Is Your Website Working Against Your Real Estate Career?

The_Bar_Has_Been_Raised

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

No one is denying that there has been a shake-up in the real estate industry.
Empty cubicles, where there once was a waiting list, tell the story better than I could.
A thinning of the herd is always a positive thing for those staying put, but the bottom line is that there will always be more agents in the field than ready-to-act buyers and sellers.

So we ask, what are you doing to ensure that you are a ‘stayer’ in 2008?
There is common saying that I can’t see being much more appropriate than now: Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.

Along with this national ‘shift in the market’, that has many agents looking for a new career, there is another ‘shift’ that will certainly lead to the frustration and demise of many seasoned and novice agents alike.

The Digital Divide.

In 1997, an agent having an online identity was the exception and today it is the rule.
Unfortunately, today 99% of these online real estate identities have been rendered mostly useless.
The typical agent’s website is a glorified digital brochure with it’s only useful tool being the ubiquitous home search button.
So the rhetorical question becomes: Of what use is a canned real estate agent website to today’s ready-to-act buyers and sellers?

Your challenge: Today’s internet user (real estate related) is looking for Right Now Answers to their Right Now Questions.  They are looking for and expecting Perspective and Insight from a changing industry.

Being a huge fan of Wired Magazine, I am going to lift one of their standbys in order to illustrate how the industry is failing to meet the expectations of the internet user and what can be done to improve the effort.

Introducing the Expired, Tired and Wired when it comes to the online presence of a real estate agent.

Expired:

The typical agent’s website is a glorified digital brochure with it’s only useful tool being the ubiquitous home search button.

Personal Domain Names
It’s not supposed to be about you.  Its supposed to be about what you are doing for me.  Using your name as your domain name already gives me the feeling that I am about to land on a site where you tell me all about your designations, awards, hobbies, pet’s name and top it all off with a Glamour-Shots headshot from 10 years ago.

The Intro Page
No Content = No SEO
Why are you making me click twice to get into your site?
Please tell me that you aren’t still using flash to welcome visitors.  That’s so 2001

The Canned Welcome Message
Your message has been used on 1000’s of sites.  Google ignores it.  And so does everyone who comes to your site.  Terrible first impression.

Local Links: Weather, Schools, Chambers…
If I wanted to check the weather do you really think I am going to think of your website?

Link Exchanges
First AdvancedAccess got nailed, now just recently it was RealEstateWebmasters.  It’s SEO gaming, people.

Free Reports
At least you aren’t charging for dated advice that you didn’t write, and probably never even read.

Canned Drip Marketing Campaigns
“Spring is here.  Time for a little Spring Cleaning”  – I just threw up in my mouth a little.  This type of useless marketing sucks.
These are just as bad as the free reports you didn’t write/read.  Worst part?  You are sending them to me and I never even subscribed.

Featured Properties
Is this as discriminating as it sounds?  This must make your other sellers feel like their properties aren’t as important.  Just send me to where I can see all properties.

Sounds On Your Site
Please, no songs, no sound effects, no spoken intro messages.
People like to choose when they hear sounds, especially when browsing at work.

wired_magMore Than 10 Buttons in your Navigation
How many choices are too many?  Some things are just too obvious.

Tired:

Home Value, Property Request and Pre-qualification Forms
With all the above working against you when it comes to being resourceful destination for your visitor, do you really think that you are going to have people filling these out?  Not a chance.

Mortgage Calculators
Why don’t I just make up a number?   It will probably be just as accurate.
If I knew exactly what the rate was that I was qualified for, don’t you think I would have also already gotten past the ‘what can I afford’ stage?

Personal Logos
Leaning on your name is pretentious.

Framing anything other than your 3rd Party IDX Solution
Your site must be less than adequate if you are concerned I may not come back to it as a superior resource.

Wired:

Descriptive, Catchy, and/or Memorable Domain Names
Been here once?  Bet you never had trouble recalling it a second time.
Try these: RainCityGuide.com, PortOrangeJuice.com, UrbanDigs.com, ArlingtonDirt.com, RealEstateSnippets.com, and FocusOnCrofton.com

The Blogsite in Place of the Website

Participation in the RE.net
Embrace your fellow agents in the online community.

The friendships, alliances and networks that you forge in this dawn of social media will payoff much faster and more frequently than establishing yourself as an online island.  Read your competition’s peers’ blogs, comment on their posts, encourage them to fight-the-good-fight.  This effort will earn and attract traffic to your online presence. You can even twist this into a “keep your friends close, and your enemies even closer” sentiment if you needed to.

Social Networking
This movement is more than a fad.  It is the reality you are going to find yourself behind with if you don’t get involved now.
Take the time to participate in a few, and grow your online reach.  I spend time working with Linkedin, ActiveRain, Facebook.

…for lack of a better phrase, real estate was caught with its pants down, and unable to curb the media frenzy.

Staying Ahead Of The Media
Before blogging it was virtually impossible for agents to counter the media and their claims.
As the nation braced for the “resettling” of home values, for lack of a better phrase, real estate was caught with its pants down, and unable to curb the media frenzy.

When it comes to the perception of your potential client, you are not just competing with the agent next door; you are also competing with perception set by the local and national media.  Right now, there is plenty of money being made in real estate, just not in commission checks and equity.  The doom and gloom are great lead-ins to the 11 o’clock news and selling the Sunday paper.

Having your voice in the ears and eyes of your past, present and future clients will continue to have you being seen as their trusted resource for real estate consulting.  The news may not always be good, but building an audience that trusts your perspective is the goal.
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So, this whole article was originally inspired by conversations we had with many dozens of agents… and although we could have just ended it a sentence ago, the intention of starting it would not have truly been accomplished.

You see, over the last year, we’ve received several hundred inquiries to our site, looking for more information on taking advantage of the services we offer.  Recently, we personally attempted to re-contact every inquiry that did not end up becoming a client.  Hard to believe I know… but there were a few :).  What our team found, was a strong portion of those that never acted, still haven’t.  They are hanging on to their “Wait and see” mantra.

If you were to jump into a real estate career today, would you be volunteering for more floor time?  Organizing mass-mailers?  Sitting in others’ open houses?

Well, that’s what we are hearing over and over again as the Safe Strategy.  Agents are still willing to try and ride out the storm with more and more of the same old, same old.

The other alarming uncovering was the many stories of seasoned agents whom, with as many as 12-15 years in the industry, just 12 months ago were on cruise control, are now scrambling to get their business back on track.

Is Playing It Safe Really The Safe Play?

Or would you be making an effort to pave the way for your voice to be heard in the arenas where it is being sought?

Let’s look back at that Safe Play:

This movement is more than a fad.  It is the reality you are going to find yourself behind with if you don’t get involved now.

When the industry was healthy, it seemed that to generate a relationship with a potential client, all one needed to focus on was placing oneself in front of those looking to buy or sell.  The media was either positive or indifferent.

But in 2005–6, things changed. The media got involved and ran with the story of a housing bubble. Ellen Renish, speaking for NAR on the topic said “What happened to us is the media.”  Stories about a real estate “bubble” and its potential to burst caused consumers to “not do anything,” she says. “And nothing happened. The bubble stories really stopped things for three months,” Renish said. “It was pretty scary.”

What was most compelling about this situation in 2006 was the inability for agents to counter the media and their claims.

And then the bottom did fall out.  Predictably, the media kicked up their reporting in full swing.

Earlier this month, RIS media held a round table discussion on the topic.  Ron Peltiercommented “The media likes to create sensationalism, but the fact is we’re going through a national correction….There are only local stories, and they’re more relevant.”  Well yeah!  Of course… it is local.

The challenge is, real estate agents, for the most part, are not geared to “talk” local.  If agents are to counter the media, they need to COUNTER the media.  Fight words with words.  But just how do you do this when your marketing is based on recipe cards, newspaper ads and a clickable brochure with a home search?

With the media covering real estate more now then ever before, do you really think people are going online to just look for homes?  They are looking for knowledge and wisdom.  Simply put, your template website doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of offering them what they are looking for.  They are looking for PERSPECTIVE and INSIGHT not for links to the zoo or a free report on the 10 steps to getting your house ready to sell.

The gap of the Digital Divide is only widening.