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Preview: Realtor Web Design 101 - Tips for a site that works

Realtor Web Design 101 - Tips for a site that works



Every real estate agent wants to have a great web site to promote their business. Here are some tips on how to make it SHINE!



 



DoFollow and NoFollow Explained

Wed, 15 Apr 2009 09:20:59 -0700

Search engines do not see all web links the same. In fact, it is possible for a web master to request that a search engine NOT follow certain links to keep SEO value from "leaking" from a website. Some websites, blogs, and other web tools may allow you to link as a professional without providing you with search engine credibility. Search engines use special properties within link tags to determine whether or not they should spider the link and follow it to the next page. The property may be set to "dofollow" or "nofollow". The search engine then knows what it should do when it arrives at a link. Professionals work diligently to promote their websites to search engines. What pros may not know is that a site they believe is providing great SEO benefits may simply be using their content for their own purposes without providing linkthrough credibility. Many online professional services like Active Rain, ProSPOTLIGHT, and others offer the ability to make posts and submit content with "dofollow" status. Any time a pro links from that service to another website, they receive the SEO benefit. The key is to find websites that are known for their "dofollow" practices. - Original article found on Vauntium SEO: DoFollow and NoFollow Explained



Attracting and Converting Leads Online Using SEO Concepts

Tue, 14 Apr 2009 12:27:42 -0700

How many leads did you convert from natural search engine traffic last month? how about over the last year? Your natural search engine rank is key to your online web traffic and converted business. We're not talking here about paid search engine advertising but natural results that result from successful SEO practices. There are 2 key concepts to successful SEO activities: Relevance Popularity SEO and Website Relevance Website relevance means that your content and tools match the keywords search engine users search on. For example, if I search for "las vegas realtors" search engines return the top results for "Las Vegas" and "Realtors", "Real estate agents", etc. They want to return results that best match the inquiry. They provide the best results for users based on relevant, well written content. SEO and Website Popularity Search engines give significant credibility to websites that appear to be authoritative. An authority site is one that others recognize  as credible and accurate. Search engines tally the quantity and quality of inbound web links to a website. SEO Activities Several key activities will promote websites significantly. Keyword analysis - search engine keyword analysis to determine which keywords should be targeted on a website. On-page keyword optimization, including meta tag optimization - page by page keyword placement to accurately make a page relevant to an audience. Inbound link campaigns - campaigns by which content, articles, blog posts, and other forms of content from popular websites link to a website creating popularity. Lead Conversion Once a visitor has found a website via search engine results, it's key to make sure the conversion tools are powerful. Compelling calls to action drive prospects to conversion elements. These prospects become converted as visitors accept special offers for service or products in return for the sale or for their contact information. Websites can be powerful conversion tools as the drives sale and lead engines. SEO and Conversion Solutions Find an SEO company that is expert at website optimization. Realize that SEO results don't occur overnight and they may require a significant budget of time or money depending on how strong the competition is for a particular website. Also find a design company that can convert prospects once they arrive on a website. Contact Vauntium Marketing to learn more about our SEO and web design solutions. Also consider using search engine friendly professional network ProSPOTLIGHT. Here is the real estate agent community.



Build a Web Site from Scratch: Phase 1 - Web Site Planning and Market Analysis

Mon, 26 Mar 2007 09:32:22 -0700

A post in the series called Build a Web Site from Scratch. In this post our goal is to address the planning and market analysis phase.The planning phase of a web site is BY FAR the most important. Few do-it-yourselfers take the right time to do it in the beginning and end up doing it after the site is launched when a lot of time and money has already been spent. They then have to redo a bunch of work when they figure out what they want and need. This step will save you a lot of time down the line.When agents build a site it should be like writing a book. Much before words are ever written the book should be structured and outlined. Sure, a few chapters may be written out of inspiration but at some point the author has to sit down and think, "how am I going to present this?" This is a process agents can take as they start out with a site.Site Objective - Believe it or not the first step to web design doesn't involve a computer. It involves a pen, paper, and a quiet space. Just like any successful project the planning phase is important. We are going to assume you understand the costs of building a site somewhat and you are bent on creating one yourself. Spend some time, an hour per day for several days over perhaps several weeks. Write down your web site objective and goals. What are you trying to accomplish? This is important because in web design there is a constant temptation to stray from the goal because of all of the fancy stuff you can add and write. Knowing your objective will keep the site clean, crisp and on point. I imagine most agents want to have, "an informational site that will draw traffic and convert leads." If that is like your objective then we need to design around that objective. Your objective may be different, more focused, or more broad but you do need a main goal to shoot for.Market Analysis - Now its time to find out what to write about to accomplish your objective. A web site is like an online, interactive book, right? Well, what are people looking for? What can you write to draw users into your site and convince search engines you are a valuable site to display? There are several ways to determine what content is valuable. Imagine you are a potential client looking for real estate help. Do searches for keywords you would want help on. What results come up at the top? What does the competition offer? What content do they have? Keep in mind if they don't have much content and they still come to the top of the engines they are either paying the search engine for their placement or they are paying someone to do link popularity work for them. We'll talk about this later. Keep in mind, the best converting sites are usually the ones with the best appearance, content, and tools. Just because it comes to the top doesn't mean it is converting.Another way to find out what keywords to target is to use sites like http://tools.seobook.com/general/keyword/ or http://inventory.overture.com/ or others you may find. Also, download the Google toolbar and start typing in the search field. See what keywords and phrases come up as you type. They are likely listed by popularity. You won't want to miss this step. Build your site with good SEO from the beginning.Now, write down the keywords that best fit your site's objective.Site Theme - Once you have set in your mind what you want to accomplish determine what your scope is. What is your theme? We are writing a book, right? Books have a main title. Published articles have a main theme. Your site should have a main theme. What could the main title of your web site be? Most of your categories and articles will fit under that theme and Google will love you for it! Your theme should include your top key words and phrases.Site Chapters - A book is typically broken up into intuitive chapters. On web sites we usually see these chapters called categories. What categories fit your theme? These categories should be broad enough that they would hold 5 to 15 articles in them. If they hold many more you may consider creating[...]



ToC: Build a Web Site from Scratch

Mon, 26 Mar 2007 07:45:17 -0700

This series of articles is intended to help do-it-yourself web designing real estate agents plan, build, and implement a web site from scratch. There are many things that go into building a web site. Semester long courses are taught at many colleges just on certain aspects of the process. I'll try to keep it as simple as possible.In business technology courses at college they teach there are 5 main phases to building a system. The size of the system affects the complexity of the phases. I am going to assume we are building a simple web site as agents. There are more articles out there for the advanced web guy and we'll write later for those using professionals to build their site. For now, we are going to see the 5 phases I would highly recommend each of us follow when making a new site.Phase 1 - Web Site Planning and Market AnalysisPhase 2 - System AnalysisPhase 3 - Site DesignPhase 4 - ImplementationPhase 5 - SupportI think a lot of us are flying by the seat of our pants and there is little direction or organization. I hope to make the process simpler. Let me know how we can accomplish that as you read the articles.



Adding Favicons - The little image next to your URL in the browser

Thu, 22 Mar 2007 09:36:22 -0700

This is a fun one. All you branders out there will enjoy learning how to put that little icon next to your URL in the address bar of your browser. (image) Here are some examples: (image)  (image)  (image)  (image)  (image)  (image)  The image is called an icon image. The file is a .ico image which is created from a bitmap image. We need to create the image. Go to your image editor (Photoshop, Paintshop, Fireworks, etc.) and open up a copy of the logo you want on your site. Shrink it down to 16x16. This means the pictures dimensions are only 16 pixels wide by 16 pixels high. You may have to play with your editor to make the image look clear and not blury.Save the image as a bitmap file (if your image editor will save the image as a .ico image then do that instead and skip step 3). The file extension will be .bmp.Now we need to convert the image into an .ico image. I don't have a specific program to recommend but I did go to http://www.download.com/ and searched for "ico". I downloaded QTam Bitmap to Icon 3.5 just to try it and it worked great for me (little disclaimer here - I take NO responsibility for this 3rd party software). Step through the options of the conversion software to convert your bitmap into a .ico file. Be sure to select 16x16 if you are given options for file dimensions. Save the file as favicon.ico.Move the new .ico file (favicon.ico) to your server in the images directory (or where ever you store your images).Add the following html to your header tags:    You'll need to adjust the HREF= url to point to the right file on your server.Here is a simplified view of what your html might look like:Favicon Explained...etc. etc. ...Alrighty. That'll do it. Have fun with it. Find other ways to personalize your site.



Website Review - Great design: http://www.goodwinnetwork.com/

Fri, 16 Mar 2007 11:47:16 -0700

Nathan Rogerson added a comment to one of my posts. Frequently I will venture into a commenter's profile and take a peek at their web site looking for cool ideas to post or model into my sites.His site is http://www.goodwinnetwork.com/. It really caught my eye! Talk about a sharp looking site and memorable. The color pallet, icons/images, and layout are fabulous. I give the design a two-thumbs up.The site must be new because it didn't show any Google PR and the advanced search link didn't work. I assume you are still working on it and adding content as well. The guy blowing in the wind can become redundant from page to page. And the flash links are not followable, which was cured by the links on the bottom of the pages. I'm sure you are working on these things.Your designer did a great job. Overall, I think the site is awesome. Great work!



Sitemaps

Wed, 14 Mar 2007 08:12:51 -0700

A sitemap is a flat method of presenting your web site's navigation. Flat means there is little to no structure. In other words, one (maybe two if your site is huge) page links to all other pages and tools your web site provides. Your regular navigation should be intuitive enough for the standard user to find any content within 2, maybe 3, clicks without having to search around on the site. Some users, however, want to see all of the content at once. A sitemap allows for that. Some pages may not be very important to you but you have them on your site anyway. You can "bury" those pages by not linking to them in your standard navigation but linking to them in the sitemap. Users and search engines can find these obscure pages but often they won't get a lot of traffic. A great reason to have a sitemap is for search engines. You can aid them in the spidering of your site and the locating of all pages by providing an easy to find sitemap. Google and Yahoo provide services where you can submit an advanced version of your sitemap using an XML file. There are tools you can use to build these advanced sitemaps. Once the sitemap is produced then submit it to the search engines. Search engines supposedly use these to fully index a site.Any time you add a new page you can update your sitemap so users and search engines can see current content.



Blogging - Make the Best Use of Your Time

Tue, 13 Mar 2007 13:47:21 -0700

Agents want leads. Most agents have a web site and want leads from that site. Many agents have limited content on their web site but blog dozens to hundreds of A|R posts. While I'm not opposed to the A|R posts I believe a lot of the time spent writing can be used to move both causes. It is not recommended to duplicate content. However, changes in the content can make it reusable on your site to boost the site's value.As much time can be spent on writing about the area you service along with real estate issues there. Post those topics to your site and then blog about the issue on A|R. You will find search engines will find your content sooner and your pages more often.



Link Exchange Programs

Tue, 13 Mar 2007 13:00:28 -0700

There are many discussions regarding search engine algorithms. One topic that keeps coming up over and over is regarding link exchange programs. We are all getting a feel for the importance of solid in-bound links into our sites. What may be unclear is that not all links are created equal. Perceived web popularity is extremely important when search engines consider a site for a high rank. They want to know the site is an authority and has relevant information and one way to determine that is if other sites cite or quote (giving credit by linking) a given site. This means the link to the site is found within the content or at the foot of the content. Search engines have wised up to the link sharing and do not value it as highly (some claim that no value is given for a simple link exchange) as content linking or citing. In other words if my site shows up in a list of other sites they all share the page rank and very little value is passed along to the site(s) being linked to. On the other hand, if a link is surrounded with great content and the page is valuable, the page receiving the inbound traffic will receive a higher value.How should this affect agents? Spend as much time as possible trying to find sites who will cite your page or site. Be leary of link exchange requests, especially from a page that has a low page rank. It won't help much if at all, and is valuable time wasted. Write content and provide tools that other sites link to because of its valuable nature. If a tool is valuable people will link to it. If your city information is valuable people will link to it. Become the authority for great information in your area. Post on sites (ah, the blessed A|R) who already have a great page rank and will allow outbound links to your site. Spend time where your site will receive the most value.



Technology Introduction

Mon, 12 Mar 2007 05:34:36 -0700

We see stats all the time regarding the number of people finding houses and agents online. Simply put, most agent believe they need to have a web site and there are many tools and technologies out there to make your site stand out. One thing to keep in mind as you develop your site is that technology can actually stand in your way if you don't implement it correctly. Cramming too much technology into your site can make it bulky and hard to navigate. Adding the right technology and keeping an intuitive navigation will help your users and in the end they will enjoy your site and their first experience with you. There are several technologies I recommend every agent use. The others are there in case you are bored or have a special need. Technologies to Implement MLS CSS Menu Systems Mortgage Calculator Technologies that May Fit Your Site Gasoline tracker Flash JavaScript Technologies to Avoid if Possible Frames Stock Tickers Read more about these technologies and others at the Technology Table of Contents.



Agent Web Design - Table of Contents

Mon, 12 Mar 2007 05:03:55 -0700

In an ongoing desire to stay organized and present blog postings in an easy to find way I am putting together this main Table of Contents. I hope it helps you find what you are looking for as you design and improve your real estate agent web site. This page is the main index and each link below takes you to a sub table of contents with specific articles.ChaptersIntroduction to Web DesignBuild a Web Site from ScratchDesign AppearanceDesign FunctionalitySEOTechnologyBloggingPersonalize Your SiteAgent Web Design Web SiteWeb Design for Real Estate Agents - contains an organized approach to all of the web design articles on this blog.If you would like to add to this table of contents please send me a message and I'll add your table to this main table.



Are You the Local Authority? Building an Authority Site

Mon, 12 Mar 2007 04:35:41 -0700

I recent read an article on authority web sites and believe it applies to real estate agent web sites. The article basically claims that over time the successful larger commercial web sites will become more and more successful and the smaller sites will go by the wayside. The author was talking more about product based sites but the concepts impact real estate as well. The author defines an authority site: 'A fairly comprehensible authority site definition was put forward by Jason Dowdell of Global Promoter. Jason defined it this way: "authority sites are sites that have been linked to and referenced on other web sites covering the same subject matter and they also will have hundreds if not thousands of pages covering that subject matter and nearly every facet of it."' He continues, "A simple question must be asked. What do 99.9% of authority sites provide? In a sentence, an incredíble amount of original content and a superb visitor experience." How do you build an authority site in the real estate realm? The best way to answer this question is to put yourself in your client's shoes. Ask their top 20 questions. For example: How much are houses going for? Do you have houses I can see online (MLS)? What are the best areas for me to live in? Is it safe there? What about the schools? What about the job market? What is it like to live there? Where can I find community information? How big are the yards? Who can help me get a loan? Is it a good time to buy? What are the demographics? How do I get around? Do you know a competent real estate agent? (add your own questions here...) Does your site answer community specific questions effectively while leaving them wanting more? Web masters can write content about hundreds of topics. In time, the compilation of many community specific information will help your users determine you are the authority. Google will also believe it. Search engines will see the mass of interlinked content discussing all topics and trust more in the site. What is your site's experience like? When users arrive at your site what is the feeling the get? Do they believe in your content because your site presents well? Do you offer them dynamic tools to help them answer their questions? Do users feel like they can contact the real authority because their site appears to be the authority? Building an authority web site will bring users to it and convert them into trusting clients. Take time to analyze your site and rework it as necessary to be the local authority real estate site.



Model Web Sites - Watch for Trends on Popular Sites

Thu, 08 Mar 2007 06:38:20 -0800

Some of the best ways to improve your agent web site is to take the concepts another web designer has used and modify them to fit your site. Here are some sites to gleam ideas from:www.MSNBC.com - News sites have to manage a ton of content and usually employ many people to design around their content. Review their sites for content navigation and layout.www.activerain.com - A|R is focused and simplistic. The designers know who their target is and how to help them reach their goal. As a result they are finding great success. Who is your target? What can you learn from A|R?www.yahoo.com - Yahoo is a great model in tool and content navigation. They know what their users use most and put it in front of them. Their colors work for many people and they are stars at branding.www.myspace.com - Agents and myspace probably don't go together well. However, there is a lot to be learned about connecting to a user. Myspace has connected better than most other social networks because they offer what is important and make it easy to find.www.youtube.com - YouTube is clean and simple and does one thing: cater to its users. It gives them what they want and they come back for more.Are there other sites you have used for great ideas?



Web Site Promotions and Contests

Thu, 08 Mar 2007 03:48:29 -0800

This is a component of real estate web design I don't understand very well. I am open to feedback.PromotionsI often see promotions on agent web sites and I am turned off by them. They offer $500 here or .5% there or other monetary rewards for selecting them as an agent. I have seen "use our moving truck- FREE" for choosing us. Do these offers help? or do they forfeit an opportunity to negotiate later down the road once they are sitting in the office? do they really attract potential clients?If a promotion is necessary I think it would be best to word it something like, "Ask about our discounts" or "Call for details on our FREE move policy" or "Send a message to ask about our relocation assistance". If there was ever a time to put text into an image now would probably be it because text in images is not seen by search engines. I would think the last thing an agent would want a search engine to find them for would be "Discount realty services." Besides, an image would draw attention to the promotion if done correctly and may invite more response to the ad.ContestsI see contests more rarely and wonder if they help to personalize a site and draw attention. I have seen puzzles and invitations to contact the agent for movie vouchers, drawings, and eastereggs (hidden features within a web site). I have found these to be a little corny for a web site, although they do work in newsletters, and I have not added them to my site. Do you have any experience with contests? do they draw contacts? are the contacts valid?I invite comments to help readers know if promotions and contests are beneficial to an agent's site.For more real estate web site personalization ideas visit the Table of Contents - Personalize Your Site page.



Podcasting

Wed, 07 Mar 2007 06:27:51 -0800

According to Wikipedia Podcasting is,"A podcast is a media file that is distributed over the Internet using syndication feeds, for playback on portable media players and personal computers.[1] Like 'radio', it can mean both the content and the method of syndication. The latter may also be termed podcasting. The host or author of a podcast is often called a podcaster. The term "podcast" is derived from Apple's portable music player, the iPod. Known synonyms for the word pod are capsule, case, container, hull, husk, shell, and vessel.[2] A pod refers to a container of some sort and the idea of broadcasting to a container or pod correctly describes the process of podcasting.[3] More about the name itself can be found in the History of podcasting article."Instead of written content podcasting refers to the distribution (syndication) of files. Often music, video, pdfs, and other documents are pushed out. The difference between standard downloading we are all accustomed to and podcasting is that content is syndicated using RSS much like a blog syndicates to feed readers. There may be little real estate agent use for this type of technology but I thought I would address it briefly. Some applications for the technology might be for users interested in updated photos of your area, ongoing virtual tour releases, movies about property, etc.



Adding News Feeds to Your Site

Wed, 07 Mar 2007 06:14:46 -0800

There is a current push toward content feeds (learn about RSS). Your Google personal page or your Yahoo personal page or any other feed reader can store the feeds from different web sites, usually blogs. These feed readers read xml formats (i.e. RSS, Atom, etc.) and as new articles are added to the blog they are fed to the readers and readers get current content as they log in.Some sites provide these feeds as free content. Web masters can include the feeds into their site using scripts. That way web sites seem to always have new and updated content. Adding news feeds to a site may keep your users up to speed on recent articles. More importantly they may add credibility to your site. Go to your local newspaper and see if they provide free content in the form of feeds. Some sites will do this because it brings net surfers to their site. Here is a site that aggregates feeds and provides the scripts to insert in your site: http://www.freshcontent.net/ Please be careful not to make these feeds the focus of your site but instead, a feature to build credibility.



Blogging and RSS

Tue, 06 Mar 2007 08:14:12 -0800

RSS commonly stands for "Really Simple Syndication". It refers to the ability to push data/information from one location (i.e. web site or blog) to another location (i.e. feed reader, site, blog). Wikipedia states it: "RSS is a family of web feed formats used to publish frequently updated digital content, such as blogs, news feeds or podcasts...Users of RSS content use programs called feed 'readers' or 'aggregators': the user 'subscribes' to a feed by supplying to their reader a link to the feed; the reader can then check the user's subscribed feeds to see if any of those feeds have new content since the last time it checked, and if so, retrieve that content and present it to the user."- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RSS_(file_format) It is a very good idea to have a blog that publishes an RSS format so your articles are easily distributed to people looking for the content you offer. Check out the bottom right of the screen you are reading just below the "Archives" area. See the little logos? One says RSS 2.0 and the other Atom 1.0. Click on one of those buttons. A new window pops up and lets you choose to subscribe to the feed. You can add it to Google, Yahoo, or any feed reader you subscribe to. Be sure any blog tool you use allows for users to subscribe to your feed. Once a subscriber adds the feed to their feed reader they will see a new entry any time a new blog post is added. The beauty is that a user can keep all of their desired content in one area - the reader - instead of going to each site every time they want the info. They simply go to their reader and all of the current content from all of their preferred sites has been syndicated and is there.For more Blog Topics visit the Blog Table of Contents



MLS Search and IDX

Tue, 06 Mar 2007 07:50:04 -0800

Most users looking for a real estate web site are looking for real estate, meaning they want to see available homes and properties for sale. In most markets, the MLS is the best equipped tool to present users with what they are searching for. So, the question we often see, "how do I add the MLS to my site?" There are a few methods discussed below.First of all, a discussion on how MLS works. MLSs store data in databases. They provide a user view to add, update, read, and delete the data. The data base sits in the background storing all of this working data. In order to build a view for clients to see the data a web master must have access to that data (often via IDX) and know how to format it. That knowledge and ability comes with a price.Three Methods to Add MLS to Your SiteContact your MLS provider and format IDX yourself - Data from the MLS can be fed to a database stored on your server and you can format the data yourself. This option requires an advanced knowledge of web design.Use the tool provided by the MLS -  One of the only times I suggest using a frame page is with the MLS. Many do-it-yourself web designers are not advanced enough or don't want to spend the time in formatting IDX/MLS data into their site. Many MLS tools provide a tool designers can link to that is virtually a MLS search engine. Designers can choose from several template skins to wrap the data. A frame can include this tool and make it look like the MLS is part of the site or at least related to it.Pay a company to provide the local MLS - There are companies specialized in providing the MLS and manipulating IDX. They will charge a monthly fee usually to maintain the data fed into their system.Make sure you find some method to include the MLS. Many users come looking only for the MLS. When they decide to hire an agent you want them to choose you because they are used to using your site and tools.If you have any other options not discussed above please comment them below.For more real estate web site technology ideas visit the Table of Contents - Technology page.



PPC - Alternative to SEO for Web Sites

Tue, 06 Mar 2007 06:33:11 -0800

SEO is what they call a "natural" way to rise within search engines. Web site owners have to either spend the time to write content and find sites to link to them or pay someone to do it. The alternative is to focus on the site's lead conversion and then pay for your web site position using PPC or Pay Per Click advertising. Search engines place ads on their search engine results for specific key words. They work with their customers so the ads are placed according to geographical location among other factors. They charge an amount per user click. This means an agent sets up a budget and the ads show up on their search engine results. Every time a user sees the ad and clicks on it they subtract the amount from the budget. They leave it up to the agent web site to do the work of conversion and they don't care what happens after the user leaves their engine. Their goal is to place the ads in intuitive positions to drive traffic through the ads so they can get paid.For those agents who want a productive site but don't want to spend time on the SEO it is a good idea to design the site for great conversion and then spend the money on ad space.Search engines charge varying amounts for click through links depending on the popularity of the keyworrd or phrase. For example, some California or Florida agents are going to get charged more than an agent in Twin Bridges Montana. Agents may be charged anywhere from a few cents to a couple of dollars per click depending on the market. Contact Google http://www.google.com/ads/ or Yahoo http://advertising.yahoo.com/ (click Yahoo! Search Marketing) to get started with your PPC marketing campaign.Read more SEO related articles by visiting the SEO Table of Contents



Personalize Your Web Site - Introduction

Mon, 05 Mar 2007 06:44:45 -0800

It's fun to watch all of the different real estate agent personalities here on Active|Rain. Some of us are assertive, some laid back. Some focus on localism information, some focus on information for other agents. Some are organized, some not-so-organized. Etc. From a client's perspective, we must have a million different personalities, goals, and levels of professionalism. Your web site should be an extension of YOUR business and should carry your image on it. If agents want to connect with potential clients there is no better way than through their web site. Take advantage of your creative liberty to make a very professional, personalized site to strike a chord with your users and you will see the benefits as they convert to YOUR clients.For more real estate web site personalization ideas visit the Table of Contents - Personalize Your Site page.



Personalize Your Site - Use your "about me" page to connect to users

Mon, 05 Mar 2007 06:23:53 -0800

The first article in this series discusses user trust in your web site. Agents have a great opportunity to create trust and, just as importantly, connect with their users. User your "About Me" page to express what you are all about. Most agent web sites market real estate within a certain geographical area or housing project (at least they should). The one page that should exclusively sell the agent alone should be their own profile page. Here is YOUR chance to shine. Here are some things to talk about on this one page:How much experience do you have?What is your educational background?What are your qualifications?What special groups (boy scouts, religion, animals, charity, etc.) are you involved with?What pets to you have, prefer, like?Where did you grow up?Why do you like real estate?Do you skydive?Do you motorbike?Do you enjoy the nightlife?What car do you own?What type of house do you own?What are your goals?What are your commitments?What is your personality like (serious, ambitious, fun, outgoing, lazy, creative, techy, etc.)Do you have a family?What other connections can you make with your users?Describe yourself in words. Describe yourself in pictures, logos, etc. Add some flash. Add a photo slide show from Photobucket. Ask yourself, "who do I want to work with?" "what can I say/show to connect with them?" "would I work with me?" "what image should I portray?" You will come up with some great ideas and in the end connect to your users. If you want to connect with many people in general then keep your content very generic and general. If you want to work with a specific client base then targe them. "I'm a biker and want to work primarily with bikers," will cut out a large number of users but it will get you what you want. Be careful to limit your "about me" content to the "about me" page. If people want to know about you they will go looking. Use your site to market your real estate and area and when people trust the content they will seek your profile out. When they get there you can let it shine and convert them to work with you.For more real estate web site personalization ideas visit the Table of Contents - Personalize Your Site page.



Trust = Character x Competency

Mon, 05 Mar 2007 06:04:50 -0800

Brian Buffini is a real estate trainer many of you may know. He teaches that a referral business is the only business to have in the industry. He did thousands of transactions based on his success with the concept. Some of his concepts play out very well in real estate agent web design. One of the first things he talks about in his trainings is the trust factor.He stresses that clients will use you if they trust you. Trust consists of multiple factors. The primary two factors are character and competency. It could be said that:TRUST = CHARACTER X COMPETENCYPeople will trust someone over someone else based on how they value the two main factors. The more of both you display the more people in general can trust you.How does this apply to web design? Your web site design is your online character and your content is your competency. It is that simple. Agents want people to contact them. People will contact them if they can find them and if they trust the site.Personalize your web site. You have an image in your profession. Let that image carry over into your site. Get help if you need it. Ask others to give you feedback. Ask them what image you are portraying. Make sure your users can TRUST your site so they will give you a chance.If you have a fun character and those are the types of people you want to work with then your site should be fun. It should be professional but lively and colorful. If your character is a country rancher then the site should portray that. If you are high tech and contemporary then let that character shine through your site. People you want to work with will see that character and decide to contact you for that. Be careful not to give off that you are disorganized or plain. Many sites try to smash every icon they can find and every topic they can think of on their home page. It is distracting. People get the impression that they will get smothered by the agent as well. Be clear, concise, and have a direction, like you would with a client.If you are very competent at what you do then let it shine through. Make your content great. Show people they can get great answers by contacting you. Talk about the area. Talk about the market. Talk about housing. People will listen if you write well. In the end, you will be their choice.Help people trust you from the first impression. Let them get a sense of who you are and help them gain that trust.For more real estate web site personalization ideas visit the Table of Contents - Personalize Your Site page.



Virtual Property/City Tours

Thu, 01 Mar 2007 03:59:08 -0800

Some statistics support that property virtual tours greatly aid in the sale of homes, especially higher end homes. There are a great addition to an agents web site. They boost a site's credibility and many users return when they believe they can find the tours.Virtual tours are often constructed by taking a series of pictures of a room. Each picture's edge shares the edge of the next picture virtually creating a panoramic view of the subject. Special software called "stitching software" combines these still frame photos into fluid flash or java files. They are then inserted into some navigation engine and the user can view a 360 degree version of the photos. The idea is to help the user feel as though they are somewhat present in the room or area.Though I have not seen many, I also believe that city tours would draw return users. Agents could make use of the same technology and pan across cityscapes or other local landscapes.To find a virtual tour company open your email inbox. You will likely have dozens of people soliciting your business. Ask an agent in the office and they can point you in the right direction. Agents can run a simple Google search for hundreds of companies. They will help an agent link to the virual tour they create. Virtual tours typically cost anywhere from $50-150 depending on the company and complexity of the tour. Some companies will give one or two for free and some give a discount for more than one tour purchase at a time. Be sure to ask about discounts. Also ask for examples. Just like web sites, not all tours are created the same. You may consider paying a bit more for a reputable company.For more real estate web site technology ideas visit the Table of Contents - Technology page.



Adding Interest Rate Feeds to My Site

Thu, 01 Mar 2007 03:12:47 -0800

As an agent I get asked all the time what the interest rates are doing. Lenders and financers can usually answer that much better than I can but I have a resource for a quick answer. On a sub page of my site I added an interest rate feed that produces a chart of the national interest rate averages. It is not specific to my market and I like it that way. I can give clients an idea of where they stand so they can calculate a ballpark figure. We then have the discussion that their credit, financial situation, etc. will affect their actual interest rate and I refer them to a few trusted lenders who they can interview for more specific information. Because I am not a lender this feature is not on my home page. It is easy to find on a sub page.Here are some other URLs:http://www.bankrate.com/brm/graphs/new_graph_draw_full.asp http://www.bankrate.com/brm/graphs/graph_trend.asphttp://mortgage-x.com/trends.htmhttp://realestate.yahoo.com/loans/rate_trends.html?type=mtg&period=1y&prod_id1=on&national=on&state_code=NV&submit=Update+Charthttp://cgi.hsh.com/syndicator/selectfile.asp I'm sure there are other tools out there. Please drop a comment here if you use or find another one that would benefit our readers.For more real estate web site technology ideas visit the Table of Contents - Technology page.



HTML and Javascript Functionality on My Site

Wed, 28 Feb 2007 12:42:10 -0800

This is a simplified explanation of what HTML and JavaScript are. It is concise and brief to avoid hitting you with too much geek speak..HTML HTML is a "markup language" that works much like MS Word and other software. Little tags (i.e.
or

) surround content telling it how to appear. Your browsers reads those tags and presents a result. For example, go to your own blog in a new window, paste the following 2 lines: I am a cool Active|Rain user.I am a cool Active|Rain user.Now, that you pasted those in you can click the little "HTML" button in the gray title area just above your cursor and you will see the html with the following:

I am a cool Active|Rain user.

I am a cool Active|Rain userThe little <> and things signify open and close tags around the text that should be different. HTML has very little functionality. You can basically only read it, link to/from it, post variables to another page.More Articleshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HTML http://www.w3.org/MarkUp/http://www.htmlgoodies.com/do a google search for "html"JavaScriptJavaScript is, "a script language - a system of programming codes." These codes allow web masters to add functionality to their site, in other words, do something more than just read the content. Programmers can design functions that alter the results in a web browser. For example, Cheryl Reynen posted a great example to our group on how to disable the "right click" of a users mouse to protect from page copyright infringement. Likely, Active|Rain is using JavaScript to expand/contract sections of the site (click the little + or - sign next to the "Links" section title to the right). Some people use JavaScript to build menus on their site. There are many uses for it.Although JavaScript can add some awesome functionality beware that it may be difficult to program in. I would rather hire someone myself or find free JavaScript on the net than sit and program it. Different browsers (i.e. Internet Explorer, Fire Fox, NetScape, etc.) handle functions differently and sometimes to get a function to work a programmer has to write it multiple times in multiple ways to handle browser differences. I would recommend for us typical site owners that if we want to use JavaScript to enhance our site that we hire out the programming or find the script already done and free for licensing on the net.Here are some sites to find cool scripts:http://www.javascriptkit.com/http://www.w3schools.com/js/default.asphttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JavaScripthttp://javascript.internet.com/http://www.dynamicdrive.com/do a google search for "javascript source"For more real estate web site technology ideas visit the Table of Contents - Technology page.