Monday
July 28, 2014

Out-of-the-Box Fix for an Outside-the-Box Site

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Out-of-the-Box Fix for an Outside-the-Box Site

Is a one-time fee of $99 for a dynamic, optimized real estate Web site too good to be true?

Having a business Web site is no longer an option. While you can theoretically get a free blog from WordPress, Weebly, Moonfruit, and other platforms, let’s face it: You get what you pay for.

Unfortunately, most real estate professionals will end up paying a great deal more for an SEO-optimized, professional-looking site, even if they want a more DIY experience. And often they’ll still have to pay for add-ons like hosting and support on a regular basis after laying out their chunk of change just to get started.

WebsiteBox has stepped into the gap between these free sites and the more expensive options by offering options specifically for real estate professionals, brokers, and teams. For a one-time fee of $99, each of these customer groups can get a customizable, multitiered site tailored to its needs.

Before WebsiteBox launched its service at the 2013 Inman Conference, I spoke with CEO Kurt Lynn about his product. I asked why he decided to go after real estate professionals as a target audience.

“They’re getting gouged,” Lynn said. “In every other industry, the same technology costs a fraction of the price.”

Lynn believes real estate professionals should pay a one-time fee of $99 to access “everything you need to do on a Web site.”

WebsiteBox sent me trial credentials to set up a sample site, and I was impressed. The SEO-optimized content they provide out of the box is customized geographically as well as by the user’s choice of six different subject concentrations (commercial, neighborhood-centric, listings-focused, etc.) to provide for a pretty unique experience without a great deal of customization required. They’ve partnered with around 120 multiple listing services to offer comprehensive property searches for visitors, and are hoping to sign on more soon.

WebsiteBox includes some 500 images in a library for users to employ all over their site. Of course, users will have the most unique space if they choose to upload their own, but sometimes you just need a stock photo. Each site also “self-configures” for mobile viewers, regardless of the view or style you’ve chosen, meaning your site looks great on a mobile device without you having to think about it.

The issue with many out-of-the-box Web solutions is often limitations on customization. But I found I was able to change titles, descriptions, and content placement throughout the many pages on my sample site. I was even able to embed a playable REALTOR® Magazine video in the rotating masthead along with a description and title (see screenshot). You’ll have a tough time pulling that off in a free WordPress theme without jumping into your CSS code.

The WebsiteBox team also promises a content relationship management arm that syncs with analytics to show you where contacts are clicking, what kind of properties they’re looking at on your site, how many logins they’ve initiated, and more. Of course, my trial site isn’t being visited by any real house hunters (hopefully), so I can’t say that I’ve tried out this feature.

A one-time fee for this kind of functionality in a real estate Web site seems so outside the realm of the ordinary that I dogged WebsiteBox, vigilantly searching for a catch. Lynn told me that while the $99 fee includes one branded e-mail address, users will have to pay another one-time charge for 15 extra e-mail addresses.

Also, this isn’t really a catch, but be aware that if you want your own independent URL, you’ll have to pay to register and maintain your domain name, as you would have to do for any other site. Domain registration can be accomplished via WebsiteBox, but it’s not required that you do so. Usually the fees for maintaining a domain name are in the $10-$20 per year range. If you don’t have your own domain name, the URL will follow this pattern: yourname.websitebox.com.

Lynn told me he was very aware of the “Did we tell you that you needed tires on that car?” phenomenon when he set out to create WebsiteBox:

“At ninety-nine bucks, everyone’s going to be looking for a catch. We want to make sure there’s no catch.”

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