My DenverHomeValue.com domain and website has been in existence since I returned to the Denver area in 2004, but it has gone through a number of changes in design and functionality as new technologies, and my ability to take advantage of them, have improved.
Feb 2004 – June 2007: Basic Point2Agent template website with My Buying Buddy, a very strong and feature rich IFramed IDX with great back end lead management capabilities. This configuration was easy to manage and great for supporting consumers, but it was relatively poor at search engine SEO factors. Buying leads and paying for AdWords PPC got to be very expensive, so an alternative needed to be found, and I thought I had found it.
July 2007 – March 2008: Basic Real Estate Webmasters (REW) template website, with same My Buying Buddy IFramed IDX. Sticking with the Buying Buddy IDX was not the original plan, but it was discovered that REW’s MetroList IDX was not as ready to “plug and play” as we all had thought at the time. It still needed lots more development work to improve functionality and achieve valid “vendor template” approval from Metrolist MLS. Still, it was a major a step up for future SEO factors, and my users were still happy with the IDX and stayed on the site. Unfortunately, it also meant that my AdWords PPC expenses were not going away as quickly as I had hoped.
March 2008 – June 2009: Same basic REW template, with a few minor enhancements, plus the newly approved and integrated REW IDX. Unfortunately, the user experience of the limited functionality of the REW IDX was not all that great out of the box, as compared to the very rich and user friendly features of My Buying Buddy. New users rarely came back over time to do their searches, meaning lots of lost business. In internet terms, despite a few relatively minor improvements to the IDX, the site was just not as “sticky” as the previous IDX configuration. On the other hand, search engine / SEO factors were great, so I was able to attract more visitors without buying leads or PPC. REW was technically capable, but was constrained in its ability to change the IDX by the Metrolist rules in place at the time. And, based on REW’s “custom design and programming by the hour” business model, any custom work could also be very expensive for the limited number of their Denver area template clients to absorb. There had to be a better way.
July 2009 – Dec 2011: Joomla “open source” CMS (Content Management System) with integrated IDX by Ultimate IDX, plus a WordPress sub-domain for blogging, all “skinned” to replicate the core website’s theme and colors. The UltimateIDX already had open source website experience, primarily with WordPress, and a strong lead management back end component, but they were new to the Denver market, so we were able to design the IDX user interface from scratch, with what I think are pretty good results.
Dec 2011 – May 2013: In late December 2011, I finally migrated the website from Joomla to WordPress, while retaining much of the same “look and feel” by using a WordPress version of the same RocketThemes Affinity template/theme. The conversion to WordPress was long overdue. But until WordPress 3 had stabilized and some of the CMS like features I needed were available, either in the core product or in 3rd party plugins, especially in the menu management area, I could not pursue this change. Even so, the migration was not simple, and due to many technical factors, had to be accomplished manually, page by page for over 400 pages of website content. During this process, I also added significant new features, including Google mapping of subdivisions plus walk scores, schools and other demographics, implementation of enhanced “featured listings” pages with the same mapping and demographics, and custom sidebar menu and content list styling to match the Affinity top menu. I also developed a number of special php and MySQL tools that will be available to my CMS Real Estate Site WordPress clients.
May 2013 – March 2014: The large number of leads being generated by the site were too much for one person to handle! The website was leased to Cobalt Realty and re-branded for their brokerage. This allowed me to focus more of my time and efforts on website and plugin development and support, and on my own past clients and referral clients.
October 2014: I finally switched the WP theme from the RocketTheme Affinity to Weaver II Pro, a more modern theme with built-in mobile device compatibility, plus many pre-configured sub-themes. Because of its ease of setup and configuration, I was able to retain much of the old site’s “look and feel”. Even this is still not as fancy or graphically pleasing as some of the newer themes, I have found that real estate consumers are not much interested in how a site looks, only that it be easy to use and navigate, and have a great IDX home search capability.Mid 2015 the vendor updated and renamed their product Weaver Xtreme, and the site was updated to that newer and more mobile responsive theme.
February 2014: Due to the many enhancements to my plugins, page load performance was suffering, which probably affected bounce rates and viewer time on site. So I added the W3 Total Cache WP plugin to the site, which improved page load speeds significantly. However, after running that caching plugin for awhile, I found an even better one, now known as Comet Cache, that allows me to have it pre-cache selected pages instead of caching only pages that get accessed by users or SE bots. I also finally finished coding and testing of my new “Create Communities” plugin, which allowed me to add over 2,500 individual subdivision pages to the site’s content. SEO improvement from this is expected to be significant, as the search engines find and index all of those new subdivision pages. See other pages on this site for my new “Showcase” WordPress website’s current technical specifications.
December 2015: Converted the site’s IDX/RETS product to the new MyBuyingBuddy v3 WordPress plugin product. The MyBuyingBuddy WP plugin product is not Framed, and is now fully integrated and almost as search engine friendly as UIDX. Plus, it provides a much more robust lead management back-end, including drip email functionality. The conversion went off without a hitch, and no discernible change in SEO factors or visitor counts. There are however a few things that UIDX had and MBB doesn’t, such as more info on search summary results, including subdivision names and identification of a few key property types, like horse property, golf course community, gated community and patio home. IMO having this key info in search summary results was better for SEO, and great for users looking specifically for those special property types. Now, they have to open each property’s details page to see if a particular home matches their needs or not, and that’s a real hassle, at least in my opinion.
January 2016: Rehosted the site on a local Denver hosting service, with my own dedicated VPS environment. This allowed me to implement the Google Page Speed Mod for Apache, which provides even better page load times, with or without a WP caching plugin. However, because this mod only works with resources from my site, and not the IDX vendor’s site, the overall performance improvement is severely limited when IDX content is present on a particular page. While the content from my domain loads fast, a lot of time is spent waiting on complex IDX/RETS results from the IDX product vendor’s site.