Published: 14th February 2008

Ugly websites that work

Ugly websites that work
As gold-medallist Sally Gunnell may once have said, if you’re ugly, you try harder. It’s not universally true but there’s lots of evidence that this lesson can be applied to property portals. The most effective websites for lead generation aren’t always the best looking. This is because, in this industry at least, search engine optimisation is more important than design and these disciplines can often conflict. You try hard to optimise your site for Google and you compromise aesthetics. The following sites come highly recommended, but let’s be honest, they could do with slapping on a bit of make-up.

French Property Links came top of our analysis into the best-optimised portals in France and we’ve had numerous emails from agents confirming they generate more leads than their competitors. French Entrée and Green Acres are more pleasing to the eye but there’s more to life that being beautiful – or at least that’s what I keep telling myself.

The Move Channel generated over 90 leads for Someplace Else over the last two months. It can be confusing to navigate and is very text heavy but its Google positions, great name and database of investors ensure it delivers for advertisers. Plans for a re-launch are well under way so it should get even better.

PropertyWorld. “Age before beauty” can be a good rule of thumb when looking for partners or one-way links. It certainly applies in this case. First launched in 1996, PropertyWorld is the granddaddy of overseas property portals. It looks its age, but Google loves older sites and it ranks well for many popular overseas property terms.

My Bulgaria is one of the best-optimised portals for Bulgarian property search phrases on Google. It has lots of great user features like blogs and forums, but it doesn’t dedicate enough space to property pictures and images, making it cluttered and difficult to navigate. It’s a triumph of content over design. I’m sure it generates leads. If you’ve tried it, please let us know your thoughts.

Primelocation. One of my contacts at Propertyfinder used to joke that “we have a downmarket site with an upmarket image and Primelocation has the opposite”. There is no longer any truth in this remark as they’ve done a fine job with the re-launch. It’s one of the best performers on Google and is an example of how to strike a balance between good design and search engine visibility.