10 Reasons You Shouldn’t Rely On Company Provided Websites

If you work for a financial or real estate company chances are you get a company website.  In fact, they might even offer it to you as a bonus!   I mean what could be better than not have to pay for your own website.   Please don’t share this with your boss, but you probably need your own website and I’ll tell you why in this blog post!

For this blog I reviewed some of the top company sites that offer templated sites or “profile” sites for their employee/members/contractors.  The companies we reviewed were Keller Williams Realty, Remax, Edward Jones, State Farm, AllState to name a few.  Some sites were so convoluted that it was hard for us to even use (Prudential).

I’m going to cover the technical aspects FIRST of the 10 Reasons You Shouldn’t Rely On Company Provided Websites, but there are several non-technical reasons that you must consider as well!

  1. Crappy URLs – from session ids to just poorly formed urls, company websites are typically template generated monstrosity designed to appeal to the boss and their agents, not to the people who matter…. customers.  Which URL would you click on atj/user/AdditionalGetAction.do?pageId=161227 or Real-Estate-Information? /en_US/fa/index.html&CIRN=523684 or Ralph_Brooks_CFP (Edward Jones) ?
    There’s a whole blog post about proper URL forming, but in every major “company” site failed in this category.
  2.  Not Search Optimized– If the last one didn’t hit you like a slap in the face, this one might be a bit more subtle.  When we analyzed the site content the worst offenders where the “profile” websites that are typical of the insurance and financial industry.  State Farm for instance is really trying very hard to rank for “opens in a new window.”  In addition, there’s very little original content here or opportunities for the agent to try and carve out a niche.  Many of the real estate template sites at least offer the agent the ability to create some custom content.In addition, most of the websites we tested were using old architecture which puts alot of code and images upfront versus the content.  Those sites can still rank mind you, but it’s “easier” to rank when google doesn’t have to go 100 lines or more just to find the content.
    To their credit, most of the sites we tested came up on the first page of google for the agent’s name + occupation.
  3. Not Very Social – In almost every example, there was no mention of social networks or media at all.  In a few cases, the site allowed the agents to link to their twitter, linkedin and twitter profiles. However, with no real content or way share the content, it’s very bland.  Also, although a few companies had some great video productions, there weren’t any video by the actual agents themselves.  The exception to this was on Keller Williams agent’s sites, although many agents did not choose to do this, they can embed video on their sites.   There’s just nothing to engage with.  Finally on this point, most all the sites were able to be shared across the major networks, however, many of them (Keller Williams sites being one of them) were just plain ugly.
  4. Not Set up for lead capture/generation – I’ve said it before, but to me a website that doesn’t serve a specific purpose, is almost useless. In many cases, these sites are almost useless.  The real estate sites performed the worst in this category, most of the agents just said contact me.  Even “search for homes” wasn’t that big on their sites.  Most of the insurance sites “got it” with the ability to deliver a quote while on the site and some of the financial sites did offer up a contact us.  Overall, the lead generation ability of these site was hampered by not being able to offer anything…
  5. Creative – These sites are all uniform and some that way on purpose.  It’s a mistake.  Each agent is uniquely different and many offer different services but if I am a consumer I have no idea why I should hire one agent over the next.  In fact, other than information, there’s not much to interact with on the page entirely.
  6. Call to Action?  If number 4 was the “What” then this is the “Why.”  There’s no clear call to action with the exception of the insurance quote pages.  Most of the sites offered useless facts about their company or the person without giving me any compelling reason to believe this person is real and can help me better than anyone else.
  7. Canned Content = Duplicate Content – Every single one of the sites we tested had this problem.  When you stamp out thousands upon thousands of sites you should expect that the default text is now irrelevant.  It’s an oxymoron that Keller Williams was awarded the most innovative award, as it is the single most reproduced, duplicate content out of the sites we tested.   The strangest thing about this is that most of the companies’ templated sites have the option to customize some of the text, but the agents refuse to do this.
  8. Impersonal – You search “Local Area+Profession” … actually you probably search “Local Area + Product/Service” and you land on a blog with video and testimonials and original content, you continue searching… “doing your due diligence” and you discover one of these canned sites.  It looks professional you think, but then you find another one and you’ve got to be thinking to yourself, “Guy with a family that loves my college sports team who goes to my Church or Mr. Glamour Shot with Company Site?”  I might be wrong about this point, but I’m guessin’ you pick the first one.
  9. Market The Brand – In every test we ran, the insurance and the financial sites promoted their brand.  In fact, it would be very easy to confuse these “agents” as employees.  Real Estate companies were a little different in that they did have some variations to this through their custom settings.   Their default setting held this point to the “t.”
  10. It’s not portable – Probably the most obvious and irrellevant, afterall if your site sucks why would you want to take it with you?  Of course, it’s worth noting that if you can’t take it with you, then why customize it.
  11. BONUS – It’s not mobile – Most of the sites we tested did not have a mobile component that was smart enough to switch to a mobile mode that was easy to use.  Keller Williams had a good example of this.

Originally posted on SoMeGurus.com.  (We’re migrating all the good content over here and shutting it down).

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