To WordPress, or not to WordPress…

That was the question…

of the day on a recent discussion gone wild in Jimmy Mackin’s ever growing Facebook Group, Tech Support for Real Estate, of which our very own Inna Hardison has been a giving member for some time.

Well, in all fairness, that wasn’t the question when it started.  The question was Diverse Solutions vs Killer IDX, that is, until a service provider and new member decided to jump in with another solution all together.  Just so we’re all on the same page, The aforementioned group is a “no pitch (sales) zone”, so a few members became uneasy as the topic descended into ridiculousness, but the resulting statements, claims and other implied points were interesting ones.  Ones I feel deserve some real, honest answers, so here goes…  my attempt to give “my” perspective on both the benefits and potential problems of WordPress vs proprietary solutions that are designed specifically for Real Estate.  If you don’t mind, I’m going to follow the path of the thread a little, because I’m sure that some were confused by some of what went down.

“WordPress has a ceiling on its capabilities”:

I’m paraphrasing here, but the implication was that WordPress wasn’t designed for Real Estate, and therefore couldn’t possibly be as good a solution as something that was.  Logically, there’s pretty much nothing wrong with the statement.  In an ideal world, this would almost always be accurate, but not this time.

Proprietary systems are all great, and many of them may even have a leg up on WordPress with all its well integrated IDX options, CRMs and more, and in many situations, these solutions “may” be better for an agent or brokerage.  That said, there are other considerations, the biggest of which are ownership and flexibility.

In my opinion, a Real Estate agent or company needs flexibility.  I mean “turn-on-a-dime” flexibility,  to address the smallest changes in their market quickly and intelligently, and there are few, if any solutions that can offer what WordPress does in this regard.  Instead of having to rely on a support team or developers to evaluate or implement a new requirement, most relatively experienced WordPress users can make adjustments themselves in minutes or hours rather than days or weeks, and generally there will be little to no cost associated with those changes.  This could never be the case with a proprietary solution.

The WordPress community is also comprised of millions of people, contributing daily to the product, rather than a handful of people deciding what tools you should be given access to, but…

With all this control comes the ability to freely make mistakes… Hose your site… Not find the best plug-in… or simply not keep your site up-to-date.  This is where the trade-off occurs.  Not in functionality or “capabilities”, and I’d add that there is NO platform that can automatically run your business for you.  In other words, if you’re not doing what you need to do on your WordPress site, there is nothing about a proprietary platform that is going to do those things for you, so sadly, you’re in the same boat.  You’ve just paid a lot more to sink.

On ownership… Proprietary solutions offer you no ownership.  You may be able to extract your content, but even that isn’t guaranteed (other than cut & paste).

“Proprietary Real Estate Systems consistently outperform WordPress sites in Google rakings.”

Again, I’m paraphrasing, but that was the point.  Not even close to the truth!  There are sites that are built on proprietary systems that outrank WordPress sites, but this happens at a rate no higher than straight HTML sites or Joomla sites that outperform WordPress sites.  IT’S ABOUT THE CONTENT!  If you’re not producing it intelligently, you’re not going to do well in Google.  If, however, you are, you can’t do better than with WordPress.

This simply brakes down to ease of use and cost.  In our experience, WordPress is one of the easiest, most cost effective (free) platforms for non-tech types to use, and I’m sure we can agree that easy and cheap probably contribute positively to the chances an agent will actually DO all the things they need to do to score well in Google and serve their clients.

And for those Agents and Brokerages that aren’t going to “do it”:

There are service providers out there (we’re not one of them) that will do their best to write unique SEO content for your site, and while we don’t condone third parties attempting to write hyper local content, this has worked well for some, but many proprietary providers have limitations on their system access.  An Agent or Broker’s use of such services my be hindered or even prohibited by the proprietary service provider.  Who wants to give someone else their own usernames or passwords?  Not I, and I’d advise against you doing it!  But with WordPress, you have the freedom to create and delete users at will, all with varying degrees of access privileges.

“You can not manage your leads through WordPress like you can with a quality proprietary solution.”

Actually, WordPress can’t do anything but let you write and categorize blogs by default, but…
WordPress wasn’t designed to be used in the form it is distributed.  It is the TinkerToy® of the internet.  A user can build a “car with no wheels”, just as freely as they can build an “18 wheeler with a helicopter on the flatbed”.  The point is that it is up to you.  The great thing about WordPress and many other solutions like it is that you can decide how much time, effort and money you want to give it, and when you’re done (and you probably will never be done, right Jay?) it’s yours.  All yours and NO ONE CAN TAKE IT FROM YOU!

Given time and (far less) money, you can actually integrate many solutions that do all that proprietary providers offer, and many of them better.  And because of a tremendous community of contributing developers and coders, WP (as well as other open source platforms) are generally more extensible, as new technologies and capabilities are constantly introduced to the core platform.

I could go on, but my hands are tired and I think I’ve made my point.  There are people out there that can write, but can’t at all handle the integrating, customizing and fiddling that WordPress takes, and for those people, there are companies like ours, that do all that for you and leave you to write your content.  There are also proprietary providers.  The biggest difference is that you can outgrow us, one day being able to manage your own site, or not, but the investments you make in your internet presence ever day will always be your own.  With proprietary solutions, the same could be said with one minor difference.  Just add “…so long as you pay every month.”  The moment that stops, you lose everything.

Hope that helps.  🙂

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10 Responses to To WordPress, or not to WordPress…
  1. Brian
    January 19, 2012 | 2:40 pm

    WordPress is a great OSS “product” and it has it’s well earned seating. But, I believe there needs to be some clarity between OSS, Proprietary and Closed-Source (CS). I see a lot of talk about OSS vs. PS, but none concerning CS. I personally prefer CS for various reasons. I’ve developed my own Php framework that’s flexible and extendable. Once the project is done the client has full access to the source and can hire any competent Php/MySQL developer to add on or modify the site with ease. My CMS which is modular utilizes the same frame work and integrates with a lot of OS software. That being said …

    One of the problems I run into on a regular basis with OSS being the “Framework” for a project is the incompatibility between OSS updates, plugins and sometimes themes/skins. You can have a very dynamic WP e-commerce site, but there are pitfalls and extended costs that aren’t exactly “announced” to the client/end user.

    Suppose your running (WP 3.3.1) with (WP e-commerce You have a custom theme and a few other custom integrations … say YouTube and Facebook APIs. Everything is great for about 6 months. Then WordPress releases a new update that addresses a security issue, but WP e-Commerce isn’t compatible with the update. So what do you do when this happens?

    You could develop your own “custom” plugin for the shopping cart. You can also modify session management and or authentication functionality and a few other key components, but then you can no longer call it OSS, nor WP. It’s “Custom CS Software”, based on the WP framework.

    An for the record even if WP had extremely lite queries would you consider using it as a framework for Amazon, NewEgg or Tiger Direct? More then likely no.

  2. yescando
    January 13, 2012 | 12:23 pm

    Very nice article – thanks

  3. SEO Seattle
    December 4, 2011 | 12:28 pm

    I have been running my own wordpress blog and I can say that wordpress is one of the impressive platform when it comes to blogging. So many widgets and utilities out there can be certainly beneficial for those who are willing to setup a well established blog or even willing to launch a well setup ecommerce website, wordpress supports both.

  4. Sam Greensted
    November 29, 2011 | 5:24 am

    WordPress all the way! thanks for the post though.

  5. Thomas Cook
    October 21, 2011 | 8:18 am

    Everything on first had to get through bad time, to analyze, reconstruct the loopholes.. So why not WordPress. Going with WordPress is a good step as its fully completing all the technical cum basis requirements as customization process really help in creating any plugin or customize even. wp platform is very easy to handle and giving one ease to search more on technical aspects.

  6. matty
    August 5, 2011 | 12:33 pm

    I agree with Jon, but at the same time I think people need to bear in mind that achieving a unique feel to your WordPress site may not be easy as the themes tend to look the same. Database queries can be a bit heavy and more work could be done on the security side of things given the problems with PHP in the past. For the long term, if your website needs to become way more than just a blog, then you may have to reconsider your options. The performance levels can also be affected if too many plugins are installed. Having said all that if you are focused on keeping and maintain a blog then I say wordpress is the way to go

    • Inna Hardison
      August 5, 2011 | 12:51 pm

      Matty – we have build plenty of fully functional site with any functionality you can think of using WordPress, including pretty heavy database requirements and such for networks and or real estate data feeds. Blogging is secondary, at least the way we use it, but really, i am not aware of too many limitations of WP at the moment, provided one knows what they heck he or she is doing, of course.

  7. SEO USA
    July 24, 2011 | 10:30 am

    I recently migrated a couple of blogspot blogs over to wordpress (top level domain) – I love the wordpress platform, there is so much control over the content. I noticed that many websites are using their platform as well, not just blogs. With all of the design templates and flexibility, why not?

  8. Merc
    July 9, 2011 | 9:57 am

    I recently made a site out of WordPress. I am not really familiar with this but I can honestly say its user friendly and even a newbie can go in and out of this platform.

    • Jon Hardison
      July 9, 2011 | 11:29 am

      Agreed. At the end of the day, we’ve found that the WP platform is not only the easiest, but also the one that promotes gradual self education. You can get as into the tech side of things as you want… or not. You don’t have to know HTML or CSS or PHP, but if you want to you can, and the benefit(s) of taking the time will be obvious. Thanx for stopping by. 😉

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