Agent tools - websites and marketing automation

Agents pay for ads, but they also use their own website to capture new buyer and seller leads. Software can help them build a great site without paying for custom services. The tools they use to market without paying for each new lead cover the following problems:

  • How do I create a compelling website?
  • How do I drive more free and recurring traffic to my website?
  • How do I generate customized marketing materials without hiring a marketing professional?

IDX websites and features

I discussed MLS feeds in my post on searching and sharing. Most agents use popular versions of this feed, called the IDX, to build custom sites. Some agents will build their site from scratch. Most agents use a service that handles design and feed integration for them. The agent's goal is to create a site that showcases their brand and listings. The IDX allows customers to also search all MLS listings and submit leads to the agent's site. The following are the most common features of website builders.

  • IDX integration: most real estate website software includes integration with  core MLS feed data. This allows the site to pull in listing information from the MLS. Feeds are typically updated frequently (every 10-15 minutes).
  • Templates, themes, and light customization: agents want to make sure that their site includes their logos and colors. Virtually every website builder includes this functionality. Some also allow agents to select what pages are on the site and how they’re arranged.
  • Real estate portal functionality: many site creators include functions of portals like Zillow and Realtor.com. They use the IDX data to allow consumers to search listings by criteria and map views. There are then listing pages for results and detail pages for each listing. There will be many features within this portal functionality. They include slide shows, map views, sorting, tour scheduling, and mortgage calculators.
  • Mobile friendly: popular site builders have built-in mobile views. This is often called responsive design, meaning the can accommodate different viewing sizes. A large portion of real estate site traffic is mobile. As a result, this is often a priority for agents.
  • User logins: robust platforms include a login function for visitors. This allows customers to save searches, favorite listings, and communicate with the agent.
  • Lead capture: virtually every website builder tool includes an ability for visitors to submit inquiries. This is either through a general form or a button on each listing. These are either sent to the agent by email or integrate with the agent's CRM.
  • Widgets: flexible website builders display products from third-party software and data providers. This can help agents add property valuations, market reports, and on-site chat.
  • Blogs and content management systems: many agents maintain blogs or actively post market-related data. Content management tools help agents display this content without requiring coding knowledge.
  • Sharing: most platforms allow agents and visitors to share links. This can be via social networks, email, or direct links.

Some less common power features include the following.

  • Automatic posting and syndication: Some site creators also allow agents to post and syndicate non-MLS information. For example, an agent may be able to make a custom listing for a rental. They can then automatically use that data to generate a Craigslist ad.
  • Analytics: site data on traffic and leads is usually tracked in tools like Google Analytics. But some site builders include their own analytics so agents can access visitor information without learning other technology.
  • Hosting: some website builders handle everything from buying a domain to handling file storage. Most just provide instructions on how to do this through major technology providers.
  • Marketing integration: Some website creation tools use IDX data to generate marketing materials. This can be for online facebook ads, listing presentations, or direct mail postcards.
  • Content libraries: Some platforms help agents buy pre-existing content like photos or infographics. Agents can then share and customize this content on their blog or elsewhere on their site.
  • Reviews: a handful of website builders let agents collect reviews. This helps them showcase great testimonials. The most notable provider of this is Placester, which owns review service called RealSatisfied.
Placester offers many different pre-built templates for agents to use for their site. Source: Placester.

Popular real estate website software

There are dozens of software services that build websites for agents. They typically fall into one of the following groups.

  • Agent platforms: these are often lead generation or CRM-driven software packages that include website creation. Leads from the site go directly to the built-in CRM tool. It’s more common for a platform to have a website creator than it is for them to lack one. But often the quality of the websites they create are low relative to standalone services. Some of the platforms with stronger IDX sites are RealGreeks, Chime, and MoxiWorks.
  • Standalone real estate website builders: many agents prefer the output of dedicated platforms for real estate agent websites. These services often offer a lot of customization. They also integrate with a large variety of third-party CRMs and tools. Some popular standalone real estate website builders are Placester and Agent Image.
  • Standalone non-real estate website builders: agents who have a better knowledge of tech and design might prefer non-real estate website builders. These include Wix, WordPress, and Squarespace. Often it can take more work to integrate IDX feeds with these. But often these services offer more customization. They also have a larger universe of third-party widgets. 
  • WordPress-based builders: some companies offer real estate sites built on top of Wordpress. These offerings provide the flexibility and customization of Wordpress. But they also have the real estate integrations of standalone real estate website builders. Two popular WordPress-based builders are IDX Broker and Diverse Solutions.
  • Semi-custom web development: there are options just short of hiring a full marketing agency. These companies use a combination of pre-built sites with custom development and design. That said, this customization comes at a steep premium to other options above. Two popular companies in this category are Luxury Presence and Real Estate Tomato.
IDX Broker provides several different options of site builders. They are based on the popular WordPress platform. Plans range from IDX integration to full site design. Source: IDX Broker.

Print and online marketing collateral

Generating signs, presentations, and marketing materials

Agents frequently need to design marketing materials. For offline materials, this can include "for sale" signs, listing presentation booklets, and  postcards. Online, it may mean creating a quick Facebook or Twitter post from listing data. Different software services help with these tasks. Some popular website builders and platforms include this function. They use IDX data to pull in photos and descriptions from the MLS. Some examples of software with this functionality are  MoxiWorks and kvCore. There are also a number of dedicated platforms focused on generating customizable print materials for agents. Breakthrough Broker is one of the most popular options. It even partners directly with some brokerages to offer brokerage-branded collateral. Agents also hire marketers and designers to create materials.

MoxiWorks offers automated marketing material creation for agents based on listing information. Source: MoxiWorks.

Driving organic traffic with site design, best practices, and content

Most site builders ensure any web design adheres to Google search standards. Often this means making sure a site is well-structured. But agents must also generate new and relevant compelling content. This helps sites capture search traffic for relevant terms. There are also services that try to help agents follow these best practices better. For example, Homesnap Pro+ helps create Google-optimized posts automatically. It also helps an agent set up their Google Business Profile. ListReports provides pre-made marketing kits. Agents can post these on their site to quickly generate more content to share online.

HomeSnap Pro+ helps agents optimize their ranking on Google. Source: Homesnap.

Brokerage marketing tools for agents

Many brokerages have their own in-house marketing team and software. This is a large reason many agents join brokerage. These support teams can help agents with anything that their software or staff can’t. This could be putting together a Facebook ad or helping design a logo. But these teams can only support so many agents. Many brokerages have started building their own custom tools to overcome this constraint. These tools often compete with those mentioned above. For example, Realogy has a service called Listing Concierge. This tool automatically generates property marketing for a new listing. Keller Williams’ internal technology helps agents create landing pages and automate marketing materials.

National real estate brokerage Realogy offers an internal marketing suite called Listing Concierge. Source: PNC.
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