It’s been drummed into us for at least the last 15 years: the purpose of a real estate agency’s website is to get more business. For a website to do this, it has to be easy to find online, it has to integrate with property portals, it must be easy to navigate, and so on and so on.
Let’s assume you have a website that doesn’t look like it was built in 1997. How do you know if it needs to be refreshed? Here are 7 signs it’s ready.
If it’s taking more than a second to load your website, you’re not alone. While network speeds and server performance can affect page loading times, by and large, it’s page performance that’s to blame.
There’s a range of technical issues that might be causing this—things like enormous image files, old or lengthy website code, loads of plugins. The problem is, if you are having these issues, people visiting your site probably won’t wait for the page to finish loading before they leave—and go to your competitor.
How long does your site take to load? A quick way to find out is to run a speed test. Swedish analytics company Pingdom offers a free test that you can find here, and the summary of results can be understood without a degree in techspeak. Just type in your URL and set your testing country to Australia.
Think it’s the network speed that’s the problem? Try a basic internet speed test instead, such as Telstra’s speed test.
We’re working on the basis that your website is not in any way reminiscent of early-era Ebay or modern day Reddit. Assuming your site was built sometime after 2010, the first way to tell if it’s unappealing is simply by giving it a good once-over. Better still, have someone you trust appraise it.
Now, be honest with yourself. Does your page look busy? Are there multiple navigation bars? Are there low resolution images or an over-reliance on stock photos? Does it convey a sense of status, or does it look like it was built on a budget? Is it just plain ugly?
An agency’s website gives customers their first impression of that agency’s competence. An eyesore that is difficult to navigate implies a disorganised business that lacks prestige—even if your business is superbly run and well-regarded. While we understand agents aren’t in the business of running websites, unfortunately, it makes little difference to the customer.
If someone is looking for an agent to manage their property, your website’s navigation should make it as easy as possible for them to do that. Making it easy for them to choose you is a matter of simple and sensible navigation, and a well-thought out site menu.
A good way to tell if you are losing this sort of business is if a high number of visitors to your website only look at one page—usually your home page—before leaving. Most one-page visits occur because the visitor didn’t find what they were looking for (or your home page is seriously unappealing).
Google considers a one-page visit to your website a ‘bounce’, and it takes that into account when ranking your website in its search results. A high bounce rate means that Google de-prioritises you in its search results. Not even good SEO can save your site from being penalised in this way. If you use Google Analytics, here’s how to find your bounce rate. Otherwise, ask your website provider for this information, and sort out that navigation.
According to Deloitte, Australia is a leading adopter of smartphones, with an estimated 88% of adults having one and using it every day. A significant percent of website visits are made from mobile devices, and Google prioritises mobile-friendly sites in search results for this reason. Mobile responsive sites build credibility too: if people using your site have a proper experience, chances are they’ll see you as a more trustworthy operator who knows what they’re doing.
In other words, your site must be mobile responsive. Is yours? Open it on your phone or tablet and see how it looks. If it hasn’t been optimised, it’s time to change.
When websites get old, they become more prone to errors. Broken links, error codes, slow load times and a general rising fear of making small changes to your website are all signs it is too old. Besides looking and feeling old to your customers (itself a problem), older websites are vulnerable to being penalised by search engines for any errors they throw. Again, not even perfect SEO practice can save them from dropping down the list of search results if this happens.
Three years is the maximum lifespan for a website—any older than that, and you’re taking a gamble.
Your brand sets you apart from the competition: it helps people recognise you, and it builds trust in your business. That’s why it’s essential it reflects who you are as a brand today. If you find yourself embarrassed to give out your URL, this might be why.
That website built by your cousin when your business was in its first year is going to keep sending that message, i.e. that it is your first year in the business until you update it. Likewise, if you were mostly managing units, and have now moved into luxury real estate, then your website absolutely needs to reflect that new direction. An inconsistency between your website and your current brand reputation sends alarm bells off about your credibility and trustworthiness. This alone is reason enough to update your website.
Look at the list above. If your competitors are ticking those other boxes—their sites load quickly, they’re beautiful to look at, easy to navigate, mobile responsive, ranking well in search results and giving off the right messages about their brand—then you will need to do the same to stay in the game.
Spend some time looking around their websites, pretending to be a potential property owner seeking an agent to sell or manage their home. What do they do well (or not well)? Assess their performance against the criteria above, and note down what features you could incorporate, and what you think should be avoided. This should help you form an idea of what changes you want to make to your own site, and keep it competitive.
Here are a few real estate agency websites that we think are top quality.