What surprises realtors again and again is how simple and inexpensive it is to build your own website. If you’re interested in using Weebly, we’ll give an overview of how to design the various pages of the website, how to edit the mobile site and how to apply your registered domain name.
To follow along, you can sign up for a free Weebly account here. If you’re still deciding which platform to use, you may also want to check out Placester. Weebly is a little easier to use and less expensive ($8/month vs. $50/month), although Placester gives you more real estate features like an integrated MLS and email marketing. If you’re interested in Placester read our buyer’s guide here. Otherwise, continue on for an overview of Weebly.
As with the other articles in this series, I’ll be using my father’s real estate company as an example. In the last post, I outlined the content that the site should feature. Now, it’s time to use the Weebly Website Builder to actually build the site.
The Weebly Editor
When you load the Weebly template you have chosen, the Weebly editor opens. Using the Weebly Editor you can add and remove pages from the site, change its layout and colors, add/remove text and images, and insert special tools like an online store or lead capture forms into your site. The editor is very simple to use yet still very powerful. Below is a screenshot of what that looks like and an overview of the basic functions:
Using The Weebly Editor To Design My Dad’s Site
Based my outline outline there are 5 initial page layouts that I need to design:
- The Homepage
- A page listing the homes my father has to rent
- The page with the real estate listings that people can search
- Contact page and other pages with general info like Lake Gaston activities
- Blog Page
People expect websites to be a visual experience, with many colorful photos or illustrations. Unfortunately, my father did not have many great pictures of Lake Gaston and I being based in New York wasn’t in a position to take photos. As having photos is a must, I had to come up with a solution. My decision was to mix the following: A) existing images included with the Weebly template. B) Generic stock images of houses and vacationers that I will download free from Pixabay.com or buy from Bigstock.com, C) And the best images of Lake Gaston that my father provided.
You can see the new homepage design below, and all the other pages are up at www.lcrlakegaston.com. I was easily able to update the images, colors and text of the site so they fit the existing Lake Country Realty colors and brand logo.
Using Weebly To Build My Mobile Website
The importance of having a mobile website cannot be overstated:
- Smart phones and tablets now comprise 52% of total time spent online by US consumers.
- There are now more than 140 Million smartphone owners in the US (that’s 1 in every 3 people)
Data from Comscore
Fortunately, Weebly also gives you the tools to create a mobile version of your website. Weebly will automatically detect if browsers are using their smartphone. If they are, these visitors will be shown a version of your site that is optimized for smaller screen sizes.
Weebly Mobile Editor
The mobile version of your website is automatically created based on the content of your main site. Because of the smaller screen size, however, some of the information can appear unorganized and out of alignment. In addition to fixing those issues, I also want to hide and shrink certain elements to make better use of the smaller screen size. Fortunately, Weebly makes this process easy with their simple drag-and-drop tools.
Launching the Website
Weebly and other website builders offer free versions of their products. Their free versions come with a large downside however, which is that you don’t get your own domain name. Instead you are stuck with something like the following: www.davidwaring.weebly.com/
The free Weebly sites also have ads on them. Ads for a competitor’s business could show up (in case of my dad’s site, this could be Century 21), or even ads that are completely unrelated like for pharmaceutical medication.
Neither a generic domain name or ads are very professional looking, so we recommend upgrading to one of Weebly’s premium options. Weebly’s premium options, which start at $8/month, allow you to use your own domain name, and hosting is included. They also offer free Facebook and Google Advertising credits, which will come in handy later, as I am going to show you how to market your site using both services. Assuming you do not want to have an online store on your site, the Weebly starter plan ($8/month) should be sufficient for most websites.
Applying the Domain
I recommend registering your domain with GoDaddy, instead of Weebly, because it is much cheaper that way. You do not have to register your domain name with Weebly in order to use their website builder. Godaddy also offers free email forwarding accounts, which can be used with a free gmail account to send and receive email using your business domain. I show you how to set this up here.
If you still need to choose a domain name, you can refer back to an earlier article in the series here.
Once you have chosen your package launching the site is easy. If you signed up for your domain through Weebly, simply follow the steps on the screen. For those of you who also registered your domain with Godaddy or another third party provider, just follow the instructions found here. It can take up for 48 hours for your domain changes to reflect across the internet.
Before you actually launch and promote the site, however, you’ll want to have it optimized to rank highly in search engines. This is the topic of the next two lessons in this series. So hold tight!
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