Three things not to do on your real estate blog / web site

ErrorI stumbled across a local real estate broker’s web site today. It took about 30 seconds to notice three fundamental issues with the site.

And before anyone gets twisted out of shape and thinks I’m just dissing someone’s site, keep this in mind…

One can learn by watching the good things other people do. But you can also learn by observing what not to do.

This particular site is not alone, there are countless examples just like it scattered all across the Internet. LOTS of real estate practitioners have web sites. There are many brilliant sites out there, and many that are not-so-swift. Be brilliant.

What were the three glaring errors I saw?

Three Common Real Estate Website / Blog Mistakes

1) Poor spelling / typos:

Watch me write, and you will swiftly see that I can’t spell nor type worth a flip. Fortunately we have the spell checker. No, you should not be a slave to your spell checker. After all, this passes a spell check with flying colors:

Eye wood like two bee leave that spell Czech pro grams are perfect. Butt the fact is their knot. Ewe kneed to bee care full.

Yeah, that’s an extreme example, but you get the idea. Don’t just rely on spell checkers, but use them in conjunction with common sense and proofreading.

The glaring error on the site in question? They had “Search the MSL” in their menu. That should, of course, read “Search the MLS”.

2) Not updating your site:

I am a bit of a news junkie. So when I arrive at a site I tend to click on things that say, “NEWS”. Doing that on this broker’s site takes you to a page with one “news” story. It’s a story about how younger generations are buying more houses. The first sentence ends with mentioning a “Homeownership in America Study” that was published by a large national real estate brokerage – in 2006.

2006? Uhm, we are less than a week away from 2011…

Four to five year old content and sources do not qualify as “news”.

Another example in the same site was a contest. Contests are a great idea to attract attention and traffic. But this is not the correct way to do that:

. . . results will be posted by August 5, 2009.  Entries must be received by May 30, 2011 . . .

So results will be posted some 19 months before entries must be received???

If you can’t commit to keeping up a news section on your site, if you can’t put correct dates in a contest announcement, then don’t do it. Far (FAR) better to have nothing than to have five year old sources or utterly incomprehensible dates / instructions in your copy. This, along with typos, screams “I PAY NO ATTENTION TO DETAIL!” Is that really the message you want to send to current and potential clients?

Pay attention. People notice stuff like this.

3) Go easy on the fonts, colors and various text enhancements:

Every single word of text on this web site was bolded. Every. Single. One. There was also black text, red text and gold (?) text – on the same page. In fact, there was black and red text, underlined in gold – in the same sentence. There were font changes within the same paragraphs.

Granted I am no expert in typography, but I know an almost impossible page to read when I see one.

I have also seen people that center everything.

Which is incredibly annoying.

And difficult to read.

Isn’t it?

Please, left justify your text.

When it comes to typography, the simpler the better. Pick one color and one font (and not some fancy font!) Be consistent. The occasional bold or italics is fine, it’s a great way to emphasize something. Underlining on web copy is generally a bad idea – people will think it’s a link.  For the love of all things holy, please don’t bold every word on your site. Why in the world do you want to make your site difficult to read?

You don’t have to be an expert in design (clearly I am not). Less is more. White space is your friend. Use common sense. It is very easy to get blinded by what is happening on pages you build for your site. Find a neutral third party and ask them, “How does this look?” Can’t find a neutral third party? Try this…

Take your laptop to Starbucks. Pull up your site. When someone walks in say, “Hey, I just did a little re-design on my web site. If you’ll take 10 seconds to look at it and give me your honest opinion, I’ll buy you a cup of coffee.” People (well, most people) like to be nice, so it won’t be hard to find someone to help. Due to their niceness, they may say, “looks great!” Dig a little, ask them specifics like, “how are the colors”, “do you think it’s easy to read”, “what is your first reaction/impression”, “what do you notice first”? Heck, say, “we’ll never see each other again, so if it sucks, just say so.” You don’t want them spending a lot of time on this. They don’t want to spend a lot of time. You are looking for a quick, first impression.

Because first impressions count.

A lot.

About Jay Thompson

Jay is a Real Estate Broker (Phoenix, AZ area), father, husband, friend to many, enemy to a few. Author of the award winning blog, Phoenix Real Estate Guy, he is also a serial blog commenter and social media fan boy. Jay abhors yard work, but love kittens and driving too fast.
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42 Responses to Three things not to do on your real estate blog / web site

  1. Jay – Thanks for your thoughts. I agree with you and sometimes get a bit lazy on the font sizes on my own blog, seeking emphasis or dramatic effect.

    One funny one for you. I was asked to review an agent's site for them (website, not blog). In addition to having all of your mentioned errors including multiple fonts, horrendous colorings and no real relevant information in the majority of their tabs, they had one major error.

    In the section labeled "What Do We Do for Our Clients" they had the following headline:

    "We pay attention to detial"

    Keep up the great work Jay. Thanks for keeping us all honest.

    My recent post Same Ship- Different Day

  2. @jolenta says:

    Jay, I'm impressed you had the intestinal fortitude to stomach being on those websites long enough to compile such an exhaustive list. Had I been the one to stumble across such a hideous collection of basic blunders, I would have hurried off the sites without a second's thought. Kudos for taking the time to cover the fundamentals – one wonders though whether people that careless would take the hint? One would think that more attention could be paid to one's online marketing, especially given the recent slow-down in the market. Perhaps the offending site owners are no longer in the business? In any case, may I suggest that when you get time you write a Part Deux to address the subtler mistakes no doubt I, and many others, are probably making. I'll even send you a Starbuck's card!
    My recent post NEW! Guide to Madison homes page


  4. Pankaj says:

    Hi Jay, Its Delhi broker from twitter, some very basic things you pointed out above that could make a whole lot of difference. I did not realize this until I read your post. I can't help assuming perhaps my sloppy webpage also contributed a great extent to the idea of your scribbling this :o).
    You guys are simply prolific writers; I am yet to come across any real estate blog in India which matches even half of what you guys are doing out there. Really, your blog has been quite an eye opener for me. I have been spending time reading up on stuff on yours and some other webpages from the list of your following/followers on twitter, it seems the real estate industry is fairly organized and regulated at different levels in the US. Only regulations that we have are perhaps the circle rates, (going rate decided by the govt for a particular area) which is most of the time half of what seller would normally demand, so there is a lot of cash involved in most of the real estate transactions and other one is perhaps zone wise distribution of different areas (residential, industrial, commercial etc). There is a model real estate law/regulator which is currently doing the rounds at different levels of bureaucracy. Hopefully, there will be something out soon. But real estate is hot like never before here, and it’s just the beginning, there is a lot to come with growing our growing economy and infrastructure. MLS thing seems quite interesting, I also like the market stats stuff on your website, does it populates of an excel sheet on the backend or what?– just curious.
    Anyway, I will keep reading up on your blogs and hopefully start writing mine soon. I just wanted to wish you and your loved ones a very happy new year!

  5. Liz Benitez says:

    OK so I'm terrified that by commenting you'll follow the link to my site and see all my horrific mistakes. I happy to say I use the same typography through out, so plus for me. Now I have to go back and proofread every line 🙂 Thanks for the pointers. It was good reading.
    My recent post Ham Florentine Wreath

  6. Yah! LOL. Don't follow my link either. I have a lot of editing to do thanks to this article. I guess I got hoodwinked by the SEO articles that talk about bolding words…I'll get rid of them 🙂
    My recent post Calgary Real Estate Prices and Net Migration

  7. Matt Farley says:

    Thanks Jay. I decided to post some NEWS today. ( i hope google finds it)

  8. Thanks Jay for nice explanation and pushing up my knowledge. I'll keep in mind.

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  10. Jay – your list is spot-on, as usual. I recently removed the dates form blog posts, and have gone back through 2 years' worth and re-written the old stuff to be up to date. That way when people land on the Tax Credit Page (for energy efficiency), they can find the current ones, not the stuff that expired last year!!!
    My recent post Measuring a Home- When You Should Hire a Pro

    • Helen says:

      1st ask her for your money back.or if she does not return it . place a stop paenmyt on the check.2nd if she does not give it to you than go to the State and file a complaint.However why would you make out a check to Kathy X in the first place? You maybe make it out to a brokerage house but not to a person. I mean come on use your head, you make it too easy for someone to rip you off.

  11. Jim Gatos says:

    I know you don't blog about your listings. Have you ever? Do you blog about your listings elsewhere? Is it worth it? So many real estate blogs, they seem to have posts on listings, open houses, etc.. Some of these authors claim wild successes.. Would you give us your opinion?


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  25. I totally agree with everything you said! I'm glad I'm not the only person who finds centered text unprofessional looking. As you said, the same thing holds true for getting too fancy with font colors and styles. The problem with proofreading what you've written is that your brain subconsciously corrects things as you read them, so it's still hard to catch all typos that don't involve misspellings. The good thing about having your own blog and Web site is that you can go back and correct typos after the content is initially published. That wasn't possible in the Pre-Internet Age.
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  33. Great share jay thanks.
    I would also add that most of the real estate agents handling their blogging have a poor understanding of SEO and tend to stuff keywords in their articles which makes them hard to read for most of their visitors. Providing value is the key, especially in this competitive industry.

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