October 2014 | By Meg White
Beth Tyler was taught the importance of a domain name very early on. Back in 1996 when the sales associate with Long & Foster Real Estate in Annapolis, Md., looked to see if her name was available in dot-com form, she found out it was a porn site.
She kept checking back every year to see if the “other Beth Tyler” had given it up, but she had no luck. So she got creative.
“Because of that experience, I’ve always had to think outside the box when it comes to domain names. … I even bought BethTyler.xxx just so she wouldn’t get it,” Tyler, e-PRO, says. For a while, she considered offering the triple-x domain in a trade for the .com version, but says, “It’s so tainted now that it’s never going to work for me.”
She estimates that she owns 40 to 60 domain names with GoDaddy. Around half of them are temporary URLs that she uses to market specific properties, while others are part of her permanent marketing plan to target specific areas. So when she heard about the opportunity to get BethTyler.REALTOR, she jumped at the chance.
“The biggest fun was being able to finally get my name,” Tyler says. “It was a big deal to me. … That survives forever.”
The excitement seems to have caught on with a fair number of Tyler’s colleagues. From the release of the domains to individual NAR members early last week through this Tuesday afternoon, some 80,000 domains were registered under the .REALTOR domain, far beyond the expectations of NAR Vice President of Strategic Alliances and Product Management Ken Burlington.
“We absolutely are thrilled with these early results,” Burlington says. “This really has exceeded our projections.”
In all, NAR is offering the first 500,000 members the first year of domain registration for free. Only about 50,000 of those initial 80,000 registrations were individual members claiming their one free domain name. The other 30,000 were domain names purchased in addition to the freebie. That means there were still around 450,000 free spots left to be claimed by members. (Burlington expects to release another set of domains to brokerages, real estate designations, REALTOR® associations, and NAR business partners in the first quarter of 2015.)
Burlington says the momentum will likely keep building: “Once the word gets out and once people start seeing what others are doing, there really is going to be a rush.”
Initially, there was some confusion about the way the .REALTOR domains were set up. Some members thought their domains were being automatically redirected to realtor.com®. However, after members complete the process to obtain their .REALTOR domain, they’re given the option to park the domain with a “coming soon” page, redirect the link to an existing page they own, or have the URL directed to their realtor.com® profile page.
We wanted members to have options. … We didn’t want to tell them,‘You have to do this; you have to do that,’” Burlington says. As a result, “we are continually impressed with the creative ways that members have been using these domains.
Burlington estimates that more than 23,000 members chose to forward their new domain names to their free realtor.com® profile page as of Tuesday afternoon. The profile page pulls in MLS data from realtor.com®, such as listings, open houses, and sold data (where this does not conflict with MLS rules or nondisclosure laws). Burlington notes that while there are a number of customizable fields in the realtor.com® profile pages, these data sets are constructed so that they cannot be altered by individual agents. However, agents can choose whether or not their profiles display the data sets publicly.
“The purpose of this is for members to be able to show consumers their activity,” Burlington says. “[Realtor.com®] intentionally designed it to be only data that’s verified.”
Whether or not members decide to purchase a .REALTOR domain, claiming the realtor.com® profile has other benefits. One possible motivator is that these pages are part of the upgrades being made to the “Find a REALTOR®” function of the site coming next year. Members who claim their profile page now will be the first ones to see their search results improved to match the new “Find a REALTOR® 2.0” format coming in 2015.
Tina Struppa Pavlov, CRS, e-PRO, GRI, sales associate with Coldwell Banker Alfonso Realty Inc. in Gulfport, Miss., was one of the members who chose that option, directing TinaPavlov.REALTOR to her newly claimed realtor.com® profile page. She says she was one of the first agents in her area to get her own web site back in 1999. As an early adopter of technology, she’s now taken advantage of several of the enhancements available on the realtor.com® profile page. She got help from realtor.com® staff to bring in one feed of her Facebook posts and another of past client testimonials.
She’s not sure if she’ll continue to maintain the realtor.com® profile page separately from her web site, TinaPavlov.com, but she says she appreciates the ability to take advantage of free marketing opportunities across the web.
“Anything that I can put a little freebie profile page on, I do,” she says, including her MLS, which has recently added a free virtual tour option. “All this was stuff I used to pay for, so I’m happy about that.”
Another freebie included in the realtor.com® profile page is e-mail services, wherein NAR members can choose one e-mail address using their new domain name (for example, info@yourdomain.REALTOR) and have it forwarded to an existing address. Another feature Burlington says he’s especially excited about is realtor.com®’s new Foursquare-like check-in feature that allows agents to make their efforts in the field more visible. The GPS-enabled tool lets agents check in, with one click, when they are actively showing a home.
“That is a very cool new feature that no one else has besides realtor.com®,” Burlington says. He notes that the tool allows newer agents, who may not have an impressive list of past sales or current listings, to show they are active in their market.
Tyler says she isn’t sure if she’s going to use the realtor.com® profile page in the long run, or if she’ll redirect the three .REALTOR domain names she acquired last week to another site entirely. One of those domains is certainly evidence of her long-term thinking, however. Though she’s firmly entrenched in the Annapolis, Md., area now (as evidenced by her investment in Annapolis-Beth.REALTOR), she also has her long-off semi retirement in mind with her additional purchase of NCWaterfront-Beth.REALTOR.
“We have a vacation house in North Carolina, so I went ahead and bought it,” she says. “It’s not anytime soon, but I plan on being a real estate agent for a long time!”
Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online, October 2014, with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. Copyright October 2014. All rights reserved.