Some Clarifications On Our Lones Group Post from Friday

I wanted to clarify a couple things regarding our post on the Lones Group lawsuit on Friday.

First of all, Daniel Rothamel is a friend of Jim and mine. I can speak for both Jim and myself when I say that Daniel’s one (of many) class acts in this industry. I’ve personally never heard a negative thing uttered about him – by anyone over the course of the last five years. That said, I wrote that post for 2 reasons:

  1. I happen to think frivolous lawsuits are a crazy waste of everyone’s time and money
  2. I wanted to defend my friend Daniel from his attackers.

On point number 1, it’s my personal opinion. Nothing more. Nothing less. No good whatsoever will come from lawsuits like the one Daniel is facing now. It’s a waste of time, money, and effort for all of society to endur — and the lawyers win no matter what in the end. I would feel the same way on that subject whether or not I knew the defendant.

Regarding point number 2, think of it this way. Imagine someone ran up to your friend and sucker punched them in the stomach Ask yourself two questions. 1) Would you defend your friend? And 2) if you were talking about the matter with another friend a day later, would you give them a neutral account of the incident? I hope the answer to number 1 is yes, and absolutely know the answer to number 2 is “no”. Those who know me well know I’m loyal to a fault, and that certainly played a factor in writing the post as well.

There were some strong comments voiced by Kevin Tomlinson and a few others regarding the fact that we were bullying the Lones Group by taking a SEO angle. Everyone makes mistakes, and we’re more than happy to admit we were in the wrong if that’s the case. On careful reflection, we have decided that although we feel strongly that the post itself was well intended, the SEO comment may not have been. Thanks to all for your input and thoughts left in the comments — this is what makes social media such a powerful medium.  I  have modified the original post as a result.

What we were doing with our blog post is defending. What the Lones Group did to Daniel and his family IS bullying.

Lastly, please do contribute to the ZebraDefenseFund if you can. Our thoughts are with Daniel and his family and hope this lawsuit is laid to rest soon.

The Lones Group Trademark Infringement Suit and Brand Suicide, and Why understanding Internet Culture Matters

Obligatory Disclaimer:  I am not an attorney, in any way, shape or form.  I consider Daniel Rothamel and his family (also parties to the lawsuit I’m about to discuss) personal friends. And until today, I had never heard of The Lones Group (although I have been around the Seattle real estate scene for about 6 years). Furthermore, I have no idea if they are good at what they do – that’s not the point. Finally, what follows is simply my personal opinion.

Before l I start (my rant), a brief recap of the news that hit today — The Lones Group Inc filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Daniel Rothamel and his family brokerage, Strong Team Realtors, for infringing on their “Zebra Report” and “Zebra Blog”. Supposedly, Lones Group and Strong Team Realtors are in direct competition (even though they are 3,000 miles away) and the fact that Daniel has been known as the Real Estate Zebra for the last 5 years is “unfairly diverting business” from Lones Group. They are asking for $75,000 in damages. Here is the Inman News article: ‘Real Estate Zebra’ hit with trademark suit.

In my eyes, The Lones Group just destroyed their reputation with a single strike of their pen and a court filing on Tuesday. Unfortunately, I think it’s safe to say the Lones Group had no clue what deep public crap they’d get themselves into by filing this lawsuit against a blogger as well known and respected as Daniel Rothamel (the real Real Estate Zebra), who has hundreds and hundreds of friends (all of whom have blogs and Twitter accounts) all across the country. Doing what they just did is PURE brand suicide in today’s social media world. A single quote, link, or picture can reach millions of eyeballs within minutes. Like it or not, that is the way our intertwined world operates. Companies can operate within that framework, or cease to exist. And Lones Group is now suffering the consequences. You would think an Internet Marketing Company would know this?

FEAR of competition is completely unhealthy compared to competition itself. Here’s an idea for the Lones Group. Instead of filing a trademark lawsuit because you are scared, you should have done things SUCH AS the following:

  • Put “Zebra” in your title tag of your blog
  • Connected with a few real estate bloggers over the past 5 years in the social media space
  • Put the word “Zebra” in the header of your blog
  • Place your blog on your own domain name instead of using WordPress.com

The Lones Group  lost the online fight for the Zebra brand name (if there ever was one) in the ONLINE real estate space. The fact that someone would rather file a lawsuit rather than figure out how to settle their matter privately is a disgrace. But, hey, maybe that’s just me. To win in life and business, you’ve got to show up. And if you lose? Learn from your mistakes and move on. Don’t file a stupid lawsuit; it’s a waste of everyone’s time and money. As I’d said before, business and life comes down to execution. Daniel succeeded with branding himself. The Lones Group didn’t.

Competition should be motivation for you to get better. Not motivation for taking legal action.

Last, but not least, if you want to help Daniel defend himself, you can donate to his defense fund at ZebraDefenseFund.com. All extra proceeds will go to charity.

#savethezebra

The Virtual Results Predesigned Websites that Work Platform is Live and Ready

We’ve been working months and months on our brand new Predesigned Websites that Work platform. If you follow this blog, you know we’ve been in BETA stage for a couple months. We have about 25 people in our beta program, have worked out the kinks, and are finally ready to remove the BETA tag. We’ve talked to agents all over the country and the verdict is loud and clear; here’s what you’ve told us you you want in a WordPress real estate website offering:

WordPress: You want your website to be built on WordPress to take advantage of it’s ease of use, blogging capability, SEO friendliness, and long term flexibility.

SIMPLE: Above all, you want something that’s simple and just WORKS. You don’t want to deal with the headache of setting up & customizing WordPress.org on your own. And you want a simple interface to manage your entire site.

Beautiful, professional design: You want to make it clear to buyers and sellers that you are serious about your business. You know first impressions matter, and even more so online than in person because it’s so easy for someone to click over to someone else — and never to be “seen” again.

Built with conversion & SEO in mind: You know that if your website is not converting your traffic to leads and clients, then you’re missing out. Yes, you want a professional design, but you want a site that generates business and maximizes the chances you’ll attract organic SEO traffic if you are putting time and energy into creating unique content.

And last, but not least, you want it to be affordable.

Does this sound like you? If so, we have just the product for you. Our brand new Predesigned Websites that Work wordpress platform. For $699, we handle your website setup and it’s up and running within days with zero hassle. It’s simple, professionally designed, and built with results in mind. We manage your web presence so you can focus on what you do best — selling real estate. You’ll still want to add content to your site to generate traffic and build engagement with your audience, but we take the guesswork out of the setup, design, and activation step. Our predesigned sites have a monthly charge of $99, which covers support, automatic upgrades, security fixes, hosting, dsIDXpress, and Altos Research “lite”.

Here are a couple predesigned websites to look at:

Loribee.com – Waxhaw and Charlotte Real Estate

Lori was the absolute FIRST person we signed up for our BETA program back in late November. Her feedback and patience throughout the process has been invaluable to us along the way. Though we had to go through a few iterations of her branding (she recently switched to Allen Tate), we’re absolutely thrilled with the way her site turned out.

HomeSalesOrangeCounty.com – Laguna Beach and Orange County Real Estate

Amy Mosley & Steve Craig – This was our 2nd signup. I knew Steve and Amy from their time with YouReach Media last spring and summer (at the time, I was working for YouReach part-time). They’ve been amazingly patient with us over the past few weeks as our first “live” site sitting on an external domain. They have 2,100+ pages indexed on their domain already, which is awesome to see!

The WordPress theme you see on these two sites, which we’ve named “Under Pressure” (after the Queen song), is only the first theme on our platform. This theme is currently available in 10 different colors. We’ll be adding entirely new themes as we go, and certainly be announcing those new themes here on the VR Blog when they are released. We have a number of additional sites just about ready to unveil, but waiting for a few IDX activations & a bit more content to be added to them before showing them off.

Tech savvy agents KNOW that WordPress is the ONLY option when it comes to a complete blog and website platform. Tech savvy agents also know that when it come to WordPress, there are four options:

  • WordPress.com – free, but very limited flexibility
  • Do It Yourself WordPress.org – Frankly, we’ve really yet to see an agent pull this off and build a PROFESSIONAL looking website on their own. But feel free to try.
  • Template or Predesigned w/ Customization – price range varies from $500-$3000 depending on level of customization. And if you are dealing with a freelance designer or developer, be prepared to spend a considerable amount of time going back and forth getting the website to look the way you want it to.
  • Full custom – $5k and above

No one is telling you that you can’t learn the ins and outs of setting up and customizing WordPress; you can. But the trade off is your time. You can spend your time learning WordPress, or you can spend your time selling real estate and building your sphere. You decide what’s a better use of your time.

If you know Jim Marks or me, you know selling low quality products just to make money doesn’t get our juices flowing. We are not here to beat all our competitors with the lowest priced WordPress offering available, we’re here to knock your socks off with the best damn real estate sites available anywhere on the web. These websites ARE the best real estate website product available under $1,500. Bar none.

What are you waiting for? SIGN UP for your site here and have a professionally designed blog working & functional by Monday (*IDX approval in some areas may take longer)! You can take a look at our FAQ page and product overview if you want to learn more about the features and benefits of the predesigned websites. If you have questions beyond that, feel free to give us a call at 206-395-6338.

[Formstack id=1038639 viewkey=a7QFL4nvtR]

If you made it this far, you’re obviously somewhat interested in upgrading your website in 2011 — and we’re going to off you a special reward for reading every last word of this post. Enter the discount code “websitesthatrock” in the form above and you’ll receive $25 off the setup cost – for a limited time only.

A New Facebook Group Exclusively for Virtual Results Clients

If you are a Virtual Results client, and LOVE Facebook (who doesn’t), please join our brand new Facebook group! The group is a closed group, so you HAVE to be a Virtual Results client to be a member. This is an exclusive Facebook group for Virtual Results clients to exchange ideas, connect with each other, and keep up to speed with the latest and greatest internet marketing, social media, and website tips and tricks from the Team at Virtual Results!

ASK TO JOIN THE GROUP HERE.

Note: If you want to turn off email notifications (which are on by default) and still be part of the group, you can do so by clicking “edit settings” from the group landing page. Screen shot.

Not a Virtual Results client yet? What are you waiting for?

Now, onward…

VR Sales Q&A: SEO

The 3rd edition of our “VR Sales Q&A” is the topic of SEO (Search Engine Optimization). “Will the site SEO?” or “How good will the site rank in the search engines?” comes up on just about every call I have with an agent interested in either our predesigned websites that work or our full custom websites that work. It’s an extremely broad question that I wanted to address in further detail here. First, and I’m sorry to have to break this to you, but know that setting up a website — or moving your existing site to a new WordPress platform such as ours — by itself will not take you straight to the top of the search engines for your keywords. Most people just hear somewhere that their site “must SEO well”, but don’t have the faintest idea what that means or what to look for in a website provider to maximize (not guarantee) the chances of that happening. Some actually believe that a website provider can guarantee top placement in the search engines, which is completely bogus.

The short answer to the question of whether Virtual Results websites “SEO well” is as follows: we’ll provide you a highly SEO-optimized site to use as the underlying structure for your SEO efforts going forward. Without a website with solid onsite SEO to link build against, your linkbuilding time is likely being wasted. With a predesigned or custom website that works, you just have to being plug in your content to your new site and go! For those who really want to better understand SEO, I’ve included some additional commentary below.

Ranking well in Google (and other search engines) comes down to two primary areas — onsite seo and offsite seo. Here is some further background on each of those areas, and how Virtual Results thinks about each one.

Onsite SEO – Onsite SEO involves everything on your website that you (or your webmaster) can control such as URL structure, internal linking, title tags, H1 tags, domain age, meta tags, and redirects (among other things). Wordpress by itself is 70% of what Google is looking for in terms of site structure, and Virtual Results takes the site the other 30%. We build each and every web site with SEO in mind; it’s core to what we do. While great onsite SEO will certainly help your site rank highly, great onsite SEO by itself won’t instantaneously shoot you to the top of the rankings — you still need offsite SEO, particularly for ranking for competitive keywords.

Offsite SEO – This entails everything OFF of your domain, with the primary component being link building. There are no short cuts to getting other websites to link to your site, it requires knowing other website owners, getting your name out there as an expert, and creating fantastic content that attracts links naturally. One important thing to note is that all links are NOT created equal. The same way you’ll get more recognition if Oprah says you are the greatest agent on the planet than if your friend Susie down the street does, a link from a prominent site like CNN or Yahoo will give you considerably more SEO value than a link from JoeRealtor.com across town. Aside from guiding you in the right direction in terms of suggestions to build links or ideas for topics to write about, offsite SEO services are not part of either one of our website packages.

That said, we provide world class SEO services, but it’s an additional monthly expense beyond building a website. If you’re interested in learning more about the SEO services we offer, please fill out our contact form and we’ll get back to you.

Search Engine Optimization is an extremely broad subject that I could write about for hours — and still not 100% explain in that time period. If you have specific questions, please leave them in the comments or email me at drew at virtualresults dot net.

VR Sales Q&A (Predesigned and Custom): Traffic Acquisition

Our next edition of VR Sales Q&A is the question of traffic acquisition. In other words, once a website is setup, how do you get traffic to it? Even if you have the best converting website on the planet, you still need traffic to convert to leads and clients. When speaking to agents, I generally tell them traffic acquisition breaks down into three primary areas:

1) Organic SEO traffic – The best approach to attracting organic SEO traffic is to pump out lots and lots (and lots) of unique content over an extended period of time, and do a good job of cross linking internally between blog posts and landing pages. And simultaneously build a number of backlinks to your domain. Great content will naturally attract links from other bloggers, but networking with other bloggers is a great way to build links over the long run. This is a long term strategy; if you stick with this strategy for an extended period of time, it will pay off — but do not expect to start blogging tomorrow and generating significant traffic (and leads) in the first few months. You can pay for SEO services if you want to speed up the process.

2) Paid traffic (via Google Adwords or other methods) – If you have a website that converts traffic to leads at a high enough percentage, you can make a living from paid traffic. There are numerous sources of paid traffic, the most common being Google Adwords campaigns.

3) Market your site offline – bring your existing offline sphere online to your website, and engage them with market reports, home search, and community news and information. Put your URL on your business cards, letterhead, your email signature, and everywhere else!

Questions? Leave them in the comments!