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What Have I Done?

I’ve been bad


I am very critical of web sites.  I always have been.  For me, usability has come naturally.  Design quality isn’t as natural, but I work hard at it because I know there are sites I like and sites I don’t.  I studied (briefly) journalism, so I have a good idea of what is technically correct for content.  I understand SEO so I can quickly identify content written for Google.

I’ve been teaching classes in my area for over a year encouraging Realtors to consider blogging.  I share the many benefits, I harp on sites made by Advanced Access, Point2, Number1Expert and others and I’ve convinced a few Realtors to get going.  Now that a few of these are really getting going, I’m questioning myself.  Should every Realtor blog?  I’m beginning to think not.

I keep seeing the same sites (blog or not) over and over again and A) it’s getting boring and B) as a consumer, if your blog/site look so similar to the next guy’s, why would I pick you?  Maybe it’s a generational thing (I love reading the comments when I make a statement like that), but I just read a great article about “Why Gen Y Is Going To Change The Web”.  The only part I disagree on is the “going to” part.  I think we already have.

Canned Sites

These are the ones from before that I mentioned harping on.  I know about 99% of Realtors I talk to who have a site beyond their company site have one of these.  They have worked well in the past  and for a small handful of people who update their sites frequently (like a blog) they still work well.  But in my eye, (almost) all of them look virtually identical.  As someone who uses the Internet as my primary source of information, a site either has to wow me with content or design or both.  Too many links down the side, animated images all over the place, old information – it all doesn’t work.  But it’s easy, so I understand.  It’s a presence, which is better than nothing.

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Blogs for People Who Shouldn’t Write

This is the new unfortunate trend I’m seeing.  I’m fortunate to be a part of such a great team here that doesn’t fall into this trap, but I keep seeing blogs that are either A) an outlet to bash on “stupid” customers, B) “I’m being trendy by blogging, but I have no idea what to say so I’ll just regurgitate the same thing my neighbor put on their blog”, C) One post every 6 months or D) “Now is a great time to buy!”

Unfortunately, a few people have made some good money off Blogging For Dummies types of books (some even specific to this industry).  Should Dummies really blog?  Maybe I’m being an elitist jerk, but methinks not.

(And yes, I can VERY easily tell when you are SEO spamming, so please stop or I will never come back to your site again. Even  friends who don’t understand SEO can tell your site reads “funny”.)

Blogs for People Who Get It

Go through the authors here.  Check out their many blogs.  When I teach, I use their sites as examples.  Yes, they cover local market conditions as MLS’s and area associations and national publications release new information.  But they go beyond; they give their own thoughtful analysis of the information.  They keep up to date on current events that may impact the community they are blogging for or the real estate market in general.  They get it.  They are truly writing for their customers, not Google, not their ego, but to be a great information source.  To me, that is blogging done right.
(Their sites are also appealing on the eye, which keeps me from cringing when I try to read the great content.)

Am I Being a Web Elitist?

Maybe.  But I would wager I’m not the only person with these thoughts.  You could potentially be wasting your time and money while scaring people away when you could (easily) be marketing yourself online correctly.  Heck, I’ll even give you my honest $0.02 on your site if you’re curious 🙂

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One final word: Thank you all of my wonderful Twitter friends who listened and offered great words of encouragement during this difficult time in my life.  I plan on being back next week to share in some great conversations.

Written By

Nick runs a new media marketing consulting company helping real estate professionals learn how to implement new media tools into their marketing arsenal. He frequently gives presentations on generational marketing, green marketing and advanced online promotion. Nick is active on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

30 Comments

30 Comments

  1. Irina Netchaev

    May 16, 2008 at 11:42 am

    Nick, interesting post… insightful and real. As a new blogger, I find it hard to be as creative as some of the “old timers”. I think a blogger will either come into his/her own over time or will just give up after awhile. A great thing about Agent Genius writers is that they truly care about what they do and are open to share and help the newbies like me. 🙂

  2. Jonathan Dalton

    May 16, 2008 at 11:43 am

    So I’m sitting at happy hour a couple of weeks back and the office’s webmaster was talking to some of her proteges …

    “You need to post to your blog.”

    “I know, I know.”

    “For now, just go to x’s blog and copy the article we put there.”

    Keep in mind the article wasn’t originally written, just a canned piece dropped onto the site. (I’ve been trying for six months to get my owners to stop copying newspaper articles whole without success.)

    Blogs like the one above have no voice, no soul and no merit.

  3. Todd Carpenter

    May 16, 2008 at 11:53 am

    Nick, I know where you are coming from, but it’s important to put on a consumer’s hat when evaluating a blog. Canned sights don’t look canned when you only visit one of them. Many times, simply changing the header is all it takes to make it look original.

    Most consumers won’t recognize SEO spam either. Although some of it makes the posts impossible to read. So if someone is keyword stuffing in the short term, it’s probably going to work.

    As for quality of writing, well sometimes a new blogger just needs to find their stride. I look back at my first few months of blogging and laugh.

  4. Jay Thompson

    May 16, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    I think one CAN use a template provider for a “static” site, provided they work with it to make changes. Agents tend not to be too tech savvy, and the template providers (I use Point2) make it relatively easy to modify a site. Ours (thompsonsrealty.com) has worked well for us, but I have added a ton of content to it. I don’t *think* it looks like thousands of other P2 sites.

    I get asked all the time “should every agent blog”. My personal opinion is no. It’s not for everyone (just as other forms of marketing/prospecting aren’t for everyone). It helps if you can write fairly well. More importantly, you really need to enjoy it, IMHO.

  5. Nick Bostic

    May 16, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    Irina – I definitely think you’re right. One of the key aspects to me of blogging is that you do it because you want to and not because you’re being told right and left that you must. If you do it because you enjoy it and are trying to provide a service, I think that stride will be hit early and you’ll do great.

    Jonathan – Those are the exact ones I keep seeing sprout up in my area. A few are doing a great job, but some of the new ones must just be feeling a need to get content from anywhere.

    Todd – I guess my thought (I am a consumer, not a Realtor, but I am a techy) is that I’m going to research several Realtors. If I look at even 4 or 5 sites, I’m going to start to notice similarities. And you’re right, most SEO consumers aren’t going to notice. I just keep seeing more and more keyword stuffing and even my least techy friends notice it.

    Jay – You’re definitely right on this one. In my area, I work with a lot of agents whose companies provide them with a reasonably high degree of customization on their “free” site. My question I guess is why would you use the “free” canned site from your company then feel the need to create yet another canned site that you pay for? In your case, I understand, you are the company, you need a site and for that, P2, AA and N1E work great. And no, it doesn’t look like thousands of other P2 sites, when you first launched it, I was surprised when I got to the bottom and saw the P2 logo.

  6. Elaine Reese

    May 16, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    Well as one of the “old-timers” you mention, my template web site and WP.com blog are working well for me, however, you may not find them “fancy” enough. Don’t take this personal, but I’m really only interested in whether potential clients like them … and it seems they do by their comments and emails. I’ve personalized the heck out of them. My blog is updated at least every other day and sometimes daily. My web site front page changes every few days.

    Like Jay, I don’t think every agent should have a blog just to say they have one. To me, an agent should have a “passion” about communicating with their public/clients. Otherwise, it would be too much of a chore, and that attitude would, I think, come across in what they write or the way they write.

    The sites I really dislike are those that ONLY talk about the agent and how they’re #1.

  7. Benn Rosales

    May 16, 2008 at 2:34 pm

    Elaine, I know exactly what Nick is talking about here, and that isn’t you by a longshot. You’re a superstar in that you are targeted to exactly your market and have origionality. Beauty in a website is many levels, creativity obviously ranks highest.

  8. Scott P. Rogers

    May 16, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    >> They are truly writing for their customers, not Google, not their ego, but to be a great information source. To me, that is blogging done right.

    I agree completely! Through the course of representing buyers and sellers, we come to know a LOT about real estate, our communities, the market, and so much more. If, when blogging, Realtors can focus on sharing of this information, they will succeed. Blogging is (relatively) easy, it is automatically archived, it has an infinite reach, and it’s free!

  9. Benn Rosales

    May 16, 2008 at 2:52 pm

    click here This is a really good example of what a canned site looks like. If you suspect that you find a canned blog stolen from somewhere else, copy a line from the article and google it with quotes around it. Chances are, you’re right.

  10. Kathy Drewien

    May 16, 2008 at 3:10 pm

    Interesting discussion points. One of my pet peeves is real estate agents who believe blogs, or websites, smartphones, or software are the magic solution to business woes.

    When I entered the business in the mid-90s very few websites existed for real estate agents in Atlanta. Template sites quickly became a solution for agents seeking the “easier, softer way”. Some folks understood templates were (are) a tool, and experienced success; some viewed their site as money wasted, a failure. How many times have you heard, “This [insert tool here] didn’t work in my market.”

    I believe the boring and repetitive sites you view, Nick, belong to agents who have shrink wrapped software in their office, and smartphones used only to open electronic lockboxes. So, keep recommending new tools to agents. Some will “get it” and their clients will be better for the experience.

  11. cindy*staged4more

    May 16, 2008 at 3:31 pm

    I think it’s okay to be a blog critic 😉 I am all for constructive criticism.

    I think you point out a fundamental flaw in real estate blogging, which is people don’t really get what blogging is about but they know it’s the new “it” thing to do so they started to a) copy and pasting other’s contents b) write what others are writing c) write one blog and call it a day.

    Jay has a great point that not everyone should blog, it’s not for everyone. It’s really for people who a) get what blogging is about b) actually likes to write c) have no problem voicing their opinions about issues/questions/etc. After all, there are gazillion blogs out there, only the ones that have great contents stay.

    A lot of real estate professionals also feel that you require a lot of tech knowledge to blog. I am a professional stager and we are even less tech savvy than real estate agents. I can count the people who blog consistently on their company site/or outside blog (Active Rain doesn’t count) on 1 hand. Even when I talk about having a website, I see some stagers’ eyes rolling over.

    But the great thing about real estate community is that we continue to progress forward (even we are just slightly lagging behind) and it just takes a few individuals to start the trends!

    🙂

    Cheers,
    Cidny

  12. Barry Cunningham

    May 16, 2008 at 4:42 pm

    I’m standing and applauding and holding a lighter up! Been saying this since day one and unfortunately not enough people seem to get it. You said it much more nicely so perhaps they will in this instance.

  13. Tom Vanderwell

    May 16, 2008 at 4:54 pm

    Nick,

    Very well said. I’d love it if you could check out my site and give me your .02 worth. But let me tell you a little of what I’m working on doing with it (hopefully by June 1):
    1. The focus is going to be exclusively two things: 1) Current market news that impacts mortgage rates and 2) Other topics that I find might be helpful, insightful or educational to the agents and consumers who read it.

    2. I’m starting a separate page called https://straighttalkguestpost.blogspot.com that I’m going to open up to agents, insurance people, title people, appraisers, consumers, architects and anyone who has something they feel they’d like to say.

    3. A third page called https://houseoftheweek.blogspot.com is going to be an opportunity for sellers and agents to feature a house that meets two requirements: 1) It has to be for sale and 2) there has to be something “special” about it. It’s design, it’s landscaping, it’s history, or something….

    So, tell me what you think, I’m all ears (figuratively speaking).

    Thanks!

    Tom

  14. Jonathan Dalton

    May 16, 2008 at 7:04 pm

    Dear Lord, I agree with Barry … I’m heading outside to check for snow. 🙂

  15. Benn Rosales

    May 16, 2008 at 7:07 pm

    I just had a T-shirt made that says “blame Nick.” Agents guilty of Nicks article can purchase these online.

  16. Barry Cunningham

    May 16, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    Hey Jonathan,

    See what happens when you leave Bloodhound and take a different focus..oops..did I say that out loud?

  17. Eric- New Orleans Condos and Lofts

    May 16, 2008 at 7:47 pm

    I a way I am glad its harder to do than most agents think. Each of us are different and approach blogs in different ways. if your site has generated thousands of dollars in commissions you are going to be a better blogger and strive to be better because you know it works. Its hard to make $250,000 off your site.

  18. Jonathan Dalton

    May 17, 2008 at 12:33 am

    Barry … f*** it. I’m laughing too hard to put together a coherent response.

    But if you start singing kumbaya I’m going to kick your ass.

  19. Mariana

    May 17, 2008 at 8:34 am

    You are a web-elitist … but that is okay. We, as an industry, have multiple ways to get business and help people. Blogging is one of my favorite ways … but it is not for everyone.

    I talk about blogging when I teach InternetLeadGeneration classes for my company, but I only touch on it, and stress that it is NOT for everyone. If they don’t want/like to write, then that is a big sign that blogging may not be their cup of tea … Even the blog coaching that I am doing is aimed at weeding out the bloggers from the non-bloggers.

    Now, on a canned website note … I have an AA site that ranks #1 on Google for all kinds of SWEET terms. I dumped all the canned content and used blogging to get it there. So, there IS a place in the world for those sites. Just not a very BIG space.

    Blogging is an evolution for MANY businesses and events… Especially for real estate. I would like to think of it as a REVOLUTION … and maybe it is, a little bit. But with any evolution (or revolution) there will be a lot of commotion – both good and not-so-good until the dust settles and TRUE meanings of what is right/wrong acceptable/not acceptable cool/lame are more clearly defined.

    Nick, your “web-elitist” attitude is EXACTLY what we need to help create these definitions.

    … and PLEASE no kumbaya …

  20. Eric Blackwell

    May 17, 2008 at 11:31 am

    @Mariana- Exactly. As you and Jay have pointed out (and to jump in on Barry’s lighter comment). It’s the singer not the song. You can take any of the MAJOR standard templates and make them work-some easier than others. They look NOTHING like the off the rack model.

    Along the same analogy– Nick, I totally agree when it comes to content. Milli Vanilli just doesn’t cut it. It is not being an elitist to say the following:

    “Blogging is not for everyone. Be original. Have a unique take. Don’t write posts that suck.”

    How do you define a post that sucks? ask you wife or significant other to read it. They’ll tell you straight up. (grin)

  21. ines

    May 17, 2008 at 12:37 pm

    I’ve always had a fear of falling into the “everybody’s doing it” trap – I’ve been known to do the total opposite and it’s always worked for me – this doesn’t mean I don’t learn from others of course.

    Now when it comes to blogging I have to tell you that now that I’ve been doing it for almost 2 years, it’s not easy at all. First to capture your personality on there, second to identify and capture your own audience, then to keep it fresh and exciting – It’s A LOT OF WORK!! It definitely is not for everyone, but people that are getting discouraged should stay with it to see if they can make it work.

    I am the biggest critic of my own stuff and very often look back at what I wrote on my blog and think OMG what in the world was I thinking? But we have to remember that to have a little fun is always acceptable. Now please feel free and cruise by Miamism and tear it to pieces……it’s what get’s my wheels turning to keep it exciting.

    …and Nick……again I offer my condolences.

  22. Ken Smith

    May 17, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    Should every Realtor blog?

    No.

    Could anyone image what the web would look like with 1 million plus Realtors blogging? Who would benefit? IMO the only ones that would benefit are those selling the blogging platforms.

  23. Scott P. Rogers

    May 17, 2008 at 9:43 pm

    >> Could anyone image what the web would look like with 1 million plus Realtors blogging?

    So…..apparently a presentation during NAR mid-year referenced that 4% of Realtors are blogging. If membership is still around 1.3 million-ish, that would be 52,000 Realtor blogs. I can’t imagine what the web would look like with 1 million plus Realtors blogging — but I also am not sure if it seems like 52,000 are currently blogging!?

  24. Ken Smith

    May 17, 2008 at 10:09 pm

    Scott I agree there aren’t 52,000 actively blogging agents. If the number is 10% of that (5k) I would be highly shocked, again actively blogging…not once or twice per month. Most agents that start blogs give up within a couple of months, they still own a blog but they aren’t blogging.

  25. Scott P. Rogers

    May 17, 2008 at 10:16 pm

    Ken — I think it’s possible that 10% (5k) have started a blog. As far as once-twice a month — it has to be a relatively low number. Does anyone know if this data is available somewhere?

  26. Jeremy Hart

    May 17, 2008 at 11:36 pm

    Scott and Ken – I’ve got to imagine that AR blogs play into that number somehow.

  27. Ken Smith

    May 17, 2008 at 11:56 pm

    But even including AR there aren’t that many truly active bloggers. Plus some of the many at AR aren’t even Realtors.

  28. Rich Jacobson

    May 18, 2008 at 12:57 am

    Yes, but there are real estate professionals – valued faces & talents who come to the transaction table and make things happen. And many of them are actively blogging….

    I would agree that the true number of those actively contributing quality content to their blogs is probably a lot lower than we think. That’s great news for us. There’s still yet time to capture your unique local market, and fill the vacuum before someone else does.

  29. Eric Blackwell

    May 18, 2008 at 7:09 am

    Rich- Spot on. That is great news for us.

    Blogging is labor intensive by DESIGN. It is Earned Media. I wrote about that over at BHB. That is not being elitist to say that…it is just noticing the fact that you can either buy media with money or with time. (or both…).

    While I moderate on a major real estate website forum, I find that blogging gives me a better chance to actively converse and connect with folks more easily. It is definitely easier to convey your personality (for better or worse-grin) via blogging. IMO.

  30. Scott P. Rogers

    May 18, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    >> Blogging is labor intensive by DESIGN. It is Earned Media. I wrote about that over at BHB. That is not being elitist to say that…it is just noticing the fact that you can either buy media with money or with time. (or both…).

    Very interesting insight — as I have talked to some other agents in my company about blogging I have always said “it’s free, it’s easy….” — but I guess I tend to forget about the time consuming nature of it because I enjoy doing it. There certainly is a trade off of time in order to blog — though it seems like my time (blogging) has a higher ROI right now than my media buys (print advertising, etc).

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