Agent Website Mistakes

26 minute read

Agent Website Mistake Number 1 – The Splash Page
Any agent that has a splash page, music or animation as an introduction to their website shows a complete lack of knowledge of the Internet and its users. Many agents think it may be cool. I cannot think of any reason why a user of your site will do anything but get completely annoyed by this tacky, unprofessional approach to the Internet.

So if you are one of the guilty parties, call your web developer today and get it removed, if your web developer suggested it, then get rid of them too.

This is why some agents just don’t get it when it comes to the Internet. You should be grateful to every user that comes to your website. Why would you take up your visitors time with a silly introduction, have a look at your server logs and you will see that the majority of your site users will always click on the skip intro button. This is because you are wasting their time. (as a note the worst of these are where the user is not even given the option to skip the introduction)

A couple of questions for agents with Flash introduction pages.
Does your front office administration go into a song and dance when someone comes into your office with an enquiry? No!

Do you get your sales staff to sing a song before answering the customers enquiries by phone? I hope not!

So why is it that some agents think they can waste their visitors time by making it harder/take longer for them to get the information you are so keen to display for them?

Your site should be completely designed around a steady mix of getting the information to your visitors as simply/quickly as possible and at the same time showing the strength of your services and your brand.

As an agent over 95% of your visitors will go to your site to look at properties. This is also how the majority of Agents make money so ticking off your visitors for self gratification makes no sense at all.

Please please please never ever ever use music, it is corny and it annoys the hell out of your users. If you have to have this give the site users the ability to turn the wretched thing off. Then look at your server logs and you will find it to be your most popular website option!

So if you are one of these agents that has a Flash introduction or music take this kick in the guts and just do what is right and turn the darn thing off.

Agent Website Mistake Number 2 – Ownership
It still amazes me today that so many agents still do not have a website. There are over 2000 real estate agents sites that are built by The majority of these sites are pretty basic and only benefit the portal and not the agents. This is why.

There are two examples of how this works against the agents best interests.
As an example go to and search for a property. As soon as you search you will notice that all data is loaded within a frame. Basically the site user has left your website and is now on . This is delivered through frames within your web page. This not only looks terrible but can have severe implications on search engines like Google. This is because no matter what page you look at on this site the domain name (URL), page title, description and keywords are exactly the same. It simply never changes, users of the site cannot bookmark a listing and Google will only recognise this website as a one page site.

This site uses a basic frame structure. When a user visits this site and looks for a property (95% of the sites visitors) they are redirected to (look at the domain name when you search). Basically this site more so than the first example is not promoting their business they are promoting the company they pay good money to list with. This makes no sense.

When Internet advertising first started this form of advertising was the norm but now thankfully more and more agents are moving away from these types of websites. This trend will continue as agents owners and managers better understand the Internet medium.

Getting Left Behind
The ones that remain are being left behind and will continue to be so. The Internet age has made real estate agents websites the major factor in determining thge value of an agency. The future will see more and more systems and automated processes included in agents websites.

The Future
As with many other businesses real estate agencies value is moving away from its people and to systems and processes, these systems and processes allow agencies strong growth into other regions and therfore can quickly build wealth for the owners. This is why so many of the major chains demand that their franshisees list through their websites and systems (LJ Hooker, Elders etc) because they are building their franchise wealth. This is why the big winners will be agencies that create their own systems and processes that they can easily demonstrate and pass on to potential buyers and franchisees.

Imagine having an Agency website where all communication between buyers, potential buyers, vendors, tenants is fully automated leaving the sales staff and administration to concentrate on the very people that increase their wealth and that of their vendors.

This is the future and will decide the big winners in the agency stakes over the next ten years.

Agent Website Mistake Number 3 – Branding
I only needed to take a sample of 30 websites from around Australia to come to this conclusion – The Majority of Real Estate Agents care little about their online image! Agents seem to care more about their image in traditional media than they do on the Internet and it hurts their business.

For as long as I can remember all of the great companies around the world have had a consistent brand. Think of Nike, Virgin and Apple – all of these companies have a recognisable and valuable brand, this is because they always had a consistent approach to their image.

Traditional Branding
If I look through paper real estate guides Agents are always trying to improve the quality of their presentation to establish and differentiate themselves from their competitors.

Online Branding
However I go online and so many agents just have basic websites, with poor logo quality, compression techniques (aids in faster page loads) and poor design/layout.

The one thing agents need to understand is that the Internet is controlled by site users not companies, they decide what they like and do not like, they also decide whether they will ever return and the impression you leave on them. In most cases you will never know about your visitors feeling of your site because they just leave and never return.

Another reason for poor website design is that agents do not get to feel their site, it is not like print where you get that “touchy feely” satisfaction. Many agents also do not understand the technology and can have the “wool pulled over their eyes”.

I often hear agents tell me that their developer said it was their problem, in most cases this is not true. As the Internet has now become Agents standout marketing tool Agents need to understand at least the basics of the technology that is driving their business. When I say agents I mean all Agents and their staff. It is no longer an excuse to say I do not understand, try to learn a little bit each week, it really is quite simple and if explained correctly very easy to pick up.

Agents are also more willing to accept mistakes on their websites, but show them a spelling mistake in their paper guide and they will not be impressed!

Print Designers
This is because many agents websites are designed by print designers who have little or no skill whatsoever when it comes to Internet design, this is because they are two completely different mediums.

Many print designers will probably say “I can do that” but the fact is the majority of them cannot. I can always tell when a print designer has designed an agents site, poor image manipulation/compression, sites only work in certain web browsers, errors occur on many pages, website code taken (stolen) from other websites (this happens all the time), slow loading pages, no meta tags and terrible navigation.

Many agents sites are designed by print designers because many agents employ these people full time. Most of these professionals are very good at print design but not so good at Internet design.

If you are ever going to use a print designer give them the training they need to become a web developer. TAFE colleges provide 6 week courses for this, otherwise hire a skilled website designer, these are easy to pick, just look at their work!

It all starts with a Style Guide
Every Agent should also create a style guide, this gives any person who uses your image specific instructions about exact colours and logos and how they must be used. Your print designers can do this for you and for a few hundred dollars it will make a difference.

Agent Website Mistake Number 4 – Layout
Laying out a real estate site should be a simple process. Each agency wants to be different from their competitor and this is fine. Your design should reflect your brand. However it is the fundamentals that must be consistent with your user market.

The last thing a user of your site should need to do is to work out how you have constructed your page to work out the navigation, it should be simple an intuitive. The fundamentals should be the same for most agents.

Think about your target!
Give your users what they want in as few a steps as possible.
Your business makes money from selling or leasing real estate, so these two sections of your site should have precedence over anything else you would like to do. The buttons may be larger, you may want to have latest listings appear on your front page. This is good for search engines because they scan your site for changes and if the front pages change often their “bots”* will return often.

Automated Systems
You should also give users of your site the ability to receive property listings automatically by email. It should be a simple sign on/sign off (subscribe/unsubscribe) system as your government makes it law that subscribers should be able to unsubscribe quickly and easily. This system should be completely automated. You should be able to login and see how many subscribers there are and manage these subscribers from your admin section.

Laying out your site should be the role of your carefully chosen developer, it is the window that can make or break your online business. You should test it for errors and make sure from a users perspective it is as simple as possible. Show your developer example sites (they should be real estate sites) as a guide for what you want. and never try to be too clever.

Some nice simple sites to look at: (excellent navigation and other information) (pretty good systems and nice layout) (great single office website)

*Bots or Robots are what many search engines including Google use to roam the web servers to collect web site data for inclusion in their search engines index.

Agent Website Mistake Number 5 – Content
One thing I have noticed is that many agents websites have either too much content or too little and the quality of the information in some cases is appalling. You company is on display to people you do not know and they make up their minds about you very quickly online. This is a guide to getting you content just right.

I am not going to focus on pages that contain information about you or your company. Whilst it is important to have this information on your site, the fact remains that 95%+ of your visitors will never bother to look at this information. I will concentrate on your listings copy.

There are typically two types of enquiries from prospective buyers/tenants you will receive from your website.

1. More Information Enquiry.
The more information enquiry will all be about getting some more information about the property, maybe you have not specified rates, or maybe there are not many images, maybe you do not have a price displayed and maybe the prospect wants a ball park figure. This can be seen as wasting all parties time, for if you then provide this information and the buyer is not interested both parties can become frustrated. This first enquiry will more than likely be in an email, it is non personal and the prospect can distance themselves from the salesperson.

2. Informed Enquiry.
This is the best type of enquiry as the person has clearly got all the information required and is seriously interested in this property or something like it. Your website has provided this information and now your sales staff can concentrate on a possible walkthrough. This is what the Internet should be all about. You will more than likely get a phone call from this person. They are well informed and interested.

You as an agent can work this out for yourself, go through all of your recent enquiries and see if you can improve, are there a common questions being raised.

Note: I understand that agents may just want contact and sometimes not providing them with information may get this contact for you and you will be able to work them from there. However I believe when it comes to properties not too many people purchase properties they do not like.

Here is how I think things can be improved.

Text + Property Information
A nice clean header for each property that captures the essence of the property, this should always jump out at you as an obvious choice.

The description should be short and informative, remember Internet users scan for information, they do not like reading long paragraphs. You should also remember that they scan information from left to right, much like reading a book. This is why the most web pages have menus at the left hand side of a web page – or across the top with the most important sections from the left.

Extended Property Information
You should always provide land and building sizes as well as rates and any special features of the property, bedrooms, bathrooms, car parks should always be included. Car Parks are sometimes a tough one, clearly let them know if it is a garage, carport, off street or open driveway. Include Council Rates and if the property could be leased an approximate annual lease return. (important)

Many agents and some vendors do not want the price displayed and this can be very frustrating for buyers and salespeople. I for one think in good times it may work to achieve better vendor results but can have a trust effect on agents that are already rigorously scrutinised by the media. I think it is best to have the price clearly displayed as it relieves allot of tension between buyers and agents.

Set all cameras to take hi res 800 x 600 (pixel) images. Images may get larger in the future but still over 30% of Internet users have 800 x 600 monitors. All major portals only allow 800 x 600 as a maximum image anyway. Before up,. loading images make sure they are compressed using software such as Adobe Photoshop Elements 3 ($175). This will reduce the size (but not quality) of your images by around 80% and make for faster uploads to servers saving you time and money.

Your Photo Plan
Your photography plan should follow the house plan, if the property has 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, Lounge, Family, Kitchen etc make sure you take at least 4 photos of each room features and then pick the best one of those four to display on your site. Each property should have around 12 images and these should all be of good quality. Having not enough photos will only lead to enquiries asking for more, having too many sometimes leads to silly photos being put up just because they were in the camera (I mean who wants to see photos of toilets and washing machines?)

VR Tours
I know I go on about this in many articles, but please get your staff to learn how to create these, it is so easy to do with the right camera and software, paying someone else to do this for you is just plumb lazy and a complete waste of money. All it is images stuck together and loaded into special software so people can move around. These can also be good revenue streams for your company in advertising rates.

Floor and Block plans are supported by all portals and can be a good value extra, PDF Files or JPEGS are supported.

All in all I think Agents should continually assess ways they can improve the property information. Many do it extremely well but the future will show the cream rising to the top.

Agent Website Mistake Number 6 – The Home Page
This is where many Agents websites fall down. The front page is all too often a chest thumping exercise that does little to benefit your agency.

Your Home Page should be a conduit to all the information on your site. If you have an entry page or “Flash” introduction you have already failed this test miserably.

The approach is very simple but the reality is it can be pretty tough to get it right. Your brand should be the first thing a person sees on your site, it should be consistent with your offline brand and of a high standard. Important note: Do not try to be clever with your home page, it is your most important page and can be the difference between someone staying for a while or leaving never to return. Never make the user load programs that they may not have, if you are using Flash on your front page, make sure Internet users can see something if they do not have the Flash plugin. (your web developer should know this).

A simplified Approach
Users of your site will more than likely want to view your listings, so your Properties ‘For Sale’ and ‘Lease’ buttons should be prominent. You should also consider having some of your latest listings automatically go to the front page, this makes it easier for regular visitors to your site to find out about the latest listings. If your web developer is capable you should also have a ‘Property Alert” subscription service. This will allow users of your site to add their email address to receive daily/weekly lists of new properties and can be very popular. (make sure your site users also have the ability to unsubscribe – think privacy laws).

There are only really a few fonts that should be used with your site. Do not try to be fancy with special fonts as web users will not see them anyway (they get to determine free text fonts). Also make sure your font size is acceptable to all eyes (old and young) as this is a common mistake young web developers make.

One of the common misconceptions is that images make the site much slower, yes your site will be slower with heavy graphics and images, but a good web developer will know how to compress these so they not only look great but are fast to load.

Contact Us
Make it so easy for your site users to contact you, you should have your phone number/email link clearly identified on the header of each page. You will notice I mentioned email link, you should never display your email address as a mailto link as spammers have programs that scan the Internet for these and you will get spammed and yes they will sell this email address as an active one.

Agent Website Mistake Number 7 – Search Engine Marketing

Now that we have a great web site how do we get visitors to your site? Because agents spend a great deal of money in traditional media promoting your businesses it makes sense that you carry your domain name (URL) with any advertising.

What the majority of agents do not understand is that search engine marketing is by far the most effective marketing tool for your website. In fact I will go as far as to say it is 5 times more effective that all traditional advertising combined!

This is because you can target the exact customers you wish to attract and only pay for the ones that are more likely to bring you income.

The Search Engine Landscape.
The search engine market is dominated by only a handful of companies and there is one company that stands head and shoulders above the rest and that is Google. Over 80% of all searches originate from Google, a distant second comes Yahoo and hot on their heals is MSN. Sensis which claims to be a location based search engine has gained about a 2% market share despite spending millions and millions of dollars marketing their search engine.

So let us take a look at how you should approach marketing your website.

Rule Number One – Get the basics right
When you build your website you should make sure all the basics are in place. Each major section of your website should have a title description and keywords set up in the underlying code. To see if this has been done go to your home page and on the browser menu select “view” and then “source” or “page source”. At the top of your page you will see meta names for title, description and keywords. It is important that each main page on your site has its own unique meta tags. (title, description and keywords)

Rule Number Two – Web Developers Stretch the Truth all the Time

When your web developer builds your website or quotes you to do your site they will say that they will register you with thousands of search engines and link lists. They may well do this but it does not work. All it does is get you listed in a search engine or link list (the latter is a great tool to make sure you get lots of spam email) This is done by using software that does it all for you.

If a web developer claims they have “unlocked” the secret of search engines then make sure you run as far away from them as possible. Search Engines like Google change the algorithms all of the time. Yes there are things you can do to get better results but these results do vary significantly.

Rule Number 3 – You Get What You Pay For.
The fact is search engine marketing is all about paying for results and it works a treat. It is also so simple to manage yourself, all you need is a credit card and about 10 minutes and you are away.

The Internet King
At this point in time there is only one type of search engine marketing that is head and shoulders about the rest and that is Google Adwords. I would suggest that you start only with the Google Adwords Campaign because it is the easiest to use and provides by far the best results.

How this works is simple, think of words that an Internet user might use in the Google Search Engine, phrases like:

real estate for sale Hobart Tasmania
real estate Kingston Tasmania
real estate glebe Sydney
realestate Balmain nsw
property for sale Camperdown Sydney
real estate agents Launceston Tasmania

The best way to do this is to set up an Excel spreadsheet with all of the suburbs that you market your listings in. This way you can then set up different columns with all the varieties of keywords used.

Note: Make sure you think of natural words that people might use as well as common spelling mistakes people make and include these. Google has a wonderful tool that can help you with other keywords that have been used that are similar to ones you have chosen.

Setting yourself up for a Google Campaign is pretty simple and if your credit card is approved you will start getting results within 20 minutes. Google also lets you know in real-time how many people have typed in your selected keywords and how many of those have clicked on your advertisement.

Some things to remember:

Google allows you to set a daily budget from $1USD upwards. This means that your ads will only appear until your budget is reached. A great initiative.

Smart Keywords
Never use terms like “real estate” on their own it will give you hundreds of visitors but these people may be looking for real estate in China for all you know. It is about targeted keywords, that is you want visitors that will give you results, so always regionlise your keywords.

Try to set aside an hour each month to refine your keywords. It pays off handsomely.

If your web developer has not given you a good statistics engine and one that you can access at any time then get stuck into them. There are so many good ones available. You should be able to see an immediate lift in visitor numbers.

Hits, Page Views, Visitors, Unique Visitors
One thing that really gets me is when companies tell us how many “hits” their website gets. The biggest culprits are media companies reporting this rubbish. A “hit” is recorded each time a file, image, link or section of a page is loaded. Most websites will record around 50 “hits” for each page that is viewed. These are terribly inaccurate. The best source of information is visitor numbers and page views, this tells you how many visitors have come to your website and how many pages they have viewed. Reputable companies only quote these figures. The big problem is reporters and journalists know as little about this as anyone and simply quote figures from companies mouths. So in future if someone tells you they get 100,000 hits a day divide that by 50 -100 to get an idea of how many page views the site gets.

Search Engine Marketing Links
Google Adwords
Sensis Bidsmart

Agent Website Mistake Number 8 – Staff Understanding (FINAL)

Well let us get things straight here, The Internet is the Number One Marketing Tool for Real Estate Agents today. My regular talks with agents makes this very clear. In fact even consumers that read newspaper real estate guides go to agents websites to get more information before making contact with the agency. So why is it that I continually hear comments from agents and their staff that they are “technology dunces”?

Being Internet “Aware” is not about knowing everything and anything to do with the Internet and the technologies that make it all happen – but it does not hurt to understand the basics. Having no idea about your most valuable marketing tool does not exactly instil confidence to your potential vendors. My belief is that it is no longer an excuse for agents and their staff to say they know nothing about technology.

The most important thing is to understand the basics about the Internet and more importantly – to care about understanding these things.

So I am going to dedicate this page to the basics.

Your Website.
Have you ever wondered how a person gets to view your website? If you are reading this article then more than likely you are on the Internet and at a computer (unless you have printed this out). If you have ever wondered how this all comes to be then read on. Let us say you are looking at your own website The first thing you have done is either typed this domain into your browser or gone directly to your site via a bookmark. When you type in your domain name (URL) your page magically loads into your browser. This happens when the domain is entered, this domain name is then sent in milliseconds to a name server somewhere across the globe. This translates your domain name into a specific IP address (every domain name has a unique IP address. This name server is then informed about where your website files are found on a particular server. (your web hosting company) and directed to this. This is where this page now loads from into your browser. Each link on your site then sends a “get” request to retrieve a different set of files to load. As an example you might click on the “about us” link on your site, this might be worked out as this then sends a “get” request for these files which are then loaded onto your site.

Your Domain Name Records
Every person that registers a domain name gets two types of records for this domain name. 1. Your A Record – This tells the name server where your website is located. 2. Your MX record – This tells the name server where your emails are located for your domain name i.e. [email protected] . This allows your emails to be located on different machines in different parts of the world.

Your Emails
If you have a legitimate email account for your domain name i.e. [email protected] then you need an email server to store your emails. When someone sends an email to this account, it goes through a similar system, i.e. goes to the name server to find out where this email address is located (email server). This email sits on this server until your email program retrieves this email. Once it is “picked off” the server it no longer exists on that server and is displayed in your email inbox. Each email has to be authorised and that is why you need to set up the account in your mail program (username and password). Quite simple really.

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