My 30 Point Checklist For Choosing A Real Estate Website Provider

Real Estate Agent with Joe Manausa Real Estate 8508880888

This is the second article I'm writing in a series of redeveloping my primary real estate website.

We are now generating an average of 80 registered visitors per day, and we've outgrown the support and capabilities of our current provider.

In case you missed the first installment when I reached out to ActiveRain for recommendations, you can find it here. And the next installment of who I chose is here.

This article includes 30 points that I have deemed mission-critical for enhanced lead generation and my new provider will be able to create, provide, and service each point.

The First Step - Patience

In the first installment, I asked Rainers to recommend solid website solution providers for me to interview and consider to take on this project. I'm hoping you might be able to learn from my journey as this is not going to be a quick decision, nor will it be a quick change.

I have been blogging here (but also daily on my own site) for more than 10 years, and that means I have tens of thousands of indexed pages on my site that draw organic visitors daily (Organic = Free, google just sends them to me).

If I pull the trigger too early on the new implementation, then I'll have the same problems that I have now. The previous provider over-promised and continues to under deliver. They screwed up the "go live" implementation and cost me tens of thousands of visitors that could no longer find my site.

My rankings with google declined and it has taken me more than two years just to get back where I used to be.

So I will be patient.

Your Recommendations

I was surprised to find that very few Rainers wanted to provide "public" recommendations in the comments section below the first article. I usually see an outpouting of ideas when I ask.

But in retrospect, with many of them working with a solution provider already and many of those providers with visibility in the Rain, I suspect people were not wanting to create a stir.

But I still received a ton of feedback, either through private communications or messenging, and I thank everybody who sent me folks to consider.

Current Status

I have found several solutions that I liked very much, two that made my final cut, but just one fits my needs far greater than does the other.

Before I get into the "who I chose," I want to emphasize the amount of work I've done towards the "why I chose" this provider.

I created a checklist of critical items that I will share with you here. Unfortunately, most agents are so busy being real estate agents they don't have time to learn some of the critical elements required behind a world-class digital marketing platform. I'm lucky to have some smart people working for me who have helped me be able to become somewhat competent in this area (I know enough to be dangerous ... to myself).

Requirements For A Top Lead Generation Website

While this is not an all-inclusive list, it is the Preamble of what makes a website extra-ordinary. It will allow me to compete head to head with Zillow and in my local market by utilizing the local strengths that they cannot glean from afar. I have omitted some things that are very common to all sites, but if you see something I should add, PLEASE include it in the comments section below.

Concerns, Needs, & Request

1. SEO – I get a healthy portion of my business through organic search engine traffic. All website companies make claims about solid SEO structure, but the truth is most do not communicate well between their SEO marketing folks and their engineers. I need to know that we are following smart SEO practices on the engineering side (simple examples, working tags/categories into url structure, limiting to one tag per page, etc.).

2. Site Speed is critical … All “A’s” from If you have a site, test it there. If you do not get A's all across the board, you're losing love from the search engines most likely.

3. Redirects – My site was a self-hosted Wordpress Site up until 2014, when I switched to my current provider. They failed to do complete redirects (code that tells the search engines where to direct people looking for pages on the site that have new names) and I lost hundreds of page 1 serps. Every page, every image on my site was optimized with name, meta keywords, meta description, etc., and most of that was lost. I have worked very hard to rebuild much of the past and my current content is pretty solid (I believe), I want to ensure continuity on the change. The redirects have to have near-zero slippage.

4. Tagging/Categories – I would like to simplify/combine some of what I have developed in order to make these more usable at the consumer end.

5. Social Sharing – I would like to make it easy for visitors to share content and listings without putting an excessive load on site speed.

6. I would like a site search in the menu bar (I’ve written thousands of articles, currently we use google (offsite) to find them. Google used to sell “sitesearch” and it was great. If they still do, I would like to incorporate that or something similar. When I used site search on my Wordpress platform, it was used often and it kept people on my site. I want people on my site!

7. Neighborhood pages. Need redirects from all 1700+ neighborhoods in Tallahassee to corresponding pages (unless same URL structure is utilized). This is where my site contains far better and greater information than the national sites can provide. Everybody (here on ActiveRain) knows that real estate is local, that is our advantage over the "big boys" from out of town. Use it!

8. Neighborhood boundaries on neighborhood pages? I did mine manually for 50 or so neighborhoods, can these be automated or copied?

9. IDX Widgets – Custom code used to propagate different actions (need to have a way to enmasse, change out my old-provider's code to new code (rather than editing thousands of pages). This is engineering that enables creative blogging that brings KILLER results. If you can write posts about specific property searches, you will have buyers running through your digital doors.

Action Boxes – Crude forms of Call to Action (CTA). Would love to know if third-party applications are possible to help generate more leads from content (something like “LeadPages” so that I implement new concepts as they create them.

Closed Home Sales Tables & Charts – I continue to upload a .csv file of new closed sales and they are used to generate tables and charts (creates a widget snippet that I can use on individual neighborhood pages). Need a plan to replace these.

Property Search Domination – This is not likely something that you do … but you should! This is a HUGE benefit of a home seller working with the agent with the highest trafficked site, as their home will be seen by more people. I’ve had this working on my current site and on the previous version. Simply put, if a consumer does a property search, and some of “my” listings are in the results, they move to the top of the search. Regardless of the sort order, they see mine, followed by everybody else’s listings in the order of the requested search. Ideally, using a random generator of some sort, you would only do this with 2 of my listings (if more than 2 of mine were included in the search results).

10. Images – need to ensure that the new website provider properly accounts for SEO with the URL structure/redirection and include all meta information of my thousands of images that I have created. Believe it or not, a healthy percentage of my traffic comes from images that have been shared from my site or which rank very highly for targeted keywords with the search engines.

11. Schema (current) for Google - Technical, but ENSURE THIS IS DONE! This is critical to enhance organic traffic. You can read more about Schema here.

12. Featured Image (each blog post) – On my current site, there is a “featured image” that is used in the teaser box for the “brick wall” version of the blog layout of my blog. Think of the featured image as a picture that tells the story they are about to read. These rank well with the search engines. I need them imported without losing any of the love behind them.

13. IDX controls (download every 15 minutes or faster). We need to have the most-current, accurate data. With the addition of my coming soon listings and select FSBO listings, our site will have the most accurate and active listings available online.

14. Consolidation Of MLS Information - Take the 9 or so incoming MLS status' and categorize down to 3: active, under contract, sold. Consumers don't understanding contingent, pending, new, back on market, etc. when they are doing a general search. But we need access to all 9 status' so that we can create custom pages (like Just Listed which kicks butt on Facebook).

15. Identify and post best practices - Things like length for meta and image size for pictures at input location. I'm like other Rainers, I'm not a computer engineer. When I need to upload an image, don't make me remember how big it should be. Put the recommended size right in the upload window. Same thing for meta description lengths, # tags, etc. I want my website provider to monitor SEO best practices and continue to guide me through evolutionary changes as they occur.

16. Blog subscriptions – I handle mine now through an RSS feed ... must have the same ability with the new provider.

17. Neighborhood, zip code, and specialty searches - Must be easy to do.

18. Automated saved searches at first visit (focusing on zip/neighborhood they viewed) - This is a big one. Once somebody has looked at four or more properties, the system should be able to set up a saved search and the poke the user to further enhance the search. This is a gift that keeps on giving ... let your set generate leads for you!

19. Forced (Easy) Registration - Make the sign-up process easy for people ... have FB front and center so they can "Register with their Facebook Account." This should be built from the mobile app first, then to the desktop. More than half my visitors are using phones and tablets. Don't make them enter an email, let them just click a button.

20. Backend behavior based follow-up - The built-in CRM should be able to automatically launch emails and campaigns based upon consumer activity. If somebody looks at the same property 3 times in a week, why not have your site send them an email saying "would you like a private tour of the home as 123 Main Street?"

21. Site stats (idx users, new & returning) - I want to know everything about everybody on every visit (or as close to that as possible). Cyber stalking is just another phrase for diligent salesmanship.

22. Custom Page Creation – Here are three pages that get a ton of traffic on my site. I was able to create them without help using widgets on my current site, and I must be able to recreate them with the future site. 

1. Coming Soon - All the listings I will soon be bringing to the market

2. Just Listed - All MLS listings that are new yesterday and today

3. Back On The Market -  Homes back on the market after having been under contract

4. Price Reduced -  Homes with prices lowered in the past week

23. Coming soon listings – We integrate manually entered listings with the IDX feed so that “our search” has more listings than “Zillow” and everybody else? I need to ensure they go away though once the listing goes live.

24. Multiple preferred lender integration - We co-market with several lenders, and I want them exposed on our site.

25. Bi-directional communication with our preferred CRM - We use (and love) FollowUpBoss. I'd like all new leads on our site to automatically route to FUB, but I'd also like all new leads in FUB (like those received through other sites/zillow/ to route directly into our site. In other words, when a lead comes to use through another site, they have an account automatically created on our primary site (and we push them to use that as their primary search). You ALWAYS want the consumer using your site, that way they get your branding all the while they are shopping. It's how we convert a lot of very long-term leads at JMRE.

26. Facebook landing page property teaser to grab contact info (example: For those who have discovered FB marketing, this is gold.

27. Lead source detection and communication to CRM - Always need to calculate ROI so you are not wasting ad spend.

28. Google analytics integration - A must! See #28

29. No follow blog links - The ability to link to other sites without passing on google juice ... for prominent bloggers, it is nice to have this control.

30. Author bio for blog with each post - Every good article should have a by-line. Right?

Who I Chose?

Well, I've given you the 30 points enumerating "what I want," so the next article will be on the "who I chose," and you can read about it right here!

If this has been helpful, please remember to "like" the article. The more Rainers who get eyeballs on this, the better the result will be for all interested parties!


Re-Blogged 1 time:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Ginger Harper 04/08/2017 07:38 AM
Real Estate Technology & Tools
Florida Leon County Tallahassee
The Lounge at Active Rain
Almost Anything Goes
Addicted to Active Rain
real estate website
real estate website providers

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Joe Manausa
Joe Manausa Real Estate - Tallahassee, FL
Tallahassee Real Estate

Thanks Curt. You make some good points. In my opinion, trying to rank for "Tallahassee Real Estate" is not the SEO game. I have several hundred long-tail search terms that I target and I'm getting as many as 500 organic visitors per day (and I'm not in a large area). If I were doing this in Atlanta, Tampa ... etc. it would be 10x as many.  The big search terms will always be owned by the big money, but a solid website, reinforced with A+ content can draw more traffic than you can work.

Apr 07, 2017 06:16 PM #4
Liz and Bill Spear
RE/MAX Elite 513.520.5305 - Mason, OH
RE/MAX Elite Warren County OH (Cincinnati/Dayton)

Joe, Thanks for taking the time to share this thorough approach!  We've found for our local niche (patio homes), the long tail niche terms are what brings us business because it's the detailed local knowledge that the 800 lb gorillas can't match.

Apr 07, 2017 06:37 PM #5
Dörte Engel
RE/MAX Leading Edge - Bowie, MD
ABC - Annapolis, Bowie, Crofton & rest of Maryland

Dear Joe,

Way over my head, but it looks like you have been working on this for years, so curious to see, what you come up with.

Apr 07, 2017 06:56 PM #6
Melissa Spittel
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Westminster, MD
"Achieving Results Together "

GREAT post! Thanks for sharing the link to schema. I've recently been thinking about adding schema markup to my site, but needed to lean more. Bookmarked this post. and anxiously awaiting the big reveal of who you chose for your website. 

Apr 07, 2017 07:25 PM #7
Stavrula "Sam" Crafa, RNC,GRI, CDPE, PSA
Future Home Realty - Seminole, FL
Providing the integrity and service you deserve.

Grea post with lots of information. Thanks for sharing and I look forward to your follow up. 

Apr 07, 2017 08:42 PM #8
Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667 (MT), 914-419-0270 (NY), Broker in NY with Grand Lux Realty and in MT with (coming soon!) - Kalispell, MT
The House Kat

Now that is quite a list of ways to select a website creator. I get emails and calls from "SEO experts" quite frequently. This is obviously quite a business  now.

Apr 08, 2017 03:25 AM #9
Joe Manausa
Joe Manausa Real Estate - Tallahassee, FL
Tallahassee Real Estate

Yeah, that's for sure Kat Palmiotti . The SEO people sure have learned how to prospect ... most of it is bogus too.

Apr 08, 2017 05:02 AM #10
Al & Peggy Cunningham, Brokers
RE/MAX West Realty Inc., Brokerage - Brampton, ON
Our Family Wants To Help Your Family!

Hi Joe, haven't finished reading yet, a little over my head.  FYI your link to the speed test needs fixed.  Just drop the "s" in the "https".

When I try it our location "Toronto, ON" is not there, I used "Montreal" but it's 6-7 hours away.  My website test didn't do so well.

Apr 08, 2017 06:03 AM #11
Joe Manausa
Joe Manausa Real Estate - Tallahassee, FL
Tallahassee Real Estate

Thanks for the tip Al & Peggy Cunningham, Brokers ... I've fixed the link. Google considers site speed a key component of the equation ... speed it up!

Apr 08, 2017 06:09 AM #12
Richie Alan Naggar
people first...then business Ran Right Realty - Riverside, CA
agent & author

You know Joe that first step can open any blocked doorway.....patience

Apr 08, 2017 06:09 AM #13
Jeff Dowler, CRS
Solutions Real Estate - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Hi Joe

Thanks for a wonderful brain dump for us, and for several helpful links. There's a lot to take in so I've bookmarked this. Good luck finalizing everything - looking forward to the next installment.


Apr 08, 2017 07:09 AM #14
Alice Broadway
Parker & Rankin (Ms) & Azalea Realty (AL) - Mobile, AL
Real Estate Broker

THANKS FOR THE POST, I will definately bookmark this blog. I just switched my website to zillow, not sure if I like it or n, its been almost a month and Im not sure its working for me, but the other one was not either?

Apr 08, 2017 07:56 AM #15
John Wiley
Right Move Real Estate Group- EXP Realty - Fort Myers, FL
Lee County, FL, ECO Broker, GRI, SRES,GREEN,PSA

Joe, what a well researched post you gave us.

I am now interested in your final decision for your selection.

Apr 08, 2017 09:11 AM #16
Gene Mundt, IL/WI Mortgage Originator - FHA/VA/Conv/Jumbo/Portfolio/Refi
NMLS #216987, IL Lic. 031.0006220, WI Licensed. APMC NMLS #175656 - New Lenox, IL
708.921.6331 - 40+ yrs experience

Your post is timely for me, Joe Manausa ...  and it picks at a little bit of a sore regarding my own website, which is poor, admittedly.  So many LOs must now utilize websites offered via their companies because of the CFPB, rules, and regulations.  These sites lag (and I use the word sorely) behind in providing a visitor a good experience.  I pass your info on as proof that sites should be work tools for professionals ... and that possibilities exist by flexing their muscles.  You provide me good argument for this debate .. thank you!


Apr 08, 2017 11:45 AM #17
Sandy Padula and Norm Padula, JD, GRI
HomeSmart Realty West & Geneva Financial, Llc. - Carlsbad, CA
Presence, Persistence & Perseverance

This is a noteworthy post from you, Joe Manausa and I am pleased that Ginger Harper chose to re-blog it today. Thanks!

Apr 08, 2017 11:52 AM #18
Lyn Sims
RE/MAX Suburban - Schaumburg, IL
Schaumburg IL Real Estate

You know what if you wanted great advice & wise thoughts you should have posted it in the Q&A section. Didn't see it so I couldn't chime in. 

Still can't find anyone that will offer sold data even though it's obviously getting pulled from the same place.

Apr 08, 2017 02:10 PM #19
John Dotson
Preferred Properties of Highlands, Inc. - Highlands, NC - Highlands, NC
The experience to get you to the other side!

Joe, sounds like you have a serious handle on getting your website in front of any and everybody who is looking.


You offer some good tips to folks who are out there struggling along.

Apr 09, 2017 09:10 PM #20
Gary L. Waters Broker Associate, Bucci Realty
Bucci Realty, Inc. - Melbourne, FL
Fifteen Years Experience in Brevard County

That is quite an expansive list of items to consider. I missed your first post so now I need to check it out as well as return for the reveal!

Apr 10, 2017 06:20 AM #26
Joe Manausa
Joe Manausa Real Estate - Tallahassee, FL
Tallahassee Real Estate

Thank Gary L. Waters, Broker Owner, Waters Realty of Brevard, LLC . So much to do when picking a provider these days. 

Apr 10, 2017 06:24 AM #27
Sam Shueh
(408) 425-1601 - San Jose, CA
mba, cdpe, reopro, pe

One will unlikely to be included a newbie sites in the sea of 1,000,000s of realtor domains.

Google now only index with established long well established sites these days. The backlinks are not valued like it or not.  Rules changes constantly.

May 07, 2017 08:15 AM #28
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