One peculiar thing stands out after you sift through a few dozen real estate sites: many do not use a headline.
By contrast, sift through a few dozen brand sites outside of real estate – Amazon, Nordstrom, Apple, Airbnb, Nike, to name a few – and notice how each of them includes a headline. Some have more than one. Some have a different headline nearly every day.
Typically, a real estate website is all about home search. I can see perhaps a vision of not wanting to cloud the user’s path to that search by throwing in a bunch of words. But not including a headline is a big mistake for a number of reasons.
On the web, it’s all about conversions. Headlines will impact conversions – positively or negatively, depending on their effectiveness.
The first task of a home page is to let the user know where they are and why they might want to stick around. It’s hard to do that without a strong declarative statement.
I think that people sometimes still think of the Internet in terms of only site traffic. The more traffic the better. This is true to a certain extent. But conversions are really what it’s all about. If that traffic doesn’t turn into business, then it’s a pointless metric.
Conversions simply means your ability to get your visitors to do what you want them to do. In real estate, that often means creating an account, scheduling a showing, or contacting an agent.
Headlines are proven to impact conversions.
A headline can be a first step in establishing your brand personality.
Having a headline on your homepage is like greeting a visitor at your front door with a Oh hello, come on in and make yourself at home. Would you like a drink?
Not having a headline, from your visitor’s standpoint, can feel more like you opening the door and simply pointing to a chair for them to sit down. No words. No welcome. No feeling.
Check out Flickr’s current headline:
Flickr is acknowledging the visitor – in a warm and fuzzy way that is not only welcoming but also clear about what they want you to do next.
A headline is a large first-impression opportunity to define for your customer what makes you different from every other brokerage company in town.
When you’re trying to differentiate, simply slapping your logo in the corner and using a complementary color scheme in your nav and buttons doesn’t cut it. To the visitor, this is like you’re saying, Hey we’re a real estate company, we have a logo and know how to accessorize it!
Great. How exactly does that help me buy or sell my house?
You now have something to test.
A lot of times, a company launches a new website, there’s some attention and excitement over the newness of it. Then nothing changes for the next two or three years.
I grew up in the news business so lack of change actually scares me more than change. But eternal movement is also the culture of the web. An unchanging website is a stagnant signpost alongside a speeding highway of information.
Having a headline on your homepage gives you one critical asset online that you can repeatedly change and test against.
Some brands are particularly good at this practice. Check out Amazon, which constantly changes its headline to reflect relevance of the day. They would be fools not to jump on the recent news that the FAA will soon allow the use of some electronic devices during takeoff and landing (hello Kindle!).
So of course, they weren’t:
The right headline
Convinced that you need to start toying with headlines? Creating the right one is obviously the next step – but that’s a topic worthy of its own post.
I’ll leave you with one tip to get started:
Try answering one of these two questions to get your brainstorming going:
What problem are we solving for a website user?
Why would someone want to use our services?
What do I have to offer a website user that’s different?
Of course, there are a lot of different types of headlines that would stem from different approaches. But these two questions will get you thinking and throwing some words down on paper.