If you're a real estate agent or small business owner looking to build a website on your own, web templates are a fantastic place to start. Good templates will offer:
- Consistent color schemes and themes, so your website looks clean and professional.
- Built in search engine optimization, so your website can be found via search engines like Google and Bing.
- Easy content management, so that you don't need to contact your IT guy/gal every time you need to make a blog post.
While templates are a convenient way to create a functional, professional, and enjoyable website, they are not without their drawbacks. Below are five common mistakes made by web template users.
1. Not linking your social accounts (and forgetting to update them)
Most web templates nowadays will include social media links in the header and/or footer of your website. You need to check that those links lead where you want them to!
If you're a real estate agent or small business owner, chances are strong you made your website to help draw in potential clients/customers and familiarize them with your business. Social media is an important part of that process! People now expect that your company will have some type of social media presence - so when they try to click on your social media links, you want to make sure they see your social media pages. By failing to update your links, you will undoubtedly lose potential clients.
How do you check your links? Try these steps:
- Click on them!
- Did something happen? If you were taken to a page and received a 404 (page not found) error, then you need to update your links.
- Did nothing happen? If so, you probably still have a placeholder where your social media URL should be. For example, a placeholder for realtodo.com would look something like this: realtodo.com/#. Placeholders may also be unique to the social media site of interest (e.g., twitter.com/#). These placeholders are used by template creators and are intended to be replaced with your own social media handles.
Not sure what your social media handle is? Go to your social media account and look at the URL for your home page. The end of that URL is your social media handle. For example, the Facebook URL for REALToDo CRM is https://www.facebook.com/realtodoCRM and our handle is @realtodoCRM. Take the URL from your social media account and place it where your outdated/inaccurate social media link is.
2. Not removing placeholder text
Similarly, template users often forget to replace placeholder text. You'll usually find this issue in the header and footer of your website. Take a look at your footer - usually, your company name will be there, along with a copywrite notice and attribution to the web template technology you used.
Your company's name should be in the footer! All too often, DIY website builders forget to replace the placeholder text in the footer. If you look at the bottom of your website and see something like "My Company" or "Your Company Here", you should replace that text with the name of your company.
In addition, sometimes web template users forget to update links in the navigation menu of their websites. Most templates will come with a few default navigation links (e.g., Home, About, and Contact). If you have altered one of these links to fit your own needs, make sure that the navigation text reflects those changes. For instance, if you're a real estate agent and you've changed the "About" section of your website to describe your property listings, change the "About" link in your navigation menu to read "Listings".
3. Picking the flashy template
There are a lot of sleek, cool, and otherwise flashy templates available on the web. But unless you've got some background in web development, you should probably avoid templates with significant amounts of animation. There are two main reasons for this:
- Animations add complexity to the website, so it's easier for things to break. Most everyone has visited a website where the animations have failed to load. These failed elements are replaced by large, ugly gray boxes or error messages. Even worse, if your website navigation relies on these elements, then users cannot properly explore your website!
- Animations slow things down. Your website will run slower and web users are notoriously impatient. Every extra millisecond that your website takes to load gives your potential customer another reason to leave your site and visit your competitor's.
Additionally, search engines like Google take website speed into account when ranking websites. Slow websites will rank lower than their speedier counterparts.
If you still want to pursue a more advanced website, make sure that the template is well-reviewed and used by a variety of different people and businesses. Even better, look for a company that uses that template and see how it performs. Do you receive any errors while using the site? Does the website load slowly? How does the site perform on mobile and tablet screens?
4. Loading over-sized images
Over-sized images are probably the number one reason that websites fail to load quickly. Most templates and content management systems will allow you to upload images, but will not guide you on image size optimization. If your content management system allows images, make sure that those images are as small as possible.
You can check if your website has Over-sized images by using https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/. Simply enter your website's URL, click "Analyze" and wait for Google to load your results.
Google will provide you with "Possible Optimizations". If you see "Optimize images" in this section, then you likely have some Over-sized images on your website. Expand this section to see which images are Over-sized. Reduce the size of all images that don't need to be as large as they are and remove unnecessary images.
If you're a bit more tech savvy or really want to optimize your image sizes, you can go through the following steps:
- On your desktop, navigate to the image that needs optimization, as indicated by Google's page speed insights.
- Right click on that image and click "Inspect" (in Chrome). In FireFox and Internet Explorer, click "Inspect Element".
- In the "Developer Tools" window that appears, click on the "Computed" tab (as shown below).
- On the computed tab, look for the blue rectangle - this indicates your image's size in pixels (length x width).
- Reduce your image's size to as close to that length x width as possible.
- Reload your image into your content management system.
If you are on a laptop/desktop with a small screen, you may want to make your image a bit bigger than the size indicated on the Developer Tools, since the image is probably compressed slightly. This process does not fully optimize your images, since images are usually responsive by default (i.e., they change size based on the size of your screen). However, shrinking a 2000x600 image down to a 1000x300 image can yield a significant increase in website performance. Further optimization would require a bit of technical expertise.
You do not need to shrink all your images. Sometimes you need your images to be large or highly detailed. In the case of real estate agents, you probably want pictures for your listings to be high quality. Improving your website speed at the expense of its quality would be counter-productive. So make sure to weigh the pros and cons of shrinking your images before you go through with it!
5. Not prioritizing SEO
The point of a website is to be seen - otherwise you may as well not have one! Search engine optimization (SEO) helps your website appear on search engine results. If you're a real estate agent in Massachusetts, for example, you want your website to appear when people search for "Massachusetts real estate agent" in Google.
Make sure to pick a template and website builder that prioritizes SEO. Squarespace is one example of a website builder that takes SEO seriously. WordPress sites are often treated as the gold standard for SEO optimization, but can be more technically difficult to build and maintain for those not familiar with web development. If you want to increase your visibility online, you may want to consult with a professional experienced in SEO. Whatever template and website building service you choose, make sure that they prominently tout their SEO features or your website will inevitably under-perform.
Additionally, SEO is strongly influenced by the "freshness" of material on your website. This means that you'll want to regularly introduce new content, which often takes the form of blog posts. If you intend on blogging regularly, you'll want to ensure that your content management system is easy to use and enjoyable.
If you're trying to build your own website instead of hiring a professional, give yourself a pat on the back! Even when starting with a web template, it's not easy to create and maintain your own website - and many people wouldn't even try. Don't expect everything to be perfect and keep looking for ways to improve your site. Using a web template to build your own website can be a rewarding and educational experience, and we hope that this article helped you on your way to success.
Article by REALToDo Real Estate CRM, a simple CRM for real estate agents. Did you find this article useful, flawed, or downright offensive? Let us know in the comments! If you enjoyed the article and want to see more, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!
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