Starting A New Real Estate Website
Good SEO often starts with getting a search engine friendly website. To set yourself up for success, you need a website that’s fast, easy to use, and tailored to your specific business needs.
Starting a new real estate website can be both exciting and potentially lucrative. With the right approach, you can build something that will attract potential buyers and sellers, establish your brand, and generate leads for agents.
However, it's essential to consider various options before deciding on the best approach. Website builders, templates, or even design companies that work for other industries probably won’t be suited to real estate. This is because real estate websites require a number of special features and functions.
For example, real estate websites use the following:
- Property Listings: Real estate websites prominently feature property listings that showcase properties available for sale or rent. These listings usually contain details such as property photos, descriptions, price, and contact information for the listing agent.
- Property Search Functionality: Real estate websites typically have robust property search functionality that allows users to search for properties based on various criteria such as location, price, number of bedrooms, etc. This feature is a must-have for real estate websites.
- Map Integration: Real estate websites often integrate maps to show property locations, nearby amenities, and neighborhoods.
- Lead Capture: Real estate websites should have effective lead capture forms that allow potential buyers or renters to inquire about a property or schedule a viewing.
- Integrated CRM: A Customer Relations Manager (CRM) is a software system designed to help professionals manage and organize their client interactions and transactions. For real estate teams this also includes systems for managing how leads are divided between agents.
In addition to these, real estate websites also have to pay special attention to things like high-quality visual content, performance and optimization for mobile devices, and accurate local information, given the way that people tend to use them.
Custom vs Out-Of-The-Box Websites
When starting a new real estate website, you have two broad options in front of you: Hire someone to build a custom website (or customize an existing one), or adapt a ready-made website in the form of a template. There are pros and cons to both:
- Custom websites typically offer more flexibility and can be tailored to meet your specific business needs. They allow for unique design and functionality, which can provide a more personalized experience for users. However, custom websites can be more expensive and time-consuming to develop, requiring increased maintenance and support.
- Ready-made real estate websites are typically easier and quicker to set up, require minimal technical knowledge, and can perform better when not weighed down with many extra add-ons or features. However, ready-made sites may lack the flexibility and uniqueness of custom websites, and might not suit the specific needs of your users or business area.
Ultimately, the decision depends on the business's needs, budget, and goals, as well as the level of control and flexibility that you’re looking for.
Real Estate Webmasters offers both options for real estate companies. We recommend taking a look at REW's most recent product, likely to be the fastest and most user-friendly real estate website on the market.
Choosing Your Website Domain
One important decision when starting a website is the choice of domain.
What is a website domain?
A website domain is the address used to access a website on the internet. It is a unique string of characters that identifies a specific website and helps to distinguish it from other websites.
A domain name typically consists of two main parts:
- Top-level domain (TLD): The TLD refers to the domain's extension, such as ".com", ".org", ".net", etc.
- Second-level domain (SLD): The SLD refers to the name chosen by the website owner, such as "realestatewebmasters" in www.realestatewebmasters.com.
When a user types a domain name into a web browser, it connects to the domain's IP address, which is a unique numerical identifier assigned to every website on the internet, and displays the website's content.
When setting up a website you usually have the option of choosing both the TLD and SLD, and we'll get into some of the considerations for choosing both...
Using An Existing Domain
If you have an existing website with a domain, that’s going to be your best domain—in most circumstances. Existing domains are more trustworthy than fresh domains because they are known and have history.
However, if the domain has historically been associated with a low-quality site or SEO practices that go against Google’s guidelines, it could be a liability.
Choosing A New Domain
If you don’t have an existing domain, you have an exciting decision ahead of you! Picking a domain name is kind of like choosing a new identity.
There are very minor SEO advantages to using a domain that incorporates a major target keyword. However, these are sometimes hard to come by.
When picking a domain name for real estate, follow these guidelines:
- Keep It Short – Longer domain names are harder to remember and use.
- Use Branded Terms – This associates the domain with your company and makes it easier to remember.
- Make It Unique – Following from the idea of using branded keywords, make sure that your domain name isn't similar to a competitor's.
- Commit – A domain name is not the kind of thing you experiment with. If you have a domain name, try to stick with it, and don't have multiple websites.
For most real estate agents, a short domain that reflects their individual, team or company name is the best choice. Don’t overthink it.
Some real estate agents will also buy the alternate extensions for their domain, to protect their brand and unscrupulous actors from using them for deceptive purposes. If you can get a decent price on these alternate extensions, buying them can be a smart idea.
And when it comes to choosing your top-level domain, most go with either ".com" or ".ca" (if you're in Canada). There's no major SEO benefit, but these two tend to convey trustworthiness and are easier to remember.
The alternative is to go with something more creative, like a real estate specific top-level domain. There are dozens of options, but here are a few to give you an idea:
HTTP vs HTTPS: What’s the difference?
HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) and HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) are both systems for transferring information over the internet. The main difference between the two is the level of security.
- HTTP sites are unencrypted
- HTTPS sites are encrypted (using what’s called an SSL/TLS certificate)
Using HTTPS is therefore essential for real estate websites, or any website that handles sensitive information such as login credentials, payment details, and personal information.
How To Track SEO Performance
Once your site is set up, it’s important to track its performance to see what’s working, identify opportunities, and troubleshoot issues. Note that SEO is a long game and results can take weeks, months, or even years to develop.
Real Estate SEO Tools
There are a lot of tools out there that can help you gauge your website’s health and monitor progress, and even before you truly understand SEO, you’ll want to get a baseline idea of how your website is doing.
While there are many excellent paid tools out there, you can’t go wrong with Google’s own free tools:
- Google Analytics - Used for tracking traffic from all sources.
- Google Search Console - Used for tracking organic (search based) traffic, including keywords and ranking. Also provides tools for monitoring site performance and useability.
Both Google Analytics and Search Console have features that will help you keep an eye on your site, but they take some time to gather data. Therefore, they should both be set up on day one.
Understanding Your Website’s Performance
There are many performance indicators that will help you understand how your site is doing. These often take some interpretation involving an understanding of user behaviour, site characteristics, and Google’s search algorithm and its changes.
To get you started, here are some key metrics to understand:
- Bounce Rate: This is the percentage of users who leave a website after viewing only one page. A high bounce rate can indicate that the website's content or user experience is not engaging or relevant to the user's needs.
- Click-through Rate (CTR): The percentage of users who click on a website's link in search results, compared to the total number of impressions. A higher CTR indicates that the website's title and meta description are compelling and relevant to users' search queries.
- Pages per Session & Time on Site: Two measures of how much users are browsing your site. Higher values could indicate more engaging and relevant content, but it could also indicate users who are struggling to find what they’re looking for or are less motivated to convert into leads.
- Web sessions: A “session” is a period of time during which a user is engaged with a website. It begins when a user lands on a website and ends when the user closes the browser, navigates to a different website, or is inactive on the website for a certain period of time (usually 30 minutes).
Page Experience, WPO, and Core Web Vitals
Page Experience, Web Performance Optimization (WPO), and Core Web Vitals are all related to website performance and user experience. Having a website that is smooth, fast, and functional in a range of contexts provides a better user experience and can improve your ranking.
- Page Experience takes into account factors such as page load time, mobile-friendliness, security, and user engagement. Google introduced Page Experience as a ranking factor in its search algorithm in 2021.
- Web Performance Optimization (WPO) is the process of improving website speed and performance to provide a better user experience. This includes optimizing images and videos, reducing unnecessary scripts, and using content delivery networks (CDNs).
- Core Web Vitals are a set of specific metrics introduced by Google as part of its Page Experience update. They measure the performance of key user-centric aspects of a website, including loading speed, interactivity, and visual stability. The three Core Web Vitals are Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), First Input Delay (FID), and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS).
There are a number of sites and tools that allow you to track how your website is performing from a technical standpoint. For example, under the "Experience" menu in Google Search Console, you can access information on Core Web Vitals down to individual pages.
You can also enter your site or a page's address into Google's PageSpeed Insights tool to check your speed on both mobile and desktop. This tool will also highlight the most important areas that require improvement.
Your New Real Estate Website
Now that you have your new site up and working and you're ready to track performance, it's time to start planning and building it. Ideally, your webmaster or similar vendor should be able to give you some guidance, but here's a quick overview of some necessary steps to setting up your new real estate website:
- Choose five focus communities and only display their pages. Don't create a lot of skeleton pages with plans to fill them up later.
- Think of what communities you'd like to have eventually and develop a plan to navigate and link between them. Have a plan for how you will structure your website.
- Build a Home Page that highlights your company, focus area, and value proposition. Provide easy access to the important parts of your website. Include clear calls-to-action (CTAs).
- Set up an About Us page with all the relevant information and engaging agent profiles. Make sure it matches the information found elsewhere.
- Make sure your initial content is high-quality, original and relevant.
- Include CTAs and make sure you have your lead capture system set up. This includes clearly visible and functional sign up or contact forms, phone numbers and email addresses.
You can read more about this topic in our extensive post about the first steps with your new website.
Will Changing Websites Hurt Your Ranking?
What if your new website isn't so "new", and you're actually upgrading from an old one. Will this hurt your standing in search results? There's a complex answer to this question, but the gist is that "no", upgrading your website probably won't hurt your rankings in the long run.
In fact, there's way more to gain from upgrading, as even the best older sites will start to fall afoul of best SEO practices eventually and new sites tend to have the speed and functionality that users expect.
Next Section: How Do Search Engines Rank Websites