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Back to the Future With Web 1.0

As I was writing yet another post on my home blog last week, it occurred to me that the blog itself is a loss leader. Trying to quantify the return I see for the time I invest is difficult at best – several Canadian clients have commented on the information I have onsite dedicated to their special circumstances – but at the end of the day, my greatest return comes from what would seem like an unlikely source:

Static webpages. Welcome back to Real Estate 1.0.

These aren’t static pages in the truest sense because they’re one highly dynamic element included, and that one element is all any of the sites really need – an excellent IDX feed (thank you Diverse Solutions). Mix that with a fairly user-friendly interface, and all the elements for the potential of success are in place.

The blog itself? Well, let’s put it like this … traffic has fallen off a bit as I’ve struggled with new concepts to write about. And registrations through my Diverse IDX are on the rise. So, honestly, how much does the blog really matter? Except for the fresh meat that the search engines crave, not so much.

Keeping an Eye on the Ball

And in all honesty, that’s fine with me because my blog never has been about traffic for the sake of traffic, or Technorati rank or other similar measures which have nothing whatsoever to do with real estate sales. My sole interest has been in what kind of traffic I can generate among those who wish to buy or sell real estate. Anything beyond that is superfluous.

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In the quest to generate this traffic, many tend to overthink things somewhat severely. Some gurus out there would have you overthinking the real estate website even more. We work to create hyper-local blogs where we can prove our knowledge because we can tell you where the local fireworks show is going to be or when the next Chick-Fil-A or In N Out Burger will open.

Some in the public may demand this information of their real estate agent. But my personal opinion is the vast majority only care about the real estate porn – they want to see houses. Expertise belongs to whomever is high on the search engines and has the eye candy they need to get them through their day.

I’ve mentioned my Westbrook Village web site on more than one occasion. It’s a WordPress blogsite where I don’t use the blog functionality at all. Why? Because I don’t need to – #1 on Google for Westbrook Village Rel Estate, #2 behind the golf club for Westbrook Village on Google.

Game over.

Catch Me if You Can

I’ve said since May (half jokingly) that if the Arizona Regional MLS would allow IDX providers to give us the ability to sort specifically for bank owned homes, I could retire by the end of the year.

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That change came at the beginning of November. Within a week I had put together a website – an offshoot of the main blog, but a stand-alone site – dedicated solely to bank owned homes. Registrations started to come through within the next couple of days and now, less than three weeks after it went live, I’m sitting at #3 on page 1 for Phoenix Bank Owned Homes on Google.

And all without blogging. And all without writing about every detail of every city for which I’m displaying the bank owned listings. Because at the end of the day, it’s not the Farmers’ Market people want. It’s the homes.

You can argue that I’m an unemotional male looking at this in a rather cold, calculating manner. Al cheit shechetanu levanecha. I’m guilty as charged.

But the truth of the matter is, I’m not really asking you to believe me. I’ve tried in vain to get fellow agents both in this office and my previous office to see the potential the Internet has to offer, whether you attack it from a 1.0 or 2.0 point of view. From them I hear crickets chirping; from my clients, I hear the checks being cashed after they close.

Now that I think about it, and particularly if you’re in the Phoenix market, don’t listen to me. Pretend you didn’t read any of this. I’m cool with that, too.

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Post-script: As I finished this post I received a call from someone trying to reach the Westbrook Village Homeowners’ Association. “I’m on their website and this is the only number there.” Sorry, but you’re not on their website, sir. You’re on mine.

Who am I? I’m just the category killer. And no, I don’t blog Westbrook Village to do it.

Written By

Jonathan Dalton is a Realtor with RE/MAX Desert Showcase in Peoria, Arizona and is the author of the All Phoenix Real Estate blog as well as a half-dozen neighborhood sites. His partner, Tobey, is a somewhat rotund beagle who sleeps 21 hours a day.

21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. Missy Caulk

    December 1, 2008 at 11:21 pm

    Ok I love this…real estate porn…the houses. Wow, Jon I do believe I have a new phrase.

    We sell what? Houses

    At this point when consumers come to our blogs that is what they want, and information about neighborhoods. No, I’ve never had anyone call me on the Farmers Market etc…it’s great for long tail and being found, but my stat’s show a high bounce rate on those posts.

    I did get a several clicks this week, looking for the Christmas parade in Saline, and all that was there was 2007 parade, so I quickly threw up a post on the one this Saturday. LOL

    Gosh, my insides are saying Yes, Yes, Yes, so off to chew on it.

  2. Chuck G

    December 2, 2008 at 7:36 am

    Jon,

    I have really been wrestling with what you have to say about this. On one hand, I totally agree — at the end of the day, you want your site to snare those who are interested in buying or selling real estate…period. Everything else becomes secondary.

    But at the same time, I think there’s still value in becoming the “neighborhood expert” for your target farm area, and you don’t get this recognition solely by being #1 on a Google search. Yes, being top dog (beagle reference) because you have the right url will drive traffic to your site, but will they stick? That’s the gray area that I’m wrestling with.

    But look at it this way. If you’re #1 with a “static” site, and the #2 site has a dynamic site with (hopefully) intelligent insight and frequently updated articles, where are clients going to go? That’s the big question.

    I just picked up a client off my site who chose to work with me because, in their words “We read your blog frequently, and we feel you know more about this town than any other agent we’ve researched.” Flattering? Definitely. True? Hardly. There are scores of older agents who could probably talk circles around me regarding the history of my town. But does that matter now? Like you said, game over. They’re my clients now.

    So…static or dyamic? I believe you need both — Google to get you the traffic, and compelling (fresh)content to make that traffic stick. Yeah, it’s a lot more work, but I think it’s worth it.

    Chuck

  3. Lisa Sanderson

    December 2, 2008 at 10:00 am

    I think the blog engages people well before they are actually ready to pull the trigger. That’s the idea, isn’t it, to be top of mind when peeps are ready? So, you definately need the porn for those further along in the process. Both FTW.

  4. Elaine Reese

    December 2, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    And in all honesty, that’s fine with me because my blog never has been about traffic for the sake of traffic, or Technorati rank or other similar measures which have nothing whatsoever to do with real estate sales.

    Every time I read some “guru” talk about traffic, I just shake my head. What good is it to attract thousands if none of those people are your target market. On AR, someone wrote a post about the importance of being in the Top 100 of bloggers. Excuse me … I just want clients … not to be a national “celebrity”.

  5. Jonathan Dalton

    December 2, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    Missy – I see the same high bounce rate on some posts as well.

    Chuck – what I’ve found is the expertise most care about involves my being able to get them into the home they want at the best price. I could tell them about every craft fair in the area but that doesn’t have anything to do with what they really want – houses.

    If I’m #1 with a static site but a kick-ass IDX interface, they’ll never get to site number 2. As I said, game over.

    Lisa – I do still have the main blog for that but the results have lagged behind what I get for my neighborhood sites.

    Elaine – The people concerned with being a national celebrity are the same ones trying to sell you what they know, even if it isn’t all that much.

    I sell houses.

  6. April Groves

    December 2, 2008 at 6:28 pm

    Very interesting post to read – especially coming off of a social media hiatus of my own. My business is doing great and life is really starting to mellow, hence my ability to reconnect with you guys. But one thought keeps coming to my mind…why is it an either or question?

    The blog platform has evolved to the point where you can have your “static” site that rings your register supported by the blog platform that gears up search engines and appeals to those clients looking for information.

    My recent sites have been built using this theory. So far so good. I glean all the benefits from both formats and the reach to the public is working well.

    Just a thought….I’ll chew on the thoughts.

  7. Chuck G

    December 2, 2008 at 7:05 pm

    April,

    I agree with you 100%. I still have both — a blog and a PropertyMinder website. One is dynamic, and the latter is static. Each serves a different purpose and they both complement each other.

    You eloquently made the point that I was trying to in my original comment. Shall we average it out and call it Web 1.5??? 🙂

    Chuck

  8. Bob

    December 2, 2008 at 8:58 pm

    it doesn’t have to be one or the other. You can have both with one.

  9. Jonathan Dalton

    December 2, 2008 at 9:48 pm

    How so, Bob? You’re either adding dynamic posts are you’re not.

    Almost all of my sites are on WordPress which makes them blogs, at least technically, but I don’t use that functionality on any but the main (aside from a trick or two up my sleeve on two.)

    My contention is we assume people want to see detailed evidence of neighborhood expertise. Some do. Most just want access to the houses.

  10. Bob

    December 2, 2008 at 10:48 pm

    How would you define the site that is linked from my name? or in your neck of the woods, Phoenixhomes?

  11. April

    December 3, 2008 at 4:58 am

    Bob – i would call that a dynamic website set up via a blog format with an intentional corporate, static feel.

    On my property management site, it behaves like a static site. However the availabilities are managed via posts.

    Jonathan – I agree, some do and some don’t. That’s what makes a site that has both so effective.

    Chuck – Web 1.5 is fine. However, I quit calling it anything. I noticed that folks like the ones Elaine talked about were frying my brain and over complicating the situation so they sold the snake oil. Jonathan’s comment was spot on concerning this point.

    The point is answering the question “why?” I blog because I like to write. I have a website because my business tracking has shown a good ROI for. I use them both because it is the best avenue to achieve my business model.

    Outside of that, call it what you want. I am just looking to pay the bills in a way that makes me happy.

  12. Chuck G

    December 3, 2008 at 6:56 am

    Jon,

    You stated “If I’m #1 with a static site but a kick-ass IDX interface, they’ll never get to site number 2. As I said, game over.”

    Maybe it’s a difference in our respective markets, but in the SF Bay Area a “kick-ass” iDX interface just isn’t enough. Like you, I have Diverse Solution’s IDX tool integrated into my blog. Top right, prominently displayed, with the search criteria already pre-loaded. It just can’t get any easier or better….

    But guess what? As much as I hate to admit it, Redfin has one of the best websites out there. It beats the daylights out of Diverse Solutions (I can say that because I’m a paying customer!) And many buyers and sellers here use Redfin’s tools extensively — but do they use Redfin for their the transaction? No. Redfin probably has a 0.00x% market share here, but that’s another story for another post.

    Buyers and sellers ultimately team up with someone they’re comfortable working with and, most important, feel is a neighborhood expert…regardless of what tools they use.

    So in my market, a kick-ass iDX tool isn’t the “game-over” element. The blog by itself isn’t either. Ultimately, it’s the combination of both, with a healthy dose of Web 1.0 –> personal interface. THAT is the reason they’ll never get to website #2…

  13. Bob

    December 3, 2008 at 9:42 am

    @April – what about phoenixhomes.com?

  14. April

    December 3, 2008 at 10:22 am

    my vote is it is static by design with an RSS feature installed…

  15. Bob

    December 3, 2008 at 10:48 am

    one more – scottsdalehomes.com

  16. Jonathan Dalton

    December 3, 2008 at 1:30 pm

    Both of those sites are blogs, albeit with little dynamic content outside of market reports.

    More to the point, what’s your point, Bob?

  17. Bob

    December 3, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    My 1st point is that people are getting hung up on semantics and definitions. Basically what makes a site dynamic is having content separate from design. That would be almost anything not pure hard coded html – the use of a database, and either client side (java script) or server side (PHP, Perl, ASP, NET.) scripting.

    That makes blog capability on any site merely a programming issue.

    What you see in use today are just various publishing/cma platforms. They get a bad rap when defined strictly as “blogging software” when they are much more than that. They are CMS and publishing platforms that can do so much more than what the average user puts into play. Some are proprietary (like REW, AgentImage, AA, et al., in the real estate space) and others are open source.

    Both of those AZ sites are on different open source publishing platforms, but they share one thing – the designer/web master. One is on WP and the other is on the same CMS that powers AOL Corporate and Yahoo Research, Drupal. These two platforms are both much more than blogging software. Without looking at the code, the average user wouldn’t know which is which.

    The bottom line is that most of what many define as static, isn’t. It just isn’t being all that it could be.

    My 2nd point goes back to my first point. If your business is selling real estate, debating the efficacy of a given platform doesn’t matter if you don’t use it to generate traffic that turn into leads, and then convert them.

  18. Jonathan Dalton

    December 3, 2008 at 4:53 pm

    I can’t believe I’m saying this – Bob, I agree with you whole-heartedly.

    My intent wasn’t to debate the platform as much as the idea that in order to succeed you have to blog extensively about a hyper-local area.

    Gaining a web presence takes work to be sure, but it’s not as complicated as many would make it seem to be.

  19. Bob

    December 3, 2008 at 10:45 pm

    Jonathan, you and I were never in disagreement. You said it – people want to see the inventory. It’s a pretty simple bottom line business, but we love to make it way to complicated, and all the 2.0 stuff sometimes becomes more of a distraction that does more harm than good.

    Someone that I cant remember once gave me some fortune cookie type advice:
    “Confucius say, ‘Man who wait for Peking duck to fly into mouth will soon starve'”.

    I think you and I tend to look at open houses, and blogging for the sake of blogging, as something similar to that. It is why, IMO, that an integrated approach is more efficient and converts better. The key is to remember the goal – sales.

  20. g. dewald

    December 4, 2008 at 10:13 am

    Right on Jonathan. All the blogging in the world won’t help your business if you don’t have any product and conversion tools on the site.

    Blogging can help you with reach and acquisition. Maybe it can help you with engagement (if you’re blogging to help folks get comfortable with you and choose you–visitors going from your 1.0 site to your blog to check you out ala old school About pages).

    But to make transactions you have to have something to transact.

    Great post!

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