Premium advertising of property needs smart design thinking

by Alistair Helm in ,

The parallels of online and offline advertising of property are clear. If you want to achieve impact then you need bigger adverts and bigger adverts cost more - this applies to a print magazine as it does to a website.

With print magazines you go from the basic 1/4 page to a 1/2 page to a full page to a double page spread to a cover page - each step more than doubling the cost until you in some cases blast through $5,000 for a single insertion.

Online you go from a standard listing to a feature listing to a super feature and in the future as likely as not a platinum super feature. Costs increase accordingly, although not to top even $1,000.

However my focus of thought and reflection at this time is not on cost but on design and user experience. I think the team at Trade Me Property need to ask themselves some serious questions. For whereas the property magazines design very consumable and appealing publications with inspiring double page spreads and cover adverts that draw you in to support these premium advertising solutions, the online world of Trade Me Property is becoming a jumble which is less likely to draw anyone in as it strives for more and more premium advertising.

I make these comments as I today I have discovered a new header advertising unit on the site.

"Best on the block" takes up the header section of the site and is appearing under all types of searches despite the property in question when you click through to the "Find out more" is actually in Christchurch.

Why would I be interested in a Christchurch property when I am searching in New Plymouth? As you can see the advert provides no location context so you have to link through to see the location only to discover as over 4,000 people have already done that it holds no relevance - adding up to what in my mind is a dumb piece of advertising.

Additionally this new block of advertising pushes down the former super feature to now place the real listings so far down the page that it takes a good action of the scroll wheel of a person's mouse to find a normal listing as the screen shot below shows.

If you then open up the map search in the header things get ridiculous - it is so far down the page that you have to scroll that you might well be forgiven for thinking that Trade Me Property was not interested in basic listings at all.

In my opinion Trade Me needs a major rethink as to design layout.

It needs to decide fundamentally if it is a general classified website where property listings and their attendant premium adverts are to be squeezed in where there is some space just as car adverts and listings and job adverts are pigeoned into the same structured architecture or if it is serious about the property space and create a new design and user experience as a serious real estate website portal. It needs to look at the best run site in the region that of in Australia to see how to lay out a website for maximum user experience matched to optimal premium advertising.

A radical change for real estate websites?

by Alistair Helm in ,

Last week was the bi-annual conference of Inman Connect.  Held in San Francisco in July and New York in January, the event is billed as the place where real estate meets technology. I have attended many of these conferences over the past 8 years, however this year I attended virtually by following the goings-on on Twitter and through the Inman site.

For me the most interesting component of this conference was the tech challenge undertaken by 1000Watt Consultancy to revamp a website in 24hrs! In the hands of the team at 1000Watt this was always going to be worth watching as they are the leaders in their field, always at the cutting edge of the innovation capabilities of technology as it applies to the real estate industry at franchise, broker or agent level.

The team took a San Diego real estate company website of Willis Allen and revamped it in the allotted time and created a radical change - contemporary, engaging and very different. When you examine the current site against the new design and explore the new design - you will see the difference.

The current Willis Allen website

The current Willis Allen website

The revamped site as designed by 1000Watt Consulting

The revamped site as designed by 1000Watt Consulting

The Inman News team covered the session and for me what I found most interesting and I really wish I could have been there to witness the moment when the new site was unveiled to Bud Clark the Managing Broker of Willis Allen who had at the outset said that he was looking for "a modern fresh site but wasn’t sure what direction to go". 

Apparently Clark seemed a little shocked at the extensiveness of the changes. “It’s different,” he said. Clark said "the firm will look at the design and consider what it wants to implement as it works to figure out how it wants to evolve its website".

He will "look at the design and consider" - this design was created by the smartest minds in the digital space in the real estate industry, profiled at the leading event in the industry and communicated through the media and all the manager can say - we'll consider it!

To me it says so much about the real estate industry's approach to digital marketing and this applies here in NZ as much as it does internationally. The heart of the problem as I see it is that every real estate company wants to have a website that first and foremost is about trying to be a property portal - placing searching for property front and centre. Why?

Home buyers don't use real estate company websites to search for property - that is the reason that portal aggregate the total pool of listings so one site offers the access to all the listings - or in the case of NZ, both and Trade Me Property having pretty much all the listings, with private sale listings the added richness on the later's site.

Sure real estate companies want to showcase the listings they have and there is good reason to have the individual property listings on their sites - just not blasting out of the home page - see what I mean!

My advice to real estate companies would be, have current listings within the content of your real estate company website, not just current but also have old listings - all of the listings as components of the site. In that way any Google search for a property address will be more likely to bring up the real estate company site that listed the property.

But don't have a search function on your home page and clutter the home page with current listings to mimic your office window! 

The purpose of a real estate company website is as a marketing platform for the real estate company. Just as it is for any business looking to attract new customers and provide a profile platform for prospective clients to make value judgements as to the services and uniqueness of what the company offers.

For real estate that uniqueness is not to be found in the current listings. It is in the expertise, experience, knowledge, professionalism and performance of the company and its agents. It's all about local knowledge and insight. Real estate companies should look to engage visitors to their site quickly and share with them the reason why "you should choose this real estate company over all the other options when it comes to selling your home"

For Willis Allen the distilled essence of the company as exposed by the 1000Watt team was:


Independent, family-owned business with a leadership position earned through integrity - Willis Allen, 100 years of Real Estate


Too many real estate websites uses generalities "Results through Excellence", "You'll be glad you chose..", "People and Property",  "your place for everything real estate".

I have over recent years talked to many real estate companies and owners on this subject - about focussing their websites to address the needs of their future clients and prospects rather than their current clients - few, if any have taken the radical step of embracing this change. Too many seem to echo the comments of Bud Clark at Willis Allen - "we'll consider it" - but they never do!


Properazzi musings on Facebook this week - 9 May

by Alistair Helm in