• Shannon

Generate real estate leads: tweak your homepage

Every occupation has its “hazards,” right? Yours includes the dangers of showing homes to strangers, deals falling apart and impossible clients.

An occupational hazard in my business is reading real estate agent websites. It pains me much of the time.

So many agents spend a small fortune on their websites only to then be tossed out into the world by the web development company or designer with no clue that their sites won’t work without additional tweaking.

By “work,” I mean engage prospects, convert leads or even get them to stick around long enough for you to work your magical powers of persuasion.

If you’ve purchased a site from some of the biggies, such as Real Estate Webmasters, Easy Agent Pro or Pro Agent Websites, you need to know that the site isn’t really finished until YOU customize it.

If you hope to rank organically for local searches, it’s something you absolutely must do, and soon.

Let’s start with your homepage.

Your homepage is your site’s curb appeal

You have only 10 to 20 seconds to convince those who land on your homepage to stick around, according to an in-depth study by the Nielsen Norman Group – to get your value proposition across.

“Value proposition” is one of those lame phrases people toss around, neglecting to explain what it means.

In a nutshell, a value proposition describes “the problem you solve, and why you're distinctly better than the alternatives,” according to Michael Skok at Forbes.com.

While your homepage represents your site’s curb appeal, your value proposition is what lures them to enter (hopefully).

Here’s an example of a site that gets the value proposition out front

While the dog food delivery service industry is experiencing huge growth, Pet Plate makes it clear that not only does it offer fresh, healthy, human-grade dog food, it delivers to your door.

So, ok, it’s not a real estate site. Although I don’t particularly care for the cluttered look of his homepage, Boston agent, Collin Bray, at least gets his value proposition – “the best price with less stress” -- out front. A pity he doesn’t mention “Boston” front and center, though.

Additional photos above-the-fold further cement this proposition by showing Collin in a relaxed, seated position and another of his folded hands that also gives off the “chill” vibe.

I would, however, replace the middle photo of his awards against that spooky backdrop.

My favorite way to communicate value, however, is through testimonials. There’s nothing more effective than someone who has used your service singing your praises.

Diggs, a brokerage in Montrose, California does it right, with a homepage slideshow, front and center, of various client photos and their testimonials. In fact, of the hundreds of agent homepages I viewed, this is by far the best.

Two things prevent this from being perfect, however: The name of the brokerage is cut in half and aside from the teeny email addy at the very top, we don’t know where these people work.

“Find your home” and “Sell your home” could very easily be localized. That testimonial, though, is brilliant. I believe so much in the power of testimonials that I use one on my own homepage, in addition to my value proposition.

Where the heck are you?

We’re still working above the fold here, since that is what your visitor will see first. What’s happening there on yours?

If your site is like so many other agent sites, I could land on it and not have any idea where you list and sell real estate.

As an example, I asked Google for a random city and it gave me Bakersfield. I performed a search for “homes for sale in Bakersfield” and navigated to the third page of the search results.

Once there, I went to the first agent website I came to, Mary Christenson of Watson Realty.

Although it’s a bit lame (who says she is “trusted, respected and recommended?”), she did get a value statement in there. But, if I were a consumer searching for homes in Bakersfield and landed on her page, how would I know that I’m in the right place?

Do you see Bakersfield mentioned anywhere on the above-the-fold section pictured above?

Neither does Google, apparently, which is why she’s on page three for a hyper-local search term.

There is so much more that can be done with just this little patch of website real estate. First, I’d replace the value proposition (Trusted Respected Recommended, which might be her tagline) with a testimonial that proves that.

She has an entire page of them, one of which begins with “Simply put, Mary Christenson is an outstanding realtor.”

Or, how about this one: “Your ability to get top dollar for my home within two days of being listed left me so impressed.”

Now that shows value, right?

Fixing the lack of localization is easy too. At the very least, stick “Bakersfield” in as many places as possible. For instance, “Specializing in Luxury Homes, Estate Properties and Golf Course Communities in Bakersfield.”

Below that, how about “What’s your Bakersfield Home Worth,” and, instead of “Search by Area,” how about “Search by Bakersfield neighborhood?”

Just one more and then we’ll get to agents who are rocking their homepage.

Team Triangle Realty in Durham, North Carolina. Their homepage lacks any hint of where they’re located, missing out on a huge SEO advantage.

Also note the lack of a value proposition. And, while I’m being dis-ish, why are they ok with allowing the green text to be cut off with no way to scroll to see what it says?

Is there anything on that homepage that compels you to venture further into the site? Is there anything of value to the reader?

Brendan King lacks the value proposition that would intrigue me to learn more about him, and he needs to lose the dark overlay over the photos, but at least we know he works in Vegas:

Dark overlays may be ok for some industries, but not real estate. “Is this how he'll market photos of MY home?” every potential home seller asks themselves.

Tate Brownlee in NSW Australia knows what he’s doing with his homepage. The photo is awesome. He looks relaxed and approachable. But, more important, I know immediately which communities he serves.

Here are two sites created by the same website company. They illustrate how easy it is to customize these template sites to help with SEO.

The top site almost gives the impression that it’s a furniture store (“Luxury Collection” and “Home Services”) or maybe a home builder.

Although I’m sure the agent thinks everyone in the world knows that Berkshire Hathaway is a real estate company, she is wrong.

I did an informal survey of friends and family. Most thought it was an investment management firm, like Charles Schwab. Only one knew that it was a real estate brokerage.

So, there’s that. Then, there isn’t a clue as to where she does business.

While Hamilton Luxury Group’s homepage is better, it’s far from ideal. They need to ditch the “Welcome to hamiltonluxurygroup.com.” First, the site's URL is NOT a keyword. Second, it takes up space that could be filled with a value proposition (such as a testimonial).

The location in the search box is cool and the list of neighborhoods they serve helps me immediately understand I’m on the right site if I’m looking for a home in or around Scottsdale.

Go take a look at your homepage. Is it working as hard as it can to entice visitors to stick around and generate real estate leads?

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