DO YOU OWN YOUR WEBSITE?
This isn’t going to be one of those articles where you have to read 1000 words to just to discover the six relevant things you’re looking for. We’re telling you upfront: the number one mistake most agents and real estate agents make? NOT OWNING THEIR OWN WEBSITE. Don’t believe us? Read on.
Now let’s be clear…are we talking about simply HAVING a website? No. According to the most recent annual Realtor Technology Survey, 72% of realtors have a website. What I am talking about is WHO OWNS your website.
I can almost hear you saying, “But how do I know if I own my website?” If you have to ask, the answer is most likely you do NOT own your website. If any of the vendors on the following list built your website, you DO NOT OWN IT:
- A la Mode
- Agent Image
- Agent Advantage
- Commissions Inc
- Easy Agent Pro
- IHOUSE Web Solutions
- Number 1 Expert
- Real Estate Webmasters
- Real Geeks
- Realty Soft
- Sierra Interactive
Now some of these vendors occasionally make exceptions and might send you the site files that comprise your website, but in signing up for their service, you at one point had to agree that not only is your website their intellectual property, but often times so is the information being put on the website. Meaning you doesn’t own that either…even though it’s your information.
Why Should I Own My Own Real Estate Website?
Quiz: Should I Own or Lease?
If you can answer yes to any of the questions below, it VERY MUCH matters if you own your website:
- Do you plan to be in the real estate business more than another three to five years?
- Are you currently or do you plan on becoming a broker as opposed to an agent?
- Do you need cost effective long term lead generation?
- Do you currently spend over $10,000 per year on ANY kind of advertising?
- Do you employ any kind of online marketing service including bloggers, social media, listing services with a focus in online, SEO providers, or just online lead generation?
- Do your branding and personal images have to be 100% in your control?
But there are also circumstances when shouldn’t own your own real estate website:
- Are you nearing retirement or unsure if you’re staying in real estate?
- Are you planning any moves or major business changes in the near future?
- Do you already have a multitude of technology projects underway?
- Are you already so busy that an additional two hours a week to build, manage, and maintain a new project of any kind is impossible?
- Do you have business partners but no clear partnership agreement?
- Is your level of technical knowledge so low that you don’t know how to even attempt to build a website, much less manage it… and you don’t have the resources to hire someone to manage the project for you?
Let’s break the “why” and the “why not” down…
One of the ways website ownership comes most into play is when you have hired a third party to do Search Engine Optimization (SEO) on your website. One of the very first questions we ask clients looking to get their company on the first page of search results is… do you have FTP access?
The silence is typically deafening. “What does FTP mean?” That’s relatively easy: File Transfer Protocol. But what does that mean? Your website is made up of files. Let’s imagine these files are in a locked cabinet. File Transfer Protocol gives you the access to open this file cabinet, remove the files, take notes, and reorganize them as you need. Except in this case, the website providers are keeping the key.
Nine times out of ten, the people that built your website didn’t know jack squat about how to build it so Google could easily understand and find these files.
The problem is, making things easy for Google also means making things harder for your web developer. And you, the client, would never know the difference. So ask yourself a serious question:
What do you think the chances are that a web developer will spend A LOT of extra hours building you a product that will perform better under a limited set of circumstances when they know that you will never know the difference?
If we’re being realistic, those chances are very low.
So here you are. You’re three months in and you’ve given your website developer somewhere between $500 – $5,000. And they’ve given you a website that only looks functional. And you can’t even get in there yourself to actually make it truly functional on an SEO level.
But why bother dealing with it at all? There are plenty of companies out there that will sell you access to their lead generation platforms. You won’t own the platform, but it will generate leads.
You have to make a choice now. This is where YOUR business goals become relevant.
- IF you plan on being an agent or broker for 3 or more years,
- IF you want to keep experiencing a 15-25% revenue increase without ALWAYS having to jump up your marketing budget by a corresponding amount,
- IF you want to see a two- or three-tier return on your marketing dollars instead of the standard-lead-to-conversion ratio offered by ALL lead generating services,
- IF you have a LONG-TERM mindset related to all elements of your personal business
Then search engine optimization is the single most important marketing activity you can pursue. And you HAVE to own your website in order to be able to effectively pursue it.
Let’s circle back around to the circumstances in which you don’t have to own your own website.
What if you plan on getting out of the real estate business? Or if you’re uncertain about future plans because you’re new to the real estate business. Or perhaps you’re only working real estate part-time and you don’t know if you’ll ever make the switch to full-time. Maybe you’re making a major geographic move sometime soon?
Owning your own website is a long-term business strategy.
Everything that we’re recommending is irrelevant if your plans are uncertain or don’t extend into the foreseeable future. What’s more, if you’re in any sort of doubt about your commitment to real estate, a long-term strategy should be avoided. There are plenty of companies that offer low-cost, high-quality solutions in terms of real estate websites. Sure, you won’t own your site, but you won’t have to invest much of your time, energy, or resources in it either, as you should be able to keep your website budget under $200 a year.
The fact is, that while there definitely are reasons why real estate professionals might not want to own their website, in our experience eight out of ten real estate agents and near 100% of brokers want long-term, sustainable recognition and lead generation on the web.
Comparison of Owning vs. Leasing Your Website
The cons of leasing or renting someone else’s real estate marketing platform:
- Most of the long-term value generated by your website is shunted to the website provider, increasing their company’s value past your own.
- If you leave your vendor, there are serious costs and consequences ranging from STARTING OVER, losing your lead flow, losing your territory, having to pay for a new website, moving all content and existing progress to another site (which, of course, costs more money), and/or having your current provider fumble by accident… or on purpose… a site move (see: starting over).
- Your vendor has Terms of Service Agreement signed by you giving them rights to the intellectual property on the platform they own (your website). Should a dispute arise, they have a very strong position, but lately taking grievances to platforms like Facebook and Yelp has put a lot of power back into the hands of the consumer.
The pros of leasing or renting someone else’s real estate marketing platform:
- If all you want to do is pay for a lead and you don’t care about the cost or the long-term value of your brand, then there are vendors where you could achieve anywhere from a 4/1 to 10/1 return on your marketing dollars. You will have zero control over your lead source. You will still have a learning curve and thus need to invest your time to get decent performance out of “pay-to-play” vendors. However this learning curve IS a lot less than taking the longer viewpoint and learning how to manage SEO and Lead conversion providers.
- That’s it. Convenience.
The cons of owning your own real estate website:
- You’ll need to educate yourself more than if you had let someone else hand you leads. How much and in what areas is going to vary greatly depending on your business objectives and location.
- You’ll need to “mind the store.” The advantage of letting someone else put their stamp on a website to a minor degree makes them culpable for appearance and performance. Unfortunately, since your name is right next to theirs, this is a minor advantage as anything with your name on it is also a reflection of you.
- You’ll have to invest more time and resources upfront..
The pros of owning your own real estate website:
- You have control over your brand. It’s more work, but for the detail-oriented and image-conscious owning a website is the only way to assert control over your first handshake to the world.
- Your website is an investment, not an expense. We recently negotiated the sale of a real estate domain for a small brokerage. The sale itself netted the business owner around $45,000. He confided that that figure was roughly similar to the marketing costs for the entire lifetime of the site, meaning that the sale of the site zeroed out expenses. Big deal? Yes. The site made him 20 million in yearly sales solely from the leads it generated.
- You’re able to be flexible. In the current real estate market, almost all leads are generated through an information exchange process. Being able to adapt yours to the constantly changing needs of your audience can only be achieved by avoiding getting “locked” in to any particular solution or slow-moving vendor.
- You have control over your lead flow. In almost all cases when you’re buying leads, the vendor is dictating terms. Meaning that not only can they dictate what constitutes your “territory” and how “available” it is, they can also raise costs arbitrarily based upon your perceived success. Owning your own website allows you to control what geo-specific areas you target, how much effort you spend on each, and ultimately gives you complete control over how you handle a lead once it’s obtained.
- You have negotiating power. Owning your site in name and copies of website files actually gives you the power to dictate to your vendors on services they provide and how they will provide them… because you can leave whenever you want. Not only that, but you can also grant access to multiple marketing companies without asking any of them for permission. As with all things in business, ownership is more effort but puts you in the driver’s seat.
- You have a much higher dollar for dollar return on investment. Assuming you have a properly built website and your IDX is set up correctly to capture leads, $24,000 will go two to ten times farther than buying leads.
We could tell you all day about the benefits of owning your own website, but we’re going to cut things off here. Just remember: whether you buy traffic or attract traffic, a percentage of those users will bookmark your website and you become their go-to real estate search tool. Even if you stopped paying for marketing and your traffic dropped by 70%, the remaining 30% would completely recoup your marketing investment if you stayed in business for another 5 to 10 years… at the end of which you can sell the website. There are a good number of real estate business owners that entirely recover the cost of marketing on top of whatever their lead-to-transaction conversion rate was. No direct marketing platform is ever going to beat a cost of $0.