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Three Letters I Don't Think About When Writing A Post For My Real Estate Blog

Our favorite “Tell-it-like-it-is” correspondent from the real estate blogosphere, Teresa Boardman, is back with her first Tomato contribution of 2008.  Recently there has been some discussion as to what approach we should take when it comes to considering the search engines with a real estate blog article writing style.

Teresa, a proven success with her straight forward approach, serves up a spoonful of perspective, keeping us all in check:

The Three Letters I Don’t Think About When Writing a Post For My Real Estate Blog

By Teresa Boardman

Teresa-boardman-blogging-seoThere are three letters that I don’t think about when I write a blog post, they are S, E and O.  I consider my posts and photographs to be a kind of creative endeavor and I can’t be creative if I am thinking about Google.  I do need to attract search engines but my main goal is to attract the people who are using the search engines.  With almost 60% of my traffic coming from search engine traffic I think I am doing just fine.

The people that I attract are much more important to me than the search engines.   They are the kind of people that I want to work with and they want to work with me.  I don’t have to get all salesy with them or overcome objections.  They know what they want and they want to me to help them get it.

If I worried about how many keywords are in each post or how many categories each post is in or how each photo is labeled I couldn’t write a word. If I did everything just so for search engine optimization I think my readers would leave me.

Worried-about-seo-in-real-estate-blogsDon’t get me wrong.  My blog is optimized.  Typepad is a great platform for SEO and even though mine is highly customized it has all the bells and whistles.  Beyond that my job is to provide content.  I know I am repeating myself but it is the content that makes it all work.  Not keyword stuffed content, but rather, stories of the ordinary. 

When I write, I am thinking about buyers, and sellers and people.  I am remembering conversations or reactions that people with whom I talked to had to something that I said.  Real life situations end up on my blog and in my posts.  It is the ordinary and the every day that I write about, the obvious, and even the mundane.

It is the same way with the photos.  They are pictures that can not be found anywhere else because they are pictures of the ordinary and not of the spectacular.  Homes that would not be seen in glossy magazines and pictures from around town that others just don’t take. The kind that a real photographer would not waste his or her time with but are still worth at least a thousand words.  Blog readers can relate to all of this and they get a sense that a real person is writing the blog, not some corporation that came up with a sneaky way to sell.  

Teresa-boardman-snow-dropsWhen people meet me in person they tell me that I sound just like my blog.  I have heard this and seen it written in blog posts.  My family and friends laugh at some of my posts because they understand why I choose the words that I do and what it means. 

Blogs are about being real, and about transparency.  The best way to write a blog post is to let the thoughts about SEO go and think about who is reading your blog and what you would like to say to them.  Blog posts can almost be like an email to a friend.  When I say almost, it is because they are to a friend that you have not yet met.  The idea is to generate business by meeting people.  Pretty much the same as having an open house or sending out post cards, just cheaper and more fun and maybe harder to do.

Dare to be different and provide unique and fresh content on a regular basis.  Photograph the ordinary in your home town and include it with the post.  That way people know that you are real and that you are really there.


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Teresa Boardman is an exceptionally professional Realtor in the St. Paul, Minnesota area.

Her website: www.TBoardman.com
Her blog: www.StPaulRealEstateBLOG.com
Voice: 651-216-4603

Thank you Teresa. 
As always, it’s a pleasure having you 'on the Vine'.

Other Articles by Teresa on the Tomato


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Comments

What I have gathered from Teresa's post about her writing style and its lack of SEO consideration is that there is success to be had just by posting your brains out (So far, Teresa has published a thoughtful post everyday this year) with a clear voice.

That is not to say however, that greater reach and exposure could not be achieved with careful consideration to acceptable SEO strategies.

I for one work several SEO techniques into each of my articles (including this one), but it is always the icing that I save for the just before publishing. I too would find my writing to be bogged down if working SEO into each article was the top priority. Heck, it's already hard enough to get the words online... stifling the flow would be akin to running with cement shoes.

I haven't asked her, but based on my personal experience with inbound search engine traffic, it would seem that most of her 60% is generated by her long tail reach. Her total post count is way past 500... that's a ton of words spidered. Who knows what crazy combinations of terms are pulling visitors. Look, just today RET was found for both "dodo bird" and "fried dough sold at carnivals".

I'd be willing to gamble that if her traffic is anything like mine, the large majority of her SE generated traffic is from visitors that came whimsically rather than intentionally. Not to say that the whimsical weren't pleased upon finding her blog, but it's just that they were thinking less about St Paul Real Estate before they began their search than say someone who searched "homes sold in st paul".

Teresa's job (as well as yours) as a business blogger is to keep readers as much as it is to gather them. Her pace and her voice have readers engaged and sold. Her participation, wit and consistency have us (and you) talking (writing) about her, linking to her, referring to her, and even copying her. In order to maintain this attraction, she keeps doing what she's doing, the way she always has.

Nonetheless, I don't see her route (SEO free) as the only route to an audience. We need to be found... it is fact that SEO techniques will facilitate that end. However, and Teresa will be the first to tell you, without a voice that rings sincere and directed at that audience, you can kiss them goodbye.

My consistent suggestion:
Rule #1 Write to be read by the type of audience you seek.
Rule #2 If it behooves you to learn the SEO, sprinkle a little "write to be found" in there after you have accomplished Rule #1.

This is a very timely blog for me. I think many of us get too caught up in optimized titles, long tail keywords, seo this, seo that.

Thank you for a great message. It's like a blogal epiphany.

blogal...I think I made up a new word: "Of or pertaining to a blog; blog-related." ha ha

The world would be a better a place if we could all follow this advice and forget about trying to decode Google's 1000 algorithms and determine which are weighted more - Just Write! well...Write Well.

Jim and Teresa- thanks for the reality check. It's always good to get back to basics. Sometimes worrying about this SEO makes me crazy- I just want to write.

You are correct though my route is not the only route but people need to understand that it is a route and that it does work.

Jim - google St. Paul Real Estate I come up number one on page one. http://www.google.com/search?q=st.+paul+real+estate&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a
That is not a long tail search. I also come up number one in several long tail searches. Just because I don't think about SEO when I write doesn't mean that I don't know what I am doing or that my blog is not optimized. Many of my visitors come to my site intentionally. This evening a few hit me by asking google about neighborhoods in St. Paul, they found exactly what was listed in their search terms in my posts. i use a combination of keywords and tags. They are not necessarily included in the body of the post, they don't need to be.

If I saw any value in coming up number one in a search like "homes sold in St. Paul" I could do it. I can't see the value in it so I have never tired. I do however come up number five on page one of that search so I suppose it wouldn't take more than a week or two do be number 1. My search engine placement for this is purely by accident.

I have close to 1000 posts. If you include the real estate weenie which is really a subdomain of the same blog I come out at over 1000. if you include the photo albums, which include a condo directory and the pages I suspect that I am up over 1200, maybe higher. Content I wrote a couple of years ago is still working for me and it is still being found by the people who are intentionally searching for it.

Very timely post. Like Teresa says, just write! The practice of loading posts with keywords trying to chase SEO is crazy. Yes, you may end up at the top of Google, buy very few potential clients will stick around if you have "my town real estate" in every other sentence.

It's just not natural.

I think it is crazy that bloggers spend so much time worrying about SEO and all that other stuff.

I much rather pay a company to get me to the top of the search engines rather than waste so much time worrying about it myself. Yes, I know once the money gives out I'll be thrown to the sharks and buried at the bottom of the search engines, but with what I am doing writing books and stuff, there is a time when a huge traffic spike is needed and that usually occurs a few months before and after a book is published.

As for real estate agents, they want to be at the top all the time, but is it really needed? Maybe during certain high/turning points the market but the rest of the time, I see no use of wasting all that time worrying about getting to the top of the search engines and trying to remain there.

The way I see it, they are wasting much more time (time is money) doing SEO year around than they would shelling out a quick three or four hundred every few years when the result are really needed.

Jim, great advice in your comment. I agree that SEO is important. It doesn't have to be the top priority, but it definitely is important to be found.

I decided to start a blog because I like to write. For me it is a creative outlet and when I get to write practical, personal and creative posts I find it the most enjoyable part of being a REALTOR - I want my blog to be an extension of who I am.

To use a TOMATO metaphor,for me building a blog is like planting a tomato plant that gets ripened by the sun, and is not hot house grown or force fed (which happens if we get too focussed on SEO). But different strokes for different folks, some people are most concerned about generating leads as quickly as possible and seeding key words is working in their marketplace to which I say "more power to you!" I always have to bear in mind that Canadians do not like to be "sold to" so I think a softer approach is more appropriate to my readers. I have a lot to learn about blogging, writing, SEO so keep the insights coming!

Hilary Shantz, Oakville, Ontario REALTOR

Uncle Jack just might be able to get over his writing block now.

I've been waking up each morning thinking SEO not audience. I just started doing that in the last 2 weeks and my writing and creativiy have both suffered.

lenderama is three years old, with about 1000 posts. I had the "luxury" of not really understand the whole idea of Keyword seeding was, and how it worked. Consequently I learned it doesn't really matter before people even started adopting the idea.

The reason I think it doesn't matter is that the search queries that continue to drive readers to my site are on topics I never once would of thought to be the most likely to do so. The single most popular (search engine driven) post of all time on lenderama was a quick blurb I made about a company I found that specializes in FHA licensing.

My point is that if you blog about what is important to your readers, you'll still get Google driven traffic, and those who get there will be likely to enjoy what you are writing.

There are many paths to reach the desired destination. I like how each blogger can pick and choose the path that fits their personality.

For me, Teresa's point that she writes as if she is writing an email to a friend (one she has yet to meet) is aligned to how I feel when blogging. I described blogging to someone last summer as; if you enjoy writing and communicating through emails, you will enjoy blogging.

I am now going to remember to picture my friend (who I have yet to meet) when I write too, thanks Teresa!

T-

I'm not trying to take anything away from the SEO success you have (intentional or not) just trying to help support your point from a different angle. Whimsical traffic is unexpected traffic... lots of posts will gain lots of that sort of visit, it's inevitable. Perhaps it explains why you and I get around 60% of our traffic from Google. I'd be lying if I said that the majority of the traffic I gain from SE's is really anything that I take aim at. Which really leads to my point. If we are getting mostly unintentional SE traffic from intentional writing, then the consuming focus on the SE's seems sort of silly.

At the same time, I get found for very intentional efforts: "Blogging advice" for example, has me at #2 in Google. Much like your St. Paul Real Estate has you at the top. But you and I both know that comes from regular, consistent posting over time.


Jim - LOL I get a bunch of whimsical traffic comes from my virtual pumpkin carving contest and I get a big kick out of it. That is one of the reasons I do the contest. Just for fun. I get you point too. :)

Derek - love your point, you are dead on. I will add that The type of people I attract through the st. Paul re search are not nearly as good as the poeple who find me through the long tail. being number one just gives me more traffic and not the best traffic.

Hilary - that is what my blog is and my photos too. it has been a great creative outlet and it has led to some exciting opportunities. I am working with a local on a project where we are photographing out door art around the city and building a web site around it. I got to meet someone really neat and people are attracted to the photos. I enjoy doing it and am learning about who the artists are and about the sculptures something that I did not even know would interest me. Also got involved in a project with the MN history center. These projects help me meet people and at the same time offer learning opportunities and more creative outlets. :)

Uncle Jack - just write. :) Let your inner Jack shine through and the people who live in your computer will be attracted to you. :)

Daniel - those algorithms change. it is the people on the keyboard typing in the search strings that matter.

Todd - you just wrote the post again. :) I also started before the SEO obsession. Congrats on the 1000 posts, I am almost there and will write a post about it one day. :)

Teresa's success reminds me of when I was just learning websites back in the late 80s - my first "website" was professionally done and looked really great (this was back when a website was a front page About Me and then my listings, that's it) and when I wanted to write content the company wouldn't let me. My second and simultaneous site had the content I wanted but was a graphic disaster! Yet that was the one that brought me business. Obviously the third site took the content and added good graphics. Same point here - write from the heart for your readers, as Teresa does, and then add optimization and SEO (as long as it doesn't take you away from writing the next post).

Great post, Teresa. My brain would hurt if I focused on SEO and all this other stuff. I'm sometimes facinated when I read about some of SEO strategy...however, like you've said, my posts wouldn't sound like me. I've been lucky that I'm able to just write and people who need me, find me.

I've been noticing some blogs that are SEO junkies (I'm sure they don't know how to SEO correctly, if you're going to use SEO) and they look (and read) awful to me.

Thanks, Teresa!

Excellent post Teresa. When I first started doing this years ago I would focus so much on SEO in my articles that I would ultimately compromise the quality of my writing on my own www.realestatemarketingblog.org. Now I completely forget about stressing over SEO and just focus on writing good content. So much easier. Love your insight, keep it up...

Great post! This is so true and it's something that we all get caught up in when times get tough. Thanks!

There has to be a reasonable moderation between SEO and "clean" blogging. Yes, we need to be found. That's really the starting point of why we are doing this. But at the same time we have to have content that the users want; because there's a lot of crap out there on the web... and the consumer wants valuable content.

So where's the happy medium?

Maybe it has more to do with the age of your site, and the PR of the site. If you're a well positioned real estate website, you don't have to worry as much about your SEO as a new site does. Maybe, over time, as your ranking improves you can shift your focus to conent moreso than SEO.

Just a thought...

I always think about keywords AFTER I chose the topic I would like to write about. Sometime the topic is dependent on a good keyword, sometimes it is the other way around.

But when I actually write the post, I write it without much thought to keywords at all. When I am done, if I can go back and make sure my keywords are in there.

I am just now turning toward the importance of keywords. I have been focusing on headlines, topics and content.

Not to be wishy-washy, but for me, the saying "everything in moderation" fits well for me here.

I find I enjoy the process a lot more when I don't worry about 1001 SEO rules. My actual CONTENT is more interesting (or seems to be, because those are the posts that have a long shelf life.)

However, by following Jim's recommendation of just writing, and then going back afterwards to see what minor optimizing can be done, I have seen quick success for my major keywords.

It's all good!

Thanks Jim! It is hard to stay focused on writing good content when you are constantly thinking what the google bots are looking for. This post is what I need and I plan to keep this on my mind as opposed to those damn google bots! By the way, are you going to Keller Williams Family Reunion?

Erik,

No KW Family Reunion this year. Will be back on the circuit soon, however.

Teresa, I think it is great what you have been able to accomplish with your blog. Being natural and sincere in your writing gives people the feel that they would be comfortable with you. I have no doubt that when you do meet people in person who have found you through your blog I am sure they feel like they alrady know you.

I also agree with your comment that just because a search term brings in more traffic - it does not mean that it is better traffic. Most of my web traffic from google comes from long tail searches but they are usually searching for something very specific rather than some one just searching "any city" real estate.

I think for many blogging is something they feel they have to do but they do not really like to do it. For others it is the perfect outlet for their creativity and they can be who they want to be.

Although I do agree somewhat that you have to step back and just be creative, but I think that for most people who so blog, SE and O are their primary concerns. I don't think many REALTORS® take the time to blog because they like to write. Of course, some do, though, and I am sure it shows in the quality of their blog.

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