How to get users to your real estate website
We’re going to define exactly where the 240 million unique visitors to real estate websites went and how they got there.
The statistics for this article come from a RealTrends newsletter (4/10/15) via a study they did on the market’s interaction with real estate websites in 2014. The analysis, discussion, and suggestions are all my fault.
Wow, 204 million unique visitors to real estate websites in 2014—all to sell 5 million homes, plus or minus. From a marketing perspective this tells me that you need to qualify your leads pretty well before tossing them in the back of your car, as any one of these individual website users has a statistical chance of just under 5% of either buying or selling a home this year (assuming both a listing side and a buying side to each of the 5 million homes sold).
This also means that you had better have a really good CRM program in place as 95% of the people interacting with a real estate website aren’t going to buy or sell this year—but perhaps sometime in the future.
For all of you portal haters here’s the bad news: 120 million of those unique visitors were on Zillow, Trulia, Realtor, or Homes—yep that’s half of all internet real estate traffic.
The major real estate brands’ (the newsletter did not name names) websites received about 30 million unique visitors—a quarter of what the four major portals pulled in.
Now the good news for the individual brokers, independent brokerages, and the large regional brokerages: your sites pulled in 90 million unique visitors.
Let’s run through the really important marketing statistics.
A very relevant note is that 40% of the 240 million visitors came via mobile. If your site is not “responsive design” or the more expensive specialized “app” design (you need at least two: IOS and Android), you are probably losing prospective clients or at least irritating them to the point of exploring another broker’s site.
While the cost to build responsive sites or specialized apps is all over the board (where did that cliché ever come from?), I can tell you from experience that a very custom responsive site will be no less than $20K and custom apps about $30K for each of your two main choices. Maybe you’ll find somebody cheaper, but more likely you’ll spend double or more of any of my figures quoted here. And all of this assumes a pretty darn basic website offering. Complex sites go up in price exponentially.
Custom programming is a pain, it’s time consuming, it’s pretty unpredictable, and if you find a good programmer they’re expensive and in demand and their rates are going up perpetually, as everyone needs a good programmer right now.
From a marketing perspective if your website is not remarkable it is invisible (loosely quoted from Seth Godin, Purple Cow). Thus if you have one of the two million or so IDX sites cranked out by some shop calling it custom because you got to pick out a color scheme and put a picture of your head somewhere—you are invisible.
I suggest that you pick your specialized market niche first and design your website offering built solely around that market segment’s exacting desires second. I’ll discuss several reasons why.
From the newsletter, 92% of website visitors came from within the US and 8% from international locations. If you want to be an international player your site has to cater exclusively to the desires of this group. And I further suggest you would have to create a specialized site and service for each country you wish to attract. And that’s just the beginning, as you have to create a plan to get your site in front of their eyes. This is a big undertaking, be sure it’s what you want.
Domestically you may concentrate on sellers, buyers, rich people, first-time buyers, neighborhoods, or ideally something far more specialized than these fairly generic demographics. The more focused your service and site is, the smaller the niche it will attract, but the greater the percentage of that niche you will dominate once they realize you are the go-to person for their personal desires. Think about this as we look at the following paragraphs on organic searches.
Here’s the most promising statistic from the newsletter: 51% of traffic to your site comes from organic searches. I cannot over emphasize the importance of this fact. Whether you are a big or small brokerage, or an individual agent, you need to put 90% of your effort into creating what I call a “black hole” key word and content strategy.
In space a black hole is when a giant star goes supernova and then implodes to a tiny size—but with a massive gravitational pull that nothing can escape. Your website should have that same effect. You should put nearly all of your effort into building engaging and relevant content based on your market niche’s desires, and chocked full of key words so that any time a seller or buyer types in any search related to your specialty they can’t help but getting pulled into your website.
My advice is great content—relevant articles, videos, advice, blog, and tie it all together with any social stuff you do. Experiment with “long-tail” use of key words in your information. In other words it’s really hard to beat the portals with “home values in Denver”, so don’t be afraid to build in some sentences like “home values in Washington Park went from $275 per foot to $325 per foot between 2013 and 2014 with most buyers leaning toward fully remodeled homes.” Create your content based on how sellers and buyers think and what they really want to know.
I really don’t think you have to pay someone a lot of money to adjust your SEO all of the time. Google changes their ranking algorithms all of the time, are on to the games “SEO specialists” play pretty much thwarting their efforts, and truly trying to find and suggest the best sites relevant to a user’s need. Make your site that site.
Per the newsletter 34% of visitors knew and typed in the URL of the site they wanted. Hey, you may have the most catchy website name on the planet, but I bet the greatest percentage of the direct URL inputs went like this: “Z-i-l-l-o-w”, “T-r-u-l-l-i-a”, and “R-e-a-l-t-o-r”. I don’t mean to get your hopes down but isn’t Zillow spending about $100 million per year to get people to remember to type in that name directly? I think you are better off concentrating on your organic, ultra-specific content.
Jumping back to CRM a little bit, the newsletter stated about 14% of site traffic came from users’ interaction due to auto-notifications such as a “new listing”, etc. These are probably pretty motivated potential clients so make sure these kinds of functions on your website are running hot.
I have very mixed feelings about some of the “marketing software”—I think of it as “spyware” where every time a user interacts with your site or gets an automated email that you do also. This is your personal choice whether to email a user your pitch every time they visit your site, essentially confessing that you’re tracking they’re every move. I know it’s becoming standard practice in the marketplace, but I don’t like it—my personal choice. I’ll focus on offering something so remarkable they desire my services over everybody else’s without my spying on them.
About 9% of your activity comes from outside “referral” sources, such as portals. Your organic connections are over 500% of that figure, so you decide where to spend your time, effort, and money.
Some 5% of the traffic to your site comes from your social site interactions. This is fine if your enjoy using these kinds of sites a lot. But let me just reiterate the 51% organic results…
Finally 2% of your site’s use came from paid advertising (such as Google Ad Words). So either brokers aren’t spending much on paid advertising, or their ads suck, or this is a poor ROI for most. No, the newsletter did not mention Facebook specifically.
That’s a rap; now go and build out your articles to capture what matters to your niche: in-depth local information about subjects they actually care about.
This article is on Inman News as of 4/15/2105