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What would you do differently?

My question is this – If you were starting a blog today, what would you do differently? I would have started with my own domain (I switched after the first three months) running Wordpress (especially after having watched Benn’s tutorial ).

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There are a few old-school bloggers here on AG. My question is this – If you were starting a blog today, what would you do differently?

I would have started with my own domain (I switched after the first three months) running WordPress (especially after having watched Benn’s tutorial).

What do you wish you had known? Any major mistakes that you would care to share?

Dad, Husband, Charlottesville Realtor, real estate Blogger, occasional speaker - Inman Connects, NAR Conferences - based in Charlottesville, Virginia. A native Virginian, I graduated from VMI in 1998, am a third generation Realtor (since 2001) and have been "publishing" as a real estate blogger since January 2005. I've chosen to get involved in Realtor Associations on the local, state & national levels, having served on the NAR's RPR & MLS groups. Find me in Charlottesville, Crozet and Twitter.

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32 Comments

32 Comments

  1. ines

    May 18, 2008 at 10:29 am

    Hey Jim, I don’t consider myself and “old school blogger” but I can tell you I would have started my own blog sooner – (which is about to turn a year old btw). I would have also adopted a “call to action” system right away. Let’s see what the wise ones have to say.

  2. Barry Cunningham

    May 18, 2008 at 11:07 am

    Like Ines, I am hardly old-schooI…but if I was I would have kidnapped Mary mcKnight , held her for ransom and made her tell me everything she knows…and then I would have recorded it all to keep forever. Then maybe…just maybe I would have let her go!

  3. Matthew Rathbun

    May 18, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    Not that I am old school like Jay Thompson, you and Theresa, but I would not have gone anywhere other than a paid WP.org site. (I am too lazy to more my primary from Typepad, but I have managed other WP.org sites) I would have started off with widgets that encouraged consumer interaction. I would also have spent much more time on blogs like realestatetomatoes.com and rsspieces.com. Lastly, I would have pre-written a months worth of posts, so that I had enough to show consistency in writing, yet not missed a day when I was out with clients or such.

  4. Eric Blackwell

    May 18, 2008 at 12:25 pm

    I am still fairly new at the blogging side of the game compared to some…especially on the RE.net. I would gone with more pictures–sooner. Graphics have a way of breaking things up and making a point. I would do a little less writing and a lot more photoshopping..

  5. Scott P. Rogers

    May 18, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    I’ll throw a supplemental question out there for the “old-school bloggers” since I am still new to the blogging world:

    Is it worthwhile to have more than one blog? For example, a separate blog for a particular community or neighborhood? Or for a particular subject matter (income-generating rental properties, etc)?

  6. Ken Smith

    May 18, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    I think there are some great points already made by some very smart people who are very modest. Here are a few thoughts that should help most new bloggers.

    IMO You should own your own content and not be building someone else’s brand. Don’t invest to much time into REW, AR, or a “something.blogger.com” blog. The content isn’t yours and you aren’t building your brand.

    Many bloggers seem to like to figure things out on their own, many times they just end up reinventing the wheel. IMO there are parts of online marketing (including blogging) that you shouldn’t fsbo, hire a professional and get professional results. What should be hired out will be based on your knowledge.

    IMO consumer interaction is the key to a real estate agent blogging for business.

    Remember your target audience is buyers or sellers, not other real estate agents. If you want to write to Realtors start a separate blog for that purpose.

  7. Ken Smith

    May 18, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    Scott if you have time to maintain more then one blog then targeting specific markets can be useful.

  8. Cyndee Haydon

    May 18, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    Things I wish I’d known the first time are:
    #1: Pick a URL keyword rich domain name and
    #2 Wish I Understood categories better when I began. I would have limited the number of non-real estate categories (group many lifestyle ones in to a main one) and chosen different names on some.

  9. Jim Duncan

    May 18, 2008 at 3:43 pm

    The biggest mistake I ever made (that I know of) is that I wrote about a current prospect … and then he read it and commented negatively and I deleted it. After not sleeping that night, I found his comment somewhere and re-published it. From then on, I –

    1) Don’t write about current people without permission
    2) Don’t delete comments (unless they are libelous/offensive/spam/etc)

  10. ines

    May 18, 2008 at 6:00 pm

    I’m with Ken – maintaining one blog is time consuming enough. Scott, I do think that if you organize it well enough you can really achieve the different topics with categories within the blog – I do it with mine, but ultimately, you would be the only one to know what works better for you, that’s the beauty of blogging.

  11. Scott P. Rogers

    May 18, 2008 at 6:43 pm

    One “for instance” is that I post information about good foreclosure opportunities in my area on my blog. So….they are available on my main blog (https://www.scottprogers.com/blog) or in that category (https://www.scottprogers.com/blog/category/foreclosure/)

    It has crossed my mind to start a second blog with only the foreclosure information so that I could more easily market that as a destination in and of itself.

    Then I get into:
    1. Should I also leave the foreclosure posts on my regular blog? Would I be depriving my regular blog readers if I took them off?

    2. Should the foreclosure blog have the other posts on it? Would I be losing an opportunity to get other info in front of the people landing on my foreclosure blog if I didn’t have them on there?

    3. If the posts are on both, would the search engines frown upon me because of duplication of content?

    If anyone has done something like this, let me know, as I’d like to see how you did it, and know why you did it that way. Thanks!

  12. Jeremy Hart

    May 18, 2008 at 7:48 pm

    Scott –

    Re: #1 – why not advertise the category “Foreclosure”, rather than duplicating the process on multiple blogs? http://www.harrisonburgforeclosures.com, for instance, than have it point to that category? You’re not “depriving” readers by putting the information on there, so why not leave it there? I think you do a good job with that stuff anyhow, and I’m sure the everyday reader likely does as well.

  13. ines

    May 18, 2008 at 8:03 pm

    Scott – you could also get a different domain and point it to the foreclosure category (Is that what you are trying to say Jeremy?) – you would get the keyword rich domain and add juice to one single blog (which is hard enough to achieve)

  14. Scott P. Rogers

    May 18, 2008 at 8:05 pm

    Jeremy — good thought (I registered the domain and pointed it there, so it should be live in the next hour or so). My only hesitation in configuring it as such is that the “foreclosure blog” (that isn’t really a free-standing blog) thus won’t be branded with an identify of its own. I think it could (possibly) have more impact and gain more of a following if I branded it separately…..

  15. Scott P. Rogers

    May 18, 2008 at 8:08 pm

    Ines — I believe that is what Jeremy was suggesting, and what I did. The only issue is (as far as I know) that Google (etc) won’t see any content on https://www.harrisonburgforeclosures.com, because it will just be forwarding to content that resides on a different domain.

  16. Jeremy Hart

    May 18, 2008 at 8:24 pm

    That’s what I meant, Scott – it’s just a hunch, but I think you’re okay by pointing https://www.harrisonburgforeclosures.com to the category …

  17. Jeremy Hart

    May 18, 2008 at 8:27 pm

    Scott – yes, that’s what I was suggesting. I have no imperical evidence to prove this, but I think you’re okay with just pointing to https://www.harrisonburgforeclosures.com. The information is great, people will be able to find what they need there.

  18. ines

    May 18, 2008 at 8:29 pm

    Scott, I think you have to make a decision on whether you want to give juice to a single domain and what those implications may mean (what are the advantages?) or if you want to run 2 different blogs. I can tell you that it is definitely more efficient to stick to a few keywords to a blog but I’ve done mine completely different and after almost 1 year I am seeing unbelievable long tail results. I have different neighborhoods and write content for all of them – also have domains pointed to the categories.

    I know Mary McKnight has a client with a foreclosure site that is getting unbelievable results (I just can’t remember the URL) – you can always start a separate blog with all the content you have now at a later date – talk to Mary.

  19. Ken Smith

    May 18, 2008 at 8:47 pm

    Cyndee wrote: #1: Pick a URL keyword rich domain name

    I think that it is way more important to have a URL that you can brand then one stuffed with keywords.

  20. Ken Smith

    May 18, 2008 at 8:52 pm

    Scott you can create a different “look” for any category on your blog (for sure with WP, haven’t used any others). It can actually look like a completely different site if you want, pull in different CSS and everything. At the very least you might want to pull in a different header and change up the navigation to make this idea really work.

  21. Scott P. Rogers

    May 18, 2008 at 8:54 pm

    Excellent point Ken — good idea — that way I can brand it and yet still not be dividing my efforts and content.

  22. Ken Smith

    May 18, 2008 at 9:07 pm

    Exactly. The main blog can use all the content, but make the foreclosure category function like a stand alone blog focusing purely on that content. Naturally I would still link to other areas of the blog, but make the above the fold navigation all related to foreclosures.

  23. Kris Berg

    May 19, 2008 at 7:52 am

    Hi, Jim. Good topic.

    1. Don’t write about current situations unless you are REALLY cryptic. I share this early mistake with you. I learned, but as Maureen posted recently, it is difficult, because the best stories are the ones we can’t tell.

    2. Should have paid more attention to the template. Now I need a facelift (so does my blog), and I am paralized with fear at the thought of migrating 2+ years of content to a new design.

  24. Rich Jacobson

    May 19, 2008 at 9:05 am

    I don’t know if there would be anything I would want to change. It has been a wonderfully enriching learning curve, with many extremely helpful mentors along the way. That perhaps is the key in all of this – to simply ‘Pay-it-Forward’ – to take all that we’ve learned and be as willing to help/share with others as those mentors did for us. I would have started subscribing to more blogs sooner, to expand my blogging horizons, rather than being so focused on how and what I should write. I desperately need to read more than I do. I use to be a voracious reader, but life got in the way a few years ago, and I’ve lost that discipline.

  25. Jay Thompson

    May 19, 2008 at 11:45 am

    I would have read more RE blogs before jumping in (though really there weren’t all that many RE blogs 3 years ago to chose from).

    I would have linked OUT more frequently. This is a difficult concept for new bloggers to grasp. Your gut tells you, “If I link out to someone, my reader will leave and never come back”. Yes, that can happen, but the benefits of linking out to others FAR outweighs the few readers you may lose.

    Trivial, but I would have picked a better name for my Feedburner feed. Rather than “JaysArizonaRealEstateBlog” it would have made far more sense to name the feed “PhoenixRealEstateGuy”. If I change it now, I risk losing some of the 350+ feed subscribers I have.

    I would have posted more often in the beginning. 2 -3 times a month doesn’t cut it. Pre-writing several “date insensitive” posts for publishing later would have been prudent (still would be for that matter).

  26. Jonathan Dalton

    May 19, 2008 at 12:28 pm

    I would have selected a separate domain name long, long ago instead of waiting until nearly two years into the entire process.

    Disagree with Jay on reading more as not reading the rest helped me find a voice. But it’s almost a moot point as the options were pretty thin even just two years ago.

    If I write about prospects, it’s almost always stripped down to be more generalized and it’s virtually always positive and/or instructive. Things that could help others down the line …

  27. Larry Yatkowsky

    May 19, 2008 at 6:41 pm

    I’m so new I still squeak!
    I started this blogging thing in Nov 07. Why you ask?

    This answer will haunt me – an RE client talked me into it. He also designed and built the site, got me pointed in a direction and said “there yah go – now start typing. Write a post a day – it’ll do you good” he said. Talk about blind faith. I have yet to figure out if anybody is hearing me splash and thrash.

    What would I do different.

    Like others, retrospectively I might have chosen a more area related blog name. It may have helped but I’m not certain if blog life is over without it. Certainly being first on the bus has it’s advantages if you are clairvoyant.

    Contrary to many, something I’ve chosen not to do is have all the gadgets, widgets, counters, smileys and other toys I see on many blogs. To my eyes they distract from the essence, style of the site and the writer. I see each blogger’s visual voice clouded by all that stuff. It reminds me of web 1.0 junk. You get used to it, but it is I think, counter productive to the purity of the message. I live with the conviction that if the medium is the message – then why put junk in the message. Hell, my writing style by itself, is a sufficient distraction from the message.

    I’m not very smart about the linking. Although for some reason others are linking to me. I don’t know why? I’m not that pretty! My town is not as intense about real estate blogging as say, Phoenix, so my excuse is that linking to others in the real estate community is more restricted.
    Those few I do link to are non realtors who have something to say of value and for the most part live with a glass half full.

    Something I hope proves valuable is to meet other bloggers who are not realtors. It’s my attempt at keeping perspective and making time for a beer.

    whoops – the crooked cane is pulling so……………….

  28. ines

    May 19, 2008 at 8:00 pm

    I’m still laughing that Lani included Jay and Perez Hilton in the same sentence! 🙂

  29. Jim Duncan

    May 19, 2008 at 8:15 pm

    I’m not laughing. She made me feel o-l-d – she took a college course on email and forum etiquette??? We were just figuring out email when I was in college!

  30. ines

    May 19, 2008 at 8:24 pm

    Jim – and here I thought I was cool because I was learning Fortran in Engineering school – that LANI will get us every time!

  31. Ricardo Bueno

    May 20, 2008 at 8:54 pm

    I would have started blogging much, much sooner!

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Instagram announces 3 home feed options, including chronological order

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Instagram is allowing users to choose how their home feed appears so they can tailor their own experience… and chronological is back!

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Instagram home feed options

Break out the bottle of champagne, because they are bringing back the chronological order in Instagram!

About time, right? Well, that’s not all. Per Protocol, Instagram has announced that they are rolling out three feed options in the first half of 2022. What?! Yes, you read that right.

3 New Feed View Options

  1. Home: This feed view should feel familiar because it’s the algorithm you already use. No changes to this view.
  1. Favorites: This feed view option presents a nice and tidy way to view creators, friends, and family of your choosing.
  1. Following: Last, but not least, is my favorite re-boot, the chronological view of every account that you follow.

Per Protocol, recent legal allegations have been made that Instagram and Facebook have been prioritizing content viewed as harmful in the algorithm and specifically in Instagram. Instagram is widely believed to be harmful to teens. Per the American Psychological Association, “Studies have linked Instagram to depression, body image concerns, self-esteem issues, social anxiety, and other problems”.  They have been under scrutiny by lawmakers and in response are posing the chronological feed as a solution.

However, this won’t fix everything. Even if the algorithm isn’t prioritizing harmful posts, those posts will still exist and if that account is followed it can still be seen. The other issue with this solution is the knowledge that unless Instagram lets you choose your default feed view, they could still cause the algorithm view to be the automatic view. Facebook doesn’t allow you to make the chronological feed your default view. This means you would need to choose that view every time. This bit of friction means there will be times it is overlooked and some may not even know the functionality exists. Knowing this information about Facebook, prepares us for what’s to come with Instagram. After all, Facebook, or Meta, owns both.

While as an entrepreneur, the chronological view excites me, I know the reality of it being used is questionable. I would love to know others can see the products and services I offer instead of hoping that Instagram finds my content worthy to share in the algorithm.

As a human being with a moral conscience, I have to scream, “C’mon Instagram, you CAN do better!” We all deserve better than having a computer pick what’s shown to us. Hopefully, lawmakers will recognize this band-aid quick fix for what it truly is and continue with making real changes to benefit us all.

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Facebook’s targeting options for advertising are changing this month

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Do you market your business on Facebook? You need to know that their targeting options for ads are changing and what to do about it.

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Laptop on lap open to Facebook page representing ad targeting.

Meta is transforming Facebook’s ad campaigns beginning January 19th. Facebook, which has been infamously battling criticism regarding election ads on their platform, is revising its limited targeting ad campaigns. Per this Facebook blog post, these changes eliminate the ability to target users based on interactions with content related to health (e.g., “Lung cancer awareness”, “World Diabetes Day”), race and ethnicity, political affiliation, religious practices (e.g., “Catholic Church” and “Jewish holidays”) and sexual orientation (e.g., “same-sex marriage” and “LGBT culture”).

These changes go into effect on January 19, 2022. Facebook will no longer allow new ads to use these targeting tools after that date. By March 17, 2022, any existing ads using those targeting tools will no longer be allowed.

The VP of Ads and Business Product Marketing at Facebook, Graham Mudd, expressed the belief that personalized ad experiences are the best, but followed up by stating:

“[W]e want to better match people’s evolving expectations of how advertisers may reach them on our platform and address feedback from civil rights experts, policymakers, and other stakeholders on the importance of preventing advertisers from abusing the targeting options we make available.”

To help soften the blow, Facebook is offering tips and examples for small businesses, non-profits, and advocacy groups to continue to reach their audiences that go beyond the broad targeting of gender and age.

These tips include creating different types of targeting such as Engagement Custom Audiences, Lookalike Audiences, Website Custom Audiences, Location Targeting, and Customer Lists from a Custom Audience.

Here’s the lowdown on how it will happen.

Per the Search Engine Journal, changes can be made to budget amounts or campaign names without impacting the targeting until March 17th. However, if you go to change the ad set level that will then cause changes at the audience level.

If you need to keep that particular ad to reuse, it may be best to edit the detailed targeting settings before March 17th in order to ensure you can make changes to it in the future.

I believe it was Heraclitus that declared change is constant. Knowing this, we can conclude other social platforms may follow suit and possibly adjust their targeting in the future as well.

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Hate speech seemingly spewing on your Facebook? You’re not wrong

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Facebook (now Meta) employees estimate its AI tools only clean up 3%-5% of hate speech on the platform. Surprise, Surprise *eye roll*

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Facebook being crossed out by a stylus on a mobile device for hate speech.

As Facebook moves further toward Zuckerberg’s Metaverse, concerns about the efficiency with which the company addresses hate speech still remain, with employees recently estimating that only around 2% of offending materials are removed by Facebook’s AI screening tools.

According to Wall Street Journal, internal documents from Facebook show an alarming inability to detect hate speech, violent threats, depictions of graphic content, and other “sensitive” issues via their AI screening. This directly contradicts predictions made by the company in the past.

A “senior engineer” also admitted that, in addition to removing only around 2% of inappropriate material, the odds of that number reaching even a numerical majority is extremely unlikely: “Recent estimates suggest that unless there is a major change in strategy, it will be very difficult to improve this beyond 10-20% in the short-medium term.”

The reported efficacy of the AI in question would be laughable were the situation less dire. Reports ranging from AI confusing cockfights and car crashes to inaccurately identifying a car wash video as a first-person shooting are referenced in the internal documents, while far more sobering imagery–live-streamed shootings, viscerally graphic car wrecks, and open threats of violence against transgender children–went entirely unflagged.

Even the system in which the AI works is a source of doubt for employees. “When Facebook’s algorithms aren’t certain enough that content violates the rules to delete it, the platform shows that material to users less often—but the accounts that posted the material go unpunished,” reports Wall Street Journal.

AI has repeatedly been shown to struggle with bias as well. Large Language Models (LLMs)–machine-learning algorithms that inform things like search engine results and predictive text–have defaulted to racist or xenophobic rhetoric when subjected to search terms like “Muslim”, leading to ethical concerns about whether or not these tools are actually capable of resolving things like hate speech.

As a whole, Facebook employees’ doubts about the actual usefulness of AI in removing inappropriate material (and keeping underage users off of the platform) paint a grim portrait of the future of social media, especially as the Metaverse marches steadily forward in mainstream consumption.

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