Brokerage

7 tips to maximize your traditional real estate website

Web visitors should be able to find information quickly and easily

The shift to mobile and Google’s new algorithm that penalizes sites that are not mobile-friendly are forcing agents and companies alike to re-evaluate their website strategies. What steps do you need to take to keep your site up to date?

If you’re struggling with what to do with your website, I feel your pain. My website, realestatecoach.com, had top placement on Google for years for “real estate coaching” and I was reluctant to touch what was working. We were ready to launch with a new website until we learned it was not “responsive.” (In other words, it wasn’t designed to automatically fit the screen size of the viewer’s device.) Moreover, the new design really wasn’t very mobile-friendly.

The result? While we’re still on top at Bing and Yahoo, Google has now buried us somewhere on page two or three. Obviously, it’s time for another updated design.

Is there a single design solution?

Complicating matters even more, there is a new trend for people to use their big-screen televisions to search the Web. How are agents and companies supposed to construct an effective site that serves the small screen all the way to the big screen? Do you redesign your current site with the mobile consumer in mind, stay with a more traditional approach for tablets and laptops, or look forward to the big-screen searches that are gaining in popularity?

The first decision you must make is whether you will create a single site that attempts to serve all three types of devices. Alternatively, do you maintain your current traditional site and then create a separate mobile site, perhaps using a dot-mobi address rather than a dot-com address?

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If you decide to keep your traditional website, here are seven simple tips to make it more effective. (Part two will outline tips for creating an effective mobile site.)

1. Your website is your online storefront

Have you ever visited an agent’s site and wondered what areas they serve or what their area code was? Although this seems obvious, many agents do not provide their complete contact information. Make sure that you include the market area you serve as well as the city, state and ZIP code. Also, place your phone number, including the area code, in the upper right-hand corner on every page of your website.

2. The Google Golden Triangle

If you are going to maintain a traditional website, it’s important that you pay attention to what is known as the Google Golden Triangle. Eye-tracking research has revealed a number of interesting patterns in terms of how people view websites.

First, users focus primarily upon the upper left-hand corner of the website. Second, their eyes scan about halfway across the page and then move down. The overall shape of the scan is a triangle. In other words, if you were to draw a triangle anchored in the upper left-hand corner of any Web page, that’s where most Web visitors will focus.

The research also revealed that users skim and scan Web pages in an “F” pattern. In other words, they read across the very top, scroll down and read through the middle part of the page, and then scan down the left-hand side to the bottom. (This forms the basis for the “triangle.”)

Take a hard look at your website. Do you have your picture in the upper left-hand corner of your home page? For that matter, do you have your picture anywhere on the front page? If so, remove it immediately and place it on the “About Us” page of your website.

Next, use this highly valuable area to give consumers the information they want. The research shows that Web visitors have three primary reasons for visiting a real estate website. They want to know what’s for sale, how much their house is worth, and community information. Make sure your website visitors can find that data easily.

Screen shot of Keller Williams Realty's home page.

Screen shot of Keller Williams Realty’s home page.

Based upon the “F” pattern, this information should be either in boxes, in the navigation bar that runs horizontally across the top of the page, or in a navigation menu that is located on the left vertical side of the page. The Keller Williams Realty home page (above) illustrates the “F” pattern in conjunction with the Google Golden Triangle.

3. Headlines and bullet points

Today’s Web visitors skim and scan the “F” pattern. As a result, your focus should be on headlines and bullet points that link to more detailed information. If you have a website with massive amounts of text, it’s time to change it. Remember, most younger clients are accustomed to text messaging. They have short attention spans and like their information in bite-sized chunks. If the Web visitor wants detailed information, he will click through to reach it.

4. Quick loading is essential

To check how quickly your site loads, visit www.loads.in. This site tells you how long it takes your site to load in various places around the world. Visitors will leave your site if it takes too long to load, especially on mobile devices. Ideally, your time should be one second or less. The site reports your load speeds as “ms:” (one-thousandth of a second). If your site loads slowly, eliminate any Flash applications that slow down load time.

5. HubSpot’s Marketing Grader

This tool provides a detailed report of what you can do to strengthen your website. There’s no charge for the service.

6. How does your website look on various browsers?

If you would like to see how your website appears on Safari, Firefox, Internet Explorer or a host of other browsers, visit Browsershots.org.

7. Fix broken links

There’s nothing more frustrating to users than having broken links on your website. To identify where they are, visit www.BrokenLinkCheck.com. Once you locate them, be sure to get them fixed.

These are some of the key steps to take with a traditional site. See part two on Thursday to learn more about what is required to be effective in terms of a mobile site.

Bernice Ross, CEO of RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, trainer and author of the National Association of Realtors’ No. 1 best-seller, “Real Estate Dough: Your Recipe for Real Estate Success.” Hear Bernice’s five-minute daily real estate show, just named “new and notable” by iTunes, at www.RealEstateCoachRadio.com.