What Makes a Property Website Liked by Google et al?
Building and developing a website for a property business, whether it’s for commercial, residential or construction, has a relatively low barrier to entry. A start-up business could develop a website and digital presence which eclipses a well established organisation that is considerably larger in terms of turnover, headcount and profile.
"The Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow", Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft.
The fundamental elements of creating a well performing, search engine friendly website that is fully integrated within the overall marketing plan, and ultimately contributes to the bottom line are broadly grouped into 3 topics; the design & architecture, user navigation & experience, and search engine optimisation (SEO).
Developing a website is like building a house, if you have well thought through plans and create solid foundations at the outset, the site will be able to grow and expand over time.
"The Internet is really about highly specialised information, highly specialised targeting", Eric Schmidt, chairman of Google.
The main areas to consider with all property websites are outlined below, whether it’s a new build, or alternatively when reviewing and updating an existing site. Questions to always consider are:
- Does your website reflect your business image?
- Does it clearly promote all your business services?
- Where does it appear in search engine results pages (SERPs)?
- What is the return on investment?
Information architecture is taking the time to understand and then design your site around your user base. It's also the method of organising content into meaningful groups to make it intuitive. Additionally, the user navigation and folder structure of your website are also a part of information design. The main benefits are usability and a higher search engine ranking. Suffice to say that taking the time up front to design correctly will serve you well in the long run.
Researchers have found that internet users make up their minds about the quality of a website, and ultimately your business in just a 20th of a second of viewing a webpage. Unless the first impression is favourable, visitors will be out of your site before they even know that you might be offering more than your competitors.
The overall website design is not just the visual and branding aspects of a site, it should encompass the entire technical construction with SEO front and centre. If both elements are not considered in equal proportions, significant barriers could be created for search engines to review or ‘spider’ your site for relevance.
Content management systems
Many website design companies have content management systems (CMS) within their stable of products. Before embarking on including a CMS within your website, two questions should be asked; why do we want one, and will we use it effectively. The answer to the first question is usually, ‘so we can change anything on the site whenever we want’, and the second is, ‘absolutely, we plan to update the site regularly’.
A common misconception is that a CMS will allow a user to change absolutely everything on a site. This is not usually the case as only certain pre-specified areas or sections will be editable. Don't assume that a site with a CMS it will automatically make your site perfect for search engines. Without training on the CMS and SEO as a whole, the additional expenditure of the CMS could be wasted. Without a clear and coherent plan, websites tend to updated far less than the initial expectation.
Keyword research to establish relevant keywords for your industry or sector is a cornerstone of effective SEO. Although you will know your industry inside and out, users don't often type in exactly what you might think. Relevant keywords can be established from your existing website analytics package, as well as from tools provided by search engines. It’s often worth typing in the keywords that you want to rank for and compare your site with your competitors, as well as others that come first and second. The aim is to rank for what converts.
‘Content is king’. Search engines thrive on content and especially new content, so sites which are updated regularly with relevant, quality and unique content will benefit. The age old adage of ‘a picture speaks a thousand words’ is correct for users, but not for search engines. Unless an image is correctly named and optimised, an image of a building could be a polar bear to a search engine. Websites should have a balanced approach to the use of content and images, but each need to consistently reference the relevant keywords established during the keyword research.
A rapidly growing area of the Internet is social media which is a broad term, but could include sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Utilising social media can develop new channels to market, build brand awareness, as well as having significant benefits for SEO. As with all marketing channels, the most relevant sites need to be identified, and a strategy and plan established to deliver a return on the investment. A large number of businesses shy away from social media, mainly due to a lack of understanding and unwillingness to embrace new technologies.
Flexibility is very important with a website, so when changes are required, make them quickly. Take full advance of technology and publish content quickly, and react to internet trends and opportunities.
Search ranking results aren't immediate. Property businesses have lots to gain from SEO, but plan for the long term, and don't forget to use other online channels in the short term to boost revenue and traffic.
Richard Bray, Managing Director, RBO Consulting
Please do not hesitate to contact us for further information about how we can help with your property & real estate digital marketing.