I'm scared Real Estate Webmasters 3.0 is here
Update - new site is now live, please provide feedback at http://www.realestatewebmasters.com/forum/forums/100-New-REW-Website-Discussion
On Monday, July 12th beginning between 10-12 AM Pacific Standard time RealEstateWebmasters.com will be going through its most significant change ever!
We have completely redesigned the site (something we have done in parts in the past) but this time is different; this time we have redesigned (and re-coded) absolutely everything. The main site, forums, blogs, directory, listings engine, glossary, you name it, we recoded it from the ground up (we even built a cool new portfolio manager application). I am very excited.
But I am also scared - here's why:
REW Forums: For years I have been custom hacking my forums from an SEO and code perspective because vBulletin (albeit a great forum software) was so far behind the curve from an SEO perspective, we really needed custom tweaks to maximize performance. This created a plethora of challenges when it came to upgrades, maintenance, etc. This software is now at a point where I think with very minor modification, it is perfectly acceptable from a search engine optimization perspective, and so I have decided to give the "default" vB a try. (Who are we kidding it will have lots of custom tweaks, but it will be far more default than it was before.)
The big thing I am nervous about though, is that I have decided for stuctural reasons to place the forum in a /forum/ directory as opposed to root where it now resides - combine this with completely new naming conventions for threads, posts etc and it means all spidered forum pages will become 404's and we have a huge job of respidering, redirect to accomplish. In the short term, I do feel this will negatively impact the traffic, but (as I have said to every client I have advised down this path) I believe the long term benefits (there are many more not mentioned) far outweigh a short term traffic loss.
Filenames: I am gambling a bit (because technically this doesn't need to be done), but many of the naming conventions (such as the blog post filenames, directory structure etc) are antiquated and we have developed far superior techniques and of course best practices have evolved somewhat. So many of my filenames (very well indexed in Google) are going to change. Once again, lots of careful rewrites, 301 redirects and a little praying, and this will be a non issue.
Missed content: There is just so much good stuff in here - what stays, and what goes? Rest assured all blog posts, forum entries etc are top priority, but over the years I have created so much content in so many places I simply cannot remember where I put lots of it (things such as photos uploaded somewhere within a folder within a folder and linked to in a glen fiddich and no sleep trance. You know - the good stuff.
Backlinks: Google webmaster tools in their infinite wisdom has decided to only bless us with a "sample report" of our first 10,000 backlinks - not such a big deal for most webmasters handling a transition like this, as 10,000 backlinks is a number very few ever reach, but as you will see from my screenshot, I currently have 4,415,825 backlinks to deal with. Yes I said four million, four hundred and fifteen thousand! Now before pronouncing me the "be all end all" of backlink building, realize this - Real Estate Webmasters is very old, and in our 6+ years of link building we have matured in our SEO tactics, and what Google has considered acceptable or tolerable link building has also changed over the years. Many of our earliest backlinks came from volume directory submissions, or reciprocal link exchanges and things of that nature. More than likely the majority of these links are of little to no value, nor are these practices we have engaged in for many years. Still more are from the credit for work links we have on our websites - pretty standard stuff, we want everyone to know our websites are "designed by Real Estate Webmasters" so there is a backlink included in our products (we also get a ton of traffic from these links - which is the real end game - let's be honest). So those are some of the more "admittedly low brow" links that account for a large number. But what of the great links? How do I seperate the what from the chaff? Those "earned" links that we deserve and need to conserve? What of the "proud member of Real Estate Webmasters" badges that our great community has blessed us with - one way backlinks "given" in recognition of the quality content, and strong community of our site. What of our numerous blogosphere mentions and news related links posted, what of the thousands of references towards various sites we have designed and most importantly what of all the great fights I have picked online over the years? :) (sweet controversy, ye of most dangerous and effective link buildy goodiness). Seriously though - i'm freaking out here.
Scared yes, EXCITED, even more so - because....
New forums: Sure it's going to be an implementation challenge, but one of the great benefits we shall enjoy in the switchover is all the new features of vBulletin system. Better searching, new social bookmarking features, tagging, albums - it's all improved. Should make for an even more wicked awesome experience than we already enjoy. I am keeping the base install quite vanilla for the launch, however we will be rolling out new mods as time goes on - if you have a favorite by all means suggest it in the laid back chat section.
Not just blogging anymore: Blogging is an integral (and essential) part of online marketing and connecting socially for Realtors, but it is only one part of the whole. It is time we helped our membership truly adopt our name "Real Estate Webmasters" - with our new Realtor website system, you will now be able to access all the old features (such as forums, blogs, glossary etc) but in this new system you can also create your own website with the very same tools you would have if you had your own hosted Real Estate Webmasters website - and best of all, it's completely free. I ask just one thing - you honor a commitment of excellence long demanded at Real Estate Webmasters and that is to avoid spam at all costs, and never post duplicate content for the sake of lazy blogging or shoddy webmastering - this community is better than that - let's show them how good we really are!
Some features of the new members system:
- Connect with Facebook. Use your Facebook account to login to your new Real Estate Webmasters members only area.
- Tie into Twitter & Linked in - absolutely! If you want your tweets to show on your member site, or your recent blog posts to be tweeted, it shall soon be at your fingertips (and your member site will do-follow link to your profiles for extra reputation management love).
- Create unlimited pages and sub pages of content including; custom filenames, titles, meta data and wysiwyg / html editing. Drag and drop page organization also included.
- Blogs are completely updated. Our newest REW Blog 3.0 functionality is now available. All your blog posts and member data will transfer, but now you get even more features and far more friendly blogroll management, pingbacks and more.
- Forum sync feature. Once you login to your member account for the first time, it will give you the option to "sync your forum". This way you can be logged in at just one location and access all features (those of you wanted to keep separate blog user and forum user names may still do so). This feature is essential as it will add many SEO friendly benefits to your forum posts, blog and site (thing massive in-site interlinking for any related content with your name on it).
- Update your own directory listings. Directory listings will now be populated not by submission, but by a member's actual location (based on the office address placed in their member profile). Photo, writeup, link to membersite etc are all pulled directly from your member backend, and you may update it at any time.
- Subscription settings: Want to receive important promo updates, but not so interested in an REW Newsletter? The choice is yours in the manage subsciptions area.
- Listings on REW - we have always had the ability to add listings via your blog to REW but it has never been all that intuitive, and to be honest that is my fault, I got half way through it, got distracted and several years later I had an "oh yeah" moment. We have revisited listings on REW and this time, we have gotten it right. You can now manaually add your listings directly to the backend of your REW member site, and showcase them as "featured listings" and even create a search against them right from your site. Even better - if you are an REW customer you can automatically have us pull your listings (no manual feeds required) from your website **feature currently being tested - valid IDX agreement may be required**
There will be bugs, and I REALLY need your help:
We have more than 20,000 members here so I am hoping between all of us, we can make this transition as smooth and successful as possible. If you are willing to help, we (myself especially) will be so grateful. Here's a few ways you can help:
Get involved and report: Haven't posted in a while, excited to explore the new features? We really hope you do, and hope you enjoy the new system - BUT - if you encounter any bugs in the system, I really hope you are willing to take a minute or two to let us know about it so that we can fix it for, and everyone else in our community. Things that help when reporting are: computer type (ie mac / PC) browser (IE 7,8, firefox, safari, crhome etc), and what you did prior to getting the error / producing the bug.
Update your links: If you link to Real Estate Webmasters (especially parts of the forums, blogs etc) it would be great if you could update your links to reflect the new destinations - for example we currently use /forum.php and that will be changing to /forum/ (after realestatewebmasters.com of course) changing those links to the most current file will help us regain our spidering much quicker. For those of you who really love this community but don't link to us "yet ;-)" (maybe just haven't gotten around to it) - any new backlinks to the forum, blogs or main page are greatly appreciated (those are in order the best places for us to disperse pagerank).
Spread the word: 2010 moreso than any other year is about social connections on the web. If you love the new features, and want to see the community grow in both members, and authority (which will in turn help your REW Site rank) - spread the word. Facebook post any features you love, become a fan of the REW facebook page, Tweet it up, write a blog post about us, send emails to all your friends and colleagues (and people you don't even really know, but KNOW would make great members of the Real Estate Webmasters community).
Help yourself: This community has become so successful because of you, our valued membership. Your great community spirit, willingness to share and help out other members, the great blog content you produce the referrals - all I can say to you, is keep being you. This community will continue to grow in both membership and authority and as such, the founding / participating members stand to benefit in kind through participation, reputation development and yes perhaps even a little SEO / SERPS love for your new REW Sites and various other sites across the interwebs.
Can't wait until Monday: Have a question or comment? Please post below :)