With a competitive type business like real estate, it’s nearly a necessity to have an online presence. Of course, it is possible to operate a successful outfit without one, but most folks and associates are surely going to Google you, your company, and want to learn what you’re all about.
I see many BP’ers talking about creating websites, so I wanted to address the topic of, what are the first steps when getting a website for you or your company?
Having to learn to incorporate website and blogging skills into my own RE business and others that I have worked in, I’d like to think my insight may be helpful to other investors. As social media has grown and buyers and sellers rely more on internet material for reviews and information, web skills parallel RE and business skills. So, even if you don’t want to create the next Trulia.com, make no mistake that having a website and social media following are going to continue to add weight to consumer preferences.
1) Picking a Real Estate Website URL – What Really Matters
The days when having top keywords in your URL guaranteed a higher ranking and search results are melting away. It’s more important that you have something catchy vs something extremely relevant. For instance, do you think it’s more important to have www.Ibuyyourcityhomes.com and have little promotion around it, or some funky name everyone can relate to (due to marketing) say, like www.Zillow.com?
Don’t despair if top domains with keywords are too expensive or they’re taken. If you can spend the money you would have to purchase and develop that page into promoting your own page with a short but memorable URL, the results may yield you the same. BiggerPockets could certainly have been a website for financial planning, stock investments, (or plus size clothing!), but it’s branded as one of the top online Real Estate Investing Magazines from the effort to promote the site and drive traffic.
For me, I want people to brand my service with my name, as you may want to as well. I’m lucky in that I have a last name that already has some brand association, but you may not want to have your name on the masthead.
2) When in Doubt, Dumb it Down
Unless you have a web development or programming background, engineering a robust site that has all the bells and whistles is going to cost you dozens of hours, if not thousands of dollars. Especially if you don’t have the lead flow to justify even needing all the add-on’s, speculating what you think your customers will want and what makes your company look fancy is just wasting your time. As an investor, I’ll tell you what your customers want. They want to know you’re a human being, that’s not going to rip them off, and has any sort of professional presence.
I’ve known investors in top markets that establish themselves with a 3 page webpage that is so basic, you’d laugh. But, as with direct mail, in some cases, the simpler layouts are better accepted than the super flashy “I can afford an amazing website!” look. Of course you will need to keep the audience in mind, ie, distressed sellers vs high net-worth investors, but well-laid simplicity is welcoming, in any case.
3) Work It Out
There are thousands of templates out there, built especially for real estate, and just as many for real estate investors. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Spend $50-$100 on a template and $10-$15/month for hosting.
Have someone install Google Analytics and see how many visits you’re getting and from where. There are website companies that cater to RE professionals that will charge far more than this, but they may also provide more value add as well. Do your due diligence though and begin with something that makes sense for you and your pocket book for where you are at this moment.
With that, put your link on your email signature, facebook page, business cards, social media platforms, BiggerPockets signature, you get the drift.
It’s easier to adjust your site and upgrade than to keep mulling over what will be the perfect PERFECT site to have lead sources beating down your virtual door.
At very least, until you really start to establish a following, your site will be another spoke in the wheel of your business’ platforms for on and offline marketing and brand awareness modalities. The priority is to have a site up that can later be amended, improved, or exchanged. But if you keep it simple and cost effective, the hundreds of dollars you spent to establish yourself are minimal.
4) Blah Blah Blog About It!
Yes, there’s actually work involved in getting your website ranked nowadays. There are “blackhat” tricks to get your site listed quickly at the top in Google search rankings, and they will just as quickly be glad to penalize your site if you use and abuse such techniques. Like in the rest of life, true development takes time.
What’s the secret, you ask? Write. Well, and read. Read about blogging, keyword density, link exchanging, anchor text, the list goes on and on, but the authority you may gain from becoming well-versed in blogging will surely help your site rank. Google loves relevant content, so if you are a hard money lender in Cash City, certainly write content based on topics around lending hard money in Cash City!
Keeping in theme with the rest of this article, I’ll keep it simple for you so as not to overwhelm. Simply, you will gain more traffic to your website if you write and share good blogs about the type of information your site is based around. What site can you think of that has constant new material, blogs, and articles about a topic you’re interested in? If you’re on BiggerPockets, you’re on a site that uses this technique successfully! (Anyone else having an Inception moment?!)
Always do your research before diving into a project like this, but I know you will. See what other people in your space have done as far as websites, and if you have any room to improve upon those.
Regardless, if you’re serious about your real estate investing business, you’ll realize that a nice-looking and well-ranked page can do wonders for your business.
I hope by reducing seemingly daunting tasks down to actionable and simpler steps, you can more easily understand how to start and create a website of your very own.
What other steps did you take when starting your first RE website? What was your biggest improvement you made that helped your business?