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The ROI of Setting up WordPress Yourself

WordPress is not rocket science. Like anything else in life, it can be learned in time. There are all kinds of people out there on the speaking circuit telling agents to build their own WordPress blogs. But, before you dive in to WordPress.org and start installing plugins & themes, configuring widgets, designing graphics, searching the web for answers to questions you have, and tweaking CSS, you should think long and hard about the ROI (return on investment) of the process you are undertaking.

How much do you make on an hourly basis selling real estate?

For the sake of this post, let’s assume it’s $50 an hour for a good agent in a decent market where the median sale price is above $150,000. In many cases, I would bet it’s higher than $50 for agents who approach real estate as their SOLE business. So your time is worth as follows:

  • 10 hours = $500
  • 20 hours = $1,000
  • 40 hours = $2,000

Or, assuming you’re making $25 an hour – you can halve the numbers above.

With that said, at what point does it stop making sense to build your own WordPress website? Pretty quickly if you consider the setup costs involved. To build your own WordPress website and having never done it yourself, I’d bet you are going to spend 20 hours at a minimum, and probably closer to 40 (if not more) when all is said and done. So, assuming you can get a quality site for less than $1,000 — how does it not make sense to outsource that task?

And if you are making less than $25 an hour? Yeah, you might be stuck building your own WordPress website. And it’s not likely going to be the professional web presence you want to demonstrate to your clients.

Case in point = me. I run marketing for Virtual Results, a firm that builds WordPress websites (update 4/13: I ran marketing for VR from late 2010 to late 2011 but they are now a Geek Estate recommended technology provider), and have setup multiple WordPress blogs over the past five years. I have literally spent several hundred hours in the WordPress dashboard, researching plugins, tweaking PHP and CSS, and configuring server settings for WordPress sites. And you know what? It’s not even the best use of MY OWN TIME to redo my own blog. Granted, I am now in the web design business and likely have higher standards for my own online presence as a result — but, when I do redesign my OWN blog (which has been on my todo list for quite some time now) – I’m going to pay my own hard earned dollars for the design and development of my new site to professionals that can do it up to my standards even though I’d prefer to save the money (who doesn’t like saving money).

[Update: I did have a professional designer/developer redesign my personal blog in December of 2011]

“Can I?” (yes) and “Should I?” (no) are two entirely different questions. My time is better spent on tasks that I’m good at, which does not include graphic design and CSS — and I know I wouldn’t be happy with the result of a self-made blog design.

For the average agent or broker who has never even logged into WordPress?

You do the math.

Note: Based on the Twitter conversation with Michael DunnJulie Ziemelis, Eric Stegemann, Yvonne Arnold, and Melissa Case — maybe the do-it-yourself route is going to continue to grow given the lack of productivity in this industry and the number of agents making less than $25 an hour. But if you view real estate as a career, the ROI of doing it yourself is just not there.

* Photo via Soshable.com

About Drew Meyers

Founder of Geek Estate Blog. Zillow Alum. Travel addict & co-founder of Horizon. Product & Marketing for 360modern. Social entrepreneurship & microfinance advocate. Fan of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Kiva.

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  • Drew,

    Couldn’t agree with you more, yes some people have the ability to figure out how to setup their WP site on their own but just because something can be done doesn’t mean it should be.

    I think most brokers would be money ahead to just hire an expert (an actual expert who does it for a living) to get the setup and all the necessary plug-ins installed and spend their time networking and helping their clients, writing content for their site and selling real estate. This to me would be a better use of their time not to mention saving hours of frustration.

    I would give the same advice to a homebuyer or seller: Hire an expert!

  • Drew,

    Very thought compelling post. When I look back at the number of hours I put into learning WordPress, as well as tweaking my site (3 different theme changes so far) it’s easy to see where the ROI starts to go a bit sideways. But there’s an inherent value in the do-it-yourself approach that one just doesn’t get by outsourcing to a web design company — particularly one that isn’t directly connected to Real Estate.

    If I think about the most important features on my site, they came about because I spent time tinkering with WP and coming up with ideas that I probably would never have thought of — let alone been able to explain to a web designer.

    But that doesn’t mean I do everything myself. When my site was hacked last year (along with many other GoDaddy.com hosted blogs) I moved it over to an RE-based web design company for them to host. They also help me with the most challenging of the technical problems that are beyond my scope of knowledge. THAT is money well spent.

    I think there’s value in going through the WP learning curve for agents. The resulting product will more accurately reflect YOU as an agent, not necessarily the ideas of the web designer. It’s also not a bad way for most techno-phobe agents to get on board with technology, which last I checked isn’t going away any time soon.

    • I agree, there is value in learning WP, and setting up a site yourself as it can save you time and money down the road in the event that you want to tweak something on the site, or add in a new feature.

    • I agree, there is value in learning WP, and setting up a site yourself as it can save you time and money down the road in the event that you want to tweak something on the site, or add in a new feature.

    • I think you’d get a conversion boost if you made your home search much much more prominent. Looks like you’ve got tons of great stuff on the site, but the home search is not really highlighted on the home page. Based on our analytics, 60-70% of traffic ends up looking at listings. Make it easy for them.

      • Good suggestion. I changed the graphics on both the Homes For Sale widget and the Open House widget, and moved them to the top right.

  • As someone who has paid Drew to set up MY blog on wordpress, I can unequivocally say that outsourcing this was a good use of my time and money.

    • Glad you think it’s money well spent. Looking forward to finishing your revision soon 🙂

  • Designing a website always looks easy on paper, but there are an insane number of details to keep up with, and little problems that can take hours to resolve. I think the DIY approach isn’t going away anytime soon, but think it will continue to increase, but I think the real answer is a hybrid of the two. If an agent is willing to take the plunge into setting up their own WP website, then it makes tons of sense to have an expert they can reach out to in the event they get stuck up on a potentially time draining problem. That way they’re not spending too much on then entire site, just getting help a la carte. It’s something I’ve done with a few agents in the past that seemed to work out pretty well.

    • Hey Chris-
      Agree in theory. But I think the fact of the matter is that the WordPress experts who truly know what they’re doing are making more money doing things other than helping people tweak wordpress. There are freelancers out there who can help, but they are hit or miss. And given the amount they are getting paid for their time, I can’t really blame them. I think there is a large disconnect between what agents are willing to pay for that help, and the true cost of help from someone that knows what they are doing.

      And working on other people’s code just doesn’t make sense for many developers unless clients are willing to pay for the learning curve for them to learn someone else’s coding style — which most clients are not from my experience.

      • Finding a good outsourcer is definitely hit or miss – more often miss. But I think the hybrid approach would work well if the agent was utilizing some of the more common themes (Thesis, AgentPress) – then there isn’t too much of a learning curve for the web designer. On oDesk, there are actually quite a number of people who specialize in building and tweaking Thesis themed sites. But you’re right, if it’s a custom site or unique theme then it wastes too much time getting acquainted.

  • Designing a website always looks easy on paper, but there are an insane number of details to keep up with, and little problems that can take hours to resolve. I think the DIY approach isn’t going away anytime soon, but think it will continue to increase, but I think the real answer is a hybrid of the two. If an agent is willing to take the plunge into setting up their own WP website, then it makes tons of sense to have an expert they can reach out to in the event they get stuck up on a potentially time draining problem. That way they’re not spending too much on then entire site, just getting help a la carte. It’s something I’ve done with a few agents in the past that seemed to work out pretty well.

  • Chris

    Just got done building our site and it took almost 2 months to get it right! It takes time to build a WP site with specific visual goals as well as SEO compatibility.

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  • I guess, in SEO or any other internet marketing services, only ROI is the thing which matters at the end of the day. Very well explained article. I loved it and thanks for spreading awareness on it.

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