By Joe Hager

Blog

Optimizing Your Real Estate Association Website Strategy: Determining Your Overall Strategy

Monday, October 1, 2018

As a membership organization, it’s important to review and understand your website goals. The real estate landscape is rapidly evolving led by an increase of disruptive technology start-ups like OpenDoor and AskDoss, which leverage technology to take precious market share from the typical realtors around town.

As you probably know, Millennials are quickly becoming a big part of the Real Estate picture, and these Millennials favor technology over all else. With that in mind, it has become more important than ever to provide value to your members (and even consumers) using your website. Your website is the face of your organization, and it should be what your association brand is all about (yes, your association has a “brand”).

Taking the center-stage with your website should be design, functionality, resources, and the user-experience. In 2018,  all of these things are not just “nice to have” on your site... They are expected.


Types of Real Estate Association Websites

It’s up to you as an association to decide which direction you go with your website, however, as an industry expert and technology professional, I’m here to nudge you in an optimal direction. In this post, we will analyze the 3 main types of Realtor Association websites, talk about the benefits of each type, and help you decide what you can do as the industry continues to evolve.

Generally speaking, there are 3 main types of Realtor Association websites:

  • Member-Centric [focused on members]
  • Consumer-Centric [focused on consumers]
  • Member/Consumer Blend [equally focused on both]

Okay, now let’s get in to the details...


Member-Centric

When an association is said to have a “Member Centric” website, it means that close to 100% of the content within the site is specific to only realtors and brokers members (and potentially affiliate members).

On these sites, you will find a central focus on events and courses, as well as realtor-focused resources like downloadable forms, online forms, and 3rd party links to external partner services. Many times, these sites have a simple homepage design with news articles, links to 3rd party resources, and links to a “Member Portal.” An association’s member portal can be hosted directly on the website behind a password protected login, but often the association will simply link to a 3rd party membership system (AMS) or an MLS site.

If this structure sounds familiar, you probably have a member-centric website. A good example to take a look at is one of our partner Associations—Naples Area Board of Realtors (Although this site is 100% member focused, it’s interesting to note that NABOR also has a second website that is 100% consumer focused).

 
Consumer-Centric

This site is exactly what it sounds like… Having a website that is close to 100% focused on consumers with only limited resources for members (usually limited to NAR required content).

Consumer focused sites typically have very telling features, such as a homepage that’s focused 100% on property or open-house searches and providing community statistics to consumers. In these sites, it’s likely that the association will also have a second site that is actually a member-centric one. This is because NAR mandates certain features be included on each association’s main website (ie. links to NAR and state associations, code of ethics, complaint forms, etc.).

An example of this is type of site is the Orlando Regional Realtor Association. If you take a quick look in to their online presence, you find that they have 2 distinct websites:

Their consumer-focused site, orlandorealtors.com:

And their member-focused site, orlandorealtors.org:

With the consumer site separated from the member site, you start competing with one another for search ranking which can actually hinder your overall SEO efficiency. This also creates a potential downside in terms of maintenance and cost because,  often times, each site has its own CMS (content management system), supporting digital agency, and its own separate costs.

All of these downsides are avoided when using the Member/Consumer blend structure that we’ll discuss next.


Member/Consumer Blend

A member/consumer blended site attempts to take the best features of each website strategy and combine them into one website. What you will typically find is a homepage that boasts an interactive property search, but if you scroll down you may find realtor specific resources such as event calendars and registration links. With this type of site, you will might have an easy way to navigate to the member portion of the website, via a button in the header or a “Member-Only” menu item. Most sites password protect these areas, but depending on your content, it may be available to anyone.

A great example of this type of site is the Greater Syracuse Association of Realtors. Their homepage is multi-faceted for members and consumers, and they also have a large library of content specifically for members. You can find it by clicking their orange/white” Members” button on their main menu.


Now that we are all on the same playing field as far as the types of realtor association websites, I want to move onto a little section that explains my opinion on the matter.

My Recommendation:

Helping manage and consult with 40+ realtor associations each year has given me the ability to see a much broader view of the industry. In most cases, I favor a blended member/consumer focused website because it mixes together the best features of a member site with the best features of a consumer site.

The best part about doing a blended site is that the features begin to leverage themselves upon one another to create a rock solid website.

Here’s an example of the stepping stone relationship that takes place:

  • An association has a blended site...
  • Its running a member blog or has a news feed with up to date industry content
  • This valuable content is crawled, reviewed and ranked by Google.
  • Since it is useful organic content, Google boosts your site ranking and your website becomes more visible on searches.
  • This allows consumers to find your site more easily, which in turn provides you a higher level of web traffic.
  • The additional web traffic gives your realtors and affiliates more visibility to consumers (whom they target).
  • Thus, your members and affiliates perceive your site as a valuable lead generation tool.

Once your members have found value in your website, it opens many doors for non-dues revenue in the form of paid banner ads, promoted listings, and open houses, etc. While some associations frown upon banner advertisements, I’ve seen a strong trend lately leaning towards the use of them on association websites. More association revenue in turn means that you can invest more in member services and provide even better support for you members.

And just remember, this is simply one example of the benefits of a blended site.

For organizations that don’t believe it’s their job to promote property listings on their site, hopefully the above example sheds some light on the value of it. In this age of technology, these are seen as member benefits, rather than a competition with your members.  It may be worthwhile to take a hard look at this, considering the cyclical pattern of driving traffic to your site, adding value to members and affiliates, and overall growing your brand using the website. If you take these into account, you see the full power of a member/consumer blended site.


Final Note:

This blog post is just an introduction to an important topic - Realtor Association’s Website Strategy. At this point, don’t get bogged down in the details, but focus on the big picture being the viewpoints discussed above. In the upcoming blog posts, I’ll be going into more depth on key features for your association website and how to leverage your content more efficiently.

Until then, feel free to reach me directly by email (joe.hager@accrisoft.com) or by posting questions below.

Thanks for reading,

Joe Hager 

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