Brokers, as you read this, if you’re thinking “he’s not talking about me,” think again.
Your websites need work. Some require a lot of work. Some should be detonated.
Out of site, out of mind
In the physical world …
Does your letterhead contain misspelled words?
Is the front door to your office hidden behind bushes?
Does this door lead to a maze of more doors before finally bringing guests to an unattended reception area?
Do your employees and agents greet visitors to your office in a language they do not understand?
Of course not. That would be absurd. But that’s how your Websites, replete with broken links, old content, confusing navigation, misspellings, and buckets of pointless information strewn across pointless pages, present themselves to the world.
I know your web guy put it there for SEO. The way he explains it, it sort of makes sense. But search engines don’t buy homes. People do.
Some common issues are so glaring they blindside users, who end up finding it much easier to back out and scoot over to Trulia or Zillow.
Can you name ten truly great broker websites? Last year we couldn’t.
1. Brokers hardly ever spend time inside their own site.
2. Brokers do not solicit user feedback from it and about it.
3. They left all of it, from design to copy, in the charge of their IT department.
4. Their IT department left it in the charge of their Ron Popeil vendor – the one whose slogan is “set it and forgot it.”
5. Or they hired a great vendor but interfered in the process, not letting the designer design and the programmer program.
6. They are more enamored by how little they spend on their site than how much they invest into making it great.
7. They designed it themselves and can’t see beyond their paintbrush.
8. They copied someone site foolishly believing it was great.
9. They have no idea where to go or how to create a better site.
10. They know better than everyone else and believe their site is amazing – a belief often wholly unsupported by data.
Did I leave anything out?
The intersection of anyone and anywhere
The Web is open 24/7 to anyone from anywhere, who no doubt have expectations about what a website should look, feel and act like. How many come away from your site confused? And leave unimpressed? Or maybe crazed because they can’t even find some simple as a property search?
So here your site sits. At the intersection of anyone and anywhere. Unattended. Misdirected. Mismanaged. Neglected.
Not your site? Think again.
The truth is every site has issues. From the best to the worst. None are perfect. I know, I’ve been down this path before – explaining, for example, that property search should simply be referred to as “Property Search” and need not appear as quick or advanced or referred by many other types of naming conventions.
So this time, join me as I take you through two sites using the eyes of a user (with some comments from my perspective thrown in along the way). These are my opinions. You may disagree. If so, I urge you to perform this sort of exercise on your own.
Site 1: ryanhillrealty.com
This is a site I had never been too before until I did research for this post. They seem like a smallish brokerage located in a Chicago suburb.
Let’s see what we’ve got:
Misspelling the town I’m searching in (“Napervile”) and what it is I am looking for (“Propety”) does not exactly increase my level of confidence.
More misspelling. This should read “Listings.”
Under “Quick Property Search” on the home page, the site offers a drop-down for State when they service only one state, but no drop-down or auto fill for City, for which there are many. Odd.
If Quick Search below gets me 70% of the listings on the market and I sign up to view “twice as many homes” as the call to action indicates, do I get to view 140% of the listings on the market? That’s a lot of listings!
Read this copy below. This is their value proposition. Actually, it’s a pretty good one. But as you can see on the site, it’s buried at the bottom of the site in fine print. I’d shorten this up and move right up to the top of page for new visitors to gain a sense of their value and what their brand is all about.
The navigation on their home page has some serious HTML/CSS issues. Note the odd spacing between links.
One of the links has a question mark. That’s a new one.
This Contact us form is more accurately called a Don’t contact us form.
Compounding the issues above are myriad display problems in Safari that make the site almost impossible to use with that browser. Also, the site sports a mishmash of awkward colors (purple, black and beige) along with the dozens of other things that should have been addressed long ago.
I don’t get it. It is what it is. But it speaks volumes about how little they understand the Web or the user.
Site 2: Johnlscott.com
This site, unlike ryanhillrealty.com, is from a company known for technology leadership. Yet even leaders have issues on the Web.
Let’s take a look:
John L. Scott has been part of its community for 75 years. But you would not know that looking at the home page. There is simply no reference to its heritage anywhere and I think that is a big mistake.
Let’s focus on the navigation bar: Search. Property Tracker. Our Services. Office/Agents. Careers. Neighborhoods. In that order.
Search. Search what? Search the site? Search for Jimmy Hoffa? I’m not trying to be snide. I ask because there is no explicit reference on the home page that this site is about and for real estate search. The builders of the site know that. But not everyone else in the world does.
Property Tracker. What is that? Never heard that term before. I clicked into it. Wow, that is a busy page. I’m stumped.
Our Services. The first line here reads “For over 75 years the people of John L. Scott Real Estate have strived to provide an exceptional real estate experience, whatever our client’s real estate goals may be.”
Wow. That would make for a great welcome text and brand statement on the home page. Why is it buried here?
Careers. Not a great idea placing this on a consumer site. People want to view homes, not get recruited to sell them. I watched the video on this page, as I’m sure other consumers do. It begins with an agent referring to himself as a “top performer.” Does he do weddings and Bar Mitzvahs?
I continued listening. He refers to the brand as “an innovative leader in the high tech industry” and motors on about innovation, integrity and being debt free but never once talks about the parts of real estate that matter most, like to providing an exceptional real estate experience, whatever the client’s real estate goals may be. You know the stuff this brand is really about. Granted this is on a careers page. I get that. But a curious consumer could easily stumble on it.
Neighborhoods. Last link in the navigation. From all the analytics we’ve seen, neighborhood pages tend to be in the top 3 most visited pages on a site. Placing it further up the chain makes sense.
Here’s something called “JLSConnect.” It is labeled with something called “Beta.” Why is a real estate company using experimental programs to assist me in my house hunt?
The copy within provides this call to action: “Get Connected” to Windows live? Does the user know what this is? I don’t and I’m somewhat tech savvy. People tend to not click on things they don’t know or understand.
The home page wants me to install something called Microsoft Silverlight and to download something they might not understand on their computer. In fact, to make matters more confusing, it’s unclear here why the site wants me to do this. I’m getting jittery. I think I’ll pass.
What does the term “Interactive Map Home Search” mean?
I asked my wife, who spends hours each month searching for investment homes, what this means to her. She said “Isn’t that a map where all these little boxes are stacked on top of each other with odd numbers that make no sense? I hate that,” was her response.
Uh, as a matter of fact, yes it is honey.
Besides, what is so interactive about this map? I can’t even figure out how to select a neighborhood!
I’m not trying to insult anyone
Honestly. I’m trying to help.
When we analyzed hundreds of broker sites last year for our Top 10 list, we thought Johnlscott.com site would make the cut. They have been a leader in technology adoption for years. But it’s things like these held it back.
And maybe, it’s things like this, little things, many of them that add up and make your site 5, 10, 20, 50% less effective than it could be.
These are things users see and think when they look at your website.
So, before you are two sites: One that appears neglected by its owner and another so meticulously managed by a group of smart tech guys that they may have lost sight of the user.
Both have issues. Trust yours does as well.
So try this: Step outside yourself for an hour and peer through your site. Look at everything. You will be amazed at what you find.
Maybe marketing let things slide. Maybe your vendor isn’t as on it as you thought. Maybe your IT department shouldn’t be doing this alone.
Maybe you’ve been your own worst enemy.
– Davison Twitter: @1000wattmarc