Do you still have a Gmail, Hotmail, AOL, Yahoo or Go Daddy e-mail address? If so, it’s time to upgrade to a professional e-mail address.

Recently, there was a very spirited discussion over at the ActiveRain online community regarding a Web domain registration company that apparently was blocking some e-mails intended for its users.

And that was particularly disturbing to a number of agents who were paying for leads and for pay-per-click programs. According to the discussion, the company’s e-mail server had blocked some e-mails containing lead information. So what are the alternatives?

One so-called "technical expert" said, "Gmail is the standard of the industry and it’s free!"

Other agents said that they used their company’s server for their e-mail: e.g.,

If you want to be taken seriously by clients and agents who are technologically sophisticated, it’s time to set up your business e-mail address on a website domain that you own.

The reason is simple. People who have AOL, Gmail, and Hotmail addresses generally do not have their own website or blog. Furthermore, if you rely on your company’s domain for your e-mail and you leave the company, your past clients will no longer have a way to contact you.

If you’re ready to upgrade your business e-mail address, here’s how to do it:

1. How to choose a great domain name
The first step is to identify the domain name that you want to use. While it’s smart to own your own name if it is available (i.e.,, this is a poor choice for the main e-mail address for your real estate business. Because people are bombarded by hundreds of names each day, they have trouble remembering them.

In contrast, most people remember functions pretty well. This is the difference between remembering your name vs. "the nice blond lady who sells downtown high-rises."

The people who run real estate search sites report that users generally search for real estate information by street address, city and ZIP code. Consequently, as you consider various domain names for your website or blog, it’s important to consider using these components in the name you select.

You will also want to use words such as "real estate," "properties" and "homes" that indicate you are in the real estate business. Moreover, don’t settle for the dot-net or dot-org URLs. If you can’t get the dot-com name for your chosen keywords, find another combination of keywords that works with dot-com.

2. "All the best names are taken!"
A challenge many people face today is that many of the most desirable names are already taken. For example, unless you have a lot of money, it would be almost impossible to obtain the domain name, "Austin real estate."

As search has changed, the real opportunity is in what is known as the "long tail." This refers to using a longer domain name that incorporates the various pieces outlined above. For example, "" or "" Each of these domain names matches how people normally search for property — by property type, location and ZIP code.

3. It’s OK to have more than one!
When selecting a domain name, you don’t have to be limited to having just one. If you specialize in more than one area, purchase a separate domain name for each one. Using the examples above, you might have "" as well as "," or ""

Set up information on each area. Include facts about the lifestyle, videos, plenty of photos, as well as access to current listings and comparable sales. Each of these pages can reside on your main site. The secret here is to have a different URL that takes users directly to a specific page on your site. To the user, these pages look like home pages on separate sites even though they all reside on your main site.

To illustrate, you may have "" Within that site you could include, "" as well as "" Each site would show very different examples of what it is like to live in that ZIP code and would be targeted to very different types of buyers.

Remember, however, that all of these sites would reside on your main site. This maximizes your Web traffic as well as enhancing your Web ranking on the various search engines.

4. Create multiple e-mail addresses
Once you have your own domain name, it’s pretty simple to set up an e-mail address. You can use "" or

It’s important to make sure the name is relatively easy to remember. The great thing about owning your own domain is that even if someone gets your e-mail address wrong, if they remember the website URL you’ll still get the e-mail.

5. Keep your old accounts
I regularly use my Gmail and Hotmail accounts — primarily to register on sites where I know someone will spam me. Also, these systems are great backups if your host’s server goes down for maintenance, is hacked, or has some other type of issue that stops your e-mail service.

Gmail and Hotmail exist in the cloud, so you can use them virtually any place where you have an Internet connection.

6. Having your own domain is great for teams
One of the challenges a team leader faces is having people join and leave their team. If a team member leaves and you own the URL, they cannot take their e-mail address with them. As a result, when an agent leaves your team, all the e-mails coming to that address will continue to go to your site rather than to the agent who left.

If you don’t already own your own domain, there’s no better time than right now to get started. Prices are generally less than $10 per year. Best of all, your e-mail address separates you from the huge majority of agents who are still relying on their brokerage URLs or e-mail services from AOL, Google and Hotmail.

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