Design, content and maintenance
In the first part of this Nethouseprices guide, we looked at the considerations to bear in mind before and during the construction of your estate agency website, including budget, the service you are offering and your target client. In this segment, we turn to the more substantive questions of design and content, as well as the ongoing necessity of careful maintenance.
Whether you have opted to employ a web design professional or you are building your site yourself, there are some important requirements:
1) Your homepage is essentially your firm's billboard, so you need it to be arresting and to engage the visitor's attention. This means ensuring that your page is modern, tidy, quick to load and easily navigated, with high resolution images. Spend time exploring successful competitors' websites, imagining yourself to be a potential customer rather than a rival business. What design features are helpful and appealing? What aspects of the site are frustrating and off-putting? This exercise should give you a great insight into the direction you need to take.
2) Logo and colour scheme
If you run an established business, the likelihood is that you will already have a company logo and your business premises and company stationery will have a colour scheme that is consistent throughout your enterprise. In this situation, you will naturally want to incorporate these into your website. As a new business, however, you will need to develop a logo and decide upon an aesthetic that is appropriate for your business. This can be daunting, but there is a great deal of online guidance to help you with this crucial decision.
It's vital that the site is easily navigated and simple and intuitive for users. Evaluate exactly what you want from visitors to your page and build the navigation protocol with a view to facilitating this. As an estate agent, you ultimately want customers to use your service to buy or sell their homes, so your listings section needs to be prominently displayed and easily accessed. Not every visit will result in a transaction, of course, so you need to think of ways of ensuring that viewers remember you. For example, if you plan to run a blog on local property issues or on the wider question of house prices in the UK, make it easy for clients to subscribe to the service.
There is a further golden rule about navigation, and that is that the core information and your call to action need to be visible without the need for your customers to scroll down. Any material contained below the theoretical page fold should be less central to your business.
Many potential clients will try to access your site via a mobile phone or tablet, and it's imperative that they have the same experience as they would have when using a PC or laptop. This has now become a non-negotiable point: put bluntly, if your website isn't mobile-friendly, you will struggle to generate business via the Internet.
As an estate agent, there are some obvious content criteria - like up-to-date house listings - that you will need to satisfy. However, viewers will typically expect you to add value to your online presence. Many, for instance, will appreciate a property news service and a blog about developments in the local and national housing sector. It will often be worth your while to include guides to the property market which can help customers navigate what can be a bewildering marketplace. Building this type of content is challenging, especially if you have limited resources and manpower, but it's a useful investment and there are professional content writing services which can help you get started.
Delivering this type of content is a valuable aspect of your marketing strategy for another reason: search engine optimisation. This sounds like a hugely complicated concept, but what it basically boils down to is maximising the chances of clients finding your site via a search engine. Your blog and guides, by way of example, need to include industry keywords like "property prices," "house prices in my postcode," "sold prices in Scotland" or "house prices in the UK." The inclusion search terms like these in your content will help your website to rank higher in search engine results listings.
When tending to the project of creating content, it's easy to overlook some of the basics. While researching this guide, for example, we came across a surprising number of sites which lacked clarity about the nature of the actual service being offered, and sites where vital information like how to contact the business was quite elusive. These defects will render superb design and high quality content virtually useless.
A word on maintenance
Once created, your website shouldn't be regarded as a static entity. It needs frequent updating to remain current and relevant and it should be checked frequently to make sure that links are working and that there are no problems with supporting applications. This will, of course, help to convey the impression of competence and professionalism. It will also guarantee that you aren't losing business for entirely avoidable reasons - like your enquiries service not being operational or your listings page being "down."
Do monitor email replies and online comments and queries and make a point of responding in a timely basis. Speed is the chief benefit of internet business and you can undermine the value of an otherwise expertly executed website by neglecting or being slow in your day-to-day communications.
Finally, it's worthwhile to set aside the time to monitor your web hits and to assess the ways in which visitors are using your service. This will be invaluable in setting targets for your enterprise and in making the modifications to your website that will generate more business.
The team here at Nethouseprices hopes you have found this guide useful. Visit us again soon for the latest property market news and for our commentary and analysis of the housing sector issues affecting your business.
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