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Placester and Free Websites for all Realtors

I wrote about Placester in 2014. At the time, they were charging Realtors $5 a month to compete with Zillow’s $10 a month websites.

Now, if you’re a Realtor, you can get a FREE website from Placester. The news came out a week ago, so it’s not really news anymore. Greg beat me to saying this. Websites really are a race to the bottom.

There are three categories of websites:

  • Template (less than $100, or free)
  • Semi-custom (between a few hundred and a few thousand dollars)
  • Full custom ($5,000 and above)

Those who have been in the website vendor game like I have know the truth — there are only two types of customers/clients to cover those three categories of websites. Those who are okay with a template and on a budget, and those who want a custom solution (and may or may not be on a budget). Anyone who goes with a semi-custom WANTS and EXPECTS a full custom — but doesn’t want to pay for the quality or service that comes with it. Serving the middle is asking for trouble, given the time it takes to deal with clients who have unrealistic expectations. Templates generally have razor, razor thin margins — and, of course, FREE templates (which is what Placester is offering now) have negative margins. Thus, these websites will need to be floated using another revenue stream or funding.

Placester is banking on the fact that they’ll be able to upsell their Realtor user base on other marketing and technology services, using the free website as the “hook”. Sure, that may work, for some agents who start early in their careers with Placester and grow their business over time. That said, the agents and teams and brokerages investing in their businesses are generally not those that will use a free template solution at all. I question whether the agents/brokers opting for free templates are going to be the types of agents and brokers who pay for other marketing services. Maybe I’m wrong about that; time will be the judge.

Don’t get me wrong, this NAR distribution deal is certainly a great lead generation play for Placester. It’s good for PR, and lends credibility. A freemium business model can work, no doubt. Realtors having access to quality websites that costs nothing is certainly not a bad thing. That said, this news is unlikely to change anyone’s business. If every Realtor has access to the same free website templates, the competitive landscape hasn’t really changed aside from the minimum industry website standard.

Have a good long weekend.

About Drew Meyers

Founder of Geek Estate Blog / Geek Estate Labs. Zillow Alum. Travel addict & co-founder of Horizon. Social entrepreneurship & microfinance advocate. Fan of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Kiva.

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  • Tony Kawaguchi

    Hi Drew, been a long time…
    I had a talk with Placester today about their template sites. Their IDX looks good and I’m waiting to get a CRM demo login. As their site says, the cost is about $400 for setup and $200-$400 /mo depending on your level of service, which is mostly about content creation by them. I really liked their sales guy and their 8 templates look nice.

    However, when asking around, I’m told that the WP template sites will never have as much authority and therefore, SEO juice, that a non Wp template site can have.

    I bring this up because REW is about to increase fees by 150%. I’ve had my site for about 6 years, and it works perfectly, doing the main thing we care about –
    generating leads.

    In 24 hours I’ve already spoken to 3 other companies as well. If I was still contributing here, I could have a pretty in depth comparison post… but with 4 kids, I am changing too many diapers.

    Question is – for triple the monthly cost of Placester and 10 times the up front cost, will the SEO results drop off at all? Even a 10% drop off could be a disaster for people who rely on organic traffic like I do…

    • “I’m told that the WP template sites will never have as much authority and therefore, SEO juice, that a non Wp template site can have.”

      What do you mean? That’s clearly false. Plenty of wordpress sites rank extremely well.

      “Question is – for triple the monthly cost of Placester and 10 times the up front cost, will the SEO results drop off at all? Even a 10% drop off could be a disaster for people who rely on organic traffic like I do…”

      When you change platforms / url structures — you’ll always have a very serious risk of impacting your SEO negatively because Google will have to re-learn how to navigate your site. So yes if you switch from rew to another provider who puts it on wordpress (or any other platform), there are likely to be some repercussions. You need to ensure all the URLs you have on the old site remain the exact same, or are 301 redirected to the right location.

      • Tony Kawaguchi

        I also thought at first that what the REW salesperson told me about the WP templates was false .

        But then she said it’s because those 8 templates at Ihouse are used by hundreds of agents around the country, so Google won’t view it as a unique site, even though I have over 200 unique pages of content.
        I have to try to filter between actual facts and her motive of trying to sell me on REW vs ihouse. It didn’t seem correct, but since she kept saying it 😉

        Honestly I am so out of the tech world these days because all I do is sell houses and play with my kids, so I’m just finally dipping my toes back into this world.

        both ihouse and REW said they would do the 301 redirects and bring all my content over, but I do worry about the risk of the SEO getting hurt. I get a ton of leads right now and don’t want to mess it up.

        btw I spoke to a sales person at Real Geeks who basically told me it wouldn’t be worth it to switch from REW because his price is even higher for what I’m getting, and they don’t provide anything different. I was really surprised by his candid answer. It took him about 10 seconds to tell me that I should stay with REW after I told him why I was shopping around.

        • Real Geeks has built their reputation on honestly.. Jeff has always been that way with me, and I suspect fires anyone at the company that doesn’t operate that way.

          So your core reason for switching is cost?

          • Tony Kawaguchi

            I probably would have left my site alone as long as the traffic was the same, so I guess the increased cost is the only reason I started looking at other providers. But now that I see what’s available in new tech and what’s going to be required to stay competitive, I am looking at the best option just to stay in the game. My site is a few years old now, and I’m probably luck to have the traffic I still have.

            so far, after talking to ihouse, real geeks and a few others, it seems like I might have to stick with REW unless my developer can do something amazing for a similar price.

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