Last June I signed up for a real estate investor website service called Investor Carrot. This service provides you with a full featured website for your company and for lead generation…landing pages and all. At $29 to $49 per month you can get a 1,2 or 3 site package. If you get multiple sites you can have each of them for a specific purpose. I have the 3 site package with one site being my company site, another site for my seller lead generation and a third site for cash buyer leads. In total I’ve had the sites running for 8 months.
I’ve always heard that if you don’t test you will never improve your business. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy with what I’ve gotten with investor carrot so far. However I wanted to compare it to a site that I build from scratch. I took the proceeds from my last deal and have been putting much of it towards creating a brand new seller lead generating website. Most of the money is going to an SEO expert (I’ll call Mr. SEO) that I found on BiggerPockets.com.
Mr. SEO and I started building the website in late October 2013. We spent most of November and December putting some content on the site and setting up the basic opt-in forms. It is a very simple website at this point that has an about page, a contact us page and about 8 to 10 articles. Each of the articles are based off specific keywords like Need to sell my inherited property.
I will discuss the costs of hiring an SEO person later in this post. I will say I could not afford his full fee and we had to negotiate a little bit before he agreed to work with me. My initial intent was to completely hire out the SEO and content writing, but because I couldn’t afford that I traded some sweat equity for dollars. The great side affect of all of this is that I’m learning quite a bit because Mr. SEO is guiding me through what I need to do and how.
Take a look at my We Buy Houses website.
The Early Comparison
It’s almost unfair to compare the results just yet but I felt analyzing them both at this stage will create a great baseline for later on down the road. The Investor Carrot websites (started June 2013) got a 4 month head start over WeBuyNjHouses (Oct 2013), however I’ve done very little work on the carrot websites so the only real advantage is that those sites have aged.
How Much Time Have I Invested?
This is just a general comparison of how much work I’ve had to put into each site as of today to get them to their current state. Just remember that investor carrot website package included full content so it was setup in 3 days by the team over there. My WeBuyNJHouses.com site had nothing and between myself and seo expert we had to build out the content.
Age: 8 months old
Startup Work: 30 hrs
Hours of Work Per Month: 0
Total Content pages: 75
WeBuyNjHouses.com (My Own Site)
Age: 4 months old
Startup Work: 5 hrs
Hours of Work Per Month: 8 hrs
Total Content pages: 10
Leads Generated Per Month
This comparison is not totally fair at this point in the game. WeBuyNJHouses has barely gotten off the ground so I’m not really expecting to see results till at least the summer time. As you’ll see below I’ve only gotten one lead from it so far, though that one was unexpected.
Lead generation is directly tied to how your site ranks for particular keywords. You pretty much have to be on the first or maybe the second page to get any results. My Investor Carrot sites are typically on the 2nd or 3rd page for many of my keywords. Occasionally I’ll find them slipping onto the first page, but they fall back after a day or two. WBNH hasn’t sniffed the first 3 pages yet, but that is to be expected. Mr SEO told me the other day that he is starting to see some movement…so that is a good sign we are doing things right.
Here is a quick chart showing you my Leads Per Month comparison between the sites. As you will see Investor Carrot is doing much better. The current score is 26 to 1!
You Spent What? Total Costs
I’m sure you are all wondering what the costs are and this is definitely an important part of the comparison. To make a final judgement on which website is working better you have to be able to determine your Cost Per Lead. Then even more so you have to figure out your Cost Per Deal.
I broke down the costs in two ways…Total Costs to Date and Total Costs to the end of this year. The $1500 startup cost on my own site (webuynjhouses.com) is broken down between the $250 SEO fee Mr SEO is charging me, plus $1250 for him to write the initial batch of articles for my site. Sure I could have gotten them written for cheaper, but I saw his previous work and liked his writing style….so I splurged LOL
Even though Investor Carrot got a 4 month head start, the total cost has been much cheaper so far. However, my budget for SEO is only $3000, so that only gets me to April. After which I will be doing the SEO myself unless I get more money. That being the case the cost difference for the entire 2014 year will be only $150. And after that WeBuyNJHouses will be “Free”.
On a side note I am leaving out the hosting costs for WeBuyNJHouses.com because I am hosting it on the same host as some other sites I already have. So there are no additional costs for me. Typically though it’ll be about $75/yr for hosting or $6.25/mo. Investor Carrot’s monthly fee includes hosting.
The Cost Per Lead Tally….
Investor Carrot: $400/26 = $15.38
WeBuyNjHouses: $2,250/1 = $2,250
It’s probably to early to really be calculating these metrics, but there they are. You think I could survive spending $2250 per lead? I hope that gets better!
A big hurdle for me when it comes to creating a lead generating webpage for my real estate investing business is the effort I will have to put in to get it going. If you have the money then this will be greatly reduced. However, just putting together a website is only a small part of the effort. What really matters most is driving traffic to your website. To do that you need to connect with people in many ways…
- Build your on page SEO to get more highly ranked in search results
- Build up your presence in social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter
- Content Marketing through posting on 3rd party sites to build backlinks
- Developing a System to keep track of leads
These things must be done over time. I believe that you won’t really begin to see results for about 6 months or so. You kind of just have to have blind faith that it will work.
If your site doesn’t show up on the 1st page of search results then it’s almost not worth the effort to build a website for leads. Even the difference between being the top search result versus the second search result is huge! Here is a breakdown of how people click….
Here is another view of the data….
As you can see it’s very important to be on the first page of the search results if you want to see any success. What is crazy is how much it matters that you get into the top 5 spots and even more so to get to the top spot. The number one ranked site for a keyword gets 3 times the traffic of the second ranked site.
Just remember that only a small percentage of people who actually click through to your website will fill out your contact form. I’ve gotten roughly a 5% conversation rate of people who click through to my website and contact me. Meaning if I was ranked (assuming 1000 searches)…
- 1st – 364 visits – 18 leads generated
- 2nd – 125 visits – 6 leads generated
- 3rd – 95 visits – 5 leads generated
- 4th – 79 visits – 4 leads generated
- 5th – 61 visits – 3 leads generated
- 10th – 22 visits – 1 lead generated
It pays to try your best to get to the top spot. It is all about working harder then the other people and you will be reworded exponentially.
Currently this is how my sites rank for my main two keywords…
Keyword: We Buy New Jersey Houses
Investor Carrot = 5th
WeBuyNjHouses = 41st
Keyword: We Buy Houses New Jersey
Investor Carrot = 4th
WeBuyNjHouses = >100
Work to maintain
After your site is up and running and you are ranking in the top 10 your work is not done. In fact, your work is never done because you have to continually add content to the site as well as build on it’s reputation. Google and other search engines reword sites that are active and up to date. So this means you have to add new content to the sites on a fairly regular basis.
Each month it’s recommended that you write on average 2 new articles and post them to your site. You can hire this out or do it yourself. I’m going to do it myself until I start getting some deals. I write slowly, so it would take me about 4 hours to create the two articles.
You also need to continue to build up your sites reputation online by generating back links. I don’t want to get into how to create backlinks to deeply in this post though. A few great ways is to sign up for accounts on Trulia, Zillow and realtytimes.com. They allow you to post articles on your personal blogs there. You create an article and put a link back to one of your real estate investing website content articles.
For both my sites I’m just entering into the maintenance stage of each so I don’t have any data for you just yet. In my next comparison post I will be delving more into this.
Overall Opinion So Far
It is way to early to determine if creating your own site or going with Investor Carrot is the better option. However, Investor Carrot is great for getting a full featured website setup and attracting leads in a short period of time. Here are the positives and negatives of both as I see it right now…
Investor Carrot (SellYourNjHouse.com)
- Easy and Quick Startup
- Full featured with great content
- On Site SEO baked in
- Relatively Inexpensive
- No Website development knowledge required
- Generates leads in a shorter period of time
- Sites are similar to all other investor carrot based sites (i.e. they use templates)
- Don’t have full control over wordpress
- If you leave Investor Carrot you don’t get to keep the website content
Building Your Own Site (WeBuyNjHouses.com)
- Unique Site
- Full control
- Monthly Costs after start up are cheaper (after year 1)
- You are in charge of SEO
- Hiring Mr. SEO is expensive
- If you choose to have your articles written for you it’s not cheap
- You must maintain the site yourself
- Startup Time is long
- Not many leads in the first year
* The links for Investor Carrot in this article are Affiliate Links. Being an affiliate actually helps me pay for the Investor Carrot website and the WeBuyNjHouses.com site I’m building to compare to it. THANK YOU for those people who have signed up through my affiliate link and have made this all possible!
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Hey Scott! Great post man! I like the comparison for sure!
Man, I test the heck outta stuff too so I’m glad you’re testing something else too!
I just wanted to hop in here and throw in a few things that most people don’t consider in the actual “cost” of a website past just the setup.
In the Pro Plan that you’re in it’s of course $49/mo (or you can get 20% off if you pay annually rather than monthly). So $588/yr (or $470/yr w/ the annual billing). And those SEO results were gotten just from the default settings on our system (we built in the SEO right into your home page to give you a boost)… so no SEO pro needed there.
But you’re spot on man that the higher you’re ranked the more traffic and leads you’ll get. So, with Carrot getting you ranked there w/ not much effort… imagine where it could be if you had us or someone do some active SEO on that site 🙂
So… here’s a few costs / time people don’t think about that go into maintaining a website:
– Updating WordPress (and wordpress plugins) everytime there’s a new update (a few times a year. Without updating
it it leaves a site at risk)
– 15 mins per update if you’re techy (or $25 to hire it out to a web guy. So $50-$75/yr if doing it on your own)
– Testing the conversion on pages and continually improving the results of your pages (Carrot does this for ya. So
our sites are always increasing conversions w/o you investing your own time or knowledge into doing ‘er)
– 30 mins – 5 hours per month (or $50-$100/month) if doing it actively on your own. If you’re not doing it you’re
leaving leads on the table.
– Hosting as you mentioned… which is normally $6/mo – $15/mo… it’s included in our system
– Updating the website design as new things come out (i.e. – people are spending a lot of $ now to update their sites
to be mobile friendly. That stuff is all built into Carrot and we do the heavy tech lifting so you don’t have to think
about it. And it doesn’t cost ya anything extra)
– 10-20+ hours to do a redesign every 2 years (or $500-$1,500 to hire a web guy to redesign)
– LeadPage design – If you want a custom squeeze page you want to setup that would be 1 – 5 hours if you know how
to code a squeeze page yourself (that actually converts) or hire a web guy for $200-$500 per page.
– Carrot has our LeadPage engine built right in… so if you’re doing a custom promo and want a page just for that
you don’t need to hire a web guy.. just create one w/ our system
– Advice and questions as you have them (on conversion, SEO, traffic generation, etc.).
– To hire an SEO person or marketing master, you’ll pay a minimum of $50/hr (for low end people) to $500/yr +
for good ones.
– At InvestorCarrot we have our weekly LIVE mastermind calls w/ me, where I’ll diagnose any of your traffic issues,
answer any question, etc. The value of these for people who hop on the calls is more than the cost of their
whole annual membership (one guy who is ranked #3 for “we buy houses los angeles” was killing his conversion,
and I showed them exactly what they needed to do to get conversions higher. I’d normally charge $500/hr for this)
Basically there’s a lot of hidden costs to running a website yourself that most people don’t take into consideration… over and above just the actual dollars spent to setup and in hosting. We’ve done some very advanced calculations and we’ve shown many people how much money they’re losing by building their own website. Even 1 extra lead in a year that turns into a deal because of our focus on improving conversions as we go could flip the whole equation on its head.
But while I say all of that… I myself would be the type of guy who would build my own website… because I like that tech stuff, I know SEO well, have a great tech team to help me build it out, etc. But for those people who don’t have that big tech team, who don’t like tech stuff much, who don’t want to hire Mr. SEO for $3k to do SEO, who don’t want to hassle w/ updating their wordpress installs, plugins, worry about security on the website, who dont’ want to have to worry about a website rebuild in 1-2 years because technology has changed…
… etc, Carrot (or a service like ours) may be a great fit.
Great post Scott!!! Just wanted to throw in those thoughts for people.
Man, I’d love to work w/ ya even more too on increasing your own conversion and traffic man! Some awesome stuff some people are doing to generate lots of leads.
Thank you for the great comment! Lots of great information about what it takes to run a successful website. I very much agree with everything you said in terms of how much time and money it takes for just upkeep.
Besides testing your product against a self created website, I’m also taking the opportunity to learn as much as I can about SEO and lead generation. It’s a skill that can be used in so many areas of business that it’s worth my time I think.
I would love working together to try and increase my conversion and traffic. Perhaps we can make it an ongoing case study that we can share with my blog readers? I’ll send you an email and we can discuss it.
It’s been 5 years since your initial comparison. Are you still using investor carrot, or have you found something better?
I’m still using Investor Carrot to this day. I haven’t found anything better and to be honest it keeps getting better.