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By Phil Spencer

Founder, Move iQ


TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Phil Spencer: agents should make their own website stand out from the crowd

Changes to the way the property market operates over the last year - with increased flexibility and remote interactions - has placed an even greater value on having a high-performing website.

Throw in to the mix that there is a growing number of property portals competing for consumers' attention - some of which have multi-million pound advertising budgets - and it's not hard to understand why the thought of creating a website that stands out is challenging for many agents.

However, there's no denying that your website is an extension of your brand and acts as a 24-hour shop window for consumers.  The market is so competitive right now that many prospective sellers and landlords will be whittling down their shortlists based purely on what they see when they visit a website.

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So, as well as being easy-to-use, mobile-friendly and SEO-optimised, a good agency website in 2021 also needs to have plenty of personality and differentiators.

Below is a range of tips on some of the features which can give your estate agency website the best chance of success…

Qualify visitors and increase focus on sellers/landlords

An issue with some estate agent websites is focusing too heavily on buyers and tenants, rather than sellers and landlords.

The vast majority of buyers and tenants will come through portal listings, allowing you to add them to your database and keep in contact with them regularly from there.

With sellers and landlords paying agents' bills, your website needs to stand out to them and provide them with the opportunity to get in touch or instruct you.

Of course, it's important to show prospective clients how you would market their property, but an emphasis on property search can be too buyer/tenant-centric, pushing sellers and landlords away without taking any action.

Being able to qualify visitors immediately is an extremely useful way of saving time and working out which enquiries need to be prioritised.

Some agents have taken to asking visitors to qualify themselves on their homepage. This is a great way of making your website more efficient and ensuring that all visitors are presented with the information that is most relevant to them.

Do you have an up-to-date blog page?

The vast majority of estate agent websites will have a blog or news article page, but the make or break for prospective clients will be the relevance and timeliness of any content displayed.

Put simply, if your latest blog was from 2017, this looks bad. Your blog or news page provides a great opportunity to educate, inform and even rank higher in searches by asking the right questions.

The content you produce is dual-purpose. Not only is it useful to have on your website, but it can be used on social media to keep things fresh and steer away from the dreaded property listing posts.

In recent weeks, there have been plenty of big news events for agents to comment on, from the stamp duty holiday extension and 95% mortgage guarantee scheme in sales, to the introduction of Breathing Space regulations and an arrears mediation scheme in lettings.

On top of news content, local area guides are fantastic for SEO and allow you to showcase your local knowledge and inject a bit of personality into proceedings.

Is your website a cliché-free zone?

When writing website copy to showcase a business, it can be easy to fall into the trap of using the same well-worn phrases.

Browsing estate agents' websites, you'll often see a selection of the same phrases such as 'innovative', 'bespoke', 'integrity' or 'tailored service'.

It would be close to impossible to avoid any website cliches when talking about the service you provide to clients. However, it can be beneficial to review what your website says and ask yourself whether it comes across as completely genuine.

Explaining what makes your firm different and telling the story of your brand in a non-corporate way can help you to stand out from the crowd.

Bold and powerful imagery can pay dividends

The homepage of your website is there to impress visitors and wow them with aspirational imagery.

In recent times, more agents are using their homepages to display large bold images of the local area - taking this approach can have a big impact.

Using real images of the local area and culture is a more dynamic way of showing prospective clients that you're in tune with the local market and demographic.

These images can be updated seasonally, while some agents will even partner with local photographers and artists to ensure their imagery is unique and powerful.

Stock images serve a purpose, but for your virtual shop window, an emphasis on bold, original and local images is more effective.

The importance of user experience

As mentioned above, when it comes to attracting website traffic agents have stiff competition from the property portals.

These websites are slick, well-developed and have a big focus on user experience, so estate agent websites need to mirror this approach in order to cut the mustard with consumers.

A seamless and easy-to-navigate website is the minimum prospective clients would expect from your site. It also needs to be fully responsive.

Research from Statcounter suggests that in the UK, mobile and tablet usage accounts for over 52% of browsing. And this trend is only likely to grow in the coming years.

*Phil Spencer is a presenter, author, businessman and property investor. Phil’s consumer advice platform Move iQ, is a website, YouTube channel and podcast. Each preserve and reflect the same impartiality that consumers trust and base their property moving plans. Coming soon: Move iQ Pro, Phil’s resource to support the property community. Stay tuned ready for launch!

  • Chris Arnold

    Research also shows that the more propositions a viewer is asked to believe, the less the site converts.
    So there needs to be a clear and compelling reason for them to stay on the site. Most agencies cram as much information and narrative on their site as possible, believing it portrays them as the expert - it doesn't.
    After the Home page, the next most visited page is the About Us page and yet most agency sites say little about the staff. If they do, it's usually a short bio stuffed with meaningless information and past experience. Could it be more boring?

  • Amanda OBrien

    As a content creator for estate agents and lettings agents, I was particularly interested to read the section regarding blog content and local area guides. I couldn't have put it better myself!

    Every blog post you publish can easily be repurposed across your social media platforms. It can also be used as a newsletter and sent out to your database or used as a video script for an engaging piece to camera.

    Local area guides and e-guides can also have a huge impact, showcasing your area knowledge and expertise within your local community and of course helping your SEO!

  • Oliver Chapple

    Given the lack of walk-ins over the past year and the evidence we now see that property valuation leads are mainly coming from Websites, or at least from a telephone enquiry following a website visit, Phil Spencer hits the nail on the head here. One of the biggest mistakes that some estate agent websites still make is having visitors fill out too many boxes in forms, for either booking viewings or valuations. 20% of visitors drop off with every additional box to fill out, so make sure your Website is not in the big form to fill out list of agents that make this mistake. The website is there for information and lead generation. Look at fast lead options that enable you to capture leads with minimal information like Webdadi has. Also its time to consider Chatbot's in your websites to do that piece that Phil mentions which is to qualify the leads as best as you can. A Chatbot can do this in a very conversational way. Roughtly 4% of your visitors can potentially convert to valuation leads just using a chatbot. Why not look at piloting one?!

  • Simon Brown ESTAS

    As usual some very valuable tips from Phil! Agents are sometimes just too close to their own business/website to understand exactly what vendors and landlords want to see on the agents website.
    Interestingly Phil didn't mentioned one thing I think is key - customer reviews. Genuine, up to date reviews clearly displayed on a homepage are an invaluable way to validate an agent's service and keep their site cliché-free. According to Google 73% of customers decide if they want to do buy/use a business just from their website so it's crucial agents can demonstrate how they good they are.

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    Having a great looking all sing all dancing website is very important for all agents but it's the content that's most important. Agents must show why they are different and should be the agent of choice. As Chris Arnold says the About Us page is very important and must show your company values. At Vaboo we regularly provide all our clients with content both for their websites and social media, which shows they think differently, value and care about their customers for the long term.

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    Offr is a new Barclays backed tech platform, which allows agents to transform their website from just visual to fully transactional, including placing offers, registering to bid, virtual viewing arrange inspection, signing contracts and making secure payments. No third party website. In the agent's colours. Am I conflicted, yes, as one of the cofounders!!! Please take a look. Works for traditional sales, auctions, lettings and new homes sales. Potential game changer. OFFR.IO

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