Hard-Working Web Site
- Oct 14, 2009
By: Mike Manning, LoopNet Inc.
Odds are your company recently launched its second- or third-generation Web site, or is in the process of gearing up to do it. As the Internet enters adulthood, the time is now to apply lessons learned, leverage new technology and continue to evolve your company’s online brand and marketing presence.
But the “Field of Dreams” approach to online commercial real estate marketing, “Build it and they will come,” doesn’t actually work. You need to take concrete steps to make your Web site work hard for you. Attractive graphics and catchy slogans are important, to be sure, but they aren’t enough to drive traffic to your site and convert traffic into leads.
Based on our experience at LoopNet.com, the most heavily trafficked online commercial real estate marketplace, we’ve learned to think in these terms:
- First, it’s a matter of getting your Web site found.
- Second, it’s a matter of converting online traffic to leads.
To the first point, you can buy advertising on search engine sites such as Google and Yahoo!, or you can leverage the potential of free search — the natural, organic search results that appear in the main, lefthand column on a Google page, for example, after someone searches a particular set of terms. These results link directly to Web sites whose content best matches a searcher’s request, as interpreted by the search engine’s algorithms. You have to earn your way up the rankings based on the relevance of your Web site’s content, depth, frequency of updates and, crucially, the number of third-party sites linking to yours.
The most important starting point is to provide relevant content–that is, your site should feature content that is specific to your market and service offerings, and be organized around terms your potential customers are searching for. For example, the three most common search queries related to office space in Los Angeles in August were “Los Angeles office space,” “rent office space Los Angeles” and “office space lease Los Angeles.” For smaller businesses, you’ll want to research how much competition exists for these terms. You may see more success focusing on targeted keywords such as “Los Angeles loft sublease office space” versus a broad term such as “office space.”
Additionally, you might build landing pages around these key phrases with content and images that support them (and are appropriately captioned), or with a blog that tracks notable office property transactions in the market and is updated frequently. Your site might also feature tips for getting a good deal on office space for lease in your area. If you have a niche specialty such as helping very small businesses find suitable sublease space, create content on that specific topic.
You can start identifying priority keywords based on knowledge of your own customers and market. Google AdWords also offers a free “Keyword Tool” that both identifies specific search terms people are using to find businesses such as yours and can provide suggested keywords based on your web page content.
To convert online traffic to viable prospects, provide site visitors with relevant content quickly. In other words, make it easy for them to find what they’re looking for, be it office space in a particular geographic area or a certain amount of space. If users can’t find what they want within a few clicks, they’re likely to leave your site.
Relevant site content is as important to lead generation as it is to getting found in the first place. At LoopNet, we’ve seen response rates jump by up to 80 percent when we deliver information personalized to the searcher’s specific interests.
Incorporating effective property search functionality on your site is also critical to increasing conversions. Don’t make prospective customers wade through a “view all properties” link on their own. Additional search features, such as mapping and aerial photography, are helpful in engaging visitors on your site and increasing the odds that they will find something that causes them to pick up the phone and call. (There are a number of third-party technology solutions, including our own LoopLink product, that make it easy to implement these features without a lot of development work.)
The bottom line: Your Web site’s primary job is to generate leads, and this is a function of both the number of people who find your site and your success in converting them to interested prospects. Focus on these two areas, and you will quickly find that your Web site is working harder for you.
Mike Manning is vice president of marketing for LoopNet Inc., which operates the leading online commercial real estate marketplace.