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The Brand Challenge – Looking Back In My Blogging History

Looking Back In Time

We can’t change the past.

Last week, I announced my impending birthday celebration here at AgentGenius. Yesterday came and went without much hoo-ha, jubilee, or commemorative speeches. I’m okay with that as I spent the day thinking about something Ken Brand said in the comments. The Brand Challenge. Ken wrote the following:

It’d be interesting to hear what you thoughts are about your very first posts. How your style, structure, approach, etc. has evolved. I’m saying you should write a post about it, I’m saying it’s crazy to look back at what you wrote a year ago and think about how you’d write it now.

But we can learn from it.

Ken’s idea caught my attention and I thought it might be a good exercise. Of course, I write at three main blogs, so I wondered how I should go about choosing which one to talk about. Being a blogging overachiever, I decided to dissect all three. Each one served a different purpose as I started them, so I thought perhaps the different perspectives of each might give a little insight into the who, what, why, how of each blog. In some cases, I skipped the first post (and will note that as such) as they weren’t quite posts, but rather introductions.

AgentGenius – The Stigliano Chronicles

Will the real Matt Stigliano please stand up?

My first ever post on AgentGenius (written September 22, 2008). I was nervous as hell writing this one. I had been speaking with Lani and Benn about the possibility of writing, but when it came down to it, I felt out of place. I was a new blogger surrounded by names that people talk about when they’re trying to quote the experts (my use of the word, not theirs). I didn’t know what to say, how to say it, or even how to use WordPress all that well. My first few posts probably drove Lani nuts as I would call her often to ask her “How do I do this?” Even then, I know she would sneak in at night and correct some of my more glaring mistakes in layout and coding. I had a lot to learn.

The post itself remains one of my favorites. I wanted to layout the direction for The Stigliano Chronicles and introduce myself to the readers and writers here and I think I accomplished that.

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What do I like about it?

Definition: The post defines me rather quickly. The guy who writes lengthy posts. The former rockstar turned Realtor®. The battle of trying to find some sort of personal branding. The new agent.

What don’t I like about it?

Drab: The post doesn’t scream “read me” in any sense of the words. Although Lani designed the excellent header graphic, it looks stale by itself. Later I would take to finding pictures to adapt and place the banner over them in an effort to beautify the look. Lack of links. Links aren’t just good for SEO power, they also help give some decoration to you blog. They look nice and stand out. They make people want to know why you chose the link.

ActiveRain – San Antonio’s Rockstar Real Estate Agent

An Open Letter to Buyers…

My second post on ActiveRain (written November 6, 2008). My idea in joining ActiveRain was to “cut my blogging teeth” so to speak. I had been blogging at AgentGenius for awhile, but my focus there was around new agents. ActiveRain was to be more about real estate. I had written a post on AgentGenius, “An Open Letter to New Agents…” and used this to build my second ActiveRain post. Same theory, different audience.

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What do I like about it?

Concept: I like the theory of this post. I may actually revisit it soon in an attempt to bring back the idea, because I think it’s one that’s worth attention. One of my goals as an agent has been to speak to consumers from their viewpoint. I know it, because I’ve been there. I’ve been on the side of real estate where everything went wrong and the agent wasn’t so great and I wound up thinking that all agents behaved like this. I know differently now and I want the world to know.

What don’t I like about it?

Execution: The layout sucks (no justified text – ewwwww). There is nothing that makes me say “I wonder what this post is all about?” It reads like a rambling daydream with no clearly defined goals or ideas. I do tend to write somewhat rambling posts, but even for me this post is confusing. I wanted to squeeze everything into one paragraph and seem to randomly break each one into pieces so I wasn’t one continuous stream of words – but it didn’t work. – Your all access pass to San Antonio real estate.

One photo does not sell a home.

My second post on (written September 2, 2008, but not truly published until January 4, 2008 when I launched the site fully). This post was actually inspired by something I had read by Matt Wilkins. This was my first post in which I used someone else’s writing to inspire a post of my own, something I do quite often and find very useful in my blogging. By reading other bloggers, I constantly find inspiration for my blogs. Seeing their thoughts and then asking myself, “How does this apply to my local area and my readers?” It has proven to be invaluable to me as a practice (especially when I’m stuck for a topic).

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What do I like about it?

Conviction: This was probably the first post that I had some very strong opinions of something relating to what I think about the state of real estate. I was frustrated when I saw the listing mentioned and how it was presented to potential buyers. I hated that the client wasn’t getting what they needed in order to help sell their home and what I thought could be done to help present it in the correct light. (Interesting note: This property still has not sold.)

What don’t I like about it?

SEO: I missed the opportunity to take full advantage of SEO in this post. I made vague references to our “local” MLS, but never defined what was local. The title was good, but with some quality keywords, could have had more impact. I was attempting to sell myself without saying “Pick me! Pick me!,” but I didn’t take advantage of my ability to be known as a “San Antonio real estate agent” or other key phrases and words. The content is good, but with keywords and some work, this post could have been noticed more by the search engines and with that – people searching for agents to list their homes in San Antonio.

The Brand Challenge

So who else will take The Brand Challenge and take a look into your past to see what you can learn? It’s simple, costs nothing, and if you take it as an opportunity to improve upon past success and correct past mistakes, you’ll benefit in the long run. Just by looking back, I’ve come up with three good post ideas that I think I will cover in the near future. I was also able to remind myself of the importance of SEO-minded thinking in my posts (without going overkill) and what compels me to read a post (and hopefully a consumer). Each on of these tidbits will provide valuable resources today and tomorrow as I continue on my blogging expedition.

photo courtesy of

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P.S. I have stolen Ken’s last name for the exclusive use of the new term The Brand Challenge – by no means have I stolen his soul, wit, or way with words. Now that I am finished with it, I relinquish his namesake back to Ken for his own use. Thanks Ken!

Written By

Matt is a former PA-based rockstar turned real estate agent with RE/MAX Access in San Antonio, TX. He was asked to join AgentGenius to provide a look at the successes and trials of being a newer agent. His consumer-based outlook on the real estate business has helped him see things from both sides. He is married to a wonderful woman from England who makes him use the word "rubbish."



  1. Lani Rosales

    September 23, 2009 at 7:48 pm

    The Brand Challenge, eh? My first post wasn’t even under my name, it was under a pen name because I’m not licensed and didn’t want my opinion to damage my husband’s brokerage where I worked. Now, I write and speak publicly without fear, boy it took a lot of years and effort to get here!! My tone has always been relatively informal, but the topics of the content I produce across the blogosphere have advanced substantially.

    Great project, I loved reading every minute of this!

  2. Matt Stigliano

    September 23, 2009 at 9:47 pm

    @LaniAR – You speak without fear? Preposterous! Your informal style combined with knowledge of the topic has always been a favorite of mine. When we first spoke about me doing AgentGenius, both you and Benn said to be myself and it has served me well. When reading posts by either of you, I can see why you encouraged me to do so. Having spoken to you on the phone on several occasions, when I read your posts, I hear them as if you were having a conversation with me. Okay, now that I sound weird and creepy…

    I’ll just say thanks.

  3. Paula Henry

    September 24, 2009 at 12:26 am

    Matt – I recently revisited my earlier posts at Active Rain and YUK! I had no idea what to do, what to say or how to say it. Yeah, and it reads like it.

    The process of blogging has been a long one for me, a never ending challenge; I love it, I hate it and in between there somewhere lies a balance I rarely find.

    You, though, have all the makings of a Realtor, blogging rockstar!

    Rock On!

  4. Ken Brand

    September 24, 2009 at 9:35 am

    Thanks:-) It is interesting to me to reflect way back to when we began. For me, the beginning was difficult and like most things, experience, repetition and focus leads to “better”.

    Also, I think people have different approaches to what they write, and I know I wonder what process others use how they think. I most always double and triple think – over think about what I’m writing. Usually, when I finished and I hit publish, I’m happy with it….but I know what I think is funny or clever or clear is viewed as confusing or “duh” or whatever. I’m guilty of laughing at my own jokes too.

    I would say my biggest challenge is “over writing”. All the books, coaches, teachers say that you have edit the hell out it. Short and sweet! I have a hard time with that aspect.

    Time is another question for me. How long does the average (is there such a thing as average) writer spend writing a blog post? For me, some things on my personal blog can be quick and easy – 10/15 minutes, for the AG stuff, my average is around 4 or 5 hours. I start writing, then I edit, then I rewrite, then I delete everything, then I rewrite, etc. Then I try to let it sit for a day or so, then I reread it and edit, etc. I find myself tweaking down to a word. I might be driving along and pull over to write down a sentence or a thought or a word combination, then I’ll log on and change the original….then I get…you get the picture. I obsess – fear of looking stupid, being irrelevant, being ignored, etc. I remind my self that I can’t please everyone so I please myself and hit publish.

    One of the most huge benefits for me, swirls around the quote from Stephen King in his book titled “On Writing” – ‘Writing is refined thinking.” ~ Stephen King.

    Thanks for sharing Matt and Paula and Lani. I enjoy reading all the writers…I consider commenters writers too.


  5. Benn Rosales

    September 24, 2009 at 9:47 am

    Matt, when we brought you on, we knew it was a risk, however, the risk factor was like ‘1’, the pro factor was 99. Without sounding like a proud father of a great son, I’ll simply say, you’ve never disappointed us in the slightest, in fact, the same things we saw in you before you ever wrote a single post, our audience has seen in you virtually everywhere. We call the time we spend grooming writers behind the scene an investment, and this was one investment that paid off.

    Stay honest and true to you as you always have.

  6. Matt Thomson

    September 24, 2009 at 5:50 pm

    Pretty interesting! I think I’ll take you up on this and take a look back. I’m coming up on my 2 year blogging anniversary, so this could be interesting!

  7. Matt Stigliano

    September 25, 2009 at 8:25 am

    Paula – It’s amazing to see what you wrote, how you wrote it, and try to remember why you wrote it. I think in the beginning I was trying too hard. Just looking to wow the world with my posts. I came to realize that not everything I write is “gold” and that writing for that purpose won’t quite get you the results you wanted.

    Ken – Short and sweet? What’s that? I’m very guilty of that as I am more than fond of pointing out. I admit there are times when I read something by you and say “Huh?” However, it’s one of the things I like about your writing. Occasionally I have to go back and re-read a line or two. But that’s part of what makes it more interesting. Seeing how you connect the dots and use words makes it more interesting to me. I’m sure there are people who don’t like it, much as I’m sure there are people that don’t like my writing – that will always be a fact of life though.

    Benn – I think you have every right to feel like a proud father. I looked up to the two of you when I discovered AgentGenius and having you take me on and help guide me is a big deal to me. And you two didn’t cut the rope and let me loose, you just gave me more rope. Both you and Lani have been there to advise and help me when I needed it. I am thankful for that. I’m still learning more and more everyday and wonder what I’ll be thinking/blogging about in 10 years from now. I do know that I will be 10 years from now.

    Matt – It was actually kind of fun. I can imagine it would be more fun if I was on two years…or five…or ten. Let me know how it goes!

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