I was in a meeting with a real estate professional a few days ago, and asked her if she owned or rented her home. She shot back a startled reply, "Are you kidding me? It would be tantamount to blasphemy for an agent to rent her home. How could I "sell" real estate if I didn't believe in "ownership" myself. Good point. She went on to tell me that people who rent are just throwing their money away... They aren't building any equity...
Next I asked her if she paid a monthly or annual fee to have her website. She replied in the affirmative. I asked her what would happen if she stopped making those monthly payments. She told me the website would disappear from the internet within weeks, along with the content. I then posed the million dollar question, "Are you renting, or do you own your website, your content and your marketing?" "Oh my gosh," she responded, "I'm just a tenant."
Any reputable agent will encourage his or her clients to "buy in" with an investment that builds equity and offers the potential for a return over the years to come.
Many real estate agents start out with one of those cookie cutter, template websites, auto-generated by a computer. They sign up to the forty or fifty bucks a month plan, pick the template they like best, upload a logo and photo, and hastily type in some text into a few pages. Often, the content is "piped in" to their WWW domain from the remote provider's server. That means there's no "real content" actually residing there. (This protects the interests of the website provider because they can kill your site by remote if the monthly rental payment doesn't clear.)
There's usually no marketing strategy beyond having something come up when visitors type in www.mycoolrealestatesite.com. You sign up for a site, and then you wait for the flood of leads to come in. The providers will tell their customers their sites are "SEO friendly", but in truth, websites don't market themselves. So the site fails in gaining search engine rankings, building much traffic or generating any leads. The embedded (piped in from a 3rd party source) IDX listing feed is great for monetizing traffic you already have, but not so good at creating it. Google is looking to rank valuable "original" content.
Often, if the first site doesn't produce results, the agent will rent a second, or even a third. Hell, they're so cheap! It becomes the battle of the Clone Wars... "What, you have two sites in our neighbourhood?... I'll raise you to three."
Here's the problem: Minimum investment, minimal return! If one ineffective clone site doesn't get the job done, neither will two or three... or four.
The "cheap rental" website may have been a "quick and easy" place to start out, but one day it's time for a career buy-in; time to put on the "big boy/girl pants". If you've decided this is the career for you, and you're still renting your site each month, you might want to begin taking your online marketing more seriously and build some online equity. As any real estate pro advises his or her clients, "when you rent you're just throwing your money away, unless you're not sure you plan to stay in this area."
Since 1997 I've worked on hundreds of online marketing projects with real estate professionals and other business owners. Many want me to help them take their marketing to the next level; but then we discover that the SaaS (software as a service) solution they bought into, paying a regular (rental) fee, is wholly owned and managed by the service provider. I am granted only 'client' level access to the site, so at least one of my hands will always be tied behind firmly behind my back. I'm simply a contractor doing a bit of 'owner-approved' work for the 'tenant', and I can only do what the platform's owner / 'landlord' lets me do.
Are you trying to build your marketing "house" on rented land? Does a SaaS landlord own your marketing platform and decide what you can or cannot do in promoting your career, building your business, and creating your future? Is there a 'cap' on your SEO measures, to make it a level playing field for the thousands of other real estate professionals hosted on their platform? There's no SEO advantage you can capitalize on when you're on a vendor-managed and 'levelled' playing field.
Never build your content in places you can't control. With a unique website, custom built for you and your ideal clients, and hosted in your own hosted server space, that's an asset you own. You have full access to the database and every file on that server. You can switch hosts, self host, have your web designer give it a complete facelift, or tear it down and build it back up from the foundation up... it's YOUR website.
Ownership is a beautiful thing. Your web developer / webmaster can make any necessary or desired change. Every hour invested into improvements, the user experience, your incredibly valuable content and SEO (search engine optimization) contributes to your 'property value'... it builds your equity. And your marketing asset continues to grow each month. It's not going to go 'poof' one day because the SaaS vendor changed the coding on their platform, their policies... or simply goes out of business. And you are not tied to a proprietary platform wholly owned and controlled by a 3rd party provider.
If that's where you find yourself today: renting, you need to own your website, own your content and own your marketing. If it's your content, it should physically reside on your own website, in your hosted server space. And to drive traffic and leads, you will need a content strategy that includes SEO (search engine optimization), ongoing content creation and publishing, and social media... every month. You should have a lead generation funnel in place to convert visitors into subscribers — prospects you can continue to influence with valuable content — and then nurture them until they're your clients.
Cole Wiebe helps brands and professionals grow their influence and value online; so they can “out content”™ their competition. Cole is a content strategist, content writer, conversion copywriter and online marketing coach.
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