Starting with Community Outreach

Even before we were done building out the InsideBu website, I recommended that Madison start doing some research. And I started by advising him to fill up his sidepanel with links. My logic is that the process of building up a blogroll forces a new blogger to read other bloggers. The fact that it also also has the benefit of building up some good will with prominent local bloggers is just icing on the cake!

Here is the advice I gave him:

In the first week, there is no need for any blogging (although you should be writing a few posts just to get the blogging muscles exercised!). My recommendation is to spend a few hours this week researching the online competition for your area. At the end of Week 1, I would expect for your sidepanel to be filled with a bunch of links! (For background, see this blog post on Linkation!).

To give you an idea of where I’m going, I recently revived a bit of the neighborhood focus on RCG, which resulted in these Neighborhood Roundup posts. You simply will not find as many neighborhood blogs in Malibu (any?), but that doesn’t mean you should slack on the links… In terms of where to start, here is where my gut says should be the order of importance:

  • Local Bloggers
  • Celebrity Bloggers
  • Project Blogger Participants
  • Local News sites
  • Local Real Estate Professionals
  • Los Angeles bloggers

Some places to start looking for bloggers and other sidepanel links:

To see how Madison has implemented these recommendations of Project Blogger, check out the sidepanel of InsideBu!

How to Get on the Ball with Your Blog

I got this email the other day, and with the authors permission, I thought other agents looking to start a blog might find my responses helpful.

I am an agent with Coldwell Banker in Los Angeles and I attended your bloginar in July. I have really been researching (reading The Corporate Blog Book by Debbie Weil, searching out other blogs, and reading your archived posts on the subject) since then and I am extremely interested in getting the ball rolling on my blog.

I have a few questions I hope you can help me with.

1. BRANDING: I already have a website ( As I understand it, I establish a blog under a separate URL and then I can link it to my website (I see Jim Duncan does this). Is there an issue with having to give people 2 separate URL’s? Should I put both on my business card? Or is it better to just give everyone the URL and have them access the blog through the website.

This one is personal… I realized early on in creating Rain City Guide that I didn’t want this blog to be all about Anna. (I started this blog to promote my wife’s real estate business). So I choose a name that represented the area that she was doing business. It is so much easier to draw people to than

2. HOST: I see you had a hacking problem with WordPress. Are you still recommending them?

I’m definitely still recommending WordPress… As I stated elsewhere, WordPress wasn’t really hacked, but rather I made the mistake of leaving one file open to be overwriten by the server. If you are planning to start your own blog but don’t have the technical knowledge to manage the files and upgrades, I’d highly recommend going with (or, better yet, if you’re a Top Producer client, go with their hosted version of WordPress). With the option, they will even let you host the blog under your own domain for a nominal fee.

3. TARGET AUDIENCE: I notice on your blog you and your contributors publish stories/info that might appeal to buyers and sellers as well as trade issues that appeal to Realtors. I assume you recommend publishing for both target audiences at the same time.

I’d flip the logic on you… Instead of focusing on an audience, think of building a community. At that point, the question because where is the community you want to enter.

The problem with focusing exclusively on buyers and sellers is that it is a transitional community. Even if they enter your community for a short-while by leaving comments, they are likely to move on to other topics before long. If you want a sustainable community, making friends with other real estate professionals is key!

4. LINKAGE: Although outgoing links are important it seems that the incoming links are the most productive. Am I correct that I should concentrate on linking to other blogs that are likely to link back to me?

Don’t worry too much about inbound links… As you note, they are extremely valuable, but the highest quality links come when you least expect it. Focus on being interesting and the links will come.

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, but considering most 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!!!

The Best Online Real Estate Marketing Time Can Buy

Jim over at the Real Estate Tomato has an interesting post about the type of content that real estate agents should produce on their blog. The question of content really boils down to how to do the best possible search engine optimization (SEO). So, here are my two cents…

The type of content you write about is almost irrelevant.

Really! I’ll repeat that…

The type of content you write about is almost irrelevant.

There is no “perfect” content or “magic bullet” that will get you to the top of the search engines and thrust you to internet lead nirvana.

Here’s the reality: It is far more important to be interesting in a real estate kinda way (hence the “almost”) than to worry about creating the “right” content.

I sincerely doubt that Hanin Levin set out to be the #1 result on any search for real estate information in Laguna Niguel. He got there because Google has a lot of trust for his site with regards to real estate and at one point he happen to mention Laguna Niguel in one of his blog posts. This is the the long tail in action, which also helps explains why Rain City Guide shows up #2 on that list.

Why does Google have a lot of trust around Hanan’s site with regards to real estate?
Because a lot of real estate sites (mainly bloggers) have linked to him. That back-and-forth of linking between related sites blows away all other factors.

Why do other real estate bloggers link to him?
Because he is interesting!

Maybe after you’ve created a real estate blog that does well in Google, you’ll decide that you’re missing a few keywords, but more likely your readers will do that for you. An recent example occurred when a reader pointed out that we didn’t have any good houseboat information. A simple post three days ago on houseboat financing has already put Rain City Guide at the top of a useful Google search.

[photopress:williams_at_christmas.jpg,thumb,alignright]The important thing to remember is the “perfect” content will only work if others are linking to you and the content is good enough to keep readers coming back for more. My guess is that people begin searching the internet for real estate information months before they are ready to talk with an agent. As an agent, you want to write content that will keep them coming back long after they’ve forgotten about their initial google search!

You could try to be interesting like Lockhart with lots of NYC real estate gossip, like Hanan by posting fascinating links on a daily basis, or like Joel by being on top of real estate technology, but more likely, you’re going to need to write about something that hits a little closer to your interests. Blogging done right is similar to all other human endeavors done right… Success will be a reflection of your personality.

Finally, Jim, it would be wrong to write this whole article without giving you the link you’ve earned by being interesting… So, here’s my link to a great marketing article from the juiciest real estate tomato in northern california! 🙂