Point2 Agent Shaken Up- Good For Consumers and Agents

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I don’t know as much about Point2 Agent  as a company as many agents do, but I am a member and have used the system. It seems to me to be an entry-level type service with a template website given and then you pay for add-ons and additional services. One thing I do know is that the company, as far the real estate piece of what they do, is centered around template websites. I think it’s important for our industry to evolve and maybe it’s time to begin to step-up to a higher level of website than templates offer.

There are better options than templates.

For most agents, a template website is their only on-line presence- either a template or an “agent page” on their broker’s website. So consumer’s see all these template sites and it affirms to them that agents don’t know much about technology. Often the consumer ends up going to the better websites (clean user-interface, enjoyable search experience, etc) that they can find, and in most areas Zillow, Realtor.com and Trulia are the best they can find.

Problem with Trulia, Realtor.com and Zillow is they are not real estate companies- they are technology companies. They take agent information (listings) for the purpose of selling ads and leads to agents. Their purpose is not to help consumers find homes, it’s to sell ads or leads. Obviously that’s not the best business model for the consumers (or agents)?

Now Point2 Agent is getting all shaken up and people are talking about it. I don’t wish bad on them at all, in fact for many agents they have been the only a good solution, but I think this shake-up may a good thing in at least one way- maybe it will open some discussion about different and even better online solutions for agents.

Instead of creating well-designed websites that offer real value to the consumer, agents usually either get a cheap  template just to have a website or they pay a technology company (Trulia/Realtor.com/Zillow) for leads. I understand why- it’s a lot easier and much less expensive than it is to build a custom site. Custom websites can cost a lot. I spent well over six figures on BlueRoof.com, and it’s tough to pay that kind of money, especially if you have no experience converting online leads and have no idea what sort of return (if any) on your investment you’ll get. But help is on the way.

Point2 and other template sites serve their purpose, to be sure, but I think many agents who have a Point2 websites would like to have something better.

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In February there will something much better.

See it here:

https://blueroof.wordpress.com/2008/01/18/blueroof360-industry-best-realtor-websites-lead-and-client-management/

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22 thoughts on “Point2 Agent Shaken Up- Good For Consumers and Agents

  1. A well written post. As another type of real estate professional (an inspector), I did notice one aspect of sites like Trulia and Zillow, which does not help the consumer: consumer comments about topics that they do not understand. I think that Zillow and Trulia are fascinating, and they can be helpful. However, comments from consumers can overwhelm some of the good advice given by professionals or knowledgeable consumers. As real estate heads more towards the internet in its marketing, and consumers head towards the net for information, we do need better ways of representing ourselves to this audience.

  2. Greg,

    I agree that most template sites are no good. And I hope that you do have a better solution. But I must admit that I am skeptical about a “custom site” that you offer to everyone. Isn’t one of the main qualifications of a custom site is that it is unique to that site and there is nothing else like it? Are you not you offering just a template site that is customizable?

    Keep me posted.

  3. The only way to appear in the organic rankings of search engines with Point2 is to load your site up with repetitive keywords and city names. The Point2 websites are meant to be an entry level website for people who know that anything is better than nothing.

    “There are many Point2 sites that meet all the criteria you mentioned in your post…”

    Kathleen I’d like to see some of these wonderful Point2 sites you speak of. They don’t exist.

  4. Kathleen,

    I’ll have to disagree with you about Point2 offering anything as good as BlueRoof.com. On your website you show some examples of websites that (maybe) you helped agents design through Point2, and maybe that is why you endorse them, but those sites are not very good. I looked at them and they all look very much like basic templates. A lot of text and keywords, with the purpose obviously to be to generate organic placement within search engines, not to offer value to consumers.

    Along with Davis, I would like to see some Point2 websites that are similiar to what I mentioned in my post (sites with better technology then BlueRoof.com).

    You may find value in Point2, but maybe there will be an alternative next month that you’ll think is even better. I believe what we’ll be offering is much better. And I think if you took a survey of consumers, such as I have- you would find that most consumers do not like template websites and given the choice, most all of them would prefer to use websites that offer a better user-interface than option Point2 offers.

    Good luck with your services, perhaps once you see what we have coming in January you’ll start referring your clients to us as well. I can only hope.

  5. Greg,

    I agree that you don’t know much about Point2 Agent websites. There are many Point2 sites that meet the criteria you mentioned in your post, and their owners generate business from those sites.

    I agree with you that many agents just create a site from a template vendor and let it sit on the Internet with boring graphics, no customization for their area/business, and all standard content. Some of those dull sites are Point2 sites.

    But, that doesn’t mean that an agent can’t take advantage of the list of features that Point2 provides, and use the Point2 customization capabilities to create a site that is well-designed, useful to visitors, and that ranks well in the search engines.

    In the natural results on the search engines, not using PPC.

  6. Greg,

    I know this is an age-old controversy: are custom sites better than template sites – and I doubt we’ll resolve it here, either.

    I just wanted to point out that some template sites, like Point2 Agent, are infinitely customizable and do well with search engine ranking. I would be interested to know what type of research you did that indicated consumers don’t like template websites. Is it possible that you were asking them to compare a highly customized site with a template site that was right “out of the box”?

    If so, then maybe the conclusion should be that consumers prefer information-rich websites vs sites with a lot of meaningless standard content. And, that would make sense.

    It’s also puzzling to me that you have been so successful with your site when you seem to be dependent on PPC. I don’t see your site ranked on the 1st pages of Google, for example, for Salt Lake City Real Estate, which I would think would be an important keyword phrase for you.

    And, I don’t know why you’re focused on better technology. I don’t think consumers care much about the technology behind the websites they visit.

    What they want is a site with the tools and information they need to research their next real estate transaction, and a pleasant-looking site with easy navigation.

    Many agents use Point2 sites to provide IDX MLS searches (some map-based, others not), community information, neighborhood databases, real-time market information, free home evaluations, new listing e-mails, and whatever other tools or information the agent cares to provide.

    I’m not sure what you don’t like about Point2’s user interface. From what I can see, it is very similar to Blueroof. There are buttons that access the pages, and most of the sites of any size use a multi-level menu so that you can access any page from any page.

    I’ll be interested to learn about the site you have coming in January. If it’s that good, it will enjoy great success on its own merits, once you can really talk about what those merits are. It won’t be necessary for you to speak poorly of the competition.

    I wish you luck on your new venture!

    Kathleen

  7. Kathleen and John,

    Thank you for the dialogue. My website was purposely not built to rank in organic search because of it’s visual nature and my approach to building a website through design instead of SEO.

    As you may know, to rank high in organic search the search engines need a lot of text to grab onto. This is why many template sites have keywords repeated over and over, which makes them no fun to read, but better for search engine placement.

    I think one reason my website has won awards and has a strong loyalty from it’s users is that it was built for consumers, not search engines. It was built to be visually appealing with as little text on the homepage as possible.

    This means that I need to pay for traffic. I use PPC to generate first-time users, but once they use the website, many come back again and again because it is fun to use and not full of keywords.

    Respectfully, let me say- yours is the type of thinking that gets agents into trouble. Trying to get by as cheap as possible instead of investing into their business. Being a real estate agent should be a business. And when you own a business you have some expenses, marketing being one of them. How does it make sense to pay for marketing through refrigerator magnets and desk calendars, but not paying for a hihg-quality online solution?

    Although I pay for traffic, I earn a strong return on my investment because my capture rate is higher than most. And I get a lot of traffic because the website is good.

    I would rather pay to drive traffic to a great site and get 20 good leads than to have my site SEO optimized and receive 15 leads/month and 10 of them are good. Maybe I paid an extra $1000 for those leads, but having 20 good leads vs 10 good leads means that I have an extra 10 good leads to work with, and the resulting sales more than make up for the cost, especially considering the future referrals I’ll get from the extra deals.

    I’ve used template websites and I’ve paid for hundreds of leads (per month) from HouseValues, Lending Tree and other crappy lead-machine sites. I used to give these leads to my agents when I was a broker managing a 110 person office. My agents didn’t want those leads though, because they were so bad and took so much work to try to sort through to find a good one.

    The leads my website generates are good leads, from people who want our help. And those people almost always tell us that they love our website and tell everyone they know to use it and how much they enjoy searching for homes on it. The develop loyalty because they have a perceived value and a real value given to them, from us, and that is something I doubt you find iften from a template website filled with keywords and meta-tags.

    Sure, there is a place for all types of websites. But my website does a service to the industry, I believe, by giving consumers a nice place to search and shows that some real estate agents do understand technology and use it to provide better solutions. I think these template websites hurt our industry by showing that most agents don’t understand technology and just want the cheapest option available.

    Sure, it’s easier to sell a free nothing than a $100 something, but it doesn’t make it as good. Agents who build websites to compete in organic ranking are paying, too. They pay through hiring someone (such as Kathleen or JJ) to help them optimize their sites or with their time trying to study patterns and SEO benefits instead of selling real estate. I choose to pay with Pay-Per-Click instead- and focus my time and energy into selling real estate and enjoying my time with family.

    What I’m saying is, instead of competing with all the other websites by trying to squeeze in as many keywords as possible and trying to rank in the top three pages of Google, compete by having a higher quality website and marketing it.

    I’m a member of Point2 and I’ve seen the system and I know the back-end and what we’ll have will be much simpler to use, easier and faster, and I believe better. Just like the websites we’ll offer.

  8. I agree with Kathleen that custom vs. template will probably always be an age old argument. However I think it is best answered by each individual persons needs and experience.

    For many Realtors a cheap and easy solution is the route for time and financial purposes. In this case Point2, Advanced Access, A La Mode and other template providers.

    For other people who something better such as you Greg a custom website with custom enhancements / tools is the way to go.

    Template websites are capable of ranking within the search engines. Some do fine while many others do not. It almost always boils down to the amount of work put into the website when it comes to template sites and search engine rankings.

    Custom websites have a lot of perks as well and the biggest one of them all is the freedom to be responsible for your site’s own look and functionality. Greg you don’t have limitations that Point2 or others have simply because of technology limitations. If you want something done you can have someone build it for you and see the difference.

    To be fair, I primarily work with template based websites. I have clients who rank for keywords in Google’s top 20 positions according to http://www.seodigger.com. It all comes back down to how much time is invested in the template site.

    On the other hand, I’ve had the opportunity to see one of my client’s second site which is custom. It has only been active for maybe half a year and it is already ranking for about 5,000 keywords according to Google Analytics and he receives 1 – 2 leads every single day.

    Greg, I don’t mind seeing competition to template providers but Kathleen does bring up a good point about your own custom website; according to http://www.seodigger.com your website doesn’t perform all that well within Google or MSN. I hope you’ll have a ‘slam dunk’ pitch as to why your custom solution is superior.

    All the best to whichever route any agent decides to take.

    JJ

  9. Interesting post.

    I joined Point2 in November of 2006, seeking an easier way to maintain a website. My budget wouldn’t allow for a large investment so I settled with Point2. I wanted something which I could easily update and maintain. One of the biggest advantages is Point2’s listing syndication services which pushes my listings to numerous websites.

    I certainly agree that my site “sucks” in comparison to yours and I’m sure that it is many of the things which you feel consumers don’t like. It’s not nearly as pretty, or as high-tech but it seems to get the job done. I am pleased to receive excellent search engine results (56,000 free Google referrals this year) and I’m proud to claim over 1,000,000 page views in 2006. I regularly receive feedback from people who appreciate the work that has gone into it. I don’t employ 2 buyer’s agents so unfortunately, I have to direct leads elsewhere on a regular basis.

    My total investment for the website was under $1,500 (yes, maybe it shows), and I dropped another $1,300 featuring 50 or so listings on Point2 Homes. Because of the low investment, I expect that my site ranks with the best of them when it comes to ROI.

    Fact is, most agent websites, Point2 or otherwise, aren’t very good or very effective. This problem is likely related to lack of initiative on the agent’s part and has little to do with how the site is put together.

    Having said all of that, I am very interested in hearing more about what you’ll have to offer. If there is any possibility that your program could work in Canada please feel free to drop me a note at the email address attached to this comment, I would like to learn more.

  10. Greg,

    I agree with you when you say the industry could use some “stepping up” as a whole. I have used Advanced Access, which is similar to Point2, and I would like something a bit better.

    Is your new system going to have a management system for under-contract files or just leads? Maybe that can be the next thing you help improve. We’ll have to wait and see.

  11. Template websites are often “pushed” down in the search algorithms of search engines, even with different keywords use din the sites. “Flash” sites are worse because they are graphical by nature with even less text content to be grabbed by search engines.

    However, the strength of brands, ie. C21, CB, ERA, REMAX et al., usually require consistency and loyalty to the brand. Why would you want to pay those hefty franchise fees and advertising costs then “do it your way.” It’s counter-productive to a great degree in my opinion.

    I think a plain vanilla template page for $20 a month is just fine for the 80% of agents who don’t really make a living in this business and have “washout” rates as high as 70% – depending on whose stats you believe.

    If you get to the next level – the 20% who actually make a living, then I’d say you could get a little more sophisicated and add additional domain names and marketing websites.

    I think the biggest problem is the one that has always plagued us. You have to pick up the phone, meet and greet people and let them know you’re in the real estate business. In the beginning when there is too much month at the end of the money, most people need to put in the labor effort for the lowest cost with the biggest bang. That still is “feet on the street,” networking and asking for business.

    Once you make more than minimum wage (more than you think when you’re paying you own expenses and Social Security), you can begin to get more sophisticated.

    Just my 2 cents worth.

    Chris Michaud

  12. Pingback: SpencerBarron.com » Blog Archive » How much is too much?

  13. Pingback: Some Really Cool Real Estate Sites : Unstoppable

  14. As someone who customizes Point2 sites, comes from a background as a systems adminstrator with Point2 (happy to have left more than a year ago) and is has an understanding of both the front end and backend workings allowing to know both how to manipulate and integrate non-standard content within a Point2 website and acheive high organic rankings.
    My two cents is this – you can fully supress the templates and integrate fully custom sites into the platform you just need to know how (Point2 has directions on how), unfortunately most designers don’t know how and will simply revert to “you can’t do that, let me put together a custom site for you” translation I would rather you pay me to do it my way, and most Agents are not designers/programmers.

  15. Hi guys. Interesting contributions!

    I am based in the UK and need to get a website like the one Point2 offers but can’t find any….yet. Does anyone know the UK equivalent of Point2-type companies? (i.e. offering the same template features).

  16. I’m one of those agents that is looking for a solution that is somewhere betweent the basic Point 2 template site and paying for a fully customized site. I set up my first website/blog last November, and went with Point 2 based on my broker’s strong recommendation. I tried to research options, but really knowing nothing yet, it was hard to really understand the issues. What I’ve learned is that my broker knows very little about technology…after only 6 months online I’m the ‘tech person’ at my company. Scary!

    I think that there is a big role for template providers like Point 2. I’m happy with where my site has done for me in the last 8 months. Most agents will never take their site much beyond what a good template site can offer. But, as someone that has jumped on the blogging bandwagon, I know that I need to take it to the next step, and Point 2’s blogging platform just isn’t good enough. I’m very interested in learning more about what Blue Roof has to offer. I basically want a blogsite that cuts down the clutter and focuses on delivering helpful info through the blog plus having a strong IDX search…all in one place. Since I can’t get that on Point 2, I’m looking.

    But, at $200 per month, that’s 4 times what I am currently paying. If I’m still going to have to pay for an IDX search and possibly a designer to help me get the most out of my site, it’s hard to justify that much money for someone trying to get their business up and going.

  17. Hey Greg,
    I must admit visually your site has a level of interest, however I’m a tech savvy guy – what I’d really be curious to know is the real story on the stats of your site.

    Would you be willing to divulge things like your bounce rate, your average time on site, number of pages per visit, total and unique visits, etc?

    I would expect that if you are deriving the majority of your traffic through paid means that you are drawing higher qualified traffic and your bounce rate should be incredibly low, although personally I suspect your high tech approach will lose a large number of basic users and performs really well with the tech savvy.

    I assume you studied your target audience ahead of time, likely you do not specialize in retirement communities – I suspect this would be lead generation suicide if you did.

    I think this is one of those never ending questions in which the right answer is as individual as the market the agent caters to.

    As for “Template websites are often “pushed” down in the search algorithms of search engines” that Chris offered, I’ve never seen evidence of this – now if he’s referring to sites with the auto generated content being used being pushed down, I would agree although I wouldn’t say pushed down rather penalized for duplicate content – it’s not the template, it’s the content the fact that templates are usually quite unattractive simply means that the site is ugly and that can be changed with Point2 sites.

  18. Hi Brian,

    I appreciate your perspective on this. It it good to hear different points of view. My issue with templates (and some custom sites) is that they suffer design for content.

    Most people can tell when a website is custom designed. The way it looks, works and feels is just better. I imagine you probably agree and that is why you help agents with their design.

    Point2 has a good business model- give them something for free and then upsell as much as possible. But a real estate system where most of the websites don’t even have MLS feeds is a flawed system in my opinion.

    Consumers want to see all the homes and Point2’s “handshake” system is a poor man’s MLS, with a poor value proposition for the web visitors. I understand why they implemented it- it allowed them to sell websites to many agents very fast without needing any MLS feeds (which are difficult to get). But it’s bad for the web visitors, and bad for the agents (who are losing traffic to better websites)

    I have to pay for my traffic, but less all the time because I get more and more direct traffic as people tell family and friends to go to my site because they like the design.

    This year I have the same traffic and amount of leads as last year, though I spend about 20% of the cost. This is because over 70% of my traffic is now direct traffic. And of the traffic that comes through search engines- about 50% of that traffic is from people searching for my specific website. They already know they want to come to my site because of word-of-mouth referals from people who like the site.

    I doubt template websites get as much discussion going between family and friends. People will tell other people about a website if it blows them away, not if it’s just okay.

    We closed on 114 homes last year from business we generated from our website. I pay for traffic, but I get good results. I’d rather pay $1000 and get $10,000 then pay $50 and get $100.

    Not everyone wants to have the same model as I do, and some people get results from their templates and I understand that. There is room for all sorts. Most will go with cheaper templates because of the cost, but some will choose to go custom and hope for better results, and ultimately, a better brand of business.

    We tak

  19. Greg,
    Nice Post but Point2Agent comes in a very Elite class of Template websites, And very much customer friendly guys to work with.
    I have been using Point2 for past 3 years and i think this is the best possible website i can get for the price i have paid, and not just that, my website hardly looks like a Template,. there are many things that you can do with your site on your own, no need for any HTML, Coding Knowledge,
    Also Point2Agent has a Global Presence and agents from any part of the world can use it,
    Ehsan
    Bangalore,India

  20. Purchase or selling of a place requires a real estate agent to help the people to strike the right deal and meet the right conditions that need s to be met. Real estate agent is the one who connects the sellers to the buyers and help them in all possible aspects to buy or sell the place. One should be careful in selecting the right agent.

  21. There are several agents in the market not all are same, no 2 individuals can be same that is for sure. Agents have different ways of working; some are argumentative, some are highly repudiated, some are harsh and pushy.

  22. Point to agent is not worth it i used there templates before. If your agent with some computer knowledge your better of just creating a wodrpress blog and using that. there easy for pretty much anyone to use.

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