Three Ways a Mobile Responsive Website Beats a Separate Mobile Site

Written by Tom Fernandez. Posted in Real Estate Websites, WordPress

responsive real estate website design

Awesome post here by Josh Byers on copyblogger.com that breaks down the three ways a mobile responsive website is better than a separate mobile website.

Since the latter part of last year we’ve committed to building all of our new client websites on a mobile responsive framework for WordPress. It’s the new normal for us and it’s becoming the new normal for the rest of the professional website development community as well.

The new normal

Mobile responsive design continues to charge forward stronger than ever.

In fact, Mashable has called 2013 “The Year of Responsive Web Design.”

Yet, for all its accolades — and despite the backing of industry heavyweights — there are some who remain unconvinced that mobile responsive design is the way to go. These folks argue that your website should have a completely separate mobile presence.

I think differently. I want you to believe in mobile responsive design.

I want you to embrace it like the internet has embraced funny cats.

I want to give to you three reasons why you should choose a mobile responsive website design over a separate mobile site.

1. Mobile responsive design is better for SEO

Writers and web developers know that when Google suggests a certain course of action, it’s usually a smart idea to follow if you care about search rankings. In an attempt to bring clarity to web developers, Google has specifically said that responsive design “is Google’s recommended configuration.

I’m not really sure what other arguments I need to make at this point, but for the stubborn we’ll press on.

If you employ responsive design, you’ll have more equity in your back-links. There have been a number of times I’ve wanted to share a link from my phone, but when copying and pasting that link in an email, Twitter, or Facebook, the link copied is the link to the mobile site.

Everyone that clicks on this link in full size browser is going to be taken to the mobile site, and if they’re not redirected, they’re treated to content that looks horrible and is not optimized for their screen.

Nobody wants to see a mobile site on their desktop, so they bounce. If you design your site responsively, every link that’s shared is a link to your full site and mobile site. There is no confusion or crossover between the two.

Google says:

… a single URL for the content helps Google’s algorithms assign the indexing properties for the content.

For a mobile site (actually for every site), SEO and user experience are blood brothers. If your site is unpleasant to use and the user can’t find what they’re looking for, they’ll make a quick exit.

This causes your bounce rate to grow, which tells Google your site probably doesn’t have what that person was searching for. Congratulations, you’ve just been knocked down in the rankings for the term that user searched for.

This can be avoided by having a mobile site that looks great and functions extremely well … and has all the content of your full size browser version.

For all that is good and right, please do not use a plugin that “converts” your site to a mobile site. There was a time and place for that, but that time has passed. There are few things in this world more ugly and jarring than visiting a site on my phone and having it redirect to the bland mobile version.

Lastly, we all know that load time is a factor when Google ranks sites.

When your site has to re-direct to a mobile url, this increases the load time. A responsive site has no such redirection.

2. Mobile responsive design is easier to maintain

For sites that create a lot of content, it can be a real headache to make sure that all of it is transferred properly to multiple web properties.

Ultimately, you have to spend more time, or you’re paying someone else to spend time copying and formatting content to multiple places. If your site is designed responsively, when you’re finished creating content, you’re finished.

With a responsive design, your site is also future-proof. Many mobile-only sites have to be constantly tweaked when a popular new device comes on the market. Mobile responsive design ensures that your site will be optimized … no matter what the screen size of the device.

3. Mobile responsive design delivers a better reading experience

There are some that will argue this is dead wrong, but if you develop with a mobile first philosophy, their argument goes out the window.

Some content producers think they should curate content by device — only publishing the content that they believe appeals to mobile users, or removing content that’s not “important” enough for mobile. This is a mistake.
Brad Frost, a leading voice in the mobile responsive movement, says:

Mobile users will do anything & everything that desktop users will do provided it’s presented in a usable way. Assuming people on mobile “won’t do that” is a losing proposition. Don’t penalize users with missing content & features just because they are on a full screen.

To be fair, there’s one thing mobile sites have that responsive sites don’t … the “view full site” link.
The reason this link exists is because of the inherent problems with a mobile site. Users want all the content, presented in a way that’s accessible.

The reality of the situation …

If you’re not designing and developing your entire site with mobile users in mind, it doesn’t really matter if you employ a responsive design, or have a separate mobile site.

Data consistently show that mobile devices, mobile usage, and mobile purchases continue to rise at an enormous rate. This data also suggests that mobile internet usage will exceed desktop internet usage by the end of 2013 or begining of 2014.

Mobile Responsive Web Design for Real Estate Matters:

  • 89% of home shoppers used a mobile search engine during their home researching process
  • Real Estate related searches on Google.com have grown 253% over the last 4 years
  • The 25-34 year old age group is the largest group of Smart phone owners and new home buyers

Mobile Responsive IDX

Even if your WordPress website is mobile responsive that doesn’t necessarily mean the pages of your website that display IDX data will be. This depends on how the IDX system is implemented into your site. The pages of your site that use iframes to display IDX data will most likely NOT respond in size to the mobile device accessing it.

Some WordPress IDX solutions, such as dsIDXpress, when integrated into a good mobile responsive theme (click here to see an example) will be mobile responsive. This is an added benefit of having an integrated WordPress IDX solution.
To be successful on the web you must begin your process with a philosophy that puts mobile first.

Mobile responsive design is then the natural outflow of this process.

If you’re an agent with additional questions on mobile -vs-mobile responsive website design or want to see a demonstration of the differences, get in touch with us or leave a comment below.

The Most Dangerous Threat to a Realtors Online Marketing Efforts

Written by Tom Fernandez. Posted in Business, Real Estate Websites

Real Estate Marketing Digital Sharecropping

This post was inspired by one of my favorite bloggers, Sonia Simone. I’ve added my two cents and tried to make it even more relevant for Realtors. And so here it goes…


We have a great bookstore in my town — the kind of place you picture in your mind when you think of a great independent bookshop.
It’s perfect for browsing, with lots of comfy chairs to relax in. The books are displayed enticingly. There’s a little coffee shop so you can relax with an espresso. They get your favorite writers to come in for readings, so there’s always a sense of event and excitement.

They do everything right, and they’ve always had plenty of customers. But they still closed their doors last year.

No, not for the reasons you might think. It wasn’t Amazon that killed them, or the proliferation of free content on the web, or the crappy economy.

They closed the store because they were leasing their big, comfortable building … and when that lease ran out, their landlord tripled the rent. Literally overnight, their business model quit working. Revenues simply wouldn’t exceed costs. A decision made by another party, one they had no control over, took a wonderful business and destroyed it.

And that’s precisely what you risk every day you make your business completely dependent on another company.

For your average Realtor it might be Zillow, Realtor.com, Trulia.com.

Or any of the real estate website providers that license aka: “lease” websites to agents and brokers rather than offering a self hosted option.

It’s called digital sharecropping, and it means you’re building your business on someone else’s land.

And it’s a recipe for heartbreak and failure.

What’s digital sharecropping, anyway?

Digital sharecropping is a term coined by Nicholas Carr to describe a peculiar phenomenon of Web 2.0.

One of the fundamental economic characteristics of Web 2.0 is the distribution of production into the hands of the many and the concentration of the economic rewards into the hands of the few.

In other words, anyone can create content on sites like Facebook, but that content effectively belongs to Facebook. The more content we create for free, the more valuable Facebook becomes. We do the work, they reap the profit.

The term sharecropping refers to the farming practices common after the U.S. Civil War, but it’s essentially the same thing as feudalism. A big landholder allows individual farmers to work their land, and takes most of the profits generated from the crops.
The landlord has all the control. If he decides to get rid of you, you lose your livelihood. If he decides to raise his fees, you go a little hungrier. You do all the work and the landlord gets most of the profit, leaving you a pittance to eke out a living on.

Well, we’re not subsistence farmers any more, and our work doesn’t involve 12-hour days in grueling conditions. So is sharecropping still dangerous?

It is, for a couple of reasons …

Landlords are fickle

More and more small businesses are moving all of their marketing to sites like Facebook. It’s local, it’s free (or at least cheap), and it makes businesses feel like they’re doing something cutting-edge.

Realtors continue to double-down with Zillow & Trulia by subscribing to their advertising programs and embedding their widgets to their own real estate blogs which only helps Zillow & Trulia outrank Realtors in the search engines.

But what happens when Facebook thinks you’ve done something that violates their terms of service and deletes your account? Or changes the way you’re allowed to interact with your customers?

Facebook is a particularly fast-changing platform, but it’s not the only one. An entire industry has sprung up based on trying to figure out what Google’s going to do tomorrow, both as a search engine and as an advertising platform.

If you’re relying on Facebook or Google to bring in all of your new customers, you’re sharecropping. You’re hoping the landlord will continue to like you and support your business, but the fact is, the landlord has no idea who you are and doesn’t actually care.

Landlords go away

The other problem with sharecropping is that the landlord may or may not be here next year.
Sharecroppers have put millions of hours into sites like Digg or MySpace. And those sites still exist — but they’re no longer bringing the traffic they once did.

Sharecropped land, in other words, has a tendency to become less and less fertile over time.

Maybe Facebook or LinkedIn or Google+ will buck the trend. Maybe they’ll continue to stay healthy and vibrant for decades, rather than a year or two.

Perhaps Zillow, Realtor.com & Trulia and the others will also be here for years to come.

The best we can do is guess. And if we guess wrong, the livelihood of our business is at risk.

So are Facebook and Google bad for business?

Of course not. Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, and many more sites are all superb tools to add to our marketing mix.

The secret is to spend most of your time and creative energy building assets that you control.

There are three assets you should be building today, and should continue to focus on for the lifetime of your real estate business:

  • A well-designed website, preferably WordPress with IDX, with your own hosting account
  • An opt-in email list, ideally with a high-quality autoresponder
  • A reputation for providing impeccable value and service

These things are the equivalent of buying your building instead of renting it.

Now any of these can fall prey to outside influences. The bookstore’s building can burn down. And your site can be hacked, your email account closed down, your reputation smeared. But repairing your assets is in your control. You can fix the hacked code, export your email list to another provider, and respond effectively to manage your reputation.

More important, you can proactively protect those assets by taking website security seriously, avoiding any spammy or dodgy practices with your email, and cultivating a loyal audience who will vouch for you as being one of the good guys.

You’ve put a lot of time and effort into your business — don’t put it all at risk by building on rented land.

How about you — do you feel confident that you’re developing your own online assets?

How’s the balance between assets you control and third-party sites like Facebook, Zillow, Google or Realtor.com?

Let us know about it in the comments.

Case Study :: Agent closes 10 deals in his first 12 months

Written by Tom Fernandez. Posted in IDX Systems, Real Estate Websites, SEO Tips

In this post you can download the audio file (MP3) of a very insightful interview of Anthony Gilbert by copyblogger’s Ricardo Bueno.

You will hear first hand how Anthony Gilbert, a newbie agent in the business for less than a year, used aggressive internet marketing campaigns consisting of; pay-per-click advertising, custom WordPress website(s), SEO, multiple IDX systems and a simple mantra of relationship building in order to close 10 deals, 7 of them from the internet, in his first 12 months as a Realtor.

Click the icon below to hear the interview!

Was Anthony’s success a fluke? Just dumb luck? Or does the promise of lead generation from the internet now seem possible or even probable?

Tell us your thoughts, leave a comment below.

Responsive WordPress Websites & IDX For Real Estate Agents

Written by Tom Fernandez. Posted in Real Estate Websites, WordPress

responsive wordpress realestate webdesign

In recent months there’s been a lot of noise in the WordPress development world on responsive website design. DIY Themes, developers of Thesis, and StudioPress, developers of the Genesis framework have recently added “responsive” to their feature set. The Warp WordPress theme framework, and it’s WidgetKit are now fully “responsive” too.

That’s awesome, because Warp is our framework of choice and all of our new projects will be responsive. But what exactly does “responsive” web design mean?

How is this different than mobile optimization and if your website is “responsive” than does that automatically make your IDX system pages responsive too?

Below is a portion of a good article on responsive web design for real estate websites over at Teamhardison.com that I thought I should share…


Is ‘Responsive’ it an emerging buzzword and little more?

In short, no.  It IS a buzzword, for sure!  Be prepared to spend the next year or two having everyone tell you that “you need it”, or “must have it”, or that “you’re an idiot not having it”.  Be prepared for everyone to call every display that doesn’t look completely ridiculous a “responsive” display.  Responsive will, for a time, be the buzziest of buzzes, but here’s the difference.  This has merit.  Not that others don’t…  My problem is that once the SNO (Shiny New Object) Job gets going it can be very difficult to evaluate these things objectively, keeping in mind your organizations needs and any additional costs, time and resources.

Brand consistency is important for Scott, so responsive was (in our opinions) the right choice for him, as it will be for the vast majority of our clients, which is why we’ve chosen to go responsive as a developer.  Of course, we will have clients that don’t require it at some point and for them, we may go another way such as WP Touch as we have in the past.  The point is that NO ONE SHOULD BE RUNNING OUT AND REDOING THEIR SITES SO THEY’RE RESPONSIVE WITHOUT THE NUMBERS TO JUSTIFY IT!  Please don’t fall for the impending hype.

Real Support for Responsive – Who has it?

The biggest problem for those that want to go truly responsive on their WordPress Real Estate sites is going to be IDX and how they handle mobile on their end.  Keep in mind that the majority of WordPress enabled IDX’s feed displays aren’t on pages you own or have the ability to edit, so you’re beholden to IDX Providers in many ways.

Zillow isn’t ‘Responsive’, but…:

Zillow’s Diverse Solutions product has gone in a different direction thus far, developing a mobile web app that allows site visitors using mobile phones or tablets to access listing data using a native mobile interface, but this isn’t responsive.  Again, you lose a degree of control over the experience and certainly lose brand consistency using this method.  The advantage is that it’s fast, easy, cost effective and does provide all the tools a mobile home shopper needs while still providing Agents and Brokerages all the lead capture and tools they require.  One slight disadvantage with with Zillow method is that any page containing their content will automatically recognize the use of a mobile device and effectively steal that user away from your site which can also be a problem when trying to create a consistent user experience.

IDX Broker Platinum has the best of both worlds:

IDX Broker’s new (still in beta) Platinum product essentially bridges both worlds, giving you standard displays that are flexible enough to make fully responsive for mobile visitor AND maintain control over both the experience and brand representation, AND they also have a mobile web app that works in much the same way Zillow’s does.  As a user / developer, you can use either, as IDX Broker has had the foresight to leave these choices up to you.  It is very important to remember that this product is still in development, so we have not yet seen everything it can do.

The only problem for responsive displays on mobile devices that IDX Broker has at this moment is that mobile-like services such as location services aren’t available via their desktop services.  So while the displays look great on a mobile device, and searching remains easy, it’s lacking the more automated mobile feel of their mobile web app.  But if I’ve learned anything at all about IDX Broker in the past few weeks it is that they have no fear of taking a new approach and I have a distinct feeling this won’t be an issue for long.

More great reads on the Responsive web design issue:

Smashing Magazine: Responsive Web Design: What is it and how to use it

Smashing Magazine: Why We Shouldn’t Make Separate Mobile Websites

Why Google loves responsive design (and you should too)

Weighing Options: WPTouch, Responsive Design and Your Mobile Strategy


Depending on the IDX system you have or are considering purchasing there are some detailed questions to ask.

My take on “responsive” is similar to what’s been expressed above. It’s not necessarily a “must have” at this time but my guess is that it will become more important in the not too distant future. As mobile internet use continues to grow exponentially year over year it’s always a good to be ahead of the curve.

IDX web sites, CMA software & CRM tools are the most important tools in the real estate industry with the highest overall usage

Written by Tom Fernandez. Posted in IDX Systems, Real Estate Websites

realestate technolog yinfographicA recent survey of more than 2,000 real estate Professionals by ActiveRain & Market Leader details usage and average price paid for real estate technology and marketing solutions.

SEATTLE, WA, Jun 26, 2012 (MARKETWIRE via COMTEX) — A recent survey of more than 2,000 real estate professionals has indicated overall spending on technology and technology-related marketing services is increasing, especially among the industry’s most successful agents, but real estate professionals continue to invest in direct mail as a preferred marketing vehicle.

Collected from among the more than 220,000 ActiveRain real estate professional community members as well as Market Leader customers, the survey focused on measuring what software and marketing support real estate agents are using in their business and how much they are spending on these necessary tools of the trade.

An infographic and deeper summary of the survey’s findings can be downloaded at www.activerain.com/real-estate-marketing .

“Real estate professionals are accelerating their investments in technology-based marketing options, but there’s not always a direct correlation between where they’re spending money and where they’re getting value,” said Nikesh Parekh, chief executive officer for ActiveRain. “More agents are investing in the technology and pipeline management systems necessary to build successful, long-term businesses.”

Other highlights from the survey include:

  • IDX web sites, CMA software, contact management, and email marketing
    continue to be the most important tools in the real estate industry
    with the highest overall usage
  • Real estate agents earning more than $100,000 per year are willing to
    pay a premium for top IDX web sites, contact management solutions,
    virtual tour software, and team management
  • Most other categories of software / technology show a reasonable fixed
    price per month regardless of the annual income of the agent
  • More kinds of marketing and advertising solutions are used by agents
    with no single solution having dominant share
  • Online agents are spending the most on lead generation, national real
    estate web sites (Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com) and pay-per-click
    advertising
  • Social media, blogging, and SEO have the broadest agent participation
    but low monthly spend, due to the predominance of free tools
  • Direct mail has the largest agent participation of any offline
    marketing & advertising solution, regardless of agent income
  • Top producing agents earning more than $100,000 per year spend more in
    general across all categories but spend more money on online lead
    generation, national real estate web sites, and search engine
    marketing. Top producing agents spend significantly more per month on
    marketing personnel and training/coaching

  • View the complete infographic here:

    Data provided by ActiveRain.com. Join 220,000+ Real Estate Agents on the world’s largest Real Estate Social Network.