Getting more from your website
Technology holds the key to your future success, with your website proving one of your biggest lead generators. Here, Google's James Bacon explains how to maximise your web offering with a few simple tweaks.
You only have to look at the recent general election campaign to see how important the internet has become.
With nearly 185,000 tweets on the social networking site Twitter during the first televised debate on ITV and over half a million subsequent views of the show on YouTube, the internet became the best place for voters to get involved and have their say.
Some 75% of UK households are now online, and of those connections 95% are through broadband. These faster connections mean that people are spending increasingly more time online.
In the property sector, the internet has fundamentally changed the consumer journey to buying a home. Some 90% of Brits claim that the internet is their preferred method of searching for property, and it is easy to see why in terms of the search speeds, ease of property comparison and the sheer depth and quality of information that the internet offers.
These have collectively created a new kind of property buyer - one that can find all the answers they need before even speaking to an agent. We've seen property-related searches increase by 21% year-on-year, with for sale queries having grown by 35% during the same period.
So, how can your business exploit online opportunities? It's simple - be found, measure everything and innovate.
The internet is a big place with millions of websites, so how can you ensure consumers find your website rather than that of your arch rival? Some 81% of Brits enter websites through a search engine, so the first thing you need to do is ensure your site appears in relevant search engine results, whether it be in the natural listings, in the sponsored links or in both for maximum effect.
You can give your site the best chance of appearing in the natural listings on our site by using Google Webmaster tools.
It is important to understand how visitors are engaging with your site. There are many analytics packages available, and as well as sourcing visitor statistics, they should inform you where they have come from, which allows you to measure the performance of your online marketing campaigns. This will help you make informed decisions about which marketing channels provide the best return on investment.
Analytics packages will also help you identify issues on your site, such as bounce rates, which calculate the time between a user clicking through to your site and then leaving immediately.
There are also online products available to test the effectiveness of your page variations and make improvements where required. We used our product, Website Optimizer, on our own Adwords sign up page and managed to increase sign ups by 56%.
Make your site more appealing to users. Consider using maps and relevant links to local facilities, such as schools and hospitals, to improve user engagement.
Over the last three years online video has grown massively. Twenty-four hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every single minute, and in January 80% of UK internet users watched an online video.
Think about how you can use online video to better illustrate your properties and products. In the US, a number of realtors are using it to great effect, including Coldwell Banker and Remax.
Mobile internet usage is expected to surpass that of desktop within the next five years, which means that it is important that you adapt your online strategy to fit.
Build a simpler mobile version of your website - one that will be easy to navigate on the small screen - and consider developing mobile apps for Android phones and iphones.
Finally, be found on mobile. Mobile searches for property have increased by over 250% in the last three years, so ensure you appear on search engines, so your shiny new mobile site gets all the attention it deserves.
James Bacon is head of property at Google UK.
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