EAC case study: is a non-responsive real estate website even a website?

With prominent real estate portals featuring in most position one results for popular real estate searches on Google, it’s little wonder many agents are more focused on building content on social media than they are on improving engagement with their brand websites.

But according to research, the vast majority of people continue to search for services using search engines like Google, and if your real estate website doesn’t show up because you haven’t invested in it, you could be losing listings before you even have a chance to pitch for them.

CHALLENGE: Google tells us more than 50% of online searches are conducted from a mobile device. Older websites may not be user friendly or accessible and may not be served in search results for this reason.

SOLUTION: A responsive website changes size to suit the device being used to access it. It can be used easily and effectively from desktops, tablets and mobiles.

What is a responsive real estate website?

Websites are just like most communication channels these days, they are subject both to evolving trends in design and to changes in technology.

If you had a site designed a decade ago, or even in some cases, five years ago, there is every possibility your cutting-edge web developer convinced you a ‘fixed-width’ design was the best option to ensure a positive user experience for visitors.

Now, with so many people accessing the web via their mobile phones — much smaller screens — a fixed-width just doesn’t cut it. Sure, your visitors can use their fingers to resize, but then they can’t read text or navigate easily.

To accommodate for varying screen sizes, without redirecting mobile users to a mobile site,  web development has become decidedly more complex.

Rather than developing sites that stay the same size, sites are designed to recognise the dimensions of the device of the user, and change both size and layout accordingly. This is called responsive design.

Why is it important to have a responsive website?

A responsive design is not a nice to have, these days it is crucial.

Firstly, a responsive design plays an integral role in providing a positive user experience. A poor user experience means people may click to access the site and then immediately leave because it is too difficult or slow to use. This immediate departure is called ‘bounce’ and can effect where Google serves your site in relevant search results.

In short, if your site can’t be used easily on mobile, people will see it, then leave straight away, so Google may eventually stop sending people to it.

Additionally, ranking on the first page of Google search results for relevant searches can win you more leads and build your brand awareness among a relevant audience. There are a lot of factors involved in a first page ranking, and more importantly in a first position ranking.

One of those factors is accessibility. In 2015, Google announced an algorithm that boosts mobile-friendly pages in Google’s search results. At the time, responsive sites were still being rolled out, and in a lot of small businesses, responsive design hadn’t yet been considered.

The algorithm had a significant effect on search results (with many sites that weren’t responsive losing rank and visitors), and mobile accessibility continues to play a key role in  search results now.

Secondly, a cutting-edge site conveys a certain message, a dated site with old technology conveys another message. If your out-of-date site is compared to an agency with  a more modern, accessible, responsive site, visitors are less likely to see you as credible competition.

Rebuilding your real estate website

When it comes to rebuilding your website, think of it the same way you would your storefront, just a digital version. You want your site to be welcoming and approachable, accessible and professional.

A quick search on Google will show you there are thousands-upon-thousands of suppliers offering web development services. Some are surprisingly cheap, others are beyond the financial scope of some small-to-medium businesses.

The best approach you can take to finding a developer is firstly finding someone who has a strong portfolio of well-designed responsive sites. Don’t just look at the photos on their portfolio page, visit the actual site, navigate around, look at the design and see how it feels.

Don’t select the cheapest provider just because you want to save some money. Often, you get what you pay for and a cheap design can mean a content management system (CMS) you can’t use or access, so you need to continue to pay the developer each and every time you want to make even a minor update to your site.

If you are inexperienced in managing and editing a website, select a developer who works with a widely used CMS so you have access to plenty of training, guidance, resources and forums that can help you solve the smallest to the most challenging of problems.

Just remember, your website is often your opportunity to make a solid first impression — make sure that impression is easily and effectively accessible to all, and your design and navigation make for a positive user experience.

5 tips for getting the most out of your responsive website

Work on your website is not complete just because you have had it built and it is now live. In fact, now the real work begins so you can reap the reward of your investment. Here are a few quick tips for making the most of your new site.

  1. Regularly update the site with new content, it gives people a reason to revisit (in between buying, selling or renting) and Google a reason to reconsider your ranking.
  2. Building up your site’s credibility so it achieves better results is done a number of ways, one way is by having other sites ‘vouch’ for your business by placing a link from their site to yours. Building quality backlinks is an important part of improving your search engine rank.
  3. Think about page load speed. Sometimes big images, video or other media can cause a page to load particularly slowly which can cause people to bounce from your site. Test your page load speed and optimise!
  4. Use your site as a central hub, like you would a physical office. Direct people from all campaigns — social, email, print — back to your site for more information.
  5. Regularly monitor your site’s performance — tools like Google analytics are comprehensive, easy to use and free.

EAC’s responsive websites

EAC is dedicated to helping ensure our members protect their future in the industry by protecting their brand reputation today. We recognise having a responsive website is important, but also that finding a supplier and knowing what to look for can be difficult.

To help you navigate a site update, we offer a number of website development packages, built on WordPress, that can provide you with a fully-responsive site to help you improve your user experience and search results.

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