May 25: Martin Luther outlaw.
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I have been blogging about real estate since 2008… so over three years.  I can say proudly that I have a few thousand posts.  Of those, there are a lot that were NOT about real estate, but that appeared on my real estate blog.  Some were about cars (I just started a car blog JUST for those posts).  Others were about local news.  Still others were about local businesses, entertainment venues, parks and recreational opportunities.

As long as I have been blogging, the mantra has been to “Be the source of information about EVERYTHING in the community”.

But after years of blogging, and looking over my blog posts and traffic patterns… I’m not so convinced any more.  I see where my traffic is coming from, and I see which posts are the popular entry (and exit) posts.  BUT, I also talk to the people that call, email or contact me in other ways… and I ask them what made them make the call.

Let me make a few points…

  • Almost without exception, my most read posts are NOT real estate related in any way.
  • My most read posts are NOT about local issues, businesses, personalities or events.
  • The post types that causes the most direct contact from consumers are market reports.
  • I’ve NEVER had someone say they wanted to work with me because of a review of a local business.
  • Most of my local name recognition has come from local event and local issue posts… but I can’t say one has ever brought me business.

Keep in mind, this is specifically about real estate blogging…

Here are the take-aways that I see from the above points.

  • A real estate blog needs to be focused on real estate.  There is plenty of room for reviews, lists of area attractions and other local interest items, but they should not be the focus of the blog.
  • Hyper-local news DOES belong on a good real estate website.  It shouldn’t be the focus, and even a “curatorial” style might be enough (rolling links to a variety of hyper-local news stories, for example… like a Twitter based local news feed).
  • Market Reports are one of THE most important things to have on a real estate website.  Consumers want to understand the real estate market, whether they are buying or selling.
  • Market Stats are nice… but people want interpretation of the stats.  They want to know your professional opinion is about the direction of the market… up or down.
  • Community profiles are VERY in demand.  Buyers want to know about the communities and the schools that they are considering.  They might like to know about the history, school performance and local culture… but they REALLY want to know about prices, styles and economic outlook.  All of those items belong in the community profile, but some might be links to specialty sites, like GreatSchools.net or sections of a city’s website.
  • Daily updates are overkill… but a good real estate blog needs to have depth.  After you have 40 or 50 solid posts, posting up 2-3 times a week might work… assuming that will cover the areas you need to cover.
  • Helping real estate “Do-It-Yourselfers” is good business.  Give them your best tips for promoting their property, warn them of the most common pitfalls they may face (Fair Housing laws, for example) and give them the steps for a smooth transaction.  But don’t talk down to them.

Is this a sure-fire path to success?  No.  But it might help.  Don’t forget, though… it’s just my opinion.  Look for a related post coming up about Social Networking.

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Then you should be signed up for rebarcamp Atlanta.  Tickets are only $17.50… and that is for a FULL day of learning, sharing and networking with the most tech savvy agents and real estate professionals in the Atlanta area, and from around the Southeast.  AND, there are tickets available right now for just $10, with the “Almost Early Bird” special.

Many real estate “technology events” are really commercials for their sponsors.  After paying $50 or $100, you get to sit in a room as the sponsoring vendors parade across the stage telling you about their newest, coolest techno-must-have… that you can sign up for at the table in the back for a mere $499/year.

rebarcamp is VERY different.  At an average rebarcamp event, participants share what is working for THEM in their markets.  Sure, there are sponsors, and they are talking about their products, many of the sponsors are not involved in selling directly to agents…

But the big thing that differentiates an average tech event and rebarcamp is that rebarcamp is more tuned to participation.  Attendees decide what sessions should be featured.  They lead most of the sessions.  It is built upon attendees sharing… sharing challenges and solutions… rather than being built on presentations.

So, if you are a real estate professional, and you can make it to Atlanta on October 28th, rebarcamp Atlanta is the place you need to be.

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I have a thing about ‘To Do Lists’…  I don’t know why.  But, I do.  At least on my computer.

I use WP Editorial Calendar to schedule posts, and ToodleDo to keep track of what posts should be upcoming, along with other tasks.  Without these tools I would be completely lost.  Even with as bad as I am at updating this blog on time, I still produce around 20 blog posts a week.  It needs to be closer to 25.

At any given time, I have 15 or 20 tabs open in my FireFox browser.  The tabs have a variety of things, ranging from website where I am tracking things on a daily basis to articles or posts that I want to blog about.  I also have source articles for things I am researching for blog posts.

And I have a new one that I am really liking…  SpringPad.

 

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I picked up a Tablet computer a few weeks ago (Toshiba Thrive).  This is in addition to my laptop and my smartphone (T-Mobile G2).  I work on all of them.  And one of the things I was missing was a way to keep information (not just files) synchronized between all of my devices.  There are tools like DropBox, which I love, but it required that I have a way to edit the same filetype on all of my devices… or the devices of others I might share an item with.

 

SpringPad is a bit different.  There is a website (SpringPadIt.com) as well as device apps for my Tablet and SmartPhone (both are Android).  They also have a suite of apps available through the iTunes Store for Apple devices.

One of the nice things with SpringPad is that it has a built in editor to write notes, build out To Do Lists and even surf.  There is a plug-in for FireFox so that I can clip items while surfing and send them to notes in SpringPad.  I can email items (forwards, especially) to a notebook.  I can also add resources to a note like links, videos or photos.

 

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Like DropBox, users can share their content with other users… unlike DropBox, notebooks can be sent via email to others that are NOT users of SpringPad.  And while DropBox is better for some file types, especially those that involve a lot of editing (manuscripts, images, etc.), I find that SpringPad is a little better geared towards sharing information.  In fact, I can even share things on FaceBook, Twitter and through RSS via SpringPad.  Content can be organized and tagged, as well. Sync’d content is also available when you are not online (except for the website… but if you don’t have a data connection on your phone or tablet, you can still access and edit notebooks for syncing later).

 

Right Now…

At this moment I am working on a Winter Pack Trip for our Cub Scout Pack.  In order to do this, I have to keep the input of all of the Pack Leaders in mind… and keep them abreast of what is happening.  I also need to keep track of which resources belong with which venue.  I’m tracking costs, things to do, amenities and timelines.  And I can share as much or as little as I want with as many or as few people as needed.  And there is a Social component to the SpringPad network.  You can share items with your SpringPad friends and use it for collaboration.

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It is the new shiny object… Google+.  If you are on it, it is really obvious.  Most of the posts still seem to be about how cool it is to be there.  It seems like the majority of the links that are posted or “+1’d” are about using Google+.

And that is fine…

But it leaves me thinking something…  That since Google+ is the shiny new object in the room… the new kid that all the girls think is “mysterious”… is it getting a pass? 

Or, am I just the stodgy old dude that doesn’t like change?

Frankly, I think I do like change, but I also don’t dive on every new toy.  And I like FaceBook.  I never warmed up to TwitterFourSquare took me a little while, and it isn’t on the top of my mind.  There are probably 20 social networking options that I have discarded in the last few years because they didn’t thrill me.  In fact, Google Wave and Google Buzz would be two of the platforms I dropped well before they went away.

And don’t think for a minute that I think Google+ is going to go the way of Buzz and Wave.  Google+ is too good for that.

But, personally I don’t think it is the coolest thing ever…  I think we have a case of Social Media Bias.  Right now, Google+ is made up of early adopters.  And early adopters, in general, are people that like the shiny new objects.  And because early adopter love the new stuff, Google+ is in a Honeymoon phase…  it is getting the love and it doesn’t have to prove itself.

The question is this…  What do YOU think?  Is Google+ all that and a bag of chips, or does it need to bake a little longer?  Is it easier to work with that FaceBook, or is it that the users are those that are generally quickest to adapt?

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WordPress is a great Content Management System (CMS).  It can be a blog, but it can also be so much more.  It can be a VERY easily updated website as well.  But in order to really get the most out of WordPress, you need to deploy a few plugins that aren’t included with the basic package.  Luckily, they are all free.  I have 40 active plugins on LaneBailey.com and 20 here.  And all of the plugins listed below are on both sites.

These aren’t limited to just real estate sites… they can be used by anyone, especially those utilizing WordPress as a business website.

Here they are in no particular order…

  1. All in One SEO Pack*.  If you are blogging for business or to get noticed, you will need to be optimized for search engines.  This plugin, after it is set up, handles a lot of the drudgery of SEO.  You still need to provide the killer content, though…
  2. FaceBook Share.  There are a variety of ways to do this, but the basic point is that FaceBook is second only to Google in importance for growing your site.  You NEED to have a way for readers to easily share your killer content with their friends.
  3. Facebook logo
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    MobilePress.  This is a plugin that builds a mobile version of your site.  You can tweak the mobile version so that it is faster and easier for mobile users.  And the growth in mobile web surfing is astounding.

  4. TAC (Theme Authenticity Checker).  If you like to use free themes, this is a great plugin that will look through the theme for potentially malicious or junky scripts.  If it does catch something, it isn’t always completely bad code… but it is a good prompt to look into it further.
  5. SoJ Tag Feed.  Turn any post tag into a RSS feed.  This is great for sending some of your content to your other sites.  It is also a great way to have a feed that is targeted for a specific audience (like maybe a different feed for buyer and sellers).
  6. WordPress Editorial Calendar*.  I’m writing this post a few days before it is going live.  I usually try to have anywhere from 3 to 10 posts in queue at any given time.  This allows my blog to be more consistent.  With the WP Editorial Calendar, I can look and see at a glance when I have posts scheduled to run.  If I had other bloggers, I could also see who is posting what… and when.
  7. This icon, known as the
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    WP-DBManager*.  This allows you to inspect, repair and optimize your databases from right within the WordPress admin panel.  But, it also allows you to get scheduled back-ups.  You HAVE to have back-ups coming in regularly in case there is a problem.

  8. Zemanta*.  This is one of the plugins that I leverage more than any other.  It allows me to easily find and use images and related articles.  I can use just my own or I can use items from around the web.  One word of caution, though… KNOW if it is content you are allowed to use.  The articles are generally not a problem (they are just linked), but you CAN get into trouble with images.
  9. Page Link To.  This allows you to build a “holder page” so that you can link in the menu to items outside of the WordPress installation.  If you have a squeeze page, sales page or other site that you want included in your menu, this is the way to do it.
  10. Blog Copyright (by BTE).  If you don’t protect your content, nobody else will.  This doesn’t keep it from being stolen, but it keeps the reasonably honest people honest… and can make it easier to find the scrapers that steal it.

 

The plugins with a “*” after them are the ones that I think EVERYONE needs to have on their blog.  These are the ones to grab first.  I would have a hard time blogging without these…

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What do you think?  What plugins do you find essential?

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The philosopher Plato
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I like perfection.  In fact, I have a reputation as a bit of a perfectionist.  What about you?

But, in blogging, perfection is the enemy.  We all want it, but if we wait for it, NOTHING will get done.  Maybe a word here or there needs to be changed.  If we wait until tomorrow to read the post again, we might want to change a sentence here or there… or rearrange a couple of paragraphs.  Then we should probably wait another day to read it and get impressions again.  Maybe we need to send it to a few friends and incorporate a few changes that they think are needed.

Instead, while we SHOULD strive for perfection, we have to let go and get things done.  Checking spelling is imperative.  Having good sentence structure is important.  Knowing that the photos aren’t being used without permission is a pretty good idea.  A good post topic is something that we can’t skip.  And a catchy title is essential.

But, sometimes we need to “settle” for good.  Or maybe really good.  OK, really good.

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