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.

40 thoughts on “How to Get on the Ball with Your Blog

  1. Dustin, Thanks for putting all that information in one place! I’ve sort of managed to stumble and bumble along following your footsteps – good to see I was on the right track, even without the road map….

    Robin, If you’re still reading … my Northeast Los Angeles community blog is still in its infancy, and a bit underpopulated. 🙂 But if you’d like to pop in and offer commentary from the Valley now and then, just drop me a line (email info is on the blog) we’d be happy to have you.

    And yes, I made NelaLive because I wanted to emulate what Dustin was doing with RCG. As others have said, RCG is the Gold Standard.

    I built it in TypePad With a little css and html knowledge you can tweak the Typepad templates to your own custom design. I have a little more tweaking to go, though. If I were going to do it over, I’d take a longer look at WordPress.

  2. > 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.

    You are April unending, perpetual Springtime…

  3. Dustin,
    This is all very helpful. Thank you very much.

    Cheryl, thanks very much. I will check out NelaLive as soon as I can.

    Greg, Thanks for your thought on the links. I seem to be obssessing about them, so good advice.

    Phil, I’ll check SquareSpace out too. Thanks.

  4. Thanks for sharing this. All great questions that I, as well as other new bloggers have. Thanks for your take. I use Top Producer and did not know that they offered hosted WP blogs.

  5. Dustin,

    Thanks for the note about blog being hacked due to incorrect permissions.

    Some tips, to ensure future files are created with the right permissions
    add to ~/.bashrc
    umask 002

    To find if any files already have write permissions for others
    find . -perm -o=w
    find . -perm -g=w


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  7. Oh, and I thought I’d just clarify … even though I said I’d take a longer look at WordPress, I didn’t want anyone to think I had any intention of leaving TypePad. I’ve tinkered with it for about 5 months now, I know it’s eccentricities, and it knows mine, and I can hack my way around Typepad’s “module” system of css/html without raising too much of a sweat.

    That said, for many people, Typepad’s pre-built templates will be just fine, and they will have no need or desire to tinker under the hood anyway.

    And Dustin, I’ve learned how to insert avatars for my contributors in TypePad, I just haven’t taken the time to do it yet. Maybe next week 🙂

  8. Dustin,

    I would also add that how you view your blog can really make a difference in how it takes off (or doesn’t). If you view blogging as a task to be checked off the list (i.e. Gotta post today, what the heck can I talk about?) then it will show. And it won’t be fun either.

    If, on the other hand, you view your blog as a way to talk with your market and your community, to learn about them, to invest in the future of your business AND develop your skill at communicating your ideas quickly and clearly, then that will make the journey a whole lot more enjoyable.

    I am not sure who benefits more from a great blog. I would say it’s pretty balanced between the reader and the writer. Or at least it should be.

  9. First, thank you for noticing my little blog.

    To be clear on my intentions – I started my blog with not as a reason to draw in business, but as a vehicle to fill what I perceived to be a void in the local real estate market commentary.

    I wanted to be the real estate expert that people turn to for information. So far, I have had some success with that.

    Basically, I love real estate. I read, analyze, and most importantly, work it every single day. (for better or worse) Hopefully, that shows in my writing.

    Those who read blogs are able to discern whether the author(s) is writing purely to suck them in to become a “lead.” Those who read blogs appreciate candor; they know it when they see it and will keep coming back if they find it.

    I have two real estate search sites – but they do not get nearly the traffic my blog ( ) gets, nor do they serve to establish anything other than “hey, another Realtor with a website.” Putting myself out there – my personality, my skills, my opinions does differentiate me from the others – sometimes that differentiation is good, sometimes probably not so good. Either way, readers know who I am and what I do.

    Now, with your permission, I’m going to use some of this comment on my blog. 🙂

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  11. Dustin-
    Great post! I use wordpress on my personal blog and absolutely love it- I would recommend it to anyone. I think the fact that blogs like Rain City and TechCrunch are built with wordpress says a lot about its quality as a blogging platform.

  12. Great comments all. Jim, what you are saying really does resonate with me. I do admit that I initially thought of blogging just as a way to build my business. But as I began my research, it was clear that those bloggers who had a strong point of view and built a vibrant interactive community were the best blogs. And it wouldn’t come as a surprise to me that the best blogs eventually attract more business. I’m looking forward to dipping my toe in.

  13. Dustin, very helpful and timely for me. The whole weblogging culture almost seems to be inventing and reinventing itself as it grows (megamultiplies !) by the month. Its good that a few frontrunners–yourself and Rainy City to be sure, lay down the do’s and don’ts for those who have logged less time “in the air” (at least from a RE point of view.) I mean seriously, who was doing this in 1997 and who would have thought. any ‘non-regulatory’ body had a say in what you can and can’t do on your own domain, especially when a Google ranking is so ‘life and death’ in internet related businesses. I agree, just like doing a deal, if you start from a place of sincerity the outcome is almost always win-win for everyone. I guess its like everything else, have something to say and say it well.

  14. Dustin:

    Timely post for me. My new job as Real Estate Business Guide at has me building the site and posting to the site blog. Just this morning I built a very short blog roll and posted about it.

    There are currently only four blogs in the roll and I chose them based on their contributions to the business via lively discussions. Of course Rain City Guide is at the top. By far the most interesting thing that I do each morning is to check out the discussions on this blog short-list.

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