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We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Websites

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Real estate agents and real estate brokerages are obsessed with their websites. We spend hours on thinking about them, discussing them, and attend seminars about how to make them better. We artfully craft the “About Us” section, check the graphics, and work on clever SEO tricks.

But even though I’ve been prey to this thought process,   I’ve come to the conclusion  that Consumers just aren’t that into our websites.  They just don’t care. All the consumer wants from a static website is to get property information. They don’t care about the story of “Us”  (the agent or company).  Sure they want to know about the person they’re dealing with, but on the web, looking at properties, I’m certainly not convinced that they really care that much about who you are, or what your family looks like, or where your office is.

If you’re a listing agent, your job is to expose the property to the largest audience possible, and I know that all of us talk to sellers about how many places their property will be listed on the Internet. And as print media is falling by the wayside, the amount of Internet exposure grows and grows. In fact, it occurred to me recently that in most major metro markets, you almost don’t need to have much of a web site except to attract buyers – and that’s a different story, and one that has social media in its storyline.

So with the property listing information on all of the sites it appears on, what effect is putting your listing on your Facebook page going to have? If I dodged the information you put on the dozen or more web sites you syndicate to, I have to still dodge the IDX feeds from all of the other members of your multiple listing service. And if I’m working that hard to avoid getting property info, the listing on your Facebook page won’t convince me to look or to buy. So what’s the business purpose of being on Facebook or any other social media site? Its to be a trusted influence or advisor to potential customers and clients. And you don’t do that by talking about your listings. You do it by listening to the members of your community and helping provide them with what they need. Be a good member of the community. provide information that people ask for, not the information that makes you look better or sound smarter or more successful.

The short version of the story is that the most important part of your job is to get hired – because until you have been hired by a buyer or a seller or a landlord or a tenant, you are not working. So instead of worrying about your property information, how about worrying about what would make a buyer or seller want to hire you instead of hiring someone else – because there are a few other real estate people out there looking for a job, and they all have web sites too.

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22 Comments

22 Comments

  1. Eric Hempler

    September 15, 2009 at 7:56 am

    I would agree…the only thing I do with my site is provide consumers with information, that’s all that’s really being sought after. I talked to one person who was convinced she needed all kinds of graphics and videos. Including videos the Realtor Associations release…I’m sorry but, consumers really aren’t interested in watching that, they need information that is specific to them.

  2. Massrealty

    September 15, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    While I would agree initially a consumer is not going to care who you are or know about your family when they 1st visit a website if they are going to use your services you can bet that they will. I would disagree with your point that you only need a website to attract buyers. It depends on what you are going after for business. If all you are going to provide the consumer is the ability to look at listings you are going to be just like the next guy down the street.

  3. Laurent Perrier

    September 15, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    Realtors do need a website.

    They need a website tailored to what consumers want.

    They also need a website that helps that helps them attract more buyers and more sellers. For starters, this means good SEO and solid analytics reports you can use in listing presentations.

    As for this post, it doesn’t seem to be based on any real data and it has a very misleading title.

    Agent genius, please focus on the quality writers you have and drop the others. Quality over quantity.

  4. Leah Kaiz

    September 15, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    Key Word was static. If you are only going to put it up and then forget about it, then you probably aren’t going to benefit from a website. But if you blog, if you are on facebook and twitter, keep your content fresh and really create an interactive site, then it will be worth your time and energy. I do agree about keeping it to content that is important to the buyer, but if your site is engaging them then there will be a time when they want to find out who you are etc. And if you are going to use social media, you can’t just use it to throw up your listings… you need to engage and create trust by creating a multi-dimensional view of how you can assist someone. But it has to be a way that is not going to make people feel like they are being pounded over the head with your message. I do think a website is essential, but you really need to evaluate how you are going to get it to work for you. With 80% of people beginning their home search online, there has to be a strategic way to capture some of that traffic.

  5. Bill Lublin

    September 15, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    Eric: Thanks so much for commenting – and for getting the point that property information is not the sum total of of our property information or our “About us” page, but the infomration and content that the consumer is seeking (which I imagine varies from consumer to consumer and market to market)

    Laurent:
    I’m sorry that you missed the point of the post – which does not need to be statistically supported, since the presence of IDX feeds through almost every MLS in the United States makes the point that property information has become almost ever present. – It is that providing the consumer with good quality information that they can use, and that they are seeking about the home buying and selling process, or the home rental and leasing process, or the appraisal process or the building and development process, or market statistics, and thereby demonstrating your expertise to them so that you might become (in Chris Brogan’s words) a “trust agent” is much more important than ficusing on static websites and classified ads for your listings. Then again, since you made your comment using the name of a well known champagne house with no link to who you actually might be – the concept of being a “trust agent” might be foreign to you –

    Leah: I couldn’t agree with you more (well, maybe just a little more) I think you need not only to capture traffic but once you have the consumer on your site as you point out, you need to have something more than property infomration to retain them and make them a customer or client.

  6. Laurent Perrier

    September 15, 2009 at 8:46 pm

    This is my real name. I’m glad it rings a bell.

    You do need analytics and factual data to back up your claims.

    If you don’t know what kind of traffic each page is getting, how can you claim you know what customers want and don’t want from a website?

    Now that we’ve established your idea of what customers want in a website isn’t based on anything, why are you writing about it here like you’re some kind of expert?

    As previously mentionned, AG really needs some kind of quality control. The content of this post is useless, the title is misleading and the author’s writing skills are poor at best.

  7. Bill Lublin

    September 15, 2009 at 10:42 pm

    Laurent:

    Though your name rings a bell as the echo of a famous vintner, that doesn’t provide you with credence in real estate.

    If you’ll read the post, you’ll notice that what I wrote was not a claim that needs empirical data to support it, but my opinion as a real estate professional.

    Common sense tells us that if property searches led directly to the sale of real property, every property would be sold by the listing agent. Experience shows real estate professionals that consumers typically search from place to place – (both on and off the web) and from professional to professional until they meet an agent they can connect with. In fact, from the perspective of the real estate agent, the consumer’s search for real property is most important (to the agent) as an opportunity to connect with the consumer, so that they (the agent) may demonstrate trustworthiness and expertise, thereby earning the opportunity to represent the consumer.

    In our company, internet inquiries, from a variety of web sites are brought to a single centralized department. In that department we often see the same consumer coming to our company through a variety of web sites, indicative that the property search process for the consumer involves diverse sources of property information.

    It is a fact that the presence of IDX feeds and national aggregation of real property information makes property data almost ubiquitous. In our local MLS alone, each piece of property data is reiterated over 1,000 times on different web sites (not counting single property web sites) – each one with the same information, all easily available to consumers and all on web sites competing for that elusive first page on the search engines.

    Therefore if its possible to connect with the consumer in a manner that demonstrates your expertise and trustworthiness most effectively, while establishing points of differentiation for your skills, that is the direction that a prudent and well informed real estate agent should take. At least that’s my opinion.

    These opinions (which are solely my opinions) are based upon my 38 years of experience in real estate sales, 26 of which have been spent operating a real estate firm that is recognized as one of the top companies in the US by several third party companies.

    And your opinions are based upon ???

  8. Erion Shehaj

    September 15, 2009 at 11:58 pm

    Bill

    Interesting concept. While no one can argue that listing data is now syndicated to everyone (and their mama) or that consumers bounce from site to site until they find their “trust agent”, I would argue that:

    1. Although the data is readily available, it matters a lot which site do they encounter the data on first.

    AND

    2. I find that the look, feel and functionality of your site has a lot to do with establishing that trust in the eyes of the consumer and inviting him to stick around, go deeper into the content, and make contact instead of bouncing to the next site.

  9. Laurent Perrier

    September 16, 2009 at 12:14 am

    I bet you had an amazing website 38 years ago… How is that information even relevant to this discussion? It’s just some more of your useless fluff.

    My point is that you are not qualified to tell people what they need and don’t need on a website. I also think the title of your post is misleading and stupid.

    Agents do need a website and that website does need to showcase their properties.

    What agents don’t need is your stinkin’ and uninformed opinion on a topic you don’t understand. In this case, Internet marketing.

    Now where is that unsubscribe button. For every 1 good post from agent genius I need to read through a bunch of trash like this. It’s getting annoying.

  10. Laurent Perrier

    September 16, 2009 at 12:19 am

    Erion, yes.

    It’s sad that you have to explain such simple concepts to someone posing as an expert. I didn’t bother.

  11. Erion Shehaj

    September 16, 2009 at 12:32 am

    Laurent

    I assure you that title, content and especially author of this post are anything but stupid.

    Insulting someone becuase you disagree with their opinion on the other hand …

  12. Bob

    September 16, 2009 at 12:47 am

    This seems like a rather disjointed post that is mixing apples and oranges.

    You dont need to be a trust agent. You need to
    a) generate traffic
    b) convert a % of traffic to leads
    c) convert a % of leads to clients
    d) convert a % of clients into closed transactions

    Trust doesn’t usually enter the equation until contact has been made – at step c. If you rely on trust to convert traffic to lead, then your conversion rate will be very low, unless you have so little potential client traffic that one deal is a big percentage.

    “If you are only going to put it up and then forget about it, then you probably aren’t going to benefit from a website. But if you blog, if you are on facebook and twitter, keep your content fresh and really create an interactive site, then it will be worth your time and energy.”

    No it doesnt have to be done that way. In fact that goes against what Bill was saying originally – the typical buyer visitor doesnt give a darn what you have to say on your blog.

  13. Bill Lublin

    September 16, 2009 at 5:29 am

    Erion;
    Though I took an extreme position for the purpose of the post, I agree with you when you say”the look, feel and functionality of your site has a lot to do with establishing that trust in the eyes of the consumer and inviting him to stick around, go deeper into the content, and make contact instead of bouncing to the next site.”

    Having gone through the process as a consumer when I bought my condo in Los Angeles, I found that the process of searching for property and choosing an agent to facilitate the process were actually two different processes. (at least for me). My search for property was facilitated by the slickest property interface I found, though the actual purchase was made from the most knowledgable person I could find, based upon their demonstrated knowledge of the areas I was searching in.

    Bob;

    The a to d process you describe is the traditional approach to marketing real estate and is no different in the current market than it was when the search process was facilitated by newspaper advertising. Large companies used huge advertising budgets to generate pages upon pages of property information so that they could generate traffic, convert readers to calls(leads) etc etc.

    That funnel approach to obtaining clients has never competed well with agents that establish large referral bases by becoming ‘trust agents’ to their community (and I use that term in a non-geographic manner). In fact, I think you might agree that more top real estate agents rely more on the relationships and reputation they have built in their community than they do on advertising (of any type). And again, that is not to say that anyone should abandon any type of marketing they do or find effective, just that getting propeties on the internet doesn’t get you hired by itself.

    It is true that many real estate blogs do not capture the consumer’s interest either, but my point was that establishing a group of consumers who want to do business with you is in the long term a more valid and sustainable method of building your business than relying upon the property information to develop new clients.

  14. Bob

    September 16, 2009 at 11:22 am

    Ok, I see where I misunderstood your point about trust. I thought you were talking about the mythical concept of building “trust” online by what you write – you know the “if they like what I write, they’ll do business with me” concept taught by many because they dont have a clue how search engine marketing really works.

    I agree that many consistently producing agents have in the past relied on trust for future business – both referral and repeat. I dont believe that approach is the main biz model for mega producers though. The Greg Nuemanns and Russ Shaws of the world still use the funnel – because they know that repeat and referral biz isnt enough. Since I am not one though, this is where I need Russ to step in and offer his two cents.

    “It is true that many real estate blogs do not capture the consumer’s interest either, but my point was that establishing a group of consumers who want to do business with you is in the long term a more valid and sustainable method of building your business than relying upon the property information to develop new clients.”

    This is where you are mixing apples and oranges. Most blogs have little traffic and few readers. In the RE space, many have readers who are not their target market, so will never be a consumer client of theirs.

    The question is how do you go about “establishing a group of consumers who want to do business with you”.

    I would argue that takes us back to to the funnel.

    I got a call last week from a past client who wants to move up. They said they called me some 6 years later because they had trust in me as a result of the first transaction. The first sale happened after they registered on a VOW on my website back in 2003.

    A few things here:
    1) You can blog until the cows come home, but if it is found in a search engine, it wont matter
    2) You can blog and be found for tons of worthless terms (what many think is longtail) but if it doesnt drive enough traffic, there is little to convert
    3) You can use property info (IDX) as your primary content, but without traffic, it doesnt matter
    4) You can have traffic and IDX, but not understand how to determine what yields the greatest conversion. In the offline world, this would be like spending $1000s on ads seen everywhere that dont make the phone ring.

    I believe most (including IDX vendors) don’t have an misunderstanding of how to use property info as a lead gen tool that kicks.

  15. Portland Real Estate

    September 16, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    Nothing beats a great website that is truly tooled specifically for the needs of the client. When they get to the interface, all they see is what they want to see in a pretty interface. Listings, not keyword stuffed posts about the $8k tax credit.

    -Tyler

  16. Mike Galdi

    September 16, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    This post is a matter of opinion and what draws attention. I believe in this economy and the different markets that everyone is focused on tweeting, posting and having their egos exposed. As a back to basics guy and a overall top producer,owner,manager, processor and all that goes individually with the business, all I can ask is when was the last time any Realtor attended a civic meeting in their market, actually handed their card to the bank teller, got some press in the locally read newspaper, participated in a fundraiser and showed up–IMO as new as the social media is, it is already getting old. I have been around in the trenches of Real Estate over 25 years and find the same things work now that did 20 years ago, life before tweeter,pictures of food, news of driving home from somewhere and constant repeat of tweeted properties are distracting and a waste of a post, pick up the phone and say hello

  17. Bill Lublin

    September 16, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    Bob: Thanks for taking the time to write such a well reasoned explanation – let me try to respond

    The question is how do you go about “establishing a group of consumers who want to do business with you”.

    I would argue that takes us back to to the funnel.

    I actually think that its possible to build a community through evangalism as suggested in David Meerman Scott’s book about building a “World Wide Rave” – he actually supposes an pyramid where your fans brign you more fans – like your past clients do when they send you referrals.

    I got a call last week from a past client who wants to move up. They said they called me some 6 years later because they had trust in me as a result of the first transaction. The first sale happened after they registered on a VOW on my website back in 2003.

    And I would suggest it was because you knew what to do with them after you had the ijtiial contact – not because of the form of the initial contact (but you did succeed in getting found – and that I wouldnt think of arguing with)

    1) You can blog until the cows come home, but if it is found in a search engine, it wont matter
    2) You can blog and be found for tons of worthless terms (what many think is longtail) but if it doesnt drive enough traffic, there is little to convert
    3) You can use property info (IDX) as your primary content, but without traffic, it doesnt matter
    4) You can have traffic and IDX, but not understand how to determine what yields the greatest conversion. In the offline world, this would be like spending $1000s on ads seen everywhere that dont make the phone ring.

    I agree with you here, though I would also propose that it is possible to use social media tools to find and connect with people in your desired market that can be profitable in the long term. –

    I believe most (including IDX vendors) don’t have an misunderstanding of how to use property info as a lead gen tool that kicks.,/i>

    And a hearty AMEN to that one –

  18. Bob

    September 16, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    “And I would suggest it was because you knew what to do with them after you had the ijtiial contact”

    I think this is likely true in all cases.

    It still boils down to one thing –

    )(

    and thats euphemistically getting belly to belly with people. The issue is how.

    I think SM has a place, but it’s a low yield endeavor, versus a website done right can easily bring you a 100 fold more contacts than ANY social media, unless you are some sort of celebrity.

    I agree that a community can be built via evangelism, but it can become substantially bigger faster if seeded with a large number of new contacts on a regular basis.

    What I find funny about the SM vs organic SE debate is that it takes longer to reach fewer via SM than with a search engine. The other issue with SM as the hook vs a website that converts is that SM is persona driven, whereas a website isn’t. A website can appeal to far more people because lifestyles and opinions frequently expressed via SM don’t serve as a filter on a website. Regardless of my personal beliefs, I can still connect with almost every visitor to a site I create.

    With an open house, how many agents last summer would have considered attaching an Obama 08, or McCain/Palin sign to their open house signs? I know quite a few agents who’s SM presence is more of a filter than a magnet.

  19. Joe Spake

    September 18, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    Interesting results in my Google analytics the past few months. Visits to my main (static) website are driven by Google organic search, but running second and picking up % points every time I check is Facebook. Also adding IDX to my blogs has brought in more leads, but overall, what I am seeing is more clients coming to me via social media (Web 2.0) sources than the static website.

  20. Real Estate System

    September 19, 2009 at 12:48 am

    While I would agree initially a consumer is not going to care who you are or know about your family when they 1st visit a website if they are going to use your services you can bet that they will. I would disagree with your point that you only need a website to attract buyers. It depends on what you are going after for business. If all you are going to provide the consumer is the ability to look at listings you are going to be just like the next guy down the street.

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