Don’t Let Your Real Estate Website Become a Ghost Town

This article was originally published in REALTOR® Magazine:

There’s too much defeatism when it comes to real estate websites. I often hear brokers say their sites aren’t doing anything for them because the big portals dominate in terms of consumer traffic. Such statements are the antithesis of a successful sales mindset.

Do real estate websites really need to “do something” for us? No. Just like your office, car, phone, business cards, postcards, CMAs, or laptops – you buy the tools, and then work the hell out of them to generate sales.

The idea that we can just set up a website and let it do its magic to produce prospects is like buying office space, not staffing it, and expecting people to sit down and sign sales contracts.

Everything about real estate requires hustle. Your Web presence is no different. If you already have a prospecting system that works, and you don’t have the time or money to invest in your website’s development and maintenance, then stick with what you know. Just don’t say it isn’t possible, because there are plenty of brokers and agents treating online lead generation like it’s their No. 1 job.

What a Modern Website Looks Like

If you want a website that generates leads, then you need to build, maintain, and enhance your Web presence like it’s your brick-and-mortar office. Your website needs to be:

  • Attractive: That means an aesthetically pleasing, modern design that’s not cluttered. As a business owner, you should care about how your business is portrayed to the public.
  • Easy to use: Make sure it’s extremely user-friendly for the consumer. Include a search function with filters prominently displayed on every page.
  • Constantly managed and improved: Your website is not a “set it and forget it” tool. It needs regular updates. You don’t want dated information out there. If your website looks and acts like a place where professionals regularly do business, consumers will view it that way. If it looks like a ghost town that hasn’t gotten a glance from its owners in years, consumers will continue on to the next stop.

Consider Hiring a Pro

Not everyone is a techie, but hiring someone to do Web development, traffic building, and lead generation and conversion isn’t dissimilar to what we already do. We hire maintenance people to keep the office clean and running, staff to cover the phones, and marketers to produce advertising. Delegation is the finest art of a successful real estate broker-owner, but many still seem to think it’s not worth hiring support.

There’s no “easy” button in online lead generation, but it’s also not out of reach. If you can’t build, maintain, and regularly enhance your Web presence, you need to be paying someone else to keep it updated.

Online Lead Generation = Prospecting

My company generates dozens of leads every day on its websites, but that requires lead generation to be a major focus. We don’t sit on our laurels. Our main websites focused on the Seattle market rank high in search, and we just developed to spread our reach further. Our agents depend on leads to keep our team successful, and we treat online lead generation the way most brokers or agents would treat their top prospecting activities.

Of course, you can also buy leads from portals to supplement your process as you get started. In the long run, though, building a reason for a consumer to visit your website directly will generate long-term benefits to your search engine optimization (your rankings in search results) and your on-site leads will have a much higher conversion rate than those from portals.

Kickstarting your traffic often requires some paid marketing, which can be done directly through many real estate website companies, or through a pay-per-click marketing agency. Make sure you work with someone who specifically knows real estate PPC marketing, or you’ll lose your shirt on the lead cost. The long-term goal is to create an online experience that helps traffic grow organically, but you may need to drive a few paid visitors to start the flow. Think of it as buying your way into your future customers’ minds.

PPC marketing is a lot like that agent who dropped door hangers in his neighborhood for years. He spent a lot of money to get his name in front those folks, and after a while, home owners just remembered his name. They could eventually type it straight into a search when they went look online for an agent. Then, the agent didn’t have to advertise at their doorstep any more.

Your real estate website isn’t a hobby, and designing it to generate leads is not for the meek of heart. Luckily, real estate brokers are not meek. If you really believe that real estate prospecting is shifting even further toward online interaction, then start focusing your money, time, and delegation toward online customers in a way that says, “This is my online office. We’re ready to serve you where you are.”

Sam DeBord is a state director for Washington REALTORS® and managing broker of Seattle Homes Group with Coldwell Banker Danforth. You can reach him at


  • All opinions expressed herein are personal opinions and do not constitute the position or views of any organization. Sam DeBord is CEO of Real Estate Standards Organization (RESO). He has two decades of experience in the real estate industry, spanning real estate brokerages, mortgage lending, and technology consulting. He has served as President’s Liaison for MLS and Data Management with the National Association of REALTORS®, a REACH mentor, and on the board of directors for NAR, Second Century Ventures, and California Regional MLS. Sam began his career as a management consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers. He is a recognized real estate industry writer for publications including REALTOR® Magazine, Inman News, and the Axiom Business Books Award-Winning Swanepoel Trends Report.