I believe that real estate agents are either in marketing or…

  1. Google is doing a major update on their backlink calculator. One of the updated datacenters is showing over 1600 backlinks to RCG while the regular search is still only showing 733. This is great news! The more often Google re-indexes backlinks the better because we get so many more (recognized) backlinks than the typical agent website and I’ve noticed that each time Google updates these backlinks (they only do it every 3 to 6 months), we placed much better in organic search results shortly thereafter. Yum!
  2. Talking about organic search results, I let Greg know that I thought he was potentially hurting himself in Google by posting identical articles on both his regular blog and his ActiveRain blog (no longer available). Put very simply (and definitely an oversimplification), when Google sees two identical articles, they are forced to make a choice in determining which article is “good” and which one is “spam”. Assuming you don’t want either of your sites to be labeled “spam”, then don’t have identical content floating around in full. (When a spam site copies your articles in full, you’re just have to trust that Google will figure it all out!) If you’re going to put articles on more than one site, make sure that you change things up a bit, or better yet, summarize the article and link to your main site where the full article can be found. I would point out some of the other people besides Greg who are doing this same thing on ActiveRain, but it appears that word travels fast via email and most of the guilty have taken their ActiveRain blogs down (Joel being the only exception I’ve found at this point… and he really should not be doubling up his content at this point considering he’s still in the process of “teaching” google about his new domain.)
  3. However, all this makes me feel bad… Matt, I promise my intentions were good and I wasn’t looking to get people to drop their activerain blogs. I think you’ve got a great platform and others should definitely consider blogging on your site. I just wanted to warn people that they might be committing googlecide (a great phrase coined by Greg!) if they post identical content in both places! For everyone’s benefit, Matt Cutts gives a comprehensive explanation on how to get re-included in Google searches should your site ever be listed as spam, but I don’t think that should be necessary as the re-inclusion request is typically for sites that have actively tried to trick Google in ways much more devious than duplicate content.
  4. Steve Hurley let me know about his new blog for the Tacoma area (South Sound) and he asked for some advice on how to get more readers. My advice: start linking to other real estate blogs! There are a lot (a ton!) of real estate blogs with good content that will never get “discovered” because they live in their own bubble (yes, real estate has lots of bubbles!). I think a lot of real estate agents have a view that they are smart enough to be the one and only resource of real estate information. Even if that held water, very few agents are good enough to break out of the mold without some major help from other real estate bloggers. So, regardless of how good your stuff is, find someone else to link to in every post! Really, every post!
  5. Another way to drive traffic is to leave comments on other people’s blogs. The nice part about leaving a comment is that you’ll get a link back to your blog with each and every comment. However, that won’t generate traffic nearly as effectively as if other bloggers are linking to you within their posts. What is the most effective way to get the attention of other bloggers so that they will link to you? Link to them! Want more? Here are the three most important elements of real estate… blogging: Linkation, Linkation, Linkation.
  6. Greg: Ardell’s going to kill me for that title. I promise I wrote it before I became a believer in the church of Ardell! 🙂 I really wish I could give you a “on a related note” to this story, but I simply can’t blog about a meeting I had last week with the master of real estate marketing…
  7. I agree with Chris Pirillo that social bookmarking buttons have gotten out of hand. I’ve not added any to RCG because it seemed like it took up valuable real estate and I’m not sure it provided a valuable service to our readers. The only one I’ve considered adding is del.icio.us, but considering most del.icio.us users have a button installed on their browser (they tend to be a tech-savvy bunch), I’ve never bothered. Adding a button for a site like digg (let alone sites like reddit) seems pointless for a real estate blog since I’ve never seen one real estate article promoted by those communities. (In other words, why would I give them an ad (i.e. their logo) on every one of my posts if they are never going to send me traffic?)
  8. I want one… Sony is preparing to introduce a light-weight geocoder with software to make geocoding photos easy. Although I wish geocoding photos was easier than dragging along another device…
  9. Taken one step further (and two steps too far): Wouldn’t it be great if you could search for an item based on where you were when you were working on the file? As in, “I remember taking those notes while in San Francisco…” and then have a document filter based on where you were when you made those edits (obviously, this only makes sense if you’re working on a laptop or mobile device). The secret weapon in this idea would be taking advantage of the wifi positioning from Loki so that you don’t have to lug around another device…
  10. Everyone knows that Loki was the god of mischief, right? (Due to a simple twist of fate, I know a lot more about Nordic gods than I do bible stories, but I can’t go there because I’ll get to sidetracked…). Well, the mischievous people over at Trulia have blocked Move’s IP address so that I didn’t read what Greg liked so much about their post until I got home. (I know I could have proxied in, but I didn’t bother). Anyway, the article is hilarious and definitely shows the benefit of not taking yourself too seriously. Tell your kids: real estate is fun!!!

Linkation, Linkation, Linkation

(I enjoyed writing my previous article on the reasons that real estate agents should blog, and it got me thinking about all the other bits of advice I’d like to share with real estate agents… I have a bunch of ideas, many of which are still only half-baked, so I’m looking toward your comments and suggestions to see where I should take this mini-series on blogging basics for real estate agents.)

What are the three most important factors in determining the value of real estate?

  1. Location
  2. Location
  3. Location

grow-a-brainWhile this well worn mantra forms a fundamental building block of real estate value, the concept of location is nearly irrelevant in the on-line world. I’m located in Seattle, WA, the servers hosting this site are in Santa Monica, CA, and you could be reading this from anywhere in the world.

If you’re an agent thinking of moving on-line, there are a bunch of real estate fundamentals that you’re going to want to relearn if you are going to be successful. I’ll start be revising the well-worn mantra to make it relevant on-line…

What are the three most important factors in determining the value of your real estate site?

  1. Links
  2. Links
  3. Links

And just as all locations are not created equal, not all links are created equal.

If you’re looking to build up a website that ranks well with search engines, then you’re number one focus should be on getting high quality inbound links (i.e. other sites linking to your site!). In particular, you want to build up as many inbound links from popular blogs and websites as you can. It’s common knowledge that 3 high-quality inbound links are more valuable than 1000 links from lame link farms… You want links into your site, but more importantly, you want quality links into your site!

Note that you do not get any search engine benefits from outbound links (links from your site to other sites). At best, outbound links won’t affect your ranking and at worst, they can seriously damage your ranking should you link to spam sites. In other words, if you’re linking to quality sites, you’re fine… If you’re linking to spam sites, you can expect the search engines to label you as spam.

Since there’s no benefit to outbound links, does this mean that you should not link to other sites?

No Way! Quite the contrary! Linking to other sites is critical to building up your site’s credibility with other bloggers. Join in some of the wonderful conversations that makes up the web and you’ll likely find that more and more people begin to link to your site. Find a blog you really like and then write articles about their articles! Link back to them and you’ll be surprised how quickly they start linking back to you! It’s actually a lot of fun to be part of this process.

There are very few sites that can build up credibility without linking to other sites and if you’re reading this blog looking for advice, you are probably not one of them. My advice to new bloggers: link… link… link… and link some more. Link to a blog saying something nice about their site, and there’s a pretty good chance they’ll link back to you!

So why are links so important

Links are the lifeblood of the web. The search engines rely heavily on links to determine how to rank your site. And more than any other factor, the rank of your site on search engines determines the value of your site. Granted, if you’re writing a blog for personal reasons, then you might not care how many people reach your site via search engines, but if you’re blogging to get clients, then you’re sites success depends on your how you are ranked by Google. Ranking high on Google searches generates web-traffic which generates leads which generate sales.

There are other ways to generate web-traffic, but none of them are as cheap and/or effective as generating leads through searches. (This site has a nice overview of how of how search engines work!)

So, all of this leads to an obvious question… How do you generate inbound links? Check back in a few days. I’ve got a bunch of ideas/thoughts on this subject. I’ll try to gather my thoughts and turn them into a post!

On a related note, I get asked by other bloggers on a regular basis if it is okay if they link to Rain City Guide. My answer is always “Yes”. I love links! Any business blogger who refused a link would be nuts.