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The day I started this online journey I had no idea it would turn into my main source of business.
My first year as a real estate agent I built a WordPress website. Then, I did almost nothing with it.
Occasionally, I would put up a blog post and I included a bio. People researching me would stumble on it from time to time, but I had no idea what I would do with it long term.
Since then, I have switched to several different web tools, started (and shut down) several websites and ultimately went back to WordPress, and it has become the site it is today.
A decade after starting in the business, I have made a decision to focus on web and digital marketing in real estate.
My goals for my site have become more focused.
My biggest goal is: to give massive value to buyers and sellers looking for information about real estate.
Because I give so much value, I am able to meet local people who want to buy and sell real estate and offer my services.
Another goal? To help real estate professionals with my experiences as an agent.
This guide will show you my recommended path for starting a website as a real estate agent or brokerage.
Why You Need a Website as a Real Estate Agent
The NAR stats show that every year more and more consumers go online to look for information related to their real estate transaction.
There are numerous reasons you want a website.
• Show your clients you are an expert. People want to work with an agent who knows the local market and overall real estate trends.
• Let potential clients research you. A real estate agent’s website often is the first impression before meeting a person face to face.
• Meet more buyers and sellers. The more helpful content you have on your site, the more chances you will get to connect with and work with new clients.
• Neighborhood pages. There are multiple large companies that have homes for sale on their site. But you, the local real estate agent, can have thorough community information on your website. You have something special to offer.
• Pay per click pages. You can also advertise your listings or other services with pay-per-click ads that point back to your site.
• Meeting other agents. Many real estate agent websites offer a way to meet agents to join their team or offer coaching services.
• Customizable. If you own the site and the content, you can control what goes on it. If there are other niches you want to look into or pages you want to create, you have that freedom.
The truth is, users are going to find a website. You can put in the effort to make sure it is yours, or you can spend money to advertise on one of the bigger sites.
I choose to build my own brand.
Why Follow This Guide?
There are a lot of options out there for real estate agent websites. Some are very easy and fast to set up. Others take more work and research.
Obviously, you do not need to follow this guide. There are many ways to pursue a web presence.
But it is based on my experiences over multiple sites, platforms and trial and error. This has come as a labor of love, and you can learn from my journey.
This guide is not for a simple “few clicks and done” method to building a site. If you go with a solution like that, chances are you are sacrificing somewhere.
If you or someone else on your team follows this guide, you will have a fully customizable WordPress site that you fully own and control.
This site will have fast hosting, and potential to be SEO friendly to attract organic traffic (with a content strategy).
It can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. You can hire a developer to make it more fancy at some point. It will be easy for you to add content to it once you get used to using the WordPress software.
It will also travel with you if you ever change brokerages. You will own the site and content.
As I said, you have lots of options. But ease of setup for a site may at the cost of customization, ownership, speed or other factors. So do some research ahead of time.
Going from just starting to ready to launch will depend on how hard you work on it and how tech savvy you are.
Here is how I set up my website.
Step 1: Register a Domain
This is your website’s address.
• What is a Domain?
Your domain name is much like the street address of your home. As you can see, my domain is realwillrodgers.com.
• Tips on Choosing A Domain
It is easy to agonize over what your domain will be. I did…for days.
Although your domain is not necessarily permanent, it is better if you pretend that it will be permanent.
Some tips on choosing a domain:
– Do not “optimize” it. Making your domain “homesellersandbuyersinfo” will NOT help you rank in search engines (although it used to). More on that in the SEO section.
– Choose something easy to remember and type. Pick something that people can put into their browser easily.
– Choose your branding. Make a decision on your brand, to brand yourself, a team or something more generic. There are advantages and disadvantages to both.
– Keep it as short as possible. This goes with ability to remember and type.
• Where to Register Your Domain
There are a large number of domain registrars on the web. You can reserve multiple domains for later use as well, if you are still deciding.
Some domain registrars also offer hosting (see below), however I went with a different hosting company than where my domain is registered. This is an easy thing to do.
For domain registry, I use and recommend GoDaddy.
Step 2: Get Hosting & Point Your Domain
This is where your site will be stored & makes it viewable to the public.
• What is Hosting?
Website data needs a place to be physically stored for it to be viewed online. This data is hosted (stored) on servers. So in order for your site to be visible you will need to get hosting.
Like domain registrars, there are a large number of hosting companies, with a wide variety of pricing and quality.
• An (Important) Note on Speed
The speed of your site is incredibly important, for multiple reasons. First of all, a fast site gives the people viewing your site a much better experience. Good experience means they will stay on the site.
Secondly, page speed is one thing considered by large search engines to determine which sites should rank higher.
And finally, you want your hosting to offer fast load times so that your page will run well on different sized screens.
Think back to a time when you tried to visit a site that took too long (in the internet world, more than a few seconds) to load. Annoying? Yes. Most likely, if you have other options of sites to visit you moved on.
• Where to Get Hosting
With hosting I have found that you get what you pay for. After using 4-5 different hosting platforms over the years, I found Kinsta.
Here is why Kinsta is a great option.
– They are obsessed with your site’s speed. Without getting too technical, they are constantly making sure they have the latest tech to keep your site fast.
– They work seamlessly with WordPress (next step).
– They have incredible service. This is huge. If you run into an issue or have a question, they will make sure it gets solved, everytime.
Eventually, once you get your hosting in place you will go BACK to your domain registrar to “point” the domain to where your site is hosted. This is not difficult and Kinsta or GoDaddy can help you with that.
Step 3: Choose a CMS (Content Management System)
This is the software that you use to create your site and content.
• What is a CMS?
This is where you will spend your time making changes to your site, adding pages, a blog and other features. There are a few popular CMS platforms.
The key here is to find something customizable and something that you can add other features to as you go.
And, if you want to have a developer work on the site (either from the start or later on) you will want to have something that can start small and be built on from there.
Web developers and designers are very familiar with WordPress.
• Using a Website Builder
This site was first created on a large “website builder” site. There are a few out there. They offer domain registry, hosting, and a CMS type “drag and drop” site builder.
These full package site builders are easy to use, yes. But there are many reasons to go the route of a WordPress site with independent hosting.
To keep it short, you will get a faster site, you will fully own your content and you will have way more control of the content of your site (like displaying listings, etc.)
• Where to Get a CMS
The gold standard of CMS platforms is WordPress.
WordPress.org, (NOT to be confused with wordpress.com, which is another large website builder) is an open source CMS that is hugely popular among small businesses, large corporations and bloggers alike.
It will be easy for you to use, has a massive number of plugins that add site features and web developers also love to work on it (if you want to hire someone to build parts or all of your site).
Step 4: Install Your CMS On Your Hosting
This will allow your content to be displayed.
• How to Install Your CMS
If you are following this guide on getting your site started, this will be easy. Here is a quick guide from Kinsta on installing WordPress.
Step 5: Find a Page Builder Plugin
It is time to give your site its design.
• What is a Page Builder Plugin?
If you are like me, you do not know any coding languages to build your site.
So how do you design your site? WordPress has several page builder plugins, that will give you that “drag and drop” type of designing.
This is helpful if you want your page to look sleek but do not have the budget to hire a web developer.
• Basic Design Tips
1. Use templates. If you utilize the templates that are offered by these plugins, your life will be even easier. On each page of your site, choose a template and then just change the content.
2. Make sure it is easy to navigate. Again, user experience is crucial make sure it is obvious where potential buyers and sellers should go to get what they are looking for.
3. Use consistent branding. Try to stick with the same colors on each page, and make sure you are consistent with how you are branded.
4. Use images. Make sure your template has space for you to add some high quality photos of real estate.
• Should I Use a Page Builder Plugin?
Yes, I am a real estate agent, and I built my own site with these tools.
But I also have a self taught background in online marketing and design, so I am on the more tech savvy side of agents out there.
You can also build a site with these tools. But it takes some commitment to learn to use a page builder. If you are not tech savvy, I recommend hiring a designer/developer.
• Where to Get a Page Builder Plugin
In the “plugin” sidebar of your WordPress CMS, you will find a place to search for plugins. However, many of the premium plugins also have their own sites.
I use a company called Beaver Builder, which created this site. For most of my articles, I use a combo of Beaver Builder and WordPress’ Gutenberg editor (included in the WordPress CMS).
I also have hired web developers as the site started to bring me business, but they can use or work around Beaver Builder as well.
Step 6: Add IDX (Home Search)
A home search is essential for your site.
• What is IDX?
IDX stands for Internet Data Display. It is a connection between your preferred MLS(s) and your site to allow listing data to appear.
As a real estate agent, having listings for sale is on your website is crucial.
Even if you do not want to build a site to meet homebuyers (though most agents do), you can use the MLS feed to showcase properties you have sold, let sellers see the market and more.
• What is Important in an IDX Home Search
If you go the wordpress route, there are several plugins that offer IDX. Prices vary based on features and companies.
A solid IDX will do the following:
1. Give the user a great experience that they enjoy using.
2. Have intuitive features such as mapping, etc.
3. Be backed by a company that will constantly develop it. Bug fixes, new features, etc.
4. Make it easy for the users to contact you.
5. Have different registration options. I am not a fan of “forced registration”, but the best IDX will have a reason for users to sign up.
• A Note on Speed
IDX plugins are data intensive, so they are notoriously for slowing down some pages if you check on Google PageSpeed Insights.
Most IDX plugins will slow some pages to some degree.
It is always good to ask the developer of the IDX about speed and to check a test site out to see how fast/slow it is (especially on smaller devices).
• Where to Find IDX Home Search
My site currently uses an IDX called Showcase IDX. There are several options out there, and I have used 4 different IDX solutions.
Currently, I use Showcase because it is user friendly and has great search features.
It fits in with my belief of giving potential clients as much value as possible to help them with their real estate goals.
For that reason, I also do not use “forced registration”. Users can contact me when they are ready or feel free to use the site as a free resource.
Step 7: Learn Some Basic SEO Concepts
If you want local organic traffic, learning some basic tactics goes a long way.
• What is SEO?
SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimization”. It refers to the practice of making your site friendly for search indexes to rank.
Sites with great SEO tend to rank higher in organic search.
• Basic SEO Tips
I am not a professional SEO expert. But there are lots of great resources out there for finding out more if you are interested.
My favorite site is Backlinko’s blog. But I read a handful of resources to stay informed.
Here are some basic tips to get started based on my experience.
• Avoid “black hat” SEO. Search algorithms do not reward simple “tricks” to get a site to rank. For example, just using the same keywords over and over with no real value to your content.
In fact, sites attempting to use these techniques tend to get punished over the long term in search.
• Focus on GREAT content. You can build a great site if you focus on the users. The more time people spend on your site and engage in your content, the more valuable your site will be regarded in rankings.
• Work on all platforms. More than half of web searches are done on small screens. If your site is not optimized to perform seamlessly on these screens, it will negatively affect rankings.
• Know what people are searching for. You want great info on your site. You also want to know what information people want to read about. Using keyword research tools (I use Ubersuggest) can tell you that.
•Write guides. I am a huge fan of giving away my guides freely on my site. I have guides for buyers, sellers, new construction homes and more.
Pick some real estate topics and write a long and detailed guide with lots of how to and photos.
• “Natural” links to your site. This is a large ranking factor. There are gimmicky ways (not recommended) and organic ways (recommended) to get your content on other sites.
Do some research into “backlinks” if you are interested.
• Building Your Site for Long Term Success: Focus on Value
As time goes on, the large search engines will continue to get better at finding this: the best content for what the user is trying to find and the best answer for their question.
For search engines, this means finding accurate, expert content around a topic.
So instead of focusing on a quick fix, focus on becoming an expert and sharing your general expertise.
Hiring a Developer
When you want to have someone build your site
This website guide can be done DIY for tech savvy real estate agents.
If you are completely opposed to that route, or you are not tech savvy at all, there are lots of web developers & designers who can help.
If you do hire a developer, I still recommend have them build on WordPress or comparable, make you are getting fast hosting, make sure you maintain control of the site and have your goals clearly in mind for your website.
Most real estate agents have websites.
With some clear direction, attention to the small details and lots of hard work on content, yours can stand out and help you meet buyers and sellers in your area.
This guide will show you how I built my site, after years of trial and error.
There are many options for sites, each with different pros and cons.
To build a great site, update it constantly with new and fresh content that helps your target audience.
Are you a new agent? Check out my guide for your first year.
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