What elements are essential for your real estate or mortgage website?
I had a client recently – a luxury realtor with a lending division from the east coast – hire me to do some analysis on their website. No, I’m not a web designer, programmer, or an SEO expert, but this boutique firm asked me to do some digging into the top real estate and mortgage websites in the industry , which made for an interesting project.
Looking to redesign their own website to maximize efficiency and results, they understood that their market was ultra-competitive, and the chance to catch the attention of a web viewer, keep them on the site a little longer, or engage and even make contact with them could make a huge difference in their commission paychecks by the end of the year.
So, they had me meticulously comb through a list of websites for the top firms in their space (both luxury homes and high-end mortgages).
Deconstructing each one, I examined factors like:
Compiling all of this info, we ascertained the website formula for the top luxury real estate and mortgage firms in the industry.
However, there were also a few things missing from these websites of the top firms and professionals in the game, probably because they just don’t have the bandwidth or latitude to make innovations.
So, those shortcomings present opportunities where you – the smaller, more agile and hungrier agent or loan officer – can actually outperform these industry giants’ websites.
Please note that these are in order of importance and prominence on their web pages (so, the big, bold call-to-action was usually first and “above the fold,” similar to a landing page format.)
1. Call to Action button/link:
2. Text headlines and short snippets:
Common real estate or jumbo loan terms and definitions
Or question and answer format
Headers and short paragraph answers
But NEVER long bodies of text!
3. Contact Form/Request a Quote Form, etc.:
To other services like home sales, communities, buying or selling guides, products like FHA/VA/Cash-out refinance, etc.
5. Online payment calculator or home estimator
6. Reviews and testimonials:
Showing number of 5-start reviews, client testimonial with quotes, etc.
7. Better Business Bureau rating and/or badge
8. Blog page link
9. Social media icons
10. Link to online application/response form/valuation form
11. Contact info
12. Why trust us/me?
Why use (company name or individual agent) for your home sale or home loan needs?
Notes and opportunities for you:
-Interestingly, very few of them had videos. That presents a great opportunity to differentiate yourself with a short, professional video on your own website.
-Images were mostly stock photos of homes/borrowers signing mortgage/families/etc. I’d stay away from stock photos and go with professionally taken custom photos.
-Icons and symbols were common for buttons and to anchor different sections.
-While real estate firm websites were more personal, very few mortgage sites had individual mortgage broker/loan officer photos, personal bios, or any personalization. Those are always effective so it’s important to add them!
-Only one or two sites had pop ups when you went to close out or click away (proven to be effective in retaining web traffic/garnering email addresses)
-Only a small percentage of websites had giveaways/free downloads like a Home Buyer’s Guide or Home Loan Checklist, etc. That’s a very effective tool for increasing your email list and database of potential borrowers.
You might be well-served to redesign your website to match this format and include these elements!
Do you want help designing and building your website? DON'T call me! Haha
But I can help you plan it and write the content, but you want a professional web builder.
Facebook is an invaluable tool for many real estate agents and mortgage lenders these days (as well as other related fields), and that includes lead generation with Facebook ads.
But the social media giant made some profound changes recently, deeply impacting the ability to target ads based on specific demographics and characteristics.
It all started with discrimination complaints leveled against the social media giant, claiming that its ad practices were rife with discrimination.
So, back in March of 2019, Facebook reached a settlement, announcing that it would close the door on ads that allowed discrimination and led to redlining. Working with the National Fair Housing Alliance, American Civil Liberties Union, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Communication Workers of America, they did just that. A few months ago, Facebook rolled out a major update to its ad protocols, specifically in the real estate and mortgage industry.
Here’s what you need to know about the new Facebook ad rules:
In an official statement, Facebook said, "We're committed to protecting people from discrimination on Facebook, and as part of this commitment, we announced changes earlier this year to all ads that offer housing, employment, and credit opportunities. Advertisers, developers and partners must specify whether or not their ads fall under either the category of housing, employment or credit. They can do so by selecting a Special Ad Category, and once a category is selected in Ads Manager or via the Marketing API, a limited set of targeting options will then be available."
The real difference comes when you’re setting up the targeting for these ads. Once you check the box for the Special Ads Category, you can no longer target by:
(Only 18 years+)
(Must be both men and women)
No mentions of alcohol (like if you have a wine and cheese open house, that would be illegal with the new Facebook rules since your age targeting must be set at 18+, not 21+.)
No Zip Code search
You cannot target by specific zip codes (see below)
No radius search smaller than 15 miles
You also can't set your radius search for targeting at less than 15 miles. That's a significant change since a common ad tactic was to set a radius of one or two miles around an open house or listing.) But you can do a radius search around 15 miles or more around a pin drop or address.
No Look-Alike Audiences
You also can no longer target an ad based on Look-Alike Audiences like you used to be able to do with Facebook. (You also can’t get around all of these changes just by using a saved audience.)
Say goodbye to other demos and behaviors
You can no longer target by life events like recently married, just moved, bought a home, if they’re parents, their income, etc. or other behaviors. But you can target by interests.
You also can’t exclude certain demographics, like other real estate agents, Realtors, brokers, etc. Basically, we can’t exclude anyone for any reason.
Running ads in the U.S. from outside the country
Advertisers and marketers who are located outside the U.S. but running ads in U.S. markets need to click the special ads category as well, even if their ads aren’t in Housing, Credit, or Employment. (I’m sure that FB ads to interfere with our elections played a large part in that restriction!)
Should you still use Facebook ads for your real estate or home loan business?
While it may seem that you don’t have much left to target your Facebook ads effectively, remember that the Facebook algorithm is incredibly thorough, as well as dynamic and “smart.” In fact, their algorithm takes more than 2,000 factors into account when placing your ads, so there’s a lot going on behind the scenes to make them more efficient.
You can set up a Special Ad Audience, which is based on similar characteristics to an existing email list, website audience using Pixels, Facebook page followers, and more.
Remember that every time one of these changes takes place on Facebook, it may be a little harder to target your audience correctly, but a large percentage of real estate agents and mortgage lenders will stop using Facebook ads because they believe it's too difficult, time-consuming, or ineffective.
That equals opportunity.
I’ll cover more tips on setting up effective Facebook ads in a different blog soon. But, in the end, it will probably all level out, and Facebook will still be a great place to run ads for real estate agents, mortgage lenders, and professionals in financial service fields.
Need any help or just want to talk about your marketing? Hit me up!
It’s a good time to be in the real estate or mortgage business, with shockingly low interest rates, record home equity, and thriving – if not spectacular – real estate markets nationwide. However, we all know that these halcyon days won’t last forever.
Note: I originally wrote this post for the folks at Blue Water Credit. They're super reliable, really care, and the best in the industry for responsible credit repair, so give Jeff Sipes at Blue Water a holler if your clients need credit help.)
In fact, with about one million licensed real estate sales people and 300,000 mortgage lenders all fighting for the same shrinking piece of the pie, competition will soon be stiffer than ever.
But when rates go up, sellers stall, and the seasonal lull becomes a recession, where will your business be?
It’s time to think MARKETING (if you haven’t already), so you’ll have a head start on your competition once the housing and home loan markets recede back to normal.
Here are 10 marketing commandments for Realtors and mortgage lenders so you can have a fantastic 2020 – and beyond!
1. Be consistent.
Make at least one post per day on your Facebook business page and Instagram (at the minimum). Email your database at least monthly – but weekly is ideal. Make a social media, email, and content release calendar to start the year and make sure these items are on your daily checklist.
42% of brands that post content daily receive some sort of lead, prospect, or client monthly, but that drops to only 13% for brands that post 3 times a week or less.
Forget to market when you have a lot in the pipeline and are busy with clients, but then start your marketing push the second business slows down. That’s whiplash, not effective marketing!
2. Talk to your audience - not at them.
Ask your audience plenty of questions and use surveys, opinion polls, and other ways to get responses and build engagement.
Studies show that consumers are 789% more likely to pay attention, engage, and respond when asked for their opinion or feedback.
It’s SO hard to shut up and just listen – but that’s exactly where your true connection to your audience and clients starts!
3. Add value.
Always focus on content that adds value, solves problems, addresses challenges and needs, and saves them time, money, or energy.
Thee-fourths of consumers are looking for online content and posts that help them solve problems, save (or make) money, or improve their lives in some way.
We’re all guilty of all-or-nothing, transactional thinking. But just focus on helping as many people as possible, no matter what that looks like or the outcome, and your business will thrive.
4. Create content.
Keep people informed with customized market reports, stats, data, infographics, and more. Make sure it’s branded to you and even has a dazzling photo on it, as well as contact info and your social media or web link.
Brands that create at least three pieces of unique content every week receive 289% more responses and engagement than when they post generic content.
Stop only sharing other peoples' content – that’s doing nothing to elevate and differentiate YOUR brand. Make and share your own (by outsourcing and using a team!)
5. Email is alive and well.
Build your email list with a free offer and landing page. You should be adding 50 emails a month MINIMUM and work towards building a 10,000-person email list.
Email is 40x more efficient at acquiring new clients than Facebook or Twitter and a client on your email list is 6x more valuable over their lifetime than social media followers alone.
Using a service that offers “canned” generic content for emails. Your clients know that’s not original, personal, nor did you put any time or thought into it. They also might be getting the exact same thing from other Realtors or lenders! Oops!
6. Shoot plenty of (short) videos.
Video should be a key component of any smart marketing campaign. Take plenty of short (1-2 minutes) videos and post these to your own business channel on YouTube, as well as Instagram and Facebook.
It’s estimated that by 2022, 82 percent of all internet traffic will be video. According to Forrester Research, just one minute of video is the equivalent to 1.8 million words to the human brain – about the same amount of content as about 3,600 web pages filled with text!
Reluctancy to get started is the biggest mistake. Just take out the phone/camera and start shooting! Remember that you can always edit them down the road. Other common video mistakes? Crappy audio and having the sun behind you or filming in shadows.
7. Differentiate with a book or podcast.
Want to REALLY separate yourself from the competition? Consider writing and publishing a book (or, at least short-form white paper or market report) and start a podcast. If you want extraordinary success, you’ll have to do what others are not!
Last year, 675 million print books sold in the U.S., and each day, Amazon.com alone sells more than a million eBooks! Likewise, at least 50% of all Americans have listened to a podcast, and about a third of Americans (32%) listen to one or more podcasts monthly! Both of those are HUGE, untapped opportunities for marketing!
Thinking that a book needs to be a 300-page epic novel. You can also publish market reports, white papers, surveys, special reports, and short handbooks or guides.
8. It’s not about you.
Incorporate referral partners, brands, media, other vendors, trades, events, charity, community, etc. into your marketing – it will be a complete game changer!
You should easily be able to 2X your marketing reach just by incorporating frequent mentions of others.
Buy from me. Sell with me. Follow me. Use me. I’m the best; it all gets painfully redundant! Revolutionize your marketing by making it all about OTHERS, not you!
9. Build a smart and savvy sales funnel.
Consider a funnel marketing system that includes strategic Facebook ads, Instagram ads, or YouTube pre-roll ads, etc., plus a landing page, giveaway, chatbot, auto email responses, and more.
Research shows that a well-designed sales funnel will bring in 13x more leads and allow for 9x more closed deals than having no funnel or system.
Trying to do it all yourself. You’re in the real estate business, not the marketing automation business.
10. Define your brand.
Your brand is your promise to your clients, so build a brand that will be consistent, recognizable, and reflects your personality and what you can do to help people. Your brand should reflect who YOU are, but also encompass the ethos of the community you’re trying to build.
83% of consumers follow at least one brand and 71% make purchases strictly because they know and like a brand, not just the individual product or service.
Whatever you do, don’t say “I offer great service.” Everyone should have great service – it’s the bare minimum these days, especially for the rip that comes that the end of a closed deal!
Bonus marketing tip:
Partner with a great credit repair firm like Blue Water Credit to nurture your home buyer leads that aren’t ready now because of credit score challenges.
They’ll help rebuild your turn-down clients' credit scores and deliver a ready-to-qualify buyer to you within months! Just contact Jeff@BlueWaterCredit.com and he'll help you out!
Now go out there and get some new business!
You may think of YouTube as just a place to host your longer videos, but if we look under the hood, it’s actually a well-oiled search engine.
That also makes YouTube an incredibly powerful lead generation and business growth tool, albeit vastly underutilized these days (so there’s a bigger opportunity for you).
I truly believe that the average Realtor, mortgage lender, or business owner can start using YouTube for business and see results after 30 days, with significant ROI (or, ROT: Return on Time), within three months or less.
Oh, and it’s also easy, free, and requires no special knowledge or equipment.
I’ll break it all down for you in this article, but to start, we have to talk about a different company: Google.
By far the most popular search engine in the U.S. (and the western world), Google now accounts for 73% of all internet searches.
Next on down the list of traditional search engines you’ll see Bing second with 7.91% of internet queries. They’re followed by Yahoo with 3.95%, Ask (formerly Ask Jeeves) with 0.42%, and AOL (which wouldn’t even be notable save for their prominence in the early days of the internet) with 0.06% market share.
If we add it to that list, YouTube is a far bigger search engine than Yahoo, Bing, Ask and AOL – combined!
Thinking of YouTube as a search engine – not just a video platform
YouTube isn’t widely used as a search engine yet, but that’s exactly what it does, syncing seamlessly with Google to produce one of the most powerful and effective search engines in the world. (Notice that they ask you for a Google account or Gmail address to log in?)
Just by posting enough quality content with the right headlines, descriptions, tags, and links, you can vault your content to the top of the search engines. That will allow you to rank highly for important key words and search equerries, reaching your potential audience en masse like never before.
It’s within easy reach for the average Realtor, mortgage lender, or small business owner to rank high on YouTube, whereas ranking #1 or even on the first page of Google can take a whole lot of SEO and money.
Here are some quick stats on YouTube, particularly as a search engine:
YouTube by the numbers
And YouTube is still growing
The YouTube youth movement…and seniors, too?
An audience that is looking for YOUR content, not the other way around
Most Facebook and Instagram users scroll, post, and comment for entertainment’s sake (or messaging, sharing photos, etc.).
But YouTube viewers are specifically looking for information, reviews, guides, video experiences, and How-To’s.
In fact, the average YouTube viewer spends 8 minutes and 41 seconds on the site each day.
YouTube instruction is so prevalent, that the term, “University of YouTube” was coined for DIY learning, and one US mother built her own house from the ground up just off of instructional videos – with no previous building experience!
In fact, the three times as many people prefer to watch a How-To video on YouTube instead of reading an instruction manual.
That’s a big paradigm shift – and the key to how YouTube can completely revolutionize your marketing.
YouTube as a lead generation tool and sales magnet
With one simple video, a Realtor, mortgage lender, or business owner can reach tens of thousands of viewers (or way more) in your local who are actively searching for that kind of content.
Don’t get me wrong: Facebook or Instagram are important tools as well.
But, when someone scrolls through their newsfeed on FB or IG, they aren’t actively looking or searching for your content (usually). You can only hope to capture their attention for a second or two – usually by paying for ad placement or boosting a post – before they scroll on.
That’s like placing a billboard under an airport and expecting air passengers to see it as they zoom on by!
Conversely, YouTube is much more efficient for getting your message across to a larger and more appreciative audience – on their own terms.
It’s as if they park their car under that same billboard and look up.
It’s also an ideal way to initiate your marketing funnel.
(YouTube > Subscribe > Giveaway > Email List > Website or Blog > Social Media > etc.).
But, like everything, the key is being consistent with your branding, messages, and frequency of posts while always focusing on adding value.
I’ll talk a lot more about best practices for using YouTube as a lead generation engine and sales magnet in future articles, but we’ve established that YouTube is a kick-ass search engine and WAY underutilized among real estate agents, mortgage pros, and other business owners.
Contact me if you’d like to chat more about how YouTube could help your business.