Michael

Michael

I was born in 1978 in a small town in South Carolina. My mom is from Germany, and my father is from South Carolina. Art has always been my gift and led me to become a designer. Later, I studied web design and development. I've now been working in these fields for more than ten years. Also, I'm happily married to my wife, Tina. We married on 11-11-11 in Fort Lauderdale. My wife is Indian, and we like to say we had a big fat Indian wedding. We have two children, a boy, and a girl, ages three and six. My side hustle is marketing and advertising for small businesses here in the Raleigh area. Lastly, I can say that I'm a "Jack of All Trades", “Renaissance Man”, or an "Everything But The Kitchen Sink" type of designer/developer.
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Raleigh Real Estate Website Design Part 1

Designing the Best Real Estate Website: Part 01

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Today, I’m starting a new vlog on marketing your real estate business in the triangle area, Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill. This will the first article in a series where we offer information, examples videos, and more so your real estate business can be a success. The first thing we will look at is one of the most important parts of your digital marketing strategy. That part is your real estate website. So, follow along with us and learn about setting up your website and some of the first things to do.

Best Hosting Package to Consider Before Launching My Real Estate Website

First, you will need to select a hosting provider for your website. Secondly, you will also need your domain when creating your account. But let’s take a look at some of the best hosting providers, and the packages they offer. A quick web search for web hosting and some of the top companies are HostGator, DreamHost, Hostinger, GoDaddy, SiteGround, and Bluehost. These are probably the biggest players in the hosting business.

  • Bluehost
  • HostGator
  • DreamHost
  • Hostinger
  • GoDaddy
  • SiteGround

I’ve had experience with HostGator, Bluehost, and GoDaddy. Out of the three, I recommend GoDaddy.

They will all offer the same basic packages and at competitive prices. Watch out though, some providers offer extreme discounts for the first year, and when it’s time for you to renew they charge you full price. Make sure to check the renewal rates. There are also many fringe, niche, or local hosting providers that offer the same services. For example, Red Circle Marketing also offers web hosting, called Red Circle Hosting. We are local here in the triangle and serve several businesses with their hosting and other IT needs.

Selecting the Right Hosting Package

So, what is a hosting package? Hosting providers combine features to create unique packages. There are many different features and can vary from package to package. The web hosting packages offered by hosting companies vary from low-cost hosting to advanced cloud servers. The cost of hosting usually relates directly to your hosting needs.

At first, you won’t require any advanced hosting features to get online. I recommend starting with a WordPress hosting package. When you choose shared hosting you will need to install and setup WordPress yourself. Since this is your first time launching a WordPress website it will save you the time and headache of learning how to set up your website from scratch.

As your business grows and you require faster performance and customization you can look at VPS or event a dedicated server. These are lightning-fast and completely customizable. You will need someone to set up your servers and this can add to your costs. They only come pre-installed with the operating system, and maybe cPanel.

Remember, keep it simple. You’re here to start sell houses and not here to become a real estate web designer.

Creating a Domain Name for Your Real Estate Website

The domain name you create for your real estate website is just as important to your business as is your brand. What should your domain name be? If your business name is available, Hurray. Most times your preferred domain is taken. Don’t worry, be a little creative when coming up with a domain.

You should know that a shorter direct domain name will be better in the long run. Remember you will be saying this a lot. You’ll often tell people your web address and email address. So keep it short is my suggestion. Some options available today are having a unique domain extension. This is the part of the domain after the dot. These unique domain extensions do come at a higher cost. Currently, on GoDaddy the top-level domain (TLD) .realestate costs $129.99/yr.

Another option when creating your domain name is to use a hyphen (-) between words. I prefer not to do these since you have to say hyphen every time you say your website or email. I’m a big fan of abbreviations or being creative with letters in the name. Take all this into consideration when choosing your domain.

Optional: Pointing Your New Domain at Your Real Estate Website Server

A quick topic I want to slide into this discussion is pointing your domain at the real estate website server. Most times if you purchase your domain and web hosting package at the same time this is set for you. If you have to set it yourself or down the road switch hosting providers, here’s how. The company you purchased your domain is usually where you will modify the domain settings. You will want to locate the DNS record administration area. You should be able to find this in the account settings. Once you have opened the DNS record you will have the option to enter different types of entries. You will want to enter an empty “A” record and the IP address for your server. Click save and your domain will point to your new server. It may take up to 48 hours to update.

Installing WordPress

If you selected WordPress hosting, then you don’t need to install it. You can continue to the next topic. If you went with shared hosting, then you will need to download the latest version of WordPress. Then login into your account and open cPanel. cPanel is a program commonly included with your hosting package. The program gives you access to a lot of different server settings. The two we will use are file manager and MySQL Databases.

Find MySQL Databases. Here you will enter a new database for WordPress. You can name it whatever you like. You will need the name later, so easy to remember is better. Then create a new user by entering a username and password. After the user is created you will need to add them to the database. The next screen will let you set the users privileges. Give this user all privileges. You should now have an empty database and user created.

Uploading WordPress

To upload WordPress, find and select file manager. This will open a new tab and you should see a file tree on the left of the screen. Locate the folder labeled public_html or something similar. This is the folder where you will upload the file downloaded from WordPress. You should see an upload button at the top of the window. Upload the file to the public_html folder and unzip. Congrats you have installed WordPress. Almost anyway.

Once the WordPress file is unzipped you can now open a new tab and enter your domain name. If you uploaded and unzipped the WordPress files in the correct location, you should see the first question of the setup process. It will ask you what language you want to use in this installation of WordPress. During the setup process, you will be asked to enter the name of your website, tagline, database name, database username and password, and admin name and password. If successful you will be asked to return to your site of login. Pat yourself on the back, now WordPress has been installed.

Logging into Real Estate Website for the First Time

Now when you look at your site you will notice that it looks nothing like what you expected. You may notice what looks like a website but very basic. Don’t worry, this is just the default theme for your new installation of WordPress. Before we begin installing the theme for your site we need to set some options in the site’s general settings. Under settings then general, we want to make sure we have the correct URL. If you have an SSL certificate installed on your website, you should make sure your URL has https instead of http.

Also, make sure the site title and tagline are set. Under Reading select your homepage display. We will set this to a static page. Next to Homepage, you can select the default page your site will use for your website home or landing page. Here you can also set the page that will load your main blog page. After that, you are all set to select your WordPress theme. Then upload and activate your real estate WordPress theme you have selected. We will talk about that next.

Selecting and Installing Your Real Estate Theme

Many real estate websites that use WordPress have chosen a real estate theme for their site and have customized it to their needs and wants. A popular site that sells real estate themes is Themeforest. There you will find 311 results for real estate themes. Themes can be a huge cost saver when you are first starting out. But they do have some drawbacks.

One drawback is that these themes load resources and files for every feature of the theme. Even if you don’t use these features you will more than likely have to load all the files. Another drawback, and this only comes with experience, is these themes may look awesome, but they are not designed to distinguish your real estate website from the rest. Simply put these themes were designed for someone else’s business and needs not yours. Another thing to remember is these themes show off how awesome the theme is in hopes that you buy it. Not so much, to sell houses and generate leads. Be careful purchasing themes because you may spend more time trying to customize it to your needs than the time it would take to have a real estate web designer to design you a custom theme.

Installing the Real Estate Theme

In our example, we’ll use a theme because later I will show you how to remove files for theme features you don’t use. Download the theme installation file from the downloads page where you purchased your real estate theme. Login to your websites administration area and find the Appearances tab in the left-hand column and then select Themes. On this page you will see the currently active theme along with addition default WordPress themes. Select Add New to open the page to upload your theme. Click Upload Theme, choose the theme file, and click install now. After a successful installation, you’ll be asked to activate the theme. Activate your theme. Success your theme is installed. But wait, this doesn’t look like the real estate theme I purchased? Don’t worry we will walk you through installing the suggested plugins and demo data so you site looks correct.

Must Have WordPress Plugins for Your Real Estate Website

There are about 50,000 word press plugins available on the WordPress plugin page. Probably more than that if you count plugins available outside of WordPress’s plugin page. Plugins that require a license for example can not be hosted on WordPress’s plugin page. Usually a free version is hosted on WordPress and the Pro version is hosted on the plugin developers website.

So which plugins should you install? If the theme requires any specific plugins those should be installed. I also recommend installing these plugins as well.

Must Have Plugins for Your Real Estate Website

I install these plugins on every website I develop. Here’s a little bit of information on what each on does.

MonsterInsight

MonsterInsight is a plugin that easily connects your website to your google analytics account. As a business it’s important to know how your site is performing.

Yoast SEO

The Yoast SEO plugin is helpful in finding SEO problems with your site. Yoast also provide you with the key site settings to improve your SEO.

W3 Total Cache

W3 Total Cache plugin is a plugin that helps with your websites speed and performance. With this plugin your site will load quicker and reduce the bounce rate on your site.

WordFence

WordFence is a plugin that protects your website from malicious attacks by internet hackers. This is good so you can block attacks from specific countries

Contact Form 7

The Contact Form 7 plugin is a simple easy to use way to create contact form for your website. It may not look cool like other forms but it’s also smaller in file size. So is won’t cause your site to load slower.

WP Mail SMTP

WP Mail SMTP is a very important plugin for sending mail from your website. Mail sent from your server will 99% of the time end up going to the mail recipient’s junk folder. WP Mail SMTP fixes this by routing your servers’ email through established and trusted email providers. All email providers offer this feature to account holder at no cost.

After you have added these plugins to your site let’s go and install the theme’s demo data.

Installing the Real Estate Theme Demo Data

Most of the real estate themes include a demo data file with the theme. There are themes that do not include any demo data. So, what is demo data? The demo data consists of all the pages, page content, images, and features for the theme. If you previewed the theme online before purchasing, then the demo data will match what you saw there. I like to install the demo data because it gives you a great starting point to create content for your site. With the demo data installed you can pick and choose features from other pages and add them to the page you are designing.

Article Wrap Up and Preview of Next Article

I hope that this article covered the basics you need to know to get your website set up. But we are far from finished with our real estate website. In the next part of our project we’ll go over connecting your site to the MLS database, testing your sites performance, and what we call on page SEO. Look for part two which should be available soon.

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Get started. Develop a digital campaign that will increase your business and revenue. There is no time like the present. Don’t put off what you can begin working on today.

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