As an agent, if you’re not fully embracing and implementing an online strategy, you’re setting yourself up for failure in the long run. That may come off as a little harsh, but it’s true; it’s amazing how many agents have not fully embraced the Internet as part of their business’ overall strategy.
A lot of agents rely purely on their past referral business, but they fail to see how their referrals become directly tied to their online presence.
The Evolution of Referrals
In the past, it was easy for a consumer to say: “If you’re thinking of buying or selling, you should really call Sally Smith. Here’s her phone number, give her a call!”
But, now, that conversation usually goes like this: “If you’re thinking of buying or selling, you should really check out Sally Smith. Google her some time (or they won’t even suggesting Googling, they’ll just assume you will).”
Before the thought of reaching out to Sally even crosses their mind, they’re going to start researching. In the digital world, recommendations only go so far – consumers want, and need, to see proof so that they can come to a firm decision.
Whether it’s buying new Winter tires before the snow starts, a new restaurant they’re thinking of trying, a new accountant they need for tax season, or pretty much anything else. Consumers start by researching.
Most people use the Internet to make a decision, or at least to research and influence that decision. It’s only a matter of time, though, before everyone does.
Does Your Online Presence Hold Up?
If you were to Google “Sally Smith,” what would you find?
Hopefully, you’d see a Google Business Page result, her personal website, and perhaps some results including listings, maybe the latest blogs, or guest blogs on prominent websites.
The mix here is so important. In the research stage, people are actively looking for reasons to confirm why working with you is the right idea. They are searching for positives, not negatives, but one bad apple can spoil the bunch.
So, are Sally’s results all positive? Does it show her as being the agent they should contact when they’re making one of the biggest financial transactions of their life?
If someone in the research phase can’t find a reason to reach out, they simply will not. In fact, even as much as 1 bad review, spelling mistakes on your site, or no site at all can almost immediately rule out someone’s interest.
The research stage is thorough, but only to a point. Our research has shown that consumers search to verify names all the time, but if they don’t like what they see they are quick to reject it. That means lost business for you.
All in all, reviews are one of the first things that show online when someone is doing research. As an agent, you need a lot of positive reviews as it is instrumental in anyone making a decision about you.
You should have reviews everywhere you can, including places like:
Most consumers have a platform they trust to perform their research. So, the more bases you have covered, the better. I wrote a really detailed post about how to build your online review strategy that you can read right here.
The Role Your Website Plays
Another key result is going to be your website.
What you need is a beautiful, strategic site that feels like you and sounds like you. This way, you can make a connection with the person researching you and cement your working relationship before it even begins.
The truth is that a website can make or break whether a potential lead reaches out. Again, they’re in the research phase, which is fairly fickle – your website needs to pop, it needs to engage, and it needs to be easy to navigate.
That’s why we focus on websites that provide, primarily, a user experience that invites consumers to engage with you, your content, and your brand.
Also worth noting is that, if someone is selling, your website is also going to be one of the places that they expect their property to be marketed.
In this case, how your other listings are presented is a direct indication of how their property will be shown. That is all to say that the homes you have on there should look spectacular.
How Good SEO Powers Online Referrals
Most agents don’t know a lot about how search engines work, but it’s a key part of someone researching you.
That’s because whatever they see on the first few pages are what they’re most likely to click. If you invest in building SEO clout with your brand name, you will more likely than not show up when someone who has been sent your way starts their search. It’s clear, intuitive, and obviously you.
Some agents, though, don’t even have their website displaying as the first result in a search result. While that’s not something that can be directly controlled, it is something that can be planned and strategized to solve.
By ensuring that your website is built strategically, and the content that appears in search results showcases you in the best possible light, you’re more likely to give consumers a positive impression as part of their research process.
Finding Consumers Where They Search
Modern agents know that consumers do research online.
As a modern agent, there’s a great deal of strategy involving showing up in a search for a competitor, whether that’s through a paid search strategy or organically.
There are plenty of ways to ensure you rank ahead of your competitors in search results. Depending on the ones you use, and how you come across, it can be a key competitive advantage in a crowded marketplace.
The bottom line is this: If you’re one of those agents that rely on referrals to bring business in, and you’re not worried about how you appear online, then your strategy is extremely dated and at risk of extinction.
Want to plan your digital strategy on your own, and set your business up for success? Download our workbook: ‘The Digital Business Planning Workbook’. It’s a self-guided, interactive, strategic workbook where you answer questions about branding, SEO, content, design, and a lot more, so you can set goals for your website and your digital marketing efforts for 2020. And, it’s free to download.