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Who is your website for, anyway?

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I’ve been writing my little fingertips off lately, but you wouldn’t know it by checking here or over at my regular blog.  Mostly, I’ve been cataloging my city and hunting down good resources online for my website re-do.

It seems the whole world is having some web work done – there’s a name for that effect that slips my mind at the moment.  Occasionally, someone will tweet the announcement of their web re-do, and I like to check out what other folks have done.

But for all of the slick features or social media tie-ins and whatnot that I’m seeing recently, it seems to me to be really all the same.  There’s the big 4 categories: buying, selling, about the area/neighborhoods, about the agent, and we’ll throw in relocation as a 5th.

The more similarities I draw between real estate websites, the more I look at them, I wonder: who is this for?

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It’s like watching your favorite TV show and noticing that every commercial is not aimed at you.  Have you ever done that?  Pay attention to the commercials and decide who the target audience is for every commercial during your favorite show.  It’s an interesting thought exercise.

So I’m looking at these sites and thinking, who is this for? 

In my own online re-do, I’m trying to target a more specific audience.  The hyper-local stuff that’s been discussed elsewhere, yes to a degree, but not only where, also the who.  Is this a first time buyer?  Is this a relocating person?  Is this a move-up buyer?  A foreign national?  A vacation or investment property purchaser?

I can look at those different audiences and decide what that person wants to see, and then I need to present it to them in the proper manner at the proper time.  There’s a lot of overlap of information, but presentation is completely different.

For example.  The first time buyer and the vacation home buyer are both going to want to know about the areas.  The first timer and the vacation home buyer may need to learn about cost of home maintenance, as one has never owned and the other may not be familiar with homes in the area.  They both need financing information, but the first timer needs some hand holding, while the vacation home buyer has most likely been to that rodeo a couple of times.

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One more example.  If I want to break into the luxury market, then I know that buyer is most likely a baby boomer and I need to emphasize lifestyle, I need neighborhood descriptions and amenities, not a huge section on schools.  I also know that the high end market tends to pick their agent largely from referral, and that’s not going to be easy for me to tap into – but – something like 9% of that group find their agent online.  And that 9% are most likely new to the area because they don’t have a network of people here to get an agent referral from: they are luxury relocaters and vacation home buyers. 

I can’t have the same website for my luxury relocating baby boomers as I do for my first-timers.  Totally different audiences need a totally different presentation of information.  And not only do they want to see different things at different times – if you’re really targeting a specific market segment, you’ve got to tailor to that segment.  I’m talking fonts, colors, navigation, not just the information itself.

It’s not just a website, anymore.  Not really.  It’s a whole conglomeration of platforms and themes and domains, specifically targeted to who I want to influence.

So that’s where I’m headed.  Will it worth the effort?  Only one way to find out.

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Written By

Kelley Koehler, aka the Housechick, is usually found focused on her Tucson, Arizona, real estate business. You may also find her on Twitter, where she doubles as a super hero, at Social Media Training Camp, where she trains and coaches people on how to integrate social media into successful business practices, or at KelleyKoehler.com, a collection of all things housechick-ish. Despite her engineering background, Kelley enjoys translating complex technical concepts into understandable and clear ideas that are practical and useful to the striving real estate agent.

13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. John Lauber

    April 6, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    Good thoughts Kelley. I too am going through a web “makeover”. I kicked off my blog, but I’m looking at changing out of my template site so it doesn’t look like so many others. Even though, as you noted, are they really different. I think these websites are sort of like print media. Sellers expect it, too a point. Hopefully, it pulls in some buyer leads as well. Then there’s syndication of listings to the major searches and IDX. I’m trying to figure out a niche, as well. People see so many websites that they expect certain things when they arrive at yours.

    Good luck with your redo.

  2. Scott P. Rogers

    April 6, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    Our company runs approximately 66 web sites — one for the company, and one for each web site. All sites have the following main site sections: searching, buying, selling, financing, moving, my services, blog. On all of the sites combined, we have over 100,000 visitors per month. Of all of the web traffic, an astounding 93% of page views are in the searching section. I believe it is important to focus on the blog (which I do), and the local info (which I still need to do), and the profiles of site users (which I still need to do), but in the end, the stats continue to reinforce for us that the majority of our time, energy and money needs to be focused on a creating a great IDX search experience.

  3. Kelley Koehler

    April 6, 2008 at 5:49 pm

    Scott – if a site visitor runs 5 different searches, is that 5 page views you’re counting towards search? If they look at the detail of 20 homes, is that 20 page views?

    I’m not discounting the impact of a good search interface, search is a big component, and we’re upgrading our search interface as well, and try to do so regularly. But if you’re competing on search coolness alone, then you’re competing with national players who have millions in the budget to make theirs better than yours.

    People search on more than one site regularly, even if mine is coolest and shows them all the homes. I know they’ll search other places, to be sure. Many of my clients select me because of everything else on my site and blog, and not my search. They trot into my office holding printouts of searches from other companies and agents. But they picked me because of what else was there. My opportunity to influence them is the environment I place them in while they search, which I believe needs to be highly targeted.

  4. Shailesh Ghimire

    April 6, 2008 at 10:20 pm

    Kelley,

    Different customers require different sites. With how “relatively” easy it is to customize sites for different customers I’ve always wondered why peole do these cookie cutter sites. Let me share and I idea I’ve had in the past, but not enough resources to pull together.

    I’ve wanted to create a database driven content library – all idexed by certain tags (as many as you like). Then build websites for different markets with their unique market focus. I as the webmaster write content for the database. The website picks up relevenat content for it’s market and posts the contnet.

    The reason why I like this model is becuase it allows you to compensate for the overlap in information and the priorty level of that informatoin for each market. It allows you to maintain as many websites as you like since you’re only maintaining one database it doesn’t kill you to maitain all of them. I would decouple the website from the database and only snchronize data on a pre-scheduled but regular time frame. This way the websites all exist independently of eachother.

    It’s an idea I’ve had – I’m sure there are many holes in it, but something I’d like to bounce off of some people. One of my many crazy thoughts…..

  5. Janice Bovee

    April 7, 2008 at 7:45 am

    I hear you, I think that my site is always in a state of perpetual makeover. It is next to impossible to be all things to all people. I’ve come to the conclusion that separate sites for different types of buyers would be the answer but who has the time? I think that a good property search is the most important part of the site and then answering as many questions as you can think of…although one can run the risk of overkill. You have given me some ideas to think about.

  6. Greg Cremia

    April 7, 2008 at 9:18 am

    I agree about multiple websites. I have 15 lead generating real estate sites developed for different geographic locations. I chose the geographic criteria because I could figure out what keyword phrases will likey be used and developed the sites around those keywords.

    Real estate is all about location and buyers search location. Therefore location is a good way to catch buyers. The luxury market is typically restricted to certain neighborhoods so to get those buyers a site about those hoods would get those buyers. Of course if you are not planning on using the internet to market these sites and plan to spend money to market them then keywords are irrelevant.

    I am curious what types of keyword phrases different types of buyers would use. Do buyers really use different search phrases depending on their social/economic standing?

  7. Kelley Koehler

    April 7, 2008 at 3:01 pm

    Shailesh – we did a very similar thing a couple years back for a non-RE project. The problem you run into is duplicate content issues with Google. If you tag very specifically and keep the overall number of sites to a smaller scale, you might be okay. We were doing it on a very large scale and started getting dinged. Ideally, you’d keep everything in a central repository, and just call it up on demand for the appropriate person, but you have to balance that with wanting the content to be indexed.

    Greg – I do adword campaigns, so keywords are big. I don’t think about the searchers in terms of socio/economics as much as who they are as it pertains to a real estate purchase or sale. The relocators might be searching for just general Tucson information, might even type in “relocation” and I can target that with my adwords, show them the right landing page for that search.

    Janice – I think the concept works on a smaller scale if you only want to do a single site. Instead of a bulk page of answers, what if you had a page specifically for first time buyers, or move-up buyers, or a condo buyer? Instead of making people filter through a huge section of Q and A, what if there was a page that answered what is most likely their top 10 questions?

  8. Carol D. O'Dell

    April 7, 2008 at 4:16 pm

    When my husband and I were searching for home in Florida, (we lived in Missouri), I found most websites inept at giving me a decent picture of the community (city, amenities, neighborhood, layout, etc.) We clearly knew what we needed: we needed a mother-in-law suite, plus 2-4 other bedrooms, we needed to be within a 20 mile radius of work. Is this so hard to do?

    More infuriating is that many homes you think are for sale are sold, or taken off the market. You get all excited, like the video tour, the layout, the price, and bam. No enchilada. Back to square one.

    In today’s market where people want and need their houses to sell, it seems that an up to date, functional, concise website would be the standard, not the exception.

    In creating my own website, for a very different business, I found that I couldn’t just follow a template, I had to follow my gut and include the things I most look for in a site.

    ~Carol D. O’Dell
    Author of Mothering-Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir

    available on Amazon
    http://www.mothering-mother.com

  9. Kelley Koehler

    April 8, 2008 at 11:50 am

    Hi Carol! I appreciate you giving us the consumer opinion. Your experience is exactly why an agent’s site should be targeted – as well as accurate.

  10. Eric Blackwell

    April 8, 2008 at 5:35 pm

    Kelly;

    Excellent points! We are just finishing up our EXTREME HOME SITE MAKEOVER (REALTOR EDITION) grin… It has been three years and we are due with our main RE site. I thought your best point was right here:

    “I can look at those different audiences and decide what that person wants to see, and then I need to present it to them in the proper manner at the proper time. There’s a lot of overlap of information, but presentation is completely different.”

    well done!

  11. Matthew Rathbun

    April 8, 2008 at 9:03 pm

    I hated redoing my real estate marketing plan, but when I did, I saw a great return on my investment of time. I think everyone would do well to make over their web marketing plans about every six months or so.

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