Some of you might know that my “day job” is as a real estate agent with Century 21 Results Realty.  My office is in Cumming, GA, but I generally work in Gwinnett County, in the suburbs of Atlanta.  If you watch my real estate blog, LaneBailey.com, and read the market reports I post up, you would see that here in the Atlanta market, we have definitely moved from a Buyer’s Market to a Seller’s Market.  I can’t say that the real estate recovery is built from bricks, but it is certainly not just sand.

Data provided by ActiveRain, the #1 social community for real estate professionals.

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For all of the marketing I see aimed AT real estate professionals, I’m amazed to see how little we (individually) actually spend ON supporting those vendors making their livings from us.

Of course, there is the fact that nationally there are millions of real estate agents, and even in a market like Atlanta (where I am), there are tens of thousands of licensed agents.  With those kinds of numbers, it doesn’t take much from each to support a vendor…

The other thing that I see is that successful agents spend a LOT more on technology and marketing that agents that aren’t successful.  The question is, though, did the spending or the success come first.

Regardless, it is VERY important to know what tools are being leveraged by those that are more successful in our business.  Whether we need to emulate them or see more efficient ways to do business, we need the baseline understanding of what is driving their success.

Keep in mind that this data is coming from ActiveRain.com… which wants you to be a member there.  And it is also coming from some of their sponsors… and they want you to join them as well.  Also, I AM an Active Rain Ambassador and have been a member since 2007.   While I am not being compensated for this post in any way (unless you join through my link below… then I’ll get points which won’t buy me a darn thing…) I do feel it is a worthwhile community and that it fosters increased professionalism in the real estate industry.

Data provided by ActiveRain.com. Join 220,000+ Real Estate Agents on the world’s largest Real Estate Social Network. To read more about the things that differentiate real estate agents that are thriving from those that aren’t, click here.

 

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Blogging Heroes
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Real Estate Professionals are becoming more and more convinced that blogging is a necessary marketing tactic.  So, the question is steadily shifting from “Should I be blogging?” to “Where should I be blogging?

 

For Real Estate Professionals, there are a variety of choices, ranging from real estate specific blogging channels to general blogging channels to self-hosted options.  And each of them has advantages and disadvantages.  Of course, for those that aren’t blogging, the first hurdle is to get started… and the actual location, while important, isn’t as important enough to stop the progress while working out the location…

 

Real Estate Specific Channels – Utilizing a network that is tweaked towards real estate blogging has some GREAT advantages for the new blogger.  From a technical standpoint, there is built in SEO (Search Engine Optimization) with the platform since there are multitudes of bloggers writing about real estate.  Search Engines see the content and make it a trusted source more quickly.  Also, some of the networks have great user communities, leading to opportunities to learn more about blogging and technology, as well as build referral relationships.

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On the flip side, you don’t control the platform.  Management might be GREAT at the moment, but what it the platform is purchased by a company with poor practices, or worse… by a competing real estate empire? What if they introduce advertising on the blogs, and your competitors can by ad space on YOUR content?  The bottom line is that you don’t have control over what goes out to the consumer.  You only control your content.

 

But, on the balance, this might be a great place to start, discover your voice and stretch your blogging legs.  You might find yourself outgrowing it, though.

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General Blogging Channels – These carry most of the pitfalls and none of the benefits of Real Estate Specific Channels.  You still don’t have control of what may be presented to the consumer alongside your content.  Of course, it is much less likely that a real estate company will buy the platform, but not a lot less likely that a competitor could buy an ad or end up with a link on YOUR blog, without your permission.  And since the content is general, the SEO benefits are gone, as well.

But, in the case of WordPress.com, you will have the opportunity to learn the WP-Admin console.  And you actually can start writing.  You also might have al ittle more control over the theme (design) of your blogs graphic presentation.

 

The logo of the blogging software WordPress.
Image via Wikipedia

Blogging on a general site is probably the weakest option, in my opinion.  It has all of the weaknesses of blogging on a platform owned by someone else, but few of the advantages of being on a site tuned for real estate blogging.

 

Self-Hosted Options – For the long term, this should be where it’s at, in my opinion.  You control almost everything about the platform and the content.  There are no worries about who may be advertising on your blog, nor about who might have their hand in the background.  You get the final say.

However, you also get to control things like SEO… and if you create regular and compelling content, you will be noticed by the search engines.  If you guest post on well known blogs, you will get important links back to your blog, and bring up your blogs SEO.

 

Screenshot of the blogging system WordPress.
Image via Wikipedia

The bottom line here is that YOU are in control…  For some, that is great.  For others, it is terrifying.  It might mean that your blog languishes with a lack of attention, or it might mean that you have to hire someone to make it rock.  Or, it might mean that you have a platform that is unique and compelling and that costs VERY little money and pulls in a tremendous number of leads.

 

 

In each case, there are exceptions.  And there are sites that don’t really seem to fit in their mold.  Posterous, YouTube and FaceBook Pages are all examples of sites that can be useful tools, regardless of where your other efforts are focused.  Using them as part of a network of your own can build your blog into something greater.

Here is a (non-real estate) network I am building…

CoolCaroftheDay.com (self-hosted WordPress site)

CCotD on YouTube (YouTube Channel)

CCotD on FaceBook (FaceBook Page)

CCotD Quick Hits (Posterous Blog, primarily populated via web links)

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The logo of the blogging software WordPress.
Image via Wikipedia

It was a LOT of fun.  As a first time organizer for this type of event, I had a few concerns.  My biggest one was that the attendees wouldn’t feel comfortable asking questions… which was not a problem.  Their questions allowed us to better tweak the information to their needs.

So, here are some random notes from Monday’s Lunch & Learn…

GoDaddy is great for hosting domain names.  Several of us are using them for that purpose… but for hosting actual websites, they aren’t so great.  A couple of the hosting companies that were mentioned were HostMonster (affiliate link), BlueHost (affiliate link), and GreenGeeks.  One of the advantages of these host (as well as many other… there are a LOT of hosting companies) is that they offer “one-click script installations”.  Through services like Simple Scripts, you can install WordPress VERY easily, without having to understand things like FTP and creating databases.

Blogging does NOT have to be time consuming.  Randy mentioned shooting short videos or pictures at local venues (parks, restaurants, city hall, etc) and posting those right from your phone.  I mentioned video blogging… if you can knock it out in one take, you can post a 3 minute video (try to keep videos short) in 5 minutes.  However, when you launch, you really need to have 10-12 good posts on the site.  After that, it does NOT need to be updated every day.  Updating a few times a week should be enough.  I would say that you should update as many times as you can while keeping your post quality high.

 

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Use Landing Pages.  These are pages that are designed for readers from a particular ad or search to land on.  Give them what they want… don’t make them search around your site to find it.  People won’t search, they will hit the back button.

 

Have a CLEAR ‘Call to Action’.  What is the purpose of the site/post/ad?  Have you told the reader EXACTLY what you want?  Do you want them to sign up for the email list?  Do you want them to call you?  Do you want them to honk at Green Ford trucks?  Tell them exactly what you want, and make it as easy as possible for them to do it.

If you can’t measure it, it isn’t happening.  You have to know what posts are working to bring in traffic, what posts are working to convert traffic to leads, what ads or outposts bring in traffic, which search terms are most effective and who is looking at your blog.  There are several ways to accomplish this, including Google Analytics and Clicky.  Google Analytics is free and VERY powerful.  I use Clicky (which also has a free level) because I like the interface more.  The more advanced version of Clicky (affiliate link) allows real time tracking of traffic.

Search yourself.  And aim at the right target.  There are two points here.. the first one is that you need to pick a target and then seek to dominate it in the search engines.  And in order to really do that, you need to see the Google RAW search data.  You can search through Goosh.org and see the basic search… not the one that is influenced by your habits.  Secondly, you need to pick a target that you CAN dominate.  Face it, you aren’t going to be able to dominate “Atlanta Real Estate”… but you might be able to control the search for “Midtown Atlanta Lofts” (and no, I don’t know anyone offhand at the brokerages on that search).

Once you get WordPress, there are a few plugins you HAVE to have.  WordPress Editorial Calendar, Back WP up, All-in-one SEO and ShareThis are on the list.  There are several more, but these are a great start.

 

Google Logo officially released on May 2010
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WordPress (self-hosted) might be the best option, but it isn’t the only option.  Posterous, Active Rain (not really an affiliate link, but I will get points if you sign up through here…) and WordPress.com are all valid choices.

 

  • Posterous is really cool.  You can email almost anything there and it will be a blog post.  Videos, pictures, text, pdfs.. whatever.  And it will push it out the Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, FaceBook and other places.  It is very easy and quite powerful.
  • Active Rain has a great community.  Just reading blogs there is better than a lot of CE classes.  There are some sharp folks there, and between the knowledge and connections (both local and national) that you can make, it is well worth the time.  It is also a great option to dip a toe into blogging.  The basic platform is VERY powerful for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and the posts will do quite well if they are public-facing.
  • WordPress.com is good because it is a valid way to learn how to wander around in the admin panel and learn the rest of the back-end functions of WordPress.  It is very similar to the self-hosted version of WordPress.

There was a LOT more.  It is hard to believe that we were only there for 90 minutes.

And you can learn all of this and a LOT more at rebarcampAtlanta2011.  It is coming up on October 28th, 2011 at the Mansour Center in Marietta, GA.  Tickets are only $10 until September 30th, and just $17.50 after that ($25 for registration the day of the event).  If you are a real estate professional, it’s the best $10 you can spend… and even at $25, it is a bargain.

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Image by lane.bailey via Flickr

Right now there is a small core group looking at the feasibility of a real estate bar camp in the Atlanta area.  If we can put it together, the event will be held this fall… September or October is the likely time frame.

Here are a couple of posts on Active Rain with more info about #rebcATL (that is the ‘official’ Twitter hashtag for the event).

Should Atlanta have a reBarCamp?

A little more about an Atlanta rebarcamp

Read More
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