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.
MichaelSaunders.com 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
The company strives to add fresh content
constantly, updating the site every 15 minutes during the day and once
MichaelSaunders.com 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
“They may go to Zillow, they may go to Realtor.com,
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
“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.”