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5 Steps to Turn Your Template Website Into A High Ranking Business Tool

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A template website. You all have one. (And for those of you who do not have one anymore, guess what? This post is not for you. But you can still read it if you would like to…) A template website (Advanced Access, Number1Expert, Point2, z57, etc… ) is a relatively inexpensive (and free in some cases) way to have your real estate presence online.

However, template websites are inherently IGNORED by search engines and largely disliked by internet surfers. Online home buyers and sellers can smell a (canned) template website a mile away, and will more than likely click [X] as soon as the page loads … if they even wait that long. Because of this, you may be considering dumping your template website in favor of a custom (or semi-custom) website or blogsite in favor of getting better search engine ranking and better customers. Smart move.

However, don’t cancel your account until you continue reading this post. I am about to share with you …

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5 steps to turn your template website into a high-ranking business tool…

Now, this is not intended to convince you NOT to graduate to bigger and better sites. If you are ready to maintain a bigger and better site, Congratulations! I just want to share with you how you can supplement your new site (and business) by keeping the site you already have.

Although, if you are NOT ready to graduate to a custom site, but you DO maintain an auxiliary blog somewhere, this tutorial could also help you…

Now, I can talk to you about converting your template website into an effective business tool because I have done this. What I am about to say is NOT THEORY. It is not something I heard somewhere. It is substantiated fact and something that I HAVE DONE. Twice. I have a template website that ranks #1 and page #1 for all kinds of awesome keywords: www.MonumentRealEstateConnection.com (aka WagnerProfessionalGroup.com – old team name, same great flavor…) I also have a template site that I “niched” to Stetson Hills – a large community in eastern Colorado Springs. www.StetsonHillsRealEsateConnection.com (aka stetsonhillsrealestate.yourkwagent.com) I followed the steps below and am now #1 in Google for almost all things
Stetson Hills.

Step #1: Define the NEW Purpose of Your Template Site

Like I just said (were you paying attention???), your “old” template site does not have to swim with the fishies. This can now be your new NICHE SITE … or an auxiliary site.

For Example: I am a Colorado Springs Real Estate Agent, but I also help people buy and sell homes in Monument, CO – a beautiful area/city to the immediate north of Colorado Springs. My “newer” main site is pretty Colorado Springs exclusive. SO, I took our previous “main” site (an Advanced Access site) and “niched” it to Monument Real Estate.

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You could make it a geographical farm site – or any other niche that you work. Just make sure it has a clear and defined new purpose.

Step #2: Dump All the Canned Content

Get rid of all the buyer and seller reports … Get rid of everything that came with your website originally. All you really need is:

  • Search For Homes – IDX tool
  • CMA Request form
  • Area Information/ Area Links
  • About Us/Contact Us
  • Links to Quick Searches (optional)
  • Featured Properties – Most template websites also have the ability to upload all your listings, so that would be another feature to keep.
  • Buyer and Seller Information – ONLY IF YOU WROTE THEM YOURSELF. Remember, I told you to DUMP your canned content.

Just keep it simple.

Step #3: Submit Your Renovated Template Site to Google

As I mentioned above, search engines inherently IGNORE template sites. So, chances are Google (the most important search engine IMHO) does not even know you exist. You need to nudge Google and let them know that your site is worth revisiting.

Go to www.google.com/addurl
and submit your site. Yes. It is THAT easy…



Step #4: Link to Your New “Niche” Site Whenever Appropriately Possible

Did you note that I said “appropriately“? I mean this: DO NOT SPAM. Whenever you write about something (on Active Rain, Trulia, your blog …) that is related to your niche, link to it with relevant keywords.

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For example: If I am writing about market trends in the area, and I mention Stetson Hills, I may write something like, “The Stetson Hills real estate market saw some increased activity …” with “Stetson Hills real estate” linked over to my “niche” site.

Additionally, I link over to my niche site when I create virtual flyers for a listing I may have in that area, and I also make sure I have a link from my main site over to my niche site. Just a couple more ideas …

Step #5: Wait Patiently for Results

How quickly you start seeing search engine results will be determined by:

  • How much competition you have for relevant keywords, and
  • How often you promote and/or update your niche site

After we renovated our Monument niche site, we made it to the top of the search engines in about 7-8 months. This site gets over 100 hits and about 1-2 VALID registrations per day. Our Stetson Hills niche site started ranking #1 on Google in about one month. This site gets an average of 70 hits and 1 VALID registration a month, which is expected, as Stetson Hills is a WAY smaller niche than Monument.

So, if you are thinking about dumping your template site … you may want to reconsider. It may still have some life (and business) left in it if you are willing to take the time to give it a makeover.

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Written By

Mariana is a real estate agent and co-owner of the Wagner iTeam with her husband, Derek. She maintains the Colorado Springs Real Estate Connection Blog and is also a real estate technology trainer and coach. Mariana really enjoys helping real estate agents boost their businesses and increase their productivity through effective use of technology. Outside of real estate, blogging and training, she loves spending time with her husband and 2 sons, reading, re-watching Sci-Fi movies and ... long walks on the beach?

33 Comments

33 Comments

  1. Barry Cunningham

    May 19, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    Mariana..I can honestly say I have been taught something by a real estate agent. You have risen to the top and I thank you! Now I know what to do with all those empty sites I have had cluttering cyberspace..question though…is it okay if the domain is http://www.anythinghere.com or do you have to create new sites with clean domains? I would think it’s pretty much the same as a blog..let me know how you did it with yours.

    Also..what if it is a rss feed fed site..that would have constantly changing content…thanks for the info and don’t tell anyone you schooled me.

  2. Missy Caulk

    May 19, 2008 at 1:59 pm

    Mariana, I have had Number 1 site for 9 years. I only started tweeking it when I started to learn SEO on Active Rain. I drove them crazy but I have it on page one now of Google for many of the terms I want to be found under. It is hard work and you have to get a web master on the template sites that will work to make it correct. I found so much junk in the source code it was a mess.
    That is the only reason I haven’t dropped it, the support is great and they worked with me to fix it. But, you are right a template site without fixing it will not get good positions in the search engines.

  3. monika

    May 19, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    Great advice Mariana, we have a neglected point 2 agent site that I think we’ll re-work a little.
    Thanks!

  4. The Harriman Team

    May 19, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    Mariana, we have an iHouse template site and it ranks very well for our search terms, first page in Google for the most part. Feel free to take a look if you wish and give us your opinion. Is it the best it can be? No. Does it need some SEO work? Definitely, as evidenced by our recent analsis from HubSpot. We’ve had it out there for 7 years and have been trying to tweak it every chance we get, but we’re still looking to dump it and do something BETTER for our main site. Thanks very much for this post though, you gave some great info and gave us something (more!) to think about. One last thing: if we do opt for a non-template site, do you have any recommendations for a good web site design to go with? Thanks again!

  5. Broker Bryant

    May 19, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    Hi Marianna, I have 2 templates sites and both rank on the first page of Google for just about any search related to Poinciana. My first is with Homes.com poincianaproperties and I have had it for 9 years. Not much to it but it has great SERP. My second one is a point2agent site buypoinciana that I’ve had for about a year and it also has great SERP. THe main thing I have doen for both of them is link back to them form my blog sites. It really puuls them up. Plus I have my brokerbryant.com blog on a feed to both sites so it keeps the content updated just as if they were blog sites.

  6. Wayne Herman

    May 19, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    I had a Number1Expert site for a few years and it yielded next to nothing until I did your Step#2. Wish I had known the others. But, the leads almost doubled as soon as I put my own content in the site. With his in mind, what’s your recommendation for a site that will do a custom IDX solution for me. I have emailed CAY-SYSTEMS and Real Estate Webmasters and received no reply in 7 days. That’s a customer service red flag, huh?

    Thanks for your post!


    The “get Real” Estate blog

  7. Mariana

    May 19, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    Hey Barry!– Regarding domain names … I have not adjusted what shows up in the address bar when you land on my home page, so they still read WagnerProfessionalGroup.com and StetsonHillsRealEstate.YourKWAgent.com. However, I DO have more “friendly/appropriate” URL’s that I use in online (and offline) promotion. I am sure it would have been better if I STARTED with the “friendly/appropriate” URL’s, but I’m not going to chage it now, and it really has not mattered much anyway.

    Regarding RSS fed content… I don’t have that on either of my sites (maybe I should?) but it looks like Broker Bryant is successful with that approach. (and, you’re welcome … 😉 )

    Missy! – Yep! We had our AA site for several years before I started understanding SEO and SERPS and SEP and GOOGLE and … oh, wait. I still don’t understand Google. When we decided to give it an overhaul, I also had great support from AA’s end.

    Hi Monika – Thank you! I could probably mess more with my Point2 site, too. All this talk about my KW and AA site, I almost forgot that I had one of those too! LOL!

    Pat– There is always something to do, right? There are many good custom website/blog-site providers out there. I have a blog-site as my main site, now, that I was very involved in the creation of and it was built by RSS Pieces. I am very happy with it. Colorado Springs Real Estate Connection

    Hi Broker Bryant!– You have done wonderful things with both your blog and your websites. I was wondering if I should add an RSS feed to my sites. I will need to look into that further… Thanks!

  8. Mariana

    May 19, 2008 at 4:09 pm

    Wayne– I like 1Park Place and Diverse Solutions for IDX tools… (Although I cannot get DS in my area 🙁 ) I do not think that they are extremely customizable, but they do offer the ability to create custom searches and I love each of their formats. Good luck!

  9. Benn Rosales

    May 19, 2008 at 4:21 pm

    Mariana, “I do not think that they are extremely customizable” What do you mean? Maybe I can assist on that one.

  10. Mariana

    May 19, 2008 at 4:30 pm

    Benn– I have not spoken much with Diverse Solutions, as I cannot use them, but from what I see – DS is more customizable than 1PP, but to what degree, I am unsure.

    What kind of customization does DS offer?

  11. Benn Rosales

    May 19, 2008 at 4:37 pm

    Well, I’m not a DS agent guru, however, the look and feel can be totally edited to fit whatever website you wish. I hope you will contact ds and let them know you want the service in your area, demand creates urgency!

  12. Mariana

    May 19, 2008 at 5:32 pm

    Oh cool! I have been talking w/ them. They need more interested agents in my area. They said I could pay a few thousand dollars and bypass the “need more agent” bit, but I don’t know how interested I am in that.

  13. Greg Broadbent

    May 19, 2008 at 7:04 pm

    I have found the two most important features for improving your site is fresh original content and matching links from other related sites. Again…DON’T SPAM. If you actively participate and try to add value to the world it should help everyone.

  14. Mariana

    May 19, 2008 at 7:44 pm

    Greg – I totally agree. Active and valuable participation is very important.

  15. Dale Chumbley

    May 20, 2008 at 12:15 am

    Thank you Mariana for this great information! I really appreciate it. I’m in the process of looking into all this right now so your post is most timely!

  16. Luxury Homes For Sale

    May 20, 2008 at 1:19 am

    Exact site that I’ve been looking for..
    high ranking on search engine takes time, i agree that it needs a lot of PATIENCE!
    anchor text to your blog which links to your niche site is really important..
    it brings traffic and relevant link to your site..
    thanks for sharing! great post!

  17. Mack in Atlanta

    May 20, 2008 at 7:11 am

    Really good information Mariana. One thing that should be added is getting incoming links to both your home page and interior pages that you want to rank well.

  18. Mariana

    May 20, 2008 at 7:40 am

    Dale– Yay! I wish you luck in your venture…

    Mack– You are right. That is important, but that is just MORE work and not everyone has the time to gather effective backlinks for more than one site. I believe that you can get the job done without putting too much effort into it.

  19. Ken Smith

    May 20, 2008 at 9:48 am

    Niche markets don’t take much to rank for when building a website around it. Have taken new domains to #1 position multiple time in under a month for niche markets. It’s all about figuring out if the term will bring in enough leads to make it worth the investment, all that matters is the ROI worth it. Most of the time it should be as long as you are following up with the leads.

  20. Mariana

    May 20, 2008 at 10:25 am

    LHFS– Yes. Patience is a virtue, but well worth it!

    Ken– You are right. It has to be worth it in the long run. Foretunately, the niche site require less work, so the ROI should be easier…

  21. Ken Smith

    May 20, 2008 at 10:57 am

    There is no question that the niche sites require way less work. Set up a simple site and for the most part you can forget about it. Big advantage to websites over blogs.

  22. Jon Sigler

    May 22, 2008 at 5:54 am

    It used to be said that template sites were no good, you had to go custom to get anything from them, to get ranked, etc. Sure certain template sites still are useless getting ranked in the search engines, especially the mothership ones, but a lot of template sites have great SEO abilities. I recently switched from a limited one to an xSites by a la Mode and now come up first on “zero down mortgage connecticut”, the exact keyword I wanted. You have to make sure the template site allows the user without charge to control the title, keyword and description tags. Right now I’m working on the dumping of the canned content and writing my own.

  23. Barry Cunningham

    May 22, 2008 at 8:53 am

    Mariana..I have a question..would not just a page on your current blog do the trick for the other neighborhoods ? I mean would not a seo page on your current blog have more juice than an old template site? Just wondering

  24. Ken Smith

    May 22, 2008 at 9:21 am

    Barry there are multiple ways to go after niche terms. Taking a site that is already an authority and adding pages (or posts) to it is an option. It will rank for the new term fairly easily. The other way is to set up a new site to go after the new term. Based on how niche the term is it really isn’t that hard to rank the new site. My approach has been to use both so I have 2-4 of the top 5 spots between multiple sites.

    Everyone needs to decide what works best for them based on the time and skills they happen to have. The reason I like the multiple site approach is it allows me to test things and take some risks with smaller sites that I wouldn’t ever dare to do with my main site.

  25. Mariana

    May 22, 2008 at 9:37 am

    Jon– Dumping the canned content is KEY when trying to make a template site do well at all. Good Luck!

    Barry– Okay .. Yes. A page on my blog WOULD be good. I rank for 2 spots on Pg#1Google for “Colorado Springs Neighborhoods” – from interior pages from my main blogsite. But, here is my thinking on this …

    1. I already had 2 template sites – One was free and one was almost free. I was making use of what I already had, but assigned them the role of being a hub for 2 main sub-areas that I work in.
    2. When someone goes to these sites, it is ALL MONUMENT or ALL STETSON HILLS … not just a subsection, or afterthought. I believe it shows our team as more of the authority in that area.
    3. Both those sites now rank a PR3, and between those sites and my main site, I can’t help but believe that the shared links between them are helping ALL of them.

    Ken– I agree – the smaller sites DO allow you to “test things out” … that you would not be comfortable doing on your main site.

  26. Barry Cunningham

    May 22, 2008 at 10:07 am

    Ok Mariana..I did not think of the shared links part of it. I was just looking at it from a opne blog point of view but this definitely makes sense.

    Ken..excellent info..nnever thought of that…

    Would either of you use .info sites (they are really..really cheap) since all we are doing is neighborhoods with them would that be ok? Normally I hate .info sites but in this instance it might be ok..your thoughts?

  27. Mariana

    May 22, 2008 at 10:20 am

    I am a “.com snob”. People think in terms of “.com” and I try to only use “.com”. I only have one .net site and it frustrates me. But, I also advertise my site offline (newsletters, etc.) … If I was only linking to them, I suppose a .info site would be okay.

  28. Ken Smith

    May 22, 2008 at 10:27 am

    IMO I would not use anything other then a .com UNLESS you NEVER plan on passing out the URL on any marketing material, verbally giving to potential clients, or having anyone in the future verbally pass it on to a friend. (impossible to assume this IMO)

    The problem is that people just assume .com for a website and if you are .info you will just be driving traffic to the .com version. If you are comfortable with the potential of loosing clients down the road to save $5 per year then that is your choice, but not a very smart business decision IMO.

    The more niche the market the easier it is to find a quality .com domain to brand.

  29. Ken Smith

    May 22, 2008 at 10:28 am

    I am a “.com snob”

    Think you have to be unless you like sending traffic to your competition.

  30. Ralph

    July 18, 2008 at 10:37 am

    I agree, there is more to this than just the author of the website.

  31. Ginger Wilcox

    July 18, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    I am so glad Benn directed me here!! I have a ton of domain names registered in my market that I am not really using. These might be worthwhile to convert into inexpensive template sites that I have customized per your instructions. Apparently I have some research and work to do.

  32. Mariana

    July 18, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    Hey Ginger – As long as you can keep up with the sites, you could have a great boost in business!

  33. Angela Penkin

    May 26, 2009 at 8:16 pm

    Hi Mariana, great article – so much info that I was looking for – yep, found this page on google, although I do receive emails so I guess I must have subscribed too! But what I am specifically trying to find out is: can I add google analytics code to my ihouse template website pages? Another question, if I build single property websites, may I (would I want to?) add these to google through the tool you listed in your articel? And thanks for the great info, I am going to start making some changes right now.

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