Today, for the latest in my ongoing series of marketing case studies, I'm going to be casting my eye over the website of the estate agent Dart and Partners, which has offices in Teignmouth and Shaldon.
Dart and Partners were nice enough to let me carry out a review, while a number of other businesses asked me not to write about them, so first of all, I'd just like to express my gratitude to the Dart and Partners team. Thanks guys!
And now, I'll begin...
The Things I Like About The Website
The first thing I noted about the Dart and Partners website in general is that it looks excellent; really clean, clear and professional.
It really communicates the sense of trust, legitimacy and sophistication which is vital when your business involves the sale and rental of property, some of which is particularly high-end and upmarket.
The property search function on the website also works very well. Having tried out the search form on the homepage, it has a very intuitive look and feel, and it returns search results remarkably fast.
With the ability to display available properties on a Google map, and to refine your search results by price, search radius, number of bedrooms, property type and several other criteria, it is a very impressive piece of software that does the job assigned to it perfectly.
Clearly then, with this clean, clear and professional design, and hugely effective search functionality, the Dart and Partners website is doing some crucial things very, very well indeed.
However, I've spotted a number of aspects of the website which I feel could be improved to help it make the most of the things it does so well.
The Things Which I Feel Could Be Improved
- There Is No 'Call To Action' Text Near The Property Search Box
Firstly, when you first arrive on the homepage of the Dart and Partners website, you're greeted by this in the all-important 'above the fold' content:
The headline of 'Dart and Partners' and sub-headline of 'The Teign Estuary Estate Agent' do a good job of outline the Dart and Partners brand and what it is that they do, but there is a clear lack of an additional supporting headline or 'call-to-action' that persuades and entices people to use the search box to search for property.
This is a very simple addition to make; it could simply involve putting an additional line of text on the page somewhere near the search box which communicates the value of what Dart and Partners do, and why you should look at the property they're offering.
The structure of the page could therefore look something like:
HEADLINE: Dart & Partners
SUB-HEADLINE: The Teign Estuary Estate Agent
CALL TO ACTION: Search below to find the best property in your chosen location at the best value prices!
Simply by adding in this 'call to action' somewhere near the search box, we could clearly outline the benefits of conducting a property search to the website visitors, thereby helping to entice more of them to do so, from where they could easily become new tenants and buyers of the properties listed by Dart and Partners.
- The 'Dart and Partners' Section With Company Info is Too Short
Having an 'About Us' section, or something which does a similar job, on a website is important for many reasons.
Dart and Partners have understood this, as their website features a section about their business and about what they do, underneath the above the fold content containing the search box. Unfortunately however, this section is rather short.
By putting some more info here about their company and their business mission, Dart and Partners could build trust and rapport with their website visitors, particularly those who are making their way onto the website for the first time.
Taking the time to explain what they do in some depth is likely to be an endeavour which pays off significantly, as the increased levels of trust and familiarity that this fosters between Dart and Partners and their audience, is likely to lead to more of this audience feeling comfortable and confident enough to consider purchasing or renting property from Dart and Partners.
Again, putting some more content in this section is not a difficult thing to do.
In fact, another section of the Dart and Partners website already has some content on it which would work perfectly here.
Clicking the 'Contact Us' button brings up a sub-menu which contains pages with many details about the history and workings of Dart and Partners, and about the staff who work there.
There is some excellent, detailed info on these pages, and I strongly feel that moving some of it to the 'Dart and Partners' section on the homepage would help to build trust with their website audience, thereby making them more likely to search for property listed by Dart and Partners, and eventually purchasing from them.
- There Are No Contact Forms On Certain Pages
Having 'Contact Us' forms across many pages of a website is vitally important. They allow your website visitors to either get in touch with you right as they're viewing your website, or to give you their details so you can call them back at a later point. Contact Us forms are a truly excellent way to collect sales leads from a website.
It is for this reason therefore, that I was delighted to see that Dart and Partners have put contact forms on a number of pages on their website, such as the Property Appraisal and Mortgages pages.
However, a number of pages do not have a Contact Us form on them, such as the Distinctive Homes, Landlords and Conveyancing pages.
For example, instead of having a contact form on it, the Landlords page just has a link to the website's contact us page.
While this may seem to be a minor issue, the fact is, by linking to another page which has a contact form on it, instead of just integrating a contact form into the Landlords page, an extra step has been introduced into the process of getting people to view the page and enter their details to become a sales lead, with the result that they have more opportunity to not complete this process.
By putting Contact Us forms on these pages which currently are going without them, it is likely that Dart and Partners will get more sales leads through the forms integrated onto the page than they are currently getting from the method of sending potential leads to another page which has one of these forms on it.
Another thing to bear in mind, is the fact that using the word 'Submit' as the button text on contact forms has been shown to significantly lower conversion rates, so I would also therefore suggest that Dart and Partners change the button text to read something else, like perhaps 'Send Info' for example.
- The Feature News and Featured Properties Sections Lack Content
The Dart and Partners website homepage has a section on it dedicated to 'Featured Properties' and another dedicated to 'Feature News' (was this also meant to say 'Featured'?) and I think having these sections is a great idea.
Unfortunately, at the moment the amount of content on these sections is minimal, as you can see from the images below:
Currently, both sections have only one main item each, which is a real shame and a missed opportunity, as I'm sure visitors to the Dart and Partners website would love to have a greater selection of this 'cream of the crop' batch of news and properties to look at and examine.
Also, putting more featured news and properties in these sections is another great chance to capture people's attention, introduce them to the Dart and Partners brand, and build their trust, while also increasing the chances of them seeing a property they're interested in, viewing it, then becoming a sales lead and potential purchaser.
- The Website Has A Chronic Shortage of Social Proof
Social proof is a 'tactic for increasing conversions by easing the minds of worried customers.'
For example, the following Elvis Presley album cover is an absolutely classic example of social proof:
After all, if someone is on the fence about buying the album, how could they not be comforted by the fact that 50 million others had already bought Elvis Presley albums in the past?
Social proof of this type provides legitimacy and trust; it tells potential customers that the business is a reputable and genuine one, and that many others have already seen fit to enter into a professional relationship with them.
A key aspect of social proof in today's online marketing landscape is the use of customer testimonials like the ones below:
Testimonials can be very persuasive indeed.
In fact, in a recent case study, customer testimonials increased the number of conversions by 34%, while according to research done by Nielsen, 92% of people will trust a recommendation from a peer, and 70% of people will trust a recommendation from someone they don’t even know.
It is for all these reasons, and more, that almost all big brands now show customer testimonials on their website.
For increased effectiveness, include a picture of the happy customer alongside their testimonial, and for maximum impact, get the customer to record a video testimonial.
So, now that we've established why testimonials are so important for your business, the question to ask is 'how much social proof is there on the Dart and Partners website?'
And the answer to that question is, none. Absolutely none.
I've had a thorough look at the website and can not see anything resembling any kind of social proof on any of it's webpages at all.
Clearly then, this is a major issue which should be remedied.
Dart and Partners is a company of some size who have been in business for many years, so they must surely have a veritable treasure trove of satisfied customers they've built up over the years who would be very happy to provide them with a testimonial.
And, as I've already stated, including testimonials on the Dart and Partners website could potentially increase the number of website visitors who convert into sales leads and customers by 34%, so this is another simple alteration which could prove to be very lucrative indeed.
In this review, I have analysed the Dart and Partners website and found that, while it looks and feels very clean and professional, and features a property search function that works perfectly, there are a number of minor alterations Dart and Partners could make which would likely help them to get more customers through their website.
Specifically, I would suggest that they:
- Put some 'call to action' text near the property search box at the top of the homepage to entice people to conduct a search.
- Include more information about the company to the 'Dart & Partners' section of the homepage to build trust with people, and to communicate to them that Dart and Partners is a highly respected, deeply legitimate company who are experts in their field.
- Put a 'Contact Us' form on every page of the website to give website visitors more chances to enter their details and thereby become valuable sales leads and customers. Additionally, I would recommend changing the button text on the already existing contact forms from 'Submit' to something else, such as 'Send Info,' perhaps.
- Add more content to the 'Featured News' and 'Featured Properties' sections of the website homepage, in order to capture people's attention more, build their trust, and increase the chances of people seeing a property they like, viewing it, then becoming interested in purchasing it.
- Add some testimonials from happy customers to the website in order to provide social proof. As mentioned, adding testimonials of this type can help to increase the number of website conversions by 34%.
None of these changes are particularly difficult to make, and each of them could result in a sizeable increase in the number of sales leads and customers that the Dart and Partners website is currently generating.
I would therefore suggest that making the additions and alterations I've outlined could be a very lucrative endeavour, and would encourage Dart and Partners to enact them at some point in the near future.