I got a question from a prospective client this week asking “if I work with Union Street Media, will I own my website?”

Quite honestly, it surprises me that I still get this question in 2018.  At the heart of it, people ask the question because in the past they have been burned by their web developer. I’m proud to say at Union Street Media we have over 60 clients that have worked with us for 10 or more years. Our client relationships last longer than the average American marriage.

The answer to the question is no. If you work with Union Street Media, the site sits on our platform and we will host and maintain it for you as long as you stay with us.

However, when you’re talking to people who are in the business of helping others own things, telling them that they’re going to rent their website, even if they rent their car, can be concerning and the kind of thing that can scuttle a deal.

So, let me explain why you do not want to own your website:

Websites are software, not physical things.

Software changes on a daily basis. The best software is actively maintained by a team of professionals who are dedicated towards a focused use of that software. If you own software, like you used to buy Microsoft Word off the shelf, you’re essentially purchasing a snapshot in time of that software. To be fair, Word used to send free updates you had to download, but eventually, you have to go out and buy the same software again.

What killed Microsoft Word?  Google Docs.  Besides being free, Google Docs is updated at all times, hosted in the cloud, and requires basically no mental energy by the user of the software to take advantage of it. Listening to my father last week talk about how he needed to spend three days downloading his computer back up thru Crash Plan and how much time he sat in front of the computer to do it, is case-in-point about why you do not want to actually be responsible for maintaining the platform behind your site.  Leave that to the pros.

What does ownership really mean?

I started Union Street Media when I was 22 years old. I built one website in 2001, for the Waybury Inn, who is still a client of USM Interactive (another company I own that creates websites for everyone but REALTORs). Very shortly thereafter, I discovered that I was not that good at building websites. I was a lot better at communicating about them. Therefore, I went out and assembled a team of awesome designers and developers to build websites. I “own” the websites that are on our platform and I am fully incapable of actually manipulating the underlying code itself. Of course, I can go in and modify and change one of our sites through our Accelerator admin system, any of our clients can, including my own mother. If I actually want to do anything to the platform itself, I need to hire people to do it.

Why would a real estate broker be in a different situation? Certainly there are technically savvy brokers out there, however, the vast majority of them are much better at communicating about real estate deals than they are at building software. If you “own” your website, you’re still going to have to hire somebody to manipulate it. If you own the website and underlying platform, you are still going to have to try to find the Renaissance man of the Internet who can design, develop, program and search engine optimize your website (he doesn’t exist). Or, you can leave those multiple roles to the different people at a company that specializes in websites for real estate agents, and focus on your business.

You will never have all the knowledge of what it takes to make a great real estate website.

In fact, we don’t either. However, we talk to thousands of real estate agents a year, culling together their ideas on how to best display real estate information online. We then combine this with all of the data we collect off of our sites to establish what is working and what is not. We continually take those best practices and re-deploy them back onto our sites. As a result, many of the changes that we make to our platform are included at no additional charge to our clients.

Furthermore, we are using the data we collect from our sites to place calls to action to ensure that when we’re asking a user to do something, we have the highest chance of getting them to convert. We don’t just look at the code, but colors, images, and words.  Is it better to ask a site visitor to “Request more information” about a listing or “Ask a question” about a listing?  We know.  Why?  Because we tested it.

By developing real estate websites over and over and over again, we’ve gotten pretty good at it.  If you build your website with someone who has done a handful of real estate websites in their lifetime, or maybe just yours, they will never have the same level of expertise that we do. You might “own” it but in the end, your website won’t work as well.

Certainly, there are other reasons why working with a company that focuses specifically on real estate digital marketing and websites is a better path forward then trying to build and on your own website.  What I would not argue in favor of is handing over your digital lead generation to Zillow and renting leads from them.  By investing in your digital strategy, you’re creating a perpetual lead generation machine. This is a transferable asset that has real value that can make a big difference when it comes to selling your real estate brokerage.  Additionally, by creating content and investing in your own online presence, you have a tool that’s helpful for your entire sphere of influence – from online leads to referrals and past clients. You just do not need to “own” your website in order to accomplish that goal.

Still not convinced? Give me a call

We believe in real and genuine relationships at Union Street Media. We believe in the power of a phone call. I’m always on the other end of the line to talk to both prospective clients, when they are considering working with us, and especially to our existing clients.  At the end of the day, what matters is how the people working on your website help solve your problems.  That is something we’ve done every day for 18 years and will do for many more years to come.