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How to ensure that your real estate website converts well

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When consumers arrive on your website, they should immediately know why the site’s what they were looking for, why its special, what it offers, and how much better it is than your peers. In fact it should so the same for consumer’s perception of you.

But does it? There is something special about you and your site, right?

If not, it’s time to figure out what can make your site worth visiting, returning to, or even how it can compel visitors to make you their Realtor.

Too often, websites try to be everything to everyone, then appeal to no one in particular.

Pick Something And Do It Well

How does one change that? Welcome to the “Unique Sales Proposition,” or the USP.

It’s fancy jargon for something that’s pretty simple. The “USP” behind your site comes down to what it aggressively projects — content, online tools, who it’s aimed at, homes and/or neighbourhoods featured, or even the style and language used. These are all possible factors that create target-rich niches for you. Or not.

With your experience in sales, you’ve probably learned that you can’t please everyone. Why make a website that tries to do that?

You shouldn’t. In fact, I suggest you purposely try not to appeal to some folks. With limited time on your hands, you can’t serve everyone, so why aspire to working with people other than ideal clients?

If you think anyone-who-brings-a-paycheque is your “ideal” client, you’re doing yourself a disservice and limiting what you offer online and even in real life.

Why Appealing To Everyone On Your Site Is Unproductive

Let’s try a hypothetical. Say 3,000 consumers search the phrase “Sunny Town real estate” monthly and you capture 500 of them. Upon arriving, they find a dozen listings, some generic spiel about “buying/selling Sunny Town properties”, a schwack of boring real estate clichés, and, oh, look, a mortgage calculator.

On the upside, everyone feels welcomed and kind of learns life’s peachy when you live in Sunny Town but from there they aren’t able to figure out what it is your site does for them after this visit. Or more importantly what you do well.

You’ve provided nothing original, said nothing important, and did nothing to stand out from the crowd, making you of no consequence — just another Realtor with another real estate site, like 99% of the sites serving average Sunny Town folks.

Sure that’s 500 visitors who came knocking on your site’s door, but likely few conversions or sales.

Why Not Appealing To Everyone On Your Site Makes Sense

Now pretend that, of those 3,000 curious consumers, there are a savvy 100 looking for a helpful site when decoding buying or selling local condos. They want a listing of all available condos — not just one company’s listings or one neighbourhood’s.. They also really want informative, abundant information on making decisions about buying and selling condos in Sunny Town.

Let’s say your site offers a powerful real estate search tool and useful Sunny Town real estate information, including data and research with informative basics about the local market, and even future development plans that show what neighbourhoods will be, not just what they are.

Now the potential of engaging 100 or more consumers is greater. They’re not just paging through your site, but digging for real information. The more they feel they’re learning from you, the more they will feel you know your way around a condo transaction better then your peers. All possibly compelling them to return, or even invite you to be their Realtor.

Even if you only convert, say, 2 out those 100 potential clients each month, that means 24 ends a year. The larger that niche crowd becomes, the more chance of creating clients.

Double it to 200 visitors excited by real-time local, relevant real estate content from a field-tested professional, and that’s a conservative less-than-1% of the 3,000 visits, and now you’re looking at converting, say, 48 new clients by year’s end.

I’d bet a blog with current condo market stats, honest opinions, and brazen posts about the realities of buying/selling condos in Sunny Town would develop more viable clients from that high-potential group who are scouring your site then the 500 visitors from a generic search passing through a general site. A site who’s content barely skims a broad variety of real estate related topics in Sunny Town, but offer no depth. Nothing that makes the consumer better for having spent time on the site.

So What Is The USP of The Site?

“No website services Sunny Town condo-shoppers better, nor does another Realtor better serve those buyers. No site better explains Sunny Town’s market without the fluff or spin delivered by others.”

And this is just one example of an effective USP.

You Can’t Fake It

That should give you an idea of the thinking behind a good USP, but the USP itself isn’t a claim, mission statement, or even a tag-line. It’s what your site is — it’s a tangible, measurable, visible quality. Saying what your USP is means nothing, your site has to have it and be it. It can’t be faked — it’s there to be experienced by anyone landing on your site.

Don’t Wait For Your Own ‘Great’ Idea

Sure, others may be nurturing a similar USP — that happens. Heck, it’d be nice to have a never-before-seen USP that blows other real estate marketing out of the water, but that’s unlikely. Instead, worry about executing that USP better than your competition.

Don’t kid yourself, the web’s brand of real estate marketing isn’t a finished story — the web, and its marketing, is ever-changing, always improving. You very well may come up with a brilliant new idea. But if not you can be that person who is just doing it better.

Look at cell phones. When Blackberry came on the scene and reinvented the technology, the competition didn’t give up. The innovators to come didn’t just look at what Blackberry was doing and walk away — they saw what Blackberry wasn’t doing. Thinking outside the box, they further refined this technology and drew a large share of samrt phone consumers.

The same tactics are now working against Apple’s iPhone for the makers of Android phones.

These companies are brilliant because they aren’t reinventing the wheel nor do they want to win over the whole world — just folks who dislike The Other Guy’s product or want something very specific.

With real estate sites, the same strategy works. Don’t appeal to everyone, just those whose language you speak. Don’t underestimate the value of having strong appeal with a smaller demographic.

Identify both your appeal and your ideal demographic, and successfully converting visitors will be easier than you imagine.

Kye Grace is a partner with deBruyn Design & Marketing. Prior to, he spent three years as a Realtor active in the Vancouver, BC market. During that time Kye gained international attention and exposure for his own online real estate marketing strategy and corresponding results. Kye’s innovative style and ‘no barriers’ approach to online marketing, combined with a passion for usability, lead generation and conversions is evident in everything he does. You can also find him on Twitter combining useful information with a large side order of jack assery.

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60 Comments

60 Comments

  1. Denise Hamlin

    November 18, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    Yep. That’s the way to do it Kye. It’s pointless trying to please all the people all the time. The website becomes so generic that it interests no-one. And if you’re having trouble coming up with a niche take a look at who you’re clients were in the last year. What do they have in common? I’ll bet they do have things in common. I found that was a great place to start just to figure things out.

    • Kye Grace

      November 19, 2010 at 12:21 pm

      So true. We use a fairly exhaustive process when accepting new marketing clients to better understand their business. I am constantly amazed how many of them want a new type of business not consistent with where their current success has come from.

      “80% of my 30 ends last year were from townhouses so I really want to have more transactions from houses this year”

      I get why they think this, it is the natural place to look for growth. On the other hand, maybe there is a reason they do the majority of your business from townhouses. Because they are really good at transactions involving townhouses. They are known in the townhouse market.

      Your 24 ends from townhouses is a far cry from the 1000+ townhouse ends in your area each year. Seems to me there is plenty of room from growth doing what you already do well.

      Become the absolute best at townhouse transactions, get to the point where you are doing 50-60 of them a year. Find a top notch Realtor who can refer your clients too who are moving up.

      My 2 cents…and understandably always easier said then done when the carrot is dangling.

  2. FlatFeeRealty.com

    November 18, 2010 at 10:33 pm

    1 comment, 30 “social reactions”, what’s the point?

    • Kelsey Teel

      November 19, 2010 at 12:48 am

      Social reactions do not solely consist of comments. The term social reaction also includes when readers share an article on Twitter, Facebook, or Google Buzz. Someone may not necessarily have a comment to make, but they still react positively to the article by sharing it with their followers and friends.

  3. Kelsey Teel

    November 19, 2010 at 12:27 am

    Fantastic article, Kye! You did a great job of highlighting a problem in this industry. I feel like many agents are so focused on the fact that they need to be online, that they don’t focus enough on creating value there. Most are looking for a quick fix, something automated that doesn’t take much work…just to get it done.

    Those who take the time to cater to their target market online will naturally be more successful at serving that market. Thanks for the insight….very thought provoking. I’ll be sure to pass this article around. 🙂

  4. hermanchan.com

    November 19, 2010 at 3:31 am

    well put kye. having a niche, a brand, a personality, USP, etc is the most liberating thing a realtor can do. u cultivate like minded people who share/respect your world view & opinions = clients/sales. it seems so elementary, but in reality this is easier said than done. most agents are afraid to take the risk, to editorialize, take a stand, or position about the market or a house b/c they don’t wanna offend, lose clients, appear unprofessional or a renegade. it takes a certain type of person to let it all hang out, to pioneer a new point of view. thanks for your post!

    • Kye Grace

      November 19, 2010 at 12:24 pm

      Thanks Herman! Glad I am not alone in my thinking! Didn’t get a chance to check out your stuff last night but I will today.

      You have me intrigued!

  5. Coleen DeGroff

    November 19, 2010 at 8:54 am

    GREAT article, Kye. We can’t be everything to everyone. It’s important to figure out who we serve (or who we WANT to serve) and build our website and brand accordingly. Give customers what they are looking for…..INFORMATION. And not just the standard information any REALTOR(R) with an IDX can provide. Having a way for customers to access all listings is a must…but you can’t stop there. Have info about the area you serve, info on what buyers and sellers need to know, cool things about living there, etc…..in other words, bring your site to life by giving your readers value-added info. Knowledge is power. Information is king. Give customers what they are looking for and they will view you as the go-to resource. Otherwise your site is nothing more than a Yellow Pages listing, indistinguishable from the rest.

    • Kye Grace

      November 19, 2010 at 12:25 pm

      You raise a good point. You have a choice who you want to serve. What better way to be happy in your career then choosing what you do everyday not what you ‘have’ to do!

  6. Ruthmarie Hicks

    November 19, 2010 at 2:24 pm

    That advice could be very dangerous – depending on your particular market. Way too many buyers are coming down my pipeline with disparate needs. Don’t get me wrong – it sounds GREAT! What a relief to just be a super-specialist like that! But that won’t work around here at all. I found that out the hard way.

    I started with a great niche – condos and coops for people with pets. There are lots of people with that issue and I beat that niche to death. Reams of blogs – tons of content. I drilled down deep. It generated a tiny, tiny trickle of leads. I advanced to be a condo and coop specialist generally. Did the same thing. A slightly larger trickle – but twice nothing is still pretty much nothing. I went further towards general entry level. Got enough to keep me going – until the tax credit ended…SLAM – nothing since April. Now I’m being force to build the upper end presence from the ground up because that’s all that is moving.

    The risk to super-specialization is grimly clear – if that market drys up – where are you? We’ve had five years of one market after another in our area getting at least tepid with activity and then something happens and SLAM – complete shutdown. Right now you can’t give away an entry level home or condo even though the higher end is selling like flap jacks. But because I specialized – at the entry level – I’m shut out of 80% of the sales in the area. The opposite was true last year. I zoomed past the luxury line top producers who wouldn’t deign to show a coop.

    This may be unique to my market, but there is simply not enough consistency in any of these niche markets to get away with that.

    The type of buyer is also key. Most of the buyers come from NYC. That’s where the money is – so that’s what I have to accommodate. Most of these buyers are longing to stay in NYC but it is simply too expensive unless you have wealth in 8 figures. Westchester is the poor consolation prize. As a result, they don’t know the area and come to us with no clear idea as to what they want in terms of town/village/city (We have 3 cities and too many towns/villages to count.) Nor are they sure of what kind of housing they want. Generally they want to see houses as well as condos and coops.

    Bottom line – by the time these people have narrowed the field – their agent has already been selected and that agent helped them narrow the field.

    • Rob McCance

      November 19, 2010 at 10:24 pm

      I agree Ruthmarie and as a result, I’ve got a wide site and I’ve got narrow sites.

      I’ve got an Atlanta Real Estate site – super wide.
      Another for Atlanta Townhomes – specific.
      Yet another for Atlanta Relocation – specific.

      Each creates it’s own independent stream of leads. As I think of more, I’ll build them. They take a weekend and are “free.”

      • Ruthmarie Hicks

        November 20, 2010 at 1:03 am

        That’s what I do – I use my primary site and create web pages for a more specific presence. Fortunately, the site itself ranks reasonably well and long tail gets indexed quite high on Google if I put my mind to it. I’m trying to get some short tail ranking. Too many people are passing by my site – so I may have to really rank for several short tail searches in order to be effective.

  7. Erion Shehaj

    November 22, 2010 at 1:17 am

    For a long time, Realtors were criticized for having templated, boring sites and not without merit. Their sites were nothing but a bad business card and as such they weren’t catering to the consumer. Fair Enough.

    So the solution to the blandness was to create a site chockfull of “local niche content” and “useful idx tools” to “increase conversion”. The result:

    Now Realtors have new, redesigned sites that all look the same and conversion still stinks. (Oh I’m not talking about registrations – you get plenty of those. Bottom line dollars, not so much.) Every site I see now, either looks like a Diverse Solutions site or a REW site with the same basic structure. Can you say UBIQUITOUS?

    The truth is, most your visitors don’t land on your home page. So in my opinion, a good real estate site should be a collection of specialized landing pages that cater to a particular niche. You can have one for highrise condos – people that land there are looking for condos and they will find condo listings, condo information, condo market stats, condo blog posts etc. Rinse and repeat for every corner of the market you’d like to work with.

  8. maggie chandler

    December 8, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    i recently had this conversation with a realtor friend. “how much biz does your blog generate for you?” for some people its all their business, for others it’s none. so much depends on your demographic – who are you blogging to? does your niche market read blogs? and of course, the content is so important. not an easy nut to crack.

    • Kye Grace

      December 9, 2010 at 3:18 pm

      Spot on Maggie. Of course being in the same neck of the woods I am aware of your blogging efforts and always considered it something you did better then the vast majority of your peers.

      I have no doubt the market data you share in such an easy to read and absorb manner has been a powerful USP for you.

      I know I used to cheat and read it, so I am sure those who don’t have access to the data (consumers) dive right in and become drawn to you as a result!

  9. Michael Sosnowski

    December 10, 2010 at 5:03 pm

    This may be self-serving, but I am glad most agent websites all look the same – it helps to reduce the competition among those individuals who really know how to market online. Last I checked, I don’t think BMW was giving marketing tips to Mercedes and Porsche.

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Social Media

New Pinterest code of conduct pushes for mindful posting

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Social media sites have struggled with harmful content, but Pinterest is using their new code of conduct to encourage better, not just reprimands.

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Pinterest icon on phone with 2 notifications, indicating new code of conduct.

It appears that at least one social media site has made a decision on how to move forward with the basis of their platform. Pinterest has created a brand-new code of conduct for their users. Giving them a set of rules to follow which to some may be a little restricting, but I’m not mad about it. In a public statement, they told the world their message:

“We’re on a journey to build a globally inclusive platform where Pinners around the world can discover ideas that feel personalized, relevant, and reflective of who they are.”

The revamp of their system includes 3 separate changes revolving around the rules of the platform. All of them are complete with examples and full sets of rules. The list is summed up as:

  • Pinterest Creator Code
  • Pinterest Comment Moderation Tools
  • Pinterest Creator Fund

For the Creator Code, Pinterest had this to say: “The Creator Code is a mandatory set of guidelines that lives within our product intended to educate and build community around making inclusive and compassionate content”. The rules are as follows:

  • Be Kind
  • Check my Facts
  • Be aware of triggers
  • Practice Inclusion
  • Do no harm

The list of rules provides some details on the pop-up as well, with notes like “make sure content doesn’t insult,” “make sure information is accurate,” etc. The main goal of this ‘agreement’, according to Pinterest, is not to reprimand offending people but to practice a proactive and empowering social environment. Other social websites have been shoe-horned into reprimanding instead of being proactive against abuse, and it has been met with mixed results. Facebook itself is getting a great deal of flack about their new algorithm that picks out individual words and bans people for progressively longer periods without any form of context.

Comment Moderation is a new set of tools that Pinterest is hoping will encourage a more positive experience between users and content creators. It’s just like putting the carrot before the donkey to get him to move the cart.

  • Positivity Reminders
  • Moderation Tools
  • Featured Comments
  • New Spam Prevention Signals

Sticking to the positivity considerations here seems to be the goal. They seem to be focusing on reminding people to be good and encouraging them to stay that way. Again, proactive, not reactive.

The social platform’s last change is to create a Pinterest Creator Fund. Their aim is to provide training, create strategy consulting, and financial support. Pinterest has also stated that they are going to be aiming these funds specifically at underrepresented communities. They even claim to be committing themselves to a quota of 50% of their Creators. While I find this commendable, it also comes off a little heavy handed. I would personally wait to see how they go about this. If they are ignoring good and decent Creators based purely on them being in a represented group, then I would find this a bad use of their time. However, if they are actively going out and looking for underrepresented Creators while still bringing in good Creators that are in represented groups, then I’m all for this.

Being the change you want to see in the world is something I personally feel we should all strive towards. Whether or not you produced positive change depends on your own goals… so on and so forth. In my own opinion, Pinterest and their new code of conduct is creating a better positive experience here and striving to remind people to be better than they were with each post. It’s a bold move and ultimately could be a spectacular outcome. Only time will tell how their creators and users will respond. Best of luck to them.

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Facebook releases Hotline as yet another Clubhouse competitor

(SOCIAL MEDIA) As yet another app emerges to try and take some of Clubhouse’s success, Facebook Hotline adds a slightly more formal video chat component to the game.

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Woman forming hands into heart shape at laptop hosting live video chat, similar to Facebook's new app Hotline

Facebook is at it again and launching its own version of another app. This time, the company has launched Hotline, which looks like a cross between Instagram Live and Clubhouse.

Facebook’s Hotline is the company’s attempt at competing with Clubhouse, the audio-based social media app, which was released on iOS in March 2020. Earlier this year, The New York Times reported Facebook had already begun working on building its own version of the app. Erik Hazzard, who joined Facebook in 2017 after the company acquired his tbh app, is leading the project.

The app was created by the New Product Experimentation (NPE) Team, Facebook’s experimental development division, and it’s already in beta testing online. To access it, you can use the web-based application through the platform’s website to join the waitlist and “Host a Show”. However, you will need to sign in using your Twitter account to do so.

Unlike Clubhouse, Hotline lets users also chat through video and not just audio alone. The product is more like a formal Q&A and recording platform. Its features allow people to live stream and hold Q&A sessions with their audiences similar to Instagram Live. And, audience members can ask questions by using text or audio.

Also, what makes Hotline a little more formal than Clubhouse is that it automatically records conversations. According to TechCrunch, hosts receive both a video and audio recording of the event. With a guaranteed recording feature, the Q&A sessions will stray away from the casual vibes of Clubhouse.

The first person to host a Q&A live stream on Hotline is real-estate investor Nick Huber, who is the type of “expert” Facebook is hoping to attract to its platform.

“With Hotline, we’re hoping to understand how interactive, live multimedia Q&As can help people learn from experts in areas like professional skills, just as it helps those experts build their businesses,” a Facebook spokesperson told TechCrunch. “New Product Experimentation has been testing multimedia products like CatchUp, Venue, Collab, and BARS, and we’re encouraged to see the formats continue to help people connect and build community,” the spokesperson added.

According to a Reuters article, the app doesn’t have any audience size limits, hosts can remove questions they don’t want to answer, and Facebook is moderating inappropriate content during its early days.

An app for mobile devices isn’t available yet, but if you want to check it out, you can visit Hotline’s website.

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Brace yourselves: Facebook has re-opened political advertising space

(SOCIAL MEDIA) After a break due to misinformation in the past election, Facebook is once again allowing political advertising slots on their platform – with some caveats.

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Facebook open on phone in a wallet case, open for political advertising again.

After a months-long ban on political ads due to misinformation and other inappropriate behavior following the election in November, Facebook is planning to resume providing space for political advertising.

Starting on Thursday, March 4th, advertisers were able to buy spots for ads that comprise politics, what Facebook categorizes as “social issues”, and other potentially charged topics previously prohibited by the social media platform.

The history of the ban is complicated, and its existence was predicated on a profound distrust between political parties and mainstream news. In the wake of the 2016 election and illicit advertising activity that muddied the proverbial waters, Facebook had what some would view as a clear moral obligation to prevent similar sediment from clouding future elections.

Facebook delivered on that obligation by removing political advertising from their platform prior to Election Day, a decision that would stand fast in the tumultuous months to follow. And, while Facebook did temporarily suspend the ban in Georgia during the senate proceedings, political advertisements nevertheless remained absent from the platform in large until last week.

The removal of the ban does have some accompanying caveats—namely the identification process. Unlike before, advertisers will have to go to great lengths to confirm their identities prior to launching ads. Those ads will most likely also need to come from domestic agencies given Facebook’s diligent removal of foreign and malicious campaigns in the prior years.

The moral debate regarding social media advertising—particularly on Facebook—is a deeply nuanced and divided one. Some argue that, by removing political advertising across the board, Facebook has simply limited access for “good actors” and cleared the way for illegitimate claims.

Facebook’s response to this is simply that they didn’t understand fully the role ads would play in the electoral process, and that allowing those ads back will allow them to learn more going forward.

Either way, political advertising spots are now open on Facebook, and the overall public perception seems controversial enough to warrant keeping an eye on the progression of this decision. It wouldn’t be entirely unexpected for Facebook to revoke access to these advertisements again—or limit further their range and scope—in the coming months and years.

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