National network refocuses website towards education

One of the country’s largest real estate groups has relaunched its website with an educational focus, aiming to give consumers more than the latest listings by providing additional information around the property buying, renting and selling process.

“We know that customers will only search on websites where they find every available property, never on just a single brand’s website,” said First National Real Estate chief executive Ray Ellis.

“So the focus of our new national website is to add value, assist with the different stages in a customer’s real estate journey, then empower them to make decisions in their best interests.”

The new website, which was launched in the last week, forms part of a broader strategy targeted at meeting what potential home buyers and tenants are seeking online. 

"The August 2013 Google ‘Hummingbird’ algorithm update resulted in ‘conversational search’ queries having a major effect on website rankings," Mr Ellis said. "As a result of the update, Google ranks websites with fresh content and answers to questions higher in search results.

"With online search patterns become more sophisticated, consumers asking direct questions such as ‘What’s the closest place to buy the iPhone 5s to my home?’ or ‘How do we choose the right real estate agent’ are bypassing websites that don't provide personalised answers within the website content." 

Social media also forms a big part of First National’s new approach. 

The cooperative network, which has around 400 offices across Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific, said it’s “socialising its entire business” via a ‘Social Express’ strategy. The company reported this new approach has delivered members a 76 per cent increase in local consumer reach in its first six months and ‘fans’ have increased by close to 40 per cent, across the group.

“By providing social media content that potential customers want, educating our members to be socially savvy, releasing a groundbreaking website, and allowing customers to ask questions and provide feedback online, we’re opening new opportunities to start relationships with the experts, our members,” Mr Ellis said.

Yet listings remain key to the new website.

"We're now giving more emphasis to the information customers are searching for but property listings and agent search remain as important as ever," Mr Ellis continued.

Doug Driscoll, CEO of NSW-based Starr Partners, echoed Mr Ellis' sentiment. He said his network’s website generated solid traffic from the listings that feature on it.

In the last 30 days, the network’s main website generated more than 31,000 visits, and from these there were 1,403 property enquiries and 106 requests for an MA.

Starr Partners has around 30 offices, largely concentrated in western Sydney.

“It’s about striking the right balance by using multi-channel marketing,” he told Real Estate Business in relation to his company’s website.

First National's new website also caters for Australians’ rapid move to mobile devices, and their desire for more video content.

“Because our national website is responsive, we’re fully optimised for smartphones, tablet computers or desktop computers,” Mr Ellis continued. “Whatever the customer’s device, First National makes access to information simple and visually appealing.”

The company said more than 65 per cent of people looking for property use their phone or mobile device. This shift to mobile devices has increased the importance of video marketing as part of the property search process, the company added, a point reinforced by leading listing websites Domain and realestate.com.au in recent years, and some agents.

“First National has successfully positioned over 88 per cent of its members’ websites in top 10 Google search results,” Mr Ellis continued.

“Nearly 70 per cent of our membership is actively engaging with customers through social media. Last year, BIS Shrapnel announced First National as the third largest Australian network by market share, and, now we’re laying the foundations of future growth for our members’ businesses with this revolutionary website.”

Early figures suggest the new website is tracking well. 

"Our previous website performed exceptionally well but when we compare the first 10 days of our new website against the results produced by our old website during the same 10 day period last year, all our engagement metrics are up," Mr Ellis said. "Early results are very encouraging. Visits are up 51 per cent, unique visitors by 81 per cent, new visits by 19 per cent and mobile traffic by 51 per cent."

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