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Posts tagged ‘Internet’

District of Sooke Launches New Website

Not long after re-directing the old http://district.sooke.bc.ca website to http://Sooke.ca a year or so ago, the District of Sooke embarked on a re-design project for the tired-looking (and content-lacking) site. Earlier this month, the newly-designed Sooke District Web Site was launched.

Pictures And West Coast Colours Feature Prominently

Pictures And West Coast Colours Feature Prominently

The new design looks great, and has an intuitive layout including a search box, with west coast inspired colours and lots of pictures on the front page.

Although the basic content hasn’t changed a whole lot, I’m sure with a modern interface it will be easier for District of Sooke staff to add things like council minutes and agendas, election info, and bylaws.

There is a great section on Sooke history, and a Sooke photo gallery which includes local photography of Sooke beaches, Sooke wildlife, flowers, and even historical photos from Sooke’s past.

Bravo to the District staff for improving an important information resource for residents, businesses, and visitors alike.

Tim Ayres – Sooke Real Estate Professional

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A Bold Statement

Local Upstart REALTOR® Prospecting Site Thinks it has what it takes to rival MLS.ca

MLS.ca. Canada’s nationwide MLS. Every MLS listing, coast-to-coast. It’s practically a cultural institution, and millions of people use it to peek at their neighbour’s decorating scheme, or to view photos of houses before a military house-hunting trip in Halifax.

I received an e-mail last week (unsolicited, I might add) from a company calling itself CompatibleAgent.com, which contained a link to a video about their service. In a nutshell, it’s a searchable database and referral service for members of the public who are looking for an agent. They fill in a form, and are “matched” (read: referred as a lead) to an agent that is, well, compatible.

I received another e-mail today (again, unsolicited) which contained an incredibly bold (and misleading, I think) statement:

For those of you who have sent us feedback we thank you, and its obvious that Realtors believe this is a great idea…but the biggest concern you all have is a good one, and that is paying for advertising that is brand new, not yet established and that has an un-certain future. We do understand this and don’t blame Realtors for having this concern, therefore we as a company want to prove to you that CompatibleAgent.com is here to stay, that it is going to be a huge benefit to its members business and that we promise that we will be as widely used as MLS.ca within 1 year.

Wow. That’s ambitious. Here’s why I am skeptical: Alexa.com, which ranks Internet traffic, scores MLS.ca as the 78th most-visited Internet site in Canada. This puts it above The Globe and Mail, Workopolis, Bank Of Montreal, and slightly below 2 other banking websites. MLS.ca is the first result returned on Google.ca for Real Estate. CompatibleAgent.com purports they’ll accomplish this lofty goal through an extensive national TV, radio and print advertising campaign starting in June, making it a “household name.” I wonder if they researched this claim at all.

Even though they’ve slashed the price to join the service, I think I’ll wait and see. Show me some proof of your claim, and I’ll sign a 10-year contract!

Tim Ayres


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Twitter Explained in Plain English

The guys at CommonCraft have created this great video on what exactly Twitter is all about. I joined Twitter a few months ago and had not been using it at all. I was confused as to why I joined and why it would be useful or fun. Then I downloaded a little desktop application called Twhirl, and activated Twitter on my mobile phone. It suddenly got fun. Updating whoever cared what I happened to be doing at any given moment became a near obsession. Seeing what others on my list were up to was also fun.

The best way I can explain Twitter is that it’s like instant messaging (MSN, Yahoo!, GChat, etc) but not as frequent, and with more users. It’s like a blog, but with shorter, more frequent posts (limited to 140 characters, to be precise).

You can export your Twitter posts to your blog, your website, or any other web space you can think of. Your clients can follow your updates, and it’s a great way to share new information (listings, price changes, sales, or even the latest webcomic). I think Twitter is pretty useful, it’s easy to use, addictive, and a short <140 character message is not a time-sink like many web applications. Give it a try.

<a href="http://youtube.com/watch?v=ddO9idmax0o">http://youtube.com/watch?v=ddO9idmax0o</a>


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What's in a URL? Domain Names for Dummies

Everyone in real estate has a website these days. Or at least, they should. In today’s world, they are crucial prospecting and marketing tools for both existing customers and potential new clients. But why waste all your time and/or money in designing a beautiful, content-rich site when no one will remember it? Because our business is done in the real world, it is crucial that we have a memorable URL (domain name, website address) that we can advertise prominently on signs, newspaper ads, maybe even your car. I’ve always been a big believer in short, sweet URLs. Ever since I started in real estate, I’ve tracked the traffic sources of my site with Google Analytics. At least 1/3 of my visitors and usually more enter the URL directly into their browser.So, what’s the difference between good and bad? I came across this blog, written by a fellow geek that, like its title suggests, points out good from bad and explains why. Here is an excerpt of some tips from the site:

Do’s
1. CapitalizeTheFirstLetterOfEachWord.
2.UseDifferentColorsOrBoldToHelpEachWordStandOut.
3. Whenever possible, use YourBrandName.com.
4. If .com is not available, use YourBrandName.net.
5. If .com and .net are taken, find a new brand name. Seriously.
6. Use YourSlogan.com when running an integrated media campaign.
7. Use subdomains when driving people deeper than your homepage – e.g. Product.YourBrandName.com.

Don’ts
1. Don’t include www. We know to go to the World Wide Web to find you.
2. Don’t include http://. If your audience isn’t web savvy enough to know where to type the URL, you shouldn’t have a website.
3. don’tusealllowercase (canyoureallytellwhereonewordendsandthenextbegins?)
4. DITTOFORALLUPPERCASE
5. No-hyphens/or slashes.
6. Don’t use acronyms, abbreviations, or numbers unless your brand is widely known as such.
7. Don’t bury your URL at the bottom of a billboard. I’m the only nerd driving around with a 4x zoom lens to find URLs.

I agree with most of the above, although I should note that if your country (including ours) has a strong and well-recognized top-level domain (for example .ca, .co.uk, or .au) don’t be afraid to use it. You may find your desired brand name under a different TLD. This has the added bonus of distinguishing for search engines like Google where your website/brand/product is located geographically – a pretty good idea for real estate, wouldn’t you agree?

The author is also fond of capitalizing the first letter of multi-word domains. I would tend to agree with this in most cases, and in fact I’ve changed the lettering in my e-mail signatures and will propagate the changes across all my marketing material in the future.

I’d have to say that my personal most-hated URL no-no would have to be excessively long ones. You have 255 characters to work with, but there’s no need to use them all. I even hesitated before purchasing this domain name. Think about it – are you likely to remember VictoriasNumberOneAgentForHousesAndCondosInSookeOrVictoria.com when you drive past the bus bench or see it on a sign?

Also, are you giving up visitors to your site because they’re misspelling it, or getting the wrong top-level domain? Domain names are cheap ($10-20/year) so why not register several, and point them all to the same place? For example, I own TimAyres.ca, TimAyres.com, SellingSooke.com, SellingSooke.ca, and 2 or 3 others that all point to the same place. I’ve even considered TimAyers.ca as an alternative, because it’s a common misspelling of my last name.

Another tip I’d like to add: if you’ve got a great idea for a slick new domain name, run it by a few people first to see if they get it. Ideally somebody not involved in your industry. While agents might get FixturesAndChattels.com, a consumer might not. Worse, your domain name could be unintentionally hilarious, such as a certain online writing utensil retailer, penisland.com – another argument for captializing the first letter of each word in the URL.

So take a moment or two, and examine your domain name. Is it good or bad? And in your printed ads? What can you do to make this extremely important part of your business work better for you?

-Tim

What’s in a URL? Domain Names for Dummies

Everyone in real estate has a website these days. Or at least, they should. In today’s world, they are crucial prospecting and marketing tools for both existing customers and potential new clients. But why waste all your time and/or money in designing a beautiful, content-rich site when no one will remember it? Because our business is done in the real world, it is crucial that we have a memorable URL (domain name, website address) that we can advertise prominently on signs, newspaper ads, maybe even your car. I’ve always been a big believer in short, sweet URLs. Ever since I started in real estate, I’ve tracked the traffic sources of my site with Google Analytics. At least 1/3 of my visitors and usually more enter the URL directly into their browser.So, what’s the difference between good and bad? I came across this blog, written by a fellow geek that, like its title suggests, points out good from bad and explains why. Here is an excerpt of some tips from the site:

Do’s
1. CapitalizeTheFirstLetterOfEachWord.
2.UseDifferentColorsOrBoldToHelpEachWordStandOut.
3. Whenever possible, use YourBrandName.com.
4. If .com is not available, use YourBrandName.net.
5. If .com and .net are taken, find a new brand name. Seriously.
6. Use YourSlogan.com when running an integrated media campaign.
7. Use subdomains when driving people deeper than your homepage – e.g. Product.YourBrandName.com.

Don’ts
1. Don’t include www. We know to go to the World Wide Web to find you.
2. Don’t include http://. If your audience isn’t web savvy enough to know where to type the URL, you shouldn’t have a website.
3. don’tusealllowercase (canyoureallytellwhereonewordendsandthenextbegins?)
4. DITTOFORALLUPPERCASE
5. No-hyphens/or slashes.
6. Don’t use acronyms, abbreviations, or numbers unless your brand is widely known as such.
7. Don’t bury your URL at the bottom of a billboard. I’m the only nerd driving around with a 4x zoom lens to find URLs.

I agree with most of the above, although I should note that if your country (including ours) has a strong and well-recognized top-level domain (for example .ca, .co.uk, or .au) don’t be afraid to use it. You may find your desired brand name under a different TLD. This has the added bonus of distinguishing for search engines like Google where your website/brand/product is located geographically – a pretty good idea for real estate, wouldn’t you agree?

The author is also fond of capitalizing the first letter of multi-word domains. I would tend to agree with this in most cases, and in fact I’ve changed the lettering in my e-mail signatures and will propagate the changes across all my marketing material in the future.

I’d have to say that my personal most-hated URL no-no would have to be excessively long ones. You have 255 characters to work with, but there’s no need to use them all. I even hesitated before purchasing this domain name. Think about it – are you likely to remember VictoriasNumberOneAgentForHousesAndCondosInSookeOrVictoria.com when you drive past the bus bench or see it on a sign?

Also, are you giving up visitors to your site because they’re misspelling it, or getting the wrong top-level domain? Domain names are cheap ($10-20/year) so why not register several, and point them all to the same place? For example, I own TimAyres.ca, TimAyres.com, SellingSooke.com, SellingSooke.ca, and 2 or 3 others that all point to the same place. I’ve even considered TimAyers.ca as an alternative, because it’s a common misspelling of my last name.

Another tip I’d like to add: if you’ve got a great idea for a slick new domain name, run it by a few people first to see if they get it. Ideally somebody not involved in your industry. While agents might get FixturesAndChattels.com, a consumer might not. Worse, your domain name could be unintentionally hilarious, such as a certain online writing utensil retailer, penisland.com – another argument for captializing the first letter of each word in the URL.

So take a moment or two, and examine your domain name. Is it good or bad? And in your printed ads? What can you do to make this extremely important part of your business work better for you?

-Tim

Hate Spam? This is How Gmail can Help a REALTOR®

How much time do you spend on spam every day?

As the resident geek in the office, I’m constantly asked by my fellow agents: “How can I get rid of all this junk e-mail?!” From shady business propositions to uhh… equipment enhancers, there is no shortage of spam out there.

As REALTORS®, we want to promote ourselves as much as possible. This includes publishing our e-mail addresses in as many places as possible. It’s no surprise, then, that we get a large volume of unsolicited messages. Spammers use ‘crawlers’ or ‘robots’ – automated programs to crawl the web and harvest unsuspecting e-mail addresses to sell or use. Some people mask their addresses as images, or in a cryptic format to fool the spam bots. For example, I could write my address as tim ([AT]) selling sooke dot ca. A regular internet user would probably be able to reconstruct it into a real address. However, a casual user [and potential client] might actually enter that into their e-mail program when contacting you – and frustration would ensue, possibly causing them to move on to another agent.

So what is the solution? Since I switched to Gmail, Google‘s free web-based e-mail system,More Spam, but not with Gmail! I’ve only had a handful of these messages, due to Google’s spam-fighting technology. Even more frustrating for our profession, which is extremely time-sensitive, is when well-meaning spam filters block messages that were actually meant to get through – the dreaded ‘false positive.’ When prospective clients are e-mailing 20 or 30 agents, it’s often the first to respond that gets the business. Why disadvantage yourself with misdirected e-mails? This is only one of many features of Gmail that make it great, which I will post about in a separate post. Click here to read about other Gmail topics I’ve posted about in the past.

But how does it work? Check out this video from the Gmail Anti-Spam Squad:

<a href="http://youtube.com/watch?v=8FVme_xIRYk">http://youtube.com/watch?v=8FVme_xIRYk</a>

Tim Ayres

The Best Gets Better: Gmail and IMAP

Google’s popular web-based e-mail app gets an upgrade.

Gmail and IMAP

The geeks have been calling for it quite literally since Gmail’s inception a few years ago. Yahoo! Mail already offers it. Now IMAP is finally here. What is so exciting? Well, anyone who has been using Gmail as their primary e-mail account (like me!) and accesses it from a multitude of locations (home, office, on their smartphone, etc) has had the problem that what you do in one location is never synced up with what you do in another. For example, if I sort through 50 e-mails that I’ve downloaded into Outlook from my Gmail account (POP access) at home, those e-mails will still be unsorted in the web-based view when I log in at the office.

With IMAP access, your e-mail client (Outlook, Thunderbird, Apple Mail, etc) maintains a constant connection to your e-mail account and updates things instantly as you go, allowing you to work both online and offline. So, messages you delete are moved to trash on the server at the same time as you do it on your home PC. Messages you compose and save as a draft on your BlackBerry are saved as a draft on the server, at home, and anywhere else you access your e-mail. It doesn’t take long to recognize how much more useful this makes Gmail, especially for those power users that get a tonne of e-mail every day.

Oh yeah, and it’s all still free. We love Google.

Read more about IMAP and Gmail on the official Gmail Blog

Tim Ayres

Royal LePage TV Launches – Canadian Real Estate 2.0

Free online videos offer buying and selling tips, staging advice, and more.

Canada’s premier source for real estate information, Royal LePage, has launched a brand new website, www.royallepagetv.ca, where you can view a series of informative videos on how to sell or how to buy real estate. Specifically, the videos point out how the use of a Royal LePage Agent makes selling or buying your greatest financial asset a lot easier.

This is a first for a Canadian real estate company. Many companies in the U.S. have already embraced the idea of Web 2.0 and real estate while we have not gone so far. Royal LePage has always been an industry leader in providing top-quality high tech selling and marketing tools for its agents. I have uploaded the videos to YouTube for embedding into web pages and blogs.

Here is the first episode of the selling series:

<a href="http://youtube.com/watch?v=in4dc9dr43k">http://youtube.com/watch?v=in4dc9dr43k</a>

See my YouTube Channel for the rest of the videos.

Tim Ayres

What is Web 2.0? [VIDEO]

Furthering our discussion on Web 2.0, this short video helps explain a little more as to what the buzz-word is all about.

<a href="http://youtube.com/watch?v=0LzQIUANnHc">http://youtube.com/watch?v=0LzQIUANnHc</a>

Some of this may seem abstract, and the end of the video relates more to software and application developers, but the basic concept is good, and this video gives you a good idea on how the Web has changed and what is the future of the Internet.

If Web 2.0 is engaging users (people), then it should not take too much of a semantic leap to make the connection to our profession. The bar has been raised as to the type of content the user wants to see. It won’t be sufficient any longer for you to post a static, boring listing. Users will want the ability to interact with your content – comment on your listings, post reviews of your services, pose questions on your forum, upload pictures of their neighbourhoods, or provide other users with objective advice on your content and your professional services.

Please comment and discuss!

Tim 

Victoria Real Estate Board Releases StrataDocs Online

This is probably the biggest news since WebForms™ was introduced a few years ago. Remember how that made your life so much easier?

First, the official news release from the Board:

New StrataDocs Online Service for REALTORS®

Helps Buyers of Strata Units

The Victoria Real Estate Board (VREB) has introduced a new online service for its REALTOR® members called StrataDocs Online that will make it much easier for buyers of strata units to obtain important documents.

Under the system, REALTORS® can obtain online all the required documentation buyers need when purchasing a strata unit, such as copies of the strata bylaws and minutes of meetings. REALTORS® can then email these documents directly to buyers, saving considerable time and effort. Previously, REALTORS® had to request the documents from the strata council, or property management company, and wait for photocopies to be made. The program also allows strata unit owners access to their documents at no charge.

VREB President, Bev McIvor, says StrataDocs Online is a first for British Columbia, “We are the first Board in the province to have introduced this program which was developed for us locally. We’ve launched the programme with three condominium buildings online and are now working closely with property management companies to get many more buildings included in the system.” McIvor added that the property management companies will be responsible for ensuring that all relevant documentation is available on the system and is kept up to date. “We invite property management firms and independently managed stratas to contact us to learn more about how they can participate in this new program.”

McIvor noted that other real estate boards in the province have expressed considerable interest in working with the VREB to implement a similar program in their respective areas.

Why is this such big news? Well, as the release says, once more buildings and property managers are on board, you won’t have to wait the sometimes agonizing wait for documents. With the exception of a Form B Information Certificate, you will be able to have everything ready for a potential buyer on a moment’s notice. You’ll have a permanent, electronic copy that you can keep for the next time you have a unit in the complex (think of marketing yourself as a “building expert”). You can forward them via e-mail to an out-of-town buyer. Or, forward them to your internet fax (see my earlier post) and away they go via fax, anywhere in the world, without you wasting any paper.

And the best part? It doesn’t cost you a cent more. You’re still paying for the documents from the strata management company, but no premium for the StrataDocs service. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.

This technology was developed in-house at the Victoria Real Estate Board and has been a couple of years in the making. You may remember having the opportunity to demo the system at the VREB Tech Fair last November. The implications of this being a proprietary software are huge, too. The Board could license the tech to other real estate boards in other markets in exchange for a license or subscription fee. It could be a great source of income for the board and could reduce our fees.

The Board is recognized industry-wide for being an innovator in the technological arena and it’s no surprise that they’ve developed a sure winner with StrataDocs Online.