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A Conversation About How to Organize a Real Estate Website

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In this session we discuss the organization and layout of a real estate website. A member shows us his site organization plan and we comment on the content, layout and discuss the types of content that show up on individual pages and posts. We discuss using video transcripts along with videos for SEO purposes, Home Page call to action areas and setup.

Video Transcript

Rick: Okay so now we look at John and we’ve got an interesting conversation about a real estate agent’s website. Good evening John, how are you doing?

John: I’m doing great Rick, how are you?

Rick: I am doing well. Okay so we have… I see you’ve sent me this sketch of this concept, sort of a layout concept as you imagine each of your pages working. You want to just kind of walk me through what I’m looking at here?

John: Sure. Up at the top of course, I’ve got the URL and the various navigation buttons. You can see that I’ve placed the navigation a little bit lower than it comes in Thesis. I watched the tutorial from the guy who wrote Thesis and learned how to do that with a little CSS code. And then down below the nav button, I’ve got a testimonial video where I put some testimonials together added to it and if they click on that, the viewer can see that. Going above the nav bar, there’s a call to action button for home analysis. Then going off to the left, you can see a kind of imagining a grid where there are various home searches. And underneath the video in the sidebar, there are 2 more calls to action where people can download some reports that I’m going to be offering for information in the area where this website was specialized which is Phoenix Desert Ridge.

Rick: Okay and when you do this, you’ll end up with your column being uniform in size, right? I mean that’s what you want. You either want it uniform in size this direction or you want it to lay out this way so that you know, this part is one size and this is one big piece and then down here, you have a smaller column system below that. So your… in terms of just the layout concept, you want to be thinking about you know, how each of these… the proportion of each of these things to each other. And so, what you’d end up with in this case is you know, a column like that, right? So you’d have your content column and your sidebar. You know, maybe on your home page, this is a feature box that’s divided up into you know, testimonial video on one side and some featured text on another .And then you’d want to stretch your navigation bar all the way across, one way or the other, all the way across here. And then maybe your nav… maybe your call to action box up here is the same size as your column below or as your video. You know, one of the two. So you come up with this you know, a uniform organization of the site. I would… I mean, I think this gives you’re an opportunity to do something kind of interesting to have, all of this you know, this section seemed like it stretches all the way across the site whereas these 2 pieces are your typical columns on the site.

However, you could just as easily you know, just stretch this. Oops, that’s not what I wanted to do. But you could just as easily stretch this like that and like that and you have different… and the 2 columns go all the way up to the navigation bar which is the other way to do that. This is the more common way to do it, right? And so then you’d try to make this and this line up. You could decide to hold your navigation bar over to here and so this comes down or you can bring a navigation bar all the way across and you’d end up with a band like that. I don’t know, I’m just thinking about layout at that point, not content.

John: Sure.

Rick: Okay and so then the next page, this is just your blog page, right?

John: Yeah you know, more than just the shape of things here, I just kind of want to decide what was going to go on each page. You know, I just… I feel like when I look at the various real estate websites you know, there are various different looking sites but very few of them offer the viewer the opportunity to a call to action. But you know, whereas I see that on other kinds of websites all the time, maybe too much of it. So you’ll notice on each of these pages, I’ve you know, put something in there in order to be able to capture the viewers’ contact information and maybe build rapport with them.

Rick: Sure.

John: So the page does look kind of ugly and really, I just kind of wanted to get down what I wanted to have on each page. It probably gets uglier and uglier the further you go down because it was just kind of realize…

Rick: Just laying out stuff, yeah.

John: Yeah.

Rick: Okay and so then since that’s the case, let’s talk about the various kinds of content you have here. It looks to me like as I define types of content, you have pages. So you’ve got your Home, your About, probably your Marketing, maybe your Resources as individual pages. You have posts which don’t really show up here much but they’re your blog posts, right?

John: Correct.

Rick: You have downloadable PDFs which show up here and here and then also, a couple of other places on this site. So you’ve got opportunities for people to download content. You have something called Market Updates and you know, you can add it here and then you can add it over to your Market Updates page. Oh, I guess I must have skipped past it. Yeah, I’m sorry, right here.

So you’ve got your market update downloadable but you’ve also got something here called Market Update. And I don’t know if this is… is this simply a summary that never changes or is this an actual market update that changes from week to week or month to month or whatever?

Well, in the middle of the screen where you see the video, that would be a screencast of my going through just a quick PowerPoint of what happened in that market in terms of sales for the week and what’s come on to the market in terms of new listings. Just a very quick you know, under 1 minute video. And I thought, maybe what I can do is offer the viewer the opportunity to get a market update of the data emailed to them or via RSS on a regular basis.

John: Okay, sure.

Rick: Especially if they’re interested in the area so… or maybe just to be able to get a copy of this each weekly video emailed to them or a link to it or something.

And what happens to last week’s video when you put this week’s video up?

John: This would be… that’s a great question. I would treat this page like a blog also even though it’s not where I’m going to be writing various content about the area. It would just strictly be a you know, dedicated to Market Updates and what the page…

Rick: So Market Updates becomes a vlog, a video blog.

John: Yes.

Rick: It’s got some text associated with it but what it really is, is a video presentation which you’ll want to transcribe, by the way. You want have that transcribed and have that text along with it so that Google recognizes it for what it is and can index for it.

John: I know that’s done fairly easily on Google. I think you can..or on YouTube, there’s probably a button you can push and it just automatically does it for you, I think.

Rick: Yeah, but you’ll want to hire somebody to do it properly because it’s just a machine-read system.

John: Okay, it gets a lot of words wrong.

Rick: Yeah, it’s not checked by a human being. You’ll want to hire a transcriptionist to create transcriptions for each one of those videos. They don’t have to be… you know, you can just put it with… as soon as it gets done so it doesn’t have to be done as the video’s done but it should just… as soon as they get it done, you should add it to that video post so that’s a constant source of content for Google to index, especially because you’re going to be talking about your area. And so you will be using terms associate with your area and continually reinforcing your interest and your place and your expertise in that area to Google.

John: So transcribing the video verbatim is more useful than just maybe making a few comments underneath the video that are relative, maybe posting just the…

Rick: It’s way more useful.

John: It is? Why?

Rick: Yeah well in the first place, because it’s more… there’s more of it and really you know, if you want Google to take a page seriously for information you know, it still wants be around 300 words, you’ll have a much harder time writing 300 words as a summary as you will simply you know, transcribing the thing you said for a minute or two.

John: Okay so I’m guessing this transcribing business is not expensive?

Rick: It does not have to be. I pay $0.25 per video minute for transcription on oDesk.

John: Oh that’s definitely affordable. Maybe you have a source that I should contact?

Rick: Well, I use oDesk which is an outsourcing company in a… well, it’s a broker, outsourcing broker. And so, you post your job on oDesk and a bunch people bid on it and you take the person you want. I mean, I’ve been working with my transcriptionist now for a long time, over a year and you know, we just have a continuing contract. And as she has time, she jumps on new videos and transcribes them then we put them on the site. So you know, it costs me $15 per video hour for transcription work and obviously, we have you know, 3, sometimes 4 hours of video a week, sometimes even more than that to be transcribed so it’s not trivial at that point.

John: So I may be paying a lot more per minute since I may have a whole lot less video time in one week, I suppose.

Rick: But even if you paid $1 a minute and you got a minute, a minute and a half. I mean really, contracts can be like that. You can set up a contract on oDesk for you know, some number of cents per minute and you just make milestone payments every week of a dollar or a buck and a half or two or whatever it is. And they every week, get on to your site, do the transcription and email it to you.

John: Well, I’m just surprised someone would want to do that but that’s…

Rick: You’re outsourcing it so your… the chances are you’re dealing with somebody you know, in the Philippines or something like that.

John: Right, makes sense.

Rick: And in that situation, a buck and a half for 15 minutes worth of work is reasonable for them.

John: Okay, makes sense. Very good.

Rick: So anyway, that’s just… we’re digressing a little bit but that’s what that is. This is vlog. So it’s a video presentation and that’s the market updates. Talk to me about the Resources. So not absolutely certain I understand… is the Resources just a list of stuff or is it interactive? Does it change?

John: You know, I guess it would just kind of be… like community information like you know, phone numbers for local utilities, municipalities. Also, I was wondering if there might be some way to create a Google news alert that kind of feeds in to the website automatically, bringing up any you know, relative content to the area. Just a…

Rick: Are you marketing to people who don’t live in Arizona? Is that what this site’s for?

John: No.

Rick: Okay so this is for people who live in Arizona.

John: Yes it is.

Rick: Okay. Well, undoubtedly, you probably could create… there are all kinds of ways you create news feeds like that. So in any case, it’s an automated system so it’s not really content. It’s not really a type of content that you’re producing. It’s an automated news feed of one sort or another.

John: So I guess…

Rick: So Resources then just becomes a page.

John: Yeah, I guess most of it would be static and then maybe I can have links to municipalities or a list of phone numbers you know, just maybe not the most important page but if somebody lives there and they need phone numbers to hook up their utilities, it would be nice that they’re there all in one place.

Rick: Okay so then the next kind of content you have are real estate listings.

John: Right.

Rick: Are you getting this information from a multiple listing service?

John: Yes, through my IDS.

Rick: And so, you’ve got a feed and you’re choosing to sort through that feed and show it in these categories.

John: Yeah, I was just going to hyperlink each of these. I’m showing a grid here so each of those particular searches, I would just hyperlink to the search so that it would populate with the results accordingly. And for some reason, when I look at these types of searches on real estate website pages, they’re really busy-looking maybe because of all the different covers from each photograph. No matter how gorgeous the home, each backdrop is a little bit different and they each come off looking busy so I was thinking that creating some uniform-looking buttons with the text typed into it, I just make these search pages look a little nicer. You know, when you’re looking at 9 different boxes there instead of you know, 9 different homes with different backgrounds. To me, it just makes the website instantly look busy but maybe I’m overanalyzing it. I don’t know.

Rick: Yeah, I don’t know either. I suppose that would be worth something worth you know, getting some advice on, playing around with a little bit, maybe trying to get a couple of different ways and see what works. But in any case, each of these, these are essentially… again, they’re not content types. Usually, they’re just buttons to a search of your feed.

John: Correct.

Rick: So in terms of our types of content now, we’re down to pages, posts, video posts, and downloadable PDFs.

John: That’s right.

Rick: Okay and so which means that the organization of the site is very simple and straightforward with one exception which is the market updates. I would create a custom post type called market update and I would probably consider… oh no, I don’t suppose you need to. I was going to say probably consider customizing the template but I don’t think you needed to customize the template. You just have the video on in the content at the top and you know, whenever you get a transcription done, the transcription added to it. But… and then you have the Market Updates page itself is actually like a blog post page so it would show one or two featured posts and then all the rest as some kind of teaser format.

John: Really, the chances are… I mean, I’m guessing that the chances are the only real reason for having easy access to the past information is really just for Google’s indexing that draws people to you know, it reinforces who you are in the web and it draws people to the site who may be searching for something you know, that transcript comes up in the search results. They pop over there and they find out it was last May but they see that you know, there’s… this weeks’ market update as well. And so…

John: Exactly. I would think the more of it you have and the more consistency you have, the more respect you might gain from a visitor.

Rick: Absolutely. I don’t think there’s any question about that.

John: Okay.

Rick: So then… so what is it you want people to do when they get to your home page?

John: Well, great question. I guess ultimately, I want them to happen upon this page because they were typing in certain keywords in Google and then they arrive and they… I would like them to realize pretty quickly that this is their best resource for you know, quickly finding out about real estate information in the Desert Ridge area. And I want them to feel as though they can trust it and that it’s consistent and that it offers something else that the other guy doesn’t offer such as you know, the market updates or something I don’t see anyone doing on a very consistent basis.

Rick: How important is your call to action here in terms of your overall marketing strategy?

John: You know, I’m just learning about that but I would think that everything I read says that is… you know, of ultimate importance. So in this case, free home analysis. Maybe I should change that wording but I think it’s very important because anyone interested in a home analysis is probably thinking about selling their home.

Rick: Sure.

John: So that one’s important. The next one down the way, underneath the video, How to Sell Your Home for More Money, same kind of thing. It’s really the same type of viewer that I’m targeting with that call to action. So those are very important.

Rick: But do you have a preference for which one they respond to?

John: Well, I would think the free home value analysis would be… that person has already decided that they want me or they want me to analyze the value of their home. That would be higher in the pecking order than the other one.

Rick: Okay. Now and so, when you’re thinking about your pages then, that’s one of things you want to think about. You know, right now, as it lays out here, you have… well, you’ve got 3 calls to action and they’re going to be in competition with each other. And it may very well be that your market update you know, maybe the downloadable market update should go back on the Market Update page.

John: Good idea.

Rick: And the downloadable How to Sell Your Product should go on the Marketing page. And then the call to action that you focus on the home page is your know, your free home value analysis. And then so you’re limiting the focus. You’re trying not to dilute the focus on the most important thing you want somebody do on a given page. So that means you need a page where the focus is you know, how to sell your home for the most money in any market where all the attention is being drawn to that call to action. And then the page where the downloadable 30-day Market Update is the call to action, so that you are focusing people’s attention. The mistake that people make routinely is that the call to action isn’t simple, right? You have a whole bunch of different things you could look into, a whole bunch of different things that you could be considering. You know, and they say, “Well, if I gave my email address here, do I need to give my email address over here?” You know, and you just have, you end up introducing a choice that can you know, just make it easy not to make a choice. “Oh, I’ll just come back and look at that later.” You know, rather than having a very simple straightforward, “Here’s the one thing you can do on this page. The one thing… this is the one bit of focus.”

John: That makes sense.

Rick: Well and so, your home page then is one of two things, right? It’s a landing page or it’s a catalog page, right? If it’s a catalog page then it’s sort of like going to you know, the home page of a department store where it’s not really trying to get you to buy any one thing in particular. It’s trying to give you access to all the different places that you can go to.

John: You think one is better than another?

Rick: Well, if you’re a department store then you want that kind of…you want a catalog page because that’s why people are coming to that page. But I think that in your situation, you either want to focus on saying, “This is… I have tons of good information for you here. You know, if you never want to talk with me, I still got lots of good information for you here.” And in that case then you want to expose all of that information or you want it make it easy for people to see that you have a wealth of information there on the home page.

Or maybe what you’re trying to do is you’re trying to build your email list to keep track of or keep in touch with people who may be thinking of selling a home or maybe you’re helping… thinking about buying a home. And so you know, and if that’s your focus and then you’re just going to send them email once a week you know, upgrading, telling them about a new listing or upgrading something in the market or you know, pointing them to your new market update or whatever it is. The trick then is really to figure out what’s the marketing strategy of the site and then try to focus your energy in that direction.

John: Well, I got the concept from you know, when I was researching landing pages and Hubspot came up and their… you probably know who they are. But when I looked at their site, their front page looked really clean but it had a lot of calls to action on the home page. And one thing I noticed about them in my Google reader, I subscribed with them and (28.56) and the copy blogger guy and no one puts up more content than this Hubspot outfit. And it’s like they’re constantly offering free content. So it’s either their website looks you know, it’s pretty clean looking, it’s not complicated looking but I assure you, it’s absolutely loaded with content. And content, it’s downloadable and I think, for anyone who needs what they’re selling, I think it’s valuable content and much of it is for free. So that’s what I was thinking of and I guess it’s okay if each page of my site offers a different call to action rather than trying to cram them all on one page. I think that’s okay. It’s more than most real estate websites offer. Most of them offer just, “Here’s my search for free. After you click on houses 3 times, I’m going to ask you for your email address.”

Rick: Yeah, this has 3 calls to action: request to demo, free trial, watch a video. And those are the calls to action here. This is the least… the person makes the least amount of commitment to this call to action, right? They’re just going to watch a video. They don’t have to give up any information. As soon as they press one of these things, they know they’re giving up information. And now that you’re here, there’s no video for you to watch, right? And there’s no access to…well, I suppose this probably is a little bit of a… no, this isn’t a… this is just an image.

So now that you’re on the… essentially their squeeze page, the only way off the squeeze page is to click on that. So…

John: If you were to click on Marketing Resources in the nav bar, see all these links and these images are clickable.

Rick: And this is their catalog page.

John: Oh okay.

Rick: Because in this case, you can go all over the place. There are all kinds of things you can do with this, right? So this is their catalog page and this is sort of… well, this is their case study page, right? This just talks about what they’ve done. But in terms of their call to action here, their call to action on their home page is really… it’s really either “Watch this video and we’re going to try and hook you with that sales page” or this. And that was the point I was trying to make is that it’s that again, this really is a landing page directed specifically at getting some person to click one of these buttons. Not that you can’t go beyond it and click on some of these other things because you can look at case studies and see software. And there’s other ways to get around the website. But the main home page really has this one task, either really essentially listen to our sales pitch or sign up for these things or do something that’s not obvious which is click on Marketing Resources and then be wowed by all the stuff here. And these are their own little calls to action, right? Because you’ve got a Watch Now, Register Now, Download Now and this is a place where a person could get a little bit lost, right? There’s so much good stuff here that… okay, well which one am I going to do first?

John: Oh yeah.

Rick: And now what you’re doing is making your way through these offerings and these things don’t really have a call to action, right? Well, I don’t think they do. Oh it’s just a slideshow, okay. You know, besides this…I mean, that’s your call to action. You are now so thoroughly impressed with the information here that you need a bright button saying you know, “Do this now.” You can just look up there to the free trial and say, ‘Yeah, I better take a look at their free trial.”

John: That makes sense.

Rick: And so in any case, their calls to action are discreet and when you have a call to action, you have very little else that is drawing your attention away, right? None of that “Here’s the call to action page.” None of these other navigation things exists. You’ve got a little bit of information here to learn about it. But what they want you to do is fill these stuff out and hit go.

John: Yeah, that’s what they want.

Rick: And so, that is, I think, a compelling example of how to think about your calls to action.

John: Alright, I really appreciate your comments today and taking some time to sort through this with me. It’ll help me to really kind of clean up my thoughts on how to lay this thing out and then I’m sure I’ll be knocking on your door when I need some technical advice for Thesis.

Rick: Well, the subject is interesting and I mean, it’s not just interesting to me and you but I think it’s interesting to other people too because it gives them a way of thinking about their site and what they’re doing on their site as well. So I’m happy to have these kinds of conversations. These are sort of little strategies you know, you can be so enamored with the details that the you know, you focus on a specific thing rather than the overall strategy especially at the beginning of a project like this.

John: Let me close this one more question about the home page on my site. You know, most real estate websites, the centerpiece is the search, search for homes in Desert Ridge. And well, I’d almost like to initially avoid that, I’d almost rather have a homepage that was you know, compelling the viewer to look at our marketing resources, how we market homes and to feel as though they’ve reached something unique here that doesn’t just have a list of homes like every other real estate website has where you… So do you think that that’s dangerous to veer away from you know, the typical?

Rick: It’s probably more dangerous to stick with the typical because the typical exists and it exists and it exists then it exists. So you know, I think it probably makes more sense to think of… not that you don’t want to provide them the service because you do want to provide them the service. But if that’s the main thing that they see when they come to your home page then you’re not distinguishing yourself significantly from somebody else. In fact, it could very well be that rather than a testimonial video there you know, you have some kind of a I don’t know, an informational video there. Rather than people saying how great you are, maybe it is a place for you to give somebody information in a format that’s different than they’re used to getting it.

John: Not a bad idea.

Rick: So it’s just… I think you know, I’ve worked with lots of real estate agents and I know that uniqueness hurts in sales. You know, painting everything white and make it as normal as possible because everybody want to live in a place that’s like everybody else. But if only that same concept holds true with websites like this and if you’re the same old you know, run-of-the-mill corporate website then you aren’t really demonstrating any reason why you should… why they should you know, spend any time on your site rather than you know, some other John L. Scott Century21 whatever re-maxed site.

John: You know, I guess in the other things that happen on these real estate websites is everybody’s got a… you know, the search is the center of the whole thing and… where am I going with this? Well, I kind of lost my train of thought here but I think that these thoughts we’ve shared today will help me put together a better schematic. I’m really looking forward to spending a little time sketching it out and I think that… you know, I guess… now, I remember what I wanted to say. With the overall concept, typically, real estate websites focus on a region or an area and they say the more specific the area, the more valuable. But that’s again, what everyone does. So this conversation has me thinking, maybe I want to focus on having a real estate website that focuses on how to market your home successfully rather than focusing on an area at all. Rather than… other than just you know, Metro Phoenix which is a huge area, 100 miles wide and most agents focus on the areas smaller than a zip code. So this could end up being an even more valuable conversation that I imagined when I went into it. So thank you Rick, I appreciate your valuable time.

Rick: You’re welcome. No problem. Well, let’s just chat about it again sometime in the future.

John: Alright, have a good night.

Rick: You too.

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