Every web savvy real estate agent wants a website that dominates the local market. With hard work and patience, many agents make it happen, only to find that this holy grail can raise as many challenges as it solves. The biggest concern most agents face at this point is how to drive business from a steady stream of web traffic – thousands of home buyers and sellers may browse their site every day, only to call someone else when its time to negotiate a deal. Even more frustrating, methods that once converted a high percentage of web users into clients may be less effective in today’s ever-changing online realty world.
Generating business and client leads is not a new challenge for online agents. But the rules of the game are shifting as more websites compete for user attention. In the past, top ranked sites were able to convert users to clients with search tools and custom technology, but that isn’t always the case anymore.
Two major developments in the online real estate community have changed this: search engine optimization (SEO), and the proliferation of high profile national real estate sites. SEO has allowed many sites to dominate search engine rankings without necessarily offering advanced technology, but through high-quality content and smart site structure. This creates an issue because it rewards solid information architecture, but not necessarily services and tools which are of equal importance to online home buyers and sellers. So a site could rise to the top of search engine results and still have very little to offer users, or only half of what they want – on the other hand, sites that rise in the rankings because of popularity will generally have a more well-rounded selection of services. National sites have always been a part of the online real estate landscape, but they’ve spread considerably in recent years. They’ve also become more area-specific – many sites offer advanced search and market comparison technology for every corner of the nation, sometimes eclipsing the offerings of small sites that focus on a particular area. National sites also tend to focus less on client conversion, and so they make their technology even more accessible to users. For example, a home evaluation service on a small regional site that requires users to sign up and submit their email address might be completely accessible on a national site.
Real estate agents with top ranked sites also face the challenge of maintaining their position, and deciding which new tools to develop to stay ahead of the national sites. Successful agents will likely develop ways to partner with national sites that make their services redundant, and still keep their personal branded site at the top of the search engines.