02 Feb

Constructing a Website for Today’s Property Manager

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What is a website? Okay, so you’re thinking, “I know what a website is, so please don’t bore me with something I already know.” Great! But, for most folks, there needs to be a breakdown of parts so it’s clear. As property managers and building owners, we are accustomed to wanting to understand all of the details, as details are vital to our learning.

For instance, if we have a boiler failure or a roof issue, we ask the contractor to draw us a picture or explain exactly what the problem is. It’s the same with a website. There are many moving parts.

Domain Name

As we mentioned in a previous blog post, Property Management and Your Online Presence, you start with a name. This step is vital, and is termed as Registering a Domain Name.

So if your company name is ABCTower, it would be a good idea to register a domain name that is as similar as possible, such as ABCTower.com, ABCTower.net, or whatever variation makes sense so folks can find you and remember the name. To register a domain name, you can visit official services such as GoDaddy.com. It’s always a good idea to register your name at a separate site such as GoDaddy.com – it’s a safety net to any issues that may come up later with your site. The fee you pay to maintain the name can be paid annually or in multiple years, say three, five, 10, etc. It’s a decision you need to make based on your future longevity for using the name, and also the funds you have available. This is generally a small-ticket item, in the range of $6 to $12 per year, but it is subject to specials, sales, and terms.

Hosting

The next step is to find a web hosting company. A web hosting company is not necessarily the same as the registration service. It’s my personal habit to have my domain name registered at GoDaddy, but hosted at another site. The host is the physical place where the website and related files are stored or hosted. For example, Bluehost.com is a web hosting service, and there is a monthly fee to pay each month to use their servers. Identifying a company like Bluehost.com is selecting your Web Hosting Service.

Okay, so now you have a name, a place where your files will live, and the servers where your visitors will actually go to view your website. Remember, you do not maintain the files and the actual website on your own computer. All of the content actually lives on these hosted servers or computers, which is why you might hear them referred to as a web host.

Framework aka CMS (Content Management System)

The third step is to decide how you want to build the website itself. Basically, the website is simply a series of files inside folders, just like files and folders on your computer. Creating a website is no different from navigating through and using files. You need software. The software is often times referred to as a Content Management System (CMS). Why CMS? Because we want our websites to be many things – communication outlet, blog, directory, online brochure, photo gallery, social media hub, online form, etc. If you had to build all of those tools from scratch, it would be cost prohibitive. Why do that when you can use a standard program that is used all over the world? Now when you hear the term WordPress, you will understand! It is a framework for a Content Management System, or Blog Platform.

WordPress is an industry standard and is so user-friendly that it makes sense to consider it for your website. It has evolved from being just a blogging platform! Some of the biggest companies in the world use WordPress as their entire website.

So now you have a name, a web host, and software. After you select a web host, you must check to make sure that it will play nice with the software you have selected! The term for making sure that any product works with any web host you use is called Supported.

WordPress is the Standard

If you have selected WordPress as your CMS, it is fairly easy to set up. But “easy” is a relative term. If you have no Internet, HTML, or online experience, it may be a bit harder. The beautiful thing about WordPress is that almost anybody who uses the Internet on a regular basis can navigate it and teach themselves. That means your employees or administrators can easily learn how to populate your WordPress site with new blogs and content each day.

My personal recommendation? Have your WordPress site set up by a professional! That’s the number one piece of advice I can give you. The number two piece of advice is to have a component called a plug-in added so that your site is backed up daily. Any function you can conceive that gets snapped on or plugged into your WordPress site is a Plug-in. So if you want to add a photo album, link directory, backup service, or any other feature to the WordPress site, it is called a Plug-in.

Design

So once you have your functions identified such as blog post feature, photo album, link directory, backup service, and so forth, you need to have a design. When crafting your WordPress site, there are unlimited designs and templates out there called themes. If you want to create a certain look for your site, you can obtain pre-made themes for free or at nominal cost. You can also pay to have a customized theme made.

The important point here is not that all of this is totally free. You still need the labor to execute this, but a good portion of the work (mainly with the automation of plug-ins) is open-source and that is FREE. The web designer or marketing expert you hire needs to be paid for their labor, design work, and customization. The beautiful part of using WordPress is that it’s easy to hire or find folks who know how to use it because WordPress is one of the more popular industry standard platforms. The message here is to stick with a standard – it will save time and money in the long run, especially when training new employees. Once your WordPress site is up and running, the on-site staff should be able to maintain it and keep your content fresh.

Maintenance and fresh content will be a future blog, so stay tuned!

“More content available at All Things Property Management by Buildium, industry leaders in Online Property Management Software.” Originally Published at Buildium Blog here.

11 Apr

Property Management and Your Online Presence

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When creating an internet presence and building a new public website, the first thing you’ll want to do is identify a domain name as close as possible to your company or property name. Don’t bother searching in multiple locations for your potential site’s name — you’re too busy for that! Go straight to a search engine like namechecklist.com, knowem.com or namechk.

Create your website on a platform such as WordPress. Put in the time, effort, and money to design and plan the site. Consider paying a designer to create a logo and graphics. Add content to the site, such as (in no particular order):

  1. About Us
  2. Services Properties and/or Listings
  3. Team
  4. Executive Bios
  5. Contact Us
  6. Affiliations
  7. Blog
  8. Testimonials

After all this work is done — content is added, graphics are selected, colors are finalized, fonts, headlines, and widget boxes are chosen — you (and only you, as you spearheaded the project!) can send out an email to everyone in your contact list to say, “Look! We have a new website and blog!” Yippee!

But then, if you’re like most website owners, the site sits, and sits, and sits. From time to time you might add a blog article, or update listings. If you’re smart, you thought to add a live feed of listings from another database service provider that’s integrated into the site. When new employees come and go, maybe you’ll update the site when you get around to it.

Don’t fall into this trap! Your website should be a living, breathing, active representation of you and your company. Make time to promote on social media. Push out your blog articles to LinkedIn and to all of the LinkedIn groups you belong to (maximum of 50 per person!). Encourage your team to tell all of their contacts about your new website or blog. Ensure that the domain URL is on every single thing you publish or post. Place simple share buttons on your pages or blog posts via the admin tools. Anything less, and you’re virtually guaranteeing that no one will ever share anything about you, your firm, or your great content.

While you’re at it, let your employees have access to sites like Facebook, and encourage them to keep an up-to-date LinkedIn profile (the modern-day business card). Your people and properties will be found and links will be out there in Google, where they can be discovered or exploited by new clients. If your website is found, that means traffic! Traffic is numbers, and numbers mean increased chances that you’ll meet a new client, tenant, or even find a buyer.

And get a Twitter page. Twitter is neither complicated nor difficult to navigate. It will bring t-r-a-f-f-i-c to your firm, which is only a problem if you plan to remain under the radar. Remember, you want every client to see your name in the media or an online content stream.

“More content available at All Things Property Management by Buildium, industry leaders in Online Property Management Software.”

Photo Credit: “cursor clicking Share Button” by Master isolated FreeDigitalPhotos.net