Real estate agents can boost their business in 2014 by improving their websitesNo matter where you are at this point in your real estate practice, chances are good that you’d like something more next year. More website hits, more referrals, and everything else that brings in more clients.

The end of a year is a good time to think about what you can add to your business plan to help you move up a notch or even to an entirely new level. To help you out, your friends at Market Leader will be offering up new resolutions in the coming weeks, any one of which will help to improve your real estate business in the year ahead. This week, we’ll look at ways to make your website a lead magnet in 2014.

The Truth About Agent Websites

While 70 percent of Realtors® have a website, their sites generate only 4 percent of their business, according to the National Association of Realtors® 2013 Member Profile. Sure, some agents generate over half their business from their websites, but those kinds of numbers take effort and money. If you’re looking for a better way to drum up business, consider taking the time and spending the money necessary to make 2014 the “Year of the Website.”

Most agents in the NAR survey spend an average of $220 a year to maintain their websites. Agents who “invested more heavily in their website reported a greater number of inquiries and business,” according to the study.

How much more heavily? Agents who spend $1,000 or more a year on maintaining their websites are an astonishing six times more likely to generate half of their business from the site than those who spend between $100 and $499.

Kick Your Content Strategy Into Overdrive

Every time Google tweaks its algorithm, “sites with sub-par content” lose visibility in the search giant’s rankings, according to Jayson DeMers, CEO of AudienceBloom. In fact, high-quality content is one of DeMers “Three Pillars of SEO.” The other two are links and social media.

If your site doesn’t have a blog (and only 12 percent of agent sites do), creating one should be first on your list of website makeover tips for 2014. But don’t build a blog without committing to updating it often. “Nothing looks worse than a blog that hasn’t been updated in months,” warns DeMers at Search Engine Watch. “It represents a lack of care for customers and contributes to a negative overall impression.” It also gives the impression that you’re no longer in business.

Liken your blog to a Las Vegas casino. Once you walk in the door at the Bellagio, you’re likely to stay for hours. This isn’t by accident, but by design; the lack of clocks and natural light help patrons lose track of time, and thus spend more money. That, along with offering everything one could need during this time – food, drink, entertainment and lodging – further ensures they’ll stick around.

This should be the strategy behind building your blog. Real estate consumers are looking for two things: listings and information. The listings lure them to your site, the content, if done right, anchors them.

To become the Bellagio or MGM Grand of real estate bloggers requires that you provide helpful information on any topic a real estate consumer may be seeking. Don’t give them a reason to leave and find the information elsewhere.

New bloggers should consider writing blog posts to be a form of prospecting. To get into the blogging habit, set time aside every week to write the following week’s posts. While there are no formal rules for how long a post should be, or how often to post, the more often the better, according to Google gurus.

  • Categorize your blog posts to address buying, selling, lending, staging and anything else that real estate consumers seek information about.
  • Set a goal for the number of posts you’ll write each week. Two to three are adequate.
  • Ensure that you fill each category somewhat evenly.
  • Push your content out to your social network.

Make it Mobile-Friendly

Think about the first time you tried to pull up a website on your smartphone. If it wasn’t optimized, it most likely looked pretty awful. Just as the appearance of a home is all important to your buyer clients, so is the appearance of your website.

Since over half of all American adults use smartphones, according to Pew Research Center’s Smartphone Ownership 2013 study, chances are good that many potential clients may be looking for homes on a mobile device.

In fact, if these tidbits from recent Google research don’t get you running to optimize your site for smartphones, nothing will.

  • 74 percent of those surveyed say they are more likely to return to a mobile-friendly site than one that isn’t.
  • A mobile-friendly site makes smartphone users “more likely to buy a product or use a service,” according to 61 percent of those researched.
  • 61 percent say that if they don’t find what they want right away on a mobile site they will quickly click to another site.

The folks at Google suggest creating a better experience for your smartphone clients or potential clients by using big buttons and text on the site. Don’t inundate them with multiple steps to get to what they’re looking for, and make it fast.

Your website is just one aspect of your business that can help you prosper in 2014. Next week, we’ll look at more ways to kick your business to the next level.