Join us at the HomeQuest Social Media Summit Next Week

David speaking at Real Estate Connect NYC '10Hey real estate professionals! I’m super excited to be taking part in the HomeQuest Social Media Summit next week in Portland…

I’m going to be speaking about creating and promoting your content… but more interestingly, the HomeQuest team has also lined up:

I know all three of these guys well and can tell you without a doubt that these are three of the smartest guys in online real estate.

This is sure to be a great event with lots of great learning (did I mention it’s free???).  You can register here!

And if you’re planning to attend, let us know in the comments. Maybe some folks from the Seattle are would like to carpool down!

[photos courtesy of Dale Chumbley of the Clark County Real Estate Blog, who always brings #thefun and will almost definitely be joining us next week as well!]

Top 3 Reason to Love Facebook Pages

We already know the folks at RCG love twitter, and while I like twitter, the marketer in me has completely fallen for Facebook Pages (note: these are a very different beast than Facebook profiles)… and if you’re running a small business, there are many reasons you should be interested in FB Pages too.

The three main reasons I’m been putting a ton of energy into building out Facebook Pages for my clients lately are:

  • Traffic: at this point traffic from social media feeds (like twitter’s stream and Facebook’s newsfeeds) are generating more traffic than RSS feeds for almost every website I run.
  • Engagement: For new sites, it’s becoming harder-and-harder to build a “community” on your own site without tapping into the communities where they already exist (Twitter, Facebook, etc.)
  • Reach. Unlike Twitter, Facebook Pages allow you to get into the highlights and recommendation sections of fans… allowing you to reach the often elusive “friends of fans.”   For most small businesses, the friends of your fans are a ridiculously relevant audience and even more relevant than traditional SEO traffic.

rain city guide on facebook

By the way, I was inspired to create this post because I JUST created a Facebook Page for Rain City Guide and of course, I’m hoping you’ll join up and become a fan.

Similar to the Rain City Guide blog, I’m going to be using the page to engage with folks about Seattle real estate.   It’s not that we “need” another place for a conversation, but rather an experiment to see what it will look like when we take the typical RCG conversation to the Facebook audience.

Of  course, many of the stories on the Page will be about RCG articles, but truth be told, I’ll be looking to link out to any real estate articles I think will interest people interested in Seattle real estate.  So, if Facebook is the place you’d like to engage, join the conversation by becoming a fan of RCG!

And if you’re interested in a seeing a more developed implementation of Facebook Pages, check out the business page I created around my social media consulting and speaking.  In just a few months, it’s grown to over 1200 folks who are consistently engaging in ideas around using social media to generate business.

How about those SEO tweaks?

I thought about labeling this post “Does SEO work?” or something similar until I realized that is just stupid. SEO stands for search engine optimization and not only does it work, but in many ways, it is the basis for why blogs work so extremely well for promoting yourself as an expert within a niche topic (as Rhonda has done… Or even a nationally recognized expert!)

So where am I going? I recently had another meetup with my project blogger and I realized I hadn’t made some simple SEO-related tweaks to his wordpress blog that I made to RCG last December. The tweaks I made were to:

  • edit the title tag of all my posts
  • add keywords to the blog

I gave one update to this post, but essentially failed to follow through, so I’m hoping to remedy that right now. 🙂

First, I’m a bit surprised that many of my one week observations held steady. For example, RCG is still the #1 result for [Agent Recommendations]. Also, RCG has essentially dropped off of Google’s radar for a search that used to be our #1 organic traffic generator: [Seattle Real Estate]. My expectation was that Google’s algorithms might be temporarily confused by my changes to the site, but that they would pick up our new configuration after a while and continue to drive us traffic on this key search term. No such luck after four months.

As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure that Google is still somewhat confused. My logic stems from the fact the page Google has decided is most relevant (using this search term) from RCG changes on a weekly basis. This week it is the link to Robbie’s articles which shows up somewhere down the middle of the page (if you show 100 results per page on Google as I do)


However, the real genesis of my SEO tweaks were to see if I could get the “other” search engines to send RCG a higher percent of our organic traffic. The idea is that Google was sending about 92% of the organic traffic to RCG and I wanted to see if I could get MSN and/or Yahoo to send more. As you can see from this Google Analytics chart for stats from the month of March, 2007, I failed:


Google sent 91.73%, or approximately 92% of all organic traffic to the site in March of 2007, which means there was essentially no change at all! In other words, the SEO-related changes I made did not have the intended effect of increasing the percent of organic traffic that RCG received from non-Google sources.

However, I’d be ending too soon if I made it sound like the SEO changes were not beneficial. Here is the marketing summary from Google Analytics for the month of March 2007 compared to the month of November 2006 (i.e. well after the changes to before the changes!).


What you see is that our visitors from organic sources is up 138% between those months and the visitors from organic Google searches is up 139%. This is almost double the increase from “referral” sources which makes me think that the changes I made to the site were effective and not just background growth!

(Of course, it can’t go unnoticed that the Seattle Bubble sent us over 2000 visitors in March. Wow! That’s well worth a juicy link to the most bubblicious real estate site in Seattle. 😉 )

Also of note… Google really seems to like our article on moving to Seattle. I love that my “little bit of serendipity” has turned out to be so helpful. You can never tell what post is going to kick start an interesting conversation.

Finally, as a treat, I thought I would present the chart that never fails to impress at my seminars. In March 2007, there were almost 25K people who came to RCG once and never returned. 🙁 (that is NOT the impressive part…). On the flip side, there are over 1,800 people who have visited the site more than 200 times.


For the RCG contributors (and commenters!) who wonder how widely that your stuff gets read, realize that there are a HUGE number of people who read without ever letting their presence be known. If you fall into that category (at least 95% of the regular readers do), feel free to introduce yourself in the comments any time! (The first comment is free.) 🙂

So, to wrap this up as a “project blogger” post… I’d highly recommend that anyone starting their own blog get Google Analytics. It’s free, easy to use, and provides a wealth of information about how people use your site! 🙂

An SEO Update…

My guess is that there is still a lot of interest from real estate professionals on how to use SEO (search engine optimization) to drive (free!) traffic to your site. With that in mind, I thought I’d keep people updated on the little SEO experiment I started a week ago. As you’ll likely see, the results so far have been somewhat mixed.

First the worst news: Google dropped RCG out of the simple search [Seattle Real Estate] (at least on the first few pages). RCG has been in the top 10 for at least a year, so this is quite surprising! (Over the past year, this term has driven about 3% of the new users to RCG, which might not seem like a lot, but it is the most dominant driver of traffic to the site. No other phrase even comes close.

Better news is that after eliminating some of the pages and focusing on only a few tabs on the top of the page, the results for searching like [agent recommendations] has been much better. (RCG is #1 on Google!)

Also of interest, it took less than a week for RCG to now appear on the front page of some obvious searches like [Seattle Real Estate blog] on both MSN and Yahoo. I think this bodes well for the future as these sites do a better job indexing RCG thanks to the keyword and title changes I made.

For comparison purposes, I’ve decided to see how the site has changed using these days:

  • Pre SEO changes: Nov 12th through the 16th
  • Post SEO changes: Dec 10th through the 14th

Considering the changes in the status on the big search engines on the big search terms, not much as changed in terms of overall traffic:

  • Google. Pre: 1738, Post: 1568
  • MSN. Pre: 41, Post: 42
  • Yahoo. Pre: 28, Post: 25
  • Ask. Pre: 22, Post: 15
  • Technorati. Pre: 21, Post: 34

The overall Google traffic decreased 10%, while there was virtually no change from the other search engines. I included Technorati thinking that would be the “control” that wouldn’t be affected by SEO, but of course, that is the ONLY site that increased substantially! Go Figure!

Some SEO changes

Back at the Blog Business Summit, I asked Dave Taylor what I could do to improve my ranking in some of the “other” search engines… It seems that over 90% of RCG search engine traffic comes from Google and while I appreciate the traffic from Google, I would like a little love from the other search engines as well…


Dave’s advice was simple, and since the changes are not default in WordPress, I thought I’d pass them along to others…

1) I flipped the Blog Name and the Post Title around… The title (way up above the address bar!) for this post is “Some SEO changes by Seattle’s Rain City Real Estate Guide”. Before I made the change, the title would have been: “Seattle’s Rain City Real Estate Guide >> Some SEO changes.”

2) I added meta keywords and meta descriptions. To figure out good keywords, I did a few common real estate searches on Google AND Yahoo and then stole (borrowed heavily) from the sites that scored well… Here are the meta tags I ended up adding:

  • Keywords: Seattle Real Estate, real estate blog, real estate guide, Seattle real estate blog, Ballard, buying, selling, research, neighborhoods, Seattle neighborhoods
  • Description:Seattle Real Estate Blog, Seattle Washington’s complete website for real estate, homes for sale and virtual tours. Search for Seattle Real Estate neighborhood information.

(You can see the implementation by “right-clicking” on this page and selecting “view page source”… Also of note: all of these changes were made directly to the header.php file.)

I’ll give it a month and let you know if these simple changes have any affect on the other search engines!

Ten Ways to a Killer Blog by the Scobles

The Scobles (Robert and Maryam) led a fun presentation which began as 10 ways to killer blog, but ended as a way to 15 fun (and potentially valuable) tips.

It was a fun talk and Maryam’s giddy attitude was infectious with the crowd playing along with fun questions.

  1. Blog because you want to.
    • “A story without love is not worth telling.

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! 🙂

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.