How to Launch Your Real Estate Website with a Bang
By Sandra Manzanares
About Website Design
Launching your own real estate website is an exciting project. Undoubtedly, you will spend significant time working on your website, and this guide will help you launch it with a bang. It is also meant to help you create your launch plan, whether you’ll lead up to a big reveal, work on a live site for months before advertising it, revamp your known site little by little, or just plan to take your website to the next level.
These are all viable options, and the checklist below helps you pinpoint the areas that are most critical to update and optimize, and will help you minimize the fear of getting everything perfect before launching. The most successful websites owners know building an online presence and strong search engine optimization takes time and consistency, so this guide will help dispel those feelings of overwhelm so you can launch quickly and efficiently and start generating the right traffic.
Getting the Basics in Order
Choose a domain name.
This is probably one of the most painstaking experiences for many agents and brokers. I recommend doing this step early because it forces you to make your decision with a clear head. Be sure to choose a domain with the following characteristics:
- It’s relevant to your brand name, actual name, area, and industry
- It has some SEO potential (terms people would easily find in related searches)
- It isn’t closely competing with the name of another company
- It isn’t associated with something off the mark (an unrelated product, something offensive, etc.)
- It’s short and simple (1–4 words, an acronym, or a phrase that rolls off the tongue)
- It’s not taken
To achieve all of these characteristics, you’ll have to play around with words a bit, and often domain providers will give you a list of closely available options. Choose something that is easy to remember and easy to write out.
Pick your platform and design.
Before jumping into this step, you’ll need to decide if you’re going this process alone, with a website developer, or if you’ll use a platform that allows you to easily build it yourself.
If you’re going to be using a developer or consider yourself tech savvy, you might go with a content management system (CMS) like Joomla or WordPress. If you’re not savvy with HTML and you want to skip all the technical bits and have all the development stuff taken care of in the background, choose an all-in-one platform (for the record, Placester’s all-in-one platform is built on WordPress). Choose a platform that gives you a range of template options and one that is user-friendly. When considering a platform and theme, choose ones that are compatible with your IDX & MLS if you’d like to include listings.
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”
— Mark Twain
Whether you choose a template or have a specialist build you a custom site, your website’s visual design is paramount. Choose something that you feel reflects your unique personality. One must: With mobile real estate searches increasing every year, and with Google favoring mobile-ready sites, make sure your site is responsive. Luckily, most website developers now make this automatic and cost-friendly. Also, pay attention to on-page flow. Avoid sensory overload by choosing a template with a simple page structure.
Install the extras.
- Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools. While you won’t generate much data pre-launch, setting these tools early gets the process moving and allows you to test to make sure they’re installed correctly. Google offers a great analytics checklist and this guide to Webmaster Tools can help you through the process.
- Plugins. Many agents include plugins for site comments, form fields, or social share widgets and follow buttons. While some plugins are great, others can compromise the functionality or security of your site. Stay minimal and only choose the plugins that will increase engagement or sales.
- Notifications. If you have email and a CRM set up already, you may decide to connect these to your site so you can receive notifications when users take certain actions.
- Set up an email newsletter and implement easy, on-site email opt-in features. Email is going to be a huge way you’ll advertise your site pre- and post-launch. Set up an email newsletter in the system you’re currently using or try one like MailChimp, and play around with email templates that will coexist with your brand image. Use a plugin or widget to add an email sign-up feature that will send new email addresses directly to your contacts list.
Make sure contact information appears often.
Too often folks forget this step and wonder why they aren’t being contacted. Make it easy on yourself and place your contact information on either your header or footer of every page so site visitors will never have a problem finding it.
Branding and Market Research
Define your personal brand.
What are you good at? What are you passionate about? Every agent should be able to describe their speciality in under 200 words, and doing so will help you better communicate what your personal brand is all about. Once you develop this, you’ll be able to start developing a tagline you can use in your site’s meta data and that can be used on social media bios. Some folks call this the 7-second pitch, and it outlines the basics — who you are, what you do, and how you do it — with the added flair of your personality and how you offer value to your customer. Create this, and then figure out how you’ll maintain this message through your logo, your site presentation, and your online personality.
Develop your full agent bio.
While your tagline entices a lead to work with you, a full agent bio allows you to showcase your history of success, along with a fuller depiction of who you are and what you value. This is meant to make leads and customers feel comfortable with both your expertise and your personality. For some great tips and examples, see How to Write an Agent Bio & 10 Knockout Examples.
Logos and personal photography.
Logos and portraits of you are critical to brand recognition and it’s important that they’re in line with your brand personality and of high-quality. Whether you’re using professionals to help craft these or experimenting with your own artistic skills, this art should be clearly labeled and appropriately sized for your website, email, and social media outlets.
Real estate is very much about visual appeal, and one of the most important things on your site will be photographs and graphics. For some, royalty-free stock photography is sufficient, while others may want more personalized professional photography. Still, others may simply employ their iPhone for some nifty video tricks. The point is to get started on this process early, leaving ample time for edits and the possibility you might have to reshoot content.
As you build your toward you launch, it’s time to look at some market factors that will impact what you produce, under what conditions, and for whom. A few things you’ll want to research:
- Industry peers online. Since you’ll be competing in the online realm, it’s the best time to know what you’re up against and what are great examples of strong websites and content. At this stage, you should be sourcing information avidly, bookmarking your favorites, and seeing what content gets high engagement.
- The market. If you’re hoping to be the go-to agent in your market, it’s time you start arming yourself with the most relevant and timely information out there. There are various reports on metro standings or real estate stats that will be helpful to you or your customers. Start generating working knowledge so you can be more strategic in your work.
- Your ideal customers. Part of being successful online — meaning providing value for your customers — means you have to know who your customer is and what they value. At this time, you should create customer personas if you haven’t already. This will give you a very direct sense of who you’re speaking to and the sources they’re already using.
Think About Engagement
Remember all those social media accounts you have? It’s time to put them to use by building a strong social media presence. Your profiles should include hi-resolution photography, a headshot, and your tagline. When your website is ready for public viewing, be sure to include links to it. Don’t think you can build a strong online presence just off having social media pages. You’ll have to build an audience by:
- Being insightful and entertaining
- Adding to discussions in constructive ways through tweets, comments, and discussion boards
- Follow thought leaders and share and comment on their articles
- Curate great articles and add your opinion with a link
- Use appropriate hashtags for relevant topics
Optimize Your Brand (On-site and Off-Site).
While some of your traffic will come from distribution on social media and email, a successful website will get lots of organic traffic from great search engine optimization (SEO). SEO helps to place your pages high in search engine rankings when someone types in key terms that are closely associated with your content and services.
“Success is a science; if you have the conditions, you get the result.”
— Oscar Wilde
The important first step is finding the best terms for you by doing some keyword research. Then, you’ll want to use those keywords in your website content, particularly in titles and your meta data. Doing research early is important to understanding what key terms you’ll strive to rank for. And there are many ways to optimize yourself off-site, such as online reviews and social media, that can increase brand visibility.
Set up some easy social publishers.
Sites like Hootsuite and Buffer are great for automating your social sharing, so you can prepare posts in advance that will update your social media accounts when you’re busy with other tasks. Obviously you’ll still be responsible for actually being social and having online conversations with followers, but this strategy helps to call attention to your content and generates traffic.
All About Content
Start a content marketing strategy.
Creating great content for your readers can help engage your site visitors, give you things to share on social media, increase search engine optimization and traffic, and build thought-leadership that will gain the respect of both your peers and customers alike. Consistent blogging will keep readers coming to your site. Start your content strategy with these steps:
Define your focus.
Good content is a hybrid of:
- Your passion & expertise
- Market characteristics
- Customer goals
- Something that is captivating and engaging
As you consider the topics that matter most, think about the topics that you’re drawn to, that matter most to people moving in your area, that have mattered most to clients in the past, and that will keep readers excited and moving through the sales funnel. You can also use some of your social media experience to figure out which topics generated the most discussion.
Create an editorial calendar.
Once topic ideas are in hand, it’s time to create an editorial calendar. While there are many different apps and solutions available, it’s important that you get one that sends you reminders and has a calendar view so you can see what’s ahead in the month. Because the websites with blogs get more traffic and more leads, it’s important to schedule out at least a couple blog posts per week.
If you’re doing a big site launch, you should plan to have 4–6 blog posts available for site visitors to read. If you’re just revamping your site, make sure you keep up your blogging to let visitors know your blog is active.
It’s important to set aside time for blogging, but keep in mind that not every post should or has to be 3,000 words long. Mix up your content with short and long posts, original written content (use these tips for non-writers if you get stuck), visual content, and curated content.
The Final Steps
Upload all content to your website and test everything.
This is probably a very underestimated step, but a crucial one. It’s the time to try and test everything on every page. This is especially important for your listings, making sure the right listings are showing with the appropriate information. Then, check how your website looks in different browsers and on different devices. Again, do not wait until the last minute to figure out that your theme could need updating or your images are distorted.
Build your industry network.
This is a great time to increase your attendance at networking events and conferences. If you’ve built some contacts with thought leaders on social media (most likely with wonderful websites themselves), it’s time to give them a heads-up on your website launch. If you have a close relationship, offer to guest post on their site to build your audience, or ask for feedback on your site and content.
Gather testimonials and reviews.
Great recommendations can help get folks to your site. If you haven’t already, contact past clients to see if they’d consider writing a review or positive testimonial. This ups your brand recognition and gives leads great feedback about your services before contacting you.
How to Launch
As mentioned before, everyone will choose differently how to promote their launch. There is no right or wrong here, but here are some ways you may choose to get the word out about your real estate website launch.
Before publicizing your launch, make sure you:
- Place your domain name on every one of your social sites
- Re-check that all pages you want live are live, and all pages you want hidden or in drafts are in the right state
- Google your domain name to see if the title and meta data are correct
- Double check that Google Analytics is functioning properly
Schedule blog posts.
You’ve edited and proofread your posts. Now, pick your best posts you’ll want up when you advertise your launch, and schedule them to publish early in the morning.
Blast the launch.
It’s time to blast your launch announcement everywhere. Sure, some text is nice, but a nice tagline, a link to your homepage, and a creative launch image (place your domain name there, too!) will be even better. Send emails to your personal network, to any industry peers who helped you along the way, and to your newsletter recipients and clients to announce your big launch. You might also consider hosting a contest or provide giveaways to build some launch buzz.
Consistency After Your Launch
So, you’ve launched. Congrats! The hard pre-launch work is done, but your website journey has just begun. You must stay consistent with content, continue to build social media communities (and share of course), and continue to monitor site performance. Here are some ways to keep your website traffic and engagement in good shape:
Use Google Analytics.
Especially within the first few months, Google Analytics will fluctuate a lot and the information you gain from this early stage will impact your content and distribution strategy. A few things you’ll want to pay attention to:
- Unique visitors and sessions. You’ll want to see how many individual users visit your site and how many sessions they produce.
- Site Content -> Landing Pages. This metric tells you how many sessions each landing page on your site received. The home page is often the highest, but it will be helpful for you to know which listing pages or which pieces of content attract readers and make them stay.
- Referral traffic. This metric lets you know how folks are getting to your site. Note your best traffic sources and start focusing on efforts to promote to that audience.
As you start to notice trends — good or bad — tweak items, whether that’s content, buttons, or a new distribution strategy on social media.
For any family, friends, thought leaders, or websites that were instrumental in promoting your launch to their networks, send a nice thank you note as a token of appreciation.
With regard to traffic, leads, and search engine rankings, patience is the highest virtue. It takes time for the public to get to know and respect your online brand, and it could take up to six months of producing consistent content that’s optimized well to see your traffic really go up.
Looking for more resources on building a successful real estate website? We’ve rounded up some resources for different stages of the process.
- Are you just starting out the process? Read our Guide to Choosing the Right Real Estate Domain Name.
- Have some pre-launch questions about what you’ve read in this checklist? Read 10 Questions to Answer Before Launching Your Real Estate Website.
- If you’re ready to build an audience, read 75 Ways Real Estate Agents Can Promote Themselves Online.
- Considering a relaunch or redesign, but worried your SEO will suffer? Read Maintaining Your SEO When Redesigning Your Website.
Share your favorite pre-launch ideas in the comments below!
Published on September 8, 2014
Written by Sandra Manzanares
Writer, editor, and marketing manager with a passion for helping brands enhance their content marketing strategy. I'm a firm believer that creative storytelling is an essential part of the way we communicate. Constantly striving to fill my head with as much creative and analytical information as possible.