Judging by the great responses to my first post on single property websites for real estate, I wanted to make sure that the follow up article was up to par. So I took the idea on the road to REBarcamp Austin last week and we had a lively discussion with some of the brightest kids on the block: Drew Meyers, Mike Price, Andy Kaufman, Geordie Romer etc. I hope I know that as a result of that discussion, this post will be much better for it.
Where the Status Quo Fails
In the previous post on this topic, I made the point that when it comes to single property websites the magic lies in the user interface. More than any other real estate marketing method that agent currently use, this medium provides the prospective buyer with the most complete 360 degree view of the property: Photos, Video, Information, Tools – All under one roof. But even if one fully agrees with me on those points, the question then becomes: What’s wrong with the current “breed” of products that offer single property websites?
I have used most single property website solutions available to agents and in my opinion, they are relatively cheap & simple to put together but also inflexible & proprietary. In my opinion, current solutions for single property sites fail because they focus exclusively on syndication. They promise (and deliver) a product that can be put together in mere minutes for a few bucks which will then put your listing information on a bazillion aggregators (Zillow, Trulia etc). But wait, there’s more: They will even give you the code to place ads on classified sites. Cut, Paste, Publish.
I know that sounds like perfection – It did to me, too. Until I looked at the stats. Based on the weekly stats provided by those same aggregators, the property appeared to a large number of people, but the number that actually click to reach your single property site is extremely close to zero. Which is awesome: Zillow gets to sell adspace based on pageviews generated by your listing , you get to cheer them on. “But what about classified ads” – you ask – “they’re so easy and they look so good.” Those damned stats again! It turns out that our classified ads auto-generated from Postlets get zero clickbacks to your single property sites because they contain zero links! They do include the agent information but in our three years of experience using them and placing ads twice weekly on every listing we sell, very few people have picked up the phone or emailed us from these ads.
Their inefficiency points to a deeper problem: These sites and their classified ads all have that same mass produced look. And because they are not flexible, there is nothing you can do about it. You can’t inject your personality, your knowledge or your genius into it to make it effective. I prefer Artisanal Marketing.
The New Breed
When building a single property website, I want it to become part of our short term and long term marketing strategy. In the short term, I want to help my Seller by inviting all prospective buyers looking in that area to visit “our storefront”. While there I want to offer them the best user experience and the most complete information I can so the prospective buyer can make an educated decision on whether this home is a fit for them. In the long term, while the property has sold or expired, I want it to generate business for me in the future. The more I kept searching for a platform to deliver this, the clearer it became that it had to be self-hosted WordPress.
In this post, I want to go over some of the new concepts that we’re incorporating in our WordPress-based single property websites. (In the next one, we’ll go over some of the nuts and bolts, so this post doesn’t fatten to War and Peace levels).
1. Offer all listings available for sale in that neighborhood in your single property website.
Extensive Analytics of our Houston Real Estate website show that literally thousands of visitors every month come to our site by searching for a property address on Google, Bing and Yahoo. While you let that sink in, let me take it a little further: The visitors that find us this way, stick around double the time on our site compared to those that searched common keywords. And before you jump out of your chair ready to tell me I’m doing my Seller a disservice, I want to tell you you’ve got the flow of traffic wrong. If you offer all listings available for sale in the neighborhood, a prospective buyer googling another property for sale, would land on your single property website and if you do your job right, they will stop and see what your listing has to offer. And if someone comes to your site and decide to see what else is available in the neighborhood, wouldn’t you rather they do that on your site? It’s not like this information is not available to them in a bazillion other sites so hiding the obvious truth is no service to your Seller, either. Instead, ask yourself this question: What are you doing in your marketing to differentiate your listing from others? Does your copy paint a perfect picture? Do your photos dazzle? Can they find all the school information in just one click?
2. Once the listing has sold or expired, switch the front page to the neighborhood page
The only thing worse than not being found, is to be found then disappoint your visitors. By far, the most challenging issue to me was how to make the site relevant past the sale or expiration of that listing. Picture this – a prospective buyer is looking for a property in a neighborhood and they land on your single property website for a listing that has sold already. What if, you could let those visitors know that the listing has sold but here’s what else is available in that neighborhood that might interest them. Now take that and multiply it by the number of neighborhoods that you have sold properties in the last 3 years. It’s an impressive number of sites, isn’t it? An impressive number that could be generating new prospects for you all the time. Now I don’t want you to think these will be lead generating machines – they don’t generate enough traffic to be that. But when you consider that you could have 30+ sites that you have generated in the normal course of marketing your listings over the years, isn’t it plausible that they could generate 10-15 leads for you in a year that you wouldn’t otherwise generate if you just purged the site? Lets be conservative and suppose two of those leads convert to sales, isn’t that a nice addition to your bottom like for something you are doing anyway?
4. Make your single property website front page a slideshow of impressive, large photos (and nothing else)
If it’s true that photography is the language of real estate, I want our marketing to speak in bold, confident tones. So in the front page of our single property sites, we offer a slideshow of 850px wide professional photos of the property on a timer, to immediately capture the attention of prospective buyers. We purposefully put nothing else on the page as to not cause any distractions. Just a link to the contact page just below the fold.
3. Create each site on its own domain
On this topic, there was quite a bit of pushback from people that know a thing or two about SEO at ReBarcamp. Currently we’re purchasing the domain name for each site and installing a separate instance of WordPress in this standalone site. During our discussion in the panel at#REBCATX , Drew suggested that from an SEO perspective, it would be better to create a page on your existing site then point the domain name of the new listing to that page. That way you don’t start over but use some of the Google juice your site has already built up. My issue with that idea is that by creating a simple page on your site, you don’t get the same client experience that a full blown site would offer. If you install a separate instance of Worpress in a new directory within your site, the implementation is not for the faint at heart. So at this point I’m sticking to my story, but I am open to opinions from SEO experts.
4. Search engine optimize every page to increase long tail visits
This is where WordPress absolutely shines. You can easily optimize your site for search engines by adding local information like common cross streets, venues, school names etc to ensure that your site occupies the first spot. And if done right, it always does.
Next – I will go over how to put new breed WP-based single property site together in 30 min or less.