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Why Worrying About SEO Is Detrimental to Your Real Estate Blog

You-can-still-be-savedLast year I wrote a post called 96% of All Real Estate Blogs Will Fail.

It has become more and more clear that I failed to mention another clear reason why real estate bloggers are bound to abandon their blogging efforts.

S.E.O.
Search Engine Optimization

Realtors help buyers buy property.
Realtors help sellers sell property.

If this is going to their business model for success, it needs to be a full-time job.

Business Blogging is a marketing effort. 
However, it is a marketing effort that, as we've pointed out countless times, needs to be a discipline in order for it to work.  In order for a full-time REALTOR to install a demanding discipline such as blogging as a piece of their marketing puzzle, it needs to be something that is not a challenge to embrace.

The more challenging that it becomes, the less likely it is going to work into their business model.

This is exactly why SEO will kill your real estate blog.

Blogs, when properly designed, coded and submitted, will have an enormous amount of built in SEO power.
This is FACT.

We have so many examples of our Tomato Graduates dominating desired search results pages that it would be ridiculous to list them.  If you doubt it, call any one of themHowever, their level of understanding when it comes to SEO is basic, fundamental and intentionally pragmatic.

And whatever happened to the talk of the Long Tail? The power of your ever-growing content (articles published) is undeniably the most powerful search engine tool you have.  The best part: all you have to do is hit publish to make it work.

The Long Tail is the bloggers best friend.  Because it can make for spectacular results, and it is not something that needs to be studied as a science, bloggers are encouraged to continue hitting publish, and continue to maintain the blog as an important element of their marketing strategy.

Unfortunately, a focus on SEO throws a wrench into the party.

Here’s just a sampling of what I have seen happen when mastering SEO with one’s blog becomes a concern.

A Little Knowledge Can Be Dangerous.
I know a little about cars.  A little.  But, I do know better than lifting the hood of my car and making some adjustments to optimize its performance.

Your tinkering with your blog is the same.  Just because you picked up a new bit of knowledge, doesn’t mean you can intuitively make an improvement that is guaranteed to be sound.
Basically, if you mess with things that you don't know how to properly control, you put yourself at risk of causing issues that are hard to reverse.

Fact mixed with conjecture and speculationGaming Is Alluring and Contagious.
Once you start recognizing that there are certain techniques that you can implement that are bound to make some positive difference in your search results, it has a tendency to become routine and even overdone. 

I can still hear the words of my Grandfather, “Just because it feels good to scratch your ass, doesn’t mean you need to go ripping it all to pieces.”

Bad or Dated Advice From the Unqualified.
There is a ton of Snake-Oil out there.  The worst part: most of them seem to believe the junk science they peddle.

Experimentation.
Gee, I wonder if I change a few things to be more like so-and-so, what will happen…
Stop right there.  It might be smarter to just go and get a tattoo.

The SEO Rat Race.
There will always be more unknown than known elements of the algorithms that deliver search engine results.
Fact mixed with conjecture, speculation, and opinion has created a conversation and a debate that will never end.
Get yourself wrapped up in this, and you have just taken away from the focus that needs to be applied to your blogging as well as your real estate career.

There are those, however, that will make it their business to need to know more. 
They will strive to be an expert on what makes their site place the way it does in the search engines.
They will crave the knowledge for an edge when it comes to this exposure. 
For those that have that itch to scratch, there are resources that are widely recognized as dependable

But as the full-time Realtor will quickly come to realize, the science of SEO is a slippery slope of circular advice that will consume you even as you feel it empowers you.

So what's my advice?  Break the cycle of this rat race.  Get back to blogging.  Every one of us should worry most about our message, and the presentation of that message. 
If you write it they will come.
If you participate they will come.
If you care they will come.

It seems that anyone who is concerned about SEO is most likely looking into ways to excel within the system.
This is always a slippery slope that has bloggers toeing the line of gaming, manipulation, and processed formula.
In the end, you risk compromising the effort that should have been reflected in your daily message.

SEO Slippery SlopeWorried About PageRank?
Get people to notice you because you are a kick-ass blogger and a noteworthy contributor/participator
You do this by blogging, not optimizing.  Influential, high-ranking bloggers will give you the Link Love you deserve, only when you deserve it.

Worried about Keyword Stuffing vs Keyword Density?
If so, then you are probably already thinking too much about the game.
Allow me to paraphrase the Google Webmasters Guidelines:
Write content for users, not for search engines.

Worried About Being On Page 1?
Patience grasshopper.  Shortcuts are risky.  If you deserve to be on the front page for search results relevant to your focus, then you will get there.  For the most part, those that occupy those spots have worked hard for it, and you should expect to as well.  It may take 3, 6, 9, 12, 18 months.  It may never happen.  But to be deserving, you need to be full of rich, relevant and regular content.  Any success achieved outside of this will probably be short lived.

Worried About Duplicate Content?
Matt Cutts, Head of Google's Webspam Team recently posted this on his blog:

…typically a whitehat site doesn’t need to worry about 1-3 versions of an article on their own site. However, I would be mindful that taking all your articles and submitting them for syndication all over the place can make it more difficult to determine how much the site wrote its own content vs. just used syndicated content.

My advice would be 1) to avoid over-syndicating the articles that you write, and 2) if you do syndicate content, make sure that you include a link to the original content. That will help ensure that the original content has more PageRank, which will aid in picking the best documents in our index.

So there you have it.  Quit your worrying about what you’ll never understand completely, and get back to improving your message.  Go build some relationships.

Related Must Reads:

Three Letters I Don't Think About When Writing A Post For My Real Estate Blog
Stop Acting Like Blogging Is Rocket Science

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Comments

My thought when it comes to SEO stuff is, "What would my readers think"?

If my posts are annoying to read because I keep repeating key words, I don't think my readers would like it. If I post the same story in multiple places, I'm duping my readers. If my blogroll is filled with links, are they links that my readers will appreciate? Design a site for your readers, and Google will like you anyway.

Jim:

Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you... I've been all wigged out about the whole SEO thing. As a new blogger, I keep thinking about keywords, backlinks and "how do I get on the SR page! Thanks for your healthy perspective.

I'll put my head down now and get back to providing useful, meaningful content for my readers. Google is just another reader...

Jim, I'd wholeheartedly agree with you there. The longtail is certainly where it's at. I'm amazed at all the searches for which my blog comes up #1, #2, or #3. That's not because I spend the time thinking about keywords or SEO, but because I write solid content about the local real estate market and Google finds it and people search for it. I don't have to time to waste worrying about SEO. As you write I just "hit publish"

Hi,
your article is really helpful for me. I acquire some SEO knowledge from here...
Thanks.

I found you update very informational and look forward to future updates. This SEO can be a challenge at times but the meaningful content was heard loud and clear.

I completely agree with Jim. We did nothing but concentrate on writing content that we felt would be interesting to folks here in Dothan. Within four months, we were number one for "Dothan real estate" on Google. And there are tons of long tail searches where we come up highly ranked.

Jim,

About that sandbox thingy, once I stopped obsessing about it. . .it went away!

Write, publish, write, publish. . .eat, drink, and be merry! If you turn the blogging effort into a "team effort" the eat, drink and be merry part is a little eaiser!

My earliest blogs, before I even found out what "SEO" means, were found by consumers and generated business for me. Real business from blogging has actually slacked off in recent months, leading me to the conclusion that content from the heart is the best draw for business. And you just gave me a pass on worrying about SEO - Thank you!

Thank you. This was refreshing. You know I agree 100%.

Jim:

Thanks for a timely article. SEO is a slippery slope, and I find best results when we publish meaningful content that doesn't bore the reader.

The importance of truncating articles published elsewhere also becomes more clear.

Thanks again!

You bring up a good point which is that REALTORS are busy folk who when they start a blog add a considerable weight to their daily to do list. I wrote a post recently to the effect that when we add new "to dos" that we have to add items to our "stop doing list" otherwise we're in trouble (a powerful principle explored in Good to Great, Jim Collins - what makes companies great).

Unfortunately it is easy to stop doing other forms of marketing or lead generaton, but we shouldn't because blogging results take time to generate.

I guess most of us will experience the "hockey stick" effect to our business, where initially our leads may go down but then trend consistently up as the blogging army of posts does it's magic.

Can anyone testify to this?

Hilary Shantz, Oakville, Ontario

Great article, and a good reminder that content is king (or queen) on a blog. And I love your grandfather's saying - I'm going to start to work it into conversations whenever possible.

The general theme of this post reminds me of something I once heard a track coach say - "If you're great, you don't need to tell everyone. They'll notice." It's probably the same with search engines, and readers.

Hmmm... not so sure. The old saying "if you build it they will come" does not apply to web sites. It is the opposite. Of course you need to be great - but putting up a web site "is like putting up a gas station on a one way dirt road in the desert." Unless you put up some signposts where the traffic is, you won't get customers.
The problem is not SEO, but that SEO badly done is worse than no SEO.

PXR8-

You are 100% correct.
The old saying "if you build it they will come" does not apply to web sites.

However, I'm not talking about websites.
I'm talking about blogging. And I am talking about "Write it" not "Build it".

We have personally trained nearly 200 agents to leverage the blog as an effective marketing tool, and I first hand, experience this effect. Our new bloggers generate solid traffic because of the content they post.

But, I agree, you can't just rely on the publish button alone. There are many elements that need to be exercised with fluidity to make you excel. This is why we spend as much as 15 hours apiece training our students.

I agree,because if you optimize your blog new stories just get in the way and if you try to optimize everything your blog will be sooooo boring.

The same SEO rules apply to blogs as well as the all web site: good content, keywords, organization, etc. We need to remember this when we write articles, news etc. in our blogs.

Here's my favorite part:

Realtors help buyers buy property.
Realtors help sellers sell property.

I am a busy Realtor (thankfully). To add the challenge of blogging regularly is a monumental commitment in amongst the various chores that consume my days (and nights). When I start worrying about SEO, blogging becomes an unattainable venture- I simply don't have the time to become an SEO expert. Even if I had the time, I don't want to be consumed with SEO. I want to be a Realtor!

The challenge is to be patient enough to allow your blog to become successful organically. Any driven, successful individual wants to see their hard work and $ pay off sooner, rather than later. Successful people want to be successful in ALL they do.

Although I've been tempted to concentrate on SEO, I've learned that I need to focus my precious time on my clients! I have to have faith that my site is built the way it's supposed to be, and that the SEO results will come.

Sandi,

And that is my guarantee. You need not worry beyond the training we have given you. Just look at the immediate successes you have had from it. No need to try and obsess over what will continue to improve on its own with the skills you have already honed.

Jim-
You missed a T in Realtor in your 2nd quote block. :)

Scott -
Thanks for your vigilance. All fixed now.

Jim,
I will say that much of your post is true, but I would think that having some knowledge SEO is helpful.

To use your car analogy. Understanding that your car needs gas and regular oil changes to work helps you run an efficient machine :). Having the same understanding of SEO can also have the same benefits. While I don't encourage becoming an SEO professional to realtors I will say that having a good understanding of fundamentals like the keywords in their target market is beneficial.

Having an understanding of what is searched upon and then writing content focused on people's needs can certainly improve one's performance. Although this is basic SEO it is SEO and I think is within the realm of realtor's understanding.

James,

I am definitely not saying that bloggers should abandon SEO. In fact, I agree completely with the gassing up the car analogy. As I said in the post:

"...their [our clients] level of understanding when it comes to SEO is basic, fundamental and intentionally pragmatic."

We have taken the steps to get them to make basic adjustments to their writing efforts so as to take advantage of their power with the SE's - but at the same time, to not worry too much about it because of the dangers a little (more) knowledge can create.

In fact, I've looked over your training stuff and love the message (as you know).

...and then every once-in-a-while you want to add "Real Estate Blog" in your title! :)

Brett

Thanks Jim !:) I can certainly concur, stressing out on some of the smaller details of SEO are certainly not necessary for most realtors. Gotta stick to fundamentals of marketing through unique copy and the search engines certainly will come :)

Brett,

I was wondering when I was going to get called out on that.
There is a fine line between the innane tying of keywords over and over into a headline, and the functional usage.

Just putting "________ Real Estate" next to every article's title isn't smart if there is no relevance to the topic, nor the body of the article.

Now sure, I add Real Estate Blog(ger, ging) to just about every headline. But arguably, it is supported by the context and the content.

The challenge comes in when you are coupling your targeted keywords with less than relevant context and content.

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