Let’s face it, we’ve all made mistakes, and no doubt, I’ve made more than most. The key isn’t to never make mistakes, but rather in not making the same ones again, and even better, learning from the mistakes of other people. Personally, I find that I learn more from my mistakes than I do from my successes.
Towards that end, i thought I’d pass along some pearls of wisdom, really in no particular order, and all of which I tried to address when I created Agent Focus, a company truly designed “By Agents For Agents.”
#1 Selection of a domain name – A subsection of this would have been the selection of only one domain name, but I’ll lump the two of them together, for the purpose of this discussion.
Your main domain name is the one you will use for your personal branding. Mine is www.stevelevine.com. It should speak to you as an individual, and recognize that it’s not there for people to search for. With all of the new extensions available, you could be able to easily find your name available, if you haven’t registered it already. Resist the urge to be “cute” here, but rather stay professional. You don’t want to use www.isell4U-va.com as your domain.
Now in the case above, we’re talking about your “pretty url,” which you use for your branding. Next, you should have multiple secondary urls, which you can use for different purposes. Don’t build sites with identical content, but rather have unique geographic content, or simply forward the url to your main one. These are for name recognition. In my case, shrewsbury-massachusetts.com is forwarding to stevelevine.com. Easy to remember, and goes to the same place.
Lastly, are what I call ugly urls, which again you can forward to your main one. These are largely search engine tools. For example, you may have homes-for-sale-in-nashville.com, with a landing page optimized for that search, and then feed that to your main site.
#2 Overpaying for your website creation – One of the primary reasons for starting the company, was because like many, I’d been ripped off by web development companies praying on real estate agents. Designing a proper real estate website isn’t easy, but we’re not talking about putting men on the moon, either…especially when 90% of companies are using themes that they already have in hand, and just making customizations for you. Realistically, this is a $600 job. We do it for $300, but even so, $600 is fair. To each his own, of course, but I just think companies charging $1000 or more, are just really over-charging for the product. I learned the hard way, believe me. I think I paid one still prominent website company over $5000 for a website and a couple months of so called SEO work. Wasn’t worth a pile of beans, but they still got my money.
#3 Renting your website, instead of owning it – Biggest mistake I ever made in my web presence was signing up with a web company that not only charged me $1000 to build the site, which looked just like every other site they do, until I paid extra to customize it, but then charged me $100/mo to “manage and host it.” This is what’s called “renting your site,” and so many agents fall for it. The goal of the website company is simple – built a portfolio of 1000 agents, each paying $100/mo, and it’s a hell of a business. 100k a month, for doing absolutely nothing.
That’s not the worst part though. The worst part is that THEY OWN THE SITE. You can spend all the time you want adding to it, getting links, promoting it, writing blog content, etc., but in the end, you don’t own any of the content, they do. The day you stop cutting them the monthly checks, it’s gone forever, along with all your hard work. It’s like putting a $10k audio system into a car that you’re leasing and have to give back. A Waste of money.
No matter how much you pay for your site to be created, and certainly I don’t think you should be overpaying, at least make sure that you own it, you’re paying nothing per month after that, and you have freedom to do with it whatever you want. The same applies to investing too much time or energy in a site that your franchise owns, whether it’s a KW eEdge site, or REMAX Mainstreet site. Those are all fine, but invest time in building what you own.
#4 Having a site created in a non-standardized software language. I fell for this one too. I had a site built by a well known IDX website provider, and realized that it wasn’t in any format I could access and modify, such as wordpress. In fact, I had no access to the back end at all, and I couldn’t even change the name of my real estate company when I moved. No, I had to call them, ask them to make a change, and see if it was something they wanted to charge a fee to do. I felt like an idiot. Finally, after 4 years, and over 5000 in payments, I cancelled them, and lost my whole site that I’d worked on for years, and had to start over. Never again!
When you have a site done these days, it needs to be in WordPress, which is an easy to use, open source language. If I drop dead the day after delivering your new website, any web person on the planet could step in and take over because the language is so easy to work with. In fact, you’ll probably play around with a lot of it yourself.
#5 Falling for bait and switch pricing. Another one I fell prey to a few years ago. I purchased what I thought was an amazing website from a respected company. The site was gorgeous. I checked out the demo and it was just amazing, so I ordered it right away. A few days later, I got a note that it was ready and installed on my domain. I went and looked and what was there was an empty framework of the theme I had purchased, with not tabs, no content, nothing at all. It was just like looking at empty shelves in a store. I reached out to them and was told that it was what I had paid for, the theme files themselves. To build it out, and move my content over, was $100/hour. I felt like an absolute idiot.
#6 Letting websites becomes stagnant. Hard as it may be to believe, 95% of agents that have a website, never touch it again. It just sits there, looking pretty, yet unseen, and languishing in the search engines. Changing and adding content is key. Keep it dynamic, and you’ll keep your people coming back for more, and the search engines will love you. Many people just don’t have the time or inclination to do it, and if that’s the case, hire someone else to do it. Here at Agent-Focus, for example, we offer real content blogging, enriched for the search engines and customized for your market, and it’s so affordable that it will cost you less than a tank of gas. Click the tab up top for content blogging, and check it out. Don’t fall for the mistake of companies that say they are going to blog for you, when really they’re posting the same blog article to 300 agent sites at once. That’s called duplicate content spam and is a bad, bad thing for the Search Engines.
#7 Not running their IDX on an internal subdomain. Here’s another one that is a big issue, and virtually never addressed by real estate agents. Typically, when you have a company build you a wordpress real estate website, the IDX is set up to run off of a folder on the IDX Broker server. To see if this is how yours is set up, take a look at one of your IDX Broker page, such as your featured listings page, and look at the url. If it says your_domain.idxbroker.com or anything like that, then this is how you’re set up. In this way, you get no credit from the search engines for any of the tens of thousands of pages of content coming from the MLS listings. If it’s set up properly it will look like this custom_subdomain_name.yourdomain.com. Mine, for example, looks like this http://home-search-massachusetts.stevelevine.net/idx/search/emailupdatesignup. When it’s set up this way, you can get the search engines to attribute 50,000+ pages of real estate relevant information to your domain. What could be better? It’s not a hard thing to do, though it’s not for the faint of heart. A lot can go wrong when you mess with things like that in your DNS. This is one of those great things to let someone else do for you, and it’s a service we provide here at Agent Focus for a ridiculously low cost. You can see it on the IDX Broker Customizations section.
#8 Not cresting hyperlocal and community subpages. Let’s face it, consumers that are searching, search hyper-locally, and your site has to be set up to encourage that. On my sites, I don’t just do community pages, but now I’m building out pages subdivision by subdivision. By creating hyperlocal content, you drive consumers to your websites. This can be done in many different ways. One of the best is by using the different IDX Broker mapping tools to create custom showcase widgets that are community or even subdivision specific. Don’t have the time or inclination to do it yourself? Well again, that’s what we’re here for, and for $25 we can do those for you. Not exactly a big investment, right? It’s all listed in the IDX Broker widget customization section, here.
#9 Not creating pages that can be cross marketed in other mediums. One of the coolest things I’ve done, is to create custom weekly pages on a town by town basis, featuring the “Top 25 Newest Listings in Town X this week.” I do these using IDX Broker widgets, and can have it display as many homes as I want, meaning any criteria, sorted from newest to oldest listing. Then, I can use facebook to cross promote them and drive traffic to my sites. Creating a post on my business page “The Top 20 New Listings in Shrewsbury this week” and then boosting it to only people in Shrewsbury, ages 25-55, women only, etc., I can get eyes to the page for $10-20, getting people to sign up for daily alerts, etc.
#10 not leveraging outbound email marketing to drive web traffic. The vast majority of agents use their websites as a passive marketing tool. But what about driving business to it through other means? I have a few proprietary techniques I’ve developed and share with my private coaching clients, to develop an email list of thousands upon thousands of local residents, all of whom will get email newsletters driving them back to my sites over and over again, and making me a resource for the entire community. This was easily one of the best moves I’ve ever made, and one reason why any top agent will tell you that having a private real estate coach was the best investment they had ever made. I have coached and been coached, and couldn’t agree more, which is why I was committed from day one to make sure I was able to keep coaching agents, but do so at a price that wasn’t out of reach, even for agents just getting started, and added an affordable coaching package to our offerings. You can check it out here.
It’s funny, I feel like I’ve already said so much, and yet in a way, I’m only just scratching the surface. There is just so much more I can talk about, yet I’m sure if you’ve read even this far, I may have bored you! Read though it again, and let me know if you have questions. As I’ve said all along, my goal in creating the company was not to glean revenue from you, as selling real estate does that just fine for me. I really just want to help, bring the industry to a higher level, and make sure that agents make the best possible investments with their money.
Hope to hear from you soon. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Until then, happy selling!