A tongue-in-cheek guide to creating a real estate website that will make people scramble for the “Back” button.
Purpose of This Guide
I’ve been involved with real estate marketing for a long time, and I’ve seen a lot of websites belonging to real estate agents. Some websites belonged to clients of mine, others I just stumbled across. In all those years, and after seeing thousands of agent websites, I have come up with some tried-and-true techniques for building a real estate website that scares away visitors like a loose rat on Bingo night.
Why would you want to know this? Because to do things the right way, you first have to know what constitutes the wrong way. In other words, this guide represents “the good, the bad and the ugly” of real estate agent websites — minus the good.
1. Throw Organization Into the Wind
Nothing repels visitors like a healthy dose of disorganization. So be sure to “scramble” your real estate website’s layout in such a way that down is up, up is down, and nobody has any chance of finding anything. Put your logo in a random spot, like the middle of the page. Add new pages wherever you feel like it. Put articles under “News” and news under “Contact.” You get the idea.
2. Steer Clear of Quality Content
Avoid the use of property listings, market updates, helpful articles and the like. These things will keep people on your website for far too long. Remember, we want them to find the website, and then turn around and leave just as quickly as they came. Quality content will work against us in this regard by making people more inclined to stay.
Instead of quality content focused on your local real estate scene, just publish some of those frequently regurgitated “Tips for Buyers” … you know, the kind of content you can find on any real estate website. Whatever you do, AVOID creating original content that’s relevant and useful for your local audience, as this will surely keep them on your website.
3. Confusion Equals Fun!
Fun for you, at least. Nothing is more gratifying than when your website visitors furrow their brows, frown, and say things like, “Where’s the navigation?” One of the best ways to achieve this kind of visitor confusion is to do the opposite of what people expect. In other words, you should intentionally go against Web conventions.
Underline some blue text, even though it’s not really a hyperlink. This will result in plenty of frustrating clicks on plain text. Put your menu in weird places, like the bottom of the site. You heard me — the bottom!
4. Link to Lots of Irrelevant Websites
Be sure to link out to hundreds of websites that your visitors don’t care about. For instance, if you’re a real estate agent in Virginia, participate in one of those link-exchange programs that requires you to add to your home page the links to hundreds of real estate websites … all of them outside of Virginia. This tells your visitors, “I care about search engine ranking more than I care about you.” See you later, visitors!
5. One Logo is for Wimps … Shoot for 100
Remember, website visitors will quickly run from sites that are (A) confusing and (B) irrelevant. So here’s another tip for killing those two birds with one stone. Participate in some more link-exchange programs, but this time focus on those that require you to place the logos of other websites onto your home page. More is more here, so go crazy with it.
The goal here is to increase the “logo density” of your home page until it resembles a graphic designer’s portfolio. Try competing with a friend or colleague to make it even more fun: “Fifty logos? That’s nothing … I’ve got at least 100 on my home page!”
6. Put Your Headshot Everywhere
A well-placed photo of yourself will help to personalize your website. But that’s not our goal here. Our goal is to send website visitors running for the hills. So we want to put a LOT of personalization on the website.
Let’s start with the home page. Your headshot photo should take up at least 50% of the design space. Relocate that navigation menu if you have to, just get a big mugshot on that home page. On your internal pages, try to have a different photo of yourself on every page. Better yet, put two photos on every page. This will crank up the personalization to a disturbing degree. Include pictures of your pets too, especially if you keep reptiles or arachnids!
7. One Word: Pop-ups
When people reach your website, you want to hit them with so many pop-ups that they literally fall out of their chairs. Create pop-ups asking them to subscribe for your newsletter. Create pop-ups about your guest book. Heck, use a pop-up just to ask if they’re having a nice day, with a “yes” or “no” checkbox on it. If they click on “yes,” launch another pop-up saying “Good!”
The point here is to have plenty of pop-ups obscuring the real content of your website. Make your pop-ups hard to close too, with “X” buttons that don’t work. If you can combine this technique with one of those listed above, even better! For instance, you might create some pop-ups with nothing but a headshot photo.
8. Avoid All Forms of Lead Generation
This is a guide on how to drive web traffic away from your site. But once in a while, a few stubborn visitors will actually stick around for a bit. In these cases, be sure you have NO lead-generation techniques in place whatsoever. The last thing you want is for these people to actually email or call you. So be sure to avoid the use of contact forms, newsletter subscriptions, and other forms of lead capture. While you’re at it, strip your website of any kind of contact information, or else put it somewhere people would never look, like your “News” page.
* You may republish this article online if you retain the author’s byline and the active hyperlinks below. Violators will be fed to the hyenas. Copyright 2007, Brandon Cornett.