There are many real estate technology vendors that build agent websites, with Real Estate Webmasters (REW) being one of the companies in the mix. If you’ve heard about REW before, chances are you’ve also heard about their superb ability to optimize their websites for search engines. In addition to their core business of building websites for web savvy real estate professionals, I think it’s safe to say REW has the most vibrant real estate tech discussion forum on the web. Since the Geek Estate audience is a bunch of real estate techies, I thought a quick question and answer session with Morgan Carey, the guy that runs the show at Real Estate Webmasters, would be beneficial to better understand both their business and value proposition to re pros. That said, here are my questions and his responses:
Q: In 5 sentences or less, what does Real Estate Webmasters offer its clients?
A:I could never summarize all that Real Estate Webmasters offers our clients in 5 sentences, but in summary form, here are a few of the highlights.
The REW Platform: The heart and soul of all REW projects – the REW Platform is a combined content management system, featured listings module and lead management suite designed to be “Realtor Friendly” – Meaning you can add / remove and edit content and listings without knowing any html or complex programming. Web and email hosting is included in the REW Platform fee and our customers can add as many pages, sub pages and listings as they like, all for a very affordable $40 USD per month.
Real Estate Webmasters websites: We offer low-cost high-impact template websites for realtors on a budget, all the way up to the highest-end custom web design projects and complex programming tasks. (Some of which will be listed below under “projects we are proud of”.) The only limits to a Real Estate Webmasters custom website are the customer’s budget and imagination. If Zillow did not have such an amazing internal development team, we would be the kind of firm that could handle a Zillow type project.
True Custom IDX Solutions: Our IDX solutions are built directly into REW websites, allowing for perfect synergy between the home search and the website in terms of design and functionality. Because of the integration and the way we have built our IDX framework, a realtor’s listings are also spidered by search engines, allowing for much more exposure for their listings, and increased search engine traffic.
REW Blogs: Again, a true integration – our customers are able to make use of our proprietary blogging technology on their own sites, lending the power and social networking benefits of a blog to their real estate website.
Search engine optimization services: Running the gamut of SEO – our process covers consulting, keyword research, custom titles, meta descriptions, creation of unique content mindful of keyword targets, site architecture work, site mapping, analytics research and the creation of diverse linking portfolios.
Q: How does blogging fit into your business plan?
A: Blogging is an excellent way for realtors to develop true online authority by showcasing their knowledge, abilities and perhaps most importantly their personalities to the world. I created REW Blogs as an extension of the Real Estate Webmasters social network so that I could lend my authority and the education available through our real estate forums to any real estate professional willing to put in the time and effort required to earn themselves a place among the elite online marketing professionals in their area.
Q: How long have you been running REW?
A: Real Estate Webmasters went online April 9th, 2004
Q: You have a fairly vibrant discussion board – how do you manage to keep up with everything?
A: I have great staff (35 of them) and great moderators who assist in maintaining the highest level and quality of participation available anywhere online. Our strength and consistency begins with our staff and moderators but ends with our amazing members who are among the most web savvy real estate professionals in the world (and there are just under 13,000 of them).
Q: Particularly with the recent launch of Roost, IDX seems to be a hot topic recently — what do you see happening with the future of IDX integrations?
A: Roost aside (I honestly think there are going to be some serious issues raised with their use of IDX data in the future) – I believe that due to some great competition emerging in the industry, IDX vendors will be forced to continually improve upon not only the usability of IDX search from a consumer standpoint, but also the integration of more rich data sets and the merging of local information and real estate listings. Sites like Zillow have raised the bar in terms of consumer expectations – historical data trends, graphs, valuation tools and the like – if realtors want their customers to maintain loyalty to their on-site property searches, they are going to have to invest in some serious technology.
Q: What are a couple sample sites your company developed that you’re really proud of?
A: I am really proud of all of our custom real estate website projects quite honestly, but of course your readers are going to want some samples, so here are a few – many more can be viewed on our portfolio page.
HartanovTeam.com – Features include custom design with a focus on showcasing the
JimOlenbush.com – Sometimes the most simple custom designs are the most effective – Jim’s new brokerage website performs amazingly in search engines and in conversion – I love the simplicity and ease of use, and customers love how access to inventory is the feature piece – “Just show me the homes”.
RealSourceBrokers.com – This is a relatively new launch for us, but there are so many things I am proud of in this website, it is hard to know where to begin. Some of the cooler features revolve around custom algorithms we created to allow IDX data to interact with flash for our Intown Map Search feature piece, and the Intown market watch (updated daily) is the first of its kind. Working with Joshua Keen and his team was a true pleasure, and although it would be nice to take all the credit, as with any of our amazing websites, we would not have been able to build what we built without the input and direction of the customer.
PreviewNaples.com – I love this one because of its embodiment of the
Alright, that’s enough – if you want to see more, like I said head on over to our portfolio.
Q: I’ve heard websites designed by REW are great at SEO – what’s your trick?
A: There are no tricks in search engine optimization. To rank highly in search engines you must start with a search engine friendly platform / website. Everything we do is created with search engines in mind, from our backend, to our custom programming to the way we design our websites. It’s SEO 101 that before you embark on your journey of content implementation, reputation / authority development, and awareness you must first ensure that all of your efforts are able to be recognized by search engines. Once again, we use ultra lean properly formed external CSS to ensure no extraneous or broken on page code will interfere with a search engine spider’s ability to navigate our websites and access the information. We implement custom URL handling and mod_rewrite to ensure filenames / URL’s can be followed. All of our navigation systems are able to be followed by search engines. We do not employ the use of framesets in any way for serving content – basically our websites are constructed to ensure that our customers are rewarded for their efforts and that their content is accessible to search engines.
A search engine friendly platform is not enough – even with an REW website (arguably the most search engine friendly in the industry) no website will rank without the implementation of a well thought-out and executed content strategy involving keyword research, the application of unique titles, meta data and compelling unique content that is mindful of your keyword objectives. Once you have your on-page search engine optimization in order, you must also create a unique and diverse link portfolio, as much of what the major search engines (Google being the most important) rank websites based upon is inbound link factors.
Our customers work very hard on their content and their link building, as does our team, if we are providing search engine optimization services for our customers. Make no mistake – those rankings you see our customers enjoying in search engines are the result of literally hundreds of hours of work in many cases and it did not happen overnight. Even with the most robust, properly planned and executed search engine optimization campaign, it is not uncommon to wait a year or more before you earn the recognition required to rank highly in search engines. It is a marathon, not a sprint and there are no corners to cut and no tricks – what it boils down to is this – search engines are interested in offering up the highest quality unique content that is useful to the largest amount of their users – if you focus on providing a search engine’s users a positive user experience you will be rewarded in kind.
Thanks for your time Morgan, and keep up the good work at REW!