There are a multitude of real estate website solutions on the market and many, if not most, are of sufficient quality to establish your web presence as a new or aspiring real estate professional. However since recent marketing surveys show that more home buyers are coming in contact with the home they ultimately purchase from the internet vs a real estate professional, it is essential that contemporary real estate agents have an internet presence that is more than just adequate but effectively markets their brand, services, and properties.
Thus if you are a professional that simply won’t settle for just adequate, then you should seriously consider self-hosting your own blog and property search website. The contrasts and benefits of self-hosting as compared with shared-user website solutions are as follows:
* Your original content articles (e.g., blog posts) are hosted on your own branded domain name, and not on a shared-user domain such as Active Rain, Blogger, WordPress, etc.
* All of the local MLS properties are hosted on your own branded domain name, and not provided externally from a shared-user domain by a framed or iframe solution.
* Unlike when hosting with shared or networked domains you will have full control of all design and content aspects of your self-hosted websites.
I could easily continue this list of contrasts and benefits but no matter how long the list, and it could definitely go much further, the value proposition in the end always boils down to; Search Engine Optimization. In other words, with self-hosted websites on your own branded domain name, you have a much better opportunity of getting your content indexed and served up by major search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and MSN. Thus with full control of lead capture software, more consumer internet traffic translates into more sales leads, which in turn translates into more closed business opportunities.
While self-hosted websites will likely be more expensive to get up and running, the cost difference is not nearly as great as it has been in the past, and may actually be more cost effective when compared to some shared-user solutions. Take for example the largest real estate blogging network in existence; Active Rain. This blog hosting service was originally free but once reaching critical mass and monetization occurred, a new user can now expect to pay up to $30 a month for the privilege to contribute content to the network’s consumer domains. This cost, more than pays for self-hosting a WordPress blog on your own branded domain name at $10 per month operating cost via many internet hosting services. True if you are not a web designer or programmer, there will be some start-up costs, but given the long term benefits of self-hosting they are not only manageable but also cost effective from a return on investment (ROI) perspective.
I am writing this article at the precise time that a client has just finished her first year of transition from a shared-user web presence to hosting her own website on her own branded domain name, thus the statistics and results from this case study can best illustrate the opportunities for other real estate professionals to make the move themselves. Her monthly operating costs did go from $10 to $60 a month. The majority of this cost is associated with a Virtual Private Server hosting plan that provides a measure of performance guarantee for concurrent multiple user property searches.
We ported most of her shared-user online blog posts (~150 index-able pages) over to her self-hosted blog and then transferred her MLS provided framed property search solution (~0 index-able pages) to a self-hosted solution using her MLS’s RETS feed. This brought the total number of pages index-able with unique title names under her branded domain name to approximately 12,000 pages. Right away you should be able to see the benefit from day one: we now had 12,000 more pages of content that were now index-able to search engines under her own branded domain name.
Of course, I can not relate just how many hours my client worked this past year to author additional pages and reach almost 300 original blog posts and 19,000 property pages indexed with major search engines. However, I can tell you that the website statistics she was receiving prior to the transition and after the first anniversary of her self-hosted website: Prior to March 2008, when she made the transition, my client’s web presence was receiving ~500 visitors a month and generating few sales leads. Viewing the self-hosted website analytics for March 2009 reveals 14,803 visits by 8,721 unique visitors.
In addition to this extended internet traffic which is enabling her business to gain market share, sales leads have also grown comparably now averaging ~10 per day and this all within a medium sized metro area of ~200,000 residents.
If you are a real estate professional that lacks an effective internet presence and marketing scheme this may very well prove to be a strategy worth pursuing.