Steve Burge

How to Make a Killer Real Estate Website

In March, I talked about the Open Directory (www.dmoz.org), which is one of the most important places on the web to get your site listed. It is also one of the most difficult. In fact, a few people wrote to me after the article came out and agreed that it had been almost impossible for them to get listed in the Open Directory. Several of these people were realtors and when I was doing some research to help them out, I ran across this statement from someone who judges sites for the OD:

“there is one type of site that is becoming increasingly difficult to list: local real estate agents.”

The writer went on to explain that this was because most real estate sites nowadays were just bad, and for a number of reasons. So, for those who e-mailed, and for others out there, this month’s column can simply be titled: “How to Build a Great Real Estate Website”.

1) Do make your site personal. Have the contact details and a photo of the agent selling the house at the bottom of every listing. You need to associate yourself as closely as possible with your product.

2) Don’t use templates. Your company doesn’t have the same logo and the same staff as your rivals and so you shouldn’t have the same website. Also, the photos of the houses at the top of the template are often taken in California, Las Vegas or another part of the country. You are not selling those kinds of houses – you need photos of houses in North Georgia on the front page.

3) Do add a complete biography for all your agents. People want to see what you bring to the table. Often people who use templates will change one or two words in the biography and leave the rest untouched. I’ve seen one agent’s photo and life story repeated on multiple sites.

4) Don’t use the content provided by the company that you are working with. Search Engines such as Google and Yahoo, plus listings directories don’t like sites that are cookie-cutter versions of other website. Oh, and did I mention that customers also hate to see the same text and the same articles everywhere they surf on the web?

5) Do invest in your website. 2 out of every 3 homebuyers is looking online for houses and 2 out of 3 homebuyers are using the Internet to research their new home and find a real estate agent. A 2002 Realtor.org study revealed that these Internet Homebuyers spend more money and make their buying decision quicker than non-internet users. For less than price of one billboard by the highway, you have the opportunity to generate a lot of quality leads.

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How to use PunLA

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Some quick tips and tricks to get you started with the PunLA forum:

  1. PunLa installs like any other component. Simply click and upload.
  2. Login as Super-Administrator and the admin options will appear at the top of the forum.
  3. Make sure you have the correct version – PunLA (for Joomla) or PunBO (for Mambo).
  4. Only seems to work with localhost database currently.
  5. Make sure that everyone registering with your site uses the PunLA sign-up module. Unpublish the standard login module.
  6. The forum has a very clever skinning option here, although PunLA doesn’t yet guarantee that styles other than Vershire will work.
  7. Futher support for the component is provided at: http://www.punla.profbh.net.
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Web 2.0

Lately, there has been a lot of buzz about something confusingly called Web 2.0. It made its debut on the front of Time and Newsweek in March, but it still seems somewhat obscure to people I talk with. Does it come in a box? What was wrong with the old web? What’s different about this new version? Bear with me for two minutes, while I try to explain.

When I was a kid I loved to read a lot of books. Looking back I have to be honest and admit that most of them were pretty forgettable, plodding novels – I wasn’t reading "War and Peace" at the time. However, the kind I liked most were a genre called "Choose-Your-Own". At the bottom of every page, you would have a choice:

  1. If you want to jump over the cliff, go to page 64.
  2. If you will stay and fight the tiger, to go page 37.
  3. If you will swim across the shark-infested river, go to page 88.

Eventually I even started to try and write books. The less said about that the better, but you get the picture. Those old forgettable, plodding novels I read are Web 1.0. The books where I got to take control are Web 2.0. This is not a revolutionary concept at all. Having a family, playing a sport, going to a bar and meeting people Рall of these are Web 2.0, or in other words, interactive. Watching T.V., reading a book, sitting in a traffic jam – all of these are Web 1.0. The new websites that are exploding in popularity are those that allow people to interact with the web in new and useful ways. Let me give just a few examples:

Zillow.com

Ever have those flyers from Real Estate agents that say: “In the last year, 1 house was sold in your neighborhood for $150,000. The housing market is booming!”? Go to Zillow.com and you can view whole towns and cities. Every time you move your mouse over a house, its tax-assessed value appears. Most of the homes currently listed are in big cities, but the potential is easy to see.

30Boxes.com and Tadalist.com

Most business people have a calendar on the computer or PDA, but how can you share that with other people like your colleagues or family who need to know what you are doing? The answer is simple, sign up for a free group calendar at 30boxes.com or Tadalist.com, which allows you to keep group to-do lists. Both are completely free.

MySpace.com and Facebook.com

The leading tracker of big websites (Alexa.com) commented that if you go to MySpace, "you will probably walk away with the impression that it is a joke – some kind of junkyard of personal pictures, blogs and random stuff clumsily plopped on the web."

Don’t be fooled by that. In the course of two years, MySpace has gone from nothing to being among the top five websites in the world. What it does is allow people to share whatever they can put on-line. MySpace is dominated by teenagers, while Facebook is its college equivalent. Both are worth around $2 billion.

Now some people might say that Web 2.0 means that all the good domain names are gone and we are going to be stuck visiting sites like Xanga.com, RubyonRails.com. and Orkut.com. Indeed, I’d love to have a dollar for every stupidly named site that came across my screen. Others will conclude that this interaction is the future of the web and why so many people are turning off their T.V.s and spending more time online.

What does this mean for you and your website? There are some simple rules you can take from these sites:

  1. Most websites are too complex. They have too many features, too many buttons and too much to look at. Figure out what your website’s purpose is and make it as easy as possible for visitors to understand that. Web 2.0 is as much about ease of use as it is about technologically-advanced interactivity.
  2. You can piggy-back on the success of Web 2.0 sites. If you run a real estate website, why not include a little explanation about Zillow.com and then link there? Your visitors will thank you.
  3. Finally, why not start using Web 2.0 yourself? There are some excellent business tools out there, such as Basecamphq.com (Project Management), Campfirenow.com and Skype.com (chat) and Backpackit.com (organizational tools).
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Joomla URL Week Part 6 – Conclusions

Joomla URL WeekIn Parts 1 and 2 of our survey, we talked about default Joomla URLs and default Joomla SEF URLs. We decided that both were poor choices for a website.

Fortunately, over the next three days we analyzed the three components that allow you to produce Search Engine Friendly URL and found that each one offered potentially significant improvements.

Today, its time to answer the question:

"What is the best URL setup for Joomla and why?"

Continue reading “Joomla URL Week Part 6 – Conclusions”

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Joomla URL Week Part 4 – Open SEF Review

Open SEFAlthough we are reviewing OpenSEF because of its ability to create Search Engine Friendly URLs for Joomla, this extension has many more features.

 

This component is a whole suite of SEO tools that include scripts to create Google Site Maps, manage URLs for multiple sites and check for thing such as broken links, Google Page Rank and keyword density.

 

Does such a wide-ranging feature set make OpenSEF the best choice for Joomla SEO, or does it simply make it bloated? Read our review and find out….

Continue reading “Joomla URL Week Part 4 – Open SEF Review”

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