This video is the second in our Site Doctor series, where we help agents dig deep into the health of their website. We explore what’s great, but also identify some areas where there are opportunities for improvement. In this consultation, the Doc is examines a single branch patient.
Julian Marks (www.julianmarks.co.uk) are strong in their local market. They have a clean powerful brand, a nice clean, bold website and a strikingly modern image in their market area. In sum, there’s lots to like in the design, but of course there are always a good few areas where the Doc’s prescription will help the patient to even greater health.
There are lots of positives about this site. Let’s start with the very strong branding across the top of the site… it’s great, and it packs a really powerful punch. It’s a bit of a shame to have the phone number and Twitter icon (which aren’t informationally related to one another) distracting the eye, and interfering with that cleanliness. And it’s probably possible to get the Twitter icon into the menu bar somewhere, and clean up the phone number presentation keeping that in the header somehow, but that’s a minor point.
The main site navigation is strong, clear, and straight to the point. Nobody is going to get lost with this, so that’s solid.
The carousel is a little odd. The rollover comments are great. But the next and previous slides peeking in from the side, don’t (in our opinion at least) work somehow. They’re a bit distracting, especially when the style of the photos don’t quite group together as a set. The carousel is also quite “noisy” in the way it slides (most people will find this too fast, abrupt and interrupting). Indeed in a recent exercise we did filming a series of users doing extensive UX testing of a series of estate agent websites, one of the consistent themes which emerged was the way users don’t like carousels that rotate and slide quickly. These big sliders have become commonplace these days, and they aren’t necessarily great usability. We would propose a user-demanded slide in (which would work well with your summary thumbnails in the bottom of the carousel), or perhaps a fade between slides, on a much slower basis.
Much like your main navigation, your property search block is strong and bold across centre stage. Nobody is going to miss it. There’s something a little odd in the spacing to the left of words “Property Search” – but that’s being very picky with design excellence – no harm in getting it really polished though. There’s an opportunity to make this a little cleaner, less busy, etc. Perhaps full width on a subtle grey background (which would open up other opportunities – see later).
Probably the biggest point for the site is that it isn’t responsive. This is very important and a great opportunity, though it’s probably one of the most expensive things to address, and you have a separate dedicated mobile site (one of ours!) so you are at least covering your mobile strategy in the near term removing any urgency to fix this.
There are some nice clear, consistent, and “in-style”, calls to action on that row of property boxes. Actually, whilst we don’t mention it in the video, this would be a great place to use Implied Search to make sure you are populating those properties with ones that suit the user. This helps you “act like a chameleon” with vendors, if they have a 600k house to sell, you can show them your 500-800k stock, whereas if they have a £90k flat, you can show them similar properties too, based on their site browsing behaviour. Advanced stuff, but it helps you mirror them so they feel at home with you, you become “their kind of agent”.
The video then mentions a nice use of testimonials – however on reviewing the recording, we note this isn’t a testimonial. This point that demonstrates is how little attention (including the Doc) pay to sites! We would suggest considering making the font bigger, the paragraph less wording, and making it a user testimonial that varies randomly each time the page loads.
Then as you get to the bottom of the site you have that wonderful parallax (or peak-through) type effect. That’s great. And it strongly sets your brand apart, and makes you thoroughly “local”, nice. If we’re being super picky, there’s not quite enough photo for the full screen scroll down, but that’s just a detail.
The portal links are just that, links! No need for that, as it just leaks traffic, and passes them SEO benefit, so you would probably want to trim the links out. Personally we’d grey scale the logos too, it will just drop them back a bit add a touch of class, calmness, brand unity. The back to top button is fine. Unnecessary, but a nice soft scroll. It’s also nice in the way it mirrors the Twitter logo at the top too.
There is an opportunity to make the map full width. You could also style the map these days, to marry it into your brand. And there’s also an opportunity to add the team onto this page, to create one more click.
This is a nice looking page in general. You might want to watch the “Perfect Property Details Page” video for some of the points below… However, in general the page is great.
In general these pages are nice and simple, straight up. That’s exactly what people want, they just want the content, not any fussy design to pick through. There are nonetheless a couple of opportunities to further simplify the pages – stripping back some of the green key lines. The text could also be bigger, and greyer to compensate. These days as monitor resolutions are going up, text fonts should be following that, in order to avoid them becoming small and spindly.
We remember your site having mapping in it when you first launched, so we wonder if the decision to remove it, and not rebuild any form of mapping was concious? Users like map based searching, and there’s a nice opportunity to integrate beautiful, big full screen mapping, with a nice innovative draw-a-map feature (which we demonstrate in the video).
Wow. Check out your Twitter account! It’s on brand, it has life and soul in the conversation. And it’s off the chart for a one branch agency. You are have 2730 following you (at the time of writing this) vs 2710 who you are following. Both these numbers are big, check out our Social benchmarking to see what we mean. This is going to really help your SEO once you fix up the structural impediments you have.
Turning to SEO, we can see the outcome of the structural faults we explored earlier.
In the video we look at two of the major types of search traffic volume…
• “Estate agent in Plymstock”, and
• “Houses for sale in Plymstock”
The first little opportunity here is to buy a little PPC traffic and branding. You can see the corporates, and the online agents taking a lead on this front.
In the natural results, sadly you are fighting two very capable businesses: Fulfords, a big corporate, who have a very strong, solid, clean technical platform foundation. And Bradleys, who we are delighted to see scoring a DOUBLE result, given they are using the Homeflow SEO platform for their site 😉 Lovely. Then in the video we point out the result of those missing title tags, discussed earlier. That said, if you were to fix the structural issues discussed in this video, then as a strong, focused local independent, you should be able to rise up and there’s no reason you can’t compete for those top slots. That would deliver strong commercial value at the margin, and would help you expand your market patch into new areas too.
Finally it’s great to see you are using Boomerang already, that’s going to help your SEO through boosting your repeat visit ratio, once you fix up the structural impediments.