You may have heard that WordPress is a powerful platform, but do you know all the ways you can use WordPress real estate websites to grow your business online?
Do you know all the ways WordPress can work for you? When you power up your real estate website with WordPress, you arm yourself with an arsenal of resources. Not everyone is aware of all the flexibility in WordPress, or the ability to expand its features and functions with plugins. Check this out:
- Video | Using WordPress Real Estate Websites
- What is the goal of a real estate website?
- What is Content Marketing?
- What is Search Engine Optimization?
- Understanding User Experience
- Understanding Various Website Platforms
- WORDPRESS DICTIONARY GUIDE
- CHOOSING A THEME
- Plugins for WordPress Real Estate Websites
- Video | How to Customize the WordPress Sidebar
- Converting website Visitors to Leads
- WORDPRESS SECURITY ISSUES AND TIPS
- WORDPRESS MAINTENANCE AND ADDITIONAL TIPS
- Ballen Brands | Your Lead Generation Team
Video | Using WordPress Real Estate Websites
What is the goal of a real estate website?
The purpose of a real estate website is to generate leads. Through content marketing and search engine optimization, real estate agents drive traffic to their sites. With valuable offers such as instant home valuations, visitors are encouraged to input their contact information, converting that visitor to lead.
What is Content Marketing?
Content marketing is the consistent publishing of valuable information, usually about a particular keyword or keyword phrase. The content, when properly crafted, answers questions Internet users may type into a search engine. Real estate agents who want to grow their business and get more leads online would need to produce articles or blog posts that directly answer questions previously or commonly asked by buyers and sellers.
What is Search Engine Optimization?
Search engine optimization is the practice of crafting and formatting content in such a way that the content (blog post, article, video, image, infographic) provides value to readers, and also lends authority to search engine rankings.
In short, it’s a matter of optimizing your content so that it’s easier for search engines to find and deem valuable. When a search engine considers your content useful, it’s more likely to display your content in response to a search query.
Search engine optimization is continuously evolving. Initially, search engines could only understand and measure the use of keywords. For example, if you were a home appraiser promoting your services, your goal would have been to use the words appraiser and appraisal as many times as possible, even if unnatural. But the artificial intelligence has grown to recognize over-use of keywords and to measure the behavior of visitors to websites. Now, it’s not as much about keywords as it is synonyms and related phrases, location (the local pack), reviews (what others are saying about your brand), and the user experience. Search engines measure user experience by the length of time a visitor spends on your site, the number of times they click on links within your site, and the number of times a user returns to your website for additional information.
Understanding User Experience
User experience is now the most important metric in determining a website’s value. As the site publisher and business owner, you should be emphatically concerned with providing value for your visitors. Equally important, Google now measures user experience, in addition to other metrics, to determine the value of a website in relation to that user’s search query. Here are some factors that influence user experience:
- Bounce rate: A bounce is when a viewer lands on your website, immediately determines that the content is not what they were looking for, and go back to the search engine. Google then “remembers” that your content did not satisfy the question the user asked.
- The length of time on site: Contrary to a quick bounce, the longer a user stays on your website, the more value, and authority Google assigns to your site’s content. Google “thinks” that if a viewer stays on your site for extended periods of time, they must be reading content that satisfies their query.
- Number of Actions: An action is a click or a scroll made by the user. For example, if you click to play a video, that’s an action. If you scroll down to read more, that’s an action. It’s also an action if you click a link, click a button, click to enlarge an image, etc. The more a user actively engages with your website’s content, the higher quality experience Google recognizes.
- Repeat Visits: The more times a particular user returns to your site, the more likely Google is to show your website to that user in future queries. Google then remembers that the viewer has visited your site often, which means the user must find the content valuable.
- Reviews: The newest trick in the Google bag is to display search results based on user reports. Google listens to what others are saying about your brand. The search engines now recognize your popularity or lack thereof. The more often and higher reviews users leave for your site, the more Google will display your website in search results. Furthermore, review sites such as Yelp will also appear on the results page displaying your link and reviews.
- Location: The search engines, including Facebook, now recognize a user’s location in relation to what they’re searching for. If a user opens a Google search page or a Facebook search bar and enters the words, “Real Estate Agent”, the top results displayed are what’s known as the “local pack”, those service providers and businesses located in close proximity to the user. For this reason, it’s imperative to make sure your N.A.P. (name, address, phone number) appear identically in every part of your marketing – from websites to business cards. If you use parentheses around the area code in one area, use those same brackets anywhere else that number is listed. Same with hyphens versus dots between numbers. By properly citing your location, you’re waving a flag to the search engines that you are near enough to the web user to be presented in the local pack search engine results.
Other factors that influence user experience include:
- Fast load time. Page speed matters. When a page takes a long time to load, the viewer loses interest and clicks out of the site, increasing the bounce rate. When pages are slow-loading, consider reducing image sizes, embedded videos, or assess your plugins and widgets to see if they’re slowing down the page.
- Mobile Responsiveness. The majority of Internet surfers browse the web from their smartphones or tablets. Sites that are not mobile responsive can cut off portions of text, overlap text with images, or present other formatting issues that make reading from a mobile device difficult. Furthermore, Google is beginning to recognize and penalize websites that are not designed for mobile.
How to Influence User Experience on WordPress Real Estate Websites
There are many ways you can encourage longer page visits, more actions, and an overall good experience for your site’s visitors. Here’s the deal:
- Include video: Video increases action when a viewer clicks to watch and also increases time on site while the viewer watches the video. You can embed an open-source (copyright free) video from YouTube.com, save a video from Facebook Live, or make a video using your smartphone.
- Use internal links: When you publish an article or blog post, include links back to your other related items. Internal links increase actions and time on site.
- Design with the user in mind: Craft your content in such a way that it’s easy for viewers to read. Use short paragraphs, uncomplicated vocabulary, and break up chunky blocks of text with images, bullet points, lists, graphs, or other visuals. You can also include a clickable Table of Contents and divider bars between segments that users click to return to the top of the page.
Understanding Various Website Platforms
Thinking about creating your real estate website can be daunting, especially if you’re not particularly tech-savvy. Learning the ins-and-outs of website building, including HTML code, is both time consuming and frustrating. Several companies have unveiled specialty sites – a type of plug-and-play way of trying to maximize benefit while minimizing effort. For some real estate agents, this basic out-of-the-box solution is perfect – or at least a great starting point. However,some complex problems are arising from some of these website solutions:
- Limited Space: Some website platforms limit your growth. You’re only able to store a certain amount of photos, videos, files, and pages. Although this may not at all seem like a deterrent when you’re just getting started with a primary focus on the essentials of a real estate website such as the About page, Contact page, Credentials page, and Listings page. But once you’re past the basics and ready to work some real magic with content marketing, you may find yourself painted into a corner, unable to grow.
- Ownership of Content: If you’re using a company-specific website, provided by your real estate company, you may be shocked to realize you do not own any of the content you put on that website. For example, you may spend two years at the X Real Estate Company building out a bad-ass real estate site chock full of articles for buyers and sellers. But when the relationship with X Real Estate Company begins to wane, and you find yourself searching for a new work home, you won’t be able to take your website with you. It has to stay behind, owned by the company who provided it to you.
- Tracking Codes: If you’re advanced enough in your content marketing to understand the benefits of tracking and measuring your content for results, many websites do not allow tracking codes. Tracking codes are a bit of HTML text hidden in the footers or headers of pages that can test and measure content for performance. But if you can’t add tracking codes to your website, you’ll have no way of identifying what tactics are working and which are a waste of time and resources.
- Free Vs. Paid: You typically get what you pay for; it’s true. Free websites, including WordPress sites, do not pay off when it comes to search engine optimization. Hosted, paid sites pack SEO punch.
- Widgets & Plugins: Plugins and widgets are third-party programs designed to help your website perform in ways that it otherwise wouldn’t perform. There are plugins to aid with content creation and publication, search engine optimization and readability, or to ease the efforts of mastering certain elements such as rich snippets. Rich snippets are a way of “marking up” content so that it draws the attention of search engines, where it’s displayed and highlighted in a special fashion in response to a search query. Plugins are created by companies who then provide a simplified “short code” for you to embed in your website.
This is a short guide to explain the basic principles you will be combining with your WordPress real estate website.
Themes: The theme is the look and layout of your site. Once they are installed, they have a pre-set color which designers thought would work best, but you can change this if you like. As a basic WP 101 guide we are going to be using the pre-set colors. Keep in mind that different themes will have different attributes. The front pages can differ along with the amount of widgets that can be used and the areas widgets can be placed.
Plugins: Plugins are programs that help you run the website. The choices are endless and as we go into detail later on you will quickly learn how to choose the best ones and why they are so important.
Widgets: The layout of the theme makes use of widgets. These are typically separated between “Header”, “Sidebar”, “Footer” and “Home”. They are used to display your most recent posts, videos, images and pretty much whatever else you want to feature.
Posts: Posts don’t really need much explaining, because they are the heart of your website. All the new content you want to add to the website and want readers to see is done through posts.
Pages: Pages are considered “Static Posts”. They stay consistent and are used to display information that hardly ever changes, such as contact information or a static homepage that features a welcome note.
Video Embedding: Utilizing videos on your website requires embedding, but this isn’t nearly as difficult as it sounds. Videos can be used on posts and pages, giving it that extra dimension.
Image Embedding: Image embedding is the same as videos and can be used just about anywhere. In real estate images play a very important role and using them correctly is very important.
CHOOSING A THEME
Before you get started on the interface it’s recommended to decide on a theme first. You’ll have the option of installing themes that are free and WP premium themes for which you will have to pay. Luckily the premium themes aren’t very expensive and they make the process a lot simpler. The following are very popular and great to start with.
There are some nice and more than capable themes you can use if you don’t want to spend any money. Themes change and of course it would be a much thicker book to list them all. You may enjoy browsing through these options in the beginning. When you first install WordPress, you will notice some included free themes you can play with.
The key to a great site however, won’t be how “pretty or flashy” it is, but rather by it’s functionality including it’s mobile friendly “responsive” design.
The Free themes in your WordPress system will be pretty “plug and play” ready to go. These other themes won’t generally look out of the box like you see here. They will require some configuration. Follow the theme instructions for set up.
While I have not myself tested all of these themes, they are popular in the industry. There are so many more. Simply go to your favorite search engine and type in “WordPress Real Estate Themes” and browse till you find one you love.
- Themeforest.net has a wide variety of responsive (mobile friendly) themes you can browse
- Agent Evolution has a selection of Genesis Child Themes that have been popular for real estate sites
- AgentPress Pro by Studiopress
- wpCasa Framework
- Real Property
- Real Homes
- WP Pro Real Estate 6 by Contempo
- Decorum by Themeshift
INSTALLING THE THEME
When you install a theme you need to go to the “Appearance Tab” on your left options bar. Your screen should look like this:
At the top you get the option to “add new”, which will present several different themes to choose from. If you like the before mentioned themes then simply enter their names in the search screen, otherwise you can just enter a key word like “real estate” and many more will pop up. When you see one that fits your general idea then simply click on it. This will provide a preview and overview. After you are done window-shopping you click on the “install” tab. WP will automatically do the rest in terms of installation and when this is finished this screen will show up.
You can choose if you want to see the live preview or to activate it. When you active it then it will be your set theme and everything can now be previewed. Keep in mind that each theme will have its advantages and different attributes. After the theme has been installed you will be re-directed to the theme customize page, which looks like this.
Your theme will probably not look like it is “supposed” to until you add your widgets. Follow the Theme set up guide.
If you are not re-directed automatically then you simply go the “Appearance” tab in your options menu and select “Customize”.
For a start, drop down to the “Site Title & Tagline” menu. Enter the name of your company and the slogan. We will be returning to this menu a little later on to set the static front page. When you are done with the title and the slogan, then click on “Save and Publish” and return to your dashboard.
When the theme is in place we move over to the interface of WordPress and get familiar with where to go and what to do. Your dashboard view should look like this.
The first thing you will notice is your options on the left toolbar. It starts with “Dashboard” at the top and ends with “Settings”. In order to build a basic website you will only need a few of these tabs. Once you have established some comfort with WordPress you can explore the rest, but for now we are going to focus on the priority tabs.
A tip before getting started is to sketch a main outline of what the site should look like. Consider what categories you want to use and how you want them to be seen in the menus. For example, a droppedown “Main Menu” should feature all the important things like “For Sale”, “For Rent” and “New Listings”. An “About Us” us menu should feature things like “Contact Information”, “Services” and “Who We Are”. Think about whether you want to use videos along with images and where these should be located.
It can be quite a pain after you have already begun to go back and create a new path of categories. The more you can outline in the beginning, the better off you will be.
You won’t want to be deleting categories and pages as it will case broken links and return 404 pages to the customer. This is not good for the user experience or for search engine optimization.
Categories are great ways to search engine optimize your site as well. It’s a good idea to first do your Keyword Research to determine how you will name your categories, pages and posts based on how buyers and sellers search.
A simple outline when building an IDX focused real estate site might be to include a top category and then build categories UNDER the main category.
- Counties/Parish/Township Served Cities Served
- Master Planned Communities, Villages, Large
- Master Planned Communities, Villages, Large
- Zip codes Served
- And under any of those (Cities or Communities)are your Niches:o Military Relocation
o 55 Plus Communities
o Golf Course Communities
o Historic Homes
o Horse Zoned / Ranch Homes
o Gated Communities / Guard Gated Communities o Townhomes / Condos / Flats / Lofts
- And under any of those (Cities or Communities)are your Niches:o Military Relocation
- And then there are by Feature:
o By Price (Homes for sale in ___ $200,000 – $300,000) o By Amenity (Pool/Fireplace/Single Story/Boating) o By Style – (Ex. Contemporary, Victorian etc.)And of course this list goes on and on and is custom to your area. Don’t forget a section for the Buying Process, and the
- Selling Process! You want to focus on getting Seller Listings right? That’s not done through IDX alone. You need content.DashboardAt this point there isn’t much activity on the “Dashboard” page, but after you start publishing your posts more and more things will show up here. The “Dashboard” basically serves as an overview. Here you will see how many people visit the site, recent posts and times when these posts were published. There is no real interaction that takes place in the “Dashboard”, however; after installing plugins you will start to utilize this section more.PagesBefore going to the “Posts” section it’s better to start with the “Pages”. These are the structural posts you will be using to display your variable posts in a manner of speaking. As discussed before, information that is going to stay the same over long periods of time is posted on pages. But you have the option of editing a page after it has been published. In fact, you can change it 10 times a day should you desire. Another factor to consider in terms of pages will be the menus. Generally, only pages will be featured on your menus (or posts as links), but this will be discussed later on.
Start by creating a home page. After clicking on the “Pages” tab you will notice that WP has already published a home page, but we are going to delete this by simply ticking the box next to it, change the “Bulk Action” tab to “Move to Trash” and “Apply”. Then you select the “Add New” page.
The first section you can fill in is the title of the page. In this case it will be “Home” or “Main”. You can name it whatever you want really, but for customer navigation sake it’s best to keep it straightforward. Below the title section you can add content. Once again, you can insert whatever you feel like, but keep in mind this is the first page readers will see, so make it a warm welcome to your site. Images and videos can be added to this content section, which will be discussed later. For now, keep it simple.
On the right you will see the options to “Save as Draft”, “Publish” and “Preview”. Scrolling down will bring you to “Set Featured Image” tab. Given that this will be your home page it’s best to use a company logo or something in that area for the featured image, but this is up to you. This picture will be displayed above your content and title. Clicking on the “Set Featured Image” tab takes you to a menu where you can choose a picture from the media library or you can upload one. Given that there are no pictures in the media library you will need to upload one. Once it has been uploaded just click on the “Set as featured image” tab situated on the bottom right. Some agents choose to feature their broker logo in this area to cover local licensing requirements.
You will be redirected to your page edit automatically. If you are satisfied with your title, content and picture then click on the preview page. At this point we are going to use a static front page for the site, simply because it’s easier to maintain and just makes more sense. When your home page is published then go to the “Customize” tab under “Appearance” and choose the “Static Front Page” dropped own. You will get the choice between a static front page or a latest post front page. Tick the static front page and at the “select page” drop down just below, select the home page you just published. When you get more accustomed to WP and you feel like showing your latest posts instead of a static front page you can change this.
The “Posts” tab is where you will publish your posts. Take note that there is a difference between “Posts” and “Pages” even though the interface looks the same. You will also need to delete the post published by WP and this is done exactly the same as with the pages. When you go to “Add New” post your screen should look like this.
The difference you will find between the pages and posts can be seen on the right. First of all, the “Format” selection and the “Categories” section just below it. For the purpose of the basic guide we are going to skip the “Format” selection, so just keep it on standard. As for the categories, we are going to create only one. You can add more later, but for now just click on the “+Add New Category” and give it a title. Let’s call it “For Sale”. The rest of the post works exactly the same as with the page, but to test it out just write one or two lines like “This is one of our latest listings” and use a picture of a house for your featured image. Add a title like “Suburban House”. Before publishing the post make sure it is categorized (For Sale box ticked). You can also add tags, which can be found just beneath the category box. These are words the article is focused on and adding tags will help with SEO.
I’d like to remind you here though, as taught in The Ballen Method, that how you title your pages and posts does matter when it comes to SEO. You’ll want to not just put “Here are our Condos” but rather something like “Las Vegas High Rise Condos For Sale”. Use your Keyword Research to determine your title and be sure to not stuff in your keywords, but do focus on the overall message that will tell the consumer and the search engines what the post or page is about.
Now you have a homepage and a first post to work with. The next step is organizing them on the website itself, which will include “Menus” and “Widgets”.
Both the menus and widgets can be found under the “Appearance” tab. It doesn’t really matter which one you choose to use first, so we are going to start with the widgets. Selecting “Widgets” from the “Appearance” tab will bring up this screen.
Due to the theme that you chose, the far right section won’t look exactly the same, but it should have the same options more or less. We are going to use a sidebar, meaning that it will display on the side of your homepage. The sidebar can be on the left or right side, depending on the theme, and you can choose which one to use. But first, focus on the “Available Widgets”. We need a widget that will show your latest posts, so look for a widget that fits this description. When you click on the applicable widget you will get to choose the area in which to place it, in this case it is going to be the “Sidebar”. Note that there are widgets for pages as well.
On the far right you will see the widget has been added and now you need to edit it. Simply clicking on it will open up an edit section. Here you can add a title, choose how many posts should be displayed, which categories should be included and what position on the sidebar the widget should be. Just choose the “For Sale” category for now and keep it at the number 1 position. Remember that multiple widgets can be added on the sidebar for each category, which is nice if you want to keep your most recent posts separate from other categories.
Widgets will appear and disappear based on your theme. Some themes include certain widgets. In addition to themes bringing widgets along, so do plugins. As you go as a WordPress user, you will find plugins to grow your site and will find great use of widgets along the way.
The Search Bar up top is a widget.
The IDX Quick Search on the right column is a widget.
The IDX Featured Showcase in the right column is a widget.
And Actually, even the IDX results in the main page is a widget.
A Menu is your list of offerings just like in a restaurant. This is an important piece of putting your website together. You get to choose what main items you believe your buyers and sellers are most interested in.
It’s a menu of your content.
I suggest test and measuring. Use tools that show you CLICKS through to your website so you can determine which menu items are being selected. This is a best practice in creating a great, customer centric website. After all, if it’s on your site, and not getting clicks, does it really belong there?
Tip: I’m using a Chrome extension called “Page Analytics” from Google Analytics that shows me clicks. It looks like this:
This is a new site so the numbers are low and we need more time to measure. But at first glance it’s clear that the
‘NEW!!! LISTINGS ONLY 24 HOURS OLD is getting 18% of the click through traffic
The SELLER HOME VALUATION page is getting 4.5% (that’s really good. That means LISTINGS)
The FEATURED MLS LISTINGS is getting 32% of the click through traffic
Now, my other pages are ranking on Google and have traffic straight through from search, but that is not what this is measuring. It’s measuring how many people see that menu and which items they click on to access the inside of the site. I can now move the menu items around, remove non-performing menu items, change the titles and so on to improve my site.
Take a look at what the menu example here offers:
In this case, the pages in the Black Row are our main menu items. We don’t change those. The items in the Red are selected based on the pages we add as we build.
That ‘search this website’ field you see up top? That’s a widget!
When creating menus for the header of your site you need to go to “Appearance” and select “Menus”. This is the page you will see.
Before setting the location, click on the “Create a New Menu” tab. Let’s call this menu “Main Menu”. On your left are the pages you can add to the menu. At this point you only have the home page to add, but this will expand according to the pages you create. Once the page is added you can set the location. For now we are going to keep it on the “Top Primary Menu” and make sure the “Automatically add new top-level pages for this menu” is ticked. When you are done, just save the menu.
In conclusion, you have created a homepage, a post, a widget that displays your recent post for simple navigation from the homepage and a menu at the top, which brings you back to the homepage. These are considered the real basics of a website, and once you get the hang of doing this then everything starts to get much easier.
Adding Media to Media Library
How you want to use your media is purely up to you. You can upload all the pictures you want to use by selecting the “Add New” tab under “Media” in the main options menu, or you can upload them when working on a new post. If you want to upload everything at once then your menu looks like this.
Just select the files you want to upload and let WP do its magic. After the media is uploaded it will be stored in the library, where you can use it in your posts and pages.
SEO TIP: Title your pictures and videos based on keywords used on your site, page, post or category. The search engines read the title of your media like a primary word on your content.
Putting pictures into a post or page is very simple. This can either be done with an existing post or a new post. Given that you only have one post at the moment, let’s use it to test some pictures. Go to the “Posts” section on the left menu.
All you have to do is click on your post entitled “Suburban House” (although I do hope you have titled this more keyword friendly) and it will take you to the post within an editorial view. Note that this works exactly the same with your pages, so use the same principles when you want to add media on them.
Where you want to insert the picture is your preference. Currently your post has one or two lines already written, so let’s put a picture just underneath the content. Leave a space between the content and the place where the picture is going to be. Then click on the “Add Media” situated on top of you your post. This will take you to your media library where you can choose a picture or upload one. After the photo has been added more content can be added which explains more about the photo. You can insert 2 photos or you can insert 50 photos, the choice is yours. For real estate agents these types of posts are very handy, especially when it comes to showing the preview of a house.
If you have a very long page or post, using small images can break up the chunky text.
For real estate listings, saving a set of the listing photos in a square (think back to the Brady Bunch Image) that loads as one image is a great strategy. It shows the features of the home without you having to load multiple pictures, which can be time consuming and slow down your webpage.
The ‘Click to view more photos’ is always an option as well.
Some of your image options:
Add a caption: This will box in the photo and add a caption for all to see under the photo.
Choose the size, you can edit the image to show as a thumbnail or as a very large image. Keep in mind the size of your images can slow down your website. Use images, but use them properly.
You can title and tag them. I title mine based on the page or post I am creating and include the keyword as an ‘image title attribute’ so the search engines will consider it as a keyword.
You can choose what happens when someone clicks on the image. It can do nothing, open as a bigger image (good for graphs and charts) or open to another page on your site via a custom URL. You get to choose.
You can also wrap the words around the picture by align the photo Left or Right
There are many different ways of inserting videos thanks to various plugins, but WP has made basic embedding very simple. It’s just like adding an image if you would like to show a video that is on your computer. All this requires is uploading a video like you would upload an image and placing it where ever you would like it to be seen between content. If you would like to use a video that is already on the internet, for example a YouTube video, then you are going to need an embedded code.
Notice that at the top right of the content block (the section where you write your post) there is a “Visual” tab and a “Text” tab. Up until now you have been doing everything in the “Visual” mode, but when you need to add code then you need to switch it to text. The visual tab is known as a WYSIWYG editor. It means you design and the system creates the code in the backend. You don’t have to know HTML code to design. When you click on the text tab, you can then see the code behind the design. Advanced WordPress users will frequently add or change the code.
Click to view the video you want to watch. Underneath the video is a share button and when you click on it a “share” code will appear.
Choose the size of your video. On some platforms, you may need the old embed code. Most platforms are now working the new code just fine. I suggest unchecking the Show suggested videos when finished.
All you need to do then is click on the “embed” tab above the link and the code will appear. Copy and paste the code into your content box while it’s in “Text” mode.
When you switch back to visual or choose to preview the page you will see the video player.
Videos give you the opportunity to take potential clients through a house without them having to leave their homes. You could record a tour and upload the video into your media library. From there you can add it to the post where content details of the house will be featured. Basically you will be presenting an open house to anybody without even having to make an appointment.
This is the basic way to place a video into a page or a post, but later on you can look at the different kinds of plugins that allow more options.
Thoughts and Tips on the Layout
Now that you have the basic outline of how to publish posts and pages along with media, here are some thoughts and tips you can use to make it look very professional.
Even though your homepage is static (which means it doesn’t change automatically vs. dynamic which would change on it’s own such as a blog feed or IDX listings) you can always add something on a weekly or even daily basis.
For the sake of argument, let’s assume you want to feature one specific house every week. Beneath your welcome note on the front page you create a heading, for example “This Week’s Featured Home For Sale in Mountains Edge”, and place some nice photos or videos beneath the heading.
The nice thing about posts and pages are that you can insert links to other pages or websites for that matter. If potential clients are interested in seeing more details of the house they can click the link and go directly to that page. Write a line underneath the photos or video, for instance, “If you want to see more details then simply click here”. All you need to do now is highlight the word “here” and click on the “Link” tag placed on the upper toolbar. You will get the option to insert a URL to another website or choose an existing page or post. Take note that the post of the house details needs to be published first in order for it to be linked.
The next thought is regarding the widgets you are going to use. It’s recommended to create a widget for every important category. Let’s say your first widget is set to display 3 of the latest “For Sale” houses and the widget below displays 3 of the latest “To Rent” houses. Don’t forget that the footer along with the home area can also be used for widgets.
Last but not least, let your header menu serve as navigation between your pages. If potential clients want to see older listings or bargain listings then let them have easy access to these pages through the menus. The main idea is to keep your site user friendly and posts easy to find. If you feel like giving the user more than one way of reaching a page then do it. The logic behind how everything works will kick in rather quickly and you’ll be surprised at how you can change the layout of everything.
As a precaution, test the website through multiple browsers or ask friends and family to go and test it. It doesn’t happen often, but there are cases where the site looks great on Chrome, but doesn’t work well with Mozilla. Always do proper testing before you start marketing the site.
Plugins for WordPress Real Estate Websites
There are a plethora of plugins available for WordPress real estate websites. Although WordPress may not offer a particular function, it’s almost guaranteed you can find a plugin to fit the bill.
WARNING: I would not get into too many plugins until you know how they relate to your themes. Not all plugins play well with all themes and your entire website could crash if not compatible.
In addition to a potential crash, plugins can slow down your site. Before adding any plugin, ‘Google it’ and see what others have said. If there are a lot of “help files” and discussions out there about errors, I would avoid that plugin. Just because it is on a WordPress endorsed site, does not mean it’s safe for you to use.
Test your page speed / site speed using a tool like the Page Analytics by Google Analytics before and after installing the plugin as a best practice for site optimization designed for a quality user experience.
But there’s still great value in exploring plugins. Here are a few favs:
- Shortcode Ultimate: This plugin allows you to embellish your real estate business website with a variety of bells and whistles, including many that can encourage more clicks and longer visits to your web pages.
- Yoast SEO: Search Engine Optimization gets a lot of professionals tied up in knots. But it doesn’t need to be complicated. With this plugin, you can easily edit your site’s slug (website URL), title, meta description (snippet), readability, keyword density, and other elements of SEO.
- All In One Schema Rich Snippets: Rich snippets are the newest toys in the SEO playground. Although standard search engine optimization may help a business page claim a spot on page one of the search engines, a rich snippet is a way that Google rewards a website with a special presentation that stands out to viewers. Rich snippets are a way to bump the competition over just enough so that your site is showcased in the search engine results page (SERP).
IDX PLUGINS AND HOW TO USE THEM
This plugin deserves its own segment, simply because it’s the essence of a real estate website. Here we will look at how to use them in addition to some of the best plugins available. By using shortcodes and widgets, you are able to embed live listings into your site, making your site as valuable as can be.
Requirements for IDX Plugins
There are some basic requirements you will need before you can make use of an IDX plugin. For starters you need to be an active member with an MLS (Multiple Listing Service).
Therefore, you need to be an agent or broker otherwise you cannot use this plugin. Secondly, in order for the data to be embedded on your site the MLS that you are using must allow the data to be syndicated from the developer of the plugin’s API.
Using the IDX Plugin
The process of using the plugin is very simple. As an example we are going to look at a plugin developed by Diverse Solutions called “dsIDXpress IDX Plugin”. The reason we are going to focus on this plugin is because it’s very simple in terms of installation and implementing. After it has been installed all you need to do is enter the activation code, then you can move on to embedding live data on your site. There are three different widgets to choose from, namely:
IDX Listings Widget – Allows the user to show up to 50 listings within a city, community, zip or tract.
IDX Areas Widget – This is a list of links to the areas in which you provide services.
MLS Search Widget – An MLS search form.
As for the shortcodes, the tools that come with the plugin show you exactly how to use them and these are placed on a page or post while in “Text” mode. The shortcodes look something like this:[idx-listings city=”Laguna Beach” count=”10″]
This particular shortcode will show the latest 10 listings in Laguna Beach. Each listing, whether they are images or text, consists of a link that will take the viewer to more details by simply clicking on it. Don’t let the shortcode intimidate you, because the tools of the plugins are very detailed in helping you place them. This is how easy it is to use the IDX plugin. However, it won’t hurt to check out some of the others.
It is SEO optimized and it works pretty much the same as the Diverse Solutions plugin. You can use shortcodes and widgets in order to show live data from MLS.
Other Popular IDX Plugin Recommendations Optima Express IDX Plugin
Displet RETS / IDX Plugin
IDX Broker WordPress Plugin flexmls IDX Plugin
IDX plugins also help to create an online presence in terms of search engine optimization, helping you get more traffic.
Video | How to Customize the WordPress Sidebar
Many web viewers today are visiting websites from mobile devices. However, when a WordPress website is designed with a right sidebar, that sidebar gets pushed to the bottom of the page, rarely to be seen by viewers.
The first thing that happens to your page display on mobile is that your navigation bar across the top of the page shrinks to a small menu icon with drop-down features.
On a desktop, that menu is expanded so that a viewer can easily see what options are available. However, on a mobile, that view is replaced so the user has to tap on the menu to see what options exist.
When you use a heat map such as Hotjar, you can see exactly where your viewers are clicking on your website.
On mobile devices, users have to scroll much more often than from a desktop view, so they’re less likely to scroll all the way down to where the sidebar has been pushed.
In many cases, website owners are opting to use a wide-screen theme rather than a theme that has a sidebar. Sidebars don’t necessarily need to be on the right hand side of the screen. They can also be on the left, or on both sides, based on your settings. You can add and remove sidebars in your WordPress dashboard.
Your default sidebar can be customized with drag-and-drop default widgets, such as search features.
Search bars can reduce bounce rates by providing users with a way to search for additional information. A bounce rate is when a user clicks on your website, doesn’t find what they need, and then clicks (or bounces!) right back off of your website. By offering a search feature, if a user doesn’t find what they need, they can still search the site with ease.
You can easily remove items from your sidebar by using the blue “delete” link at the bottom of the sidebar editor.
You can also add widgets to show your contact information, or that you can customize for additional resources. In cases where default widgets do not provide the information you want to display, you can use the widget at the bottom that says, “text”. This widget is customizable so that you can add whatever information you deem necessary.
Converting website Visitors to Leads
The premise is to use content marketing and search engine optimization to drive traffic to your website. But traffic doesn’t equate to sales: leads do! The goal, then, when creating your real estate website via WordPress is to create an offer viewers will happily exchange their information for, such as an instant home valuation.
You can easily create a home valuation calculator through ListingsToLeads.
Once you have your “Instant Home Valuation Calculator” page created on your Website using the landing page you design with ListingsToLeads, you can then create a button that you can add to any other page within your website. (Keep reading to learn how to create a button).
For example, any article you write designed to aid sellers in the process of selling their house, you can include the button, “Click here for your free instant home valuation”. When the visitor clicks that button, they’re redirected to your page for learning what their home is worth, where they’ll enter their name and email address to get the estimate.
Once you have that visitor’s email address, you can then send (or automate to send) an email with the subject, “Your Home Valuation May Not Be Right…”. In that email, you can explain why a hands-on approach from a professional real estate agent can give a more authentic and accurate estimate.
It is natural that you will start to learn the lingo of building a website and the extra settings you can tweak, but chances are you might experience security issues. The Internet is full of hackers and people who are trying to get into your system. Given that this is a real estate website where no personal information regarding credit cards and accounts are used, doesn’t mean that your website isn’t vulnerable. Hackers will still attempt to get access for many other reasons. For example, they need a temporary server or they want email addresses. Some hackers are simply out to create chaos. Here are some tips to keep your website safer from hacker onslaughts.
Update Plugins Regularly
If you installed a plugin, but you are not using it then it’s better to delete the plugin altogether. It might not sound like a big threat, but updating plugins when an update is needed can help to keep your website safe. Luckily WP automatically lets you know when there is an update available for a certain plugin. When you see this notification when you log on then don’t delay in updating. You don’t really have to worry about protection for the server unless the server belongs to you. If this is the case then always make sure the patches and software is up to date.
Keep Error Messages Short
You will be asking people to subscribe to your website and after playing around on WP you will have added error messages in case a username or password is incorrect. When you choose the text for your error message don’t specify what is wrong. Simply say something like “Incorrect username or password”. If you give any detail as to which one of these isn’t correct you help the hacker to focus on the problem.
Don’t Use Weak Passwords
It is always advised to use strong passwords for your WP admin account and this should be relayed to your subscribers as well. People hardly ever take this warning seriously and they usually regret it. Always incorporate capital letters, symbols and numbers into the password.
If for any reason you want to allow users to upload files then make sure it’s the best choice. For a real estate website this type of uploading shouldn’t be necessary and finding another way to make your idea work is advised. Scanning a file that is potentially harmful is very difficult, especially when it is coming from an experienced hacker, so try to avoid this option at all cost.
WordPress Security Plugin
Overall WP is a very safe platform to use, but it never hurts to have that extra protection. The WordPress Security Plugin is very easy to use and it provides great protection. The plugin checks for vulnerabilities within the security systems you use in addition to adding a firewall. How strong the level of security should be is up to you and the settings are simple. This particular plugin is free and won’t affect the performance of your site.
WORDPRESS MAINTENANCE AND ADDITIONAL TIPS
Once your website is fully functional and live then keep it up to date in terms of posts. Search engines pick up when websites aren’t posting new information regularly, so it’s important to add a post at least once every 2 or 3 days. If you can add posts daily then it’s even better.
Become Part of the Online Community
There is nothing that helps your website build traffic quite like socializing does. By this I mean reaching out to other websites that already enjoy a stream of traffic. Usually it’s better to find sites that fall into the real estate niche, but there are several other sites that retain various subjects. Start by leaving comments for articles or blogs. However, don’t throw in links or try to sell something. This exercise is only based on building relationships. The Internet is a very big world and it’s easy to get lost between the bigger sites. Let other users get to know you even if it doesn’t take place on your site.
Another popular way of getting your name heard is by making guest posts on other sites. Obviously you’ll want to keep these posts close to real estate, and in turn you can ask that other website owners do the same for you. Some of their traffic will become yours and they are adding valuable content to your site.
Share Advertising Space
After you have made some guest posts and met some new people, offer them some ad-space on your site. This isn’t aimed at monetizing your site, but rather a way of spreading the word. Instead of asking for money, ask if you can get some ad space on their website. The power of building good relationships can bring you far in terms of online presence.
Be careful with this though. Google especially is lowering rankings with pages that are packed with ads above the fold! (above the fold = the part of the website you see before scrolling).
Your quality, consumer centric WordPress Real Estate Site is not the place to earn money on ads. Not worth losing a client over a few bucks or rankings for some small ad profits in my opinion.
Maybe you don’t have the time or skill to write engaging articles and this means your website can suffer. Hire one or two freelance writers to make weekly posts on your site that will correspond with the real estate niche. This way you don’t have to worry about making time to write and you’ll feel better knowing that new content is added regularly.
Here are a few of the Ghost Writers I use on a regular basis to provide content for my sites.
These are original content focused around a topic and keyword phrase you choose. You pay per piece based on the quality of writer requested.
Keep your Site User Friendly
The competition is tough and users who struggle to use your site within the first 5 minutes won’t hesitate to jump to the next one. The best way to do this is by only showing the most important information on your homepage. Leave some space for users to breathe so-to-speak. Keep most of your information within your menus, where they can be easy to find, but won’t take up space.
Ballen Brands | Your Lead Generation Team
We began in real estate. We evolved to digital marketing. We mastered SEO, and we designed a set of services and products to help you succeed in your real estate business. Here’s how we can be your lead generation team:
B.R.E.W. – Ballen Real Estate Websites are crafted on the WordPress platform tailored specifically for real estate professionals.
Content Services – We’ll stack your website with rich, well-written content from our team of expert writers. Our writers word-weave excellence with focus on SEO and User Experience.
Auto-Pilot ISA – Once your Ballen Real Estate Website is brewed to perfection with a series of stellar content, plug in to Auto-Pilot ISA, an automated inside sales agent to perfect lead nurturing. Auto-Pilot ISA uses a series of emails, text messages, and tasks to engage in conversation with your leads until human interaction is required.
We can also assist with your Placester setup, your pay-per-click advertising campaigns, coaching, training and more. Give us a call today at (702) 917-0755, or contact us to learn more about how we can serve as your lead generation team.