Sales FAQ: That "Ownership" Thing…

We’ve received a few questions recently from potential clients asking about the “ownership” of a Virtual Results website. The concern is that they will be tied to a hosting provider and fall prey to monthly fees for eternity. Luckily, and purposely, that’s not the case with Virtual Results. We want clients that WANT to be on our platform..not clients tied to monthly contracts or held hostage by inaccessibility to their data.

Here is a layout of the “ownership” of your website so everyone is 100% clear (the answers vary slightly between a full custom and a predesigned):

  1. The Domain Name: You own
  2. Content: You own all the content you put into the site
  3. The design: Full custom: You own. Predesigned: We own.
  4. The WordPress instance: Full custom: You own. Predesigned: We own.

In terms of SEO, your domain and your content are your long term assets. Whether you have a full custom or a predesigned, you never have to worry about losing either one of those. As you likely know, WordPress.org is an open source platform. If you ever want to move to another host from one of our predesigned sites, you can export/import your content using standard WordPress functionality and be on your way. Sure, you will have to pay someone for a new design, but the reason we can offer our predesigns at such affordable rates is because there is shared maintenance and design between sites. If you are 100% committed to “owning” your design and the actual underlying WordPress instance, you’ll need to go with a full custom.

Keep in mind that, in order for your website to convert traffic to leads, it needs to have an IDX and other conversion tools. 60-70% of consumers that end up on an agent/broker site are looking for listings. If you don’t give them that functionality? They will bounce and never come back. Regardless of what website provider you work with or even if you build your site yourself (check the ROI before undertaking that), you will have a monthly hosting bill. We know the sum of the parts of our monthly packages purchased separately will be more expensive than buying them as a package from us — and in the process, you get access to our expertise. We think that’s a win-win for everyone involved.

Want to discuss further? Give us a call. 888-99-RESULTS

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Sales FAQ: dsIDXpress vs dsSearchAgent

I think you all know that every real estate website needs a great IDX to enable visitors to your website to answer the question of “what’s for sale?” (still what 60-70% of people are looking for). We get asked a lot about the differences between the IDX products available on our predesigned platform – dsIDXpress and dsSearchAgent (both from Diverse Solutions). This is a question I answer on almost every sales call with a potential client, so I thought I’d take a few minutes to detail my answer so that maybe (hopefully) I’ll have to answer it fewer times on the phone.

dsIDXpress

Most of you are likely aware of the fact that depth of content on a given domain are one of many factors that go into SEO. That said, dsIDXpress is one of the best SEO tools I have ever seen. Many agent websites have been around for years and years and have fewer than 200 pages indexed on their site. Think of pages as easter eggs in Google. In any easter egg hunt, wouldn’t you rather have 2,000 eggs for people to find rather than only 200? That’s what I thought. With dsIDXpress, you instantly  have a “page” for every single listing in your MLS integrated directly into your site, as well as pages for every city, community, and tract listed in the MLS. Many of our clients have over 1,000 pages (aka easter eggs) indexed within a few months — largely due to this plugin.

The plugin also gives you the ability to insert both individual listings as well as lists of listings directly into any post or page on your site. It can certainly handle basic searches for listings (try a search on one of our sites like MaryBaldwinHomes.com), but it does not include a full map search with search filters, nor does it include forced registration or saved searches.

You can view an example of a dsIDXpress city page for Brandon, South Dakota here, and an individual property details page here.

dsSearchAgent + dsSearchAgent Mobile

I can confidently say you’re going to want dsSearchAgent once you build a bit of traffic on your domain. Simply put, the vast vast majority of your conversions are going to happen as part of your IDX — and dsSearchAgent has the conversion tools built in to increase your conversion rates. Want to enable forced registration before visitors can see any listings, or let someone do 5 searches and then have to register? Do you want a full map search with all the filters you can think of to compete with the Zillow’s and Realtor.com’s of the world? Want to enable people to do saved searches? Want to enable your visitors to browse sold listings? Want search by WalkScore on your site? Want to view what people are searching for on your site? Want lead alerts, an integrated CRM, and traffic statistics on your IDX? Want a mobile optimized browser experience?

If the answer is YES to any or all of those questions, you need dsSearchAgent (which comes with dsSearchAgent Mobile).

Here are two examples of dsSearchAgent on our predesigned platform: RobinBenjamin.com and SanDiegoEquityFacts.com

Hope that helps clear up some of the confusion between these two awesome IDX products. You can learn more about Diverse Solutions on their website, and you can view our monthly plans for our predesigned platform here. Questions? Leave them in the comments, and I’m sure the Diverse Solutions staff will be monitoring the conversation.

Sales FAQ: Future Website Updates & Changes – How Does that Work?

How do future website updates and changes work on the predesigned websites that work platform?

This is one question we’ve been asked by several agents/brokers over the last week so I wanted to address it here (remember, every question you get asked more than 3 times should be a blog post).

First of all, “updates” and “changes” are two very different things. Part of what you get with your monthly hosting plan is instant access to the improvements we make on the platform – which we’ll call “updates”. When we add new home page design options, page layouts, plugins, and onsite SEO – you have instant access to those new features.

“Changes” to your website are a little different. The short answer to the how do changes work question is “it depends”. I know, not exactly the simple answer you wanted – but website changes can range anywhere from editing a single word on a single page (easy) to changing the entire design layout to support a new search box (not easy). Some changes you can do yourself, others we’ll have to do, and some cannot be done at all on the predesigned platform. Here’s a quick rundown of the most common changes and which category they fall under:

Changes Done by You:

  • Adding or removing content – posts, pages, communities, associates, listings, etc
  • Editing content already published on the site
  • Changing the widgets on your sidebar (but remember – if a widget will not help traffic or conversion, don’t add it)
  • Changing site settings from your WordPress dashboard
  • Adding Google Analytics tracking
  • Verification of Google Apps

Changes Done by Us (free):

  • Activating one of our approved plugins
  • Adding the embed code for a script widget such as Market Snapshot or Market Mapper to a page or sidebar widget
  • Flipping the switch to show “featured communities” instead of your blog on the bottom of the home page. If you’re wondering what the featured communities home page component looks like, you can take a look at Marianne Whyte’s website.

Changes Done by Us (paid):

  • Redesigning the header

Changes not possible on the Predesigned Platform:

  • Editing CSS/PHP code
  • Placing special scripts on your home page
  • Changing the layout of your site outside of the framework available (such as changing from 1 to 2 sidebars, the size of the header, etc)
  • Changing the search criteria included on our custom search boxes
  • Adding meta tags to the home page to verify external services (with exception of Google Apps verification)

Hope that helps explain this topic. If you have specifics not covered here, leave a comment please. And if you have other questions about our Predesigned Websites that Work, let us know.

Sales Q&A: Why Buy A Custom Website that Works

Why a Custom? Because your market is custom. Because your prospects are custom. Because your sphere is custom. And because YOU are one of a kind.

Shouldn’t your website be?

Virtual Results custom sites exude your brand. They allow Virtual Results to express who you are and why you rock. You are successful for a reason. You need to tell the world why you are better, faster, smarter, bolder and unique.

Our custom websites are not 100% custom. They are BETTER than 100% custom. We work with you to learn your brand and combine it with our knowledge, based on MILLIONS of clicks, of what works…and what doesn’t.

You see… YOU are great at Real Estate (or you wouldn’t be hiring us) and we are great at creating websites that convert traffic to leads. When we combine your knowledge with ours? Bingo. WE ROCK. We each have a job in the process… YOUR JOB is to ensure we understand and create a website that reflects your brand. OUR JOB, is Internet Marketing… We will ensure that your wants and needs don’t break the conversion of our expertly designed architecture, mind map and Call to Actions.

You know the Real Estate Consumer and WE know the Internet Consumer. Perfect partnership. Nothing is left to chance. Each word, placement and page is thought out and tested…

Virtual Results custom websites are not cheap. But if your business has brought you to the point where you need to move to the next level and show your market you are the thought leader? Our custom websites are the perfect solution.

Ready to get started? We’re standing by…

See Examples of Our Work

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!

VR Sales Q&A (Predesigned Websites that Work): What's Included for $99 per Month?

I’ve talked to a number of real estate agents with regards to the predesigned websites that work product offering we’re about to release. One of the questions that comes up over and over is “What’s included for $99 per month?“. First, let me preface the answer by saying this — you get what you pay for. Virtual Results builds high quality products that work; we don’t build subpar website products that don’t produce results. A big reason that I ended up working with Jim Marks at Virtual Results is that he cares more about building great products than everyone else in this industry. Our goal at Virtual Results is not to build products just to have something to sell to real estate professionals; our goal is to build the best damn real estate products on the web — and I think our high standards are apparent by looking at any of the custom sites we’ve built over the last few years (Gellens, San Diego Castles, San Francisco Real Estate Services, Rancho Sante Fe Community Home Finder, Sergio Banks). So, can you go setup a WordPress site and pay less than $99 a month? Yes. But does that mean you should? Not necessarily.

Without further adieu, here is what’s included for $99 a month when you sign up for a Virtual Results predesigned website:

  • Laser Fast Web Hosting – We’ve got a killer server setup that means your website will always load fast and won’t go down in the middle of a listing presentation.
  • dsIDXpress (from Diverse Solutions) – this is an extremely powerful WordPress plugin that provides fully indexable property listings on your domain, as well as home search functionality. It is largely due to dsIDXpress that some agent and broker sites have over 20,000 indexed pages (screen shot). Learn more about dsIDXpress here.
  • Altos Research “Lite” – Easy to use WordPress plugins that allow you to easily populate your website up to date market statistics, with integrated lead capture capabilities. Altos “Lite” provides access to market data for 4 ZIP codes. Learn more about Altos Research here.
  • Support – Access to “Geek Estate Pro”, a new internet marketing and WordPress community for tech savvy real estate professionals with a special section dedicated to resolving Virtual Results client questions. As a Virtual Results client, you’ll also have access to email and phone support should you need it.
  • Automatic updates & backups – We handle all WordPress core and plugin upgrades so you don’t have to worry about maintaining your WordPress instance and getting hacked. We backup your data so you don’t have to worry about losing it to a technical glitch.
  • Platform improvements – Part of what you get for the $99 monthly fee is continual upgrades to our WordPress website platform and access to new themes as we release them. The website you start with is not going to be the same website you have 2 years from now. In two years, it’ll be much much better with new features, functionality, and conversion tools.
  • A world class design and development team managing your website. We’ve been doing this a long time, and we know how to build websites that work.

If you want to sign up for a predesigned website that works, you can fill out the form located here.

If you have other questions about Virtual Results products or services you’d like answered, please drop me a note at drew at virtualresults dot net (or on Twitter @drewmeyers) and I’m happy to answer them (either publicly or privately).