Recently there's been a lot of FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) among real estate agents about what will happen after the Zillow / Trulia merger is completed. Many agents and brokers are nervous that this suddenly more-massive player will steal pageviews from local real estate websites, force agents to pay for favorable rankings in search results, and possibly push smaller agents out of the game entirely.
There's no doubt that the merger is a bit of a game changer-- but that means it's more important than ever for your brokerage or agent website to be professional, polished, and above all, relevant to your local area! Your specialized expertise in the community you serve is the key differentiator between you and a hundred other places a potential buyer can get information. So play up this expertise and make your site the one-stop-shop for information about your turf. Here's some ideas on how to make this happen:
- Blog-- integrate your blog, Twitter feed and local community calendar into your site. Blog about upcoming events in the community-- carnivals, street fairs, and even just the weather. Be selling, but be subtle-- don't hit visitors over the head with listings, but don't be afraid to insert a listing into a post where appropriate.
- Walkscore-- walkscore.com has great widgets that can be used to show buyers the neighborhood landscape, including shops, schools, bars, salons, libraries and transportation routes. This is a great tool to help users get the lay of the land.
- Google Places-- like Walkscore, Places maps out local attractions and can be configured to show or hide dozens of possible values, so you can highlight or downplay certain elements.
- Google Streetview / Earth-- what better way to show a visitor your town than with actual interactive imagery? You can create custom "fly by" tours using Google Earth, hitting your listings on the way, or let the viewer cruise around the neighborhood with Streetview's driving tools.
- Map Search-- using a Google or Bing Map to display your listings can really help a buyer put them in context. With a bird's eye view, the buyer can see proximity to local attractions like lakes, rivers, national forest, etc. Using map tools, a visitor can draw a shape or polygon on the map to set boundaries for the search-- this is an intuitive and fun way to search, and can keep a visitor coming back.
- Resources links-- it's helpful to keep a page of "Community Links" in your website, helping your buyers find resources like local lenders, title companies, utilities, public safety information, etc. This can also help you with inbound links, since many companies will gladly trade reciprocal links with you (eg. "You link to my site, I'll link to yours!"). This is a well-known Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tactic that can pay dividends if you get links from well-established companies with solid web presence.
For more ideas on creating a top real estate website, see 8 Elements of a Quality Real Estate Website!