Agents spend millions of dollars each year on Web sites. Many generate no leads. If you want to turn your Web site into a lead-generation machine, here are four tried and true ways to do it.

1. Identify a "sliver" market
To create an effective Web site, you must actually begin the process offline. The first and most important step is to determine a specific niche your Web site will serve. While traditional marketers often try to be all things to all people, Web marketing succeeds best when it is highly targeted.

(This is Part 1 of a two-part series. Read Part 2, "Don’t leave your Web leads hangin’.")

Agents spend millions of dollars each year on Web sites. Many generate no leads. If you want to turn your Web site into a lead-generation machine, here are four tried and true ways to do it.

1. Identify a "sliver" market
To create an effective Web site, you must actually begin the process offline. The first and most important step is to determine a specific niche your Web site will serve. While traditional marketers often try to be all things to all people, Web marketing succeeds best when it is highly targeted. Another term for this approach is "sliver marketing." To identify potential sliver markets for your business, look for a group of people who share a common interest. You can also specialize in a geographical location. For example, if you love playing golf, specialize in golf course properties in your area. Pack your site with pictures of the homes as well as pictures of the course. Get tips from the local golf pro on different strategies for avoiding the hazards on the course. Post funny stories or comments that illustrate the lifestyle. The secret for success is selecting something about which you are truly passionate and that you enjoy doing.

2. Select the right URL for your site
Two of the most highly searched terms online are "real estate" and "homes." Sliver marketing allows you to use these terms as part of a longer description. For example, obtaining "Westwood real estate" as a search term would be extremely expensive if you were using pay-per-click. If you were using sliver marketing, you might decide to use the ZIP code plus the name of the subdivision. You could also use the property address. For example, you might use HolmbyHillsRealEstate.com or 10650WilshireCondo90024.com. You might also select WestwoodCondos90024.com and devote that URL exclusively to condominium living in that ZIP code. You could also set up 90024WestwoodEstates.com and devote it exclusively to luxury properties in that area.

Using the ZIP code is smart because many people use ZIP codes in their search. Furthermore, ZIP code URLs are easier to obtain than other real estate URLs. In fact, it would be smart to select several URLs that you direct back to specific pages on your main site. Your goal is to have consumers immediately recognize whether your site is a good fit for them. Serving a very specific niche is the best way to do this. It will also enable you to obtain better placement on the search engines.

3. "Wow — this site is all about me and my lifestyle!"
To keep Web visitors coming back to your Web site, you must achieve the "wow" factor. Today’s consumers, especially members of Gen X and Gen Y, are drawn to sites that cater to their lifestyles. To discover what matters to members of your niche, write out a series of questions to use in a brainstorming session. For example, what are their lifestyles like? What concerns do they have? What types of recreational activities do they enjoy? Where do they congregate? What are the demographics (average income earned, age, number of people per family, ethnicity, etc.)? Where are the cool places that your target market congregates? (It could be at the local soccer field to watch their kids play soccer followed by a trip to a local pizza place.) Become the expert on what matters to them and build a Web site to meet those needs. This also means removing your picture from the front page of your Web site and putting it on the "about us" page. Remember, you get the "wow!" when it’s about them, not you.

4. Use a call to action
Your site has one goal — to convert visitors into leads who will give you their contact information. One of the best ways to do this is to create a landing page coupled with a call to action. When a Web site lacks a call to action, it’s an advertisement, not a lead-conversion tool. Advertising makes others aware of you or your product, but it normally doesn’t motivate them to give you their contact information. In contrast, a strong landing page provides Web visitors with an incentive that motivates them to leave their contact information. For example, many agents put their listings on their site, but forget to include a call to action:

"For a private showing or for additional information on this property, please contact me at …" (insert your e-mail address, Web site, and/or cell phone number).

OR, for potential sellers:

"Please click here to obtain a no-obligation telephone or digital market analysis of your property."

You can also include buyer reports such as "Avoid the Ten Biggest Seller Mistakes that Can Cost You Thousands" or "Save Thousands with These Little Known Mortgage Secrets." Other calls to action could include an Annual Report or your digital newsletter. Make sure your Web site asks for the order on every page of your site.

Need more help with your Web site? See Part 2 of this series for more ways to convert your Web visitors into closed business.

Bernice Ross, national speaker and CEO of Realestatecoach.com, is the author of "Waging War on Real Estate’s Discounters" and "Who’s the Best Person to Sell My House?" Both are available online. She can be reached at bernice@realestatecoach.com or visit her blog at LuxuryClues.com.

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