I've been preparing for a presentation at the MLS Tech Fair 2008 next week. It is always an interesting exercise to put down on paper (or on PowerPoint, as the case might be) things that you've been mulling over for years. The insight for the day comes directly out of that mulling-turned-to-slides.
If there is one cardinal sin that far too many realtor websites commit today, it is one of idolatry at the altar of Google. I mean, I know SEO is important, but look at this:
This is a classic case of worshiping at the altar of Google too much by half. The site is essentially illegible to human beings. It might be fantastic for various search engine bots. You can actually tell that some of the links in the circa-1997 table are search key phrases: "Magothy River Waterfront Homes" for example.
The owner of the above website might be happy as a clam because he sees his traffic coming from Google and Yahoo and whoever else. But a website this bad does two things:
1. The user ends up clicking the 'Back' button with the practiced quickness of a online kung fu master. Site like this screams out warning signs. Minimal design, lots of Google keywords, and the hint of something illicit going on here -- as if it were some pirate MP3 site. I have to wonder what the bounce rate is for this home page.
2. Whatever brand you have or had is now history. How can any online consumer take a company seriously if their website is this bad. The broker whose website this is may in fact be the absolute expert when it comes to Maryland real estate; I'll never know, because I will never, ever click on any links on this site for fear of catching some sort of digital cooties. If I were to be contacted by an agent from this company, and I go to check out her website and get to the above, I would immediately look for a different agent. Someone working for this company can't be any better than a used car salesman, right?
Humanity. Don't forget humanity.
SEO is important. All of our products are built with SEO in mind in one way or another. But SEO is not the be-all end-all of websites or of online marketing. At the end of the day, a website is a tool for communicating with your customers, with other professionals, and with the industry. It's a relationship channel, in a way.
And human beings have relationships with other human beings.
It makes no sense at all to build a site, drive tons of traffic to it, and end up having human beings who visit your site think you're an illicit pirate download site. By all means, execute your SEO strategy -- but don't do it at the cost of your humanity.
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