When it comes to Realtors trying to determine marketing strategies in the current era of real estate, a great deal of confusion and uncertainty exists. Since the big sites like Zillow and Trulia dominate the online real estate market, how should one adjust their real estate marketing strategies? Does it make sense to have a personal online presence? Should I just cave and hand over my marketing dollars to Zillow?
These are reasonable and common questions, and while advertising on the large real estate sites may make sense as one of your many real estate marketing strategies, foregoing your own online presence is a big mistake.
Today, we’ll explain why.
Online traffic to real estate websites
For several years now, it’s been understood that roughly half of all internet traffic to real estate related websites is going to the biggest ten websites.
When an article on Inman.com in 2013 announced this fact, it outlined that these sites (Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com, Yahoo Homes, FrontDoor, Homes.com, etc.) are receiving a combined 260 million plus visitors per month. That’s quite a bit of internet traffic.
But if you’re an opportunist, you might see this number as more of an opportunity than an obstacle. If 260 million visitors are going to the top ten real estate websites and that represents roughly half of all real estate related traffic, then that means there are roughly 260 million visitors each month going to other real estate websites. And that’s where your focus should be.
You need just a small slice of that chunk of monthly web traffic to drastically change your business.
How important is it to have your own website?
Is a personal real estate website an essential part of the real estate marketing strategies for your business? The data says it’s becoming increasingly important.
According to Zillow’s 2016 Report, the number of homebuyers that rely on online resources is increasing. From the report:
The majority of buyers rely on both online resources and guidance from a real estate agent during their home search. Eighty-seven percent of buyers use online resources and 75 percent select a real estate agent or broker to work with, suggesting that most buyers combine self-directed research using websites and apps with the market expertise and human touch offered by a real estate professional. In fact, buyers who utilize online resources during their home search are significantly more likely to also use an agent (77 percent versus 59 percent who do not use online resources).
Also important to consider is the fact that buyers are now frequently considering multiple agents before buying a home:
The average number of agents buyers consider hiring is 2.2. Slightly more than half (53 percent) of buyers using an agent considered multiple agents, with 26 percent choosing from two.
How do buyers select an agent? According to the report, 26 percent are finding the agent online. While that’s a healthy percentage, the trend becomes even more clear when examining the data that details how buyers are evaluating prospective agents. From the report:
Buyers scrutinize prospective agents in multiple ways, including:
- Evaluating an agent’s local market knowledge (60 percent)
- Reviewing brokerage websites (58 percent)
- Asking friends and family about experiences with an agent (56 percent)
- Reading online agent reviews (50 percent)
- Reviewing agents’ sales histories (46 percent)
- Interviewing agents (44 percent)
Millennials in particular are much more likely to evaluate an agent online. 61 percent of millennials read online reviews and 57 percent dig into past sales data of a potential agent.
The full Zillow report is a worthwhile read, but we’ll sum up some of these data points as follows: The vast majority of homebuyers are using online resources as part of the buying process. In the majority of cases, buyers are not replacing the expertise of an agent with online research. Rather, they’re doing a tremendous amount of online research prior to contacting an agent.
Online research involves both the evaluation of potential homes and the evaluation of prospective agents.
It’s undeniable: To succeed in the years ahead as a real estate professional, you need a high quality online presence. Your potential clients are increasingly online, and they will seek to evaluate you online.
But simply having an online presence isn’t enough.
Local knowledge as a key differentiator
Before we dig in further to digital marketing and your online presence, it’s important to back up and think globally about your overall real estate marketing strategies. How are you differentiating yourself from the other hundreds of real estate agents in your area? If you asked a client what makes you different, would they have specific points to reference? Perhaps try it, and see what feedback you receive.
Since the number of homebuyers that find their own home to purchase (including the buyers that still use agents) are increasing each year, it’s important to reexamine the value you can offer a potential homebuyer. If the value you bring to the relationship is nothing more than assistance in finding a home, your business is likely to decline dramatically in the years ahead.
Local market knowledge continually comes up as one of the main criteria for how buyers are evaluating agents according to the Zillow report. This is an important finding and supports our view on real estate marketing strategies and, specifically, the website strategy that we’re going to outline today.
First, consider the value that Zillow provides its users. Its value is in the quick and easy ability to browse countless homes and see approximate home valuations anywhere in the country. One way to characterize this approach might be: Zillow provides information and value “a mile wide and an inch deep.” Not to diminish the value Zillow brings – it’s tremendous, and there’s absolutely a reason why millions of users hit the site daily.
But Zillow lacks depth on a local level.
What neighborhoods in my area are best for small children? Why?
I can’t afford waterfront real estate, but I’m looking for a subdivision that has access to local lakes and waterways. Where should I look?
What’s hotter right now in this area: New construction or older homes?
How much of a premium should I expect to pay for a home with a pool? Or will I end up ahead by purchasing a home without a pool and then building my own?
Which subdivisions have the most turnover in the area?
I’m looking for something that feels rural, but is still only minutes away from certain amenities. What neighborhoods fit that criteria?
Which subdivisions have a tremendous amount of renovation activity right now?
These are questions a local expert can answer. These are very legitimate questions homebuyers will struggle to find answers to online (at least when they’re visiting the big real estate websites).
Narrow your focus, dominate your local area
Peter Thiel, in his book Zero To One, talks about the strategy where businesses start small and monopolize (or dominate) a very defined niche:
Every startup is small at the start. Every monopoly dominates a large share of its market. Therefore, every startup should start with a very small market. Always err on the side of starting too small. The reason is simple: it’s easier to dominate a small market than a large one. If you think your initial market might be too big, it almost certainly is.
If your expertise covers a large area and doesn’t go very deep, you might consider narrowing your focus to become an expert on a more narrow market.
How small should you go? It depends on your market. If you work in a big city, consider focusing on a certain suburb or neighborhood. If you’re in a small town, the entire town might be worth focusing on. The good news is that you can always expand, but don’t expand your focus until your knowledge level for that new area is at expert level.
Let’s turn our attention to your own real estate website
Our discussion on a narrow, local expertise is extremely relevant not just as it fits into your real estate marketing strategies, but also specifically to digital marketing and an online presence.
Remember, Zillow’s focus is a mile wide and an inch deep. Your website should be the opposite: Narrowly focused and deeper than any other online resource on that specific area.
If your website is broadly focused and provides nothing more than general information that can be found on hundreds of other sites, it can still be useful as a mechanism for aiding in users finding you online, but it won’t be useful for much more than that.
If you build an incredibly in-depth and focused online resource website, you can begin to make progress in the following areas:
- Provide a great first impression for users interested in evaluating you as a prospective agent (a key evaluation metric homebuyers consider when looking for an agent according to the Zillow report)
- Demonstrate an impressive local knowledge (a key evaluation metric homebuyers consider when looking for an agent according to the Zillow report)
- Make progress on the SEO front. You won’t compete with Zillow on individual indexed listings, but high quality, in-depth local content? If you do it right, the script is flipped: Zillow can’t compete with you.
- Building a reputation as the “go to” expert for a specific community will lead to more referrals over time.
Specific tips to improve your website
How do you transition your site from a broad, unfocused real estate website to an in-depth local resource? Here are some tips worth consideration:
- How in-depth is your information on the specific subdivisions and communities in your market? If a user still needs to search for more information on a community after they visit your page, it probably means your page is insufficient. Invest more time into it.
- Sold data is gold. Not enough real estate professionals are utilizing sold data on their websites. Don’t just list countless sold properties for a given area. Analyze the data, provide key takeaways, point out specific trends, etc. Do the work and provide highly useful content and data for your local area. Your users will thank you for it and come back again and again.
- Review the content on your site. Could someone write similar content if they lived in a different part of the country and simply researched the community or area online? If so, you need to do better. What are the insights only someone on the ground might know?
- Take note of actual conversations you have in person with clients. What questions do they ask? Create a quality piece of content for each question you are asked. Let your clients help drive your content direction, and line up your content with real questions people have about your area.
Final thoughts on real estate marketing strategies in this new era
The real estate business is rapidly evolving as more and more online services & technology products become available to individual buyers and sellers. As more of the information is communicated to buyers and sellers through a website or app rather than a person, It’s utterly imperative for agents to reexamine their relationships with current and potential clients.
Are your real estate marketing strategies aligned with the value expectations that actual buyers and sellers have today? Is your website up-to-date with your revamped marketing approach? When a user visits your site to evaluate you, are you putting your best foot forward?
We hope some of the information and tips provided in this article are helpful. If you have any questions on real estate marketing strategies and how you can expand your presence online, please contact us today.