It Only Takes 10 Steps…
Rain god, Jonathan Washburn, made a statement in his recent ActiveRain blog article, “10 Steps to Localism Success“:
5. Do not post a bunch of self serving marketing material on the bottom of your post: If a home buyer or seller finds your information interesting they will figure out how to contact you. Also, our editors highly downgrade posts with built in – self serving marketing messages.
I’ve covered this particular subject on a number of previous occassions over in the Rain:
Here: “Removing Your Own SPAM” and here: “How to Sabotage Your Own Blog” and here “Don’t turn Your Blog into a Refrigerator Magnet!”
Obviously, as you can tell by these articles, like Jonathan, I’m not a big fan of ‘over-the-top’ blantant self-promtion within the context of blog posts, especially ones that are written and geo-targeted specifically for consumers.
It’s Just Noise
I enjoy reading Seth Godin. As someone who has been involved in marketing most of my professional career, I find his approach insightful and refreshing. One of the descriptions he uses for ineffective, old-school methodology is “Interruption Marketing.” Today’s sophisticated Internet consumers aren’t duped with relentless real estate commercials. It’s just noise to be ignored.
As real estate professionals, it has been deeply ingrained in us from Day 1 to ‘brand’ everything we put out there. We’ve effectively littered the local landscape with every conceivable form of self-promotion – from refrigerator magnets to grocery carts. If there’s a flat surface somewhere, chances are our name & logo/website is there!
As we transition into all things Web 2.0, it becomes rather challenging for some of us to leave old tricks behind. Incessant self-promotion is one of those old tricks making a very slow death.
Back in the Day…
Real Estate used to be ‘Agent-Centric.’ All of our marketing and promotion centered around us – my image, my website, my logo, ME ME ME! Glamour shots ruled the day!
Thank goodness the paradigm has shifted over to more ‘Consumer-Centric‘ focus. Now our energies are better spent on creating/developing marketing/information that offers actual value/benefit to potential clients.
Unfortunately, there are still many out there who feel that conversational blogging = advertising. Their usual blog post consists of a few jumbled sentences hurriedly thrown together. Then the remaining 3/4 majority content contains a business card on steroids, with every conceivable piece of contact information imaginable, endless realtor designations, accollades, website links, snappy catch phrases, logos, banner, etc..
How To Do It
A well constructed blog should contain sufficient navigation tools to facilitate a reader’s desire to contact you. Redundant links, banners, signatures, ad nauseum, only serve to clutter your content, and ‘interrupt’ the flow of meaningful dialog.
Creating good quality, hyperlocal content takes time, effort, and commitment. There are no shortcuts. Good writing will attract your readers and keep them engaged, and coming back for more!
Daniel Rothamel, The Real Estate Zebra
July 3, 2008 at 12:47 pm
I’ve thought about this issue a lot. I think that it can be a major mistake to assume that good content will automatically produce business. I think that at some point, you have to make it known to the consumer that you are willing to work with them, that you want to work with them, encourage them to reach out to you. I’m not saying that you have to hard sell them, or that you have to be obnoxious about it.
I do think that opportunities can be missed if you don’t mention the fact that you are, in fact, in business. I love writing, creating what I think is interesting content, and blogging, but “art for art’s sake” it ain’t. It must be done with a specific purpose in mind, and that purpose SHOULD match whatever your overall goal is.
July 3, 2008 at 12:53 pm
When I look at localism posts on Active rain I can see that most of the bloggers don’t get it. Their posts are way to long or they are merely ads for property. I will go one step further and suggest that what passes for a good local blog post on Active Rain and what really works for local blogs are too different things. The community just doesn’t get it yet.
July 3, 2008 at 1:22 pm
Teresa: You won’t get any argument from me on that one. All the more reason why we need more good examples, both from within and from without, on what constitutes good hyperlocal blogging. That is one of the reasons I have been featuring your stuff. The AR membership needs to have a standard to strive for.
July 3, 2008 at 1:29 pm
Daniel: In my humble opinion, our writing should be able to accomplish both. But bottom line, one size doesn’t fit all, and you have to find what works best for you, in your particular market, and what translates into viable business. My primary point here is that many begin their blog journey by simply dumping their contact info into a post, and somehow believe that constitutes ‘blogging.’ It’s simply a static site that keeps getting repeated, over and over again. There’s obviously a learning curve involved to becoming an effective writer.
July 3, 2008 at 4:45 pm
I always figure if it bores the living hell out of me, it’s probably going to bore the living hell out of my readers.
July 3, 2008 at 5:10 pm
@Teresa You said it, so many in this industry don’t ‘get it’. It’s hard to say what ‘it’ is, but you know it when you see it and it’s rarely seen on AR.
July 3, 2008 at 5:43 pm
Jonathan: Yet another reason why I like you so much!…
Brad: I wouldn’t say ‘rarely’….that’s a bit harsh. AR has a dedicated core of some really scary good hyperlocal writers. They don’t get a lot of attention in the way of Gold Stars or comments from other members, but their business is benefiting nicely!…
July 3, 2008 at 7:12 pm
Many agents may find it easier – and more achievable – to have most of their posts consist of good local photography.
If a site is truly hyper-local, i.e. spanning an area of not more than 3 to 4,000 households, an agent should build a sizable library of content from images in just a few months. If those images are also available on Flickr, they can be a genuine traffic draw.
Here’s an easy one: it’s summer, so consider getting a booth at a popular local event, taking tons of photos, and telling everyone to see themselves / their family at the local blog or by searching the event at Flickr (with each photo description linking to the local blog).
July 3, 2008 at 7:22 pm
Joe: That’s an excellent starting point. Although I wonder sometimes, as I go through our local MLS, whether or not most agents have the ability to take reasonably good pictures of a listing, let alone trying to convey the sense of community! But utilizing Flickr is a perfect way to draw in the locals….thanks for commenting. I was just thinking about your the other day, wondering how things were going out your way….
Jennifer in Louisville
July 3, 2008 at 8:06 pm
I think its all about balance. You want to provide a good user experience, but at the same time, you want to make it easy for people to contact you. There are several sites that I’ve seen that were OUTSTANDING: excellent content, aesthetically pleasing – but you had to look VERY hard to find a way to get in touch with the persons (On one site, it took me 15 minutes to finally dig up a phone number). For me, contact info should be tastefully available, and not IN YO’ FACE. But, of course the IN YO’ FACE style does work for some.
July 4, 2008 at 9:42 am
Keep in mind that a site like AR is naturally going to attract many folks who “don’t get it.” There’s no real investment. Somebody invites you in, you don’t pay anything, so any return is a good return on your investment.
Trying to search a site like AR for the top local blogs is a mistake. There are some great ones on there, but common sense says there’s going to be some bad ones on there as well. There’s over 90,000 members, of course it’s not all going to be good.
Sites such as AgentGenius and others that are invitation-only are naturally going to produce better blogs, as are independent blogs in which the blogger has invested some $ and energy into the blog.
AR serves a lot of great purposes (getting bloggers started, networking, etc), but to find great content you’ll have to search a little harder as the haystack is deeper.
July 4, 2008 at 5:02 pm
There’s only one way to judge a good blog. Checks in the bank. There are many ways for a blog to be effective, as a listing broker, it is a great tool to “push” at my potential sellers. Every seller that contacts me, whether it’s through my blog or not, get’s sent to my blog as part of my prelisting package. For the ones that aren’t online(and there are many) I give them the “blog tour” from my laptop after my listing presentation. And, believe it or not, the the part they enjoy the most are my stoopid little videos, including Blogging Bertha. It gives them a chance to know me a little better and for us to have a laugh together. They love it!!!
I think it’s important to remember that not all bloggers are blogging for buyers. Blogging for buyers and blogging for sellers is completely different. Buyers want to see listings…sellers are more into personality. My potential sellers could not care less about local “happenings”, photos and the such. They already live there and are moving out of the area. At least that has been my experience.
I truly hope, that when Localism posts start being approved or denied by an editor, that they remember that it’s not always about the buyer.
July 4, 2008 at 5:08 pm
Matt, You mention that siteslike AG are naturally going to produce better content. My question is content for who? The consumer? AG, from what I’ve seen, is a peer to peer site.There is very little here for the consumer at all. There is far more consumer content on AR. Next trip over there just be sure you are not logged in so you can view it through the eyes of a consumer.
By the way I think AG is a great site. It’s just not consumer content.
July 4, 2008 at 10:37 pm
Broker Bryant- I agree with you that Blogging is for many a commercial project, and its effectiveness is measured by the impact on the business of the blogger. And I think that you were accurate in pointing out that AG is a peer to peer Blog, but the idea that a Multi-Author Blog might be a more effective blog might still be correct. I’m still playing with my blogs, just as I think the whole process for our industry is still relatively undeveloped, so it is tough to know the “formula” if such exists.
Rich Great Post, and I will point out that AR, by virtue of being home to a huge group of people experimenting with Blogs has to have more bad ones then any other single place – and since many of the really good ones seem to go on to wordpress or typepad blogs, its impossible to really know the extent of the positive impact AR has had on this part of the industry, but there should be no question that it has been substantial.
July 4, 2008 at 10:52 pm
Uh Oh…It might snow in Florida And Arizona..I agree with Broker Bryant, Jonathan Dalton And Bill Lublin in the same thread. OMG!
IMO, blog content , like that of a magazine, needs to be tailored towards your expected audience. Those who read Sports Illustrated may not necessarily be the same who read Good Housekeeping.
A good blogger has to know or at a minimum needs to try and learn who their audience is. What I find too often on AR is that too many of the bloggers there feel their audience is each other. I had one AR blogger email me and was ticked off to the point of anger becasue she said we did not know that AR was for networking with each other. When I told her she wasn’t my audience, she freaked.
I remember that happening here to a small degree as well. I take great care in crafting the posts on our real estate blog to laser target those clientele that I am seeking to reach.
July 4, 2008 at 10:54 pm
Oops…was logged in as my wife’s account..that was me..sorry
July 5, 2008 at 7:12 am
Bill, a multi author blog certainly could be more effective but again it depends on who you are writing for and who the co-authors are. I guess it really depends on what you are trying to achieve. I agree with this statement completely: “I think the whole process for our industry is still relatively undeveloped, so it is tough to know the “formula” if such exists”. In my opinion, there are way to many blogging “experts” when the reality is we all still learning and tweaking.
Barry, The magazine comparison is spot on. In my opinion, a blog needs to have an over all theme if you want folks to come back. I have read some folks who are very good writers but their articles are all over board. I want to know what to expect when I click on. I also agree that many bloggers on AR are using it to talk amongst themselves, including me, on occassion. My goal on AR has always been to help my peers in their business. That’s what I enjoy doing. BUT….most of my posts are geared towards my peers AND the consumer. Even my posts about “justifying our commission” are kept public for a reason. I want the consumer to see how I interact with my peers while at the same time seeing how I conduct my business.
July 5, 2008 at 7:53 am
Hey BB..yep…you got it. One thing I wonder, and maybe Rich can add…In looking how Localism is being promoted, it seems that AR is encouraging bloggers to basically become extensions of the local newspaper.
You know I follow the tutelage of Mary McKnight and one of the things she always says is to keep your local posts about real estate..NOT about current events and such. Point being we don’t want to be ansering questions about what time the parade starts.
In as far as hyperlocal blogging, what’s everybody think? Should the current events be involved or should it be just about real estate.
My feeling is I want to attract buyers, that’s my demo…If I post about the girl scout troop brownie drive is the buyer going to matter?
Interesting conundrum. I once wrote about a restaurant that has all you can eat crab legs and I get a lot of traffic for people searching all you can eat crab legs but they don’t search properties or look to buy…they just want the restaurant info.
So why is localism pushing the whole community thing when it really does not do anything for real estate..or so it seems.
What do you guys think? (Notice the inquisitive, non-accusatory, really want to know something positioning of this comment ..:)
July 5, 2008 at 9:00 am
I’ve tried posting on a few “events” and they have pretty much bombed in terms of the overall number of reads.
We now focus on local real estate and often discuss provincial and national real estate stories. We also post on economic stories (job growth, wage growth, migration, etc.) but they are pretty much always tied to the real estate market in some way. People who are interested in the economy are usually interested in the real estate market and we’re happy to have them around, even if they’re not in the market right now.
I do think that there is probably some good potential in covering “neighborhoods” and “what’s available in this community” but I can see it being terribly time consuming.
July 5, 2008 at 10:06 am
I’ve usually avoided the local event kind of stuff, unless it really interested me and then I wrote about it because it’s all about me. Then again, I also don’t go hyper-local with the blog … still think it’s viable to write more generally than hyper-locally.
July 5, 2008 at 10:15 am
Barry, That’s a good question and, for me personally, I don’t post about events and the such. One reason is that there just ain’t much going on in Poinciana. I guess I could write about 2 for 1 chuck steak at the Winn Dixie:) Poinciana is one of the largest PUDs in the Country. 72,000 people and 20,000 “track” homes. You’d think they’d have a lot going on but the reality is there isn’t. It’s a residential community.
Now from what I understand, Localism is being designed to really focus down on the local communities. I too am concerned how restaurant reviews and the such are going to drive buyers and sellers who are ready, willing and able to purchase or sell now. BUT….in real estate, everybody is a potential buyer, seller, renter, at some point. So I guess even if they are driven to Localism by “Joe’s Pool Hall’s 8 Ball Tournament” they may see something or someone they like and come back when they are ready to buy, sell or rent.
My biggest concern, that I touched on earlier, is how the editor(s) are going to pick and choose what articles are relevant for Localism. Will they realize that a post I write about dealing with a short sale is actually information that a Seller will be interested in? Or will they be more interested in listings, market reports, community news etc.? Those things, with the exception of market reports, have no value to a potential seller. Sellers want to know what I do and how I do it. They’re not interested in listings in the least bit.
Now having said all of that. I have been a member on AR since the beginning. There were only about 600 members when I joined. The AR guys have built trust with me. I have seen how they listen and make changes when warranted. They are excellent at taking AR where it needs to go and I have no doubt that they will do the same for Localism.
July 5, 2008 at 10:19 am
Barry, I forgot to mention that I will be writing about the 20% closing rate for Realtor(s) on their listings. So stay tuned. It should be a good one. Make sure Brett puts on his attitude before he stops by 🙂
July 5, 2008 at 10:47 pm
Having started on AR and not knowing what the heck I was doing, I only wrote neighborhood posts about a specific city. I included stats and data about each neighborhood I could find. It paid off in 5 closed transactions last year. Those posts are still found and I have closed three transactions this year and have had four listings from AR/Localism.
I expanded on that in my current blog and have to say, I would rather be found for the content about a local neighborhood with “real estate” key words than one for “how long do appliances last” which was also a post I wrote.
I don’t contribute to AR much anymore because I found the time factor too much to do additional blogging beyond my current blog. I do post my listings because I like Localism.
July 6, 2008 at 3:34 am
Barry (Robin): You’re right, in that many times, members on AR are, in fact, writing for each other. That’s a HUGE benefit to involvement there – the sharing of information and experiences between professionals. Localism was intended, and will become, the interface that places our consumer-oriented content in the fore front of the public view.
July 6, 2008 at 7:09 am
Rich, I agree a long “this is who I am and this is what I do” is too much. Some of the signatures take up a fourth of a page. But….those people who have and are doing it are getting listings. So IMO a little how to contact me is good, and a lot is overkill.
I am gearing my outside blog on AR to localism and my original AR blog to agents and the industry. I’m glad there is a way to make a clear difference.
I wonder how long it will take those blogs to stake over SE, like my AR blog did and helps my other web sites.
July 6, 2008 at 12:08 pm
Barry: Here’s your extended answer:
July 6, 2008 at 2:02 pm
Hey rich..read the AR post…sure if it works for an agent then fine. Obviously a number of ways to get the job done. Following Mary’s we were able to take a new site to page one in google in 50 days. Some “community stuff” sprinkled in..mostly about the market.
I wish you and the guys at AR the best with Localism.
July 6, 2008 at 6:17 pm
I’ve only been blogging for about 8 months, but I’ve learned a lot since I started. I like the idea of having a consistent format for all of my posts, and at the beginning I started ending all of my posts with my name and a link to my static website. I do think it is helpful since the blog platform that I am on, Point 2, doesn’t allow for much custimization and it isn’t very easy to find a my contact info. I’m in the process of moving my blog to WordPress, and plan to drop the signature stuff when I do.
As time has gone on, I started plugging my services as an agent much less, though I do mention it lightly at the end of my posts about once a month that they can contact me if they need help with the topic of the day and don’t already have an agent helping them. There are still a lot of readers out there that aren’t very internet savvy, and they can use some help finding the information.
I also want to put in my 2 cents on posting on community events for the consumer focused blogs. I recently was looking for a comprehensive list of all the area summer free concerts in my town, and couldn’t find a site that had them all. So, I put together a list and posted it on my site. Even though I’m still in Google’s sandbox and have no page rank with them, my traffic from Google shot way up and this is now one of my most popular posts. The traffic should last all summer, and next year I can just update the dates easily.
My point is that if you put something out there that you were looking for and couldn’t find, then other people will likely be interested too. If you are just repeating the same event info that can already be found in a dozen places, then you are probably wasting your time.
July 8, 2008 at 7:42 am
I agree with Broker Bryant. The transactional visitor is the one who puts checks in the bank.
I believe in the value of local events but it need not be a focal point. Try using a local events calendar or other sidebar widget or just link to a local events site in your sidebar or maybe a page for local events– the events are usually the same and you’ll only need to change the dates yr to yr. The value may come from including a signup for free email updates on local events & combine it with free blog updates– this will build your subscriber base. If you write a post about a neighborhood, just add the link to see local events, get free updates. Perhaps you contact event organizers and get some discounts/freebies and offer them to your readers— get an interview while you’re at it and create a connection. Like most of these questions, I think anything can work if packaged & marketed correctly– it just takes creativity.
Rather than just posting on local events, you might do better attending them — or starting your own.
My opinion on multi-author blogs– better for the transactional visitor if local– Rain City Guide is the perfect example. If you want to be a “national” blog– good writers from anywhere does the trick for readers but I’m not convinced of the efficacy for getting checks.
July 8, 2008 at 8:39 am
I’m just going to come out and say it.
Sometimes (OK, often) I think “hyper-local” is an over-rated and over-used term.
I had a ridiculous amount of traffic on July 3 and 4, for people searching for where to view fireworks. And yes, I had a post about that. Why? Because I found it was a pain in the ass to find places to view fireworks, so I compiled a list and shared it. Not to get buyers and sellers, but just because.
The good thing about that traffic is it was all local. And many visitors that came looking for that page viewed others. And they stayed around, they subscribed, and they saved home searches.
Not every post has to be about real estate. Many clients have told me their “favorites” have absolutely NOTHING to do with real estate. And not every post has to be about Phoenix either.
I write about what interests me. Apparently some others also find it interesting. My blog appears to be a hodge-podge of “stuff” but believe it or not, there is a method to the madness.
I don’t think, actually, I know that you don’t have to go “hyper-local” to have a successful blog (success as measured by checks in the bank).
July 8, 2008 at 10:23 am
Jay – Funny – I had the same thing on the 3rd and 4th, except it was for fireworks in a specific park. Whoops! I didn’t write about it. People did find information about the park, as it pertains to the city, but nothing about fireworks.
We have a great local website which features everything there is to do in Indy, which I have linked to.
I do find the local “real esate” specific posts can be mixed with our interests, posts for fun and just stuff, while still being found for real estate.
I also know, “hyper-local” is where I get most of my business from blogging. Once the online prospect has decided an area or neighborhood they want to live, they will find me, assuming I work in that area. I just mix it up!
It’s a balance and I’m still working on it.
July 8, 2008 at 11:33 am
@ Joseph from Selsius….”Rather than just posting on local events, you might do better attending them — or starting your own.”
Now why would I spend the money to create my own event or promotion to attracts thousands of people when I can just knock on some doors on a Saturday afternoon?
Spoken with all the satire, tongue in cheeck rhetoric I can muster.
Mr Ferrara, this is a marketing ploy that we have used on MANY times to great success. It’s, as you know, called event or experiential marketing and it’s phenomenal…yet most agents won’t touch it because of cost and risk. I count on that as I know I will NEVER have any competition.
July 8, 2008 at 2:51 pm
You got that right, Barry C. Nothing better than swimming in a blue ocean 😉
July 8, 2008 at 9:57 pm
How about “Publish your own content on your own domain”?