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7 Myths About Real Estate Blogging

I have dedicated today, and the rest of the weekend, officially as “Guest Author Soapbox”.  Marc was first, Roberta second and now we have the honor of presenting a controversial piece from a (self-proclaimed) dedicated reader, Sacramento area Realtor, John Lockwood.

I expect this piece to generate some discussion, so don’t let me down.

And now, John’s piece:

7 Myths About Real Estate Blogging

HydraI've been thinking of submitting an article to the Real Estate Tomato for some time. The Tomato is probably the only real estate blogging related blog that I read regularly. Webmaster Jim Cronin and his frequent contributor, Teresa Boardman, do a really good job of putting up with my somewhat twisted world view, and this tolerance has emboldened me to twist it up into a more full length article form.

I've been blogging for awhile, since the launch of the web site that now accounts for much of my business -- in mid 2003 or thereabouts. To give you an idea: I started out on Radio UserLand, which one might quip is the blogging software equivalent of the Altair or the TRS-80. I haven't been blogging continuously since then; there was at least one gap of a few months.

I've had some successes with my blog, but I dare say almost all of them have been indirect, except the pleasure of meeting a small number of hardy souls who've made bold to befriend me. Lately however the more I read about what others are saying about real estate blogging, the more I feel like my efforts have been something entirely different from what other people are saying about their efforts.

So when I list these myths about real estate blogging, I should do so with an appropriate disclaimer: I believe that my take on what's right and wrong about blogging are pretty much a minority opinion. So here is a minority opinion, then, on the top myths about real estate blogging.

  • There is a real estate blogging community to be a part of.
    Those of you who like me spent a substantial part of your high school days reading Kurt Vonnegut may remember his discussion of Granfalloons, but for those who didn't, Wikipedia as always will let you catch up quickly. Sure, there are a lot of folks blogging about real estate, but together they no more form a community than the people you pass on the highway form a community of drivers. As in driving, you'll find lots of people you don't care about one way or another, a few people who are entertaining to look at or easy on the eyes (or both), people whose courtesy surprises you, and people whose complete lack of courtesy surprises you even more.
  • Somebody important to your business is reading you.
    If you're blogging about real estate, your most likely audiences are:
    • The search engines. Actually these are important, but they're not a somebody, they're a some-algorithm.
    • Bubble blog readers who are waiting for you to claim that there's some value in owning a home so they can pick a fight with you.
    • Your colleagues, who by and large are hoping you'll amuse them, mention them, or link to them.Teresa will probably disagree with me on that point, but only because Teresa will read this. Q.E.D.

  • Blogs have built in search engine magic.
    I have to thank Jim Cronin for being the first person to use the phrase "long tail search results" on me -- I had to go look it up when he did that. There seems to be a prevailing opinion that if you just write enough stuff, you'll be found for certain keyword combinations that will help your business. Well, in a way, that's true, but it's true in the same sense as the old-timer's joke about the real estate business, i.e., you "throw enough [stuff] on the wall to see what sticks." Moreover, blogs are not special in this respect, blog pages don't get indexed any more than any other pages do, it's just that blogging tools make it easier to create more pages than developing pages and FTPing them up to your site by hand. There seems to be a sentiment that if you blog hard enough, you don't have to understand SEO. Actually, come to think of it, I endorse that. The more you believe that, the less typing I have to do.
  • Real estate blogs are leading the industry toward greater transparency.
    It's fun being a Realtor®. So many people think we're crooks and liars that we have a whole organization, NAR, who gets a healthy fee from each and every one of us for the reputation laundering effects of saying we subscribe to NAR's Code of Ethics. Now everywhere I go I hear about transparency. Someone even paid me a compliment and said I was a model of transparency, and I had to read the post three or four times to understand that he meant it as a compliment. Now look: If you were a liar or a crook before you got in the business, neither NAR's Code of Ethics nor your Wordpress installation will redeem you. And if you were an honest person before you got in the business, chances are you'll continue to be one without any special organizational or technological crutches.
     
  • ActiveRain is a great way to generate business.
    When I was a newcomer in the business, someone suggested that I should join the Chamber of Commerce. (Or as I fondly call them, the "Chamber of Convicts".) So I paid my dues and got me a nice little plaque, and started going to some of the organizational meetings. Somewhere around meeting one or two it dawned on me that half the people in the room were Realtors®. I thought, "So this is where I'm supposed to prospect for clients?" It seemed to me then, and it seems to me know, that that particular stretch of the pier was pretty heavily fished already. Now don't get me wrong, hanging around ActiveRain may be a great social thrill for you and you might meet some colleagues who will entertain you or mention you or link to you, but I wouldn't call that working. (Incidentally, neither is this article -- you have to goof off some times.)
     
  • Redfin, Zillow, Trulia, Zillowfin, Falsia, Inmanfin, and The Kitchen Sink
    Just now, as you were busy reading someone who's goofing off, somebody somewhere was 1) discounting commissions 2) putting up free listings 3) otherwise competing with you. Who cares? Either you're dominant in some segment of your market or some prospecting technique, be it web site promotion, blogging for dollars, working expireds, door knocking, direct mail, doing killer listing presentations -- whatever -- or you aren't. Quoth the Borg: "Competition is irrelevant." It's pleasantly irrelevant if you win, less pleasantly so otherwise.
  • There has been a recent trend in real estate blogging toward localism.
    Wha-a-a-t-t-t are you talking about? Of all the myths I've heard about blogging, this one strikes me as perhaps the funniest of all. A small group of pundits has so turned the agenda toward a discussion of the discussion, that now they turn around and tell us that just having the original discussion is a recent trend.

    Real estate blogging has always been local, so it lives in no other place from which it can trend back toward local-ISM. What isn't local is real estate blogging blogging [sic], which consists at least in part about getting together to pass out awards for the best article about Zillowfin and Falsia, and having a discussion about the discussion.

    Round about 2005-2006, the discussion of the discussion started to displace the discussion, and though I'm as likely to lapse into it as anyone, I lapse into it as an outsider to it. I've pretty much decided that there's no place for me in the discussion of the discussion, and I either need to have a discussion about the discussion of the discussion, or fire up the local MLS software and just go back home and have a discussion.

    There has been a trend in recent paragraphs toward obscurantism. But with that -- you must be living right -- I'm done

Related Must Read Article about John:
Business Blogging In Black And White

More info on John Lockwood, Broker, Elite Properties
Website:  http://www.sacramento-home.com
Blog:  http://www.sacramento-home.com/real-estate-events/

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Love the comments about localism and about active rain. Active rain is a waste of time and not a good way to get business. Can't say you are right about who reads my blog. Just had a closing last week with one of them and wrote an offer for another last weekend, have listing appointments with two others, talked on the phone on my way to lunch with another. I encourage people liek you to let everyone know that they won't win business because of their blog. I have almost no competition in my local market and my life would be much easier if it stayed that way. Happy to see you on the vine, now I'll go away.

On localism, I believe an article written with passion will more likely be read than an article without passion, regardless of topic.

On SEO, I've seen some benefit in having the blog as it has helped pull up my main site. At least on every other Thursday or on those times when Google doesn't make my main site disappear in favor of the blog.

On transparency, some of the information can be helpful. Some of the information is carefully guised promotional materials (I'll tell you the truth!) Some of it is agents arguing semantics with each other.

On Active Rain, I stopped paying attention about a month ago and life has continued on quite nicely. I've got less interest in points than closed commissions.

My readers seem to by home buyers and sellers in addition to the friendly RE bloggers that stop by presumably to give me moral support or something like that.
This week, between ActiveRain and miOaklandCounty.com: 2 new listings, one outgoing listing referral, one buyer. Those are future paychecks. Also my blog gave me the perfect excuse for meeting with some community leaders whom I would not be talking to otherwise. So it is opening doors. As for ActiveRain specifically, like it or not, it helped me to improve my blogging and develop an audience. I was ready to quit blogging and now I have new ideas every day of things I want to try with my blog.

For more discussion on this article, readers not coming in via ActiveRain may want to go check out what's being said there:
http://activerain.com/blogsview/43677/7-Myths-About-Real

OK...so if you're a beginning blogger, Active Rain is not a complete waste of time. Like John said, it's a "discussion about the discussion" type site. However, I doubt if taking the time to post valuable, well-thought-out material on Active Rain can be construed as being productive over a long period of time. Certainly it helps Active Rain boost Active Rain's traffic.

I think that same energy would be better spent writing reviews about local neighborhoods or schools. That's content your consumers will grab ahold of. In theory anyway....

Well, perhaps I'm just fussy because the 20% "conversion" (to a visitor using the search page) that I enjoy from the blog is more like 40% from the home page. Also, I have comparative experience from other web sites that did well without a blog. My point is definitely not that web marketing doesn't work -- my entire business is based on it and has been for over four years. And my blogging efforts are an important and convenient component of that.

My point instead is that just kautauing to blogging as the ultimate web solution may get you somewhere, but it won't get you as far as will understanding and mastering the entire craft. As Ogden Nash once wrote about blogging and SEO, "candy is dandy but liquor is quicker."

Jonathan,

Thanks for a fun read and for giving me much to disagree with.

ActiveRain's potential is great. The current state of it, however, is a mess, and trending downward. It needs to be either a forum for real estate professionals or a blogging platform. It can't be both and survive. If it intends to become a blogging platform - there are a lot more tools to be added to get to where blogging was years ago. No trackbacks. No permalinks for comments ... etc.

Where I would disagree with you most sharply is about the value of local and whether real estate blogging has always been local.

There are precious few real estate blogs that have a decent local focus or even a real estate focus that anyone wants to pay attentiono to.

Being locally-based isn't being local or being real estate. Look at Rain City Guide - a Seattle etc. as the poster child for this. Precious little about real estate and less about Seattle.

I believe that if they're done right local real estate journals / blogs can radically alter the way the real estate business gets business. That's not likely to happen at AR or Localism - too much rot in the barrels and too few apples.

My even more minority opinion, for a couple of myths, it depends. My blog is a bit different that most RE blogs in that it is a niche condo blog. At least for me, more people than bots visit and bubbleheads stay away as my posts will bore them to death. Because I write about specific condos, my posts generally show up as #1 in Google when buyers type in the name of the condo...so in that respects, I take the opinion that it's an SEO benefit.

I had been an active participant in ActiveRain during the early stage and got a great lead from it. But, I find little benefit from it of late. If potential buyers and sellers happen in on a squabble, they'd be surprised at how petty agents can be.

Hi Joe,

Thanks for the feedback! (And it's just "John", by the way). I agree with you, Rain City Guide has little about real estate, and less about Seattle. That's probably why they're on page seven of one of the major SERPs for "Seattle Real Estate". Still they're highly acclaimed, and I couldn't be happier for them.

My goal is decidedly less ambitious than to "radically alter the way real estate business gets business" or to engage in any other sort of Truliaphillic postmodernism. Like Jonathan Dalton, I'm in it for the escrows. I enjoy the checks, because I use them to buy goods and services. Whether that makes me rot or an apple I leave as an exercise to the cognoscenti.

My current consensus on AR is that it is going to work for many. But it is not the ideal place to find a potential client, no more than one should be looking for a wholesome life-partner on MySpace. The environment just isn't quite right.

An example I found in the AR featured blog posts from today (an article that I enjoyed thoroughly): http://activerain.com/blogsview/40806/Where-does-a-Blogging

This article is referring to potential clients as LEADS. And that, they are. But is that how a potential client of yours wants to see themselves being spoken about? I don't know that they do.

The environment is so littered with Realtor on Realtor action (smile now) that the consumer must feel that they have just walked into an auditorium full of agents, when they were just looking for a cup of coffee with someone they can trust.

Ahh...and we stumble upon the nature of the thing at last. A conversation between a Realtor and a client cannot be had in the midst of a shouting match.

I prefer my individual blog because it allows me to express my personality through both the design and the content. I write about topics related to neighborhoods in Tampa because those are the people by whom I would most like to be read. If the rest of the Real Estate blogging world considers me a neophyte then so be it.

Frankly, this entire debate is beginning to pull me farther from the comfort of my "Localism." So, I'll just retire into the woods with the rest of the cavemen.

Ouch! Sorry about that, John. I clicked on a wrong link and took the name from it instead of being smart enough to just look at the post!

Enough people like you successfully pursuing (what you describe as) a less ambitious goal will work major change on the industry whether or not that was your intent. Instead of agents being "disintermediated" by technology they will do the disintermediating and a lot of the industry that now stands between consumers and agents will fall away.

I'll say one thing, John Lockwood can write! If he ever stops making so much money with his blog he can always fall back on writing.

I took a look at John's website. It is a great example of how to run a real estate website and blog at the same time.

As for his 7 myths. Some are and some aren't. I think we are supposed to choose which are which. Does he pick the winner next week?

Oh, don't retreat in the woods yet, Jonathan Greene. You'll figure out a way around idiots like me, just give it time.

I agree that there's an SEO benefit to writing, Ben (and Maureen), naturally. I guess my point is that blogs are not guaranteed SEO tools -- just convenient ones. As for your niche blog -- outstanding idea, I'd say.

Thanks, Joe. Yes, I guess that's the reason for my take on Zillowfin, Redfish, and HypeValues.net. You're absolutely right, agents have been beating big business at their own game in a number of markets for years. And no worries -- the Jonathans in this thread outman me fair and square.

Hey, thanks Marty! What a nice thing to say. My draft of a more balanced article than this one on the pros and cons of blogging included the "pro" that one could wake up and suddenly find that one had become a de facto professional writer. That was my goal in high school, 3,000 years ago. I had to become a nominal salesman to do it, though.

Winners? No -- I forgot to test the goodwill of my readers even more by bagging on carnivals. But should we as agents always pick and choose the pieces that fit? Heck, yeah! (Except when I'M talking, Teresa.)

And thanks to everyone else I missed and especially to Jim for graciously allowing me a forum where I could score some great comments. I enjoyed my fifteen seconds of fame playing ketchup with the pundits very much.

John, please, bag on carnivals. I think I know where you are going with it, and I just love to disagree with you. Don't let me down. Maybe Jim would let us do a point and counter point thing here? You write better so I might need help or a thesaurus.

John, it seems you have stirred people up. We all know that you are blogging and tweaking all the time. Now, this should give you some additional traffic...good job!

Wow, John, I wondered why I had never heard of you before, and now I know. Because you were posting on Active Rain! (I'm just joking around.) I looked you up in MLS, and I see that you work across town in another county. Marilyn Goff County, right? :) If you're ever in Sacramento, give me a ring -- we can hook up and do lunch. I'm always interested in talking with newer real estate agents, especially those who started out in the business online and made it work for them!

I am still in the research phase, having created my blog in late Jan. - no search engines have come calling yet . . .

I am very interested in the topic of "localism" and have noticed that it is actually difficult to find blogs that are locally focused, which I find bizarre.

Your post validated my thinkng about ActiveRain - I realized early on that I would probably only post to members there.

I have been doing local for about 6 months and my blog is also attached to my website, people are finding my site through my blog URL & keywords etc. It works...I too have been doing the internet for about 4 years and do at least 2 million or more a year from it, and it is not a ton of leads but there are quality ones, we have a BAD site that everyone says...its about us, but we are closing 600K this month from it and writing a 2.7M contract today. (hope it works out). I think the way the internet is going there is something for everyone, and nobody really knows the exact business any realtor does from it except that it is happening. Like Teresa, I write on my blog so I can drive traffic back to me, not a third party, and it does work, but you have to commit to it and then work your business for CLOSINGS. I read this post last night at 1:00am but was too tired to comment. Thanks for the observations, gotta love it.

I love it when a post comes along where I read every word to the last comment. A real pleasure.

Wow.

Maureen, I'd welcome a point-counter-point about Carnivals, but I suspect you'd slaughter me as I don't yet have a very intelligent critique in mind, more like a vague feeling of being Rudolph to your reindeer games, and sympathizing with my overwhelming majority of red-nosed colleagues.

And truth to tell, part of the emotional context of the article is a certain envy of people who actually can trace closed business back to their blog directly. In my case it's more like blog + other web site stuff --> thematic content --> SERPs --> business. To hone my craft, I should probably watch Teresa and Maureen and others and steal the heck out of whatever they're doing, if I can do so without slaying a business model that's already working pretty darned well as it is. Sounds like I should be stealing a little Terry, too! :)

John, Terry, etc. I appreciate the comments greatly!

Elizabeth, sure I'd love lunch. What say we also see if we can get Gena Reide and Julie Jalone away from their clients / keyboards -- make it a greater Sacramento re-blogger-fest. Now let's see, who's a local vendor who caters to folks like us who might want to sponsor it . . . just kidding, but you're welcome to come, too, Jim!

Deborah, you're doing better than you thought. The top three engines already know about you. Run this in Google, Yahoo, and MSN:

site:debsbeachblog.wordpress.com

Perhaps your fellow bloggers can be prevailed upon to offer you a further leg up.

I say it's on. Let's have a "Carnival Crossfire" - Francis vs. Lockwood. I welcome talking points from the gallery. We'll collect the best points of discussion and give them the floor (soapbox) for the day to defend their positions in an independent piece.

RE: Lunch. I'm in. I think the check goes to the blogger with the best daily traffic numbers.

Oddly, cant say I disagree with a single point you brought up. Much of the industry blogging I see going on is just real estate professionals patting each other on the back.

John I've got nuthin' up my sleeve and I fear you can argue circles around me on just about any topic, but I think the carnival debate would be interesting or at least entertaining. Well, maybe.

Well, don't be so sure, Maureen. I'm not sure I have a legitimate objection to them, it's just a matter of taste. You say To-may-to, I say To-mah-to -- hey, that's appropriate!

However, I'd be happy to trash the living crap out of them if it will illuminate and/or entertain.

So do we just each write our own separate posts and then post them, or does one of us go first, or what?

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