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Box web solution versus self-hosted website: Rent versus own?

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Virtually on a daily basis we’re asked directly if a self-hosted real estate website is better than an out of box solution such as Active Rain or Posterous, and we directly answer, practically speaking, it is a rent versus own debate.

The setup

This debate spans back as many as five years as I’m aware and probably longer as msn blogs and other major brands offered this type of solution even before that. Personally, I’m not opposed to sites that offer this type of solution at all. I’m sure you’re shocked, but you have to look at boxed solutions for what they are. Simply put, they’re networks, or evolving networks in the case of Posterous. They’re also better results for your name in search terms when you consider you may be competing with many many Bob Smiths for a first page result in Google, or God forbid your name is Justin Timberlake. These solutions seen as networks are a choice, the same as Twitter versus Facebook. But who says you can only have one?

Let’s play Monopoly

The cons to a solution for your direct business however, is tantamount to depending on your Facebook fan page to be your business website. It is in fact only truly one facet of a complete web strategy. Links from your Facebook fan page should pull (push outward) to your actual business solution, what we would consider the actual web property that you own, not rent.

Being in control of your business in every possible way is critical when you consider cost of investment. It’s more than an ability to add a personalized domain name, in fact, that’s the least of your worries. What you as a real estate practitioner should be concerned with is the ability to control completely the presentation of content along with strategic capture solutions.

Another con is that your social web presences are in fact at the mercy of the provider. A inadvertent infraction could render your account suspended and deleted in most cases with very little remedy. You’re also at the mercy of network failures beyond your control with not a peep from your provider. Have you ever seen a 1-800 number for Google or Facebook? I haven’t, and you won’t, unless you’re paying for service. Free solutions also have a habit of becoming not free anymore, or ad supported. You may be able to pay your way out of ad support, but the service is no longer free. It begins to get even more insane when you’ve been with a network for years, have years of content generated, only to find it behind a pay wall. Depressing, right?

Questions you’re asking yourself

In your position asking the question of rent versus own, I would consider your budget. If your budget is zero as a new agent, then obviously, there’s a lot you can do with a free solution when you consider that having some web presence is better than none, and having a presence within some or all new media spaces (ie. ActiveRain, Posterous) is a positive. Ultimately, however, as a business owner you should be working towards a solution that is completely within your control. Your SEO is critical to your success, and specificity within your community as a result is crucial.

So again, out of the box solutions put in the proper perspective are advantageous tools for the real estate agent, but what is even more advantageous is your ability to scale your brand. As your business grows, as does your service offering with innovative search, and strategic marketing capture.

Scaling your business

The ability to add pages to your site and actually grow teams or even a brokerage come into play as a necessity as well. For example, do you have the ability to create a team page with all of the members of your team? Can you add the latest and greatest in IDX, or go even further with a full on consumer facing search solution? Can you partition the box solution for buyers and sellers? Or are you limited to only a forward facing blog site with no landing page to direct traffic? In some markets standard forward facing blogs under perform in comparison to general landing pages. Meeting the needs and level of your demographic is crucial to your success as a brand in the realm of conversion.

I know in our profession that the rent versus own debate is simple when we present it to our home buyers and sellers, but sometimes I wonder if we listen to our own advice and guidance? In most cases it boils down to the cobblers kid, doesn’t it?

Question for our savvy commentators

I pose this question to the self-hosted readers of AgentGenius Magazine: What are the pros and cons you to see to the rent versus own debate?

Benn Rosales is the Founder and CEO of The American Genius (AG), national news network for tech and entrepreneurs, proudly celebrating 10 years in publishing, recently ranked as the #5 startup in Austin. Before founding AG, he founded one of the first digital media strategy firms in the nation and also acquired several other firms. His resume prior includes roles at Apple and Kroger Foods, specializing in marketing, communications, and technology integration. He is a recipient of the Statesman Texas Social Media Award and is an Inman Innovator Award winner. He has consulted for numerous startups (both early- and late-stage), has built partnerships and bridges between tech recruiters and the best tech talent in the industry, and is well known for organizing the digital community through popular monthly networking events. Benn does not venture into the spotlight often, rather believes his biggest accomplishments are the talent he recruits, develops, and gives all credit to those he's empowered.

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16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. James Malanowski

    July 9, 2010 at 1:24 am

    With the cost of web hosting being so cheap it is foolish not to own your content. AR and others have their place but everything should lead back to the source … your own hub.

  2. Ken Brand

    July 9, 2010 at 7:39 am

    I agree with the “own your own” philosophy. Which, fundamentally is about controlling your own Personal Brand, and independence.

    Like everything else of value, it will cost you more. Maybe a little more money if you can DIY, more if you have to hire help to get yourself set up and running. More time as you learn how to navigate, and populate your new HQ.

    My 2cents added to an informative article.

    Cheers

  3. Matthew Rathbun

    July 9, 2010 at 8:43 am

    Benn,

    I like the entire framework of this post (25 points, please)… Seriously I do like the way you setup the question and made me think a bit.

    Benefits (for me) of Self Hosted:

    ~I went self-hosted because I’m a control-freak.

    ~I don’t think you can truly understand anything until you’ve tinkered with it and seen it develop from the ground up.

    ~I don’t have to worry about adding content for a few years and then the hosting site start to charge me to keep up with it

    ~If I don’t like the layout, I have total control to redevelop and relaunch in a different direction

    ~I add my self-hosted content to Posterous and the rest, but ultimately I try to make my blogs the hub for all the other channeled material. Posterous and others help build a following to my site and not the other way around.

  4. Sophia

    July 9, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    I think its less about brand and more about asking what it actually is that you want from your page.
    I read a report recently that said that even the big guys only have a 2-3% conversion rates on their websites and for the average real estate business this wouled be closer to 1%.

    Having an all singing, all dancing website is fantastic, but what you really want is lead generation, so you can start the relationship that leads to a sale. Landing pages (which you could have in wordpress or using software like Open Road or Freedomsoft) just do the job better. Clear, direct calls to action focus the propsect and makes it far more likely to become a lead (the same report said conversion rates for landing pages are closed to 20-40%).

    It also depends on whether you are looking to have your page purely as information or you are looking to make online sales. If you are not looking for online lead generation, I would reconsider to be honest! If you are really determined to have your own site self made I would advise a couple of things.

    -really, really know what you want, I wanted a website which had a matching component within it which needed some fairly complex technical aspects, the local company really screwed it up to be honest and a big part of the problem was that I was totally unclear about what I wanted.

    -get technical architecture done, first if they are worth their money your technical architect will give you advice on what could be done more cheaply, or in a different way. The second version of the above website cost me about $3000 for technical architecture and $3000 for website, in comparison to the $15,000 the first website cost. Make them give you at least 3 different options and include future proofing elements.

    -consider going half and half, get a website built, but use plug ins that can easily be updated, this can cut down on costs.

    Just to repeat myself, really, really know what you want, if you do not know, there is no way someone can produce it for you.

    Having gone through the whole cycle I actually use Open Road now and as I do most of my business online suits me much better, it also has lots of systems to help you with online lead generation and the realtionship building parts. They are having a re-launch at the moment with lots of bonuses, so its a good time to check it out if you are looking to switch into mostly online sales, or are considering the in-a-box own website debate. Here’s the link, simsprofits.com/webinarvid/

    Hope this was helpful!

  5. Chris Lengquist

    July 25, 2010 at 9:52 pm

    I just use the AR and a couple others to drive to my owned sites. And to use their PRs, of course. 🙂

    Take care my friend.

  6. Nick Nymark

    July 30, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    Hosting is cheap, and many domain names available. I think getting your own website is definitely the way to go.

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Business Marketing

Canva is catching on to content trends, launches in-app video editor

(MARKETING) Canva launches an in-platform video editor, allowing access to their extensive library of assets and animations to create high-quality videos

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African American woman working on Canva Video Editor Desktop in office setting.

Video content consumption is on the rise, and the graphic design platform, Canva, took note of it. The $40 billion Australian startup has entered the video business and announced the launch of its video editor, Canva Video Suite.

The end-to-end video editor is an easy-to-use platform that anyone, no matter the skill level, can create, edit, and record high-quality videos. Best of all, it’s free, and it’s available on both desktop and mobile platforms.

The tool has hundreds of editable templates that you can use to create videos for several online platforms like TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook. Some templates can be used to create workplace and business videos, while other templates are perfect for personal videos. There are playful themes you can use to create that spooky video just in time for Halloween or make a laugh-out-loud video to send to your best friend! With a wide range of selections, in no time you’ll start creating your very own video masterpiece with Canva.

Caucasian man holding iPhone showing Canva video editor on mobile.

What else does the video software offer and what can you do with it? Well, let me tell you:

Collaborate in real-time

Having everyone on the same page is important and Canva’s video suite takes that into account. To collaborate with others, you simply send them an invite, and together you can edit videos, manage assets, and leave comments to give your input.

Video timeline editing and in-app recording

Similar to building presentation slides, Canva’s scene-based editor simplifies video editing by using a timeline approach. With it, you can quickly reorder, crop, trim, and splice your videos. Also, users don’t need to leave the platform to record that last-minute shot; within the app, you can shoot and record yourself from a camera or a screen.

Library of assets

The video editor is filled with an array of watermark-free stock footage, icons, images, illustrations, and even audio tracks that you can choose from – but if you really need something that is not on their platform – you can upload your own image, video, or audio track.

Animate with ease

Although still in the process of being released, soon you will be able to add animations of both text and visual elements in just a few simple clicks. Among others, animation presets that fade, pan, and tumble will help you transform your video and take it to a whole other level.

Overall, Canva Video Suite is very intuitive and has all the essential things you need to create a video. And by streamlining the video creation process, Canva is ensuring it enters the video marketplace with a bang.

“One of Canva’s guiding principles is to make complex things simple, and our new Video Suite will allow everyone to unlock the power of video, whether that’s to market their business, make engaging social posts, or express their creativity,” said Rob Kawalsky, Head of Product at Canva.

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Business Marketing

Amazon attracts advertisers from Facebook after Apple privacy alterations

(MARKETING) After Apple’s privacy features unveil, Amazon adapts by taking a unique approach to targeting, disrupting revenue for the ad giant Facebook.

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Two African American women work at their desks, one viewing Amazon's advertising landing page.

As a de facto search engine of its own persuasion, Amazon has been poaching ad revenue from Google for some time. However, disrupting the revenue stream from their most recent victim – Facebook – is going to turn some heads.

According to Bloomberg, Apple’s recent privacy additions to products such as iPhones are largely responsible for the shift in ad spending. While platforms like Facebook and Instagram were originally goldmines for advertisers, these privacy features prevent tracking for targeting – a crucial aspect in any marketing campaign.

Internet privacy has been featured heavily in tech conversations for the last several years, and with Chrome phasing out third-party cookies, along with Safari and Firefox introducing roughly analogous policies, social media advertising is bound to become less useful as tracking strategies struggle to keep up with the aforementioned changes.

However, Amazon’s wide user base and separate categorization from social media companies makes it a clear alternative to the Facebook family, which is perhaps why Facebook advertisers are starting to jump ship in an effort to preserve their profits.

This is the premise behind the decision to reduce the Facebook ad spending of Vanity Planet by 22%, a home spa vendor, while facilitating a transition to Amazon. “We have inventory…and the biggest place we are growing is Amazon,” says Alex Dastmalchi, the entrepreneur who runs Vanity Planet.

That gap will only widen with Apple’s new privacy features. Bloomberg reports that when asked in June if they would consent to having their internet activity tracked, only one in four iPhone users did so; this makes it substantially harder for the ad campaigns unique to Facebook to target prospective buyers.

It also means that Amazon, having demonstrated a profound effectiveness in targeting individuals both pre- and post-purchase, stands to gain more than its fair share of sellers flocking to promote their products.

Jens Nicolaysen, co-founder of Shinesty (an eccentric underwear company), affirms the value that Amazon holds for sellers while acknowledging that it isn’t a perfect substitute for social media. While Nicolaysen laments the loss of the somewhat random introduction charm inherent on Instagram, he also believes in the power of brand loyalty, especially on a platform as high-profile as Amazon. “The bigger you are, the more you lose by not having any presence on Amazon,” he explains.

As privacy restrictions continue to ramp up in the coming months, it will be interesting to see how social media advertising evolves to keep up with this trend; it seems naive to assume that Amazon will replace Facebook’s ads entirely, tracking or no tracking.

Apple's privacy landing page showing iPhone users ability to shut off location services and a desktop image of a user's ability to control how their data is managed.

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Business Marketing

How many hours of the work week are actually efficient?

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Working more for that paycheck, more hours each week, on the weekends, on holidays can actually hurt productivity. So don’t do that, stay efficient.

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Clock pointed to 5:50 on a plain white wall, well tracked during the week.

Social media is always flooded with promises to get in shape, eat healthier and… hustle?

In hustle culture, it seems as though there’s no such thing as too much work. Nights, weekends and holidays are really just more time to be pushing towards your dreams and hobbies are just side hustles waiting to be monetized. Plus, with freelancing on the rise, there really is nothing stopping someone from making the most out of their 24 hours.

Hustle culture will have you believe that a full-time job isn’t enough. Is that true?

Although it’s a bit outdated, Gallup’s 2014 report on full-time US workers gives us an alarming glimpse into the effects of the hustle. For starters, 50% of full-time workers reported working over 40 hours a week – in fact, the average weekly hours for salaried employees was up to 49 hours.

So, what’s the deal with 40 hours anyway? The 40 hour work-week actually started with labor rights activists in the 1800s pushing for an 8 hour workday. In 1817, Robert Owen, a Welsh activist, reasoned this workday provided: “eight hours labor, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest.”

If you do the math, that’s a whopping 66% of the day devoted to personal needs, rather than labor!

Of course, it’s only natural to be skeptical of logic from two centuries ago coloring the way we do business in the 21st century. For starters, there’s plenty of labor to be done outside of the labor you’re paid to do. Meal prep, house cleaning, child care… that’s all work that needs to be done. It’s also all work that some of your favorite influencers are paying to get done while they pursue the “hustle.” For the average human, that would all be additional work to fall in the ‘recreation’ category.

But I digress. Is 40 hours a week really enough in the modern age? After all, average hours in the United States have increased.

Well… probably not. In fact, when hours are reduced (France, for instance, limited maximum hours to 35 hours a week, instead of 40), workers are not only more likely to be healthier and happier, but more efficient and less likely to miss work!

So, instead of following through with the goal to work more this year, maybe consider slowing the hustle. It might actually be more effective in the long run!

This story was first published in January 2020.

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