Blog Audio: Read/listen time: 9 minutes
Yes, it’s out there at last. I am really pleased to make available my new FREE eBook for Estate Agents.
I have been working with estate agents and companies who provide services to estate agents for a while now and have learned those elements that successful websites have in common. This eBook is the result of that experience.
As a celebration of putting this eBook out into the world I am going to publish one chapter from it every week here on this blog.
If you can’t wait for the weekly installments to arrive and you want to learn all ’10 Essential Elements of a Successful Estate Agent Website’ right now, please follow this link to get your FREE copy. Those of you that sign up to get your copy will get an extra bonus chapter which won’t be published on this blog.
As ever, if you have any questions please let me know via the contact page or by giving me a call on 01903 527927
Without further delay, here is Chapter 1!
1. Get Found
Getting found, in the context of the internet means that site visitors can get to your website either by discovering or searching for it via social media (such as Twitter or Facebook) or via one of the many online search engines such as Google. For the purposes of this eBook it is easier to refer to Google although other search engines are available.
Getting found is dependent upon a huge number of different factors, all of which will have some impact on exactly where in the search engine results your website will appear. Some factors have been worked out by professionals through trial and error but there are many more elements that no one can really claim to understand.
It is fair to say that the single largest benefit to your company is to be found in Google Search Engine Results or SERPS for short. Among the barrage of factors Google consider in ranking your website pages they do occasionally allude to particular attributes which they favour, such as mobile performance or having a secure website.
The biggest driver to getting found in the last 5 years has most certainly been the rise of mobile internet. Mobile phones, tablets and a host of hybrid devices have led to most of the world having internet access wherever they are. One mountain climber even managed to send a Tweet from the top of Mount Everest.
So how is mobile important?
The significance of the rise of mobile internet is that for the first time, mobile searching has surpassed searches from ‘Desktops’. More people search the internet from their phone or tablet than a conventional computer. This change in habits is pretty monumental and has a wide range of implications. If you looked back more than 5 years ago mobile was already a factor in web design but to be honest, it was largely an afterthought. The view was often pedalled that with so few of your visitors being mobile, designers didn’t really need to think too hard about them. Large companies with some serious disposable income may have had a separate mobile website in addition to their regular one resulting in more maintenance requirements, duplication of effort and quite a large ongoing cost.
Today our approach is leaner, more efficient and cheaper to produce and maintain. We build our clients’ websites to be totally responsive. What this means is that the website will change shape and reflow to fit the size of the device accessing it. One site, for all devices which results in less maintenance and less ongoing cost. As the majority of visitors to your website will be using a phone or tablet and it’s really important to give them a good experience and not to leave it as an afterthought.
Make your website faster
A quick website is really important. The reasons are many but most significantly a website that loads fast will:
1. Rank more highly in search engine results. This means your website will be found more and receive more traffic.
2. Ensure a good experience for your site visitors. If you site loads slowly, especially on a mobile, visitors will become frustrated and leave your site before you get a chance to convert them to a sale or a lead.
Optimise images and media
It is important that you or your web designer know how to optimise your sites content to be as light weight as possible. Light weight content is content which has been optimised to load quickly and use the smallest amount of resources possible while maintaining an acceptable level of quality for the content to achieve its purpose.
Lightweight images and content load faster, reduce the overall load time of the page and help you maintain a website that ranks well in search engines and gives a good user experience.
Ensure site and property listings are searchable
Your website is going to have a lot of content. Not too many regular pages but lots of images and details about property for sale and rent. Naturally your site will need to reflect the services you provide and the property types that you market for your clients, however, you need to ensure that all this content is easily found by your site visitors. Your site content will likely get updated daily, this new content must be made available for search and must be made indexable by the search engines.
Visitor habits vary greatly. While some users are happy to wade through listings or re order listings, many visitors will simply want to search your site for what they want. Don’t lose out on those potential sales by having your content set to ‘not index’ or by not having some kind of in site search function.
Easy to use search function
You may think this is an extension of the earlier point, and you are correct to a degree. Not only does your content need to be made available to site-based searches but the way your site search is implemented is really important.
We have all been to those sites where you can’t find what you want. What we do on those sites is simple, most of the time we leave to find a site which is easier to use. Every visitor that can’t find what they want is a potential lost sale. We want to maximise your sales, and as such strongly advise that you have a really good search function on your website. Let your visitors type into a box that doesn’t contain distracting options, buttons or checkboxes. While we are at it ensure that your site search function ONLY searches YOUR site. Many sites use free tools like Google Site Search and often site builders leave the default option intact, which is, to search the site AND all of Google.
Serving search results to your visitors which will draw them away from your website to another really isn’t going to help your conversion process.
Ensure your content is free of jargon
It may sound like a very simple thing but make sure your website is in plain English. This is a tricky balance to strike. Your website must use sufficiently plain and easy to understand language that your visitors understand, BUT your website must use the appropriate vocabulary that the search engines would expect to see on an Estate Agent website.
Why is language important you ask? Google, amongst others use ‘niche vocabulary’ as an indicator as to how a web page should be ranked. Google will look for certain words as a sign that your web page or site is relevant. More relevant pages are ranked more highly.
So there you are, use the right language, but don’t use any unnecessarily complicated words. Write simply and plainly about what you do. Your research will be telling you the best way to communicate with your clients as well as their technical ability. Use this information when crafting your content.
Proper management of meta tags, titles etc.
Website management is often overlooked. Every page, post or image is capable of having extra information attached to it. Image tags can and should have ‘alt text’ added to them. Alt text is readable if a browser is set not to show an image. Not very common but absolutely essential to those that use screen readers to read out the content of a web page. Alt text isn’t just important for accessibility though. Search engines use alt text to enable images to show up in searches and some argue that alt text also plays a part in SEO.
A long time ago search engines used meta keywords to help rank a page in its results. This got heavily abused however so it is no longer considered to be a factor in search engine rankings and it is my recommendation that you do not use them. Meta descriptions however are still very useful. A meta description can be added to a page or a post and is the short paragraph you see in Google search engine results that tell you what the page is about.
A lot of websites don’t have meta descriptions and in that case Google will just take an early part of the page content and use that. However, if you neglect your meta descriptions you are missing a trick. You have the power to define what text search engine users get to see. This is worth considering very carefully and constructing your meta descriptions in a way to entice potential customers to your site.
Page titles are also of great importance not only for SEO but to tell the visitor what the page is about. Ensure that your page title and page content etc. all play nicely together. Read a few SEO books from Amazon (make sure they are published this year) and you will get the basics pretty quickly. You can always contact us for some more advanced insight.
Thanks for reading this excerpt from ’10 Essential Elements of a Successful Estate Agent Website’. I will post another excerpt next week but if you can’t wait until then and you want to read the whole eBook right now, please follow this link to get your FREE copy.