This seemingly sarcastic line of questioning is actually quite important.
Take a good hard look at your website and try to put yourself into the shoes of a serious homebuyer. Think about a tech savvy shopper who is considering buying a home in your area and ask yourself this:
What can they get from my website?
What content or tools make my site the one to use?
Do I offer anything that my fellow local agents don’t?
Is my website any more useful than my own brokerage’s site?
Even worse: Am I inadvertently competing with Zillow.com/Trulia/Realtor.com?
The most common mistakes happen on the majority of agent websites, rendering most of them virtually hopeless… (Dramatic but true…)
So what do you do?
Assess Your Website – Be Honest
What are you offering? If your site has some general information about your entire metro area, an IDX, featured listings, maps, and other typical items, than you are not really in the race. None of those features are unique to your offering and every other local agents in your market are doing the same thing.
Then take the brokerages that have bigger budgets; they’re likely doing the same and maybe even doing it better.
Then there’s Zillow.com’s offer: community information, historical sales trends, local climate and crime, name recognition and tons more.
The common trap, that most website owners fall into, is the feeling that their site does it “better”.
Sure, everyone in my market has the same IDX info, but my search is better.
Sure there are other sites that cover San Diego metro, but mine does it better.
Good agents are confident & risk takers, so this sentiment makes sense, but it’s time to be honest with yourself and your website offering.
Are you offering anything that your competition isn’t? Is it something that the average web shopper will notice or maybe recommend to a friend?
Time to take action!
I’d like to recommend my favorite business book, Blue Ocean Strategy, by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne. The crux of it is that you can choose to do business in a “red ocean” where competition is most fierce and you constantly compete for attention or a “blue ocean” where your offering is truly unique (you’re technically not competing against anybody). This message is priceless for business, but also applies to your website. But you have to offer something unique…
The answer lies in this question: “What can I provide on my website that my competition doesn’t?”
There are several ways to go and your path depends on your goals.
Path #1 – Go Local. Hyper-local!
Yes that term is very cliché. But get past it, and actually implement it. Online shoppers know what the MLS says about the listings that they are interested in. They know it has a kitchen. They know it’s has a crawl space. They know when it was built. What else can your website tell them about it? If your site is attempting to cover your entire metro area, chances are, there is nothing else your site can tell them.
The strategy of going hyper-local with your website can pay off in a number of ways, but the crux of it, is that by effectively specializing in a specific area, you are more likely to be perceived as an expert. Plus, it’s easier/possible to populate your website with EVERYTHING about that particular neighborhood. Make it a pillar of the community. Include details and information that nobody else has. Blog about local happenings – like crazy. Include information about local restaurants, nightlife, recreation and shopping.
Make your website THE place to go for information about your hyper-locality. If done correctly, Google will notice and your site will be easily found by anyone looking for information about this particular neighborhood. Shoppers will find it, and hopefully get the information they can’t get ANYWHERE else. Not from a big online real estate site and not from your fellow agents.
By going hyper-local, you become an expert. Shoppers want to deal with experts.
Path #2 – Cover Your Entire Metro, But Do it Better – For Real
This is way harder to do than path #1. But it is possible.
So we need a solid strategy for this. The bad news is that competition is stiff.
Consider what you can provide that your competition can’t. (Or chooses not to.)
- Neighborhood Recommendation – If someone is new to your area, how will they know where to start searching? Visionary companies like Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate are doing this and you can too. (My company, Robot Workshop sells an app for $19.95/mo) This is an example of a feature that is cheap and easy to implement, and it’s a nice start towards differentiating yourself.
- Lifestyle Branding – Do you serve a luxury market? Make your website luxurious. Make it feel like a luxurious hotel or airline. (Search the 1000Watt Consulting blog for great info about luxury branding). If not luxury, maybe it’s something else. If you’re near the coast, try focusing on the coastal life. Include lots of information about events, restaurant reviews, local recreation, and more. Add serious content about that particular lifestyle. Users that live that life will instantly connect and find real value in your site. Ideally the lifestyle brand that you choose is one that you already live. The passion for the band has to be there. Remember, you cannot fake it, because you will eventually have to meet your clients. If you want to close deals in a lifestyle niche, you must be ready to live your brand.
- Create a network of websites – Who says you can only have one website? This strategy involves creating several websites, with each one laser focused on a particular market sector or lifestyle. For instance, you can have one for military relocation. Have another one that is dripping with resource information for sellers considering a short sale. Have a site for fans of your local sports team. I’m a huge Yankee fan. If I were moving back to NY and came across a website that included information about getting to Yankee Stadium from each of it’s listings, I’d be sold on that agent, instantaneously! The caution here, is to not overdo it. If you have 20 websites, you will have 20 terrible websites. Remember the key is to offer a resource that shoppers won’t turn away from. If you mail it in, users will know immediately. The passion for your angle must be evident. If you have a network of websites, be certain that each one is diligently updated and cared for.
Don’t get me wrong; you need a good IDX, maps and all the other stuff that every R.E. website in America has, but that’s only a start.
If you don’t augment the standard offerings, then you are not really in the game. Take a good honest look at your website to decide if it’s something that users can really find value in. Ask yourself: “Does anybody actually care about this website?” If not, do something about it.
Let me know in the comments below what your doing to be THE website to visit.