Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Microsoft's Easy Answer To Basic Web Presence

“It doesn’t have to be hard or expensive to really start taking advantage of marketing yourself online today.”

So says Michael Schultz, U.S. business and marketing lead for Microsoft’s Office Live Solutions for small business. To back that claim, he points to the revamped version of Microsoft Office Live Small Business announced last week. It provides the tools, strategy and and advice to take the pain out of creating maintaining a web presence, and marketing services online.

Real estate is one profession Microsoft is targeting with this program, offering agents an easy path to step out from under the umbrella of their broker’s website. “Think about who the broker is really trying to promote with a company website,” reasons Schultz. “Realtors today must have their own sites for branding themselves and their listings.“

Creating even a simple site can entail costly reliance on outside vendors, or hog the time of those who opt to design, manage and market their site themselves. Microsoft’s alternative won’t break the bank as it guides you to an easily customized website. There’s a choice of design themes for different professions, including real estate, with color schemes and design elements that can be modified with the click of a mouse.

The cost? Basic service is free, and includes a domain name, hosting, site design and editing tools,Web-based contact and document management, email addresses, site tracking and analysis. After the first year, domain name registration costs $14.95.

An email marketing module, free while in beta, will allow users to plan, launch and monitor the results of drip marketing campaigns. Another fee-based option, AdManager, handles pay-per-click advertising on search engines, based on a specified budget.

“We’ve tried to integrate all the services that put the power of the web in the hands of individuals, so they can focus their time on what they do best,” says Schultz.

Some may want something more ambitious in a website. But for the real estate agent who recognizes the need for web presence, but has postponed that move, this is an easy answer.

Even those with an established site might do well to check out what Microsoft has put together: included are several lucid articles explaining the elements of effective web design, site monitoring and how to use tracking reports to fine tune your efforts online.

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