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! 🙂

Unintended Consequences

According to an article in Advertising Age, a NY-based Ad Agency is suing a blogger for copyright infringement, defamation and trade libel and injurious falsehood. Appears that the blogger, Lance Dutson, made negative remarks about the agency on his blog that revolved around the agency’s work for the Maine Office of Toursim. The agency apparently tried to get Mr. Dutson to remove the remarks and apologize. He said no. They sued. Repeat after me, “Never, never, underestimate the power of the blog for unintended consequences.”


Unforunately for the agency, the blogosphere flew to Mr. Dutson’s plight like bees to honey. According to Mr. Dutson’s latest post on his site, more than 200 blogs are now referencing him compared to just 2 before the suit. Seems that the negative PR to the agency from the cumulative effects of bloggers may have surpassed the harm they suffered from Mr. Dutson’s original comments. At the very least, there are a lot of eyes reading this story that would never have seen the original comments on Mr. Dutson’s blog.

This is another example of how blogging can alter the historical power dynamics of business. I don’t know anything about the financial strength of either Mr. Dutson nor the ad agency but if I was a wagering man (which I am), I would guess that the agency has the resources to use the legal system to make Mr. Dutson spend a lot of money on his defense. This is a common practice in the legal profession and explains why many small firms back away from challenging the entrenched larger firms even when the small fish have good cases. Bottom line is that it takes a LOT of money to litigate a dispute and power goes to those that can afford it. Justice is blind but it ain’t cheap.

While Mr. Dutson will certainly spend some money on attorney fees, it cost him NOTHING to have positive PR spread across the Web. In the old days (like a couple years ago), litigating a case in the press would require the press to actually want you to win. In the blogosphere, Mr. Dutson does not need to worry about the political will or economics of the traditional press to get “web time.” And there is NOTHING that the agency can do about this. The cannot enjoin the collective blogosphere from commenting on this case and opining on its merits or what they think about the agency themselves.

In the end, this is just one example of how blogging can play a part in leveling the business playing field.

How does this impact the real estate industry? Many of us who are (as we like to think) “in the know” debate about the future of real estate, about the new oohs and ahhs in real estate technology and the tidal wave of change that is looming. But the average joe or jane knows nothing about this stuff – yet. They buy and sell homes each and every day just like they did for the last 20 years. As blogs proliferate, so too will communication about the new and the old, and the good and the bad, in real estate. Average joes and janes will spread their opinions about new companies and new offerings and just like the ad agency, there will be an impact on how business is done.

Visionary brokers will figure this out and harness the immense power of social networking. Others, like the ad agency, will operate at its mercy.

Relevance is at the Long End of the Tail

Listen to enough conversations on the internet and you’re bound to run into the concept of the long tail. It is a fascinating concept that helps define how people use the internet and helps clarify how real estate professionals can be successful on the internet.

The long tail is a concept that was first popularized by Chris Anderson as an article in Wired back in October of 2004 and grew into a popular blog devoted to the subject. The essence of the Long Tail is defined by the following chart:


In this chart, the red areas represent the most commonly sought after (and served) markets… I think of them as the “best sellers”. The yellow area represents the niche markets that only appeal to a small subset of people, and due to (the lack of) economies of scale, these markets tend to be under-served in most industries.

The concept of the long tail is that successful on-line business have (with very few exceptions) thrived by providing adequate services to the people under the yellow area of the curve. Sure you can go to Amazon to find the latest best sellers (red area), but you can also go to Amazon to find hundreds of thousands of titles that you won’t find at your local bookshop (yellow area). Same thing with eBay. The internet is best situated to serve otherwise “hard-to-serve” people.

But economies of scale don’t explain everything. The real beauty of the long tail is that it is often much easier to provide exceptional service to customers in the yellow area of the curve. If someone is searching for a generic topic on Amazon like [popular fiction], it is really hard to know if they would be happy with the results. But if they were to search [accident analysis training manual], you can be pretty sure that they will be happy with the results because there are only a few books dealing with this subject and Amazon will show them all!

The Long Tail and Real Estate

Recently, Chris over at RealtyBlogging asked “How are real estate and blogging alike?”, and this is my answer. Both real estate and blogging thrive when they effectively serve a local and/or niche market (i.e. the yellow area under the curve).

The idea behind this should really be second nature to successful real estate agents who know they couldn’t possibly serve all the niches within a major City. Rather, my experience has been that successful agents will say that they began by providing exceptional service to a small subset of people. Maybe their niche involves houseboats or condos, or a specific neighborhood… The specific niche doesn’t matter. The important aspect is that a real estate agent realized that they were never going to be able to serve everyone well, so instead they focused on a small subset of people and learned that market inside-and-out.

Similarly, blogs almost always come with a strong point of view and serve a niche market well.

In addition, the internet has allowed a few companies to do a very similar thing that real estate professionals have always been doing. Namely be extremely relevant to a small subset of the overall population. Not only has Amazon and eBay found success this way, but Google has created a billion dollar industry out of this concept. The idea behind Google Ads is that they provide relevant ads to users on obscure topics. I doubt many lawyers would consider putting up a banner ad on Yahoo to attract people looking for mesothelioma lawyers, but give these lawyers a chance to reach people who just searched for [mesothelioma lawyers] on Google, and they are willing to pay $54.33 for one click!!!

This extremely relevance is exactly how the real estate agents of the future will be successful on the internet. Not only that, but I happen to think that blogging is a great way for agents to get out from under the “red” of the curve (where most real estate websites live… and die) and out into the long tail where their niche knowledge will be appreciated and rewarded!