A recent study by the National Association of Realtors highlighted the issue of keeping up with technology. It was cited as one of the most challenging problems the membership was facing. Perhaps the greatest challenge for non-techies is sorting the fads from the trends so resources are allocated wisely to truly effective solutions.
One technology that has evolved nicely over the past 20 or so years is the realty website. In its most basic form it has a clean design, automated listings and includes knowledgeable support. Most IDX providers use template systems that are relatively simple to manage although rents can be high depending on complexity.
In a survey, we asked Realtors what features they wanted for their websites. We were curious if there was a gap between needs/wants and the products available. The consensus was for user-friendly control (content, layout and palette), flexible to create a sense of differentiation, and intelligent design so it was mostly automated. It wasn’t surprising that they happened to be describing WordPress, the No.1 website platform in the world.
Originally a blog tool, WordPress has captured an incredible 32 per cent market share. Its users include Vogue magazine, Microsoft News, Flikr, REMonline and many more. It’s maintained and distributed by a non-profit organization with a mission to democratize online publishing. Programmers from around the world work collaboratively as volunteers to improve the software. It has some amazing features, such as plug-ins that extend functionality to the different areas of real estate like property rentals, vacation rentals, seminars, mailing listings and more. If you can imagine a website function that you would like to have, there is probably already a plug-in.
The downloadable software is free and can be hosted on any server. Plain enough for newbies, yet complex enough under the hood for programmers, it has simple controls that are easy to use. The editing window is similar to Microsoft Word so it’s effortless to create new pages and posts and add photos. First impressions are good: “This is what I thought a website would be like”. Use an IDX or DDF solution designed for WordPress and to create an independent, cost-controlled platform.
One of the best features included in WordPress is the built-in blog. If you’re just catching up, a blog is simply a directory of articles that one creates or curates. Each time a page or blog post is updated, WordPress sends the search engines a ping, which tells them to queue the site for indexing. For this reason, blogging has been called the best inbound marketing tool available with 55 per cent of professional marketers saying it’s their primary strategy.
Hubspot has produced some interesting statistics on blogging. They say that posting 11 or more articles each month produces four times the traffic of a non-blog site. Does four times the traffic correlate to an income multiple from your website? Maybe.
The most successful method of blogging is to distribute valuable information to a niche audience. This is called content marketing and it relies on attracting visitors who look for very specific information by searching with long phrases. Hubspot has determined that content marketing results in three times more leads compared to pay-per-click. (The statistics are for e-commerce in general but may correlate to real estate. It would be interesting to see the numbers.) Does this mean you can cancel the expensive pay-per-click ad campaign and just do blogging? If you enjoy using social media and sharing interesting things, then blogging might have a better ROI.
Which leads us to a mention about creativity and its power to solve business problems: Overcoming writer’s block to produce interesting content is a form of professional development. According to the outline for Harvard University’s course Creative Thinking: Innovative Solutions to Complex Challenges, practicing creativity produces better decisions, better results through innovative ideas and improves the confidence level of the practitioner.
There are a number of sources for valuable information available to Realtors. For example, your board produces statistics on sales and market activity. Discussing trends and pointing out changes in the market are topics that some readers will enjoy, especially if the discussion is specific to a neighbourhood (your farm areas). Not everyone is familiar with Realtor.ca and your site might be the first contact they have with an agent, especially if there is information not found on other sites. Getting started can be challenging but it seems like there are a number of personal and business benefits that come from this type of inbound marketing work.