Custom Email Address

Using a Custom Email Address

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Why Use a Custom Email Address

Why use a custom email address when Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail and other free email accounts are already available? Perfectly fine, right? Well maybe not for professional businesses. Getting an email from might not look very good, especially when we discover how much branding helps a business grow, but that’s another article for another time.

Likewise, many real estate, mortgage and financial professionals work under a broker who hand out free email accounts. While might look better than a free account, it’s still not branding the person doing all the work for their own clients. People discover this only when it comes time to move to another broker.

A much better alternative is to set up a custom email address with the business domain name, preferably the same domain used for the business website.

One Thing to Know

All email is online. This sounds easy to understand but the concept gets confusing when using software like Microsoft Outlook, Opera Mail or Thunderbird software to download email onto a computer. In today’s connected world, there should be no reason to do this anymore. The more we can keep email messages online, the better… and that’s why Hotmail, Yahoo and Gmail, etc., are so popular.

Methods to a Custom Email Address

Simple Method: The easiest, but less preferred method is to use the registrar where the domain name is hosted. Almost all registrars can supply email, and most supply it freely if the website is hosted with it. Simply log into the registrar’s control panel, go to the email section and follow the instructions to add an email account. Done! The downside to this method is that most hosting/domain providers don’t have very good email software for reading and sending email. Software is important.

Best Method: The next, (but a little more complicated), method is to choose a good online email software company first, then follow that company’s instructions to set it up, (which will require changing some settings at the domain or hosting account). So, for example, Gmail can be set up to send and receive custom domain email using their G Suite service. Microsoft has something similar called Office 365. Both come with a suite of office products.

If a suite or office is too much, there are some great stand alone apps available such as ZohoMail, a highly rated email app. FastMail and ProtonMail are also very good.

In Summary

The software is probably the most important thing in all of this. If we could book a hotel room as easily as an AirBnB, or hail a cab, pay for it and see who’s coming and when like Uber, then these companies would have had a much harder time breaking into their respective markets.

Choose the software, then change the domain setting. Need help? Let us know.

Who Maintains Your Real Estate WordPress Website?

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Maintenance of a website are the basics that keep it safe and running fast. WordPress by itself is cheap: The cost of a domain name and hosting. But WordPress done properly needs maintenance.

If your real estate website is not on a real estate hosted platform like myRealPage or RealtyNinja, etc., then chances are you have a WordPress website. And, who maintains your real estate WordPress website? You do. WordPress websites need to be maintained – all websites do.

Your Real Estate WordPress Maintenance Primer

The goal is to avoid a huge pain in the derriere by leaving things unchecked for too long. Things like malicious hacks, breaking or going offline. Keeping your real estate website and hosting abreast with the latest updates is key.

WordPress Updates

Since the beginning of December 2018 there have been 4 releases in the WordPress platform, including the release of version 5.0 called Bebo.

  • January 9, 2019 WordPress 5.0.3  – Maintenance Release
  • December 19, 2018 WordPress 5.0.2 – Maintenance Release
  • December 13, 2018 WordPress 5.0.1 – Security Release
  • December 6, 2018 WordPress 5.0 – “Bebo”
  • See them all here

WordPress can be set to auto update the maintenance releases but will need help on version releases. It will not auto update plugins or the theme. Here are the steps you need to take to update your site.

  1. Please back-up your website before doing anything
  2. Investigate compatibility with the theme, plugins and hosting
  3. Update the theme if required and hard refresh the site to test
  4. Update plugins if required and hard refresh the site to test
  5. Update WordPress and hard refresh the site to test

Here is the WordPress Manual for details:

That’s not all…

Other things to consider is your hosting. Security updates for PHP 5.6 have ended and will become a security liability.
When updating to WordPress 5.0 (Bebo), decide whether to use Classic Editor or Gutenberg Editor.

We’re here to help if you need it.

Brand Logos Identity

Logos, Brands and Corporate Identity: What’s the difference?

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You are not alone in the confusion between logos, brands and corporate identity. We have put this together in order of importance. First comes brand, then comes logo then comes corporate ID in a baby carriage. It will become clear and obvious so, let’s dive in.


A strategy and story that fits you like your favourite pair of jeans

A brand is a story that undeniably answers the question why you are in business and the right choice for your target. The question is in every consumer’s mind whether they know it or not. The answer to that question (whatever it may be) is a promise a business makes to itself – that it will make to the world. The promise is made internally so team members can be on board to communicate it in all their interactions with the public. Every business has a brand whether they know it or not. A brand without intention can be a tough road to go down, lumped in with all other competition where the only difference is price or your smile.

Here is a much simpler way of thinking of this: A brand is what you sell – but you are not selling what you think. A common example is Apple. Apple doesn’t sell computers and technology, they sell empowerment and they have done this from day one. Their brand is to put technology into the hands of ordinary people – from children to elderly. To empower people with technology is why they are in business.

An intentionally developed brand will put a business at a level much higher than others who do not.

To be sure: A logo is not a brand. The best brands can be summed up into a single phrase repeated in advertising campaigns like “Just Do It” and “The Happiest Place On Earth” – great examples. Real estate agents who take the time to do this simply leap frog over everyone else.


The tip of the iceberg or a cover of a great book

A logo exemplifies the brand. If a brand is an iceberg then your logo is the tip of that iceberg. A beacon. A logo is just one point in the process of a full Real Estate Branding strategy. Doing the logo without brand strategy, like so many tend to do, can lead to problems down the road. (more on that later)

Let’s take a moment to learn from large successful businesses who spend fortunes on a branding process so we don’t have to. Notice how businesses like Disney, Fedex or Apple don’t use an icon of what they do in their logo. If they were all in real estate, none of them would use a house (or any part of a house) as their logo. So why do so many real estate agents?

When done correctly, the finished logo addresses the look and feel of all marketing materials that will come next.  The colours, fonts and styling are foreshadowed by the logo and help tell the story of the brand without literally illustrating it.

Corporate Identity

How you authentically present your business and yourself

If a brand is why you are in business and a logo is a beacon presented to the public then corporate identity is how it is presented to the public. For some businesses it might be T-shirts and baseball caps, others a fleet of cars or airliners. For real estate the main touch points include the feature sheet, CMA, pre-listing brochure, buyer and seller guides, social media banners and email newsletter templates.

Corporate identity is not advertising. So the rule is to not advertise on your corporate identity. It runs the risk of turning it into sales schmuck. Rules are meant to be broken but often takes an expert who knows the rules to know how to break them.

Questions or comments? Please ask below.


Michelle Vella on Marilyn Denis

Michelle Vella on The Marilyn Denis Show

By | Fashion, myRealStudio | One Comment

Watch RealSTUDIO’s founder Michelle Vella on The Marilyn Denis Show this Friday, January 27th (10am) on CTV – Canada wide. Michelle pursued her dream career as an artist and illustrator just over a year ago. She tells Marilyn her story and gets a makeover for her new career.

Hosted by Marilyn Denis and taped before a studio audience, THE MARILYN DENIS SHOW is a daily lifestyle and entertainment talk show featuring Canadian and international celebrities and experts. Celebrities who have appeared on THE MARILYN DENIS SHOW include Harry Connick Jr., Eric McCormack, Carrie Underwood, Amy Poehler, Victor Garber, Tatiana Maslany, Michael Bublé, Diane Keaton, Jason Momoa, Shania Twain, Catherine O’Hara, Keith Urban, Sarah McLachlan, Jann Arden, Erica Durance, and many more. Top lifestyle experts who have appeared on the show include Jamie Oliver, Dr. Oz and Daphne Oz, Anthony Bourdain, The Kitchen Cousins, John Edward, Mike Holmes, Scott McGillivray, The Property Brothers, Bryan Baeumler, and now…. our very own Michelle Vella!

Do it yourself marketing

Shadow Work: Casting Light on Do-it-yourself Marketing

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Just to be sure, yes you can do it all yourself – but not the way a professional will do it.

Advances in technology have given everyone the ability to do everything themselves similar to how the refrigerator gave us the ability to make our own lunch – yet restaurants exist because they usually do it better and save us time.

Today however, we find ourselves doing everything. This includes self check-out at the grocery store, automated teller machines at banks and pumping gas at gas stations. This is called “Shadow Work” and often the tasks are pretty simple.

When it comes to business, we now have the ability to become our own marketing director, creative director, ad buyer, content writer, media manager and more. But this is not as simple as pumping gas.  Ad agencies still exist to this day because knowing the difference between promoted posts, boosted posts, native advertising, keyword research, geo-fencing and Layar doesn’t even begin to touch the surface.

Small business owners waste more money per dollar spent trying to do it all themselves by making huge errors. It’s like they are pumping their own gas but only getting half of it in the tank. So if you think doing it all yourself saves time and money, think again.

Here’s a solution. Work with a media company or creative group to come up with a plan or campaign. The “Do-it-yourself” part can be doing tasks they have laid out.

7 Steps to Avoid a Real Estate WordPress® Hack

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Do you lock the door to your office when you leave it? If someone said your keys had been copied would you change the locks? If we consider your website is like an office where it is openly published that the keys have been copied on a regular basis – then it makes sense to change the locks there as well. If we can agree with that then you’ll like these simple to follow 7 steps to avoid a real estate WordPress® hack

If you have a real estate WordPress® website it’s time to take this as seriously as protecting the other things in your life; You protect your business premises, your vehicles, your office equipment and your computers and it’s time to include your Real Estate WorPpress® Website more than you might think.

What Happens When You Get Hacked

Sometimes it’s not apparent. This is the most insidious hack. What they do is use your database and server space for themselves. We’ve seen hard core adult material being served from a victim’s server – racking up bandwidth and slowing down their legit site. This is like having someone hiding in your office and making long distance calls and ordering from Ebay behind your back.

If you are lucky you will see the hack or be told by a prospect about a security warning they got upon visiting your website. Most hacks come with malware and you will be listed with Google as a site that hosts maleware and put in Google jail until you can fix it. Your hosting company will often shut your site down. You will lose search engine ranking, you will lose a lot of time and you will lose integrity from prospects and clients – especially lead generation sites that allow clients to log in with credentials. Your wide open website can and will affect others.

7 Steps to Avoid a Real Estate WordPress® Hack

WordPress® hacks are very common now, more then just a few years ago. When it happens, panicked website owners call their hosting provider to help solve the problem.  Unfortunately hosting companies don’t normally provide this sort of service and will in fact shut your website down if they suspect you are a danger to their server – because it’s your website and you got infected. After all, you are only renting space on their server and you were irresponsible with that space.

The website developer will be able to help fix the problem and hopefully you have a monthly maintenance package with them. The best bet is to find a company who will not only host but help secure, maintain and clean you compromised site . We offer this with all our hosted real estate WordPress® websites and these are some basic things that we do to help keep the hackers at bay.

1. keep your WordPress® version up to date.

You would think this is a no brainer, its not. Do it keep it up to date. When you get that email saying a new version of WordPress® is available. UPDATE! Its likely got a fix for a known vulnerability. This will save your ass. Especially now that the known vulnerability is known to everyone.

2. Keep all your plugins up to date and delete ones you’re not using. 

Almost all plugins are created by 3rd parties to access your website and add functionality. They are like apps on your phone. You will have at least one plugin – your IDX feed. An off-the-shelf WordPress® install is fairly bare bones and a real estate website is complicated, chances are you have many more plugins than you might think. There might be plugins not being used anymore… delete them. You don’t need them sitting there inviting hackers to play with your WordPress® back-end. Keep all the plugins you use up to date and smelling fresh.

3. Delete any themes you’re not using.

Even if it’s a custom designed site, the design of your site relies on themes to manage the look and feel. WordPress® comes with a few themes of it’s own and there may be more themes you tested out and though, yuck. You don’t need them and they also can be a way in for hackers. Only keep the theme you are using and it’s associated child theme.

4. Keep your theme up to date.

If you have a theme thats is never updated from time to time then it’s time to find a new one. This is a very common way hackers can bust into your site. Updating the WordPress® version is not enough – the theme needs to be updated as well. You want to stay with a theme that updates.

5. Wordfence.

Install it ( its free) and run regular scans. Its a serious life saver.

6. Find Good tech support. 

If you’re looking for $6, $8 or $10 a month hosting, they are not going to help you if you get hacked and rightly so. Don’t learn this the hard way. It is an unreasonable expectation to think your hosting company should sort out whats going on, consult and offer guidance on how to handle it moving forward and in some cases actually help you fix the issue for this kind of monthly payment. Hosting companies that offer this sort of assistance cost more. Often the website developer has a maintenance package.

7. Change your passwords.

You have to change your passwords to something hard to break. Do not use anything with words in it, make it a mix of special characters and capitals and it should be long. I know, how will you ever remember it? You wont. Write it down, use a password manager and suck it up. Hacking through a password is easy.

None of this will guarantee you won’t get hacked but these are some of the better WordPress® practices you can employ as a good step forward. Its better to take the precautions than to pick up the frustrating pieces of being WordPress® hacked.

Did I miss something? Let me know.


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John and his licensed assistant Angela Akehurst were looking for a professional brand to suit their long time experience in real estate. A brand that is friendly and suited the lifestyle of British Columbia. They were as pleased with the results as I was. All the best John and Angela!

Here is a better look at their logo in my portfolio John & Angela Akehurst


John Akenhurst
John Akenhurst
John Akenhurst


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Karen Costa, an agent from Vancouver wanted a new brand to represent her business and she had no idea what she wanted at first but thankfully our process helped us to create a brand she loves. We also came up with her tag line “Your Real Estate Source” from a few descriptive sentences that she left us with. Here is a better look at Karen’s logo in my logo design portfolio

Logo Design and Tag Line by Realstudio® Michelle Vella©2014

Karen Costa