Forget Google – Realtor Uses Local Strategies to Win Blog Visibility

Simi Valley, California Realtor Ted Mackel is often referenced as a case study of the “Techie Realtor”.  His blogging efforts, use of video, use of Facebook Pages and Twitter, and his RE BarCamp networking, certainly qualify him as a great example of the modern Realtor.  The core of his strategy though is HomeBuysBlog.com, his blog which serves as the hub of his online efforts (Realtor Heather Elias, also recently applauded for her innovative marketing efforts, and I spoke about this kind of “hub and spoke” digital marketing system at a recent conference in San Francisco – more details and a recap of our presentation can be found here).

In light of Ted’s “techie-ness” it was a tweet from Ted about an off-line success that caught my eye – Ted Tweeted:

Half the people at my open house today know about my real estate blog

In  light of Joel Burslem’s recent post on The Death of the Real Estate Blog, the blog recognition from Ted’s open house attendees certainly seems a good sign for Ted’s visibility and blogging efforts.  So I asked him what he thought contributed to that and his response and overall strategy is what elevated him to be the focus of this Agent Applause.

Ted tells people about his blog when he meets them:

When I had my card out, I always tell them that I write a real estate blog for Simi Valley.

When I door knock, I pitch my blog way before talking about their house.

It doesn’t get less techie than this!  Who needs Google when you can simply TELL people in your area about your blog.  When he meets a prospect he tells them:

I write a blog about Simi Valley.  There is lots of detail information there about market conditions, what’s selling, what’s not selling, tips on how to deal with things as a homeowner which affect your ability to sell the house.  This is a place where you can get your questions answered.

All prospects need to know is the URL, and Ted is making sure they have it.  His blog is the top piece of contact information on his business card and when paired with the verbal pitch for his blog, he is gaining readership.

Most people are interested in homes or market conditions or community information, even if they are not actively buying or selling.  Ted’s blog provides him a non-salesy, value added way for local people he meets every day to get information they are interested in.  He provides them a resource to satisfy their curiosity while concurrently branding himself as the expert providing the information.  With content that has been built up over the two years that Ted has been blogging, he has created not only an online resource that reflects the evolving state of the real estate market in his community, but also an online resume reflective of Ted’s expertise and perspective.  Prospects in all stages of the buying process are able to research Ted and have a context for him that provides a basis for conversation when he meets them face to face, for example, at his open house.

Comment Blogging on the Local Newspaper’s Website:

Ted uses the local paper’s on line website to comment on articles that are reaching a local Simi Valley audience.  This strategy is referred to as comment blogging and Ted invests time responding to real estate and community related news stories from the Ventura County Star.  In his comments, he is sure to leave a URL with a link back to his blog.  The link back to his blog gives people a place to research him further if they are interested in who this guy is who commented on the paper’s story.

Again, this strategy provides Ted an opportunity to articulate his real estate expertise and perspective and gives readers of the online newspaper an opportunity to interact, debate, and research him.

Regardless of if you are a blogging Realtor, this is an interesting strategy that can yield some visibility for you.  Don’t have a blog?  What about a LinkedIn profile, a Facebook business page, or a bio on your brokerages website?  Any of these can act as a link to use in a blog commenting strategy on websites targeted to your local community providing a place for people to learn more about you.

Blogging Evolved

Often blogging is discussed as a marketing effort in itself.  But what Ted has done, is create a marketing strategy in promotion of his blog.  The blog in itself isn’t just a marketing tool, it is a container for showcasing his expertise.  As a result, the blog becomes not only a resource for the community that he can use as an approach with prospects he meets, but also an online resume supporting his career as a real estate professional.

Favorable search engine placement is an often talked about benefit of blogging and if you Google “Ted Mackel” his blog is #1 in the results (that’s good).  But is Google what helped Ted receive 50% awareness about his blog at his open house?  I’m certain it didn’t hurt, but based on Ted’s discussion with the open house visitors, it appears that his locally based marketing practices detailed above are paramount to the level of recognition that he and his blog are receiving.

Important to note is that this isn’t a flip-the-switch and have success kind of strategy.  Ted has been blogging for two years, has handed out thousands of cards, knocked on hundreds of doors, left dozens of blog comments, and held countless open houses.  His success is the result of hard work, persistence, and execution on an underlying strategy that integrates his on-line and off-line efforts in order to showcase his local market and real estate expertise.  It’s creative, effective and definitely worthy of applause.

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  • http://www.marchantteam.com Cindymarchant

    Why am I not surprised he is a Keller Williams agent. I took a blogging course two years ago with a KW coach and her tips have helped my blogging too! I picked up several great tips to take my blog even further. Great job!
    Cindy in Indy

    • http://PhoenixRealEstateGuy.com Jay Thompson

      Cindy – just curious as to why you feel Ted's brokerage affiliation helps make him an effective blogger? Is it just because of the KW classes? There is a wealth of info out there (this very blog we're reading is just one example) that aren't brokerage specific. And there are certainly non-KW agents who blog effectively (and to be blunt, there are KW agents who don't get it too).

      Ted / Stacey – great job on this article. There is clearly a place in the off-line world for marketing your on-line efforts. I would add one caution to “comment blogging” — people using that tactic (which can work very well) need to be cautious of the Terms of Service of the site they are commenting on. Some don't allow links in comments and will block or send you into their spam filters for doing so. If you get tagged in a large shared-database spam filter such as Askimet, it can be difficult to get out of it…

      • http://www.AgentApplause.com Agent Applause

        Great word of caution about the comment blogging strategy Jay. It's actually a great piece of advice for ANY of the internet properties and social networks that Realtors choose to participate in, particularly for business development. It is certainly a pain to read through that stuff, but it certainly can matter in the strategy you embark on. Facebook is a classic example – once you understand that profiles are for personal use and pages are for commercial use, and that it is against the TOS to have 2 profiles, your strategy about how to use the network changes.

        Thanks for your comments.

      • http://twitter.com/RealtorTed Ted Mackel

        Jay,

        That is a good point on the commenting which I really have to be cognizant of my strategy. We are having a pretty heated race for Mayor here and I have not been able to post under my login at the paper. I have not gone over board with my comments so I was wondering if they closed that login due to the comment blogging on the RE side?

        On the company issue. Mariana Wagner runs the 6 month blogging coaching session. I think that is the where the comment is coming from. I think the it's the luck of the draw that she happens to run that program.

        I don't consider myself better than any other bloggers, I have a long way to go to match the traction your have put together Jay. I think the turning point for me was when I met people like you, Dustin Luther and others. I was trying it on my own with no examples, nothing to measure against. I think the RE.net community which you, Stacey and many others are a big part of really help people like myself improve. I am not sure if I would be working at this on this level if it weren't folks like yourself Jay. So Thank You in a very big way for sharing with us! :)

  • http://twitter.com/RealtorTed Ted Mackel

    Thank you very much Stacey. Great Article (can I say that?). One thing I like about having a blog instead of a website is that the information is there 24-7-365. I can add new information at will without having to make a call to a webmaster. The cost of my blog without the idx is $3.00 per month for hosting and last year I paid a one time fee $87 for my Thesis WordPress template. Another $7.00 annually to pay for my domain. So in the bang for the buck category – I am very happy.

    I am not too worried about being a newsletter or magazine or making that my goal. I'd rather it be a repository of information for the people in my market. That they can have access to this information at their leisure. I am not sure how many people actually read email newsletters – free time is big for everyone.

    I think what Joel misses in his article is that people like myself, who are in smaller geographical communities have a higher potential and payoff with a properly blog stragtegized blog.

    Because local issues are discussed more intimately in our community, it gives me the ability to showcase my knowledge on how these issues impact the local community.

    Our local economy here is not in great shape, we have a lot of vacancies among shop-owners, the city is trying to run a campaign to encourage residents to shop local. There are couple blogs in town and the local paper to discuss this issue regularly especially with the upcoming election and it creates the perfect environment for me to talk about how these local issues impact the community and leave breadcrumbs back to my blog.

    In either case, people are Googling everything and if you're showing up for job interview or as in the case of the real agent's listing appointment or buying appointment; there's a high likelihood now and even more so the future your name is going to get Googled. My strategy plays puposely strong to that consumer habit. I don't want to come up absent on the Google search results when people are looking for me. What those results say about any of us could be an easy half day lecture ;)

    Joel is correct in that just having a blog is up, is not worth it. But having a comprehensive strategy of how to utilize social media and blogging has definitely created some interesting results for me.

    Anecdotally – What is really interesting is that Realtor Heather Elias and I both used the same WordPress template at one time for our blogs and we worked together on customizing the rotating photo at the top of the template. Even though we don't talk much, it's interesting how our strategies are very similar. Go Heather!!!

    • http://www.AgentApplause.com Agent Applause

      Thanks Ted for your extensive comment and expanded description of your strategy. It is so clear that you have thought this out. We all look forward to watching your continued success as well as the evolution of your strategy.

  • http://twitter.com/lisaheindel lisaheindel

    What is not mentioned here is that offline Ted is warm and welcoming and just an all around nice guy. I'm not at all surprised that people feel comfortable taking his card and carrying that face to face meeting over into blog readership.

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  • Mat

    Cool post! I have just started to read this blog.

    I'm new in Real Estate and instead of blogs I'm thinking of pushing my Facebook page instead. This post is an inspiration though! Keep up the good work Ted and get someone to make a more.. aesthetically pleasing.. business card. :)

    • http://www.AgentApplause.com Agent Applause

      Mat – You bring up a strategy that I often hear agents consider – using your Facebook page as your hub in lieu of a blog. I advocate that good on-line strategy for real estate agents is based in having an online hub, and believe that a Facebook page is a better hub than no hub at all. However, it is very important to understand on key difference between having a blog as a hub and Facebook as a hub. With his blog as his hub, Ted owns the URL, he controls and owns the content, he controls the functionality of the site, and he controls the look of the site (even if he, or any blogging Realtor is not doing the work themselves…the agent is often the legal owner of that property – side note, if you use a developer to build your blog for you, you need to clarify this). Ownership is not in the hands of the Realtor with Facebook. When you sign up for a page, or a profile, or both, you agree to an extensive terms of service that basically confirms that you are playing in Facebook's sandbox. Facebook owns that content, they own the connections that you form, and this comes with some business risk. If Facebook changes anything (which they do ALL THE TIME, often without warning) you are at the mercy of that. If you violate the terms of service, which agents often do (by having two profile accounts, for example), Facebook has the right to shut down your account, without warning. There was recently a case where Facebook simply shut down a real estate website who's URL was in violation of NAR's trademark rules. In one instant, access to 47,000 connections was lost (http://techsavvyagent.com/video/facebook-shuts-…) because Facebook gives no way to rectify a page username selection that is in violation of trademark rules (the page was later reinstated, but likely because of the size of this site which is not at all typical for an agents). Ted is far more immune to this issue – his blog is creating digital connections with local readers, some via RSS, and the only thing that will take that away, is if the user unsubscribes. Certainly, having Facebook as your hub is a simple, and quite possibly an effective way to get started with an on-line business strategy. And in my opinion, it is better than having no hub at all, But agents should go into this strategy with their eyes wide open as it isn't without business risk.

    • http://twitter.com/RealtorTed Ted Mackel

      Mat,

      I tweek my card everytime I print it. I am not sure if I like the design myself, but I know what information I want people to take.

      IMHO – Business cards are a waste of money, environmentally drain resources (paper) and they are the miracle marketing system. It really takes a miracle to get a lead off a business card. A business card functions in the following way for me:

      1. A requirement to leave at listings I show through the lockbox system here in California.
      2. My contact info for other agents in the business.
      3. Client and potential clients who might want my contact info.

      People often stack up these cards and after getting a collection and toss them in the trash. I need to do two things with that card. Give people the location of my blog so they can check me out and use it as a point to collect their Phone number and email as an equal exchange.

      I don't want people to have my card. I want show that I have enough value to end up as a contact in their computer or even better on their phone. I don't want to be the card in the stack that get's tossed. Business cards do not convey value. Face to Face and my message in my blog communicates value.

      As far as Facebook as the center? My blog is the bottom of a very large funnel. I want to be everywhere I can, so my funnel has better chance of collecting higher quality leads. Second, wordpress gives me much more flexibility with my site design and content than I can ever get with Facebook, I self host wordpress so the material is mine and can take it where ever I want. Stacey speaks to that importance.

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  • http://www.MoveToAugusta.com Stacie Wells

    I love what Ted is doing by commenting on the local newspaper’s blog. Very creative. I also feel the same way about how WordPress, theme and hosting expenses give you a huge bang for your buck. I’m working on tweaking mine right now (as always :) ). I also need to explore better offline ways to drive traffic to it. This definitely gave me a lot to think about. Thanks!

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  • http://www.dougfrancis.com DougFrancis

    Good content has legs, so it was only now that I stumbled upon this blog post. I like the title but know that “Mother Google” is a big part of how people find anything on the web.

    I really like the subtle point here, that having a blog gives you more depth when meeting new people. An e-mail or conversation can cause a light bulb to go off… and then you can share your related content that will further explain your understanding of the question. So your blog post are “complimentary” and demonstrate your competency.

    • http://www.HarmonEnterprises.com Stacey Harmon

      Thanks for your comment Doug. Totally agree with your point here and think it only emphasizes what successful social media agents know – that their social media strategy is just an extension of, or as you say “complimentary” to, their off-line activities. They go hand and hand, and when properly utilized, can be very good for a career!