As a guy that earns his living as an Internet Marketing Professional, I am naturally just a *LITTLE* biased towards businesses needing great web sites, so when I read “We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Websites” it struck a nerve. When I first read the article, I took it to mean Bill was saying all you need is your listings. However, after reading his replies to the comments, and having a brief conversation with him, I came to realize what Bill meant to say was you need more than listings, and more than a cookie-cutter static site. You need to demonstrate that you are a trusted adviser, you need to be strong in your community, you need to show that you are the expert.
This post is a little too long to be considered my 2 cents worth, but I offer my thoughts as an expansion on Bill’s post, hoping that it helps others understand the importance of a strong web presence.
Bill’s post presents a bit of a chicken & egg dilemma. It may be true that many of your prospective customers don’t care about all the extra “stuff” on your sites, and just want to see the listings, but how will they find your site (and YOU) if the “stuff” is not there?
When I was a small business owner, there were three things that played a critical role in our success; Community involvement, word-of-mouth referrals and advertising. Community involvement and word-of-mouth brought in a good deal of new and recurring sales for my company, and traditional advertising helped to build our brand. But, you can only be so many places at one time, and the bills still need to get paid. A well constructed Web site allows you to keep a virtual office open 24×7. Prospects can always find answers to questions, read testimonials from past buyers & sellers, browse your listings and most importantly – they can let you know they are ready and want to be contacted ASAP.
How do you reach those that need to hire you, when they don’t know YOU exist?
The best way to bring in new business is to be found at the exact moment somebody needs your product or service, in the exact place they look. That used to mean being in the yellow page directory. When was the last time you used one of those?
Today, like it or not, being in the right place at the right time often means having a Web site that is in the first 3 pages of a Google search.
Unless you work for one of the big agencies, with big corporate advertising budgets, there is a good chance that your potential customer has never even heard of you. On the web, just like in the yellow pages, people search for what they want, not who they want. Will you be found?
Good web rankings can be a very tough thing to accomplish. When I search Google for “Philadelphia real estate agents”, 32,700,000 results are returned, a search for “Philadelphia home listings”, returns 215,000,000 results. In both cases the first few pages are dominated by links to sites like zillow, truila, activerain, yahoo and other national listers. There are a few “local” agents, but not many. How will you get hired if you can’t be found?
As you all know, I am not a Real Estate Agent, and therefore will not profess to be an expert at how you do your daily job. However, I am a pretty good at Internet marketing, and I have to say I think many of you are missing the mark when it comes to how you handle your web presence and it seems to me that you have not given your internet strategy much thought.
Your Web presence is a tool, one of many you use to promote yourself and your business. But, like any tool if it’s not used properly it can (and will) hurt you. It appears to me that many of you spread yourselves too thin when it comes to the web, posting content in as many places as possible, just hoping somebody will find it. That is a double edged sword. It gives you the illusion of having more potential for being seen. I understand how having more content at more locations might look like a good thing. What actually happens though is that each time to you carve off a piece of yourself to put at another location, the search engines think you become less and less important. Meanwhile, all those sites collecting content from you and others like you, they become more important. You are creating more competition for yourself.
What you should do is spend more time working on YOUR site and less time feeding your competition. Put more of your “stuff” on YOUR Web site. Yes, you still need to have some participation on the national sites, but just enough to get the links back from them to your page. You should also take advantage of your community involvement. Most organizations have member directories, with web links – Rotary, Kiwanis, Optimists, Chamber of Commerce – get involved with these groups, turn the other members into your sales team (I LOVE word-of-mouth), but also make sure they link to your Web site from theirs, with good keywords. You might be surprised how much power well constructed links have.
I mentioned earlier that there were a few local agencies listed in my Google search results. You might think that in order to rank that well, in the same results as the “big boys” they must have stellar web sites. You would be wrong. The sites I looked at were good, but not great and certainly had room for improvement. That’s good news for the rest of you. It means that if you just put a fair amount of effort into your Web site, you can – and will be found on Google. You have to know that could mean a nice bump in phone calls, emails and contracts, right?
I guess it’s true, you don’t need a stinkin’ website. You need an GREAT Web site!