Getting your commercial real estate website created or redesigned can be a daunting process. A website is your #1 marketing tool, so it must be done. Consider these best practices, ideas and tips for commercial real estate websites.
1. Buy your Domain NOW
In my favorite episode of Million Dollar Listing, Greenwell buys the domains of his co-stars as a joke. He asks a very simple question, “Why would you not buy your name?” While hilarious on screen, it wouldn’t be so funny if it happened to you. Even if you’re not ready to buy a commercial real estate website, consider saving your domain name now.
2. Layout and Design
Simple is best. There was a time, not too long ago, that we didn’t mind waiting 10-minutes for a Flash website to load up. However, we’re older, wiser and much-less patient. Now-a-days, waiting for any longer than 3-minutes might kill us. Consider keeping things simple – a few images, illustrations, simple content and links to more information. Try not to pull a bunch of feeds (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.) onto your page or footers. Instead, leave links to each of your social media pages.
Don’t get cutesy with the menu. Label all your menu items clearly. For example, I remember a website that had “Messenger Pigeon” instead of “Contact Us”. It took me forever to figure out how to contact them. Also, your menu is extremely important on mobile. Make sure it’s responsive and easy to navigate. Test your menu on mobile on emulators to ensure compatibility. See mobile emulator.
4. White Space
White-space is a good thing. It keeps your eye from getting overwhelmed by a barrage of images and content. Don’t feel like you must fill every pixel on your webpage with images, backgrounds, colors or content. Allow some room to breathe.
Simplify your slider to 3-4 images with a small amount of content on each. The likely hood of anyone sticking around to watch your video followed by 10 slides of properties is extremely low. They’ll maybe catch your first and second slide, but the others will be scrolled over faster than you can blink. Personally, I like using one single image or video with a very simple title and/or button with link. Sliders are meant to be pretty, but looked at for 3 seconds.
6. Simplify Content
Feel like you need that 20-page essay on how your business is awesome? Nope. I’ll admit, back in the early 2000s we loved content that was full of nonsense and thesaurus words. But we’re more realistic these days. On an average webpage, users read 20% of the words on your page. Scanning text is an extremely common behavior. Ensure your website is setup for this by using titles, subtitles and small descriptive text in each area. When setting up your website for scanning, you’ll allow visitors to quickly find the service they are looking for and read only that part in which they are interested.
I’m a fan of video and CSS animations, but be careful when utilizing these tools. Using too many on one page can cause delays in loading and sometimes errors for older computers or slower Internet connections. Optimize your videos by hosting them on YouTube or Vimeo. These services are masters at video compression and will quickly load your video. When self-hosting a video, be sure to use web-quality. HD is nice, but loading a 100-meg video onto your commercial real estate website isn’t practical.
Some folks get really picky about their images. “There’s a slight pixilation on the top left!” But, honestly, load time is much more important. When using a large slider or title image, be sure to save your PNG as “web-friendly” or “PNG-8”. This will lower the file size and allow it to load faster. Also, be sure to keep your images at a reasonable size. There’s no reason to have a 10,000 x 10,000-pixel image when it’s being used as a tiny thumbnail next to some text. Sizing and saving images properly can greatly increase your webpage load time. This is especially important for your listing portfolios, when it’s many photos on one page.
It’s tempting to copy-paste content from a competitor’s website. It’s even more tempting to steal images from the Internet. Try to refrain. Copying content can lead to lower Google rankings. Google punishes websites that re-publish content from a different source and promotes those that provide new, original content.
Images are sometimes placed on the web with the intent of being stolen. The license owners then do a reverse-image search and find who’s taken the bait. Next then you know, you’re saddled with a nasty letter from a lawyer demanding 300% cost of the original photo. Personally, I think it’s a scam that should be stopped… but, as far as I can tell, this process is totally legal.
10. Your Listings
Consider how you want to show your listings. Paid integration services like LoopLink, Xceligent, and Catylist can be a great way to showcase your listings without any additional work. Integrating your website with one of these services will automatically populate your websites with their database. Meaning, once you’ve updated your property on LoopNet, it will automatically update on your website. Integration is a great way to streamline your listing process. Learn more about integration services.
Another option is to show listings directly onto your website. This means more work. You’ll have to update your listings into LoopNet and your website, but you’ll have more control over the look and content. We have a great plug-in made specifically for commercial real estate listings. Check it out here!
11. Searching Listings
Using Loopnet’s free search widget or similar offers from other databases are tempting, but remember, most of these services show the individual listing’s agent information. Meaning, if someone is on your website looking for office space, they use your search tool and find a perfect space leased by…someone else?! “Heck, I’ll cut out the middle-man and call this agent directly.” Now you’ve lost a commission because you were too helpful. Unfortunately, this is the way of the world. Many agents and brokers decide to forgo allowing people to search properties on their commercial real estate websites entirely.
12. WordPress Themes
The biggest issue I have with out-of-the-box WordPress theme is every “real estate theme” is actually a “residential real estate theme”. While everyone loves the cool, integrated maps and fancy thumbnail animations, you will also have “# Beds/# Baths” posted on your warehouse property. In my personal opinion, there’s nothing that says, “I’m lazy” more than trying to shove your CRE business into a cheap residential template. Just don’t do it. Also, those cool maps are never compatible for IDX – so don’t expect your listings to populate in the theme. Now-a-days it takes some serious finagling to get an IDX to work with WordPress due to security settings. Get a pro to handle this for you. Learn more about Wodpress themes for CRE.
13. Top 10 Results
Getting higher search engine rankings is a complex and ever-changing subject. However, there are a few main considerations to make when trying to increase your rank. First off, optimize your website for SEO. This means giving each one of your pages a unique title and description. You can do this with plugins like Yoast SEO. Second, consider adding new content to your website on weekly/monthly basis. You can do this with blog articles, news, social media feeds, and more. Keeping your content fresh and relevant to your business will increase your rankings the most. Third, think about the load-up speed of your website. A better score in Page Insights will help you rank even higher.
14. Lead Generation
We’re in the 21st Century – stuff should be easy! Now-a-days you can connect your website to your CRM (Sales Force, Offer Boss, Hub Spot, etc.) and/or your email system (MailChimp, Constant Contact). When leads fill out your website’s contact forms, they’ll be automatically loaded into your systems for follow-up. Follow-up is key now more than ever. In this faceless online world, we want to make connections with people. A fully integrated website will help you connect with your leads by emailing them a thank you, monthly newsletters and announcements on just listed and sold properties. Staying top-of-mind with your audience can be easily automated when you have a fully integrated website. Learn more about Lead Generating websites.
15. Portfolio of Closed Deals
A great way to show your bragging rights without a huge written speech is a portfolio of closed deals. A simple thumbnail with title and short description of the deal, dollar amount, type of property and clients involved is all you need to sell on-the-fence leads. Nothing yet? Leave this off your website until you have at least five or six under your belt.
When agents ask me how their website can do better in Google (get on the first or second page) I often suggest they start a blog. Google and other search engines love new, original content. Search engines favor sites with relevant content over static websites. Creating and maintaining a blog can be exactly what you need to get your website placed onto the top of the search. However, I know thinking of new topics each week can be exhausting. One of my favorite tips is to look through Cosmo or WikiHow. They have some of the best headlines that can be re-written for commercial real estate. Example: Meet Girls Who Like Star Trek = Meet Prospects Who Buy Land. This process can be a lot of fun! Learn more about creating blog topics.
Keeping up with your latest awards and press releases can be a trial, but it’s a great way to add new content to your website. Did you get an award for “Best Sales of the Month”? Throw it on your blog or news section! You may think little awards and press releases about small deals are boring, but they authenticate you to your potential clients. The more outside sources point to you, the more likely potential clients are to make first contact. Learn more about press releases.
18. Social Media
I used to think Social Media was a lower form of media in commercial real estate, but times have changed. Today, the faceless Internet has grown to an unforeseen level. Making it very difficult to tell fact from fiction. However, the more Internet mediums that point to your business, the more it will solidify your trustworthy status. If people see that you’re regularly keeping up with your social media feed, they know you’re going to be sticking around AND listening to the marketplace. Today, it’s very important to your potential clients that you’re going to be listening and social media posts and responses are a great way to show that you care about the community.
19. Hiring a Website Company
Hiring a commercial real estate website design company can be a scary process. It’s a lot of money, it’s going to be tons of work, and the time commitment from concept to finished project is intense. The whole thing is a dice roll – you really don’t know if you’ve hired someone awful until it’s too late. 1) Test the websites on their portfolio. Click on everything, don’t just check out the front page…the front page always works! What about three pages in? That’s where the real test begins. Do they have a lot of dead links or missing images? You may want to consider choosing someone with better follow-through. 2) Check out the photography on the website designs. If the company’s website is full of great images and video but all their portfolio is basic text and logo they likely require clients to provide images and video. This can be a huge, unexpected expense. 3) If there is no clear pricing strategy, this is a huge red-flag. In my personal opinion, “call me” means the company wants to “feel you out” over the phone. You may get quoted $10,000, and the next guy get quoted $2,000 for the same website. Learn more about hiring a website designer.
Do you need help with your commercial real estate website? Check out my portfolio and pricing! I have three tiers of pricing for every budget and need. I also provide full-integrated websites like discussed in #14. Connect your Website with CRM and Email for a hands-free lead generating system!