It has been time for this blog to be updated for a little while now.  Updates have been moved to the back burner as I launched my new blog (CoolCaroftheDay.com) and got that concept off the ground.  And while I still plan on freshening up a couple of my other blogs and sites (LaneBailey.com and GarageHomesUSA.com are both due), I thought this was a good place to start… and I might as well drag it out for a little while and bring all of you along with me.

I will be making the changes as I write the posts (not as they are published… I usually write posts a little ahead of time).

The first part included adding a newsletter/email subscription form.  Over at Problogger, it was their first step in revitalizing you blog for 2012.

I already had a MailChimp (affiliate link) account, so I didn’t spend any time doing that.  I spent about 15 minutes creating a list on MailChimp for this site, installing the MailChimp Plug-in for WordPress and getting all of the settings right.

 

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At MailChimp:

 

  • After creating a MailChimp account, go to “Lists” on the menu at the top of the page.
  • Click the big red “Create List” button.
  • Don’t worry too much about the sign-up form… you aren’t really going to be using it, just make sure you have the info boxes on it that you want.
  • Mouse-over “Account” on the top menu.
  • Move down and click on “API Keys & Authorized Apps”
  • Push that blue button that says “Add A Key”

 

English: The logo of the blogging software Wor...
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In another tab, open your WordPress blog…

 

  • Go to Plug-ins > Add New
  • Search “MailChimp”
  • Install the MailChimp plug-in.
  • Under settings, the first thing it will want is the API Key… copy/paste it from MailChimp.
  • Select the right mail list from the drop-down.
  • Edit the settings so that you have the text you want and the widget looks the way you want it to look.
  • Go to Appearance > Widgets to install the widget in the location you desire.
  • Open up your site in a new tab… adjust the widget and settings as needed.

Like I said, it only took about 15 minutes for me to do all of that.  It might take you a little longer, or you might be able to knock it out a little faster… I hadn’t done it for a while, and had to stumble around and take a few bad turns.

Good luck kicking off your email list… and while you are here, why don’t you sign up for mine.

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I actually like writing this blog, but there are times when it is REALLY tough to come up with topics.  Not that there is a shortage of topics… new ones make themselves known every day.  No, the problem is time and having a topic at the top og my mind when I need to write one.

Posterous Logo
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There are a couple of ways to deal with those issues… to begin with, using a tool like WP Editorial Calendar (If it weren’t free, I’d have an affiliate link… but you can find it through your Add New Plug-in Menu on your WordPress Control Panel.  Using the editorial calendar makes scheduling future posts a snap.  When I’m on top of my game, I have a few weeks of posts scheduled.  That also means that as I run across an idea for a post, I can write it and schedule it for the future… on MY schedule, instead of on the blog’s schedule.

Another way I have thought of to do this is a little more radical…

Posterous makes it REALLY easy to be an editor rather than a writer.  Instead of writing and researching to create blog posts, Posterous (through browser plug-ins) makes it a snap to share articles from the web.  After running across an appropriate article, just click the share button in the browser and write a few notes. Of course, you still have the ability to knock out a more traditional post, as well.

The logo of the blogging software WordPress.
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While it is REALLY easy to do, maintaining a schedule like I do on all of my blogs is pretty tough.  This blog, for example, should be updated every 4 days… at 8:00am (when I am keeping up).  Posterous doesn’t have an editorial calendar built in, nor the ability (yet) to plug one in.

If you are wondering what that looks like, here is my CoolCaroftheDay.mobi site.  It is a companion site to CoolCaroftheDay.com (which is a WordPress based site).

The bottom line is that there are a few ways to keep the blog flowing…  And honestly, I’m seriously considering porting this blog over to Posterous and becoming more of an editor rather than an author.

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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.
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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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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.
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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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On Monday, September 26th, I am hosting a “Lunch & Learn” at the NAMAR (Northeast Atlanta Metro Association of REALTORS®) offices in Duluth.  We will be talking about blogging for real estate professionals.

As part of the discussion, we will be covering a variety of topics, time permitting.  Among them…

  • Blog Platforms
    • Active Rain
    • WordPress.com (remote-hosted)
    • WordPress.org (self-hosted)
    • Posterous
    • Other platforms
  • Content Creation
    • Coming up with Topics
    • Video
    • Focus
  • Details
    • Conversion
    • Plug-ins
    • Hosting Companies
    • DiY?
    • Social Media Outposts
    • Analytics

With only about 60-75 minutes to get it all done, there are a LOT of things to talk about.  We also want the specifics of the session to be determined by the people that show up to ask questions.  There is a good chance that we aren’t going to hit all of the individual bullet points.  In effect, we are going to take enough information to fill a three hour CE class and condense it down to around an hour.  Not only that, but we are going to allow time for discussion.

In order to make sure that the information gets out, I will be posting up follow-up posts AND hopefully kick out a mini-eBook… for free.  If you aren’t able to attend the NAMAR Lunch & Learn, it should still be a good resource… but if you ARE able to attend, it will be a great extension of what we talked about.

One last thing…  We are calling this prebarcamp.  If you aren’t familiar with rebarcamp Atlanta, check it out here.

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