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How To Approach Real Estate Blogging And Ensure Your Success, Guaranteed

Target AudienceI sat here making an effort to finish writing an article covering the 2 most crucial things to consider about your website when I was derailed by the topic below.

The following is based on a phone rant that I have let loose so many times that I’m starting to feel myself on auto-pilot, almost thinking about something else, as I explain the basic formula to guaranteed blogging success.  It struck me that I need to write this down before I mistakenly consider it to be no longer relevant.  The fact is that it couldn’t be more relevant for new and struggling real estate bloggers.

I am adding this article to the Pre Class Homework that all of our new clients will receive, for it is the foundation of their path to blogging reward.

1. Define Your Target Audience/Ideal Reader

In a past article I wrote this:

Your knee-jerk first thought: My audience is far too diverse to have a specific Ideal Reader in mind when I write.  It’s the same argument I hear when I try to pin an agent down to commit to focus on one specific niche community with their early blogging efforts; I’ll work everywhere, why would I want to pigeonhole myself to one location?  I will be missing such a greater audience.

The answer is that it is much easier to write fluidly and constructively on a micro level then it is when approached broadly.  Sure the topics seem endless, at first with the broad stroke, but the value comes in your ability to hone in on the endless topics of a narrowed focus.  It is much easier to position oneself as the expert on a limited range of topics than on everything, everywhere.

Who you are writing to works in a similar manner.  When you can visualize the reader, it is much easier to explain things to them.  What’s easier, explaining something to a friend or to a room full of strangers?  When you ‘know’ your audience, it will be much easier to deliver your ideas.  My advice: force yourself to consider who you are writing to; define them, and write to them.

All of the above absolutely applies, but I think I can drive this point home, and make it clear as to why this is the number one thing to do to ensure your success.

Stop thinking like an agent that will drive 20 miles in any direction to help any potential client, in any neighborhood.

The Bad News: You can't be all things to all people. 

The Good News:  As a blogger, you have the power to create your audience, and attract the types of clients that you want to work with. 

Do the following:
Ask yourself, “Who do I enjoy working with?” and “why?”.
Now name your ideal reader.  Mine is “Sue”. 
List everything you can about them. 
How old are they?  Are they married?  Kids? Household Income? Profession?”
Where are they from originally?  What interests do they have?
Where do they want to live?  How much do they want to spend?
What are their concerns/questions/challenges/dreams/plans?

There is a beautiful thing about blogging; if you write to them,they will come.

2. Define What You Are Going To Write About.

Up-at-nightYour Real Estate Blog Is Your Newspaper

The above linked article tells some of the story on this step to success, but again, this point needs to be made absolutely clear in order for you to pause reading and commit to this action.

Clear topics and organization of your content is everything.

You have an opportunity to make an amazing impression on your visitors.  What you choose to write about will deem you an expert on those topics, if you make it clear.

Choose the pillars upon which your entire blog will stand.
If you are just starting out, limit yourself to no more than 10.
Those categories need to be something that you can commit content to regularly.
If it is a topic that you can’t write inexhaustibly about, then omit it from the list.
You can always add to this list as you develop as a blogger.
If your aim is to have some whimsical content, then create a category for all of it (“Whimsical Wednesday”, for example).

You'll thank me later.

If you don’t take this approach, your blog will make the impression that you are all-over-the-place and not an expert in any topic.  It will be too overwhelming to your visitor to know what to expect from you, and they will not subscribe.  Your best categories will be buried by the clutter.

At the end of this post I do offer some ideas of what to write about, but I know nothing about you, your expertise, your area of focus, your goals, your ideal reader… so don’t rely on me, or others to establish the pillars of your content.  Think very clearly about this task.  This is how your audience will be getting to know you, and there is nothing more important when it comes to them trusting you as their expert agent.

3. Goals - What Do You Want To Achieve From Your Efforts?

“More business” is not exactly the right answer.

You aren't selling a product, you are working on building an audience and getting them to trust you to contact you for specific reasons.

What are those reasons?
My goal is that I want to be found, and found to be the expert at providing the solutions to the things that keep my ideal client up at night.

Think niche... not just “I want to work with someone that wants me to help them buy/sell a home”.

Let’s start with the Need.
What do the clients you want to work with worry about?  I know you know… you spend all day educating and handling challenges, objections, negotiations, and concerns.

If your goal is to be found and found as the expert, you and your blog need to be the answers to these questions.  The internet is the source of our knowledge and education when we are doing research for the major decisions in our life.  Less and less we rely on friends, mother, and even the professionals (at first) when digging into a topic that really matters to us.  We go online.  We expect answers.  This is where you come in.  Preemptively tackling issues puts you in the seat next to them as they learn to overcome all the anxiety.  Once they come to trust you and your expertise, you get the nod.

Bloggers-hatNow let’s look at the Location.
What areas do you want to be known as the expert?
What terms do you want to make the front page of the search engines for, because of your blogging.?
San Diego (for example) is not the right answer.  La Jolla is... or even communities within La Jolla. Get it?

Real Estate is all about location, location, location right?  Well so is real estate blogging!
Pin down locations and blog the heck out of them.  Force yourself into positions of success.
There is nothing more effective than writing community profiles, over and over.

The more you are all-over-the-place, the more diluted your traffic, message and impression become.
Seriously... imagine all the exciting things that could have you found for your goals.
Waterfront Condo in La Jolla, CA? That's more, like it and, it will generate you a much more qualified visitor for your effort.

If water is to be found 100 feet below the surface, you aren't going to dig five 20 foot holes.

It sounds like something I picked up from Keller Williams agents, and it is correct:
Focus your efforts to find success.  Note the formula should you want to start digging again to grow your reach.

4. How Often Can You Find Time To Write And Publish Blog Articles?

Seriously... what commitment can you make for the long haul?

When I am asked the question "how much do I need to blog to make this a successful venture?" the short answer is, "As much as you can".  The long answer is that you are to become a blogger to make this work.

A blogger sees and hears article topics throughout the day, and writes regularly about their target audience's needs.

The goal is content.
The effort is typing.

To make blogging a successful venture you need see the venture as a change in you.
You now write for business.  You now hear blog articles in every conversation, email, house, meeting, photograph, tour, closing, listing appointment, open house...put on your blogger’s hat.

The challenge MUST NOT be topics.  If it is, you don't get it.  Your business is made up almost entirely of content.  You get to choose the content for which you will be known as the expert.
This is the reward, the immediate reward, to a growing audience.  You get to instantly be the expert on whatever you choose.  People want to do business with experts.

The challenge is making it a priority.  Once you realize that this is how you not only generate new business, but communicate with the audience you already have, it’s easy to make it a priority.


Schedule it.

2-3 times a week is a minimum, and a pace that will not necessarily be swiftly rewarded.
In the beginning it is more quantity over detail.
Create as much content as you can.
If you try to write your opus with every post you will fail.  You will burn out.  You will not enjoy it.  It will be a waste of money and time that was better left undone.

Mix it up.

Here are a few ideas right off the top of my head.
A weekly photo post with a short description (10 mins)
A weekly email/client question (copy paste: 10 mins)
A weekly historical fact or fun fact about the area (30 mins with research)
A weekly Listing Profile (yours or not) about which you have something very interesting to say. (30 mins)
A weekly Challenge Overcome story (30 mins)
A Weekly Top 10 real estate post: "Top 10 things to consider before searching for a condo in La Jolla" (1.5 hours)
A Weekly Business profile (restaurant, locksmith, new opening... whatever) (45 mins)
Monthly Market Stats/Trends Analysis (1 hour)
Monthly testimonial/client story. (1 hour)
A Weekly Interest Rate update from your friend the Loan Officer. (5 mins to post)
A weekly "nothing to do with real estate what-so-ever" post (Tennis anyone?) (1 hour)
Now fill in the holes with everything else that enters your head as a good idea for a blog post.
It took me just 5 mins to type up how you can generate nearly 500 posts in a year in less than 20 hours a month (5/week)

You see, it's not the ‘what’ nor the ‘how’, it's the WHEN, and the WHEN is now.

More resources for content ideas:
101 Real Estate Blog Topics

More Blogging Success Tips:
50 Sound Real Estate Blogging Tips
New To Real Estate Blogging? 6 Steps To Get You Started
How Often Should I Blog? 

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A Frenzied 5 Creative Ways to Use A Real Estate Blog to Demolish Your Market Competition

Today’s offering is a guest post from Tomato client and real estate blogging guru, Ben Roberts of Exit Pro Realty and TheExitPro.com.

Thanks for the effort, Ben!

FiveReaders of The Real Estate Tomato come in one of three flavors...

  1. They've got a RET blog and are always reading and improving their skills.
  2. They don't have a RET blog and are considering making the investment in their online presence.
  3. They stumble upon the Tomato and are in awe of the fresh ideas within these juicy posts... leading them inevitably to numbers 2 or 1.
I can say this of course, because I'm a guest contributor. Regardless of who you are or what you want to glean from this blog, you come for information.
How can I bump up my internet presence?
What should I do to differentiate myself from others in my market?
How can I convert more website visitors into prospects and sales?
How do I blog for business?

A Frenzied 5 Creative Ways to Use A Tomato Blog to Demolish Your Market Competition

1. Neighborhood Pages and Posts

I like Teresa Boardman's AR post on Hyper Local Photos as Bait.

Great idea there so I'm not going to touch on it here. Local content gets people that buy locally to your site... duh. Make neighborhood pages with information on home values, history, amenities, events, and homes for sale. Don't kill visitors with information though.

The Real Estate Tomato's support and tutorials can help you learn to embed neighborhood Google maps with schools and places of interest that give a visitor lots of information without the overload.

2. Market Data Aggregation

Whoa, fancy words. Aggregation is "the collecting of units or parts into a mass or whole."

Doing Market data posts is good, great even. I'm starting to see a lot of people do it. Unfortunately, many people are going about it the wrong way and wasting a lot of their time.

Posts are great, focusing on individual cities, neighborhoods, price ranges, or property types are great. Now how do you organize all that hard work? You probably just stick them in a category labeled 'Market Data", "Home Prices" or something similar.

How about showcasing all that hard work!?
Create a page that gives visitors an introduction to your area of expertise, the markets you serve, and then aggregate the data into meaningful groups. Now, when someone wants to know 'how the market is do'in,' you can tell them to head to www.YourDomain.com/market or some such jazz and impress the pants off of them.

It makes the time and effort you put in much more visible and distinctive to the public.

3. personlized sales strategyCustom Landing Pages

Speaking of being different… Why wouldn't you want to be able to speak specifically to a specific target audience on a specific subject in a specific way, specifically?

Very few people use them so maybe there's a reason I just haven't been let in on yet, but I think it's just a matter of being ignorant.

Any time you can speak to a targeted audience you better speak to them... specifically. That means creating landing pages for different people that visit your site. You should start with Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and any other social network you use that people visit you from with any regularity. Then add landing pages for any neighborhoods or cities you farm.

When you send out correspondence you can put your website address as www.YourDomain.com/neighborhood so that you can speak directly to those people with specific language and specific calls to action. It will increase your relevancy and your conversions from visitors to clients.

4. Custom 404 Marketing Page

404Huh? I thought that's where people went when they type in the wrong address.

It is, and you can use that fact to your advantage in a couple of ways.

Check 'em out.

The Easy Way -
Modify your 404 template/page to reinforce your personal brand and help visitors find their way to the information they were interested in. Here are some cool ones as organized by Smashing Magazine.

There's a cool plugin for that called AskApache Google 404. I don't know if it's RET approved but they can hook you up with it or something similar. It takes the address the person typed in and does a custom search based on that information, giving them a list of likely relevant pages that they meant to go to in the first place.

Now that's useful.

The Cool Way -
I have to give credit where credit is due. Ryan Hartman at ReTechulous actually came up with this a while back and I've been implementing it for about a year. Thanks to Chris at RET for helping me with the programming.

Start by embedding a video of your awesome home marketing strategy (you have one of those right?) on your 404 page.  Make sure you have it auto-plays so it starts right when prospects hit the page.  Make it snappy, cool, whatever. Just make it you.

Now... Send out postcards to a high turnover neighborhood in an area you work and set up a label system so that you can customize each card to say... Now they're curious. What the heck could this crazy Realtor have on the Internet about MY property?

You get it? You create one page that looks like an infinite number of custom pages to individual homeowners. You could use this for lots of other marketing ideas. It increases the conversion of postcard campaigns ten-fold. FYI, It would probably be a good idea if you put a contact form right below that video.

Twittersm5. Aggregate Local Twitter Content with HashTags!

Want you're blog to be the local go-to for local info?

Use twitter hashtags in your area and figure out a way to get them on your blog.

I just embedded (using an Iframe) a Twub on a page and called the page that hashtag name. If you use Twitter and don't get hashtags you need to do a little studying because they're super useful. I'm sure the Real Estate Tomato also has other ways of getting hashtag content on your blog as you can get it through an rss feed.

Again, this would be great as an additional source of neighborhood content for a neighborhood page.
Just a thought.

This is just a few ways I've used my personal Tomato Blog to differentiate myself from the pack in my market and I can tell you that it has worked.

Keep churning out good content.
Keep it interesting, relevant, and timely.

Every month I have more traffic on my website than the two largest real estate companies in the region... combined.

I'm only saying that because these two companies are large traditional offices with old school traditional websites. The largest used to have a Pagerank of 6 and has just recently hit a 4. Think their methods are outdated? In a market where every dollar and minute counts, shouldn't you be spending your time on marketing channels and practices that get you more business? I

'm confident in saying the RET knows their &#%* and teaches willing clients how to do it right.

Designs come and go, good training endures and rewards the student.
That's what the Top Tomato taught me.

__

Ben, thanks for the huge plug as well as the fantastic and creative ideas for maximizing your success with a real estate blog.  I know you have your act together with this blogging thing, so much so that you are being trusted to run the Training and Coaching for TheExitPro.com.  Best of luck with that, and feel free to drop your knowledge on my audience anytime.

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Simple Marketing Tip: Engage The Audience You Create To Avoid The Headache of Lost Opportunity.

Jawbone-TMJ-ouchI believe I have developed TMJ.

For the last month I have had frequent headaches and a persistent clicking in my right ear.  The sensation varies from an annoying pop to a painful snap.  I have been doing light research on the issue since it began, and am now really ready to find remedy. 

What does this have to do with Real Estate Blogging?

Other than the fact that I can't be the only blogger out there suffering from TMJ and any solution I find will be much appreciated, I'm sure... the following post is a documentation of how I used the internet for research, found a potential solution, and yet the source failed to engage me as a reader/subscriber/potential-client. 

The mistake: Although I did find useful information on relief of TMJ, it was at the most critical moment that he failed to engage me. This mistake can be applied to any and all business blogging, hence the article.

The search for relief from the pain of TMJ:

I went to Twitter (I'm always there anyhow) and typed "TMJ" in the search.
I also chose twitter because I believe that my TMJ is a result of my extended computer usage, and wanted to find advice from others that may be experiencing this disorder from a similar cause.  Aren't all Twitter freaks computer over-users?
Right away I found a tweet from @DrFrankKaden that said:

New gentle treatment for headaches, neck pain, vertigo, tinnitus and tmj pain: http://bit.ly/XDV7p

This linked me to a short, somewhat informative YouTube hosted video of Dr. Frank explaining the treatment's application.  Basically, he's recommending relieving the pressure on the top 2 verts that connect the skull to the spine.  He conveniently suggests that we visit his website for more on this treatment.

I click the link in the description sidebar on the YouTube video page and land on his homepage: http://kadenchiropractic.com/

Everything up to this point has been executed quite well, from a social media marketing standpoint.
1. Twitter post offering a solution to a challenge I have
2. Short video allowing me to watch/hear from Dr. Kaden on the topic - and a call to action to visit the (all informative) site.
Now, I'm at his homepage...and this is where it all falls apart.

The website is professional and well organized.
The website covers an enormous amount of information on his services, FAQs, wellness, rehab, etc.
The website even has clear call to action to subscribe to a newsletter on 9 general topics.

Where the experience for me goes wrong, however, is that there was nothing specific regarding the reason I was brought there.
There was no call-to-action that spoke to me, given the concerns and challenges I have.
Normally I wouldn't be so concerned that a website I visited didn't 'speak' to me, specifically (I can't expect websites that cover general topics to be able to clearly engage every concern under their umbrella, from the homepage) but, in this case, I was led to believe that it would.

Dr. Kaden took the time to attract me because of a very specific concern: TMJ. 
He tweeted and he recorded a video on the topic. 
I am ready to be engaged. 
I'd have signed up to receive more information on TMJ relief, recovery and rehab, had there been such a thing.  There wasn't.  Not immediately anyhow.  Not satisfied, I used his search site feature, typed in TMJ and found 2 links;  1 dead link, and 1 marketing advertisement of the good doctor (catchy tune and all, using animoto - more props!).  The TMJ ad was actually not bad, and did create a call-to-action to contact the offices for a consultation.  But, I would have never discovered it had I not known to use his site search.

Final-elementAfter having done so many things correctly, he missed the final element that makes it all worth it.  The clear Call-To-Action that speaks to your inbound traffic.  I know not all of his traffic is suffering TMJ, but the traffic coming from the avenues that he put in place that I found are.  In order to make the most of those efforts, he needs a specific CTA connected to them, even if it means creating a separate landing page (with clear to call-to-action) for that traffic.

The lesson here is clear.

If you are going to take the time to use the tools of social media (or any effective marketing for that matter), in order for it to be worth the effort, you need to engage the traffic you generate.  If you are blogging/updating/tweeting/recording about a topic that is more specific than the umbrella itself, you need to have a call-to-action in place that speaks to the interested. 

In the case of Dr. Kaden, I clicked away, and wrote this post.

Back to my search for relief.

(Dr, Kaden, if you are reading: I am sorry for picking on you.  I was just so struck with how effectively you were engaging me just to lose me at the end).

What have I learned from all the searching?

Non Serious TMJ symptoms can be relieved with
– Better desk posture; sit up straight, good lumbar support and monitors located at or above eye-level
– Massage therapy
– Chiropractic Adjustments
– Supported jaw when sleeping on one’s side
– Avoid: chewing gum, grinding teeth

Now to test it out.

Related Must Reads:
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
3 Soft Barriers - How To Generate Leads Through Blogging

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Introducing the 2nd Edition of Virtual Real Estate BarCamp: January 4th From 9am - 4pm PST

We're Back!
Introducing the 2nd Edition of Virtual Real Estate BarCamp.

Our first event was such a success, we decided to parlay the momentum into the launch of another.

January 4th - 9am until 4pm PST
9 Hours, 28 Incredible Speakers, 1000s of Attendees!

It's Free!

What Is Virtual BarCamp?
How Do I Register?
Who Is Speaking (To be determined)
How Can I Sponsor?

In an effort to always improve, we have made some changes to the event format:

There will be 4 Webinar Rooms (previously there were just 3 rooms).
Presentations will be 45 minutes in length (previously they were 30 mins).
Total number of Speakers: 28 (we had 27 last event).
Each Webinar Room will have its own accompanying Live Chat Room (previously there was just one).
Session Topics will be chosen by our Registered Attendees (last time it was first come first serve).
Session Presenters will be selected by us (last time it was first come first serve).
Sessions will be recorded (we were unable to record last time).

VREBCdnmWe have boosted our goals for the event as well:

Registered Attendees: 3000 (previous: 1000, actual 1928)
In-Office Events: 100 (previous: 40, actual: 71)
In-Real-Life MeetUps: 50 (previous: 20, actual: n/a)
Number of Sponsors: 15 (previous: 10, actual: 13)

We have a new website: www.VirtualBarCamp.com

Just because we hold virtual, online events doesn’t mean that we can’t create an incredibly social community.  One of the best aspects of the BarCamp atmosphere is the ability to connect, network, meet and mingle.  We took this into great consideration as we planned out the architecture and user experience of our new website.

The tighter the community, the greater opportunity we all have to learn, network and teach. Get involved by involving others!

If you have any other suggestions on how we can improve on our first effort, please let us know!

Real Estate Brokerage Websites - I Don’t Think We Are In Kansas Anymore

Wizard_of_ozBeth Butler, former Broker for EWM Realtors in Miami, FL wants to get into the head of real estate brokers around the country.  She wants to share her expertise in managing an incredibly successful real estate company blogsite with those that need to see the light.  The playing field has changed, and many need a coach.  Beth is that Coach.

Real Estate Brokerage Websites - I Don’t Think We Are In Kansas Anymore

By Beth Butler

Just like in the Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy tiptoes out of her house to find she is in an altogether different place than she left, so it is with the real estate brokerage business post market meltdown.   As brokers gently lift their collective heads from dealing with the drudgery of the down market, the view out the window is not the same as it was.  The business is forever changed.

Budget cutbacks wielded the proverbial axe on most print advertising, which left most brokers with a tad more money in the bank but a noticeable absence in their marketing plan.  Most brokers are looking for their websites to be their yellow brick road to the Land of Oz and real estate recovery.  

A closer inspection of brokerage websites will leave you stranded in Munchkinland.  This post is the first in a series designed to get your Brokerage website to be the cornerstone of the company’s marketing plan and the business generator that it should be.  It is time for Brokers to take back the technological aspects of the business back and win once and for all the Internet battle with regard to real estate.

It-is-timeIf you wonder how your site stacks up – start by taking the simple test on websitegrader.com. If you score above 75% you can consider your site one of the better in the business.  If you score above 90% - you need to post some comments and share some of the non-proprietary  secrets of your success.  Sadly, most sites I checks scored well below the  50th percentile – and you certainly have some work to do.

In the framework of rethinking your website, I think it is high time to put content on an equal playing field with design and search.  It appears that many of the Web 2.0 updates to most brokerage websites include an oversized search box and a cleaner more organized homepage.  This is all good and correct, however when you overlook content, the site fails.

A wise person once told me that people are interested in listing search only when they are looking to buy or sell a property, but they are interested in real estate all of the time.  If you look at your website like a prospecting tool, you might begin to understand how important content is in your next website.  It is time to stop talking about driving traffic and to begin to emphasize the importance of attracting customers, and learn to do it.

A blog on your website will provide all of the content you might need while creating that real estate news feature that will draw an audience of potential customers that might not be ready to buy or sell right at this moment.  Additionally, the blog provides your company a platform to promote themselves, the community and the company.  

A multi-user blogging platform allows the website to become a content generator on an exponential level, even with a relatively small percentage of your company participating.  

I know this is posting on their site, but when I say that it is time to step up and make your website everything it should be, I’m serious.  The Real Estate Tomato has the solution that will get you to where you need to be from inception to implementation with training and consultation.

Next post:  Bringing your Marketing Department into the 20th Century. 
 
To connect with Beth Butler: 
Beth is the Owner of Big Mouth Consulting
Facebook Profile
LinkedIn Profile
Twitter Profile

Related Must Read:
The Real Estate Broker Blog 2.0 - Plug In To The Solution

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New To Real Estate Blogging? 6 Simple Steps to Get You Started.

For the entire month of December I will be writing articles as contributions to what I call the Rewrite Project.  Instead of writing on new topics, I am going to be digging through the advice archives and rewriting the "oldies but goodies".  Why?  Why not?  But it is also an exercise to show you that you can never step in the same river twice, and finding relevant blog content to publish is as easy as looking in the rear-view mirror.

6-stepsThe next article in my series of rewrites is the dismantling and recreation of “New To Business Blogs? The 6 Steps To Getting Started”.

The irony of that article is that I had been blogging for less than 3 months, and here I was the expert.  For some time now, I have been wanting to add emphasis to the points in this post, so here goes.

The logic of this post was to consider what your readers are thinking when they come to your site.  If you can see things from their side of the keyboard, then you can more effectively connect with them.  Connecting with your reader, that’s what it’s all about.

New To Reading Real Estate Blogs?  6 Steps Get You Started.

You are beginning your real estate search online, and have just come across a real estate blog that catches your attention.  You thought you were online just looking for listings, and now you have found an agent that has written hundreds of articles, aimed specifically to educate you on the entire homebuying experience.

How can you get the most out of what seems like more content than you could ever read?

1. Determine The Mission of the Blog

In most cases, you arrived at an article on the blog, rather than to the homepage.  Given the article helped answer your online inquiry, it’s time to dig deeper and determine what value this website has for you.

Does the Mission Statement make you feel as though you are one of their intended audience?  In order for it to attract you as a regular reader, it needs to have been fashioned with you in mind.

If there is no published mission statement, scan through 5 to 7 of the most recent articles, from the homepage, and ask yourself, “Is this content relevant to my real estate needs?”

2. Focus On The Continuous Core Message In The Blog

Although you may have missed a ton of interesting content in past articles, a blog with a solid focus will continue to deliver their core message.  When exploring the archives of a blog, look for that core message to bring you up to speed.

Business blogs, like the Real Estate Tomato are written in a circular manner.  We develop our content with an ideal reader in mind, around a specific range of topics.

News, reporting and personal blogs are generally written in a linear fashion where the content is governed by the events and items they aim to cover.  Take BoingBoing.net for example.  The only consistency with this blog is the randomness of its subject matter.

Relevant-content3. Blogs Are Not Books, They Are Editorials.

Following a blog is about the daily, relevant message, not the chronological organization.  Although the articles may be chronologically relevant, it is not the inspiration.  As the authors are inspired to write by the events happening around them, they will publish to the blog. 

As a reader of both circular and linear blogs, the idea is not to try and catch up, but rather to enjoy the ride.  Commonly the writer will come back to past topics as they become relevant again, even linking to past articles for support and reference.

4. Categories Are The Pillars Of A Well Organized Blog.

(Because this is a rewrite, I can now leverage this point with an article that I wrote subsequent to the original.) 

As a new reader to a blog, you can quickly determine the worthiness of subscribing to it by the categories in which the content is divided.  This is no different from how one would choose to subscribe to a magazine based on its consistent subject matter.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you most likely entered the blog through an article, an archived article (meaning it is no longer on the homepage of the site).  If the blog is well organized, by clear categories that define the range of regular content on the site, it is easy to follow everything the author has covered on a subject by clicking the appropriate links.  There should be no need to visit the homepage of a blog to navigate your way through the content and the tools that are geared to support your real estate search.

5. Sign Up For RSS Feeds And/Or Email Feeds Of The Daily Articles.

What the heck is an RSS Feed? Click here.

Not having to remember to visit blogs that you are interested in, to see if they have published content to the site is the main value of subscribing to a blog’s feed. 

You should know by now, that in order to get what you want out of a website/service, you need to sign up for something.
RSS feeds deliver the headlines to your favorite news reader. 
Email feeds will send the headlines of current articles to your inbox. 

Two-way-street6. Get Involved.  Participate.  Be Heard.

Blogs are meant to be a two-way street. 

The agent has put their thoughts, opinions, observations, wisdom, and expertise online to engage you.  They want to have a relationship with you.  Their blog articles are the answers to your questions.  So don’t hold back.  Ask away, offer your two cents, agree, disagree, compliment, question… be heard.  It will help you get the answers you are looking for as much as it will help inspire the author to continue to publish, knowing that they are being ‘heard’.

Here is a recent comment left by Sacramento Real Estate Broker Bill Joyce, expressing exactly what you want to have your visitors experience when they read your blog. (Just change blogging to home buying)

I am a real estate broker in Sacramento, California and just beginning to discover the value and challenges of blogging. Just reading your blog I find I have to stop before long. Too much good info (if there can be such a thing) and I'm at capacity. Why seek more...I should act on the seven ideas I just picked up. I value your expertise and contribution to the topic of real estate blogging…I return time and again. And, by example, that’s who I would like to become for local home buyers.

For more insight on commenting: The Secret To Successful Comments:

Related Must Read:
The 7 Reasons Why Your (Future) Clients Should Care That You Are a Real Estate Blogger

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Exactly How The Long Tail In Real Estate Blogging Will Bring The Ready-To-Act Home Buyer.

For the entire month of December I will be writing articles as contributions to what I call the Rewrite Project.  Instead of writing on new topics, I am going to be digging through the advice archives and rewriting the "oldies but goodies".  Why?  Why not?  But it is also an exercise to show you that you can never step in the same river twice, and finding relevant blog content to publish is as easy as looking in the rear-view mirror.

One of the first advice articles I wrote on the power of blogging was called “If You Write It They Will Come!" - The Long Tail In Real Estate.

Starting with the title… it’s not bad, but it could have been better. For the rewrite I’m going with:

Exactly How The Long Tail In Real Estate Blogging Will Bring The Ready-To-Act Home Buyer.

Now that we have all made purchases online, from inexhaustible sources of selection, the concept of the long tail surely must be easy to grasp. 

In a one sentence example: iTunes success comes not from the total sales of a #1 Billboard hit, but rather from the cumulative sales of millions of less popular tracks.

This same formula can be applied to gaining desired traffic to your blog, from the search engines.  Instead of relying on high traffic counts from high-demand search terms, such as “San Diego real estate”, real estate bloggers should recognize that their success can come from seemingly unpopular terms and phrases.

Long-tail-and-fat-head

First of all, real estate is a broad topic, and those that approach it broadly are generally not ready-to-act. 
Visitors to your site that come in from high-demand terms like “San Diego real estate” are in the discovery phase of their real estate search.  This is not to say that they won’t pan out to be a quality relationship one day, but this article is about how to attract the ready-to-act home buyer.

Blog-about-thatThe expectations we have as we approach the internet for answers, is that there is going to be one.  So when we are concerned about something, we are generally specific about our search.  For example, when traveling to Costa Rica (for example) you don’t search for Costa Rica Hotels.  You take into account your actual destination, accommodation preference, and price range, then you search from there.

The city of San Diego (staying with the above example) is broken up into dozens of smaller communities, and those communities are easily broken into several neighborhoods.  Online real estate inquiries about these narrowed neighborhoods are generally made by buyers that are further along in their decision process

Blogging about topics that serve inquiries on a micro level will not gain the massive traffic you might experience for high-demand search terms, individually.  However, the cumulative traffic gained from dozens of these sorts of micro-topic articles will easily outweigh the gains from high-demand search terms.  And, more importantly, this traffic will target and attract more read-to-act buyers.  Hence the value of the Long Tail.

I found this refreshing point from the original article:

The value of attracting niche and unique traffic to your site with ever-growing content is greater than just the visit.  By being a relevant result for such uncommon searches makes your site that much more appreciated.  This is an immediate trust builder and will improve the quality of your leads.  Generating hundreds of these niche visits to your site is so much more effective than being one of thousands vying for exposure with the most popular search terms. 

The point that one should really take away from this observation is that real estate is a business of content.  You gain clients through your ability to communicate with them, to them and for them.  Once you apply this to your approach to blogging, you will see your efforts gaining you clients similarly.   Generalities don’t gain trust (“I am a San Diego Realtor”) – handling specific situations do (“This is the answer to your question, challenge, concern, worry, etc”).

Your job as a real estate blogger is to determine what keeps your home sellers and home buyers up at night and blog about that. 

Related Must Reads:
Looking For Ready To Act Buyers? Blog These Proven To Succeed Real Estate Topics
The Real Estate Business Is Content, Not Home Selling.

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 are you ready?

It’s Official! We're Holding A Virtual Real Estate BarCamp On November 17th, 2009.

vrebcsm3Some said we were crazy, but no one said it was a bad idea.

On November 17th from 9AM until 4PM PST we will be holding the first of its kind, Virtual Real Estate BarCamp.


What is it?
VirtualREBarCamp is a One Day, All-Day, Online Real Estate BarCamp.
The REBarCamp phenomenon has exploded over the last year with dozens of in-real-life gatherings where the real estate community comes together to discuss and demystify the current trends in technology and marketing.

The goal of VirtualREBarCamp is to bring this experience to you as opposed to having to bring yourself to it.


– In place of a rented venue, we'll be holding the event online.
– In place of break-out sessions in rooms, we'll we have simultaneous webinars, all day.
– In place of the hallways, we will be chatting on Twitter, Facebook, Backnoise and TomatoChat.
– In place of traveling you'll be able to attend from the comfort of your home or office.
– In place of an impromptu calendar, we will be filling presentation slots all month.


Attendance is unlimited, and it is still FREE! 


And finally, so as to not lose the Social Aspect of the BarCamp atmosphere, we are encouraging volunteers around the country to organize In-Real-Life MeetUps for immediately after the online event. Sponsorship donations will help fund these Social Media Happy Hour style gatherings, so please let us know if you would like to help by volunteering your time to organize a local MeetUp.

As the calendar of sessions and the IRL MeetUps start to come together, we will keep you all posted through Twitter and our Facebook Fan Page.

Block off your entire calendar for Tuesday, Nov 17th. None of these webinars will be available after the event. You do not want to miss this.


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Tom Ferry of YourCoach.com Talks With The Real Estate Tomato, LIVE Oct 7th at 3pm PST.

Over more than a decade, Tom Ferry has earned a peerless reputation across North America as a top trainer, motivator and personal coach for professionals in the real estate and financial services industries.

Tom has conducted trainings for more than 130,000 sales people nationwide.  As founder of TomFerry-yourcoach in 2003, Tom has rapidly built a new powerhouse in the coaching industry. His charisma, discipline and flexibility, along with his ability to train coaches to teach powerful activity-based marketing techniques, has made him a sell-out draw at conferences and seminars across the nation. 

And now we got him live, for 1 hour, to get his take on Online Real Estate Marketing! 

Together, with Tom Ferry we will be discussing the following:

What’s new with Tom?
“Design The Decade Ahead”
His recent embrace of Social Media and the Effect it has had on his business.
What does the coach think of Online Real Estate Marketing Model of most agents?
What does the coach have to say about the explosion of Social Media Marketing Model in real estate.

And SO much more, including your questions.

 Visit RETomatoRadio.com at 3pm PST on Oct 7th to listen in live.

Call in to listen away from your computer, and Ask Questions: (347) 884-9764
(Hit
the #1 on the keypad to get our attn, and we'll bring you on live!)

There's a chat room too!

Yes, there will be a podcast in case you missed the live show... but being there is where it's at! 

RETRadio5

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How To Choose A Domain Name For Your Real Estate Blogsite

TheSignToAGoodDomainNameWithout doubt, the most common question that I get from brand new blogging clients is, "Can you help me choose a domain name?"

The days of agents using their own name as their website identity are gone, and this has them left with the task of developing a new, powerful brand.

After answering this question and setting up several hundred domains over the last few years the formula has become clear. That said, you could probably break everyone one of these 'rules' and still end up with an incredibly successful blog.

But before we get the guidelines, you need to get into a Domain Buying State of Mind.

What Are You Going To Be Blogging About? Ultimately your content will determine your success, not your domain name. However, taking into consideration what your topics of focus are to be make a nice direction for your site's name, and help potential visitors understand your focus.

Who Is Your Ideal Reader? Once you can define who you need to read your blog, you can consider what impact the domain name will make on them.

What First Impression Are You Looking To Make? We ask this question in our design interviews because it makes all the difference in connecting with what our clients' design needs are. This consideration can make a difference in your domain name selection.

What Are Your Blogging Goals? Leads VS Relationships - Communities VS Traffic - You As The Expert VS Your Site As The Tool.

Who Will Be Writing On The Blog? Is the name you choose going to work for everyone involved?

Basic Guidelines to Choosing A Real Estate Blog Domain Name

1. Easy To Remember

If your audience can’t remember your domain name at first glance then you have made a poor decision.

Note: Terms like “Real Estate” and your community of focus (San Diego, for example) are incredibly easy for your audience to remember. If your blog is a real estate site about San Diego simply tag a word that’s easy to remember to that and you’re fine. Wire, Voice, Blog, Report, News, Wave, Juice, Crab, Cafe… are all examples of single words added to an easy-to-remember combination.

StPaulRealEstateBlog.com
StLouisRealEstateVoice.com
MiamiRealEstateCafe.com

I’m not suggesting this type of combo as the best alternative, but it is common for a reason; it’s memorable. (There is one clear peril to using a term like 'blog' in the domain: Your site may grow to be bigger than the identity of the blog, and yet now limited, in impression, by the domain).

Beware of easy to confuse combinations of words. If the order of words don't make a strong impact, or don't have a natural order, you can be sure they will be jumbled, and your potential visitor will end up on someone else’s site.

ChicoHomeSearching.com VS HomeSearchingInChico.com VS ChicoHomeSearch.com

And finally, if it can’t be remembered, it can’t be branded.

2. Easy To Spell

Google does a good job of suggesting words when it catches a misspelling with their “Did You Mean?” feature. But that doesn’t mean that they will suggest your site. And, not all browsers automatically utilize a search engine if they don’t recognize the url.

If you cover a community that is commonly misspelled (Schenectady, for example), it would be worth buying domains with common misspellings just to cover all bases. I own RealEstateTomatoe.com, and you wouldn't believe how much traffic I still get for this misspelling.

And finally, if it is difficult to spell, it makes your domain harder to remember.

3. Value Of Keywords

The question is, "Do I Need "Real Estate" in the Domain Name?

The short answer is: No.

The other question is, "Should I have keywords in my domain name"

The short answer is: Yes, keywords are a benefit in your domain name. The reason is because when you are linked to, by another site using your domain name, the link the use contains these keywords, and they are considered a relevant description by the search engines. For example, if I link to SantaBarbaraRealEstateVoice.com from this article, the spiders will see the keywords Santa Barbara Real Estate associated with my link, giving a description to the site I am linking to. This is a key element to success with inbound links: that they clearly define and describe your site. You’ll see me regularly use keywords (and alt titles) when I link from my articles to boost the value of the link for site.

-BUT- Keywords in a domain are not required for your site’s success. Most of the successes you will gain in the search engines come from your content, not your domain name. I recommend that you first consider the memorability of the domain before you start adding keywords, just for keyword’s sake.

Some favorite real estate blogsite domains without a definitive keyword:

Miamism.com
HomeSection.com
CentersAndSquares.com

4. Length

The length of the domain is certainly relevant to the above considerations. 5 words in a domain name is not necessarily too many if it makes sense. Take Valerie Fitzgerald’s domain name: LosAngelesRealEstateTalk.com. The name of the area and the term ‘real estate’ are a given, leaving just the term ‘blog’ to be remembered. No one interested in reading a blog about real estate in Los Angeles is going to forget that domain name.

However, something like: CastleRockRealEstateHomesForSale.com is ridiculous. It is difficult to remember, keyword stuffed and a P.I.T.A. to type. Remember, the object is to create a powerful brand that supports your powerful content, not to make a mockery of your site's name just to improve your SEO.

5. Relevance To Your Audience

This is where it gets fun and creative choosing your domain name. If you choose a domain name that makes a strong impact on your audience, versus worrying about SEO and keywords, you start to win them over upon their first visit.

BeltwayRamblings.com (Reference to the Capitol Beltway of I-495 and I-95 around Washington DC)
TheFrontPorchView.com (Dedicated to North Georgia Mountain Real Estate, think vacation cabins)
PostCardsFromTheLake.com (Lake of the Ozarks second home anyone?)
LoCoMusings.com (Heather Elias's Inspired and Curious Thoughts from Loudoun County, VA)

Fun, clever, odd, easy-to-remember. The impact can be the branding you need. I know that naming our site Real Estate Tomato set us apart made a huge impact on our success from a branding perspective.

6. Theme Of Site/Design

You know what you want the theme of your site to be, but you aren't sure what to call it yet.

This happens all the time with our new clients. One fun example was Rick Smenner who wanted to make sure that his site's theme was based around Knoxville and their beloved Tennessee Vols. Eventually, the name was chosen based on their nickname: Big Orange.

TheBigOrangePress.com

7. Articles and Intro Words

"The, A, An..." Putting an article at the beginning of a domain can get you your dream combo. However you are walking the line of being confused for the original combination that you couldn't register (TheRealEstateBlog vs RealEstateBlog,). Sometimes it is too hard to resist and you'll ignore the concerns... but be certain, they're there for a reason.

The better reason to pick up domains with introductory articles is to avoid someone else grabbing one and creating confusion as your competition. Yes, we own TheRealEstateTomato.com too.

"My, Your, ..." More distinct intro words can eliminate some of the combo confusion caused by articles because they carry meaning behind them. YourHoustonVoice.com certainly stands out as being different from HoustonVoice.com. The only concern I would stress is the length that domain names grow to by adding intro words.

choosing-a-domain-name8. Anything Other Than DotCom?

The short answer is No No No.

My advice is to avoid having to choose a domain other than .com at all costs. The only exception is to make the minor investment to pick up those supporting extensions (.net etc) to prevent some joker from buying (and using) them, or because you have alternative plans with the same branding. Yes, we own RealEstateTomato.net. We have used it as our development domain for sites under construction, but now it just forwards to the blog.

9. Extras: The Hyphen and Numbers

Domain names do allow for numbers and hyphens, the only characters outside of the alphabet. But does that mean you should use them?

Number Pros:
Numbers shorten domain names.
Expand availability.
Zip codes and area codes are real estate relevant.

Number Negatives:
When telling someone your URL you need to make it clear that you have a number in the name to avoid confusion.

Hyphen Pros:
There is argument that hyphenated-domain-names are stronger SEO.
Expand availability.

Hyphen Negatives:
Ever try to tell someone a domain that has hyphens in it? Total PITA.
Hyphens are easily forgotten, and you probably chose your hyphenated domain because your first choice without hyphens wasn't available. Guess where your traffic is going now.
In my opinion, hyphens look tacky, and tacky does not brand well.

10. The Age Exception

In some cases, older domain names can be enough of an asset to ignore most of the above advice.

When redesigning an established site to include a blog, it's better to just leave it as it is currently named. If you have a domain that has been active for many years, it is argued that the search engines will be more apt to give it authority in search results. And finally, if you have a lot of traffic coming to a domain name, it's best to not change horses in the middle of the race just to satisfy my opinions.

If you do find yourself using an established domain name for one of these reasons, it may be useful to brand a strong image and/or slogan for the blog.

A great example of this is Sandy Bauman's site: ChicoHomeSearch.net.
She breaks most of my rules above. First of all, she works in at least 2 other major markets outside of Chico. She is using Home Search in her blog's name. And, she is using the .net extension. BUT... this domain name was registered 5 years ago, has been live ever since and she has completely re-branded herself, as you can see. She also is killing it in the search engines, and this blog now accounts for more than 75% of her new business.

So who am I to tell her to change it?

____

Quick and Dirty Tips (read: opinions)

Unless you are incredibly well known, don't use your name in your blog domain name.
Don't name your blog with terms like Homes, Search, Property, Listings, etc.
Careful not to paint yourself into a community/niche that you may grow out of.

Domain Name Resources:

My favorite lookup service: InstantDomainSearch.com
Where I buy all my domain names: GoDaddy.com

And finally, I owe a link to Mr. Joe Spake for winning the music theme contest on Tomato Radio a few episodes back. So here you go, Joe - visit : spake.com and MemphisRealEstateBuzz.com

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A Message About The Power Of Content, Any Content, For Your Real Estate Blog.

Regular contributor, Teresa Boardman delivers a no-nonsense post on the (seemingly random) Power of (seemingly random) Content.  Enjoy!

Speaking of Tomatoes…
By Teresa Boardman

TeresasTomatoesI get a little introspective this time of year and usually send Jim some kind of a post about things that I have learned. I have been writing my real estate blog for four years now and have over 1800 posts, not to mention a couple more blogs.

The biggest lesson for me this year has been that no matter how strategic my blogs are there is a random element that usually works in my favor, but not always.   I start by writing a certain type of content with a goal in mind.  I put the content out there and something completely different happens.

We make connections through our blogs and some of those connections are seemingly random and certainly unanticipated.

Here is one example: 
I decided that I wanted to take photos of the local parks because they are an important part of our neighborhoods not to mention the fact that they impact property values and make certain areas of the city more desirable.  I want my readers to understand St. Paul and I want to show it to them.

I posted the photos, wrote a little about the parks and put some of the photos in an album in my side bar.  A month later I was contacted by someone at the city.  The next thing I know I am taking photos for the city web site.  It has been a great opportunity for me. 

As I took the photos I began putting them on a web page with a gallery so the people that are working with the parks can see my photos and the progress I am making. They are being passed around the office and they all know that I am a Realtor.  In fact, one woman indicated that she wished she would have found me sooner. 

A woman who needs to buy some photos for her office found the shots of the parks through Google and I am now working with her.  They will buy some photos which will help my real estate business and my blog because the proceeds will help pay for a lens that I need. Photos taken with the lens will go on my blog, and there are some cases where it will be used to photograph my listings. 

Somewhere in this whole process real estate transactions will be generated, too.  Chances are it will happen in some unexpected way, it usually does.  My sellers are coming from the most unusual places and it is fun to find out how and where they found me.

There are other unintended consequences and opportunities, as well.  In the last couple of months I have been on three radio shows, quoted in a couple of local papers and two weeks ago quoted in the Wall Street Journal.  This all came about because of blog posts that I wrote. On the Wall Street Journal article a couple of people in a Flickr group I belonged to congratulated me, who knew? 

Back to the tomatoes...  I took that photo a year ago for a blog post about laws pertaining to crops in Minnesota. I put it on Flickr.  Someone found it and they want to use it on a web site with a link back to mine.  Again, I have no idea how that will help my business but I know that it will in some unexpected way.

Content is king. Get the content out there, let it keep working for you year after year and good things will happen.  As for the idea of social media metrics I don’t believe social capital or the benefits of blogging can be measured in the same way as a drip marketing or snail mail campaign.  It’s too random.

[Update]

Shortly after I sent this post [to Jim] I went to one of my listings. I grabbed my camera and have no idea why I brought it in with me but I did. I dropped off some keys and as I was walking back to my car I met someone interesting.  He recognized me from my blog. He has some work for me that I am interested in: a little photographic type project.  Interestingly that listing came from a blog post I had written about the building some months ago. One thing led to another and it is leading to yet another.  Content makes connections. 

—-

Thank you so much Teresa! 
Web: TWasHere.com
Blog: StPaulRealEstateBLOG.com
Voice: 651-216-4603

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Related Must Reads:
All Teresa’s Posts on the Tomato Blog.
Food For Fodder - 101 Real Estate Blog Topics
The Secret To Developing Real Estate Blog Content
How Do You Define Content For Your Real Estate Blog?

Are You Ready?

Mike Simonsen of AltosReaserch Featured On Tomato Radio - Aug 21st, 3pm PST

MikeSimonsen-AltosResearch

(We know we missed our last 2 episode dates 1st and 15th of Aug - Our successful trip to Inman SF made it impossible to produce the show - But we're happy to be back!)

Altos Research is the leader in providing consumer friendly market statistics for your website or blog. We are fortunate to get Mike’s perspective on how to use this data to attract, engage and convert visitors to your site.

Together, we will be discussing Mike Simonsen's 3 Question Philiosphy

The consumer shows up on your site and they only have 3 questions:

  • What's for sale?
  • How much is the house worth?
  • How's the market?

…and therefore your site needs to answer those three questions immediately.

How does clear market data help accomplish this?

We will also be getting Mike’s take on: 

altos-adWhat makes a good blog post?
What do real estate consumers need to know?
How do people respond to and understand data?
How do you use data for lead conversion?
How effective are the PDF data reports? 

  I know it all sounds a bit boring (now that I type it out) but trust me, we’ll make market statistics and data seem sexy by the time we’re done! 

Starting in the second half of the show will be Mike answering your questions! 


Call in to listen away from your computer, and Ask Questions: (347) 884-9764
(Hit the #1 on the keypad to get our attn, and we'll bring you on live!) 

There's a Chat Room too!
Yes, there will be a podcast in case you missed the live show... but being there is where it's at!

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10 Inman Connect San Francisco Passes Are Up For Grabs.

Inman-connect-sf-2009Yesterday, during our Tomato Radio Show with Brad Inman and Daniel Rothamel of Inman News, Brad was feeling generous and announced that he would give us 10 free passes to the upcoming Inman Connect conference in San Francisco.  He also mentioned that we can give them away in any manner that we please.

So, instead of just handing them out to the first to raise their hands, I figured we would run a little competition. 

I know how busy real estate agents are, so I’m not going to make this too difficult.  However, I also know that the biggest challenge for bloggers is the commitment to developing regular content.  So this competition will be about swift and easy content creation.

Requirements to get one of the 10 Inman Connect Free Passes:

1. Write an article (or post a video) on your blog that includes a 50 word reason that you deserve a ticket.  The article doesn’t have to be 50 words, but the reason that you deserve the ticket has to be exactly 50 words.

2. The article (not the reason) must link back to this article on the Real Estate Tomato Blog, and to the Inman Connect San Francisco page.

There are 2 ways to win:

1. The first 5 respondents that meet the above requirements automatically win a free ticket.

2. The 5 most creative entries will each win one of the remaining free tickets.

We will be rewarding only one ticket to each winner.  Real Estate Tomato staff will be voting to determine the for the creative entries.  This decision will be made on Friday the 17th of July.

Please note: If you don’t have a blog, well, we can help you with that.  
And we will find a way to get you a free ticket if you become a client today.

If you didn’t win a free ticket, but would still like to attend the Inman Connect Conference in SF Aug 4th-7th, we can still help you receive a substantial discount by visiting this registration page and using the coupon code: Tomato.

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Are You Ready?

Brad Inman and Daniel Rothamel To Appear on Tomato Radio, July 15th at 3pm PST. The Inman Connect Show!

This week’s show is another amazing opportunity to learn from some of the biggest names on the Real Estate Industry. 

Brad-InmanOn Wednesday, July 15th, at 3pm PST, we are thrilled to have the opportunity to chat with Brad Inman and Daniel Rothamel of Inman News.

For the last several years, Brad has organized, what I consider, to be the most important conference for the real estate industry.  The opportunity to connect, network and learn from some of the brightest minds in the industry make it a Must Attend event.  It is labeled as 3 days, but those of us whom attend know that it is a full week of opportunity.

So what are we going to be talking with Brad and Daniel about?  Well the big event in San Francisco, of course.

Brad and Daniel will be sharing their thoughts on:

What makes this Connect Event different than all the ones in the past?
What are they most excited about for the upcoming event?
What makes Blogger’s Connect so special?
What will they take away from the experience?
Who are the 'do not miss' names speaking at the event? (Besides me, of course!).

Daniel-Rothamel-The-Real-Estate-ZebraAnd, we will be taking you calls as always.  So prepare your questions for them now!

The event this summer is in San Francisco from the 4th to the 7th of August at the Palace Hotel.

To Learn More About Inman Connect:
Bloggers Connect
Schedule of Events
Conference Program
Workshops
Start-Up Alley
Speakers
Innovator Awards
Social Networking
Sponsors
Pricing
and more.

 Visit RETomatoRadio.com at 3pm PST on July 15th to listen in live.

Inman-connectCall in to listen away from your computer, and Ask Questions: (347) 884-9764
(Hit
the #1 on the keypad to get our attn, and we'll bring you on live!)

There's a chat room too!

Yes, there will be a podcast in case you missed the live show... but being there is where it's at! 

RETRadio5

Are you a fan yet of Tomato Radio’s Fan Page on Facebook

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Tomato Twitter - A Better Way To Microblog On You Real Estate Blog

Microblogging with the Tomato Twitter PlugIn Solves Two Major Challenges.

1. The biggest challenge to blogging is developing regular, unique content on your site.
2. The biggest challenge to syndicating your Twitter Updates to your blog is that often they are out of context and confusing to your blog readers.

Now you can solve both of these challenges at the same time.

Ask-us-about-tomato-twitterMicrobogging Is Blogging. 

Making/Finding time to blog is cause of death for most blogs.  Although it is no replacement for rich, well-thought-out content, quick, unique updates relevant to your audience’s expectations are a great manner of keeping the regular content coming.

Every update, long or short, is an opportunity to connect with your audience, and that is the goal in the first place.

The Tomato Twitter PlugIn creates a widget that displays Micro Blogs (short text updates) on your blog, which then syndicate to Twitter.
From the dashboard of your WordPress blog, you create and publish your updates as swiftly as you would on Twitter.  The instant you hit ‘update’ you publish to both your site and to your account on Twitter.

Segment Your Updates For Your Blog Audience

The beauty of this PlugIn is that you can now post micro updates specifically for your Blog Audience that are not mixed together with tweets intended solely for the greater Twitter crowd.  You tweet from your blog up to twitter, not the other way around.

This is a stark contrast to Twitter Widgets where tweets are syndicated from Twitter to your blog.
For example, if your latest update on Twitter is something like: "@retomato You are so funny!"  It would be out of place to display this message on your blog.  Your blog audience won't have any context and just end up confused by the content.

With Tomato Twitter, on your blog, you just showcase the tweets that are relevant to your blog audience's expectations.  And, these updates are syndicated up to Twitter for your twitter crowd to enjoy as well.

TomatoTwitterPlacement On The Site?

Because it is a widget it can be placed in a sidebar, the footer, wherever you have a widgetized area.  With some tweaks to the PHP you can even add them in the main post area, adding content to your regular blogging.

In addition, because it is now governed by your blog’s stylesheet, it matches the font styles and looks like it belongs on the site. 

Character Limit?

Another interesting element of the PlugIn is that instead of there being a 140 character limit, you can type on as long as you like.  You are, however, notified of the 140 character limit because of the syndication to Twitter.  If you do go over the 140, the update is posted in full on your blog but gets cut-off on your Twitter display.  Once you reach character 141, it converts 138, 139 and 140 into "..." on the Twitter display, and that "..." is a link to a display of the whole tweet.

Clear Benefits Include:

* Easily keep your obligation to deliver regular content to your blog.
* Content syndicates UP to Twitter, segmenting content that is relevant to your blog readers.
* Micro Blog updates are styled to match your site's design, and can go anywhere that you have widgetized.
* You are not dependent upon Twitter for micro updates to be posted to your site.
* You can post updates longer than 140 characters.
* Content is indexed by Google as being part of your site.
* Your interested audience can subscribe to the mini feed and/or your Twitter feed. (coming soon)

It is the best of all worlds!

How To Get It

This PlugIn is currently available on all Tomato Blogs.  So if you are a client that would like to take advantage of it, look in your PlugIns and activate it.  From there you will need to watch the video tutorial to manage it.

Soon we will be releasing a public version.  Allow us to fine tune it and then it will be available for download.  Let us know if you would like to be notified of its release.

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Related Must Reads:
Real Estate and Twitter. Use Hashtags To Dominate a Niche.
Twitter Explained for the Real Estate Blogger.

Are You Ready?

50 Sound Real Estate Blogging Tips

Ah-Ha-TwitterMost of my blogging efforts revolve around delivering sound real estate blogging advice.  The articles generally take me at least a couple of hours to develop, format, publish and broadcast.  I have dozens and dozens of ideas that are just waiting to be developed and published, but as we all know, the most challenging thing about blogging is carving out the time.

Then it strikes me. Micro Blogging on Twitter would be a fantastic solution to my dilemma: a ton of ideas, and no time to get them into blog-shape.  So, on April 25th, 2009, I started posting Real Estate Blogging Tips to Twitter, under the hashtag #reblogtips.  Only having 140 characters with which to deliver sound advice forced each one to be clear and definitive. The following are a collection of 50 of those first two months of tips.

1. Near holidays, timely posts can drive HUGE traffic to your blog. Great article on just that phenomena: http://bit.ly/WysfJ

2. Tell it from your perspective.  If you think you don't have one, then you don't have much business being a blogger.

3. Getting your readers to subscribe to your blog is crucial. Make it VERY CLEAR how to subscribe via email and rss reader.

4. Copy/Pasting entire articles you find on the Wire to your blog = Fail. Grab a paragraph and leverage your own opinion.

5. Do an Interview Post with a local business owner and it will dominate the SE's for their business. Good power to have!

6. Never, I mean never, under estimate pointing out the obvious. What's clear to you is that "a ha" moment of others.

7. Looking for your blogging voice? Tell a great real estate story, a story that has a point with value for your ideal reader.

8. Write posts with the intention of making your blog better.  Each article is someone's first impression of you.

9. Want good SEO content about yourself on your blog? Interview yourself with some keyword rich questions. It'll be fun too

10. Use Sub Headers to break up the different ideas or sections of your blog articles. Easier to read, and huge for SEO!

11. Blog from your ideal reader's point of view. Ask their questions, in their voice, and then answer them.

12. Don't be afraid to ask for guest authors to contribute to your blog. Or pay it forward and offer to write on someone else's.

13. 3 reasons LISTS make for great blog articles: 1. They make engaging headlines. 2. Easy to write. 3. Easy to read.

14. 2 great locations for FREE and interesting IMAGES for your blog posts: http://cli.gs/DHsj1R and http://cli.gs/RTBRj8

15. Your images will rock in Google with keyword rich file names and alternate text. These details make all the difference.

16. Learn to add padding around your images to keep them from butting up against the text. It will make it look like you care.

17. What is the most challenging element of blogging? Finding the time.  If it’s that important, you must schedule it!

18. Every article needs an image. It's worth the $1/per to get the perfect one at istockphoto.com.

19. Your categories NEED to be Keyword Rich. Yes, you should change them if they are vague, or lame.

20. Your readers love lists. They represent the perfect Snack Sized Article that they can quickly consume.

21. 1st Whimsical Weekly Topic: One Question Interview with a Stranger on the Street. "Man on the Street" style.

22. 2nd Whimsical Weekly Topic: "Guess the Local Location" - Easiest post ever. Reward first correct answer with $5 coffee card.

23. 3rd Whimsical Weekly Topic: "About Me" Share something about yourself to your readers. They need to know you to trust you.

24. If you want people to watch the entirety of your video blogging clips, keep them under 2 mins .

25. The #1 overlooked element of a successful blog is your participation in the blogosphere. Engaging Comments People!

26. The best Back-links to your blog come from Writing Large Amounts of Quality Content. & it doesn't hurt to ask for them either.

27. End each article with links to related articles. Use descriptive sentences to improve SEO on the link. You'll thank me later.

28. Break longer articles with well placed Keyword Rich Sub-Headers. Your readers and the search engines will thank you.

29. Write with your Ideal Reader in mind. Define them, name them, and then write to them. They will start to hear you.

30. Many of those that are currently holding the top spots in the SEs have done it without much regard for SEO. How? They write!

31. For RE agents to embrace blogging, the routine needs 2 be realistic & comprehensive. It's writing, folks, not brain surgery.

32. People want to live near parks. 2 properly written articles on any park in town and you'll dominate the SE's for their names.

33. When a client asks a question, odds are dozens more are asking the same, and 100's more will ask it within the year. Blog it!

34. Need a quick idea for a blog article? Head over to Trulia Voices: http://www.trulia.com/voices/ There are 100's!

35. It is a mistake for a real estate blogger to be caught without their camera. No, your cell phone cam doesn't count.

36. When your brain is hungry for content, you begin to recognize the blog article in every personal connection.

37. Having trouble finding time to blog? Schedule it. Block off 3 hours a week, and keep disciplined.

38. Success Takes Planning. Can you make the commitment? Who is your ideal reader? Do you have an outline of regular topics?

39. Headlines need Call-To-Action. What is your reader going to get by clicking on your headline? Make the value clear.

40. Headlines need Keywords. If you aren't using the words you want Google (and your audience) to find you for, you will be ignored.

41. Headlines need emotion. If you aren't compelling, you are ignored.

42. Read everything Copyblogger (Brian Clark) has ever written about Writing Headlines. http://cli.gs/3QjEyZ

43. Funny Thing: The terms you think you want to be found for are hardly the only ones that will generate the right audience.

44. Regular Blogging (3+ times a week) is you first step to success in the search engines.

45. For blogging to be the appointment generator you want it to be, you need to make it the priority that it deserves to be.

46. When building an audience and gaining exposure in the search engines, many short, powerful posts are better than long articles.

47. Monitor your comments. Comment spam makes your blog look neglected, and Google will follow suit, quickly.

48. Post your articles to AS FEW categories as possible.

49. Treat you blog's categories like sections of a newspaper. Only create categories that you are committed to write to regularly.

50. Define your Ideal Reader; Age, Gender, Profession, Income, Needs. Now write your articles to and for him/her.

Look for the next collection of 50 tips in two months!

 Follow Us on Twitter and Get Our Daily Real Estate Blog Tips!

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Related Must Reads:
Real Estate and Twitter - Use Hashtags to Dominate a Niche.
Twitter Explained for the Real Estate Blogger
Food For Fodder – 101 Real Estate Blog Topics

Are You Ready?

Jeff Turner of Real Estate Shows To Appear on Tomato Radio, July 1st. Mark Your Calendar!

Jeff-turner-real-estate-showsWe have been having so much fun, and getting such great feedback that we have decided to add a second show a month to the Tomato Radio schedule.  Now, instead of just one show on the 15th of each month, we will be hosting 2 shows, the additional date being the 1st of each month.  The bi-monthly shows will air live at 3pm PST, and will also be available as a podcast shortly thereafter.

On Wednesday, July 1st, we are thrilled to have the opportunity to chat with Jeff Turner, president of Real Estate Shows.

Over the last few years, Jeff has positioned himself as one of the most visible personalities in the online real estate space (aka the RE.net).  He has been a top point earner (~400K) for much of the existence of ActiveRain, he is stalked by nearly 7000 on Twitter, 2000 on Facebook, 360 on Flickr, 500+ on LinkedIn, shows up to speak at most of the REBarCamps, and Inman Connect events.  The man is connected.

Our format will be to talk with Jeff for the first 30 minutes regarding:

Real Estate Shows News
Mastering Social Media
Real Estate and Social Media
Must-Have Web Tools
iPhone and Real Estate

And the second half of the show will be Jeff answering your questions!

Click Here to Listen Live at 3pm PST on July 1st.

Call in to listen away from your computer, and Ask Questions: (347) 884-9764
(Hit the #1 on the keypad to get our attn, and we'll bring you on live!)

There's a Chat Room too!

Yes, there will be a podcast in case you missed the live show... but being there is where it's at!

There's a chat room too!

Yes, there will be a podcast in case you missed the live show... but being there is where it's at! 

RETRadio5

Are you a fan yet of Tomato Radio’s Fan Page on Facebook

 Follow Us on Twitter and Get Our Daily Real Estate Blog Tips!

The 11 Most Common Pitfalls For New Real Estate Bloggers

Bear-trapWe’ve trained hundreds of real estate agents to make the blog an effective marketing tool.  We run them through a dozen hours of personal training classes, aiming to keep them on track to success. 

The following represent the most common issues that we help them recognize in or to keep them focused.

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1. Worrying About Design Before the Writing

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This is akin to planning a wedding before you have even met your husband/wife to be.  Before you even ‘deserve’ a great looking home for your blogging, you need to have shown a solid commitment to The Writing. 

Our process with our new clients is to get them to start thinking and acting like bloggers while their custom design is being developed.  The process usually takes around 4 weeks, providing us with ample time to establish a strong commitment in the form of 10–12 well written articles.

Not to take away from a killer design, but the impression that you should want to make with your blog is that you are an Expert, delivering a Consistent Message.  This will gain you an audience, to whom you have earned the right to show-off you fancy site.

More on this topic:
Why Am I Blogging Again?

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2. Failing To Establish A Clear Focus for the Content

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If we stick with the idea that the common blogging goal which we all share is to gain and retain an audience, then we need to consider their experience.

Good headlines and great content will surely gain the audience, but keeping them there, and earning their subscription and return visit is the real trick.  Categories, Related Posts, Tags, a Mission Statement and clear Calls To Action are your opportunity to make your message clear.  But the first thing you need to do is carve out exactly what topics of content you plan to deliver on a consistent basis.

If your audience is confused as to what categories of content they are going to get from your blog, they aren’t going to bother subscribing.  You put $1 down and pick up a newspaper without even looking inside because you know what you are getting (local news, world news, sports, business, entertainment, comics, etc).  Your audience needs to react with a similar understanding.  When they recognize a solid commitment to a clear group of topics that meet their interests, they will commit to you in the form of subscription.

More on this topic:
Your Real Estate Blog is Your Newspaper.

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3. Failing to Recognize and Write to Their Ideal Reader

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In order to gain the right audience, you need to define them.  I know that most of you have worked with all ages, all incomes, all races, and have gone miles in all directions to help them… but who do you want to work with?  Define him/her, and then write to him/her.  Take a second, write down who they are and even name them if you have to. 

When you can visualize the reader, it is much easier to explain things to them.  What’s easier, explaining something to a friend or to a room full of strangers?  When you ‘know’ your audience, it will be much easier to hatch and deliver your ideas.

More on this topic:
8 Things That You Are Not Doing On Your Real Estate Blog, But Should Be.

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4. Failing to Read and Learn from Other Bloggers

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Become-a-better-writerTo become a better writer you need to be an avid reader.  We learn from example, and there is no shortage of fantastic writers in and out of the RE.net. 

Read from the perspective of a writer.

I learn something every blog surfing session.  I see new formatting ideas, new call-to-action approaches, new PlugIns, etc.  But before all that, the new blogger can pick up so much from established bloggers.  Blogging is not like other forms of writing, and reading others will help you recognize the rhythm and formatting that works best.

In addition to learning the writing style, new bloggers will notice the dedication shown by the successful.  This is the most valuable lesson of them all. 

More on this topic:
7 Reasons Why Your Local Real Estate Blogging Peers Are Not Your Competition.
How Twitter Makes You a Better Writer

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5. Failing to Get Educated Before Diving In

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New bloggers are going to make a ton of mistakes, for sure.  But, there are major mistakes that will turn to major regret, and these could have been avoided with a little early research. 

Examples of things to consider at the onset of your blogging:
Choosing a Good Domain Name
Choosing the Proper Blogging Platform
Placement of Clear Calls-to-Action
Placement of Contact Info
RSS Feeds and Email Subscriptions
Copyright Guidelines and Laws (text and images)
Social Networking (Facebook, Twitter…)
Traffic Analysis such as Google Analytics
Article Pinging
--Things mentioned in this article, such as:
Search Engine Optimization
Headline Writing
Article Formatting

If you are looking for some intense, one-on-one training to become a bad-ass blogger:
Let us know!

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6. Failing to Format Articles To Be More Reader Friendly (including pictures)

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When you are just starting out blogging, you appreciate each and every visit to your blog.  Imagine that everyone that comes to your site takes one look at it and thinks, “it’s not worth pouring through this article to get the message,” and subsequently clicks back to the Google search they had done to find you in the first place.

This worst-case-scenario will happen if you don’t format your articles for easy reading.
And for the love of Pete, please add a picture to entertain me.

Must read on this topic:
7 Crucial Tips To Developing Real Estate Blog Copy That Gets Read

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7. Judging One’s Success By the Number of Comments Received

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Funny-thing-about-commentsComments are great, no doubt.  They are a reassurance that you have visitors that actually read through your efforts.  It feels good.  In fact, even dissenting comments give that same reassurance.  But do they pay the bills?

The funny thing about comments: they aren’t usually left by those that are going to do business with you.  This isn’t the rule, but it is the tendency.  Here at the Tomato, we are no exception.  It took me a while, but I determined that of the nearly 5,000 published comments we have received, less than .5% of them were left by, what later turned out to be, a client.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t value your outspoken audience.  Arguably the most exciting thing about your blog is that it is a two-way street.  You publish, and your audience can participate.  The point is that, if your blogging goal is to generate business with your efforts, then you need to be focusing on the direct contact from your blog; a phone call, an email, a request, a reaction to your call-to-action.

Must read on this topic:
The Secret To Successful Blog Comments

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8. Worrying About SEO

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I know I mentioned above that a new blogger needs to learn about SEO, and now I am considering it a pitfall.  The challenge is that SEO can become a problem for a few reasons.

Your writing style suffers:
Cramming keywords into your message doesn’t establish you as an expert on your topic, it makes you look like a jerk.

Your writing suffers:
Blogging is about dedication, and if you need to worry about optimizing every paragraph of every article, and the article itself, you will lose your rhythm to pound out excellent content.  The chore will outweigh the value, and your blog will suffer.

Google isn’t stupid:
Search engines get the message with a mention or two of your keywords.  If you keyword stuff you can actually harm your optimization.  A little knowledge is dangerous, so to be safe, just learn the basics, and move on.

Confusion:
If you start listening to all those SEO gurus, you are going to lose your mind trying to understand and keep up with it.  You are a Realtor and a blogger, let’s keep it at that.  According to Matt Cutts, the WordPress platform provides up 90% of all the SEO you need, the rest is up to your content and linkability.

More on this topic:
All You Ever Needed To Know About Blogging SEO But Were Afraid To Say So.
Stop Acting Like Blogging Is Rocket Science
Three Letters I Don't Think About When Writing A Post For My Real Estate Blog
Why Worrying About SEO Is Detrimental to Your Real Estate Blog

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9. Don’t Recognize That Headlines Are The Reason Your Article Gets Read.

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Until you have a regular audience (subscribers) and great reach in the search engines (a ton of articles), your ability to garner an audience is limited.  You can Twitter it, Digg it, Reddit it, post it on ActiveRain, send it to your email sphere, syndicate it to Facebook and/or get it picked up for a longtail Google search, but the bottom line is: If the headline isn’t compelling, no one it going to click to read the article.

It’s all about context.  In the above traffic opportunities, your audience’s first impression is the headline.  If you lose me there, I’ll never get to the article that you have spent so much time writing.

Consider the articles that you chose to click on when given a choice, and learn from your own behavior. 

More on this topic:
What Copyblogger Hasn’t Told You About Writing Real Estate Blog Headlines
9 Examples of How Blogging Will Help You Overcome Real Estate Objections
Proven Headline Formulas From Copyblogger

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10. Overly Obsessed with Traffic Statistics/Analytics.

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We are all guilty of this, it comes with the territory.  Like comments, it is reassuring that people are coming to the site.  The concern, however, comes when you spend more time worrying about the traffic to your site than you spend developing content for it.

If you write it, they will come.
If you have strong headlines, they will come.
If you follow the SEO basics, they will come.
If you syndicate to social networks of your target audience, they they will come.

And if you deliver the relevant and compelling content to an audience that cares, they will stay, and they will subscribe.

As a new blogger, toiling over how many? what terms? how long? and from where? is a bad habit that will distract you from the most important element of getting started: the writing.

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11. Starting Articles Only to Have Them Left Unfinished.

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Failed-writing-ideasAs an inspired, new blogger, you are going to have blogging ideas pouring into your head.  I remember not being able to keep up with all the good topics I considered.  I would write them all down, and ended up with lists pages long.  Now if I can only find that notebook.

But the real concern is that often, real estate blog topics are timely pieces, relevant for only a period of weeks or months.  You have a window of opportunity to publish your thoughts/opinions/observations on these relevant topics, and if you procrastinate you’ll have wasted it.

Most of the time these posts are left unpublished because of a fear that they aren’t ‘good enough’.  The difference between starting an article and finishing is usually just minutes, so we know it isn’t a time issue.  More often than not, it is an insecurity issue. 

The tragedy is not that the post is not ‘good enough’ but rather that it never gets published.  It is a terrible habit as a new blogger to leave things unfinished.  It is the first step towards bailing on the blog.  The best advice is to force yourself to wrap up these timely articles, even if they aren’t perfect.  The practice itself will force you to get better.  At the beginning stages of the blogging game, the most important thing is developing good habits, and publishing as much content as you can.

More on this topic:
The 8 P’s To Real Estate Blogging Success

 

 Follow Us on Twitter and Get Our Daily Real Estate Blog Tips!

 If you enjoyed reading this article, why not Subscribe to be notified of the next one?

Are You Ready?

Tomato Radio Interviews Jeff Corbett of ActiveRain Today at 3pm PST. We Want The Mud.

JeffXarListen in from 3 to 4pm PST today, to get a "Behind the Scenes Look" at the Real Estate Industry's Largest Social Network, ActiveRain.

AR is about to eclipse 150K members, and growing at a pace of about 5,000 a month.

Our guest, Jeff Corbett, is an old friend of the Real Estate Tomato, but more importantly, he is the VP of Operations and Business Development for ActiveRain.

He's Bald, Bold and Brazen. and we're hoping he'll open up and give us the mud (dirt in the rain).

 We will be talking with Jeff about:

His Role At AR
New AR Developments
AR's Big Challenges and Possible Solutions
His thoughts on a Yogi Berraism: "Nobody goes there no more; it's too crowded!"
And more...

At 3:30 We will be taking your questions. Don't hold back, we know you have a lot on your mind.

Listen Live: http://cli.gs/tb7u8t

Call In To Listen: (347) 884-9764

Call in with your questions. (347) 884-9764 (Then hit the #1 on the keypad to get our attn, and we'll bring you on live!)

There's a Chat Room too! http://cli.gs/tb7u8t

Yes, there will be a podcast in case you missed the live show... but being there is where it's at!

Are you a fan yet of Tomato Radio’s Fan Page on Facebook

RETRadio8s

 Follow Us on Twitter and Get Our Daily Real Estate Blog Tips!

The Easiest Way To Write 30 Real Estate Blog Articles Every 30 days

Calendar-XWe all know that Teresa Boardman posts to her real estate blog every day.  But most aren’t so inspired, thus making the effort seem unrealistic. 

The base formula for blogging success is obvious: More relevant content = More of everything you expect (traffic, search engine exposure, subscribers, leads, reach).  So, like exercise, we know it’s good for us, we just can’t always get off the couch computer… and since you are already ON the computer, and not jogging, why can’t we get more than a post a week out of you?

This article is designed to give real estate bloggers an outline/formula for publishing as much relevant content as possible.  If finding the time to write is the challenge, then a new approach must be made in order to pick up the content pace.  If the goal is to publish every day then you either need to schedule time every day to write and publish OR you need to write in bunches and publish subsequently. 

Batching Base Content is the Solution

Below are 4 examples of posts that fall under Base Content. 
They have been selected because of their ease of creation, and feasibility of writing many at once.
If it’s easy, and you can create more than one at a time, your chances of keeping the goal of 30 blog articles in 30 days are good.

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1. Market Statistics -

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Develop a quick market snapshot for each area you cover.  If an area has a large amount of condos and single family homes, do a post for both.  If the area has a large price range, break it down into several groupings (e.g. under 250k, 250k-750k and 750k+).

The idea is to provide valuable information that differentiates itself from the content that agents just hand off in a PDF.  In most cases, you should be able to come up with a template of at least 3 areas, 1 or 2 types of properties and 2 or 3 price ranges. 

Market-statsExamples:
Area 1, Property Type 1, Price Range 1
Area 2, Property Type 1, Price Range 1
Area 3, Property Type 1, Price Range 1
Area 1, Property Type 1, Price Range 2
Area 2, Property Type 1, Price Range 2
Area 3, Property Type 1, Price Range 2
and so on…

These are not the most exciting of posts, but the content is quite valuable and appreciated.  They are also so simple, that once you have the template in place, you can do several at once, and then space them throughout the month. 

Value of Market Stats:
Helps establish you as a real estate agent that covers many areas. 
Template posts that are easy to produce.
Content is relevant for active buyers/sellers.

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2. Area Events -

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Food-festivalOnline newspapers offer a public calendar of events (here’s one for Sacramento).  You will find at least 10 events worth mentioning on any given month; fairs, art walks, festivals, theater, live music, dance lessons, wine tastings, chili cook-offs, train rides, holiday events – it’s so easy it’s ridiculous.  Even rural towns have plenty going on worth mentioning, so no excuses.

Area events can be tackled in batches as well.  Since calendars are generally maintained month to month, you’ll be able to get the relevant schedule of current events at once.

(Best advice in the article) If content is king, then a Batching strategy is is a great approach to blogging.  Taking the time to write multiple articles at once increases your productivity.  You’ll spend far less time writing 3 articles in a row than you would had you written them over 3 or 4 days.  Maintain an efficient strategy like this and you’ll save hours, weekly.

Value of Area Events:
Posting area events establishes you as a community expert beyond market data, school info and real estate news.
These posts are entertaining and informative to your entire sphere.
You can see big surges in search engine traffic from people looking for info on popular events.
Now that you know what’s going on in town, you might go have some fun yourself.

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3. SpinBack Content -

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These are posts where the agent brings in outside content from other blogs or media outlets.  
An example is posts that we’ve written expanding on ideas from Copyblogger

Subscribe to the RSS feed or email blast of several sources and you should be able to find a dozen relevant articles a month.

Examples of SpinBack:
Newspaper Story - Take a article in the local newspaper on the market and expand or counter what the author wrote.
Outside Blog - Take a post from another blog, maybe in a different city or a blog with similar content, and expand or counter what has been said.
Introduce Media - Find a video and share it with your readers but offer commentary on the content.

(Quick tips) – Do not re-post more that a short paragraph of someone else’s work.  The idea is for you to develop original content, not save time by posting what they already wrote.  Always give credit to the original author, and link to the original location.  Your articles are about your opinion, not just the recreation of theirs.

Value of SpinBack:
The original premise of the articles is already established, saving your efforts to develop your opinion.
Reading other bloggers/authors is the best way to improve your own writing.

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30-blogs-in-30-days4. Timeless (or Evergreen) Content -

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By breaking down the elements of buying and selling real estate you can develop countless articles of lasting value.

Educational posts like these are ripe for “List Posts” and “How-To Posts”. 
They also beg for High-Impact Headlines like: “Warning! 5 Things You Must Know Before Putting in an Offer on a Home in San Diego”

Batching of these articles is possible as well, given that your responsibility is knowing this stuff inside and out. 
in a couple of hours, you should be able to pound out 3 or 4 articles on listing your home, 3 or 4 on searching for homes, 3 or 4 on contingencies… and on and on.

Examples of timeless content:
Tips: Listing You Home, Home Searching, Securing a Loan, Relocation, Buying Process, Selling Process, Real Estate Laws, etc.
Terms: Break down individual Real Estate and Mortgage terms and provide an example or "back story" to them.
Polls: Do countless polls on everything from the best place to get a steak dinner or the best place to enjoy a Sunday afternoon.

Value of Timeless Content
By definition, they extend the relevance of your entire blog.
Timeless posts are great for search engine success given they cover topics that people search regularly.
The impression of your expertise as a real estate agent grows with every timeless article.

By relying on just these four types of content, a real estate blogger can easily write 23 to 28 posts a month.

The challenge is changing your approach to blogging.

In order to achieve this level of content creation you almost have to batch it out. 
If you were to blog twice a week, where you bang out 4 articles in a sitting, you will have no problem fulfilling your goal.
But most importantly the time you would save, versus having to sit down 30 times a month to write articles one-at-a-time, would be huge. 

Original content, outside of the system above is encouraged as well.  But as we all know, it is generally these posts that are the most difficult to pound out.  So in order to keep the pace of 30 in a month, you’ll need to write original content when inspired, and not wait for that inspiration to keep writing.

Three other ideas for easy-to-create content:

Photo posts
Take photos of local landmarks and describe them.
Snap others of curiosities and get your audience to guess what/where they are.

Series posts
Write an article on each of the local parks.
Do a series on the history of the town/city, famous residents, local camps etc.

Re-Writes of old posts
Go back through some of your older posts and rewrite them.  I’m serious.  You know that some of them could have been better, or the topic has evolved beyond your original message.  Now that your writing style has developed, take an old topic and make it new again.  Your audience is never the same week to week, month to month.  So the chances are that today’s audience has never read your classic posts.  Give them a makeover and get a new audience to read some of your best, ‘old’ ideas.

Your-blog-is-deadSustaining the pace of 30 blog articles in 30 days may not be realistic for some, but if you are able to meet half of the goal you have at least 15 posts.  15 a month is 180 a year.  That is better than great.  And, with batching, you can realistically keep that pace by blogging just one day a week. 

The bloggers that wait for inspiration, or just blog ‘when they have time’ are bound to fail
They’ll start out strong with 10 or so posts, only to find that months have gone by where they may have posted a few ‘guilt posts’ and nothing more.  A year later, the blog is a graveyard and a poor reflection of your dedication to your vocation.

 HUGE HAT TIP to Chris Daley.  This is his system, I just polished it into an article.

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Related Must Reads:
3 Years Of Real Estate Blogging - The Gift That Keeps On Giving
The 10 Biggest Mistakes Made By Real Estate Bloggers
You Need To Lose 25 Pounds, And Your Blog Is Dead

Are You Ready?

Ask Yourself, Why Am I Blogging? The Most Difficult Part Is Having An Honest Answer.

Its-a-long-road-aheadBlogging is a big commitment.  By starting a real estate blog you are embarking on what could be a never ending writing adventure.  If you are going to go forward with it, shouldn’t you ask yourself “Why Do I Want To Blog?”

Blogging is a strategy.  Yet, in order for the strategy to be something that you can really get behind, you need to understand and define your goal.  You will defeat yourself, or rather blogging will defeat you, if there is no clear definition of what you want to achieve.

If you are unsure of your goal, how can you be sure of how much time to dedicate to blogging, or whether it is actually ‘working’ for you?

Do you want to be the most read blog in your city, community, niche?
Do you want to generate buyer leads? listing leads? 
Do you want to help educate past, current and future clients?
Do you want to remain relevant in these fast changing times?
Do you want to be like someone that you respect that blogs?
Or is it something completely different?

I’m bringing it up because if you can’t clearly define your reason for the effort, you’ll end up spending a lot of time on something that you don’t even comprehend.

To succeed at something that requires the commitment that blogging does, you will need to know, without any doubt, exactly why you are making the effort in the first place.

This is not to say it is futile to flounder around a bit as you find your voice.
To be honest, I did exactly that.  At the onset of the Real Estate Tomato, I knew I wanted to blog, and was very excited about the whole thing.  The mistake I was making however was that I had no clear goal other than to post as often as I could about whatever I thought y’all wanted to read. 

I remember thinking that I was blogging because I didn’t want to be left behind, that I wanted to be ‘heard’, that it would support my speaking engagements, and that it meshed well with my personality.  But those thoughts were not the real goal.

Soon it all became crystal clear and I have blogged with that clarity in mind ever since.  Education has always been at the center of my marketing strategy, and once I saw the impact that my Blogging Advice articles were having on my income, reputation, readership and participation in the comments there was no doubt as to what was my definition of Blogging Success.

Wasting-your-timeThe goal of the Real Estate Tomato Blog is to make an impact with every Blogging Advice article.

The impact is clear when the your comments are intelligent.
The impact is clear when we get mentioned and linked-to by other blogs. 
It is this impact that satisfies all the resulting rewards.

Now when I sit down to pound out an article, I consider the impact it will have, and I write for that goal alone.

So before you write another article, or before you make the decision to finally start a real estate blog, take a few minutes and drag the honest answer out of yourself.  Write down all the reasons for which you think you are blogging, and uncover the real goal.  Now drive.

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Related Must Reads:

Why Should I Blog? - It's About the Value of Being Seen as the Expert in Your Niche
He Asked Me, "Why Am I Blogging?"
Why Real Estate Blogging Makes You A Better Realtor, Part 1 of 3

Are You Ready?

How Does Teresa Boardman Post Every Day To Her Real Estate Blog?

For most, the most challenging element of blogging is clearly finding time and the act of pounding out an article.  Even our clients, whom we train, and train and train some more on the best approaches to blogging find that keeping a consistent blogging pace is difficult to maintain.

So who better to get some advice on consistency than one of the only everyday-bloggers that I know, our great friend, Teresa Boardman of StPaulRealEstateBlog.com?

Writing About Writing

By Teresa Boardman

Classic-typewriterI never thought I would be writing about writing but I am.  I consider myself to be a non writer but have found that with practice it gets easier.  Writing a blog is like writing an email.  There was a time in business before email when we used to send memos but that writing style is much more formal.
 
The process was intimidating as my administrative assistant and my boss would question my choice of words and sometimes my tone.  When email replaced the memo even business writing became less formal and more about communication.
 
Blog posts can be informal like sharing an idea with a friend.  Blogs work because people like doing business with friends.  The tone is less formal and the goal is to make the post informative but at the same time easy and enjoyable to read.  As I write I sometimes get a mental picture of who will be reading it and I write to that person or group of people.
 
It takes discipline to write every day and to know what to write about.  Sometimes sitting down and writing a blog post seems like work.  A couple of years a go Jim published a post I wrote with 101 ideas for real estate blog posts.  It wouldn’t be hard to come up with a 101 more ideas.  The ideas come from the ordinary experiences that I have on the job and in life.  Some of the experiences are unique and others are very common experiences that people can relate to.
 
The hard part is actually doing it each day.  Most people run out of steam by the end of their first month writing a blog. 

I am going to share some tricks that have worked for me.  

I have written a post a day for more than 3.5 years.  I rarely miss a day.  I don’t write everyday but I have enough content so I can post everyday.
 
I have never heard an agent say that they just don’t have time for listing appointments and that they don’t know where I find the time.Writing is part of my business plan and a priority not something that I do when I have time.  There isn’t any extra time in my life or spare time either.  Writing is part of my job and I treat it the same way that I treat listing appointments.  I have never heard an agent say that they just don’t have time for listing appointments and that they don’t know where I find the time. 
 
I write at the same time each day.  I am the most productive in the morning, most of what I write is written while I am in my pajama’s drinking my first cup of coffee.  I have a place to write where I won’t be interrupted.  It is my private space and heaven help the person who invades it.  (My daughter just stopped by and got the evil eye, she has my undivided attention in 30 min and a free lunch)
 
There are days when I can not write. Stress, fatigue or travel get in the way so when I am in a writing mood I write as much as I can and save it for later.  I plan ahead and sometimes a weeks worth of posts at a time. I can never force it and I have tried.
 
There isn’t any rule about how long a blog post has to be.  I wrote one that was five bullet points that worked nicely.  There isn’t any point in trying to add a bunch of words to a simple idea.  It is better to have a short post than none at all or maybe just a photo with some descriptive words. Blog readers enjoy the variety, and they don’t have much time to read either.
 
Most of what I write is written in my head long before I sit down at the keyboard.  The trick is to carry pen and paper and jot down part of the idea so it doesn’t get lost in the jumble that I call a brain.  I keep pen and paper by my bed too.
 
When the ideas don’t come I spend time in the evening reading.  I read news, real estate news and visit my favorite photography blogs.  I also visit my flickr account and look at the photos for ideas.  Most of what I write on my blog comes from experiences that I have had and many of them take place when I am out doing my job.  If I wasn’t selling real estate I would run out of ideas quickly.
 
The time and effort I have put into writing has paid off. It keeps the business coming, and I have made some friends over the years because of it.  Yet I can’t spend a lot of time on it either so it has to be quality time.
 
Blogging is about content.  It takes practice, persistence and consistency to make it all work but it is worth the effort.  The people who treat it like part of their job are the people who succeed with their blogs. The people who get too busy and who don’t know where to find the time will fail.  We all have the same number of hours in the day and we all have choices on how we want to spend them.

—-

Thank you so much Teresa! 
Web: TWasHere.com
Blog: StPaulRealEstateBLOG.com
Voice: 651-216-4603

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Related Must Reads:
Food For Fodder - 101 Real Estate Blog Topics
The Secret To Developing Real Estate Blog Content
6 Strategies For Developing Quick and Beneficial Blog Content

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An Honest Look at the Impact of Video on Your Real Estate Blog

Flipcam-for-your-real-estate-video-blogs Welcome to our latest Tomato Collaborative Article where we cover the topic of Video in Real Estate Blogging.

We recently had a Tomato Radio episode on the same subject, and this article is the collective opinion and insight from the contributors on our internal Matrix Blog

My question to our audience was What is the Impact of Video in your Real Estate Blogging?

Below is my best effort at stitching together their comments in a comprehensive manner.

Pros:

The Audience Better Identifies With Author.

Rob Saxe: Who I am comes through more on video than when I write an article.  From experience, that video blogging as a marketing tool is indispensable and an absolute necessity for my business. 

Bruce Lemieux: A blog with compelling and informative written content can be a huge net to gather leads and build an audience. To pull leads into the boat and convert them to clients, you need to build trust by making a personal connection. Video can be just the lure to get them hooked. The trend is clear: people will continue to buy houses from people, not computers. 

Cyndee Haydon leveraged Albert Mehrabian's Rule of 7%-38%-55% to reinforce the idea of how effective video with conviction can be for Real Estate. According to Mehrabian, there are 3 Main Elements of Communication, with ranging influence to your audience:

* Words, (7%) 
* Tone of voice and (38%)
* Body language. (55%) 

"I love the thought that the non-verbal cues are important to conveying our "belief and conviction" so videos give the viewer the ability to connect to us as people (100%) versus just words on a page (7%). " 

Gena Riede: We are in the age of transparency and videos certainly do contribute to that aspect. The consumer is looking for REAL. 

Bruce Lemieux: I think Gena's got it exactly right - your written blog is the foundation, video adds the transparency and enhances a blog. It doesn't replace the written blog.

Video Is Not a Fad

It was just announced that YouTube users are adding a staggering 20 hours of video every minute. Video viewing and capture on cell phones has greatly improved. Embedding video in your blog articles and pages is a snap. 

HD video capture is available in your hand for as little as $229.

Search Engine Results

Well described videos published to Google Video and/or YouTube do very well in the SERPs for obvious reasons.  Viddler is also starting to show some promise with their members' videos placing well.
Its a well known fact that Google is working on developing powerful Voice Recognition Software to add to their search algorithm making it possible to spider audio and video clips.

Convenience For Your Audience

Watching and listening is easier than reading. Just ask your kids if their homework is done while they are sitting in front of the boob.
Soon, most will experience the Internet from the couch (10 feet from the screen) or by handheld device. Reading is not convenient in either instance.

Cons?

Being in Front of the Camera is Not For Me?

"I have to say I'm not fond of being in front of the camera." 
"I am not one for enjoying being in the eye of the camera."

Me: Curiously, both of these quotes came from avid video bloggers.

Not Appealing to the Real Estate Buying Generation?

Daniel Bates: "I think videos area also more appealing to the younger generations while those over 40 or 50 are more likely to prefer written word."

Me: What is clear is that the younger generation is not the one buying and selling real estate. (But it won't be long)

Amateur Effort is Worse Than No Effort at All?

Judy Peterson: "The use of some video technology for real estate that I seen still shows the growing pains. Amateur video skills are exponentially worse than poor still photography skills. Like the “Worst MLS Photos of The Day”, I’ve seen some really ugly property videos (herky jerky, dark, slow to load,etc)." 

Bruce Lemieux: "I still believe that very good pictures that depict a bright, spacious, well-kept home is the best web presentation. Having said that, a professional quality video could be a differentiator that get's a listing. So I don't rule it out for the future."

Rocky Rockwood: Having [amateur] video out there doesn't really reflect poorly upon you. With all the quickly uploaded video content found on any site like YouTube, people are used to viewing stuff at less than professional.

Me: Getting as much content in front the largest audience is the goal, right? And you are only going to improve, just as you have with your blog writing. You're not unpublishing your earliest, and arguably most amateur, blog articles from your site. Why worry about your amateur effort with video?

The Effort and Learning Curve Is Steep?

Bruce Lemieux: "Buy a camera and figure out how to use it. Move files from camera to PC. What's that? Did you say your JVC camcorder recorded files in MOD format? Well of course, my video editing software (Camtasia studio) doesn't recognize it (you ,idiot! How could you possibly be sostupid!) Do some research, rename files to mpegs. Still no. Rename *then* import into Movie Maker and create WMV files. That's the ticket. That took a while. Now learn basic editing. Now learn how to produce and finally get a file that can be uploaded. I feel like I'm making this harder than it needs to be - I'm really getting tired of learning new stuff."

Ryan Rockwood: "I suggest the no edit video. Like one short take straight to YouTube, using a Flip. Put the onscreen text on in Youtube. You'll save yourself about 4 hours of goofing around."

Me: Anything worth doing is worth doing properly. "Properly" in this case does mean that effort and education is involved. Producing a quality video takes practice, hardware, software, personality, as well as an understanding of lighting and editing. But if it means that you will now stand out (in a positive manner) from your competition then heck yea it is worth it.

Daniel Bates: "I just can't get used to chatting with the camera when it's easier for me to craft a well written post in which every word will be spidered and indexed by Google not just the title."

Me: For some writing is way more challenging than chatting it up in front of the camera. Pick your poison.

Video Content Ideas for Your Blog

Video Directions to your Office
Tours of Neighborhoods
Deal of the Week
Interview Partners and Professionals with Whom You Work
Market Updates and/or Sharing Latest Real Estate News
Client Testimonials
How to Use the Site
Interview Residents About the Neighborhood
Interview the Professionals You Work With (Printer, Stager, Landscaper, Painter, Lenders...)

Video Production Tips

The Flip HD Camera. (No pocket-sized camera is better)
Keep your videos under 2 mins if you want them to be watched in there entirety.
High Energy = High Interest. Be exciting.
Consider your lighting situation, back-lighting is a sin.
Be conscious of your environment (sounds, signs, clutter, interruptions).
Write an outline and use it live.
Practice, and time yourself off-camera.
Green screens can look cheesy if you go cheap.
Camtasia is our preferred screen capture tool.
Excellent Teleprompter Program

Video Marketing Tips

A strong, compelling, keyword rich title is as important as the video itself.
If you are publishing your video to a blog, add at least a paragraph of description.
Easily email your video clips to your sphere with EyeJot.
Use YouTube's hotlink to other related YouTube videos.
Take the time to set up a YouTube Channel Page, like this.
Set up a page on Facebook for all your videos.
Announce your good videos on Twitter.
Great Video SEO Resource at ReelSEO.

And finally, some sweet video success stories from our friend Cyndee Haydon:

Just had to share that we closed on deal and put 2 in escrow this week thanks to the Flip Camera :) 

We had a cash buyer come in 2 weeks ago (from our blog) and buy a luxury beach condo - her husband was on the road so we did a video walk-through of the condo and emailed it to him and we deposited our commission check in the bank last Friday :) 

We had another couple ready to buy a beach condo however was one was in love and the other was still considering other investments so Jack did a 4 minute video showcasing the view and lifestyle...and we wrote a contract and just finished the inspections yesterday :) 

Then one of our team members had an out of town buyer this week that wanted to know more about a waterfront condo he liked so our agent did a walk through of the condo and the neighborhood - we made a quick movie and emailed the 7 minute video and the client wrote a contract. 

PS: Just bought a 2nd Flip for the team since mine is always in my purse - lol!

Tomato Co-Authors

Armyoftomatoes2 Rob Saxe – SacramentoRealEstateViews.com
Joe Peffer – DeliciousRealEstate.com
Bruce Lemieux – MocoRealEstate.com
Cyndee Haydon – SandbarsToSunsets.com
Gena Riede – SacramentoRealEstateVoice.com
Judy Peterson – MainlinePAToday.com
Ryan Rockwood – RockysMLS.com
Steve Beam – RealEstateYak.com
Fran O'Neal – RealEstateInChantilly.com
John Coley – LakeMartinVoice.com
Susan Hilton – SusanHilton.com
Tyler Wood – TheTimWoodGroup.com 

Thanks to all for your participation.

 

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Don't Miss May 15th Tomato Radio Episode: Online Video In Real Estate

This month's Tomato Radio Show is Dedicated to Discussing Online Video in Real Estate: Video Blogging, Live Testimonials, Property Highlights, Community Reviews, and More!

RETRadio5 In an article from Nov, 2007, I described the future of the real estate blog as something that will demand regular video updates in order to satisfy the audience that will no longer be hunched over their laptop.  

On tomorrow’s television (an all-in-one entertainment console), the internet and blogs will need to cater to those sitting 10 ft from the screen, making text that much more disengaging.

Although we haven’t quite made it to ‘tomorrow’, there are a growing number of real estate agents leveraging video to gain exposure and earn a reputation of expertise.  Their efforts today have not only prepared them for tomorrow, but more importantly, won them success today.

Ian_watt We have 2 very special guests:

From 3 to 3:30 we will be talking with Ian Watt of IanWatt.ca.
Ian is best known for his mobile video blogging, where he mixes driving, personality and sound real estate advice.

We will be talking with Ian about:
His approach to video blogging
The success that it has helped him achieve.
His advice to those looking to get started.

From 3:30 to 4pm we will be talking with Tara Jones of ReelProductions.tv.
Tara, a Realtor and Emmy Award winning journalist specializes in high quality video production for the real estate industry.

Tara_Jones We will be talking with Tara about:
How video can help your business
How brokerages are depending on video for success.
How to get started, now that you know it's not a fad.

 Just as with every Tomato Radio show, we will be live starting at 3pm PST on the 15th of the month.

What: Online Video in Real Estate with Ian Watt and Tara Jones.
When: May 15th from 3pm to 4pm PST
Where: BlogTalkRadio.com/retomato

Are you a fan yet of Tomato Radio’s Fan Page on Facebook

How Do I Call In?: (347) 884-9764

 

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Real Estate and Twitter - Use Hashtags to Dominate a Niche.

Kid-chalkboard-candy-hashtag Success in Real Estate is largely due to who you know.

The more Whos, the more opportunity you create for yourself.

Creating a database of regular contacts has always been a sound strategy for real estate marketing.
Mailing Lists
Rolodex
Walking Farm
Past Clients
Friends/Family
Business Contacts
Email Database
Blog Feed Subscribers
Facebook Friends
Twitter Followers... and now the Hashtag: #

Why follow Hashtags instead of just keywords on Twitter?

Hashtag 101: When Twittering, by adding the # in front of a term (like this: #conan) it automatically groups your post with any other post that included the same #term.  This term ‘group’ can be found by using http://search.twitter.com and searching for the #term or directly from your homepage on twitter in the search box.

The use of a Hashtag signifies that you are intending to group your updates to that specific term. 

For Example: You may Twitter a phrase like “on fire in Santa Barbara” that could have many contextual meanings, whereas using the Hashtag #sbfire makes it clear as to what conversation you are contributing.

Although a search for “Santa Barbara Fire” may yield more results, and therefore arguably be a better way to find out information about the fire, it is the intention of those using the Hashtag that I am interested in leveraging.  Users of the Hashtag are looking to be grouped together on purpose: they want to hold a conversation as a group. 

Want to follow the absolute latest group chatter on the Manny Ramirez bust? #manny
Updates on the aporkalypse? #swineflu

Participating with Hashtags on Twitter.

It struck me just how useful Hashtags can be when I started jumping onto search.twitter.com to get the latest chatter on topics interesting to me.  And, just as importantly, I could join in, instantly.  I could address the audience directly, by including the #topic.  Additionally, I could address at least one participant with @membername.  The global and group connection was obvious.

Participating with Hashtags on Twitter is an easy and sure-fire way to gain exposure beyond your follower list.  Note, just as the comments you leave on others' blogs need to be relevant and engaging in order to earn you any click-value, the same applies to your Hashtag Tweets.

Make an effort to be heard, and you will gain an audience.  Add to the white-noise, and you will be ignored.

Twitter-what-are-you-doing copy How does using Hashtags help me generate more business?

Being recognized as the expert in a niche is solid way to gain the trust of your audience. Trust is the most important element in effective sales. By establishing yourself as the voice of a (relevant-to-your-business) niche Hashtag, you promote your savvy on the topic.

Grow your audience (the Whos), they recognize your expertise, and you have just created more opportunity for yourself.

Take for example what we have done with #reblogtip

Our normal blogging advice articles are generally well thought out and at least 500 words (this one is 1000+). Being restricted to 140 characters forces us to deliver something of value, at a glance. But, it also gives us the opportunity to deliver something of value more often because of the convenience of brevity.

Adding to the frequency of your advice creates more exposure and more opportunity. Tethering pithy advice to a Hashtag makes for a great collection of your work. Showcasing will make it easy for your audience to recognize you as the expert of the niche!

Some hypothetical examples of Hashtag niches:
#SDshortsales
#miamibeachRE
#capecodloans

You get the idea.

Regardless as to whether your audience understands the significance of your use of Hashtags, the value is in the grouping and branding of your snack-sized knowledge blasts.  My intention is to help you establish mind share for a brand and a niche.  The Hashtag is for your convenience as much as it is for those following you.

Leverage-hashtags-on-twiiter When do I use my niche Hashtag?

Chances are you Twitter about a broad range of topics.  Your niche Hashtag should be reserved for the updates that are clearly meant to be grouped together, carry value, and add to your recognition as being the expert in the topic.

Just as you may have several categories in your blogging, you can manage several Hashtags as well.  Refrain from grouping too many together at once.  The idea is to hone the niche, not confuse the audience.

Many are still confused by the potential value and effectiveness of Twitter. Going back to the first sentence of this article, it's very much the 'who you know' that accounts for a lot of your success. Twitter can be an efficient manner to grow the Who, and with a Hashtag strategy you can strengthen their perception of you as an expert.

It is no surprise that the articles you write on your blog are not being read by the majority of your sphere. But you keep writing, knowing that every article is content in the bank.  Content that helps you be found in the search engines.  Content that continues to establish you as the passionate and dedicated expert that you are. It is just as true that most of your Tweets will be missed as well.  Yet by separating your brief blasts of advice from the rest of your Twittering static, you can create a cache of content that can be leveraged just as effectively as your fine-tuned blog articles.

Quick Tip 1: As with all things new to you, that you hope to learn, spend some time watching others use Hashtags.  Go to search.twitter.com and locate the Trending Topics.  Or just do a search for some topic, and add the # just before the word.  You can also follow multiple conversations at once at TweetGrid.

Quick Tip 2: follow @hashtags on Twitter. They will automatically follow you back, and then your Hashtags will be tracked by hashtags.org.

Quick Tip 3: Your competition can easily piggy-back your Hashtags, just as a community will start to use the same Hashtag to come together on a topic.  To showcase your input, do a search for your Twitter ID coupled with the Hashtag. Example: retomato #reblogtip. Use this URL when showcasing your Hashtag online, keeping your visitors seeing just your posts and others’ response to them.

Resources:
http://hashtags.org/
http://search.twitter.com
http://tweetgrid.com/

Related Must Reads:
Welcome Twitterers
Twitter Explained for the Real Estate Blogger.
People Really Do Want You To Tweet About Your Cat.

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Carnival of Real Estate - The Green Awards

Drew Myers (Zillow renown) asked if we’d fill in this week as the hosts of the Carnival of Real Estate and we jumped at the opportunity.  
This will be the 3rd time we have, and they are always a blast.

For those who aren’t quite hip on the blog carnival -click here and read.

We love hosting the Carnival of Real Estate Because…

…of the Traffic surge from the RE.net.
…of the inbound links from participants and fans.
…of the chance to catch up on relevant topics.
…of the nudge to be a little more creative that normal.

 For anyone who would like to host their own CORE, you gotta start here.

I threw out a tweet looking for some suggestions on the theme for the conspicuously inspiring date of our carnival: 4/20.

Lorenzo Montezemolo had the best suggestion: “I think your theme should be “Go Green!” since 4/20 is only two days before Earth Day :)”

I took his idea and twisted it up a bit more.
This week will are rewarding each outstanding post with the association of something known to be ‘green’.

This week’s overall winner is the last in the outstanding posts.
The others that appear above our winner are being recognized as ‘runner-ups’ and appear in no particular order.

Our Runner-Ups:

It’s Not Easy Being Green

kermit1

The Kermit Award goes to Shawna Ebersole for her article which cleverly spun the inspiring preformance by Susan Boyle into recognizing how valuable continued education is in the RE Industry.  It didn’t hurt that her site has the word ‘green’ in the name as well.

Website: IShopGreenwood.com
Article: How To Silence Your Biggest Critic 


“He can change into anything”

gumby1Someone as ubiquitous and well connected as Dustin Luther definitely deserves the Gumby Award.
His entry was a great post on why agents need to leverage Facebook’s Business Pages.

Website: 4Realz.net
Article:  7 Things Every Real Estate Agent Should Love About Facebook’s Business Pages.


“What we take for granted might not be here for our children.”

al-gore-an-inconvenient-truthHeather Levin at The Greenest Dollar picks up the Al Gore Award for her Earth conscious, green post.
And her site’s name also has the word ‘green’ in it.

Website: TheGreenestDollar.com
Article: 7 Eco-Friendly Tips To Sell Your Home


Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry. 

lou-ferrigno-as-the-incredible-hulkThe Hulk Award goes to Jay Thompson for pointing out that his site is the biggest and baddest place to search for property in greater Phoenix
(PS - His site has a lot of the the color green as well) 

Website: PhoenixRealEstateGuy.com
Article: Where to search for homes online.


“HO! HO! HO!”

jolly-green-giantThe  Jolly Green Giant Award: Dan Green stands tall with his post about Messing With The Mortgage Gods.
And heck, his name is GREEN! 

Website: TheMortgageReports.com
Article: 9 Different Ways Your Mortgage Approval Could Go Bad


“Ah, an angry face in a beautiful place - heaven.”

oscar-the-grouchJim Marks gets the Oscar the Grouch award for documenting the online mud slinging and cage fighting between Trulia and Zillow.
It’s getting hot in there. 

Website: VirtualResults.com
Article: Trulia - Zillow Spirited-SEO-Discussion


“All I need are some tasty waves, a cool buzz, and I’m fine.”

spicoliJeff Spicoli Award Goes to Handy Saputra for sending in 5 entries to the CORE.

I’m going to chalk it up to short-term memory loss, and not an attempt to actually get all 5 in the event.

Here’s your link… we’ll let the audience find an article of interest.  


And our Carnival Winner: 

“There’s a drive… way back!… way back!… GONE!”

green-monster-fenway

Green Monster and Overall Winner goes to Lauren Mitchell for her well written piece chocked full of sound advice for sellers.

Congratulations, Lauren! 

Website: LivingInTheNeighbourhood.com
Article: Oh Honey, No.  The Amazing Ways Toronto Sellers Tank Sales.

With 47 entries, this is the largest Carnival turnout that we have had, and it made for a ton of great reading.
Thanks to all those that participated.  We truly appreciate the effort.
Also, a big thanks to those that link to our post - these contributors deserve to be read.

Here are a list of submitted articles that certainly deserve a mention:

The Basics of Online Influence in Real Estate Marketing

San Mateo, Foster City, Burlingame & Hillsborough - Do You Know What Anniversary Is Today?

SEO with Social Media - It’s All About Building Your Brand

12 Things That You Aren’t Doing For Your Rental, But Should Be

What is a Boulderite? Download Boulder Colorado Relocation Guide

Alaska Alternative Energy

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Introducing Tomato Radio! Conversations on Real Estate Blogging, Without a Net.

We are thrilled to announce our latest advancement in connecting to the real estate blogging community: Tomato Radio

RETRadio Tomato Radio is an hour-long, live show on the 15th of every month.*

We will begin each show at 3pm PST (6pm EST).

Every show will be hosted by Jim Cronin, joined by a special guest (or two).

Our format will be to speak on a pre-determined agenda for the first 30 minutes, followed by audience participation for the remaining 30 minutes. For example, we may discuss Blogging SEO with Justin Smith of Searching Solutions, or Real Estate Statistics with Mike Simonsen of Altos Research in loose interview style, to be followed by questions and input from the audience. We ask that all participation be limited to the topic at hand.

Suggestions for Show Topics? Please email us.

We are here to have a conversation with you, and for you.

*If the 15th lands on a Saturday or Sunday, we will host the show live, at 3pm PST on the subsequent Monday.

---

Update: Here is the Podcast for the ListingPress Show!

This coming week we have a very exciting show to kick off Tomato Radio: Jason Benesch and I will be discussing the much anticipated ListingPress.

"There's a new way to showcase your listings online, and it'll blow your mind. 
It's Easy - It's Powerful - It's ListingPress."

CALL IN NUMBER: 347.884.9764

All Shows Start at 3pm PST

You will be able to listen-in online as well... but to participate live, you will need to call in. 

There will be an online, real-time chat when you follow the link below.
All shows will be archived for future enjoyment., and available on iTunes!

Here is the link to BlogTalkRadio.com for logging on to the Show.

ListingPress is a revolutionary PlugIn that gives you the power to showcase MLS Listings on your blogsite in an extraordinary fashion.

There's a new way to showcase your listings online, and it'll blow your mind. 
It's Easy - It's Powerful - It's ListingPress. Here are a few of the details that we intend to discuss regarding ListingPress:

  • All Listings Using ListingPress Are 100% SEO Friendly (Using Pretty Permalinks and are 'Spiderable' by Google).
  • All Listings Displayed Using ListingPress Become Part Of Your Website (They Are Not Framed In Like IDX 3-Party Tools).
  • Listings Can Be Dynamically Displayed Based On Post and Page Content (Think Current Featured Listings Related To Article Archives).
  • ListingPress Pricing, Implementation, Usability.

Here is the link to BlogTalkRadio.com for more information.

Are you a fan yet of Tomato Radio’s Fan Page on Facebook

Are You Ready?

Lost In The Crowd: Realtors Fail To Effectively Leverage Social Media.

Gold-panner

Don't Get Caught On Your Knees Sifting For Gold When You Could Be On Stage, Making A Lasting Impression.

I am so proud of the real estate industry.  You've come so far!

In the latter half of the 90's decade, as the Internet promised to be a modern gold rush, curiously, Realtors showed little interest.  It wasn't until just recently that the Realtor's personal website was accepted as an obligatory expense.  The irony is that now it has little chance of being effective.

But today, I actually have faith in the real estate agent's embrace of the Internet as an effective marketing tool. 

As much as the $500 brochure website of yesteryear catered to the ego of the Glamour Shots® agent, it failed to jibe with their gregarious nature.  Affable and outgoing agents couldn't recognize any immediate relevance to their obvious business model; network, network, network. 

Yet now, with the rise of Social Media, Realtors are feeling much more at home online, recognizing the opportunity to leverage the Internet as a viable networking tool.

Where it once seemed that Realtors needed to be dragged into the 21st century, they are now marching forward in droves.  A rush, if you will.

But there's a problem.

In the rush of 1849, where 100's of thousands broke from their traditional lifestyle in search of riches in the hills of California, there was no guarantee of success.  For every nugget of gold discovered, there were thousands left holding a fruitless shovel.  River panners spent break backing days sifting through the silt of the river bottom only to discover enough flecks of gold to keep him fed, and yet hungry for more.

As it turns out, those that were making the best living during the gold rush were those that sold the equipment (shovels, maps, mining tools, waterwheels, hydraulics, etc.)  to the prospectors.

This rush for Realtors to leverage Social Media for ready-to-act home buyers and sellers is proving to be a similar environment.  Shovels, pans and picks have been replaced by Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, ActiveRain, SEO and the endless list of consultants willing to sell you a few hours of their expertise (maps, if you will).

It might sound like I am tearing shingles off my own roof, for I am an "equipment" provider.  My intent, however, is to bring some clarity to the social media fog in which I see most participating Realtors aimlessly wandering around.

Almost no gold came easy.  And just doing what everyone else was doing made it harder still.
But there were fortunes made, when the proper systems were implemented.
It wasn’t about the map, the shovel, or the pan.
It was about organizing the community to work for you.

To be successful as a prospector there was a formula:
1. Get there early to stake out as much land as possible.
2. Build an outfit of contractors to do all the heavy lifting.
3. Provide tools and equipment.
4. Establish strong vigilance in an effort to prevent any 'unaccounted-for' gold.

Get-up-on-stage Let me paint another picture.

For most, participating in social media is like going to a rock concert.  You find yourself surrounded by people that all have a common interest (be it AC/DC or real estate).  You like the familiar, loud music, you like the energy of the crowd, you feel connected.  But, at the end of the show, there are only a select few that the whole crowd remembers.  It was those on stage, leading the audience to be connected, that made the biggest impression. 

So with your efforts in social media, you need to make the choice: Are you going to be on stage, making the lasting impression?  OR  Are you going home in an overpriced souvenier T-shirt, telling all your friends how great it was?

For prospectors, making a fortune during the California gold rush was so challenging because the effort and investment of organizing an outfit to do all the heavy lifting was out-of-reach for most. 

Social Media on the other hand has made it all too easy to organize a formidable community.  Now, to be successful in leveraging that community to "work" for you, it is your responsibility to get up on stage, in front of them, night after night, and start leaving an impression.  If you go to the show just to hold a lighter, you'll always be just a face in the crowd.

To be successful as a social networker there is a (much easier) formula:
1. Get there early to develop the largest amount of followers as possible.
2. Regularly Provide Relevant, Compelling, Eye-catching, and Impressionable content for the community to consume.
3. Update your status regularly with Relevant, Compelling, Eye-catching, and Impressionable bite-size content.
4. Participate (comment, message, tag, nudge and friend) in the Greater Community to grow your reach, relevance and influence.
5. Lather - Rinse - Repeat.

I can't stress enough how important it is to learn to use these social tools of today. 
Be certain, they aren't going away.  The generation coming up under us will make sure of that.

Streets Paved With Gold

Tidbit of trivia for those that made it to the bottom of the article: Streets in Northern California mining towns were in fact paved with gold.  Slag from the mines was used to reinforce dirt streets.  Before the dust, dirt and mud again covered it completely, the kids in town would pick through the rubble, occasionally finding discarded treasure.

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Related Must Reads:
Social Media: It’s About the Contact, not the Conversation
Twitter Explained For the Real Estate Blogger.
8 Things That You Are Not Doing On Your Real Estate Blog, But Should Be.

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The Death of a Real Estate Blog.

Blog to Live, Live to Blog This edition of the Tomato Collaborative Blog Article is an effort to tackle the topic of *gasp* Quitting Blogging

Do you foresee an end to your regular blogging? 
How does the story end?

Blasphemous, right?  I mean, are we not RE.net’s biggest proponent of, and cheerleader for maintaining a thriving real estate blog?  Darn right we are! 

But we also recognize that:
1. Most Real Estate Blogs Will Fail.
2. Careers Change/End
3. Blogging Can Become an Unwanted Distraction from Business.
3. Some Have Written All They Want To Write.

Retiring – Quitting – Failing

I see 3 ways in which bloggers head off to pasture.
They retire, finally hanging up the keyboard, and perhaps their career.
They quit out of frustration, feeling that the reward of all their blogging hasn’t been worth the effort.
They fail, unable to keep up with the commitment to writing.

We threw the above topic to our blogging wolves on the Real Estate Tomato Matrix, and the following is my best effort to stitch it all together into a comprehensive post for your enjoyment.  For most, it was a challenging topic since blogging is the tattoo they proudly wear, knowing that for it to be removed, it would have to be cut from their being.

Quitting Not An Option?

Richard Silver set the tone:
“Once the Genie is out of the bottle, I don't think it is possible to get her back in.  Bloggers love the attention, the comments, and the connections; living without blogging is not really living once you have begun the journey.”  He continues, stating that they only time to hang up the keyboard is when your “future clients, current clients, past clients, friends and family retire from asking relevant questions.”

Two-year blogging ‘veteran’, Chad Lariscy, looked at the prospect of giving up much more pragmatically.  He has been feeling the pressure of continually having to come up with quality topics and content, and wonders aloud, “[h]ow long can I keep this up?” 

It’s not just the frustration of delivery that has him thinking there may at one day be an end to the effort, it’s the prospect that the effectiveness may not reward to the level to which has grown accustomed.  But bury the blog?  “Never!  Content is King!  Leave it on there, refer back to it, slow down your posts if you like, but don't "Cut off the Tail!"  To which Daniel Bates added his observation that “once you get Google excited about fresh new content it gets let down when you neglect it.”

Judy Peterson says “was thinking about a blogging exit strategy when [she] first started blogging about a year ago when [she] chose a url that could have some better trade in value than FabulousRealtorJudyPeterson.com.”  She continued  “So, go ahead, make me an offer I can’t refuse . . . someday!”

Riley Smith suggests we look to the leaders as an example:

“When one is contemplating whether or not it is time to stop blogging I think it is best to look at what the leaders of our industry have done. If somebody has already drawn out the course for success, why change it, you should imitate it.

When I look at the Ardell/Tomlinson/Boardmans of the world, it just confirms my belief that you cannot stop. Did they hang up the reins when they became #1 on the search engines or when leads started rolling in? No. You may be able to slow your posts down to 3 or 4 good quality posts a month, but you cannot stop altogether. Theresa Boardman, a leader in the blogging world, continues to post every day.”

Like-your-last-diet-it-failed. Better To Have Not Started At All

If you never embraced the commitment that is regular content creation (read: writing), then you failed as a blogger.  Like a diet, you approached blogging with the best of intentions, inspired with the clearest of goals in mind, only to have it shelved for routines that took a higher priority.

Do you want the people who are looking to learn about you, to see this failure?

In this case, it is better to have not started blogging at all, or at least have it appear that way.  The action to take if you never successfully developed your real estate blog would be to delete the whole thing.  Remove it from the internet completely and request it to be deleted from Google’s index.

Exit Gracefully

In the case where you decide to throw in the towel after a strong, and regular blogging effort, it would be a shame to have all that content go to waste.

Instead of just exercising your frustrations by ‘up-and-quitting’, make a plan to take advantage of all your hard work and dedication.  You blogging effort illustrates your passion for the industry, your commitment to educate the audience, and your concern for your online profile.  It gives you a voice, it establishes you as the expert in your niche and it lets future clients come to trust you.  Even if, while you were blogging, it didn’t add up to generating the results you were hoping for, it would be a mistake to forfeit all those positives.

If the end is eminent, and yet you plan to stay in real estate, I suggest you do the following:

1. Write your Swan Song.
Don’t just go out without a final word.  Write your final masterpiece that wraps up your efforts, and bids farewell to today’s and tomorrow’s readers.  Stuff it full of clear calls to action, showcase links to your most valuable posts, and by all means, as Ro Troia begs, “leave the door open to one day blog again.”

2. Put Together A Downloadable eBook or Series of eBooks
Your blog’s content is it’s value.  By wrapping that content up into an easily to download eBook, you have magnified the perceived value, and created a powerful call-to-action that will generate you leads.

Developing an eBook from your blog articles can be a huge task, but it doesn’t have to be, to make it work for you. 
Here are a couple of quick tips to get started:
– Choose only evergreen content.
– Develop a comprehensive table of contents.
– Create ‘chapters’ from your categories.
– Copy/Paste content directly from web to a single Word doc.
– Re-read all the articles that you plan to publish and remove the garbage.
– Add segues, images, anecdotes, etc to improve the flow for the reader.
– Include strong calls-to-action to improve its value to you.
– Make sure that all font styling is uniform.
– Come up with a strong title for the eBook.
– Design a cool and attractive cover graphic.
– Link the eBook graphic to a page where your reader needs to provide a valid name/email to receive the eBook.
– You could even take it to hard copy, and publish it of you really put something excitingly comprehensive together.

3. Please Automatic Calls-To-Action at the Bottom of Each Post (advanced)
– To download your eBook
– To read your final article
– Etc (Home Search, CMA, Contact)

Sell-your-blog

Sell the Whole Thing

“Realtors Never Die, They Just Become Listless.”
You’re retiring; hanging up the closing hat.  What to do with that blog that you have been loving, writing and living off of for the last few years?  Ben Roberts and I would sell it, seriously.

100’s of pages of SEO’d content, fantastic results in the SERPs, books worth of resourceful content, a faithful readership, 1000’s of inbound links… it’s all worth a lot.  In some cases, it’s worth more than you think.  There is a ton of value in years of work, all neatly packaged into a comprehensive database of content.  But, it’s also only worth what someone is willing to pay you for it.

If you have commandeered a successful blog for the last few years, undoubtedly your online social reach is spectacular.  Well before you sign off for the last time, start shopping around the idea of selling the blog outright.  If you play your cards right, you can get great exposure on the RE.net for such a bold move, increasing your chances at a obtaining fair price in exchange for your opus.

A few design and content edits, and you can have some lucky blogger picking up right where you left off.  Rod Herman imagined that having a co-author join you as you phased yourself out would make for an easy transition, and a smooth sale of the site.

Or, if you aren’t looking to let anyone else take credit for your copyrighted content, I would refer to the idea of creating an eBook above.  Bruce Lemiuex sees the value in  using it to generate leads that you can sell, or refer which will generate you income for years.  Passive income is never a bad idea.

My favorite quote from the hundreds of lines of collaborative effort:
“The day I stop blogging, my last blog might be called ‘Tales from the Crypt.’” – Ro Troia

And in the words of the snarky Mr Ryan Rockwood:

Question:
When can you quit blogging?

Answer:
About 4 seconds after you realize you have a better option.

Until that day, type on my dear blogger friend. It's not a bad gig to be stuck with. It's genuinely a lot of fun. It's a cool way to engage with your community. And blogging knocks the socks off cold-calling! But don't kid yourself, the difference is in degree not kind.

Suggested Reading (hat tip Daniel Bates)
If your Blog Disappeared, Who Would Miss It?

Tomato Co-Authors

Armyoftomatoes2Richard Silver – Torontosim.com
Daniel Bates – MyMcClellanville.net
Chad Lariscy – TheFrontPorchView.com
Ben Roberts – ExitRealEstate540.com
Rod Herman – HomeSection.com
Ruth Marie Hicks – The Westchester View
Ro Troia – BlogTheRockies.com
Judy Peterson – MainlinePAToday.com
Bruce Lemieux – MocoRealEstate.com 
Ryan Rockwood – RockysMLS.com
Kathy Torline – Colorado Springs Vintagte Homes
Riley Smith – RealEstateCoconut.com
Ines Garcia – MyWestonBlog.com

Thanks to all for your participation.
I can’t wait for next month’s topic!

 

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Related Must Reads:
96% Of All Real Estate Blogs Will Fail
You Need To Lose 25 Pounds, And Your Blog Is Dead
Blogger Burnout And The Steps To Avoiding It
How Often Should I Blog?
The 8 P's to Blogging Success

Are You Ready?

Come To RETechSouth And Learn To Set Up Your Own Free WordPress Website, For Free!

Director of Technology, here at the Real Estate Tomato, Jason Benesch will be speaking at RETechSouth this month, and we’ve asked him to tell us a little bit about his presentation.

Take it away, Jason:

ReTechSouth2With the changing market, how are you now positioning yourself to put your business in front of future prospective buyers?

Over the last 5 years, I have built a career and business around consulting real estate agents on how to better market themselves online.  In this short time, I have witnessed arguably, real estate’s greatest shift in marketing.  Radical technological advancements, brand new business models, and the ubiquitous use of the internet by home-buyers have forced today’s agent to reconsider everything they have been taught about generating leads.  That’s the bad news.  The good news: I can promise you that it has never been easier or more affordable to produce leads, cultivate your sphere of influence and retain past clients.

If you are interested in learning about how to better position yourself to be a more effective agent in this brave new world, I recommend attending real estate technology conferences.

There is one of these such conferences coming up next week in Atlanta, on Friday March 20th. 

Enough-of-the-doom-and-gloom"RETechSouth was born out of the desire to host a conversation about the technological changes impacting the real estate industry.

A place where agents, brokers, lenders, builders and many other real estate industry practitioners could join together to collaborate on how technology can improve business.

What tools work best?
What websites are best for networking?
Which vendor has the best product?
What are the best practices for growing my online presence?

These are the types of questions RETechSouth aims to answer every year. The goal is to get some of the best minds in the industry together in one room to share the knowledge."

I am honored to be considered one of these "best minds" in the industry and have been asked to present at the conference.  This will now be the 4th conference in which I have presented and yet, I am most excited about this one.  Every other speaking engagement has been covering generalized marketing terms/discussions: How to market here, How to use this, What should I be doing here, etc.  While these are all important aspects, they miss on the nitty gritty details of what is actually happening.  Sure, we can tell you that you should be blogging, but how do I set one up on my own?

Brad Nix and Matt Fagioli have asked me to bring my tech cap and teach a class on how to set up your own Wordpress blog.  AWESOME!  To be honest, I love getting geeky and especially when it comes to Wordpress.  Over the past 2 and half years at the Real Estate Tomato I have setup around one thousand installs of Wordpress!  It is not only a platform of which I am very knowledgeable, but also one of which I am very found.  With a little knowledge of Wordpress, you can do amazing things.  The best part being, it's Open Source and it’s free!

With Wordpress, you now have the best product on the market for generating leads online, without spending a penny.  For my presentation, it is my goal to give everyone greater understanding of what Wordpress is, how it works, how to set it up, and more importantly how to customize it.  The level of expertise will range from beginner to expert.

Here is a brief list of what I will be covering:

Building a Real Estate Website With Wordpress

WordPressTomatoSmMu1. What is Wordpress?
2. Why Wordpress?
3. Who is using Wordpress?
4. What is a hosting account?
    - We will be using MediaTemple and Plesk for our example
5. How does my domain fit in to this?
    - Examples from GoDaddy
6. What is FTP?
    - Trasmit for a Mac, Filezilla for a PC
7. What is MySQL?
8. What are Wordpress Plugins?
9. What are the best Wordpress PlugIns?
10. What are Wordpress Designs?
11. How do you customize a Wordpress Design?
12. Wordpress Template Hierarchy
    - Customizing your design
13. How to add other services
    - Listings, vFlyer, RealEstateShows, etc.

My goal with this course is for Joe Agent to show up with a laptop, and to leave with a Custom WordPress Blog… all within a half hour! 
This will be a very much hands on course so please come ready to learn.

I look forward to seeing everyone there.

Sign up here.
Schedule of Events 

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A Look Inside the Mind of a Real Estate Blogger - Is This You?

Bloggers-mindWe are back with our popular Collaborative Article series, and the first one of 2009!  A Look Inside the Mind of a Real Estate Blogger.

My pitch to the gang was,
“Now that you have been blogging for a while, describe how your thinking/behavior has changed.”

9 Tomato Bloggers hashed out our topic on the Tomato Matrix, and the result of my patch-work follows:

Changing One’s Lifestyle

Daniel Bates points out: “Blogging isn't a job or a hobby, it's a lifestyle!”

One of the first things you notice, when you commit to putting blogging at the center of your online marketing strategy is the way it starts to overtake you thoughts.  A mix of passion, commitment, and opportunity energize the brain, making it difficult to ‘turn it off’.  A commitment to blogging means early mornings for some, late nights for others, and if you are like me, sometimes an exhausting combination of both. 

‘Hearing’ Articles

When your brain is hungry for content, you begin to recognize the blog article in every personal connection.

Geordie Romer said it well:

Whenever I get an email that includes a question, I think, would that make for a good blog post?
Whenever I am stopped in the Leavenworth Safeway by a client or a neighbor and they ask me a question, I wonder... blog post?
When I am cornered after church for advice... blog post?
When I read the local newspaper and think "They didn't really get that right did they?" I know I'll have to blog about it.
When a new agent in my office is confused, I know that their clients probably are too, and that is a blog post.
When one person asks a question, odds are that dozens more are wondering the same, and hundreds more will ask the question in the next year or so.

Considering  and Catering  to the Needs of your Audience

Now that you know you have an audience, whether it be 10 or 1000 a day, you start to consider things from the reader’s point of view.  Your blogging becomes less about what you can offer, and more about being in tune with their needs.

Judy Peterson states: “Buyers and Sellers need so much information to make informed decisions today. I try to be empathetic, listen to those needs and answer their concerns.”

Represent-the-communityMaking a Stronger Connection to the Community

Establishing yourself as a community expert means more than just developing a strong network.  Lenore Wilkas has made the effort of subscribing to anything and everything that offers local news and information.   Fran O’neal is interviewing local business owners and documenting their compelling stories. 

The connection and responsibility to it becomes clear when bloggers start to notice the posts that they have written about the community are placing at the tops of the SERPs.  With the power to represent the community, one’s connection and thirst for it surges.

Noticing and Leveraging the Details

I’m certain writers must see the world in greater detail then those of us just getting from one place to the next.  Bloggers start to notice things about the community that before they had tuned out.  Suddenly your town comes alive: What is  history of the names of the local parks and schools?  How many mom-and-pop businesses do you pass on your commute?  Where does that old dirt road lead? 

Fran O’Neal points out that these topics and details may not be real estate related… but one finds that they can’t help themselves from noticing, and their content is all the better for it.

Preparing for, and Recognizing Opportunity

It is a mistake for a real estate blogger to be caught without their camera.  Sure you have one on the cellie, but you and I both know the quality of these cameras leaves us wanting.  I know that Teresa Boardman would turn around 5 mins after leaving the house if she realized that she left her camera at home.

It is a mistake for a real estate blogger to be caught without a note pad or voice recorder.  Some of our best ideas come to us on the road, in the park, at the coffee shop, and in the shower.  The savvy blogger recognizes this, and is always prepared.

Feeling Rebellious

Ryan Rockwood’s blogging has him walking on the wild side:
“You will know you are thinking like a blogger when you get your first penalty fine from your Board of Realtors for your Website.  Maybe you borrowed' content. Maybe you misused the term Realtor.  Maybe you posted video of the inside of someone else's listing!  The bottom line is that you are on the cutting edge...and you are taking the blows.”

Mark-madsen-excitementFine Tuning One’s Skills

Since jumping in with both feet, Bruce Lemieux has gone from confident, to concerned, to insecure, to hopeful, to a rebuilt confidence realizing that Rome [a successful blog] wasn’t built in a day.  Things have gotten easier, he has gotten smarter, his focus is clearer… he is not intimidated.

Mark Madsen sees his blogging as a “workout for his brain” and that his perseverance has reinforced his confidence.  With every post he sees his reach and exposure grow, empowering him to attack his Idea List, and get more done.  Mark also delivered my favorite quote: “I still get a little sense of excitement or adrenaline every time I hit publish.”

One Man’s Journey out of Blogging Infancy

I know that I am risking losing half of the readers that made it this far because of the length of remainder of this post, but if you would just bear with me.  Rod Herman’s story of growing into a blogger encompasses nearly everything above, and it makes for a great read.

When this topic was announced a few weeks ago, I still felt like a Blogging Infant.  My new Tomato site had just launched a few months before and up until early January I was still knee-deep fine-tuning it, adding pages, learning HTML, and occasionally blogging.

So when January arrived, I committed to blogging on a much more regular basis. But I was still a Blogging Infant. Oh, I’d posted a few articles a month while my site was still being designed.  And I’d added some community posts in December.  But I didn’t really feel like a BLOGGER. Instead I felt like someone who HAD a blog.  I realized there was a big difference between the two.  (But then, I didn’t really KNOW how a blogger was supposed to "FEEL").

I had lots of grandiose plans: I’d do a 2008 home sales recap, I’d start publishing a weekly housing inventory list for our market area.  I’d start reading my Google Reader religiously to make sure I stayed abreast of relevant real estate news.  I'd do everything I could to position myself as the clear real estate expert in our area.

By mid-month, I had about a dozen posts under my belt.  It was all starting to feel a little more comfortable.  I started to notice certain subtle changes.  Whenever I went on a walk and noticed something interesting, I'd wish that I'd brought along a camera.  When I heard about something happening in town, I started to think "Blog-Post-Topic."  When I'd read some national story on housing or the economy, I'd instinctively look for a local angle to write a post about.

Then, one evening, I went to Office Max and stopped by Cost Plus afterward to pick up some tea.  As I walked out of the store, I happened to glance up and noticed a bunch of “Everything Must Go” signs plastered on the front window.  It didn’t say going out of business, just “Total Store Clearance.”  Could CP be shutting this store? I hadn’t heard anything about it, so the moment I got home, I dashed to the computer, searched our local news media sites and found no mention of any closures.

Maybe it was just store inventory time, I thought, but something in the back of my mind said, “dig deeper.”  So I put Google and Yahoo to work and ultimately found a short article from some media site, in Florida as I recall, indicating that about 60 Cost Plus stores including the one I’d just visited would be closing.  Ours was the only Bay Area store destined for closure.

Next it was onto Cost Plus’s corporate web site.  There I found the full press release. Turns out the closure had just been announced and the clearance signs had probably gone up just hours before I arrived.  That’s why no Bay Area media outlets had yet reported anything.

I was already writing my blog post in my mind.  This store was in a big-box multi-tenant building that had also been home to Linens & Things before it closed last fall. If other stores followed suit, could this once-thriving shopping center turn into a ghost town?  It sure would be nice to add some perspective to the post by describing the enormity of the building.  But the CP corporate press release didn’t describe anything other than the name of the city.

If I could just find out the size of the building space that Cost Plus would be soon be vacating, it might add a little perspective to my article. But where would I find it?  A little more Googling, and Voila! there was the leasing agent’s web site, complete with the square footage of every store in the shopping center.

As I sat down to write my article, I kicked myself for not bringing my camera with me that evening.  How could I be so foolish? I could have shown the world those big bright red Store Clearance signs I had just seen a half-hour or so ago.

But wait! The next morning I’d be going near the shopping center on my way to meeting a client in Napa.  I could take a picture then. For now, I’d just drop in a little graphic with the Cost Plus logo.

I couldn’t wait for daybreak, so I could snap my photos.  Then I couldn’t wait to get back from my appointment so I could replace the CP logo with a photo showing the store with all its clearance signs.

This was 'breaking news' and I'd been there to cover it.  Okay, maybe not quite the same as what Woodward and Bernstein discovered at the Watergate Apartments in Washington back in the early '70s, but hey, you gotta start somewhere.

Suddenly, now, I felt different. I felt like my words had a purpose.  A cause.  I had scooped the local paper. Okay, as it turned out, they published an article the next morning, so my scoop really only lasted about 10 hours.  And I had a PHOTO; they just had a brief digest-type article. So for those 10 hours, I felt like THE community expert -- the place people could go if they wanted to find out the latest on their town.

Since that day, I’ve found myself rushing back to my computer almost immediately after hearing or reading about something worthy of a post.  My camera has become a regular companion; almost an appendage.

I look at the world a little differently now.  Wherever I go, whatever I do, there’s a little voice in the back of my mind asking the question: “Hey, could this be worth writing about?"

I don’t think I look any different than I did a month ago.  None of my friends or clients say I act differently. But I definitely feel different. That's because I look at the world through a different set of lenses than I did five weeks ago.

So I guess I’m no longer a Blogging Infant.  I think I’ve become a Toddler.  For, with each new step I take, I find myself embracing blogging in a way I never would have imagined.  I walk through the grocery store and I’m writing a post in my mind. I see something interesting as I’m driving around town and pull over to snap a quick photo.  I go to our weekly Realtors breakfast meeting and carefully write down everything that week’s guest speaker says.  And grab a photo of the speaker just in case it’s worthy of a post.

Write-thisI know I still have a long way to go before I reach Blogging-Adolescence and ultimately Adulthood. But I'm definitely on my way.  A few months back, I wasn’t sure where my blog site would lead me.  I hoped it would take me down the path I wanted, but the blogosphere a was a confusing and mysterious place.

Today, it's still somewhat confusing and, yes, still a bit mysterious.  But I'm learning everyday and more importantly, embracing everything I learn. I've written posts, syndicated posts to other sites, and even came in third in my first Real Estate Carnival.

No longer do I feel like an outsider or wannabee. I now know exactly where I’m heading.

And at long last, I know, too, just what it feels like to be a Blogger.

Word to the Wise:

Daniel Bates warns: “Just be careful - There I was on a remote beach, just me and my wife and a small houseboat with literally no one within miles of us. Waking to the sunrise, walks on the beach (intermittent fishing) and evenings staring into her candle lit eyes, when she says, "You're going to write about this on your BLOG, aren't you?".  What could I say?  I didn't write EVERYTHING, but of course I couldn't resist tapping out my latest local adventure as soon as I was back on terra firma

Tomato Co-Authors

Armyoftomatoes2


Daniel Bates – MyMcClellanville.net
Geordie Romer – IcicleCreekRealEstate.com
Judy Peterson – MainlinePAToday.com
Bruce Lemieux – MocoRealEstate.com
Lenore Wilkas – WilkasGroup.com
Fran O’Neal – RealEstateInChantilly.com
Rod Herman – HomeSection.com
Ryan Rockwood – RockysMLS.com
Mark Madsen – MortgageSalesBlog.com

Thanks to all for your participation.
I can’t wait for next month’s topic!

 

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Related Must Reads:
Kick the Pay Per Click Habit: 7 Reasons Why Real Estate Blogging Is Better For Your Business
The 7 Reasons Why Your (Future) Clients Should Care That You Are a Real Estate Blogger
What Is The Future Of The Real Estate Blog?

are you ready?

 

Organic Search Placement - Why Real Estate Agents NEED It!

 Organic-search-placementDenny Oh, Tomato Graduate out of San Diego, CA, sent me a link the other day letting me know it would make for good blog fodder.  So I challenged him to make it happen, and he did

Organic Search Placement - Why Real Estate Agents NEED It!

By Denny Oh

As I was deleting (notice, I didn’t say reading) all my emails this morning from my inbox, I saw one from RISMedia that caught my eye – Why Organic Search Placement is the Best Form of Advertising You Can HaveGranted, it’s a pretty boring, not to mention lengthy, headline, but it obviously worked. 

Since I use blogging as my primary marketing tool, I figured I’d take a look.  The article didn’t really point out anything new, but it did reinforce what I already knew and it also motivated me to blog more.  The author, Mike Parker, shared something he learned from his first boss that really made a lot of sense…”The problem with advertising is that there are unlimited places to spend money on advertising but only limited monies to spend.”  And since many of us are going over our yearly budgets, I, like many of you, can surely relate to this.

Blogging – we all know we should be doing it, but do you really understand why? 
Here are a few key points that made a lot of sense….

People have Become Desensitized

As Parker points out, people are “bombarded with advertising messages” and are blasted with ads everywhere they go – on TV, the radio, newspapers, online, etc.  As a result, consumers don’t pay attention to the ads and simply “edit them out.”  Here’s where Organic Search Placement(read – blogging) comes into play.

Let Them Come to You

If you try and capture everyone through your advertising, chances are, you’re going to be extremely disappointed. With Organic Search Placement, you, the advertiser, are targeting a specific buyer/market.  By blogging about specific neighborhoods, or buildings, etc, Parker states that you’re catering to “the buyers personal search for the exact thing the buyer is looking to purchase.  It is a totally passive advertising strategy – bringing them to you.”

This is the key – have them contact you.  By blogging, you’re not throwing tons of information at people.  Unless they subscribe to your blog (which means they want to read your posts), they’re typically only going to find your site from a search on Google, or whatever other search engine they use.  This eliminates the issue of them being flooded with information that they’re not looking for.  They’ll only find your site/info when they are looking for it. 

For example…if someone is looking to find some information on the Grande South floor plans in San Diego, they might Google “grande south floor plans san diego.”  If they did, then they’d find that my blog comes up at the top of their search.  They don’t care who I am, but they do care that I have information on the Grande South and its floor plans – I’m not emailing them about the Grande or it’s floor plans, yet, they’re coming to me.

Blog a Ton

The article states that “if you have exactly what they want, 81% of the time, they will buy it from you.” Parker also indicates that 81% of Internet buyers will stick with the first agent they pick and that 92% of Internet home buyers choose their agents from a major search engine.  I’ve found that the more I blog, the better search results I get – duh.  But what I didn’t realize, is how much of a snowball effect this has.  For example, look at how someone got to my site – Google this – “office buildings in san diego owned by BOSA.” 

Now I don’t know of any office buildings owned by BOSA, but because I have a lot of content about BOSA, Google recognized me as a authority and placed me at the top of the results.  My point is, blog a lot and be specific – become an authority.

Get Help

Chances are, if you’re reading this post, you’re already a client of the Tomato.  If you’re not, you should be.  I’m not a Tomato employee, nor am I getting paid to write this.  I’m just another happy customer that is literally, living off of my blog. Since I started my blog about a year ago, I’ve closed multiple deals from it and am currently working with several clients as a direct result of it.  I can honestly tell you that this is by far the best tool I have, in terms of marketing. 

Denny-OhGood luck!

Thanks Denny – we love having you on the Vine.

Denny Oh is an exceptionally professional Realtor in the San Diego, CA area.
His website:www.SanDiegoh.com
Voice: (858) 243-2092

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How Do You Define Content For Your Real Estate Blog?

Today we have the pleasure of publishing a tale of inspiration from our favorite Real Estate Blogging Goddess, Teresa Boardman. 

Stpaulphotos

How Do You Define Content For Your Real Estate Blog?

By Teresa Boardman

My friends have been telling me for a couple of years that I need a photo blog.  Honestly I didn't want to take the time, but a couple of weeks ago, on a cold Saturday night I built one.  It has energized me and gotten me more engaged with my blogging efforts.  So far all of the photos I have posted are out of my collection so I have not had to work at all to generate content.  I could probably post every day for a year without ever taking another photo.

The reason it has energized me is because in recent months it has been a challenge to find good news in the housing market or even new news.  I often feel as though I have written everything I have to say and that there is no more.  The photos are not news, and I enjoy taking them and I have plenty to work with.

When my photo blog was just a couple of days old some local photo bloggers paid me a visit. We are going on a photo shoot this weekend.  I just met them but photos and blogs have a way of creating bonds.  The photo bloggers also had questions about my theme and some of the custom tweaks that I put into my blog.  I was amazed at how much I knew and had planned on asking them for help if I were to get into trouble with the thing.

The process of creating this blog also brought me back to the basics; the things that I have forgotten about over the years.  It forced me to think about what the blog looks like and how it is organized.  I was forced to think about things that I figured out once a long time ago when I set up my business blog.  As a result I ended up tweaking that blog too.

The-writing-machineDuring these challenging times it isn't always easy to write blog posts.  Those of us who have local real estate blogs don't have much happy news to report.  When business is slow it is difficult to want to write a blog post.  In my case most of my "blog food" comes from selling real estate.  The writing machine needs fuel and when there isn't much the quality of my posts deteriorates and my readership declines.

There isn't any rule that says a blog needs to have a lot of writing on it. A blog can be photos, video or audio with little writing.  Creating a video blog or a photo blog might help with creativity.  If the goal is to meet people I am finding that the photo blog works for that too. There is an about page and a link to my business blog and one or the other has already prompted a reader, or I should say viewer to send me an email with a real estate related question.  My business blog was around for about three months before anyone contacted me because of it.

The photo blog also demonstrates that I know my way around the twin cities and I have already gotten notes asking for advice on where to go to get certain shots.  In my spare time I will be building a map for the blog so that people who don't know where to go to shoot will get some ideas.

I have concluded that a blog is a must have for Realtors.  I have also concluded that while quality content is important that content does not have to be writing.  My photo blog is becoming more of a networking blog. Local photographers have homes too.  Now they know a Realtor, and we all know that in this business people like to do business with people that they know.

Thanks Teresa!

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Related Must Reads:
Blogging on a Saturday - How Rewarding It Can Be
Recycle to Get The Most Out of Your Real Estate Blog Articles and Pictures

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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

8 Things That You Are Not Doing On Your Real Estate Blog, But Should Be.

Blogging-directions1. Microblogging

Twitter is all the rage… and yet most blogging agents aren’t using it because they don’t grasp the value

Here’s another way to approach the Micro-Blog: Instead of catering to the audience in a Twitter Community, consider those that are actually coming to read your blog.  Short updates from you about the market, your efforts as an agent, new listings, and news flashes are just the sort of thing that your readers will appreciate.  Now pop them on your blog, and syndicate that back up to Twitter instead of the other way around. (More on this in coming weeks)

Hot tip: When it comes to your blog, avoid the community babble that gave you the creeps when you first looked at Twitter: “Having a hard time deciding what cereal to get.”  Your audience came for tangible real estate topics, not the stream of consciousness that you feel the need to share.  Try: “Cleaning out the gutters for the today’s 2pm open house at 123 Elm St, Eastville.”

2. Video Blogging

With high quality and too-easy-to-use video cameras available for under $150, you’d be a fool to not start including local video clips on your blog.  Whether you post yourself vlogging, or replace the photo-op with a quick clip, your audience will appreciate it. 

Hot tip: Try to keep videos under 2 minutes.  That digestible expectation will have them watching every video you publish.

3. Extending Your Soapbox to Other Community Experts

At Inman Connect last summer, we held a panel on Taking Your Blog to the Next Level.  My take then (and still) is that there is way too much Realtor-on-Realtor action happening in what are supposed to be local level real estate blogs, aimed at developing an audience of potential clients.  It took several paragraphs to cover all the bases in an article, so I will save the space and provide a link to the benefits of getting other local voices to carry the load of your blog content.

Hot tip: Once you know you have a local audience that cares about your efforts, it won’t be difficult to get others to provide valuable content.  Trying to put the cart before the horse will be a hard sell.

Google-maps-on-blogs4. Using Google Maps

I’m not talking about just popping a map on the site to showcase a location.  Google maps are so incredibly versatile now, that the range of resources you can create for your audience is endless.  To whet your appetite, here is a link to Lori Turoff’s post that describes her Open House Map for Hoboken, NJ.

Hot tip: Next week, I will be publishing a comprehensive overview on how to leverage Google Maps on your real estate blog.  It will include several exciting map examples like Lori’s above.  I feel that the proper use of Google Maps will be what makes your site an invaluable resource unlike any other in your community.

5. Including Unique Calls To Action

What separates a real estate blog that generates appointments from one that doesn’t?  More often then not, it is Call-To-Action.  As bloggers you are writers/reporters, but most importantly, you are real estate agents that need to have appointments with clients.  Writing alone will not always be enough to get someone to act in a manner that leads them to working with you.  Place visible calls to action in your navigation, in your sidebars, in your footer, in your articles, in your videos and in your email blasts.

Hot tip: Spend some money to have someone design something nice for the calls-to-action on your site.  These graphics can be what get people to ‘act’ so it is worth a small investment.  Mix in a theme to the graphics that you use for your calls-to-action.  Cool looking icons, or a mascot will stand out, and yet not be seen as ‘pushy’. 

6. Advertising Your Contact Info in a Visible and Unique Manner

Teresa Boardman has expressed more than once that one of her biggest pet peeves is how so many real estate bloggers make it difficult to locate contact info on their site.  How can you take the time to create so much content, only to overlook that having someone contact you is the most important element of your online presence? 

Take a quick look at your site from the visitor’s perspective.  Who is the proud author, and how can I reach him/her?  Similar to the take above on calls-to-action, take the time to do something unique with the areas of your site that should be grabbing your readers’ attention.

Hot tip: Leverage the online network that you are building and showcase one click icons to your profiles on Social Networks that people recognize; Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter.

7. Policing Your Links

It’s common knowledge that dead links can affect your SEO, but just as important, dead links make your site look unkempt to your visitor.  Routinely check the links that you offer in your blogroll, resource lists, and community pages, and make sure that they are still active.  Recently I weeded out over 20 bad links from by blogroll, and it occurred to me just how poor that must have appeared to anyone looking at the sites I claimed to care about.

Want to go even deeper?  Run Xenu’s Link Sleuth and find every dead link in your archive. 

Hot tip: Are you into Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn?  Pay it forward with a short ‘social-roll’ link list to your favorite local profiles.  Yes, local… think about your audience’s needs.

8. Writing to Your Ideal Reader.

Your knee-jerk first thought: My audience is far too diverse to have a specific Ideal Reader in mind when I write.  It’s the same argument I hear when I try to pin an agent down to commit to focus on one specific niche community with their early blogging efforts; I’ll work everywhere, why would I want to pigeonhole myself to one location?  I will be missing such a greater audience.

The answer is that it is much easier to write fluidly and constructively on a micro level then it is when approached broadly.  Sure the topics seem endless, at first with the broad stroke, but the value comes in your ability to hone in on the endless topics of a narrowed focus.  It is much easier to position oneself as the expert on a limited range of topics than on everything, everywhere.

Who you are writing to works in a similar manner.  When you can visualize the reader, it is much easier to explain things to them.  What’s easier, explaining something to a friend or to a room full of strangers?  When you ‘know’ your audience, it will be much easier to deliver your ideas.  My advice: force yourself to consider who you are writing to; define them, and write to them.

Hot tip: Try to avoid writing for yourself.  Write to educate.  Your audience has questions, and you and your blog are the answers.

Have you got some examples of your implementation of the above? 
Please share them with the community, we’d love to learn from you.
 

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Related Must Reads:
10 Misconceptions About Real Estate Blogging
All You Ever Needed To Know About Blogging SEO, But Were Afraid To Say So.

Are You Ready?

Maureen Francis Captures Top Spot For The Inman Real Estate Blog Makeover

Maureen-francisThis week hundreds of real estate agents will gather in New York City for Inman Connect, a bi-annual conference where the real estate industry comes together to discuss new ideas, technologies, niches, and trends.

Our role in this year’s conference is to help one real estate blogger take their efforts to the highest level with a complete makeover.

Fortunately, we won’t have to carry the burden of determining what the “highest level” is, all on our own.  In addition to our two cents, we will be leveraging the wisdom and pocket change of Dustin Luther, Jeff Turner, Joel Burslem, Benn Rosales, Jay Thompson, Gahlord Dewald, and Daniel Rothamel.  And, to make things that much more interesting, we will also open the discussion to the audience, who will be able to Twitter their thoughts on the project.

We (the collection of names above) selected the winner of the Blog Makeover Contest from nearly 30 very deserving submissions.  The voting was done Heisman-style where every judge submitted their top 3 choices.  A first-place vote was worth 3 points, second-place worth 2 points, and third-place 1 point.  When all the votes were in, and all the points tallied, Maureen came out on top, in a very close race, winning by 1 point.

Below is Maureen’s winning entry.

(I do have to admit that my vote was swayed by the plea made by of one of Detroit’s best known rockers.)


Rockers aside, Maureen’s blog is going to be a perfect specimen for our Makeover Project.  Maureen has been blogging about real estate in Oakland County, MI since March 5th, 2005.  She has posted over 600 articles, and boasts that this year has been her best for business generated by her internet presence. 

So why would someone who has been blogging for nearly 4 years need a makeover?

The answer is simple: She wants to focus less on the management of the site, the design of the site, the updates of the site, the upgrades of the site, and the functionality of the site.  It all has gotten in the way of allowing her to FOCUS ON BLOGGING.  In her words, she finds herself frustrated and bored. 

Reconnect-nycWell Maureen, we’re all here to help.

If you are planning at being at Inman NYC this week, and you’ve got blogging on the mind, you will not want to miss this event with some of the best minds in Real Estate Online Marketing.  We will be on stage at 1pm, on Wednesday the 7th – See you there!

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Related Must Reads:
Inman Connect NY Real Estate Blog Makeover Contest
Why Blogging Makes You A Better Realtor

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Social Media: It's About the Contact, Not the Conversation

We have a real treat for you today here at the Tomato.  Brian Brady, easily one of the most well-known Mortgage Bloggers on the planet, has just delivered to us, a solid piece on a topic that we both feel really needs some clarity: Social Media. 

If you are struggling to embrace social media as a viable marketing strategy, this post, and the announcement at the end is your ticket to success.

It's About the Contact, Not the Conversation

By Brian Brady

Blogging-aint-enoughGoogle calls me "America's #1 Mortgage Broker" but funding loans is not what I do for a living.  You might consider yourself to be a "real estate consultant" or a "short sale specialist" but I assure you that your job is not selling houses. 

You and I are Marketers...Salespeople...Client Attractors.  Our number one job is to find prospective clients.  Now, I know that many folks detest that role. Nobody likes the pushy insurance agent at the Chamber of Commerce meeting or the overbearing stock broker at the family picnic.  In contrast, many of us embrace the Web 2.0 revolution as a way to generate business.  Certainly, blogging is one medium to attract clients BUT...

Blogging ain’t enough if you want to put up big numbers on the scoreboard.  I play this game to win so I'm all about scoring points.  Every day, I want to hit a grand slam, catch one in the end zone, score a hat trick, or hammer three-pointers.  I EXPECT to win, every single day, because of my social media strategy.

Five years ago, I started learning how to use social media to circumvent the pending "Do Not Call" legislation.  Since college, I always made my living on the telephone.  A typical day consisted of me rooting through my rolodex, with two-phones glued to each ear.   That damned "Do Not Call" list threatened my very existence

LinkedIn changed all that, in 2003.  I was invited to LinkedIn and found that I was the only mortgage guy in a roomful of well-earning tech folks, who owned homes.  Myspace came, in 2004.  I honed the rich demographic data to connect me with REALTORs by creating and promoting a group called MLS on Myspace.  Active Rain was a no brainer.  Facebook is the perfect combination to mix both consumer direct and professional referral platforms. 

Folks on the ClueTrain might suggest that social media are "all about the conversation"; I couldn't disagree more.  It's all about the contact.  Your social media efforts, which include blogging, need to have some sort of ROI if you intend to thrive in business.  I measure my ROI by contacts made daily.  My goal, every morning, is to find five new contacts who give me permission to market to them.  I engage in pull marketing through rich content and engaging hooks (I'll discuss those hooks on the webinar).  It's designed to be non-intrusive and qualifying, always getting participants to "raise their hand" but it starts with the contact.   If you're blogging your little heart out and nobody's reading you, you're like that tree that fell in the forest.

Let me give you an example.  The Facebook status bar is a tremendous tool; it's like Twitter with pictures.  I feed the Facebook community by sharing things about my life:

1- I rejoiced when the Phillies beat the Rays to win the World Series
2- I listen to George Strait
3- I voted for Mc Cain
4- I lock mortgage rates below 5%,  for selected clients.

Webinar-globeWhen I dropped that sub 5% rate, on my Facebook status bar, every disco lovin', Obama supporter, from Tampa Bay, wanted to talk to me...WHY?

...because I hold their interest.  They needled me on Election Day, hated me when the Rays lost the World Series, and were appalled that a guy in suspenders listens to old-school country music but I hold their interest.  I love people so that gives me a leg up on the competition.  I congratulated them when President-Elect Obama won and taunted them throughout the World Series but I love the contact.

The contact then, becomes a conversation. 

Do I troll the social media, looking for likely candidates, then spam them with a friend request? Absolutely!  I love people...seriously, I LOVE them.  I think everybody I haven't met is just a friend in waiting...and so should you.  THAT is our job, folks.  The buying, selling, and financing of houses is the easy part.

PS:  Every time I speak or offer a webinar, some REALTOR says "Well, he's a lender.  It's different for him".  That is the silliest thing I've ever heard.  I get more business from consumers than I do from REALTOR referrals and those consumers come from my social media efforts.

PPS:  If you don't like the webinar, we'll refund every penny we charge you for it. 

PPPS:  That was a joke; the webinar is free.  See you in two weeks !

Thanks Brian, we are thrilled to have you on the Vine!

Related Must Reads
Lost In The Crows: Realtors Fail To Effecitively Leverage Social Media

Read more from Brian Brady:
Brian’s Website
Brian’s ActiveRain Blog
Brian’s Post Archive on the BloodhoundBlog
P: (858)- 777-9751

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are you ready?

Inman Connect NY Real Estate Blog Makeover Contest - One Day Left!

Clock-last-minuteOur gift to Inman Connect NY this year is the complete makeover of one lucky, yet necessitous real estate blog.

Be certain that the re-skinning of a blog is by no means a guarantee to improve your blogging, nor your ability to generate business from the effort.  This is precisely why our approach to this makeover effort is going to go way beyond first impression aesthetic.  In addition to a fancy new look and feel, the blog makeover is going to include (at a minimum) Constructive Suggestions regarding:

1. Headline Writing
2. Article Aesthetic
3. Article SEO
4. Calls-To-Action and Lead Generation
5. Sidebar Management
6. Widget Management
7. PlugIn Management
8. Meta data SEO
9. Comment Aesthetic
10. RSS and Email Subscription
11. Category Organization

and much more… until they kick us off stage Wednesday.

If you are interested in being in the running to be selected as the lucky winner of this year’s Real Estate Blog Makeover, and don’t mind be ripped apart on stage by an audience of critics… you have just one day left to submit your entry.

Here's how it works:

1) Submit your blog for a makeover. To do that, simply leave a comment in the Inman Community Blog Makeover Contest Group. In your submission, make sure that you give the URL for your blog. Most importantly tell us why you think your blog deserves a makeover. Any type of submission is fine, you can write the whole thing out, make a video and link to it, be as creative as you want. The more creative, the better. This isn't a random drawing, so keep in mind that the quality of your submission matters.

2) We will collect submissions from THE COMMUNITY GROUP ONLY through Sunday, December 14, 2008.

3) We will then select one winner, who will be announced on December 17, 2008.

4) In addition to the Blog Makeover, the winner will receive a full conference registration to Inman Connect NYC '09. (winner to cover his/her own travel expenses)

5) During Bloggers Connect, the winner's blog will be discussed by all the attendees and presenters, who will offer their insight, input, and expertise as to how to create the most effective blog.

6) Using the input from Bloggers Connect, the winner will work with Jim Cronin and his team at The Real Estate Tomato to build a completely transformed blog.

7) We'll follow up with the winner and with Jim periodically afterward to see how the blog makeover has affected the winner.

If you have any questions, you can leave a comment here, or send Daniel Rothamel an email: Daniel.Rothame(at)Inman.com

So, what are you waiting for? If you have always wanted to do something new with your blog, but never thought you had the time or resources, now is your chance!

InmanRelated Articles:
Inman Community Blog Makeover Contest Group
The Official RE Blog Makeover Announcement on the Inman Blog
Inman Connect Registration (use the code tomato08 to save $150)

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The Commercial Real Estate Blog, Needle in a Haystack.

(Please note that if you are looking for help developing a custom, commercial real estate blog, we can help)

HaystackBlogging has been the avant garde in real estate for a couple of years, to the point where there isn’t an agent that hasn’t at least heard of the phenomena. Inman dedicates two days to it, Realtor.com is on the bandwagon, and all the Big Box agencies have now been forced to consider it.

One irony however, is that a liberal estimation of the percentage of real estate agents that actually call themselves ‘dedicated bloggers’ is less than .01.  To think that such a small percentage of the industry has had such a big impact on it, to me, reinforces the reason it is so damn important.

But the more alarming fact is that the world of Commercial Real Estate has completely overlooked blogging as a viable means of online marketing.

Last year, in February, I was interviewed by Mariwyn Evans, a senior editor for Realtor Magazine on the subject of Commercial Real Estate Blogging.  She was looking for some insight on whether or not blogging was “for” commercial real estate practitioners, given the scarcity of their existence.  My response: Blogging can be an incredibly effective marketing tool for anyone that relies on content as part of their business model.  But as to where they all were?  I had, and still have no idea.

Where are all the Commercial Real Estate Bloggers?

It would make a convenient excuse that I have been searching for them all month, hence the lack of posts here at the Tomato… but the reality is, I just spent a few of hours digging through Google, Technorati, blog directories, ActiveRain, Twitter and blogrolls and came up with the following, piddly little list.

By far the most celebrated and visible commercial real estate blog I found is SquareFeetBlog.  Their most recent post is the 14th of Nov, but their normal frequency is as much as several articles a week.   

From there, I located a total of 10 active CRE blogs.  Listed in order of their most recent post, you are looking at the trailblazers of the industry.

Adam Commercial Minneapolis Commercial Real Estate
Latest post: 11.25.08

Lon Peper - Large Commercial Real Estate
Latest post: 11.25.08

Hans Hansson - Starboard TCN
Latest post: 11.25.08

American Apartment Owners Association
Latest post: 11.24.08

Masoud Saberzadeh - Las Vegas Commercial Real Estate Blog
Latest post 11.24.08

Nathan Hughes - Richmond Business & Commercial News
Latest post: 11.24.08

Michael Mandel - Brokered – Thoughts on NYC CRE
Latest post: 10.28.08

Terry Hand - The Commercial Real Estate in Athens Blog
Latest post: 10.23.08

Rob Powell – Investing for Wealth
Latest post: 10.07.08

Will Hicks - Commercial Real Estate in Memphis and our Galaxy
Latest post: 8.28.08

Social Networks and Multi-Contributor Blogs

ActiveRain, boasting 100,000+ members has a whole roster of Commercial Real Estate Agents, but after looking at about 20 of the CRE members’ blogs, it’s clear that blogging on topic isn’t really a priority.
Only two ActiverRain bloggers are consistently blogging about CRE:
Michael Setunsky
Gregory Garver

EWM has a bunch of agents contributing to their Commercial Real Estate Category!

BiggerPockets has a a Category for Commercial Real Estate blogging, but there are also only two active participants: Rob Powell and Ted Karsch.

NAR Commercial Real Estate Blog (now defuncts, and never really got started)

Twitter

MicroBlogging is blogging to some degree, so here’s the Twitter Wire on
Commercial Real Estate and Commercial Real Estate Blog

Must Mentions

Rofo.com - “Commercial Real Estate For The Rest of Us”
Rofo is an online network helping connect investors and brokers with advice and property. 
I have to thank Sean Murphy of Rofo for inspiring me to write this post.  He had asked for some exposure on the site and I returned with a request for a blog about commercial real estate blogging.  His submitted article, which we won’t be posting, made some of the above observations.  So, thanks Sean!

My personal favorite CRE industry blog is Sibdu.com. 
Similar to the Tomato’s effort of helping the RE industry leverage blogging as an effective marketing tool, Bob Woods and Brett Rogers have built an invaluable resource for the CRE industry to learn how to leverage the advancements in technology and marketing.

Notable online resources for current articles on CRE:

National Real Estate Investor
Commerical Investment Real Estate Magazine
Wall St. Journal Commercial Real Estate
Commercial Real Estate Direct
Commercial Property News

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WARNING! Horn Tooting: The Inman List of the Top 25 Most Influential Real Estate Bloggers for 2008 Is Out, and We're On It!

Tooting-my-own-hornAfter what has been an absolutely whirlwind year of company growth, product development and business travel, it’s hard to believe we had any time to blog at all.  So, I have to admit, being recognized for the 2nd year in a row as one of the most influential real estate bloggers, came as a bit of a surprise… albeit a pleasant surprise.

I’d like to think that the reason that I have been recognized as being so influential is because of the success of the many hundreds of real estate bloggers that we have developed over the last 2 years.

Collectively our clients have published 10’s of 1000’s of great looking and informative blog posts.  So as much as I would like to take the credit for this achievement, the real honor belongs to our incredibly talented staff and to the dedicated bloggers of Tomato Nation.

Here’s the complete list of Inman News’ selection for 2008:
(In no particular order)

 Congratulations to all those selected!

Broker and Agent Blogs

Kris Berg Founder, The San Diego Home Blog
Teresa Boardman Founder, St. Paul Real Estate Blog
Noah Rosenblatt Founder, Urbandigs.com
Daniel Rothamel Founder, Real Estate Zebra
Jay Thompson Founder, The Phoenix Real Estate Guy

Community, Multi-Author Blogs

Lani Anglin-Rosales New Media Director, Agent Genius
Greg Swann Founder, Bloodhound Blog

Mortgage Blogs

Todd Carpenter Founder, Lenderama
Dan Green Founder, The Mortgage Reports

Housing Economics Blogs

Barry Ritholtz Founder, The Big Picture
"Calculated Risk" Founder, Calculated Risk

Industry Commentary Blogs

Michael Wurzer Founder, FBS Blog
Joseph Ferrara Co-founder, Sellsius Real Estate Blog
Joel Burslem Founder, Future of Real Estate Marketing

Marketing and How-To Blogs

Dustin Luther Founder, 4Realz.net
Nicole "NikNik" Nicolay Co-author, MyTechOpinion
Jim Cronin Founder, The Real Estate Tomato

Local Blogs

Lockhart Steele Founder, Curbed
Jonathan Butler Founder, Brownstoner

Inman-most-influential-2008Company Bloggers

Rudy Bachraty Social Media Guru, Trulia
Drew Meyers Co-author, Zillow Blog, Geek Estate Blog
Glenn Kelman Contributor, Redfin blog

Journalist Blogs

Peter Viles Co-author, L.A. Land
John Cook Co-founder, Where Are John and Todd?

Housing Bubble Blogger

Patrick Killelea Founder, Patrick.net and Reality Parser  Follow Us on Twitter and Get Our Daily Real Estate Blog Tips!

3 Years Of Real Estate Blogging - The Gift That Keeps On Giving

A very special post on the Real Estate Tomato today: Teresa Boardman takes a look at what 3 years of blogging on StPaulRealEstateBlog.com has done to her and her business.

3 Years of Real Estate Blogging - The Gift That Keeps On Giving

By Teresa Boardman

St-paul-real-estate-blogThere are not many places where a blogger can write about blogging, except for here on the Tomato which is about blogging so once again I send my post to Jim. 

A year ago I sent a list of 40 observations I had made after two years of writing a blog.
The observations still apply but the list is so 2007.  My neck still hurts but not as badly; I found an exercise that helps.  The only thing that has really changed from last year is that I don't talk anymore I just blog.  I am kidding of course.
 
Now that I have hit year three I realize that my blog is the gift that keeps on giving.  Posts I wrote three years ago are working hard for me  as readers search through Google and find them.  Some of the posts just never go out of style.
 
When someone sends me a question via email, I almost always have a link to my blog to send back with an answer to their question.  When I need most anything in writing, I can usually find it in my blog.  If I can't, I call it 'blog food' and write a new post.
 
I face new challenges these days.  When I go to write a blog post, and I already have 1300 of them, it isn't as easy to come up with new ideas.  Sometimes I write the same thing twice and don't even realize it.  Sometimes I just recycle old posts.  Occasionally I am truly inspired and write something decent.
 
The blog was redesigned this past year.  I wanted something a little fresher without changing the brand or making it look too commercial.  I learned a lot through the design process and Jim was extremely patient with me as I shared my vision.  He laughed when the design was ready and I didn't want to pull the trigger.  He told me that he expected me to resist.  He knows that my blog is my business and that it isn't easy for me to let someone else go in and change it. I am lucky to have a friend like Jim who gets it and isn't afraid to give me a kick in the . . . you know what I mean.
 
I am very happy with the new look, and my readers have responded positively. It looks more professional and it handles photos better which is important as they are a huge part of what makes the blog work.  It doesn't look like anyone else’s blog which is also important to me.  Like me, it has it's own personality.
 
Hub-in-the-wheelThe blog is now the center piece of my online presence.  A couple of years ago it was my online presence.  Today it is like a hub in a wheel  of my ever expanding online business portfolio.  The wheel is made up of memberships to social networks, and photographs. There are also thirty two separate pages in my blog, five photo albums, and two other blogs.
 
It may sound like all I do is write my blog, but keep in mind this is content built one word at a time, one day at a time over a period of three years.
 
The blog is still an experiment, and I continue to learn and grow.  I know my writing skills have improved as have my photography skills.  Doing something everyday is a great way to fine tune one’s skills.  Writing is still my biggest challenge. . . oh and I still can't spell.
 
Has it been worth all the work?  Yes it has been.  The content keeps brining me buyers and sellers, and the blog still has a higher ROI than any other marketing piece.  I seriously doubt if anyone is reading post cards or newspaper ads that I published three years ago, but they are certainly still reading my blog posts. 

Thanks Teresa!  Happy Blog Birthday.

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Related Must Reads:
40 Observations By Teresa Boardman Regarding Her 2 Year Old Real Estate Blog
How Has Blogging Changed Your Real Estate Career?

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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

Why Should I Blog? - It's About the Value of Being Seen as the Expert in Your Niche

At-the-podiumAs I was standing at the podium at the Christie’s Global Conference talking about the marriage that is Real Estate and Content, an idea struck me that at the time I only had a limited opportunity to touch on... knowing it deserved more.

The audience I was speaking to deals mostly in incredibly high end luxury homes.  We're talking mansions, castles, villas and the like.  What struck me was the idea that if you were to break down the value of their time when applied to working with one of these listings, you're easily looking at several hundred dollars an hour... and perhaps the prospect of putting several hours a week into blogging for business might be difficult to justify.

The more I thought about it and considered the true value of real estate blogging, one question came to be the measure: What would you invest to be the leader of an audience of potential and qualified clients looking forward to hearing from you?

The power of blogging and the answer to why you should, lies in the goal of developing an audience that you can lead. 

Blogging is taking the initiative to be a leader, a leader in thought, reporting, opinion and exposure.

In the offline world, you may have 90% percent of your market wrapped, but what about the online mind-share? 
Are you seen as the leader? 
Do you have the exposure? 
Are your opinions respected? 
Are you recognized as a resource that stands apart? 

Be-the-leaderWhen you push something forward as powerful as a well maintained and developed blog, something that you believe in, your audience will respond.  They will be attracted to your breaking from the status quo, and the content alone will provide you with the exposure necessary to draw them in the first place.

What has the investment been to be recognized as the leader in the world outside of the internet?  In most cases, it takes years of physical advertising costs coupled with an unwavering dedication to hard work and success for your clients.  Why should this seat be held with anything less for the world online?

The good news is that it (still) does, in fact, take less.  Much less.

By maintaining a quality blog, that is that resource, you are already doing more that 99.7% of your potential competition.
The number of quality blogs in any given market is lower than low, and it will be for years.  As a dedicated blogger, nailing topics that your intended audience is seeking, your exposure will be unrivaled and you will lead.

Since the search for answers to real estate needs starts on the internet, whether your hourly rate works out to be $30 or $3000, you can’t help but recognize the incredible return on the time investment you make with your blogging.

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Related Must Reads:

  • He Asked Me, "Why Am I Blogging?"
  • How Often Should I Blog?
  • Who Are You Blogging For?
  • Are You Ready?
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    Warning: These Simple Podcasting Secrets Will Increase Blog Traffic

    As I head out of town for the week, thinking I really need to get an article published, our new friend Jessica Donovan from Real Estate License Direct swooped in with a guest post, on a topic that I have hardly covered: Podcasting.  So lucky you; instead of having to wait until I get back with enchanting stories from the turquoise coast of Bermuda, Jessica is holding down the fort with this sweet post.

    Thanks Jessica!

    PodacstWarning: These Simple Podcasting Secrets Will Increase Blog Traffic

    By Jessica Donovan

    What if someone told you that you could increase your blogs traffic, subscribers and exposure with little to no work and without costing you a single cent, would you be interested? Listen, if hearing all of that wouldn't peak your curiosity, you may need to reconsider your means of generating new clients, because that would have the rest of us doing some extreme acrobatics that our bodies were just not built to handle!

    All jokes aside, your blog needs exposure to be successful. It’s the simple truth, without having some sort of exposure whether it be through the Internet and/or real estate communities, your blog will not flourish and grow up to be a big blog. Now, now, relax a bit, there are a lot of ways to gain exposure, in fact a lot of them are covered right here on The Real Estate Tomato, but have you given any thought to gaining more exposure through the extremely hot podcasting universe? Well guess what, you can gain lots of exposure, even more targeted traffic and loads of new subscribers by simply clicking a few buttons, setting up some free accounts and instantly converting your plain old blog into a podcasting machine!

    How to Turn Those Plain Old Blog Posts into Popular Podcasts

    How can we not love the Internet, or more specifically, all of the great tools the Internet places at our disposal! There are actually a couple of very good and free blog to podcast conversion services, so please allow me to cover each one:

    Odiogo - In my highly experienced yet humble opinion, the Odiogo "post to podcast" service is the best option available on the market at this time. This free service allows you to not only turn all of your future blog posts into podcasts, but it will also convert all of your past posts as well by utilizing the incredible power of rss feeds. Their service uses a unique text to speech program that allows listeners to "tune in" on your articles and listen to what you're writing about.

    Once installed on your blog, Odiogo will automatically add a listen or play button above your posts giving readers the option to sit back and listen to each article. Odiogo will also give you free, detailed download statistics for your podcast channel along with the option to embed ads in your podcast channel to make a little revenue from those visitors. Best of all, the service is available on a variety of popular blogging platforms such as WordPress, Blogger, TypePad and more.

    Talkr - While this service is extremely similar to what Odiogo offers, I just don't feel that their speech program is of the same quality, in other words sounds as good. Though they do offer a very nice user interface, again with detailed reports and customized submission to the iTunes service, which is really nice. The account is free to setup and only takes a minute, they will also produce a complete rss feed for your site that includes the mp3 podcast files for users to listen to at their convenience.

    One nice thing about this service is that all of the features can be hosted completely off site for you, meaning that you can serve podcasts from your blog through Odiogo and use Talkr as a second means for additional exposure without the two conflicting in any way. I do suggest that you take a look at Talkr's free podcast service.

    Premium Option - If you have the extra money, you might also consider going with a premium blog to podcast service such as AudioDizer, which offers some very intriguing distribution and advertising packages.

    Podacsts-for-real-estateWhat About that Exposure You've Been Selling

    Ah yes, exposure! Well here is the great thing, by simply setting up your free accounts on the two services above you are already receiving more exposure to your blog. Your new podcasts will be listed in their directories for people to find you by category or search term, all they have to do is click play. Also, as I mentioned above, Talkr will submit your podcast to iTunes which is excellent exposure and you can't beat the price but with a little leg work your sites exposure can double, triple, quadruple and even more, by submitting your podcast feed to the hundreds if not thousands of podcast directories available online.

    I know, I know, busy agents don't have the time to go sniffing around for free podcast directories, it needs to be easier than that. Great, because it is much easier, here are some great lists of free podcast directories, just find the ones you like and submit your podcast:

    That list of sites should keep you busy for a little while, of course if you run out you can always search Google for even more directories that will accept your podcast

    Is There Anything Else I Need to Know About Podcasting

    Everything above should just about wrap it up. Although you might want to consider publishing full feeds on your blog before setting up any of the services above. Publishing partial feeds will only allow for partial podcasts which may turn away potential listeners, so do them and you a favor and switch over to the full rss feeds.

    Welcome to the Vine, Jessica!

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    Related Must Reads:
    The Secret To Successful Comments
    Running Into Oncoming Traffic
    Why Blogging Makes You A Better Realtor

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    Real Estate BarCamp Houston - Sharing Business & Technology Knowledge

    RebarcamphoustonDisclaimer: I don’t normally drop press releases for events that I am not directly involved with, but for this one I needed to make an exception for 2 reasons.  First of all, I want to be there, and be involved, but I just can’t swing it.  I will have just gotten back from a trip to Bermuda for the Christie’s Great Estates Global Conference where I will be speaking with Dustin Luther and Marc Davidson.  And secondly, my favorite Real Estate Blogging event so far this year was the first-ever REBarCamp in SF.  Sure it was followed up with a Beer-With-Bloggers… but seriously, it was an amazing event that I was thrilled to be a part of.  So, Mike Prices’s request to drop this announcement was an easy one to fulfill.

    Houston, October, 1, 2008

    Real Estate BarCamp Houston is slated to take place on October 22 at the Shenandoah Convention & Meeting facility just north of Houston, adjacent to The Woodlands, Texas.A BarCamp is a technology and business event sometimes referred to as an "unconference". Unlike traditional conferences, the event sessions are planned the morning of the event by the attendees. The first Real Estate version of a BarCamp took place last July with over 200 people in attendance. (Visit www.rebarcamp.com for photos and video )

    Paul Chaney, President of International Blogging & New Media Association To Keynote

    Paul Chaney, the President of IBNMA and a published author of blogging and social media books will kick of the event with a keynote address. The unconference format allows anyone in attendance to present, or participate in sessions with a BarCamp policy that encourages active participation.

    The facility is perfectly suited for the event and will have wireless Internet access, projectors and more. There is no cost to attend and a boxed lunch and limited edition conference T-Shirt are also included for all registered attendees. Event expenses are paid via sponsorships. According to BarCamp rules, all sponsorships are provided at a single level. The event is being planned by a group of local real estate professionals and real estate technology/marketing companies.

    There is a contingency of out-of-state attendees registered to attend that include representatives from companies like Active Rain, Zillow, Trulia, Real Estate Shows, Keller Williams and more. The following companies are sponsoring the event.

    ActiveRain.com
    MLBroadcast.com
    AgentGenius.com
    Zillow.com
    Zipvo.com
    BiggerPockets.com
    InmanNews.com
    Build A Sign
    Jadukka.com
    BuyWaterfronts.com
    EnvoyMortgage.com
    First American Title Ins.
    Prudential Gary Greene
    Trulia.com
    Hawaii Life Real Estate Services
    Jeff Manson – Hawaii Real Estate Guy
    NationalRelocation.com
    StickerGiant.com
    AltosResearch.com

    How to Find out More and RSVP

    Visit http://www.rebarcamphouston.com to get more information on the event and RSVP.

    Rebarcamphouston1Attendance will be on a first come first served basis based upon RSVP's. Date: October 22 Location: Shenandoah Convention & Meeting Facility - 29955 I-45 North, Spring, TX 77381 Hours: Registration Starts at 8 am. Keynote 9 am Sessions 10:15 to 5:15 Boxed Lunch & T-Shirt To First 200 RSVP'd Attendees REBarCampHouston.com and REBCH.PbWiki.com are the official event sites.

    Follow @rebarcamphou on twitter.

    All area real estate professionals including those from the building, mortgage, title insurance, home inspection, commercial and residential sales and more are encouraged to be active participants, speakers and attendees.

    Contact Mike Price at 832 331 4846 if you have any questions.

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    Tomato Nation - Interactive Google Map Showcases Tomatoes On The Vine

    TomatoNationI found myself playing around with Google Maps in preparation of an article I have been working on.  The article is to be a comprehensive overview of the many ways that one can leverage Google Maps with a Real Estate Blog.  I have seen bloggers using this tool in so many creative ways that I thought it would be nice to have single resource as an example of all the ways we have found it to be useful.

    Anyhow, while I was playing, I couldn’t resist creating a map to showcase what we commonly refer to as the Vine – Our client base – a.k.a Tomato Nation.  Check it out:

    Tomato Nation - The Real Estate Tomato Vine

    We will be adding it as a fixture to our sidebar, so if you are ever curious if we have a client in your area… you are one click from knowing.

    I’m thinking of doing one for our blogroll as well.

    Disclaimer to clients:
    The map will always be a work in progress, so please be understanding if you don’t see yourself listed.  Simply let us know and we’ll get you on there ASAP.

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    Hey Real Estate Bloggers, Where Are You Aiming When It Comes To Subscriptions and Subscribers?

    Today’s post is a special treat!  Dave Smith of the Real Estate Blog Lab (and many other blogs) has found that he has so much to say, that he needs yet another outlet… and we’re happy to be there for him. 

    We are looking forward to publishing at least a couple of posts a month from him, focused specifically on our most popular topic of Real Estate Blogging Advice.

    So, without further adieu…

    Subscriptions and Subscribers: Where Are You Aiming?

    By Dave Smith

    Rss-targetMuch is made of getting Traffic, Readers and Subscribers to your blog. 

    However, not all blogs should have the same goals.  If your blog is monetized then it is clear that you want as many readers and subscribers as possible to see your pages.  But how many of us who are Real Estate Bloggers have actually monetized our blogs and are looking to make money from traffic and clicks?  I doubt very many are making a living or any real revenue from ads.

    Extra reading from RET:
    7 Compelling Reasons Google AdSense Will Ruin Your Real Estate Blog

    I wrote today’s post to examine the difference between a short-term need Business Blog and a long-term need Business Blog.

    Ongoing Interests Vs The Specific Need or Want

    When I'm searching for a new home I start searching on the net.  I look at homes, communities, activities etc.  But once I've bought my home and moved to the community I stop reading about real estate and available homes in the community.  

    I was using a targeted search to find specific information about a particular event in my life. 

    This is unlike my hobby "Photography" this is something I'm always reading about.  There are new things in the field of photography going on all the time.  Cameras, software, photo sharing sites, services for storing photos.  Tons of information is out there for my hobby and I subscribe to those blogs which keep me coming back and reading because this is an ongoing passion in my life. 

    I also subscribe to several photography magazines for the same reason.  One about Landscape Photography, one about Outdoor Photography and one on photography in general.  I have blogs that fit in each of these categories. 

    At the Real Estate Blog Lab I want subscribers.

    Unless anyone plans to quit blogging or stop using WordPress as their blog platform I want readers coming back to read what I've discovered about the things going on in the WordPress and REBlogworld (I like that term, thanks to Todd Carpenter and Jason Berman). 

    My business blogs are not structured to attract that regular reader traffic.  I'm writing to have informative content about Tucson on the internet structured in such a way that it comes up competitively in lots of different searches (The Longtail).  This means I'm looking for more pre-qualified clicks and readers - not long term subscribers.  If someone subscribes, that’s fine, but that's not why I'm blogging and I'm not going to focus on getting more subscribers to my business blogs.

    If you author a blog with a specific topic of ongoing interest, then subscribers are your goal.  If your blog is to help provide a service or meet a short term need, subscribers are bonus.

    Comment Expectations on a Business Blog

    Many RE Bloggers get caught in not recognizing the audience they are trying to reach and in-turn understanding the expectations of that audience.

    At the Lab I expect RE bloggers to weigh in on topics and add to the discussion. I get a lot of comments and enjoy answering questions as well as gaining new insights into issues and products.

    On my business blogs I hardly ever get comments and don't expect them.
    I'm writing to provide information and resources, not to generate discussion. This is where many RE Bloggers get discouraged.  They haven't come to understand that the nature of the business blog is looking for qualified potential clients.  Your efforts aren’t going to get a lot of feedback until the audience is ready to reveal themselves to you.

    If you have the need for feedback then get a Twitter account or become a member of a forum where you can have that yearning met.

    It is too bad that many RE bloggers get discouraged because they aren't receiving comments on their posts.  In a social network, you expect to find two way communication.  On a RE Business Blog, however, for the most part, you aren’t going to attract people that are looking to build an online relationship. Your audience is trying to find information and someone they can trust to help them buy or sell real estate. This is falls under the category of being a ‘short term need’.

    Outsiders-to-the-discussionWho Should Be Commenting On Your Blog?

    Finally, if you are authoring a Real Estate Business Blog directed at potential buyers and sellers then you must commit to them as an audience.

    Comments left by other agents on your blog are actually polluting your message.

    Once again, at the Lab I expect agents to be leaving comments.  And, to the chagrin of some, when it comes to my RE Business Blogs it is rare I approve a comment from a Real Estate Agent.  My take is that if I get too many ‘agent comments’, my target audience will feel they are the outsiders to the discussion.

    When a potential buyer or seller is ready to comment I want them to feel welcome to participate and not be preconditioned to think only agents leave comments on the blog.

    What is your target audience?
    Who are you writing to and for?
    Is your blog something people would subscribe to if it were a magazine?
    Are you meeting targeted short term needs?

    Answer these questions and you will gain a greater understanding and grasp of your Subscription and Comment Expectations.

    Thanks Dave!  We love having you on the Vine.

    Dave Smith: Realtor, Techie, and Blogger for the following blogs:
    Real Estate Blog Lab
    Tucson Real Estate In The News
    Oro Valley Real Estate
    For No REal Reason

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    7 Compelling Reasons Google AdSense Will Ruin Your Real Estate Blog
    A Clever and Effective Way To Gain More Real Estate Blog Subscribers

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    VFlyer - One of My Favorite Tools Just Got Sharper!

    VFlyer - One of My Favorite Tools Just Got SharperI got a sneak peak the other day at the new and improved VFlyer service for Real Estate (virtual property flyers), and things are looking good!

    What’s that?  You don’t know VFlyer yet?  Oh man!  These guys are great.  I’ve blogged here on them before, but it’s worth another mention.

    For free* you can do all of the following for a property listing:

    1. Produce a sweet looking PDF Flyer/Brochure (it prints nicely too).
    2. Launch a stand-alone website/flyer (add a domain name: www.123ElmSt.com**).
    3. Promote it automatically on Zillow, Trulia, GoogleBase, Yahoo, Vast, Oodle, FrontDoor and many more.
    4. Receive code to post handsomely on Craigslist or Ebay
    5. Showcase it on your blog/website as a page or in the sidebar.

    *There are different levels of pricing, starting with free.
    **Custom domain names are an extra cost.

    So what’s new at VFlyer?

    2 major changes will available in the incredibly near future:

    1. Customize Your VFlyer Property Templates.

    With the option of uploading background and header images, VFlyer members can give their themes a higher degree of branding than ever before. In the past, customers who wanted this degree of branding would pay a $349.00 fee for VFlyer to design a branded theme for them. With the new capabilities, most members will be able to do it themselves or engage their graphic designer to create a background and/or header image.  I say “Sweet!”

    2. Dozens of Real Estate Templates/Backgrounds Designed for Nationally Known Brokerages.

    Here are a few of the brands they have launched:

    RE/MAX
    Coldwell Banker
    Keller Williams
    Century 21
    Prudential
    ERA
    Weichert Realtors
    EXIT Realty
    GMAC Real Estate
    Sotheby’s International Realty
    Realty Executives
    Long & Foster
    John L. Scott
    …and at least 15 more.

    No, the gang at VFlyer didn’t pay me to write this up.  They know I am a big fan, and was happy to hear about some of the new improvements.  I know how important it is to know about the best tools to improve your real estate business, and VFlyer Property Flyers are a top 10 tool for sure.

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    Use Your Real Estate Blog to Reach Out and Touch Someone, They'll Touch Back

    ♫Reach Out and Touch Someone♫
    Remember that jingle?

    St-paul-with-red-inkUse Your Real Estate Blog to Reach Out and Touch Someone, They'll Touch Back
    By Teresa Boardman

    The telephone company AT&T used to use it. That was before telemarketers made answering the phone a truly frightening experience.

    Jim and I have had a few conversations over the years; yes it has been years, about voice.  However, neither one of us has written much on the topic.

    It isn’t an easy topic, and I think I have begun to understand it a little better, by listening to the feedback I get from my readers.

    When they meet me in person they tell me that I sound just like my blog.  Good thing because I do everything I can to keep my blog real, honest and unique. I do that by writing about the ordinary in my ordinary voice.  That voice is the easiest to write in, it comes naturally and effortlessly.

    At some point in my formal education, ironically, I was taught that we are not supposed to write like we talk.  My style is simple, and not very wordy.  In business writing, a simple an informal voice is a no-no, same with college papers, or a thesis.  I had one boss who hated everything I wrote and would scribble all over it with a red pen.

    My blogs are different, they are informal, and red pens mess up the screen. Writing about the ordinary in an ordinary voice is a way of reaching out and touching people.  Writing in a conversational tone, and throwing in some photographs of Real Estate and of scenery from around town can be almost magical. 

    It is that ordinary, simple voice that our readers listen too and are attracted too. It creates a warm spot on the internet, which can be cold and impersonal.  People fall in love with each other through the internet, that is how powerful words can be. They are attracted to each other through words and then use them to form a bond.

    Writing-about-the-ordinaryI know that I can make friends through the internet.  I used to think they were not real friends, until I started meeting some of them in person.  The friendships are very real and as important in my life as friendships with people who do not live in my computer.

    If it is possible for two people to fall in love through the internet, and it is possible to make friends through the internet, it is also possible to attract clients through it.  It doesn’t depend on great writing; it has to be done through writing that shows who we are, our values, and our areas of expertise.

    Blog posts can be written in that very same voice that is used for writing emails to a friend, the kind of emails that describe a vacation or share an idea.  That voice we use in what we used to call letters. 

    Everyone has a voice. It simply has to be found and used.  Unfortunately, we are taught to write in unnatural ways that make writing a chore, when it should be effortless, and at times fun.  In my case I was never taught to write so it isn’t an issue.  Unlearn what you may have been taught and let that voice come out.

    Your readers will fall in love with you, when you reach out and touch them with your voice.

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    Related Must Reads:
    Can My Real Estate Blog Help Me Talk Like a Woman?
    Finding Your Voice as a Writer of a Real Estate Blog
    Your Audience Is A Moving Target - 4 Ways To Pin Them Down

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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'.

     

    Real Estate Blogging: Money for Nothing, and Your Clicks for Free.

    Dire-Straits-Money-For-NothingI can’t take credit for the title, it came from a conversation I had with Steve Letterman about the value of Real Estate Blogging vs. Pay-Per-Click advertising.  He was explaining how the current rate for a particular target keyword phrase he uses is $2.60/click… and just how quickly that can add up.

    What inspired the call was that he was also seeing bloggers of ours appear in the top spots for this same term, without the nagging financial investment.  “Your clicks for free,” was how he put it.  He was curious as to how this happens, and how quickly he can expect similar results if he were to put in the effort…”What is the effort, exactly, by the way?”

    In an effort to save my fingers from fatigue, here are links to the articles that I have already written, inspired by others with the same questions:

    Kick the Pay Per Click Habit: 7 Reasons Why Real Estate Blogging Is Better For Your Business
    Real Estate Blogging And Search Engines - The News Source Theory
    How Often Should I Blog?

    Since I am not able to take credit for the title of the post, the least I can do is mess with the lyrics of the song:

    Money for Nothing, and Your Clicks for Free.

    Now look at them yo-yos thats the way you do it
    You write the blogs on the big flatscreen
    That ain't workin thats the way you do it
    Money for nothin and clicks for free
    Now that ain't workin thats the way you do it
    Lemme tell ya them guys ain't dumb
    Maybe get a blister on your little finger
    Maybe get a blister on your thumb

    My 6 Favorite Things About BiggerPockets.com

    Deep-pocket-and-tomatoJosh Dorkin and I have had a few conversations over the last few weeks, and the more I learn about what he is doing the more I like it.  I know we normally stick to blogging advice here… but there’s a tie-in with the praise, I promise.

    BiggerPockets is a real estate social network and resource directory that currently boasts 22,354 members.  Since its founding in 2004 as an investing portal, BiggerPockets has revolutionized the way people in the real estate world network, make deals, learn about real estate, and market themselves and their businesses.
     
    Some of the many capabilities for members (membership is free) include:

    Marketing

    1. The BiggerPockets Bulletin
    Think: Digg for Real Estate.  Share your blog articles, links, images, etc. on their real estate social bookmarking platform.  BiggerPockets Bulletin is a closely monitored, a spam free environment that receives 1000’s of unique visitors a day.  Want exposure?  Post your goods here.

    2. BiggerPockets Articles
    Similarly, BoggerPockets Articles is a library/directory of articles posted by users covering all topics under the real estate umbrella.  To improve your inbound link authority, all articles submitted may contain a signature/by-line that includes links back to author sites.

    3. Search Engine Optimized Profiles
    Users can promote their profiles on their blog or website through a choice of many personalized badges.  Additional profile features include, professional trade references, private notes, and much more.

    4. Property Listings
    Users can post property for others to easily search.  Email notifications are also available for users to be updated as new property hits the database.

    BiggerPocketsNetworking

    5. BiggerPockets Forums
    This social network is highly active and spam-free with (currently) 97,817 posts for learning, networking and deal-making

    6. BiggerPockets Groups
    BP users can join and create groups where members of similar interests can share news, participate in private forums and more.

    In case you missed it, BiggerPockets is good for bloggers to generate exposure for their articles and listings, as well as take advantage of the network to grow your social media profile and reach.

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    Join me for Viscape University's Panel Discussion on Blogging Your Real Estate Business To The Top

    ViscapeAs you know, we think the blogosphere and Internet offer a great way to market your real estate business and drive leads to you for FREE. Viscape.com, a Web 2.0 social marketplace for buying, selling, and renting vacation homes, agrees. That's why they've invited me to participate in a virtual panel discussion on how to blog your business to the top on Monday, October 6 at 9pm EST / 6pm PST.

    The Bay Area Team and Caribbean Islands Realty owner and blogger Jim Walberg will also be on the panel with me. Jim's extensive knowledge of search-engine optimization and his blogging strategies have helped CaribbeanIslandsRealty.com get more than 35,000 hits from 16 different countries each month.

    Jim and I will be talking about the ins and outs of blogging and marketing real estate on the Internet. We'll also share some of the strategies that have made our businesses so successful.

    Whether you're new to blogging or a seasoned pro needing some SEO direction, I hope you'll join us for this free teleconference. To attend, just RSVP to RSVP@viscape.com, and then start posting your questions for me and Jim Walberg in Viscape.com's Real Estate Forum. While you're there, get a head start on driving leads to you by posting your vacation properties for FREE.

    Viscape will email you a call-in code on Friday, October 3, so you can dial in on Monday, October 6 at 9pm EST/6pm PST.

    Hope to see you there!

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    Related Must Reads:
    How Does Real Estate Blogging Actually Generate Leads?
    Looking For Ready To Act Buyers? Blog These Proven To Succeed Real Estate Topics
    The 7 Reasons Why Your (Future) Clients Should Care That You Are a Real Estate Blogger

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