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



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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  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.


  3. Matthew Rathbun

    July 9, 2010 at 8:43 am


    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,

    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

Unpopular opinion: Coworkers are not your ‘family’

(MARKETING) “I just want you to think of us as family,” they say. If this were true, I could fire my uncle for always bringing up “that” topic on Thanksgiving…



family coworkers

The season 10 opener of “Undercover Boss” featured Walk-On’s Bistreaux & Bar. Brandon Landry, owner, went to the Lafayette location where he worked undercover with Jessica Comeaux, an assistant manager. Comeaux came across as a dedicated employee of the company, and she was given a well-deserved reward for her work. But I rolled my eyes as the show described the team as a “family.” I take offense at combining business and family, unless you’re really family. Why shouldn’t this work dynamic be used?

Employers don’t have loyalty to employees.

One of the biggest reasons work isn’t family is that loyalty doesn’t go both ways. Employers who act as though employees are family wouldn’t hesitate to fire someone if it came down to it. In most families, you support each other during tough times, but that wouldn’t be the case in a business. If you’ve ever thought that you can’t ask for a raise or vacation, you’ve probably bought into the theory that “work is a family.” No, work is a contract.

Would the roles be okay if the genders were reversed?

At Walks-Ons, Comeaux is referred to as “Mama Jess,” by “some of the girls. I have to wonder how that would come across if Comeaux were a man being called “Daddy Jess” by younger team members? See any problem with that? What happens when the boss is a 30-year-old and the employee is senior? Using family terminology to describe work relationships is just wrong.

Families’ roles are complex.

You’ll spend over 2,000 hours with your co-workers every year. It’s human nature to want to belong. But when you think of your job like a family, you may bring dysfunction into the workplace.

What if you never had a mom, or if your dad was abusive? Professional relationships don’t need the added complexity of “family” norms. Seeing your boss as “mom” or “dad” completely skews the roles of boss/employee. When your mom asks you to do more, it’s hard to say no. If your “work mom or dad” wants you to stay late, it’s going to be hard to set boundaries when you buy into the bogus theory that work is family. Stop thinking of work this way.

Check your business culture to make sure that your team has healthy boundaries and teamwork. Having a great work culture doesn’t have to mean you think of your team as family. It means that you appreciate your team, let them have good work-life balance and understand professionalism.

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Business Marketing

UI/UX design trends in 2020 for maximum user friendliness

(BUSINESS NEWS) 2020 brings back classic UI and UX themes centered on beautiful visuals, rich written content, and authentic presentation. These are the trends to know.



UI/UX design trends for 2020

User interface (UI) and user experience (UX) protocol have shifted so much in the last few years that it can be daunting to try to keep up with what’s hip and what’s…well, not. Fortunately, Shakuro has compiled a list of trends to guide you through 2020. Here are our thoughts on design trends you can expect to see (and use) this year.

When creating content this year, make sure it emphasizes the meaning behind your work rather than simply focusing on SEO. Too often, the meaning behind our words becomes more about selling a product or service and less about the product itself.

Other areas to focus on vis-à-vis content development include dynamic presentations for variable audiences, visual representations of data (charts, tables, and infographics easily check this box), and mobile-friendly UX and UI—something which should be at the forefront of your mind at all times.
Finally, Shakuro suggests taking 2020 to establish your own organic, opinionated content. Reposts and testimonials are fine in moderation, but the core of your page should belong to you.

Desirable website visual trends are somewhat contradictory, but as long as you stick to the core premise—keeping your website organic and appropriate to your brand—you should be fine.

2020 sees the return of asymmetrical design trends; for example, you might have a logo on your landing page that takes up a third of the left side of the page. However, another trend anticipated by Shakuro is the use of negative space to emphasize an image—or, if you aren’t confused enough, an image that takes up the full screen with a focal point in the middle. A/B testing with different designs will be your friend this year.

Animation, high-definition renders of images, and a profound focus on aesthetically pleasing images (especially illustration) is something else you’ll want to incorporate into your design. One tip that holds true for all is that the integration of design and development from the bottom up; doing this will help streamline your process going forward.

Unlike in prior years, color schemes are largely unchanged; you’ll want to ensure that any changes you make evoke a subtle, soft quality, and some services (e.g., Shakuro) suggest incorporating natural colors as opposed to bright or bold ones. Aside from these two minor updates, keep doing what you’re doing—as long as your selected palette isn’t so dissonant that it causes stress, you’re probably safe. Just so you know Pantones color of the year for 2020 is classic blue.

More than anything, your text should be written to be read by humans—not search engines. This is a common trend this year; you’ll notice that many of the items on this list are more geared toward making the human experience pleasant and noteworthy rather than simply “good enough.” This philosophy also carries over to your text design, which should communicate your brand via visual. In short, don’t use Comic Sans if you want to convey professionalism.

Another couple of minor text changes to make involve moving text overlays and combining text with visuals (e.g., videos or high-definition photos). These themes aren’t new to UX and UI by any means, but they were overplayed for a few years; luckily, it looks like they’re coming back into favor.

Perhaps the most difficult—and important—aspect of your website is the user experience. This is a good time to remind yourself to check on your mobile experience as well; often, a user’s mobile experience will determine whether or not they return to your page.

An easy way to stand out to your audience is by customizing your navigation options to fit your visual theme rather than using a default navigation setup. This can be tricky, however: you don’t want to create a site that’s unique to the point of being gimmicky—and, thus, difficult to navigate.

And, if you’re looking for an easy way to lower your audience’s blood pressure, designing a UX that requires fewer refreshes, page clicks, and redirects is a sure way to do so.

2020 may not be the flashiest year in terms of web development, but what these trends lack in star power they make up for in subtlety and depth of meaning. Don’t miss out on what could be the most content-rich year for your website!

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Business Marketing

Hiring Managers keep you on your toes, so you should step up

(BUSINESS MARKETING) If you want to stand out from other job applicants, weird outfits, stunts, and baked goods will only get you so far – and in fact, may backfire.



hiring managers interview

In an increasingly competitive job market, how do you make sure that your application doesn’t get buried in a pile of paper? How do you stand out from the pack?

According to research by employment search website Simply Hired, hiring managers get an average of 34 applications per job listing, but they spend time genuinely considering an average of only 12.6 percent of them – that’s less than one third. Some applicants may feel the need to go above and beyond the average application and do something unusual or unexpected to grab the hiring manager’s attention.

Simply Hired conducted a survey to find out whether or not “nontraditional” strategies to stand out are worth the risk, or whether it makes sense to stick to a traditional resume and cover letter. They surveyed over 500 hiring managers and over 500 job applicants to find out what sort of outside-of-the-box approaches applicants are willing to take, and which ones do and don’t pay off.

Most notably, the survey found that a over 63 percent of hiring managers find attention-grabbing gimmicks totally unacceptable, with only 20.2 percent saying they were acceptable. Hiring managers were also given a list of unusual strategies to rank from most to least acceptable. Unsurprisingly, the least acceptable strategy was offering to sleep with the hiring manager – which should really go without saying.

Interestingly, hiring managers also really disliked when applicants persistently emailed their resume over and over until they got a response. One or two follow up emails after your initial application isn’t such a bad idea – but if you don’t get a response after that, continuing to pester the hiring manager isn’t going to help.

While sending baked goods to the office was considered a somewhat acceptable strategy, sending those same cookies to the manager’s home address was a big no-no. Desserts might sweeten your application, but not if you cross a professional boundary by brining them to someone’s home – that’s just creepy.

Another tactic that hiring managers received fairly positively was “enduring extreme weather to hand-deliver a resume” – but waiting around for inclement weather to apply for a job doesn’t seem very efficient. However, hiring managers did respond well to applicants who went out of their way to demonstrate a skill, for example, by creating a mock product or presentation or completing their interview in a second language. A librarian who was surveyed said she landed her job by making her resume into a book and creating QR codes with links to her portfolio, while a woman applying to work at the hotel hopped behind the counter and started checking customers in.

It’s worth noting that while most hiring managers aren’t into your gimmicks and games, of the 12.9 percent of applicants who said they are risked an unusual strategy, 67.7 percent of those actually landed the job.

Still, it’s probably a safer bet to stick to the protocol and not try any theatrics. So then, what can you actually do to improve your chances of landing the job?

Applicants surveyed tended to focus most of their time on their resume, but according to hiring managers, the interview and cover letter are “the top ways to stand out among the rest.” Sure, brush up your resume, but make sure to give equal time to writing a strong cover letter and practicing potential interview questions.

In the survey, applicants also tended to overestimate the importance of knowing people within the company and having a “unique” cover letter and interview question answers; meanwhile, they underestimated the importance of asking smart questions at the interview and personality. In fact, hiring managers reported that personality was the most impactful factor in their hiring decisions.
It appears that the best way to stand out in a job interview is to wow them with your personality and nail the interview. Weird outfits, stunts, and baked goods will only get you so far – and in fact, may backfire.

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