Are you about to launch your new real estate website? To help make your new site as successful as possible, we have outlined some key items that you need to pay attention to when you go live with your new WordPress website.
This list can apply to any website launch but this list is particularly geared towards real estate agents. I am also assuming you are using WordPress but if not a lot of this will still apply to you and your platform of choice will likely have similar features and options that you can apply.
Make sure that your home page say’s who you are, what you do, and the area you serve
When some one first visits your website, make sure they know right away who you are, what you do and the area you specialize in. Your users should not have scroll down to the footer of your website to find out what area you work in.
Make sure that your website photos represent the market you work in
Try to include as much as possible actual images of the area you work in. These images don’t have to be the perfect stock images, they can even be images you have taken on your mobile phone. The point is to connect with your website visitors. Your website visitors are on your website to find real estate properties and information on on your area so provide it to them as much as possible. This will leave a more personal feeling with your visitors and help you better connect with your visitors.
Make sure your website is accessible to web crawlers.
Now this one may seem obvious but you would be surprised that people do sometimes forget this obvious step…
Log into the backend of your WordPress site and go to “settings” -> “Reading” and under the Site Visibility setting, make sure the option labeled “Allow search engines to index this site” is selected.
Test every form on your website.
Visit every single page on your website that has a form on it were users can submit data to you. Make sure to also go to your listing details page and test the forms there as well. If you are showing listings on your website that are not necassirly your listings but come from datafeed, like a CREA DDF board feed, then you should also test those listings. These leads should still come to you so you need to ensure that they do so.
Also if you have a newsletter sign up form where your users can add their email to your newsletter list, then you also need to test this. Use a different email address and fill out the form and make sure this email has been properly added to your correct newsletter account.
Make sure you have an “About” page
This is an important page that you really should not neglect. This is your opportunity to showcase who you are and why people should choose you when selecting a real estate agent. Buying and selling real estate is a major transaction and people need to feel confident in you. When writing your biography, try to put yourself in the shoes of the person that was just referred to you by one of your other clients. Try and think of the questions people typically ask you and use this as opportunity to really showcase yourself. To help establish trust, try to make it personal as if you were talking directly to them. Make sure to also mention all your certificates and training and any other important information you feel would help sell yourself.
It is also important to keep this information up to date. Do just create this page and forget it. Mark you calendar and revisit this page every year to reflect on your past successes and even share some statistics.
Add your client testimonials
Every real estate agent should have a testimonials page on their website to help build trust and credibility with your future clients.
This is another one of those pages that you cannot just forget about. You will need to keep this page as up to date as possible.
When updating this page, this is also a great opportunity to remind yourself to also share your new testimonial with your followers on social media. Sharing your testimonials on social media is great as this also helps remind people why they referred you in the first place.
Check to ensure all contact information is correct, such as phone numbers, mailing address etc
Don’t let a simple typo spoil your success – make sure your website shows all your correct contact information.
Use a different mobile phone and click on every place that lists your phone number on the website. When you click your cell number on your website, does it bring up the cell phone prompt to “Call this number”? When you click the call number, does your phone actually ring?
Test your website on multiple devices
Make sure you test your website on as many different devices as possible. Do not just check it on your desktop and assume that your website is going to look great on your mobile device. Your website has to work on every device.
Make sure that you and your website users are able to share your listings on different social platforms
Go to one of the listings on your website and try sharing it on Facebook and Instagram. Does it show the correct image and include the right property description?
Once your website is up and running, this is one of the easiest ways for you and your web users to share your listings on social media, so make sure this works properly.
Make sure you have your google reCAPTCHA API keys setup correctly
Every single one of your forms on your website should be using the Google reCAPTCHA feature provided directly from Google. Why the Google reCAPTCHA? Because in my opinion and experience, it is the best way for you to keep spammers from using your website to spam you.
Make sure to setup your Google maps API key
Your users want to know where your listings are located and so the best way to show them is on a map. Without your Google map keys properly setup you will not be able to use a google map on your website. So make sue that this is setup correctly.
Go to any page the has a map on it and make sure it doesn’t say “Oops! Something went wrong”
Setup your Google Analytics
Setup your Google Analytics even if this may not seem all that important to you at the moment. Trust me, you will thank yourself later! At some point you are going to want to know how your website is doing and in order to know you need to have collected website data – so make sure this is setup as soon as possible and ensure that Google is actually collecting data on your website.
Based on my experience I have found that Google Analytics is the best tool for your website analytics. Google analytics, can be hard to understand but we are planning to write a blog post soon on just this to help simply it as much as possible for you.
Create some pages or posts that describes the areas you work in
If you plan to blog on your website, write at least three good posts about the area you work in. If you don’t plan on blogging then you should still create a page or two that describes the area you work in. Click here to get some ideas on what to write about for your niche area.
Click every link on your website and make sure they all work as expected
This seems obvious but it’s very easy to miss a link when creating a website. Go through your menu and footer and click every link. Make sure the links are pointing to the correct pages. Even click every one of your social media links to ensure they are going to the right places. Sometimes, web developers will use the hash tag (#) in place of the link while they are coding and it’s easy for them to forget to go back and update them later.
Setup page redirects if necessary
If you never had a website before and you are creating your very first website then this item is not as important. However, this is a really important step if you are upgrading or moving your website from one place to another. Links are likely to change when migrating your website, so it’s important that your previously indexed pages still show up and work correctly in the search engines.
For example, say you are upgrading your website and your “About” page URL changed from yourdomain.com/about/ to yourdomain.com/about-me/. You need to ensure any links to yourdomain.com/about/ now point to yourdomain.com/about-me/
Don’t worry about the technical side of this, any competent web developer will know exactly what needs to be done here – you just need to let them know which links need to be updated.
Optimize image meta tags
Image meta tags like “Alternative Text”, “Title”, “Caption” etcetera is used to describe the appearance and function of an image on a page. This is important to ensure your website is accessible to all of your visitors. These tags will help users and screen readers describe each image to the user. Also from my experience, utilizing these tags will also help you in your search engine rankings.
To make sure all of your images are optimized for accessibility, from the back end of your WordPress website click into “Media” -> “Library” and then click into every image end ensure that the provided fields accurately describe the image as per the screen shot below.
Make sure your website uses SSL
SSL ensures that all data passed between the web server and browser remain private and is typically display in browser URL field as a locked icon as per the example screen show below.
Having SSL is important because it helps establish trust with your web users.
In my experience, I have also found that having SSL also helps with your search engine rankings. Google (Gary Illyes – webmaster trends analyst at Google) has publicly stated that they do use SSL as a “slight” component to their algorithms and in that having SSL doesn’t necessarily guarantee a higher page. But Google does also say that they do use SSL as a tie breaker between similar sites with same content. So to simplify this point, if your competitor working in the same area as you and is similarly ranked as your website but doesn’t use SSL, your website will rank higher above your competitor as Google uses SSL as a tie breaker. So in a competitive market it is better to use SSL with your website.
On top of this Google is requiring more and more that your website use SSL if you want to use their services like Google Maps and Google reCaptcha.
So to test that your website is correctly setup with SSL, click into every page and ensure that the lock icon shows for each page. If the lock icon doesn’t show on a particular page, just report it to your web developer and they will know exactly what they need to do to resolve this.
Check your XML sitemaps and ensure they are working correctly
There are lots of plugins out there are will automatically create these sitempas for you making it really easy to just set it and forget it. But before you can forget it, you need to actually ensure it exists and is working correctly. Typically most sitemap plugins will create a page like yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml and will automatically notify search engines anytime your blog or pages get updated.
Take a look at each of the links that the sitemap reports and ensure they are valid pages. If you were working on a new page and accidentally clicked the published button this page will show in sitemap even if it not showing in any of your website menus.
If this does happen and you come across a web page that you do not want in your site map, then you can either delete it or set it’s status to “Draft”. This is something your web developer can help you with.
You should talk to your Brokerage about this and see if they can provide you with the “legal” information that you should include on your website. If you potentially might have visitors visiting your website from Europe than you really should have this setup and be compliant with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Once you have the legal details sorted out, your web developer should be able to setup the necessary pages for you.
Check your listings datafeed integration and ensure that your listings are showing correctly
A big part of your real estate website is all about your real estate listings so it’s best to ensure that this is setup correctly. For example, if you are showing office listings on your website, check your office website to see if your website is showing the same number of listings as the office. And if you have setup neighbourhood or community pages and are showing listings within these areas then make sure that the listings showing are correct. There will be overlap from one are to the next but you should still ensure that your web developer has them setup correctly.
Setup and point your domain names
Every website should have their own domain name. So if you haven’t already done so, go out and purchase your domain name and have it pointed to your website. Personally, I think you should do this and not leave this to your web developer as this ensures that you have full control of your domain name. Once you have purchased the dmain name, your web developer will be able to help you correctly point it to your website. You will also want to decide where you want your domain name to include the “www” in the URL. Personally, I reccomend leaving out the www part. As an example take a look at our URL, notice how there is no www in the URL. If you setup your domain name this way, if you type the your URL with the www you should still get redirected to the non www version.
One other thing to consider is that if you have multiple domains, you need to establish which one is the primary domain name and have all other domain names point to this one. This way people cannot access the same page on your website with different domain names. If this happens, Google can consider this as duplicate content and penalize you in the search results. Again, you shouldn’t have to worry about the technical details here, your web developer should know exactly what to do and how to correctly point your domains for you.
Check your website performance
There are several sites that you can use to test out how your website is performing. I recommend that you test out your site and see if you are happy with it. If not, have a conversation with your web developer and see what they can do to help improve your websites performance. Some example sites that you can use to test out your website are gtmetrix.com and pingdom.com
Make sure your website provider is doing daily backups
Don’t leave it to chance, make sure that your web developer / host has setup backups for your website.
Create your social media accounts and join local community groups on Facebook
If you haven’t already done so, sign up for social media accounts and join your local Facebook community groups and become an active member on there. Remember, not to spam people but to provide value to them. Show them your knowledge of the area and answer peoples questions. Make sure you also link to these social media accounts from your website.