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Do Bloggers Have Too Much Power?

Spidey_responsible"With Great Power There Must Also Come Great Responsibility!"
- Stan Lee, Creator of Spiderman

As Google has become a household name (and a verb), a certain amount of faith has followed that recognition.  We all now seem to have a certain level of trust in the results that Google provides, regardless of the fact that some if it may not be.  

In September 2000, keen bloggers soon discovered a search engines results loop hole, coined Google Bombing.  The idea that if enough bloggers all linked to a predetermined page and all used the same anchor text, that webpage would soon appear at the top of the results under the anchor text search phrase.  At one time, the search phrase  "miserable failure" would bring up George Bush's Biography.  "On June 2, 2005, Yooter reported that George Bush is now ranked first for the keyword 'miserable', 'failure' and 'miserable failure' in both Google and Yahoo!." [1]

Because of the (sometimes misguided) faith that people have in the internet, and specifically the search engines, individuals that publish content online now have a social responsibility similar to an author writing for an offline publication.

It is well known that a well connected blog can almost instantly dominate the search results pages (SERPS) for less than popular search terms.

Take for instance an article we wrote about about the inadequacies of the e-pro course.  It was written on August 16th of last year and it still currently holds the number one (and two) search result in Google under e-pro class.  Similarly, articles that were written back in college still appear in the search engine results when Googling our names.
 
Since just January 1st, 2007, the Tomato has been clicked on for appearing competitively for a staggering 594 different search words (and phrases). 

Many of these results are:

People's Names ("Bernice Ross", "Teresa Boardman", "Marc Grayson")
Common phrases ("what to expect from a Realtor", "How much is my home worth",
Businesses ("Housevalues", "Postlets", "VFlyer", "ActiveRain")
On Target ("blogging advice", "real estate blogs", "why am I blogging, online lead generation")
Bizarre ("singing tomato", "beam me up", "wife swap blog" - I never wrote about it, I swear!)


The blog content we generate will persevere in the search engines as long as we host the site, and in some cases even longer.  RSS syndication, social bookmarking, content reproduction and splogs will have your written words online possibly forever.  What is published can be very difficult to take back, or reverse.  We have the responsibility of choosing our topics and rants wisely; you never know what you might regret 'saying'.

Topics and terms you should be sensitive about when publishing to your real estate blog:

People: You can have a permanent effect on the reputation of anyone below a D-list celebrity. 
Mention people by their real name, wisely.

Yourself
Client
Friend
Enemy
Boss
Broker
Colleague
X-anything

Small Businesses: Reputation is everything for a small business.  In most cases they aren't big news on the internet. 
Your article could easily be their most read PR piece.

Non-Franchise
Mom and Pop
Start Ups
Websites

Small Towns and Neighborhoods: If they are hardly on the map, they are hardly online as well. 
Your write-ups can instantly be considered the 'authority'.  Use this power wisely.

Events and Organizations: Like the above, their advertising and internet exposure is mostly limited to 'little to none'. 
In many cases, your article is the first impression search engine users will read.

We'd love to hear some stories of industry bloggers gaining that 'authority position' in the search engines for 'less than popular' search terms where you felt that you had an effect on an audience's perception of the topic mentioned.

Curiously, today, Jay Thompson over at PhoenixRealEstateGuy.com posted a similar article after a careless internet user dropped a rant in a public forum.  Seems we all need to watch our P’s and Q’s out there.

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Comments

Great post Jim! (geeze how many times do I say that here?)

It is indeed mind boggling sometimes to think about what the search engines pick up. And keep. I'm waiting for the day when some politician's career is ended because someone finds something on the net that they wrote 20 years ago. It WILL happen.

A few months ago a porn star moved to the Phoenix area. The RSS news feeds picked it up of course, and I have several local news feeds on my main site. For a week the search term that resulted in the most hits to our site was the porn stars name. I'm guessing a real estate site wasn't what those searchers were expecting to find...

Now you'll have to excuse me, I need to go delete my Google search history so my lovely bride doesn't wonder what the heck I'm doing searching for "wife swap blog"...

Funny I found an RFP I resonded to 10 years ago online. Nothing ever really disapears from the internet and now I think about that as I write, it is both a good thing and as you point out a bad thing. My site comes up first for many search terms as well however, because of the popularity of my first ever virtual pumpkin carving contest I do get a lot of people who are searching for pumpkin related items. :)

"Small Towns and Neighborhoods: If they are hardly on the map, they are hardly online as well. Your write-ups can instantly be considered the 'authority'. Use this power wisely."

That's what I am doing. I am trying to attract the locals writing about the history of my hometown as well as the county in General. As a history major, I think I discovered a gem while doing a little reading on the side about one of our former Senators. Turned out he was the commandment of an infamous Confederate prison and had a half brother in which I think he may have never knew about that ended up being the state's top Union spy. I think I see a book coming here.

I also posted some Vietnam stuff as it had North Carolina natives in it from other areas and ever since that article, I have traffic coming from the house.gov and several other government agencies. In fact, the Department of Justice sent me a certified letter today which I have yet to open!

Bloggers have power?

Almost scary. I mentioned some of my local Realtor friends and now my site comes up right after theirs when you search on their names. I had no idea!

We really do have to be careful.

I just took a listing in a small neighborhood and blogged about it. A while back I had written a blog about the same area. With just the search term Wrigley Heights both blogs are usually in the #1 and #2 positions on Google. That is quite kewl.

It's not going to be long until a few of the better established RE bloggers will have sites regarded as "more authoritive" than their entire brokerages web platform.

That's going to make some brokers very nervous.

@ John Lockwood... we certainly have enough power to get ourselves in hot water. ;-)

So right - I would extend the caution to say be careful of your comments, too. Some of the highest search rankings for me / my biz come from comments on sites like the RE Tomato.

Funny how daily blogging can shoot you right up there, best SEO ever, you really do need to be aware of how the search engines crawl. I too, just took a listing in my neighborhood because of a blog article and it was found at the top of google, they liked that I lived in the neighborhood, Hills at Prestonwood. I am really paying attention to the long tail, it works. This post is a great reminder to be careful and respectful of the online community. Thanks

Jim - Great post! Though many bloggers understand the responsibility that comes with blogging, some will abuse it (as with anything in life). I try to stay focused and true and respsectful of others and hopefully, that will bring good things.

Lake - You bring up a very good point. Comments can bring in a lot of traffic, but people who read them surely make judgments about the person who posted them so you have to be careful what you say and how you say it. I'm not saying don't let your true personality show in your comments, but you know what I mean...

Jim,

Agent says: "I understand blogging, but what does that have to do with selling homes?"
This entire post just missed 99.98% of the agents in my office.
If I can't get the print to rub off of my advertising, it threatens and confuses.

Wow!! This is HEAVY (sorry, it is the rock n’ roller in me)… Jim, I followed your link over to Jay Thompson’s article at the PhoenixRealEstateGuy.com.

I don’t know how many of you guys actually read that piece, but I gotta tell you, I loved it!!!

Google is a great means of accountability for us all. I have always been a big fan of watching what you say regardless if it is on the internet or not, particularly because I have the tendency to be somewhat impetuous myself from time to time.

Thank You Mr. Nick Strippy (a reference from Jay Thompson’s article)… for sacrificing yourself on the alter of “object lessons” and being that all-to-perfect example of what NOT to do or say, especially online…

What we particularly need to be careful for is that, at least with Google's current algorithms, if our blogs establish credibility for a certain topic, that credibility seems to extend to nearly anything we post.

Random example: A few months ago I put up a fun post about dung beetles, with footage from a trip I took to Botswana 1.5 years ago. In the post I mentioned the scientific name: Scarabaeidae Scarabaeinae.

Now when you search on Google for Scarabaeidae Scarabaeinae -- a long-tailed search if ever there was one -- my site comes up number one, above other sites that should have far more credibility on that particular topic.

I didn't know Kevin was into dung beetles! This article has me reflecting on the "weenie" article i wrote a couple of days ago in support of Teresa. I'll have to go reread it to see how it will sound 10 years from now.

Hey Jim.. Did you happen to see this? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HESNptmLnH4

I think that I am turning into an addict of realestatetomato. Everything is interesting.

Greetings from Spain,

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