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Posts tagged ‘Tech Tips’

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

Lessons Learned From A Near Disaster

When’s the last time you backed up your data?

As most of you readers know, I’m pretty good with computers. I’ve built a few and it’s no big deal to be to swap out components, install new equipment or repair something that’s not right. Saturday I went to my computer to check e-mail, and it wasn’t working. The screens were blank, and nothing I did brought the computer back to life. So I opened up the machine and looked inside, and noticed that the only thing that was getting power was the fan. No power to the main board or drives. Only one thing can cause this – and the burnt-electronic smell emanating from it confirmed my suspicion – dead power supply. No big deal – they go every now and then and they’re cheap and easy to replace. I managed to find a computer store open on a Sunday – Mother Computers in Victoria.

So I got home, happy to be fixing my problem so easily and cheaply. I installed the new power supply, plugged in all the drives and powered it up. Something wasn’t right. My main hard disk wasn’t being recognized and the computer wouldn’t boot Windows. So I tried re-booting and changing some settings.

Then – it happened. With a sickening pfizz-sound, a bright flash, and the acrid smell of burning electronics, The UnthinkableBurnt Hard Drive Controller Chip happened. My primary hard drive had died a horrifying death. I quickly unplugged the computer and pulled the drive from its bay in the computer, but it was too late. The circuit board on the back of the drive (this controls the drive and tells the computer how to access the information on it) was fried.

So. On this drive was: Windows, and my real estate folder, which contains files and contact information for every one of the clients I have worked with in the last 3 years, personal photos, music, games. And now it’s gone.

What are my options? Eat the loss, and move on. Or, I could pay a professional forensic data service to recover my data, but this is prohibitively expensive, at around $2,000.

Luckily, most of my data was backed up. I only lost about 3 months worth of files. And of course all client information and contracts, documents, etc, are in paper form anyway, so there’s another backup. All of my Outlook contacts were backed up in my PDA, as well as my calendar and schedule of appointments. Basically, the only stuff I can’t get back right now are the new portraits, advertisements, and marketing material I have done since the last backup. But I won’t give up: I researched my particular drive, and found a company that sells the controller chips identical to the one that burnt out on my drive for $20. According to all the information I read, I should be able to access the drive once the new chip gets here. I’ll keep you posted.

Besides the backup, what really saved me was Gmail. Google’s free webmail service has so much storage capacity (and it’s constantly increasing) that you never have to delete an e-mail. Coincidentally, I started using Gmail about the time of my last backup of my e-mails. So, combined with my backup data and Gmail, I ended up not losing a single e-mail (and all of the contacts, leads, and other important stuff contained therein). I can’t speak enough praise about Gmail. In fact, I’m going to write a separate post about it sometime.

All in all, the worst part of this disaster was restoring all the data. I bought a new hard drive Monday morning, and by Monday evening, I had most of my software re-installed (it’s very time consuming to install Windows and MS Office and all the other stuff that you’ve got).

So how can you avoid disaster? BACK. UP. How can you back up your data easily? You can buy or even download some backup software. Do a Google search for it. Or, do what I did. Costco had a smokin’ deal on a 500gb Western Digital MyBook external hard drive. 500GB is huge! (I was there the other day and they had a 1 terabyte version – twice the size of my 500 gigabyte) It even has built-in software. All you do is plug it in and it automatically installs the software and runs a wizard to help you back up your files. When the unthinkable happens, run the file on the external drive, and you’re back in business.

Don’t delay – back up your stuff today.

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 

My Favourite Real Estate Tools and Tech – Part 1

I am a child of the electronic age.

I had an Atari, and then a Nintendo (the ORIGINAL one). I even had a Commodore VIC 20. I loved science kits growing up. I Had a microscope, walkie-talkies, and my parents had to keep a supply of old junky telephones, etc. in the house so I wouldn’t take apart their stuff. I was AMAZED with this new innovation of the PC back when only the rich kids had them at home (I didn’t). In short, I’m a geek.

I’m not sure what kept me out of pursuing computers as a career. I could certainly work in computers. I like solving problems, and have a knack for understanding electronic issues.

So it’s no surprise that I combine my career in real estate with my geekdom and seek out new ways to apply technology to marketing and selling property.

In this series, I’ll fill you in on what a true real estate geek loves the most, and on what can help you in your day-to-day business.

Today: Internet fax services.

Dump the Fax Machine!I hate faxes. And in today’s electronic world, I’m not sure why they’re still so popular. Think about how inefficient a fax machine is. It requires a phone line, when you’re probably already paying for a broadband (high-speed) internet connection that could be used to scan and then e-mail a document much more quickly, and to multiple recipients. Faxes are slow, too. Especially when you’re faxing an agent that’s been in the business since, well, God was a boy, and still has his Model X-2000 fax from 1984. And don’t even get me started about thermal paper faxes. Alas, I suppose they are necessary until we can ween ourselves off of this old technology.

Enter Internet faxing. Internet fax services have been around for a number of years. The basic premise is this: You get a dedicated fax number just like any other fax number. Any faxes to that number get converted into an electronic document (usually a .pdf) and e-mailed as an attachment to whatever e-mail address you choose. To send a fax, you can do one of two things. 1: use your old fax machine as normal. 2: Scan the document, attach it to an e-mail, and send it to the fax service, which will convert it into a fax and send it to the fax number of the recipient. Of course if you were creating the document on a computer, you could just attach it to the e-mail and send it away. No more printing and then walking to the fax machine; you’ll save paper too (hug a tree!)

How convenient is that? And that’s just the surface! Think for a minute about how much better this is. Anywhere you can access your e-mail, you can access your fax. It’s like lugging the office machine around with you in your pocket! In a mobile industry such as ours, this is invaluable. Print counter-offers at your client’s house. Forward documents to conveyancing. The possibilities are endless.

And one final note about internet faxing. It creates an electronic paper trail. You can print a log of your faxes just like any other fax machine. And any fax you receive is archived on your computer. You can save them all to a special folder, and keep them for posterity – you never know when your diligence with your documents will be questioned.

For more information on internet faxing, check out E-fax, MyFax, or Telus

-Tim