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.
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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.
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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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This is an idea I’ve been toying with for a while, and then I ran across a post on ProBlogger about self-publishing.  With the rise of the Kindle and the more widespread adoption of tablets like the iPad and the Android based units (I love my Toshiba Thrive), it has become easier than ever to distribute a book.

In the last few years, there has been a MAJOR change in the way that consumers get, and authors deliver books.  Back in the day, an author floated his ideas to as many publishing houses as it took to get accepted… or accepted the rejection and quit.  The publishing house spent a bunch of money printing the books, and then used their influence to push the book into book stores.  Because of all of the costs involved, the author would be lucky to see more than a few pennies on the dollar of the cover price.

A few years ago, ebooks started gaining popularity.  The cost of production and distribution for them started approaching $0, but there were few consumers there to get them.  Now, with Amazon’s Kindle options, Apple’s iTunes store and the Android App Market, a book can be distributed to a format that is gaining in popularity rapidly.

As bloggers, we are uniquely positions to create book-worthy content.  In fact if you’ve been blogging a while, you might already have enough content for a book.  But, if you are going to charge for the book, it needs to be differentiated from your blog in some manner…

Enter the idea that I picked up from ProBlogger… revisit your best content and expand upon the ideas.  While a blog post HAS to be concise and quick (or risk not getting read), book consumers are looking for more in-depth analysis and information.  And what is even better is that if you are going to go strictly digital (not even planning a print version), the book could be VERY multimedia… audio, video, active links and other embedded content.  And another advantage is that the book could be updated as information changes… and we all know that the world is rapidly changing every day.

Among the primary reasons to create a book is that it helps establish you as an expert in the field.  Imagine saying to a client, “I answered that question indepth in Chapter 3 of my book… here.”  It is also a useful give-away to use to promote your website and help build a mailing list.  Finally (although there are certainly more ideas), it may be a useful tool to promote yourself… for example getting a segment on a local TV or radio show talking about your area of expertise.

Next year I will try to create a non-fiction book…  How about you?

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Yes… I am a little buried with the upcoming rebarcamp Atlanta event on 10/28/2011.  And while doing a little research, I ran across this really cool infographic.  As a Real Estate Agent, I’m only marginally interested in how teens are using their phones… they aren’t buying houses.  I only llook at their usage to see if I can get in front of trends.  But adults… THEY buy houses.  They have my interest.

by Flowtown via
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Back in the mid 1990s, people started to say that you HAD to have a website.  So, you hired someone to code up a few pages and it was good…  You were done. 

Ten years later, those same people were telling you that you HAD to have a blog.  The cool thing was that you didn’t necessarily have to hire anyone, you could just toss one up.  So you did it… and then it kind of languished after the first couple of months because you didn’t get any direct business from it.  You were done.

A couple of years later, you finally started hearing from some of your peers that that blogging thing actually worked… so you dusted it off and started posting.  You were done. 

Seemingly, 30 minutes later, the consensus was that you needed a Twitter account.  But before you could call it done, you needed a FaceBook Fan Page… then you needed a YouTube Channel… and a Yelp presence…

 

Now, if you aren’t on Google+, you are just wasting time with the rest of your internet program… or so say “the people”.

When does it end?

Does it end?

Vector C6
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Nope.  It doesn’t.  Technology and “what’s cool” keep marching on.  There is always a new site and there is always a new way to engage consumers.  There are always new channels and there always will be.

What’s worse… or better… is that they are unfolding faster than EVER before.  Newspaper dominated for centuries.  Radio dominated for generations.  TV dominated for decades.  Websites dominated for years.  Now we are down to weeks…  Maybe days.

 

But that doesn’t mean that you have to try to ride EVERY wave that breaks on the shore.  In fact, it means that you shouldn’t.  A hundred years ago, you couldn’t go big if you weren’t in the newspaper.  It would take a while before the next wave came in.  Now we have waves breaking constantly.

Pick your battles.  Figure out what you are going to be able to do… alone or with your team.  Learn ways to automate without destroying engagement.  Aggregation and Syndication can be your friends.  Link and leverage your networks.  Pick your battles. 

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You aren’t done.

But you never really were…

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I go through it almost every day…  Writer’s block, inability to find a subject to write about… maybe just a lack of passion for a particular subject on a certain day.  We’re all human, we all have up and down cycles.  We all have days when it just isn’t working.  Ofc ourse, those are usually the days that we really need to make it work.

There are a couple of ways to deal with it, and one may be more suited to a certain situation.  When you can’t come up with ideas for a subject, having a bank of titles and ideas is usually the best answer.  When you are REALLY stopped up, the passion seems to be gone, having some blogs in queue is a great solution.

I try to do both…

Let’s talk tools…

 

The logo of the blogging software WordPress.
Image via Wikipedia

WordPress Editorial Calendar – This has to be one of my favorite Plugins for WordPress.  I rave about it constantly.  Here is what it does…  It adds a menu option to view a calendar showing when blog posts are scheduled.  The part that I REALLY love, though, is that posts can be moved from day to day by dragging and dropping.  The time of day remains the same, but it couldn’t be easier to rearrange dates for posts.  When something comes up and a post needs to be dropped in, adjusting the schedule just takes a few moments rather than the time to log into multiple posts and manually reset the dates.

 

Another thing that I do with the Editorial Calendar is to lay out Post Ideas.  If I have an idea (or better yet, a title) for a future post, I try to figure out when it should run and drop a placeholder in for it.  This helps to spur creativity, too…  I tend to write in streaks.  I might kick out half a dozen posts for a specific blog in an afternoon.  That means that for that blog, I might not have the pressure to kick out a post for a week or even two.

Old Fashioned Pad and Pen – Yep… Low tech.  Write down ideas as they occur.  I used to carry a little pad in my pocket and would jot down a title or even an outline of an idea.  I used it for ToDo List items, too.  Although now, it is largely supplanted by my phone.  Using Android Apps like SpringPad (SpringPadIt.com), I can keep my phone, tablet and laptop all on the same page with ideas and other items.

And some ideas…

Check your email – Some of my best posts come from my clients and other consumers.  They ask me questions, and rather than writing the answer 20 times for different folks, I post up a blog post.  I can then point future inquiries about the same thing to the post.

Grab your camera – Depending on the subject of your blog, a nice photo essay might be a great option.  Local interests might be better served by a photo essay than by a long winded text post.

Make a video – I probably just freaked out half of my readers…  But honestly, it isn’t that tough, especially if you have a smart phone or a tablet, or even a laptop with a built in camera.  Here is a little of the heresy I’m known for…  Don’t bother with a lot of editing.  Most of the folks that will view it are NOT expecting a slick production.  They are looking for the information.  And they want it quick, so

  • Get to the point
  • Keep the time under a minute if possible… at least under two minutes
  • Don’t get creative with camera movements
  • Don’t flip out if it doesn’t look like the footage from the news
  • Have an idea of what you want to say… maybe even practice it a couple of times beforehand.  This will give you a better chance of knocking it out in one clean take

Do a ‘Best Of’ – Grab several of your previous posts on a subject and collate them into a ‘Best Of’ post.  This also gives you GREAT SEO from the backlinks to the original posts.

Find a good InfoGraphic – One of my favorite sources is Visual.ly.  There are a LOT of different subjects and styles.  BTW, if you have a creative eye, Creating an InfoGraphic might be an option.  They can be licensed to link back to your site, which can REALLY help push up your Page Rank and give you better visibility in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).

Finally, remember that the person that knows the most about you probably lives in your house.  If you can’t sit and write a bunch of posts in a row, don’t try to do that.  If you have streaks of creativity, carve out some time for that to happen.  Figure out what works for you, and just do it.

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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.

 

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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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