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Saunders website rated tops in nation

Herald Tribune August 31, 2015

The region’s largest locally owned real estate brokerage now has something new to brag about: Best website in the business.

At a time when Web traffic and digital strategies help set real estate companies apart, Sarasota-based Michael Saunders & Co. has spent more than a year and considerable financial resources revamping its online presence.

The efforts already are beginning to turn heads. was named “best overall” website in the real estate industry by a panel of technology and marketing experts. The company also won the top nod for the best mobile site in the industry.

Michael Saunders beat out many of the largest real estate companies in the nation, even though they are armed with larger staffs, more marketing dollars and hefty Web traffic — in a competition held by the REAL Trends real estate analysis publishing company.

Saunders’ founder attributes the latest recognition to the emphasis the company has long placed on Web technology, even when such corporate websites were an extra, not a necessity.

“We have found the website to not only be the front door for our company, but also for the region,” said Michael Saunders, the brokerage’s namesake founder and top executive. The customer “may have a question at 10 p.m., midnight or 2 a.m. The important thing is to have a website that answers most of their questions, engages them with a wealth of information and is consistent.”

REAL Trends analyzed some 750 real estate websites from the top 500 real estate companies — as published annually in its REAL Trends 500 list — along with submissions from technology vendors and design firms.

Five technology experts narrowed it down to a top 25. From there, a jury of 70 real estate chiefs and marketing officers from across the country voted on the best websites in eight categories.

The winners were announced this month.

Saunders launched on the Web in 1995, when only about 100,000 or so websites existed, compared with the hundreds of millions today, the browser of choice was Netscape Navigator and most Web surfers used dial-up connections.

The site evolved over the years, and now holds listings for every active property in the MLS in the four-county region, general information about Southwest Florida — boiled down to individual neighborhoods and communities — and blogs from Michael Saunders employees.

The company strives to add fresh content constantly, updating the site every 15 minutes during the day and once each night. draws 70,000 to 130,000 unique visitors per month, the company said.

Saunders likes to think of it as a hyper-local version of the sites powered by real estate tech giants Zillow and Trulia.

“They may go to Zillow, they may go to, but at the end of the day, customers want much more information about this specific region than those sites can offer,” Saunders said. “They want it to be easy, quick and efficient.”

Saunders said the company’s Web presence is especially important, given this area’s reliance upon buyers from out of state or even out of the country, who often scout online for listings before they ever step foot here.

“If you’re going to buy four walls, you want to know exactly what it is, where it is,” she said. “That’s the most important decision most people will make. They want to know everything about those four walls they will call home.”

The site is coded to look good and be usable on all gadgets and devices — from a desktop to a smartphone and tablet. The redesign was rolled out with help from national consultant 1000Watts.

The company's next step is to spin off for individual websites for each of Michael Saunders’ 600 some agents and teams.

“It has been a big change,” said David Gumpper, director of information systems for Michael Saunders & Co. “The website is the foundation everything is driven off.”




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The Residences at the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota, The Tower Residences at the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota, and The Beach Residences on Lido Key.
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Michael Saunders & Company
Ritz Carlton Sales Office Address: 1111 Ritz Carlton Drive Sarasota FL, 34236
Office Phone: 941.364.8884 Agents Phone: 941.914.0496 or