Ralph G. (Maybe you know him?) is a long-time real estate developer and builder who, all of a sudden, is questioning his ability to keep up with the hip, new crop of competing developers. He has seen what’s happening with their impressive websites and wonder if that’s why traffic to his website and communities are lagging.
Ralph may be on to something. After all, real estate marketing has changed – and so have real estate buyers. But now is not the time to panic. Look, the decision to redesign a real estate website can be time-consuming and expensive for anyone, let alone a baby boomer like Ralph. And if he lacks the technical and design staff and SEO experience to pull it off, his site and his business could take a big hit.
As a full service real estate marketing and web development company, we work with lots of Ralphs, as well as upstart developers who need redesigns for new home communities or real estate properties. While one size never fits all, we advise all of them to step back, take a deep breath and analyze what they have, what they need to do to increase traffic (to their website and their developments), convert more leads, and enhance the bottom line of their real estate businesses.
DO YOUR WEBSITE RESEARCH
Yes, you want to get going and you want to move fast. But don’t let your impulses trump the process. Map out what you want to change and why. Do not jump into a website design because you’re tired of it. (Remember, marketers often get tired of things before their customers!) Don’t think, “I just want it to look more modern” or “I just felt like a change.” Not good enough. Think of this like any business plan, where you (1) have an overall strategy that aligns with your company goals, (2) have clear and realistic website traffic growth goals, (3) have metric in place to measure those goals and (4) have professionals guide you through the process.
GET YOUR WEBSITE ANALYTICS DOWN TO A SCIENCE
For our clients, we audit Google Analytics and look at key user website behavior patterns to understand what content they really want and how they navigate the website. We develop goals and a strategy for how each of these metrics should change as a result of a redesign. Having clear website traffic growth goals will give you an objective framework to measure the effectiveness of the redesign and process for future improvements moving forward.
Here are some key metrics you may want to consider:
- Number of visits/visitors/unique visitors (monthly average)
- Top performing keywords (in terms of rank, traffic, and lead generation)
- Number of inbound linking domains
- Total number of total pages indexed
- Total number of pages that receive traffic
Armed with this knowledge – and driven by facts rather than whims – you'll be able to make informed decisions about which of your pages should stay, which ones should go, and which ones should get revamped or reorganized during your redesign.
IS YOUR SITE READY? PREPARE THE PERFECT SEO RECIPE
Download our checklist for creating an SEO recipe that is as simple as baking a cake. There are certain ingredients needed in order to come out looking great.
MAKE SEO THE FOUNDATION OF YOUR WEBSITE
To ensure your new site will truly resonate with your target audience – and to save yourself from some major headaches down the road – you need SEO built into your redesign strategy from the get-go.
If SEO is not a priority from the initial strategy session, you’re going to lose what you took so much time and effort to build. Everything from the structure of your website to the meta descriptions of your website pages are important and should be considered while the site is being coded.
With that said, we want to emphasize that keyword stuffing is not a recommended strategy. Google is much too smart for that nonsense! In fact, if Google determines you are blatantly overusing (or hiding) keywords on your site, your credibility (and rankings) could take a serious hit.
Remember... content remains king. Google will reward you if you’re creating high-quality content, where keywords are naturally and logically woven into your website’s text and captions. When we redesign a real estate website, we focus on creating an information-rich site, based on the search words users will most likely enter to find your pages.
ENSURE YOUR REAL ESTATE WEBSITE HAS CURB APPEAL
OK, with a website strategy and process established, you can get to the fun stuff: the creative side of website design. Redesigning a website is a lot like staging a model home or a commercial property for sale. (You know the importance of first impressions.)“Curb appeal” also applies to website design and the user experience. A dated website design can make your brand feel cheap or irrelevant. Selling real estate relies heavily on the choice of images that are accurate and authentic. When choosing images, think about the following:
- Property: Make sure property images are up-to-date, appropriate and useful. Stock photos are a poor second choice.
- People: Use real-life images to tell a believable story about people visiting or living at your property and benefitting from the experience.
- Quality: Show that your property is of good, or superior, quality. Show the craft, the expertise or the materials that make it great. And use full-screen images for maximum impact.
- Technology: Drones taking video and still shots have replaced expensive helicopter shots. The use of selfies add reality to the website experience.
- Good Faith: If your company and its properties are charitable, ethical, organic or green; if your business gives back to the community; if it makes the world a better place, show it.
HELLO! KEEP PACE WITH YOUR INCREASINGLY MOBILE CUSTOMERS
Here are some very impressive stats: Three years ago, mobile represented about 10% of all Internet traffic. Today, it’s jumped to 38%, and Google has rolled out many search algorithm changes that prioritize mobile optimized websites on search engine result pages. Consequently, many real estate websites built more than three years ago are likely in need of a redesign or their owners risk turning off today's tech-savvy users at the front door, a.k.a., your home page!
Google expects your site to be responsive in order to rank at a decent spot, and much of that response comes from research done on our phones. Buyers are increasingly using smartphones and tablets to find information online, and companies that don’t optimize their websites from screen to screen are losing out.
According to a study conducted by Google, 79% of users who don’t like what they find on a mobile site will quickly move on to another site. Hey, if you walked into a home that was messy and disorganized, you’d probably leave – and look for a new realtor. We recommend using responsive design to create websites that adapt to fit a variety of screen sizes and incorporate behavior patterns of mobile users into a redesign strategy.
And just so we’re clear on this, responsive design is an approach to web design aimed at allowing desktop webpages to be viewed in response to the size of the screen or web browser one is viewing with. The only thing that changes across devices is the styling (which is controlled by CSS). This configuration makes it easier for Google to crawl your web pages and retrieve your content. The easier it is for Google to crawl your site, the easier it is for Google to index more of your site’s content and, in turn, improve your search rankings.
RENOVATION OR DEMOLITION?
From a time-money perspective, taking on a website redesign can be challenging. In the short term, you may be fine just slapping on new coat of paint or putting down some new sod. But if your real estate website has not been redesigned in three years or more, a complete refresh (or even redo) is a huge boost for any company that's really serious about engaging and acquiring more buyers.
GET A COMPLIMENTARY AUDIT FROM A WEB DESIGN COMPANY
Considering a website redesign? Each month Simply180 offers a limited number of complimentary website design audits to real estate companies. An audit includes a high-level review of the following:
- Copywriting (Value Propositions, Marketing Messaging, CTAs, etc.)
- User Experience
- Goals and Strategy
Whether you’re a Ralph or Rachel, click here to enter your company for this valuable, no-obligation website design audit.