It didn't take long to learn that dealing with an attention span of 15 seconds could kill my online business. That's what we were facing when it came to luring Web traffic to our real estate Web site. Only 15 seconds to determine if visitors liked what they saw! Tick, tock.
Through experimentation and some trial and error, I learned some important lessons about having a presence on the Internet; lessons that have earned our site the top spots on page one of the local search results for our industry keywords.
It was a no-brainer that we had to start by attracting potential customers. The next step, however, was critically important. I had to determine how to retain these customers during that oh-so-short initial meeting, and entice them to return. That was, and still is, the hard part.
After doing some research, I decided that the "big three" - the way Web sites are designed for looks, content and search engine optimization - were of utmost importance to drive my traditional real estate business into the virtual world. For many companies, not understanding these basics means their Web sites work against them instead of for them. But it doesn't have to be that way.
The majority of people today start with the Internet to do research to find a service or product. And like an initial meeting with someone where you form a lasting first impression, the same is true of a Web site. For businesses, the best-designed Web sites are those that look the most professional, yet are also user-friendly. That means they are not too busy, yet offer useful, easily digestible content in an attractive format. Conversely, those sites that feel cluttered or display loud, garish colors can be a red flag.
At our firm, 2M Realty, content is king, and we treat it accordingly. That's because I learned over time that our Web site is our storefront, and I want our storefront to be on Main Street, where it can attract the most customers. All businesses have to determine if they want to actively engage with their customers, and if so, how? For the real estate business, engagement is core to success, so that meant it was vital to give customers a reason to stay on our Web site.
In our case, it's rapid access to relevant content and immediate, salient details on various properties for sale. We also gave users the ability to go deeper to find more content of interest on the site. Then, not only did they get what they wanted, but they were more likely to return.That's called the "stickiness factor." Could we make them stick with our Web site so they didn't move on to someone else's? Tick, tock! 15 seconds!
Search Engine Optimization
I also discovered that a major way to become more competitive is to study how to use search engine optimization (SEO). We had to optimize and build content on our site or risk falling further and further behind from a business standpoint. Simply put, if people couldn't find 2M Realty, they couldn't do business with 2M Realty.
I also learned that there is a reason people pay big bucks for organic SEO rankings: it gets results. I highly recommend that businesses employ a highly reputable SEO firm, which can help improve their Web site rankings and save time, to boot. They can make a site more search engine-friendly, in part, through the use of proper page titles, headers and keywords, and also design a long-term strategy to increase organic traffic and build a site's sphere of online influence through social media, blogs and inbound links from relevant industry Web sites.
For me, I practice and preach SEO because I know it works. Our firm now has the top-ranked real estate broker's site in Houston, Texas, USA. But it took a lot of research, and still relies on a consistent, dedicated stream of hard work to stay on top. The bottom line: The "big three" are important to my online business. I've come to realize that Web sites today are tangible revenue generators, and when used right, will continue to transform more traditional business models into dynamic, new, virtual frontiers.