I get asked quite frequently what website platform real estate agents & brokers should use.

What better way to research than hearing directly from real estate agents using the various vendors?

I had a chance to ask Drew Laughlin in Columbus Ohio his thoughts on his experience with Sierra Interactive as his online marketing partner (website + SEM). Sierra was covered by Mike McGee last year, and thought another perspective couldn’t hurt.

How long have you been with Sierra Interactive, and why did you choose them over their competitors?

I’ve been with Sierra for 8 months or so. I chose them after either playing around with almost every competitor or having been a client of one of them. I do not like cheap IDX websites, as I don’t see any value to them other than to “have a website” — which I think is a waste of money. Most IDX websites I see are barely finished and, if they are, will never rank against the competition.

I chose Sierra for a few different reasons:

  1. They may not be the most robust offering, but they keep the core functions (CRM, Follow-up, adding your own content) slim and easy to use.
  2. Adding my own content pages without being nickel and dimed. A lot of other vendors want to add pages for you at a cost, which drives me nuts.
  3. THEY RANK. No idea why brokers choose websites where you don’t even compete (on google organic). What’s the point of $500 or more a month if you don’t at least have a chance at the first page of Google?
  4. Innovation. They’re adding new functions all the time. I think they plan for 2-3 updates to their website every year.
  5. Cost. As soon as you add the word BROKER, every vendor seems to think you have big bucks. Sierra is at a good price for their offerings. Anyone that tells me “Well they don’t have X feature like company Y does.” Okay.. so what, do you ever even use that function??

What do you like most about their product and service?

How clean and easy to use their system is. Our last provider had so many options, I felt like only techies could figure it out.

What do you spend monthly, and what results are you seeing?

$800 a month, which includes everything for my agents, they are also releasing agent sub-sites very soon.

I also pay Sierra $1000 a month for PPC, and coupled with Agentology, I’m seeing a 25% conversion rate for leads that come in. Let me clarify conversion, I mean that in the sense that we get to talk to the lead, figure out what they want and then assign the lead to an agent to close. I’ve only rolled out Agentology and that system in the past month, so we’ll have to look at this again in a few months.

I also run our company Facebook ad campaigns which I am at $1000 a month on right now. My only goal with these ads is to generate 100 leads a month. If we continue to get 25% conversion then I’d be very happy. I’ve looked at Zillow brokers portal and a few other lead generation services and I think I can do better on my own. My agents have a great FB marketing tool from Sierra (I’ve never seen it anywhere) so rather than recommend their own website I show them how to use this tool to generate their own leads using their own money. It’s a brilliant way to solve agents getting into do-it-yourself websites that will never be complete.

One other thing to note, and my biggest reason for picking Sierra. I wanted a PORTAL like Zillow or Realtor.com. I did not want just a “lead gen website” — as I think they are turning customers off. Having a pop up with required registration turns me off (and all of my friends), so I try not to do it. I also want to compete on the first page of Google so I needed to have a site that looked like a company brand page, not just lead capture, like someone such as RealGeeks. I felt Sierra gave me this and we are still improving our website.

What can Sierra still improve upon?

Right now, I’d say there are some items that need updated. One example is the ability to label a lead source rather than just tagging it. Most of my gripes are either small or in the process of being fixed in the next 12 months. I also like that they don’t nickel and dime. Sure, there are expenses when you want something custom but nothing compared to my last website vendor.

Thanks for sharing, Drew.

What website platform are you using? Do they do your search engine marketing as well? Are you satisfied with their product and results?

There’s a review of BoomTown here.