Hiding Listing Searches Behind a Sign Up is Lame (and bad for you)

real_estate_searchAs a real estate website developer, I constantly get the question “should I have people sign up for my site before I let them search listings?” The answer is always the same, no.

The reality is that there is nothing faster that will scare off a casual visitor to your site than asking them to fill out a form with contact information before you let them search listings. Visions of Glengarry Glen Ross type agents constantly calling or emailing them will have them hitting the back button faster than you can say “steak knives.” Not only that, but anyone with any sophistication knows they can get access to the same listings on another site without providing any information.

I once had a realtor client say to me “you can never ask a serious buyer too many questions.” Serious buyers see your questions as you trying to understand what they are looking for, tire-kickers see them as invasive and rude. So by that standard asking someone to sign into a site before searching the listings might make sense. If they are serious, they will want someone to contact them to offer assistance. And getting rid of the people who aren’t serious is a good thing. Well not really.

This is pretty obvious but a visitor to your website is not like a visitor to your office. They are not taking up your time pretending to be serious buyers when they are not. They are not pretending to be big time developers from out of state (true story by the way, but I digress). What they are doing is spending time on your site. Which is a good thing if you care at all about ranking on Google. You see, one of the major factors it determining your site’s ranking on Google is how much traffic are you getting to your site and how much time are those visitors spending on your site.   Short time = bad, long time = good.  So a high priority should always be to try and keep people on your site as long as possible even if they aren’t serious prospects.

real_esateAnother reason it is a bad practice is timing.  You wouldn’t go to an event, walk up to someone you don’t know and say “Hi, my name is Matthew.  Can I have your email address so I can start sending you real estate emails?”  Would you?  Of course not.  (At least I hope you are thinking of course not.)  No, you would get to know them, let them get to know you and then, if appropriate, ask to exchange business cards.  The same rule applies in the internet world.   You let them look at listings, read your about page, maybe read some of your blog articles and then, when something has peaked their interest, you give them the opportunity to send you their contact info.  This has the corollary benefit of pre-screening them at some level as well.

So the bottom line is make it easy and appealing for your visitors to stay on your site as long as possible.  Don’t try to move to lead generation too quickly or too aggressively and allow the real prospects to come to you.

About Matthew Lee

Matthew is an internet marketing consultant specializing in the real estate market. Matthew is co-founder of RedTail Web. You can read more about him, here