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.  

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User Comments

this is really valuable article and every web design should read this.....Raj Goutam :

Raj Goutam,

Yes your right it is now outdated and becoming boring with a lot of the posts on there just being replicated, and the Mods don't seem to notice they seem more intent on not allowing members to speak their minds unless it's postive, I noticed a post on there recently about a member who was not happy with Bulgaria and he stated why and made it clear that it was his personal opinion, there was nothing in it that was abusive, but the Mod removed it! lets face it if too many people speak the truth about Bulgaria then they would not sell any property, which is their income so from their point of view and the forum they have to make thing sound better than they are? I don't think that MyBulgaria gives a true picture anymore.

Tony Johnson, MyBulgariaPortal

Yes it works, has a wealth of information but some rather sad boring people at times drag the forums out and yes it is hard for newcomers to navigate as its all abit cluttered and the email box is to low down so new users probably wont know if they have received an email. Overall really good


I have been a member of My Bulgaria from 2004 after I discovered Bulgaria on one of those place in the sun programmes. I have to say I would not have bought, renovated and then made Bulgaria my home, if I didn't have My Bulgaria. It isn't about advertising, its a sense of community and support for everyone with the urge to change their lives. I log in and contribute or learn something everyday on My Bulgaria (internet access permitting) Yes I would have to agree with the navigation of the site being challenging, especially for a newbie but there is always someone on hand to help. Nikki

Nikki, Dannia