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This brief video walks you through setting up a WordPress site, installing a custom theme, optimizing WordPress options and using Plugin’s to automatically generate an XML Sitemap, Create a Contact Form, Submit your site to the Google Index and track your traffic with Google Analytics. Created by WebsitesDirect.ca. Music from incompetech.com
In 2013 the restaurant industry in North America spent nearly USD $6.5 Billion on advertising, McDonald’s alone making up an estimated 15.5% or $998 Million. So why aren’t the hours of operation for the location down the street from our office available on Google Maps?
Through my own sales prospecting, I have encountered (and worked with) countless franchise owners. I’m talking about all industries – Food, Gas and Private Education to name a few. While the supply arrangements, royalty payments and corporate involvement normally varies widely from company to company, there is nearly always an expectation of promotional campaigns and materials supplied by the parent corporation.
Large chains spend heavily on TV Commercials, continual redesigns of websites, promoting special offers and contests and hiring staff to monitor and respond to the public conversation on social media pages. This is all great stuff, the kinds of things that get you out of bed for a Whopper in the middle of the night. But why do the Google+, and other business directory listings for franchise locations continue to go unsupported?
Any small business owner (who’s spoken to me anyways) knows that you have to create, claim and manage your businesses directory listings. For established businesses the listings usually already exists, and may even come with a history of (hopefully good) reviews from the public.
Claiming or creating your listings is easy to do yourself, and should be very inexpensive to contract out the management to a local freelancer. Google, Yelp, HotFrog, YellowPages and others will usually provide a link on an unclaimed ad which will take you through the account sign up and business verification. In the case of Google, you’ll get a postcard in the mail with a secret code that will confirm you are actually associated with the business.
Once you have control, update EVERYTHING! Current Specials, Share Coupons, marketing materials from your corporation and UPDATE YOUR BUSINESS HOURS! I know, you’re thinking this is a waste of time, hardly anyone will look at these ads and this is all available on the corporate website. The time has long passed to change this type of thinking, and here is why: cellphones.
Remember: Nothing will make your local customers madder than your store being closed when your ads say you’re open. Make sure to update holidays and check everything for accuracy.
Android and iOS make up a currently estimated 93% market share for smartphones (Microsoft Windows Phone 8.1 and BlackBerry making up most of the remainder). Since 93% of users have access to either Siri or Google Now, why wouldn’t you want to get in to their phones, free of charge? The number of local checks for food, convenience stores, gas and other daily purchases is utterly astounding, but what’s really amazing is that it is 100% free to direct these peoples own devices to tell them to come patronize your business.
How many people really look at these ads though? Lots, and more and more every month, in fact. Consumers keep getting updated phones, and manufacturers are always releasing new software, trying to get the competitive edge in usability. The simple fact is that Google and Apple have been developing and investing in these powerful search methods is proof enough – YOU MUST CLAIM AND MANAGE YOUR PROFILE!
Having an active profile page on Google+ is your #1 best bang for your buck. It’s just as important as a website, really. Having current contact info, encouraging reviews from your customers and letting the public know when you open and close will let the app user know that you are there, want their business and have a good enough reputation to be in their phone (people actually do trust Siri’s tips for where to find a good burger).
Here’s a tip: Apply these tips to your referral marketing strategy. Creating your own website instead of simply sharing your referral link and engaging the public through social media is easy and effective!
Ask us how
Think of it like this – some chains have thousands of franchises to manage, plus national advertising campaigns to think about. The local stuff is best left to the local owner and management teams. Since you are the ones seeing your customers every day, why not take the first step at reaching out through your local social network. The last thing you need is your competitor franchisee or general manager down the street getting your sales!
The continuing evolution of small business web marketing strategies has shown a steady move towards the high-tech for the last several years.
2008 – 2010 showed us an explosion in the numbers of small businesses launching and leaving cheap 3 page websites with the simple function of having something on the internet, whether anyone sees it or not.
2011 and 2012 were definitely the year of Adsense, everyone from college students to stay at home moms were starting a blog and setting up an Ad account to get their $8k/month. Unfortunately most went by the wayside, seeing just sparse content updates until their domains expired, a result of discouragement after Google went on a rampage seeding out and cancelling accounts who use fake traffic sending services.
2013 and 2014 saw a surge in hosted do it yourself website builders (often free of charge with as little as a domain purchase), social media account creations and blog setups. WordPress made it especially easy to a novice to setup, customize and maintain a blog. Blog’s with rich sources of interesting content easily found success by having their posts shared across Social Media accounts. Low cost packages including a Website, Blog and Social Media setup started popping up all over the place, but a large number of small business owners still opted to take the DIY approach.
The result of small business owners building their own sites has been a huge cash influx for companies like Go-Daddy, NetFirms and BlueHost. Cheap shared hosting and domain names get snatched up for small business owners to experiment with all the best tips for promoting a business organically on Google, Yahoo and Bing. Not to say that many don’t hire freelancers or web design students to complete web design work, the vast majority still attempt to setup and manage their online presence personally and manually.
Your key to success in 2015 is simple – make it easy and seamless for your customers and prospects to find your business, no matter which platform they want to find you on. It was acceptable for a business to promote their chosen social media outlets, and simply not mention the ones that aren’t used, but the current state of social media traffic makes it clear that you must make all of your content available on all popular platforms to eliminate alienating your next buyer.
The solution is simple – combine your blog and your website, perhaps with a refresh of your look. Remember to have a standalone blog page, allow subscribers and comments and post links and excerpts from recent articles on your top trafficked pages for best results. As you churn out new content, use your website as the launching ground, and subscribe to a service (or have a web developer build a solution) that will automatically and instantly syndicate your blog posts to your social media accounts. If built properly, Google will quickly increase their crawl rates to your site. Ensuring proper page title, keywords and descriptions will yield great results in your organic search position for utilized keywords and lower your bounce rate (ie. Keep people on your site reading – AND BUYING!).
You should be budgeting at least your cash surplus from your next three sales for a properly planned and implemented strategy. Remember hosting and domain name are ongoing expenses, but can often be discounted if you purchase multiple years.
Tip: Use this worksheet to get the true cost or return on investment, numbers are representative only:
Total Cost of Project (c): $500
Average Profit per closed sale (p) : $50
Clients Needed to pay for project ( c /p ) : 10
Check the work of the person you’re going to hire and ask yourself if this company (or individual) can get you enough new customers to make it worth spending the money.
What it comes down to is whether you’re hiring a web designer or doing it yourself, 2015 will be the year that divides the small business marketing strategies that succeed from those that will fade away. You don’t always get back what you put in to a marketing campaign, especially when you’re counting time investment, but if you keep your customers actions and interests in mind it should be easy to adjust your efforts to maximize word of mouth and social media sharing.
Every small business owner, or dreamer, has done it. Come up with a brilliant product or value filled service, created a bullet-proof business plan, then sat down to learn how to set up a website with little or no budget.
Endless pages of information about generator software, coding, content management platforms and domain name servers can seem overwhelming. You know your business needs a website, but you don’t have the budget to hire a development company. Here’s a few tips on how to get a solid website running, by yourself, quickly and painlessly.
First, you need somewhere to save your website files to, and a URL for your customers to type in. For simplicity sake, I will go ahead and recommend a hosting/domain plan from WebsitesDirect.ca. For just $135 per year you get all of this taken care of. Other plans are available from hosting companies, but be weary of cheap shared hosting from the big guys – you will not enjoy the security provided by a Virtual Private or Dedicated Server. Your web host should give you instructions on how to set up email accounts, and complete the next step.
Second, you need to create the pages of information that will inform your customers and assist in closing your sales. The old way was to write long HTML documents, making sure they were all properly linked together. Step in to the present, and use a tool like Softalicious or Fantastico to install a content management system (like WordPress) in the root (home) directory of your hosting account. A few clicks, choose a password, and bingo! You have a full featured website up and running on your new domain.
Third, your website is up and running, but it looks pretty bland, and doesn’t have any content. Make use of the Content Management tools to choose an open source theme that fits the look you’re going for, and start creating pages and posts. WordPress gives a neat feature in the “Reading Settings” that lets you have a default home page as your most recent blog posts, or you can set a “Static” page, typing in and inserting your content via the easy to use WYSIWYG editor (markup text is also a supported view, for those more code-inclined).
Fourth, use your GMail account to get you in to Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools. Verification is easy by adding a line of code, entering your private key into a Plugin (Plugins are bits of code packaged for automatic installation to your site, and will be covered in our next article) or by uploading a file to your server. Google Analytics will track your visitors, while Webmaster Tools will allow you to submit a Site Map and review keyword performance .
Your end result will be an easy to use website for your customers, created by you, with all the information your customers need neatly posted for their digestion.
You may find that you have a knack for it, and enjoy it, or may end up hiring help. Regardless of your comfort level with marketing your business online, it is possible to promote yourself quickly and cost effectively using open source platforms.
This article is your comprehensive guide to scheduling and budgeting your Small Business Website and Marketing Projects. We are going to cover your web campaign from the first steps of planning and hiring a web designer, to releasing news, updates and promoting your site via social media.
Building a Website from Scratch
Lots of small business owners are taking on the responsibility of designing a new website. The strategy varies, based on individual experience and research, but the amount of time invested can be vast. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen 3 different drafts of a website which hasn’t even been launched yet, all developed on different platforms! Really doing your research here, and deciding which content management solutions offers the richest set of features and plug-in’s for your business to use and grow with will be the #1 time-saving tip you’ll read about in this post. You need to be sure that you’re choosing a widely accepted and serviced platform, like WordPress, Joomla and Drupal and popular E-Commerce Platforms.
Remember, using most Web2.0 CMS Platforms separates the content and design/layout of your website! You can choose to prepare all of your content in a word processor to hand over to a web designer who will put the design and content together for you!
Building your own website, including research and learning, should take between 2 and 4 weeks.
Choosing a Web Designer
This topic heading should definitely be in its own post, or set of posts, or encyclopedia. Setting aside the oversea’s impersonal super cheap cookie cutter firms and the Kijiji and Craigslist scammers preying on small business owners,there are a few things that will make you click well with most web designers.
Any good web designer wants to help you and your business achieve your goals, so be upfront about what you are in need of accomplishing. If you have a budget constraint that will hold you back from setting up your dream website, let developers know upfront both what you need and how much you can spend – now and down the road. You will be presented with itemized schedule release plans for web development – from anybody worth hiring anyways.
Check pages given as references for some evidence that the website was actually built by the designer you are considering hiring. This can be a link back to the designer’s own website, or perhaps a quick call to the the number listed online to verify the information you’ve been provided.
Be as descriptive as possible, and provide examples, of layout, colours and features you need included in your website.
If you are requesting a price based on you completing some of the work, have it ready promptly. The web designer you hire, and give a deposit to, is generally on the hook for providing you a complete website by a given date. If you have requested a certain date for launch, and requested a lower price based on logos, graphics, e-commerce items and text being provided by you, don’t be surprised if your deposit expires when you don’t have your material ready by the agreed date. Your web designer has most likely built or customized a content management platform for your business, and shouldn’t be expected to hold your hand or continually ask for content that has not been submitted. If you don’t have the time, don’t agree to provide content!
A web developer should provide a comprehensive estimate which outlines turnaround times. The average should be between 1 and 2 weeks.
Updates, Promotion and Social Media
Promoting your website, keeping it up to date and managing social media accounts sound like very different things – but can be easily streamlined into an easy to use system. Sign up for a service like Hootsuite or ask your developer to create a system that is easy and effective, tailored to your business needs and seamless for users, no matter how they follow you.
Remember, whether you’re buildingyour own website or hiring a web designer, keep yourself informed, look at your options by utilizing search engines, and be sure to get atleast 3 quotes. Don’t just look at prices, be sure that you understand what you will get and when you will get it!
Keeping your website current and fresh means more than creating new blog posts occasionally. The following tips will give many a deeper understanding of the different, sometimes invisible indicators that website work is required.
It might seem like just yesterday you went through the motions of having a website created for your small business, but all too often business owners adopt the cycle of buying a new website for X amount of dollars, and paying for hosting to the web designer for the life of the site, but not updating the content or look for months or years at a time.
The first point on this list applies universally, and is the #1 red flag that you must overhaul your company’s website.
1. Not on a Web2.0 platform
Most small businesses who set up a website between 2000 and 2005 (and for years before and after) hired somebody who wrote straight HTML, CSS, Java and ASP, or used a design program like Adobe Dreamweaver or Microsoft Frontpage. A solid site built on plain vanilla HTML 3+ just cannot compete on an SEO level with modern PHP based platforms like WordPress, Joomla and Drupal. The features natively supported by the big open-source content management systems has become so robust, that out of the box websites are equipped with everything needed to publish an easily usable, updatable, redesignable marketing tool for your small business. Mixed with the plugin repositories growing nearly as quickly as the Google Play Store, you have very inexpensive, feature rich and user friendly websites being set up by your competition.
When you set up your website, did you notice a slow rise in business which has recently tapered off? Depending on your business this could mean fewer quotation requests, less e-commerce conversions, or less subscribers. If a once solid performing website is now no longer a generator of business leads, contact a web designer immediately! Your website simply needs a refresh. Hopefully you’ve been on Google Analytics or another traffic tracker that can lay out daily, weekly, monthly and annual trends in visitor behaviors, that will illustrate your needs in an easy to understand manner. The exact cause of traffic drops can range from stale content that has become repetitious in nature or your competitors marketing of their own websites simply besting your own efforts, to more serious issues such as malware infection or other poor web reputation problems for your business.
3. Ease of Use
Ease of use is a prett broad term, but to the customer it shows that you both understand your business and care about your customers. A website with broken images, difficult to follow alignment/formatting, spelling mistakes and 404 pages popping up on multiple links does not foster an image of professionalism to prospective customers. Any issues that are causing your website from looking and acting anything less than perfect need to be resolved. A great tip to ponder after you’re done sharing this article – are you consistently asked the same questions by your customers? If so, get those answers online!
4. Anonymous Email use for business
You bought www.yourcompany.com and have renewed it year after year, your website is working, but your email address is still firstname.lastname@example.org. Nothing turns a buyer off like getting a business card, and seeing a hotmail, gmail, yahoo or other free email provider’s domain name. Move yourself, and your staff, over to professional, personalized @yourcompany.com email addresses. Your image as an organized, up to date business will improve dramatically.
5. Social Media Indicators
A good social media campaign starts with a good website. Your customers will find your website before your social page about 75% of the time, but more customers will receive news from your Facebook, Twitter and Google+ accounts than those subscribing directly to your website, or signing up for your newsletter. Your social media accounts need to convey all the same information as your website, have regular contact with followers, promptly respond to inquiries posed to the social account, and have a growing base of followers. If any of these parts of your social machine fall short, you need to devote a bit more time to a system that works for your schedule, or consider assigning social media duty to an employee.
Your website’s look, feel, load time, performance and associated social media pages are all great ways to take a pulse on how the public sees your company – if you know the signs to look for! Keep up to date with hot tips to market your small business, or if you’ve already decided that it’s time for you – get your web designer on the phone.
Remember, every dollar spent on your website is a dollar invested in the future of your business!
Most would say trying to push out an article grouping small business marketing for all types of businesses goes against everything they taught you in business school, and you’re right, but this article is really not about your business, whatever that is, but how your business is perceived by your audience – your sales prospects!
Whether you run a landscaping company, law office, photography studio or you’re just looking to paint houses in your spare time – there are a few things ingrained in every single one of your potential clients that will push them to pursue a quote from your business, or not.
Free classified listings are the obvious place to post ad’s for products and services that people use, but obvious is not always the way to go. You can spend hours posting the same ad’s to the same sites, just to end up with the same result eveytime – you have ad’s on page 30 viewed 4 times with no responses (other than webdesigners and other services trying to sell to you).
I have encountered countless small business owners that I have not been able to convince to set up an easy to use, multi-platform social media system. Projecting a professional image to your current and future customer base is as simple as staying in touch with them, and they key to bringing the business in is consistency. Let all your customers know what you’re offering no matter how they find you or through which channel they follow you.
Sounds like a lot of work? Well you do not have to hire a full time staff to manage a multi-platform campaign anymore. Keeping your customers up to date is as simple as posting once on your website and letting software syndicate to everyone who follows you. Autoposting to a huge audience sounds like alot more fun than copying and pasting to kijiji to me!
If you’re diligent with quality content your audience, and sales, will grow. Just remember – nothing makes a customer laugh harder, or run faster, than seeing a twitter account with a total of 3 tweets from 2 years ago.
How to get Customer Testimonials
This one is so simple, but everyone either forgets or is too shy – ASK! When you finish a job and the customer is happy it is easier, but making an easy to use channel for clients to leave feedback (and actually asking them to use it) not only gets you those valuable testimonials, but lets your prospects know that you can be contacted. An open forum, or commenting system, is a little more gutsy, but has an even stronger effect. Encourage people to ask questions before buying, you may find trends of similar questions that will help you hone your marketing materials to better educate your prospect, and make closing the sale that much easier.
Defeating Skepticism Upfront
If you’re not prepared for skeptics, you will never be able to convince them to buy from you. You stand by your products and services, so show the world what you can do! They say if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, so show them it isn’t by having Pictures, Video and Samples readily available on your website. Be upfront about pricing, don’t hide it at the end of your pitch. If your work is of a custom nature, let people know upfront what the process of buying from you looks like start to finish, from quoting and deposit requirements to implementation, maintenance and warranty. Everybody likes to know that all the information they need is available, so give it to them on your website!
Tying this all together can be alot of work, especially if it is your first time. It may be well worth the fee of a freelance consultant or marketing company to help you build a system that lets customers (and if done properly, search engines) know who you are, what you do, and that you are here to stay.