Hi Margaret. Yes, your timing is great. The best agents arise out of a tough market. Now to your question.
Before you do anything, check with your broker or office manager to see if they have any recommendations. They should know what some good choices are. If you can't get help that way, check into Point2Agent. They offer a free standard website. You can upgrade later to their professional level site for just under $50. There's no setup fee. If you don't mind paying an initial setup fee, you may want to check into Z57. They don't have a free version, but I have found that they offer a pretty good package and they also offer free coaching focused on marketing your site. If you are looking for a site that comes with a great database manager and IDX fully integrated in one package, check into Agent Achieve. They may strike you as expensive at first, but there's no setup fee and you get a really first class database manager and awsome IDX together with your website. I just switched over from Point2 and Top Producer to Agent Achieve and I am paying less now per month than I did before for my professional Point2, Top Producer and IDX solution combined.
While it's important to have a website, the best website does not do you any good if people can't find it. My recommendation would be that you include your web address with every piece of marketing you send. You have to actively drive traffic to your site instead of waiting for someone to find it by accident (organically). Most Internet leads don't come from people who stumbled on your website through a search engine. Instead, they typed in the web address that they saw advertised somewhere. When you analyze your web traffic, you'll want to know where the visitor came from. Not everybody who contacts you from your website, is an Internet lead. If they found your website through one of your marketing pieces, they are really a lead from your marketing, not the Internet. Thus, knowing the source of your lead is crucial if you want to know what works and what does not work. Choose a web address that's easy to remember. You may want several web addresses all pointing to the same site and see which people use more. As you get established, you may even have several specialty websites that focus on only one sector of the market. For instance, if you end up selling luxury homes, you may want a site that's dedicated to only luxury homes instead of having them buried among other non-luxury homes on your site.
There are a lot of companies out there that promise to put you on the first page or the top ten of the search engine result pages and I would not spend any money on that right now. Let's face it, how many agents can be in the top 10?
Before you start generating traffic to your site, you want to make sure that your site has content that people want. It does not do you any good if they go to your site once and never return because they could not find anything there that was of interest to them. I would say, the # 1 thing people want is being able to search for properties and that's why you want to have a good IDX solution on your website. It's probably the best Internet lead generator out there. Another important thing is that you follow up your Internet leads as the best lead is useless if you don't follow up. This may sound obvious, but there are many visitors out there that complain that the agent never responded to the e-mail that they sent to them from their site.
Good luck to you.