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We Have Moved. Goodbye TypePad. Come See Us: RealEstateTomato.com/blog



After four and a half years we have finally made the BIG move.

Come see us at our new location: http://www.RealEstateTomato.com/blog

Guillotine

I had been dreading this for 3 years, but now it is over.

 I've often been asked what the biggest mistake I made as a blogger has been.  The answer is simple.  I made the mistake of using the TypePad platform for my blogging instead of WordPress.  At the beginning, I understood very little about the differences between the two platforms, and simply flipped a coin (I literally flipped a coin to decide).  This turned out to be a real challenge for me as I began to use blogging to showcase an expertise and to grow an audience interested in our message.

TypePad is incredibly limited, and frustratingly so.  In fact, in part, I blame the use of TP for my loss of fervor in blogging.  The site I had here had me so frustrated that I just couldn't stand working with it.  Yet, at the same time, I couldn't just start over somewhere else.  I had accumulated thousands of subscribers, earned a PageRank of 6 and posted very competitively for search results that I couldn't live without.

The biggest frustration of all is that you can't just move the site from TP to WP and pick up where you left off.  The domain structure (realestatetomato.typepad.com vs realestatetomato.com/blog) is the biggest challenge, but there are many more.  I won't bore you other than to say that it has been a massive project, one that has taken many months.

During the move I chose to make a few changes: 

1. Less categories.
2. Adding tags to each and every article.
3. PullQuotes in HTML vs using images.
4. More clearly showcase the Headings (H3 and H4)

Other changes are simply benefits of using the WP platform, like using PlugIns for exciting functionalities that TP could never offer.

I have also chosen to only bring over articles that had to do with blogging advice, so I left about 50% of the articles behind, and will continue to host them here.  

But, by far the best thing about the change is that I am now in compete control of the design, coding, content and hosting.  If I can imagine a need, I can have it developed immediately.  No more hoping that TP can satisfy it with their limited, proprietary platform and templates.

Relief, to say the least!

I can now join the more than 700 sites that we have developed for our clients on the WordPress platform.  Yippee.

An Open Letter To Our Readers: We're Moving The Blog!

New-ret-blog  I have been asked so many times, that I decided it was time for a post to clear things up.

We are in the process of launching a brand new blog for the Real Estate Tomato, over at our main website: http://www.realestatetomato.com.  I am happy to say that we will finally be free of this incredibly limited TypePad account.

The new blog is not live yet, so no need to rush over the and look for it.  I will make a formal announcement here in the next couple of weeks.  It has been a monumental task, moving the site, given the amount of content we have here on this blog.  

The savvy might ask, "why not just import the data and turn it on?"  

I wish it could have been that easy.  But instead, I've decided to make it incredibly difficulty on myself.  Because the site is at a new location (new domain), this means that all the internal links (1000s of them) are going to be pointing to the wrong URLs.  Because the original content is on a TYPEPAD url (realestatetomato.typepad.com) I can't do a simple 301 redirection on them.  In order to make sure every link in every post is connecting to the posts that they reference, I have to change each and every one of them by hand.

While I am in there, I am cleaning up the old content, looking for broken reference links, updating the images, improving the messages, improving the titles and re-categorizing and re-tagging each and every post.  It is a ton of work, but I know it will be worth it in the end.

So what is the lesson you can all take from this?

Over 4 years ago, when I started the blog, I had no idea that it would be the foundation and voice for a new business.  Because I had not considered that one day I may want to be free of TypePad and the proprietary template structure of their system, it had not occurred to me what a challenge it would pose to make the move.

The lesson is: If you ever plan on having your blog be a platform that you fully control, own and brand, you must not start it on a proprietary platform, or there will be hell to pay when it comes time to move.

My recommendation for your blog, or website: WordPress.

WordPress is the leader in the blog-platform industry, boasting users such as eBay, Ford, Sony, Wired, CNN, the New York Times, the Wall St. Journal, Harvard Law and all of our clients.

Announcing the Official Launch of Tomato University - Technology Training For The Real Estate Industry

TUHeader

It is finally here!  We are so excited.

We’ve launched Tomato University (beta):
“Technology Education For The Real Estate Industry”

The success of our first three Virtual BarCamp events made two things very clear:
1. There is an overwhelming interest in learning how to use technology to improve one’s real estate career.
2. Participating from the comfort of your home or office is a hugely popular alternative to learning in person.

Please Note: If you were a participant in any of our Virtual BarCamp events, then you are instantly a member of the University.  You will have received an email notification of your membership… and if you haven’t, simply login and request a reset of your password. 

Our mission with Tomato University is to scale back a bit on the intensity of the VREBC experience, and give everyone an opportunity to learn in a much more relaxed and engaging environment.

Rather than spending the day drinking from the fire hose of VREBC (28 live classes over 7 hours), we are launching the University with just 5 classes per week (1 per business day).

See University Schedule: http://www.tomatouniversity.com/courses

The other major distinction from VREBC is that the classes will be limited to much smaller audiences, allowing for direct engagement with the professors, in real-time, during class.  Classes will last between 1 and 2 hours, and in most cases will be limited to just 40 students.

See University Professors: http://www.tomatouniversity.com/professors

Our-missionDuring this beta period (roughly 45 days), all classes will be held at 11am PST (2pm EST).  In addition to the great schedule we already have in place, we will be adding classes and professors on a regular basis, with constant turn-over and growth.

Soon we will be offering intense Labs and Tutoring Options to our schedule.  The labs will be limited to as few as 5 students, and the one-on-one tutoring sessions will be available for those that want our undivided attention.

Even though the University is in a beta phase, our commitment remains in providing our students with the most relevant and effective technology training available. 

Here are a few of the ways you can instantly take advantage of the University:

1. Sign up for upcoming classes taught by some of the Real Estate Industry's finest minds.
2. Shout out from your Dashboard to the entire community, Twitter style!
3. Hold conversations with any other member(s) in real-time using "@membername" Twitter style!
4. Rate and Comment on classes you have taken to improve our offerings.
5. Friend other members to send direct messages and get updates on their activity within TU.
6. Post your RSS feeds to your profile to gain more exposure to your blog articles.
7. Submit your ideas for classes and/or your application for professorship.
8. Update your profile details.
9. Connect with Twitter and Facebook to broadcast status and connect with others.
10. Manage your email update preferences.
 
To begin taking advantage of your free membership you will need to register or login:

Once logged in:

To view your Dashboard:
http://www.tomatouniversity.com/members/dashboard

To see our Upcoming Classes:
http://www.tomatouniversity.com/courses

To meet our Professors:
http://www.tomatouniversity.com/professors

To update your Profile:
http://www.tomatouniversity.com/members/edit

We are going to be making an enormous amount of usability and functionality improvements in subsequent phases. 
Many of these improvements are already in the works, but we would love suggestions from you.

Tomato-u-dudeOur goal is to create an incredibly resourceful learning environment that thrives as a social network.
This initial phase is intended to be interactive, so don't be shy.

Near future upgrades we already have planned:
- Fan Classes for notification of updates and future related content and classes.
- Uploading of instructional videos to a tutorial library by both professors and members.
- Direct Message other members, privately.
- Participate in a community blog discussing high-level real estate technology topics.
- The addition of a Tomato University Blog for system news and updates.
- Browse and view an archive of recorded classes from past VREBC events.
- RSS/XML Feed of upcoming classes for affiliates and professors to showcase on their websites.

Don't hold back on your suggestions - we are very excited to hear from you.
http://www.tomatouniversity.com/contact

The 2 Most Important Things To Consider About Your Real Estate Blogsite-Website

JugglingOn nearly every call with a real estate blogger looking for advice, I end up having them consider both of the following.  Everything else is at best tertiary to these concerns and can probably be satisfied by simply keeping these primary items in mind.

1. Why Are Your Visitors On Your Website?

What brought them there, and what are they expecting? 
Did they do a search on Google and find an article that you wrote? 
Did they click from a link in your email signature?
Was it a Tweet? a Facebook status update? a YouTube video?
Did you tell them to go there? Did someone or something else?

You need to consider the reason and the context of every actual and potential visit.
This understanding will help you determine the 2 most important things about your online marketing strategy.

a. Am I reaching my Target Audience?

b. Are my visitors getting the experience that they came for?

The root of all significant Bounce Rates is based on this immediate experience.

If you fail to satisfy your target audience’s need, instantly, then you should consider your site a failure.

Defining your target audience is up to you, but I can help a little with the “experience that they came for”.

There are 2 reasons that most visit a real estate website:

1. Listings. Listings. Listings.

Both buyers and sellers need a place to live.  
Make the ability to search for and sign up to receive new listings a huge priority in your navigation and/or clear calls to action.  This is a no-brainer… no excuses.

However, listings are not a unique commodity.  Every real estate site worth a darn has an MLS search feature. 
They come for the listings but stay for the content.  Build value beyond the database.

2. Finding A Resource They Can Trust

Looking from the outside in, the real estate industry is one that often suffers a bad rap, but much like the legal industry, it doesn’t eliminate the need to for a capable consultant that buyers and sellers can count on to:
Clearly answer questions
Provide expertise
Offer savvy opinion
And make the whole experience as low stress as possible.

From a website, this can only be achieved with content, content and more content.
The content needs to be incredibly well organized and it needs to be focused on the target audience’s needs.
The same applies for the Calls To Action – You need to make it clear to your audience that you are there to satisfy their needs, and you can only do that if you are connecting with the audience that you are reaching.  More on this later.

TertiaryI can’t present examples for all potential RE topics that attract an audience, so I’ll just use one.  Take for example a website that is geared to satisfy the needs of someone in need of Short Sale advice and information.

The Short Sale is not your average transaction, and requires a whole different set of skills, knowledge, experience and communication.  (Disclaimer – I have no experience with short sales, I only know what I have heard… but humor me with this example, and apply the lesson to your own niche.)

Upon their landing on the site you want to present solutions to the things that keep Short Sale Buyers and Short Sale Sellers up at night.  Anyone who has been doing short sales knows that there’s a lot of that.  You need to make it as clear as possible that you are there for their needs. 

My suggestion would be to create calls to action for something like the following:

For the Buyer:
1. Search Short Sale and foreclosure listings
2. Search all available MLS listings
3. What you need to know before investing in a Short Sale.

For the Seller:
1. We’re here to help; learn about our Short Sale services.
2. Testimonials of successful Short Sales.
3. Do you qualify for a Short Sale?

With those 6 Calls To Action, you can cover the needs of almost all your short sale traffic.  Make them make a decision to dig deeper into your site, whether it be a database of listings, or articles positioning you as the expert on the niche.

From there, it is all about the quality of your content.  Once the organization of connecting effectively to your target audience is tackled, win them over with your knowledge and experience.  The more questions that you are able to answer directly and preemptively the more trust you will build.  Trust leads to contact, and contact leads to relationships.

Bottom Line: Create the experience which provides the best access to the reasons that your visitors are there.  Everything else is tertiary.

More info on the topic:
Giving Away Trade Secrets Is The Secret To A Successful Blog
How Does Blogging Actually Generate Leads?
Why Blogging Makes You A Better Realtor® 

The second thing that you need to consider about your web presence is: 

2. Are Your Visitors Getting Any Closer To Doing Business With You Because Of Their Experience On Your Website?

Close the dealOf course if you blow the “Why are visitors on your website?” question, then this one becomes irrelevant.

Nobody is managing a real estate website or writing a real estate blog just for fun, they’re doing it to improve their business.  If it is fun, then that is because it improves their business.

Consider an inbound phone call, an opportunity to gain a client.
How do you handle the situation?

Appear professional
Have an engaging personality
Clearly answer questions
Provide the resources they seek
Gain trust
Close on opportunities

It is the Closing Opportunities that makes the whole thing work for you.  In a “selling” situation (e.g., getting someone to agree to make an offer… or accept one) you have to close the deal.  Just providing all the information in a complete and easy-to-understand manner and waiting for the client to make the decision is not going to get the deal done.  When you are connecting on all points, and they trust you, it is your opportunity (read: responsibility) to BRING them to make a decision.  Walk them to the other side of the deal.

Your website can have this power as well.

Create opportunity that makes it clear to the engaged visitor that you are here to WORK WITH and FOR THEM. 

Calls-To-Action that specifically explain how you can, will and are already helping them. 
(Sticking with the short sale theme)
“I am here to help you with your short sale, contact me NOW.” 
“Subscribe NOW to our weekly newsletter educating you on everything you need to know about short sales.”
“Subscribe NOW to receive instant updates of new short sales that hit the market in your criteria”

Coffee-is-for-closersEverything else is just a shiny object to distract them from following through with you, for the reasons that you connected with them in the first place.

More Blogging Success Tips:
Simple Marketing Tip: Engage The Audience You Create To Avoid The Headache of Lost Opportunity.
Don’t Be The Ignored Real Estate Blog, How to Avoid The Starbucks Mistake
How A Strong Finish Has A Real Estate Blog Article Generating Leads
How To Approach Real Estate Blogging And Ensure Your Success, Guaranteed

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Virtual BarCamp is Back! April 6th, 2010: 9am - 4pm PST. Mark Your Calendars.

Vrebcdnm1

Before you read any further, block out your entire day on Tuesday, April 6th to attend this incredible event.

If you already have plans, cancel them.  You do not want to miss this.

Announcing the 3rd edition of Virtual BarCamp. 
What is a Virtual BarCamp?

On Tuesday, April 6th, 2010, we will be live with 28 amazing presentations.
New speakers
New topics
New knowledge 
and a major announcement.

The format will be the same as past Virtual BarCamps where each presentation is 45 minutes in length with a 15 minute intermission in between.  There will be 4 simultaneous webinar rooms, hosting 7 speakers each throughout the day.

Register-now

If you have registered for past Virtual BarCamps, you should not need to re-register.  Once registered for any VREBC event, you are considered part of the VREBC family, and will receive the event details (roster, schedule of presentations and access links/codes) as we release them. 

We are approaching 3,000 registered members for this event!

Stay tuned for details on who is speaking and what topics we will cover.

Please mark your calendars NOW to be part of another learning extravaganza. 
That's 4/6/10 from 9-4 PST.

In the coming days we will have updated information on the following:
Live Event Info
Session Calendar
Presenter Roster
Potential Topics

Spread-the-wordGiven that this is a free event, we appreciate any promotion and exposure we can get from our members.  Spreading the word is crucial to making this a successful event.  Thank you so much for your support.  Here are some ways to plug the event:

1. Visit our Promote Page to get logos and template tweets/memos:
2. ReTweet announcements we make about the event.
3. Bring it up at your office meetings.  Tell your broker/office manager.
4. Tell your local association.
5. Email your colleagues.
6. Schedule an office meet-up.
7. Schedule an after party.
8. WRITE A BLOG.

Thanks again for all your support.  We promise to continue to deliver and exciting and unique experience for you all, for free, if you continue to help us grow our reach!

If you are interested in presenting, please send me an email to:
vrebc (at) realestatetomato.com 
See you on 4-6-10.

If you are interested in helping sponsor the event, please send me an email to:
vrebc (at) realestatetomato.com 

For any other information, please visit our main website:
www.VirtualBarCamp.com

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