it.
No matter how they find you, your website is your one chance to make the right impression.
When buyers and sellers surf the web for a home or a Realtor® and hit your site, they're not thinking, "I hope this site looks great!"
No, chances are, anyone who hits your site is coming from Google Search in a seconds-long attempt to determine, "Is this the local agent for me based on what I'm looking for?" before clicking on another candidate's website in their search results.
As they sift through the top of page one of Google's results for searches like "top agents near me" or "best realtor in Nashville," they click until a site "speaks" to them.
What do I mean by this?
- The site loads quickly on their computers or mobile devices (very important!)
- It's easy to navigate and find the right pages in a split second
- They instantly understand what you do and where you work
- Your site's content answers their top buyer or seller questions
- You offer specific free resources to help them with their real estate process
- They see positive, recent reviews of other clients you've helped
- They can instantly connect with you and are assured they'll get a response
- After reaching out, they get instant emails and/or texts that offer more help
Buyers and sellers searching the web for homes or an agent to sell theirs don't care at all how much you spent on your site to get "the look" you want.
They don't even care about how it looks at all.
Instead, they seek answers to questions and information to help them make decisions or get things done.
If you think about it for more than a minute, you'll understand why 99% of people who'll land on your website are, consciously or subconsciously, thinking one or more of these kinds of things:
- I need someone to show me a home (or homes) I want to see and answer questions about them.
- Are the homes I'm looking at priced right/in good neighborhoods/near great schools/etc.?
- I want to buy a home but don't know how, so I need someone to guide me.
- I've had a bad experience with an agent before, but I want to sell my home using an agent who knows what they're doing!
- I need to know whether now is a good time to buy (or sell).
Now, if this is the case (trust me, the data doesn't lie!), why spend so much money, energy, and time focusing just on how your site...looks?
For those of us who do digital marketing for a living, we understand that getting more leads from the web is all about attracting visitors to your website, engaging visitors while evaluating the site, and actively getting them to contact you while they're there.
We usually say "Attract, Engage, and Convert" for short.
While, of course, you want a site that isn't unappealing (and one that conveys your personality), the way it looks factors very little into attracting, engaging, and converting visitors into leads.
Again, this is just a fact.
It's also how the entire world of digital commerce works. Most small business owners are just unaware of it.
Want to know who's very aware of it?
Tens of thousands of money-hungry vendors in the real estate digital marketing space who'll sell you all day, every day, and twice Sundays on a BEAUTIFUL, GORGEOUS website using language like:
- Do you have the best website in your market? Transform your business with a STUNNING website!
- Stand out from the crowd with a BEAUTIFUL website!
- Put yourself on display with a GORGEOUS website for your clients!
(NOTE: I quickly picked three actual examples from real estate marketing vendor websites ⬆️)
They all give lip service to things like SEO, lead conversion, and the like, but their genuine interest is, above all else, solely this:
- Selling you a website you're thrilled with because of how it looks - and despite how it performs.
All of us, as humans, like attractive things. We appreciate beauty, and that's a good thing.
This issue is, in the case of your website, how it looks doesn't grow your business, it grows the vendors'.
You see your great-looking site and are proud to have it "out there" representing you. They see a continuous "get out of jail free" card that keeps you paying your subscription while they get to do...nothing.
Software engineers, web developers, SEO experts, and marketing technologists are expensive to pay.
Software and marketing tools are expensive.
Plus, time, after all, also equals money.
That all means a vendor's "prime directive" is to do as little as they have to do after closing the deal with you so that profits per client are as high as possible.
They know we all equate looks with quality and value, so they know you'll never tire of the great look you see in your brand "mirror."
Even when your beautiful website never delivers a lead, they know chances are you'll keep "payin'-thru-the-complainin'" because, damn, that's a nice-looking website.
How to Put Your Pretty Real Estate Website to Work Growing Business
If you find yourself with an expensive, gorgeous website that's just sitting there looking pretty without sending you regular, weekly leads, there are a few things you can do to improve your return on investment.
Before getting into the list of things, it's important to know there are two paths you can take to accomplish this: 1) DIY or 2) hire a professional.
I'll talk about the DIY path in a minute, but it's essential to know that unless you're a tech and marketing-savvy agent, you'll probably need an experienced professional to help you get your site straight.
That said, not all web and marketing resources are the same.
In fact, there are web developers and web designers; then there are digital marketing specialists.
The two domains overlap in some areas, but in most cases, web designers and developers lack the specific domain education, skills, diligence, tools, and experience to create the look of your website WHILE ALSO making it attract, engage, and convert visitors to leads on a day-in, day-out basis.
This distinction is vital because most real estate pros will search for and choose a local web designer or developer to handle the digital marketing stuff they need to grow instead of a marketing firm.
What makes it even more confusing is that most (if not all) local web design and development firms will claim the ability to help you with things like SEO, copywriting, content creation, conversion optimization, social lead capture, email automation, and many more things you need to get leads.
Do not be fooled. Doing a half-assed job of digitally marketing your brand is, in some ways, worse than doing nothing at all.
Most of all, it gives you a false sense of security and confidence that you're actually doing it, but you're not. That can lead to years of languishing behind your competitors, thinking you're doing all you can to compete.
While most local web developers mean well, they don't have the resources, skill, or experience to engage in the daily digital combat that is results-driven digital marketing.
As another aside, many agents who want to take all the leads in a local market and dominate their competitors use a web design firm to craft their website look and feel, but also a digital marketing firm for the daily operations of digital lead generation.
Now, onto the list of things your pretty website needs to grow your real estate business:
- Technical SEO
- Content SEO
- Search engine keyword strategy
- Mobile responsiveness and page speed optimization
- Backlinks development
- Persuasive copywriting
- Compelling CTAs (a.k.a. "calls-to-action") and "Lead Magnets"
- Lead capture (e.g., forms, live chat, etc.)
- Email autoresponders and automation tools
- Customer Relationship Management (a.k.a. a CRM) tools
- Content creation (e.g., blogs, articles, social media posts, lead magnets, etc.)
- Search, and social media paid ads
- Performance monitoring and reporting
Each of these has far too much to unpack in one post, but their values are probably best explained in more informal narratives about what you need:
- Technical SEO: You need to set your site up correctly for the 100 configuration specifications Google wants to see to rank your site for the top buyer and seller searches needed to get people to your site.
- Content SEO: Your headings and words on the page must be written according to Google's rules to rank for any searches you want.
- Search engine keyword strategy: Your content SEO must be researched and well-planned to match search terms being used by the people you want to attract.
- Mobile responsiveness and page speed optimization: Now more than ever, Google requires your site to behave well and load very quickly on mobile devices since most of all web traffic now comes from phones.
- Backlinks development: Other sites in your domain and industry that link to your site are one big way Google knows that you know what you're talking about (and thus can be shown to people searching for real estate things).
- Persuasive copywriting: Marketing and SEO writing differ significantly from stringing nice-sounding words together.
- Compelling CTAs (a.k.a. "calls-to-action") and "Lead Magnets:" Your buttons, links, and offers must be in the right places, say the right things, and offer valuable information to convince visitors to act and download or contact you.
- Lead capture (e.g., forms, live chat, etc.): Just putting a contact form on your site won't cut it if you want people to engage with you and not just bounce.
- Email autoresponders and automation tools: The top complaint from clients is real estate pros that don't communicate effectively. Your site is on the "front lines" of convincing interested parties to stay engaged with you and not move on to other agents.
- Customer Relationship Management (a.k.a. CRM) tools: If you can't capture, store, organize and use your collected leads in your marketing, you can't profit from them. Period.
- Content creation (e.g., blogs, articles, social media posts, lead magnets, etc.): Today, the world runs on content. Fresh, valuable, consistent content that speaks to your specific audience and their needs is the most valuable resource in any digital marketing strategy.
- Search and social media paid ads: Advertising is two halves of one coin: organic search and paid search. You need both to generate traffic to your site. Without ads, it will look pretty for no one to see.
- Performance monitoring and reporting: If you can't track your performance against specific keywords, ads, blogs, or email campaigns, how can you know if what you're doing is working? Improvement is impossible without keeping track of how you're doing.
If you think all that sounds like a lot of work, you really don't know half of it.
This is why most agents contract with marketing firms to get them set up and maintain their digital marketing operations.
If you want to do the DIY route, you must start somewhere. I'd suggest you hop on over to https://reallyrankit.com/ and see where your website stands now for the "attract" part of the attract-engage-convert dynamic that's so important for your web marketing.
You'll get a free, in-depth report on how Google is likely to see your site and checklists of things to fix as soon as possible.
Once you have the report, share it with your web developers and ask them to fix it immediately. After all, you paid for a great-looking site; they owe you a site that works too.
I know that 99% of Realtor® websites out there are, as the British say, "all jacket and no trousers."
Since so many agents buy sites from vendors who behave like this, I started ReallyMarket to help real estate pros improve their marketing and grow their businesses via baby steps each month.
Also, subscribe to my weekly "Improve Your Digital Marketing in 1 hour a Week" newsletter and take a few minutes each week to move the ball further down the field.
If you improve your core digital foundations by following the recipes I send to get more eyes on your site each month, converting a single extra lead into a client sale means more than $180K+ per year in commissions.