Preparing for video overload as…

… I’ve been asked to be a judge for a real estate video competition sponsored by ActiveRain where the prize (paid trip to see Seth Godin including hotel and airfare!) is pretty sweat! Check out Bob’s post for the details.

Other judges include: Sara Bonert, Marc Davison, Joel Burslem, and Rudy Bachraty. This should be fun!

Inbox: How do I connect my blog with my website?

I got an email this morning with a question I’ve received many times in different formats, so I figured it was worthy of a blog post:

Hello Dustin,
I am just reading the article in the Realtor Mag. I would like to talk with you about blogging. How do you set it up to connect to your web site? Is it easy? Are their any cost?

I broke your question into two parts.

Part 1: How do you set it up to connect to your web site?

As I see it, there are three main options:

1) Your blog is hosted on a different domain than your agent website

  • Link from your blog to your website (and assuming you want to send traffic the other way), then a link from your website to your blog)
  • Use a widget to grab the latest headlines from your blog and add them to your website. I don’t recommend grabbing ALL of the text from the post for duplicate content reasons, but there is nothing wrong with grabbing the headlines and/or a snippet of text

RCG Screenshot

2) Your blog is hosted as a subdomain or subdirectory of your agent website

  • It is a very viable (and not necessarily difficult to implement) to have your blog be part of your website and this has the benefit of concentrating the inbound link benefits that you’ll get from having your real estate site.

3) Your blog is your agent website

  • I got tired of managing a largely ineffective agent website and actually took the site down completely once we started to get so much more traction through Rain City Guide. There’s no reason you couldn’t still have all the typical features of a agent website (about me, testimonials, MLS search, etc.) on a typical agent blog.

Part 2: Is it easy? Are their any cost?

Easy is very relative depending on the outcome you want to see. Setting up a blog is relatively painless (and free) on WordPress.com or Blogger. There are also real estate specific blogging solutions, some of which are free (ActiveRain, Zolve, RealTown, and REALTOR.com) and some of which cost money (Incredible Agent, Ubertor, Real Estate Tomato, RSS Pieces and Realivent). Obviously, when you’re willing to pay, there is often better integration, education and the ability to customize the blog to fit in with your online marketing plan. (Don’t have an online marketing plan? It might be time for a 4realz Education. 🙂 )

I’ve had it in mind to do a bit more research on existing blog platforms specific to real estate (costs, features, etc.). I should have something ready to publish within the next few weeks.

The 1st 4RealzEd event was yesterday and…

4ealzEdI think I’ve recovered enough now to actually post about it! 🙂

Despite our best efforts to be prepared, the day started off a bit rough with a nearby mudslide taking out power in our building in the morning (meaning no hot coffee and no projector) and a 9-car pileup on a nearby freeway slowed me down tremendously. AHHH

So, to say it started rough would be an understatement… But once it started, things seem to get on a roll quickly.

I started with an overview of consumers expectations in a web2.0 world to set expectations for the day… Jim followed up with presentation on optimal features and design for a real estate website. Then it turned back to me for a presentation on social networking… lunch… then another presentation by me on creating value through blogging about communities. And we returned for the day’s finally with Jim giving a engaging presentation on measuring and tracking marketing results to ensure a positive ROI.

All around, it was a wonderful day! And, maybe they were just being nice, but the attendees who talked with me said only good things about the education.

Because I promised attendees I would give them a list of all the sites I mentioned in my presentations (so that they wouldn’t have to ask me to spell out each URL), here is the list for everyone’s benefit.

Consumer Expectations in a Web2.0 World:

Engaging in Social Networking to Earn Clients

Using Blogs to Build Communities

I wasn’t tracking the sites that Jim mentioned, but there were not nearly as many of them in his presentations…

And thanks again to all the bloggers who have helped spread the word about the event, the sponsors who helped us keep the price low and all the attendees who made the day possible!

I received some incredible feedback from all three groups, which is going to lead me to make some changes to the upcoming events (I’ll announce those early next week!). Great stuff all around. Thanks again to everyone!

Greg thinks Top Producer is vulnerable to…

the Zillow machine, but I seriously doubt it…

I 100% agree that someone could seriously improve on the existing CRM products for agents… During our after-lunch conversation this past week, I mentioned that if Trulia really wants to reach marketing dominance some day, they should offer a free, high-quality CRM to agents. But first, they’d need to start thinking of themselves as a company that provides marketing tools to agents, not just as an advertising platform (and interestingly, I get the impression that Rudy is already thinking this way!).

However, I don’t think Rudy is enough to make it happen for Trulia.

Why? Because to call either Trulia or Zillow a “marketing” platforms for agents would be to confuse marketing with advertising. The core DNA of both companies is to build consumer-oriented products and then find a way to integrate agent-advertising into those products. Other than the (very valuable) service of getting agents in from of consumers, I’m yet to see either company make the mental leap toward thinking what should they do to make the day-today business of agents easier or more efficient.

Just as it is in TP’s DNA to build products for agents, T and Z still live in a world of consumer-oriented products. My guess is that some of the executives at T or Z would view the development of pure agent-centric products (like a CRM) as selling-out the consumer experience of their core sites.

Nonetheless, if T or Z (or Roost!), decided to build some agent-centric projects, I’d argue that they’d likely open up some interesting business opportunities and potentially do a much better job endearing themselves to their core advertisers.

And a quality CRM is only one way they could go… CMS, market intelligence, and transaction coordination are three other (obvious) areas where existing agent-centric products are either seriously lacking features or the market is seriously under-served.

But just because the market is starved, doesn’t mean T or Z have any interest in coming to the rescue. As a matter of fact, inertia suggests to me that they are not even thinking about taking on this market and TP executives are right not to worry about Zillow.

(Are you having a hard time translating this post? A key can be found here.)

With the amount of plagiarism that gets created by real estate bloggers…

… I can’t say I’m surprised that Greg opted to forgo an award this week

One of the things that my team at Move did was send out “plagiarism” notices to agents if we noticed they were posting non-original content on the REALTOR.com blogging platform.  We tried to phrase it nicely so as to encourage good content and let agents know that if they started writing good stuff they *could* get featured on the Let’s Talk blog (pretty much the only carrot at my team’s disposal).

Nonetheless, every once in a while we would get a defense of stolen content that was not only adamant, but borderline comical.  For example, we had multiple people tell us they had licensed the use of blog posts from RCG, BHB or the REZ (definitions), while others would claim their content was “unique” because they had flipped the order of paragraphs or merged two articles (often with only slightly comprehensive results).

While there are some services out there that will help you determine if an article is plagiarized, here is an easy way to do it using Google:

  1. Copy-and-paste the first 10 words or so from a random paragraph in an article.  (For no good reason other than she was recently featured, I’ll choose this article by Elizabeth Weintraub).     The words I choose were “But in other parts of the country, especially those where” out of the second paragraph.
  2. Add a quote mark to the front of the string and do a Google search [“But in other parts of the country, especially those where]. The quote mark ensures the only results that get returned will be with words that appear in that particular order.
  3. In this case, the only results returned are from Elizabeth’s AR blog, so it almost definitely her original content.   And while duplicating her stuff on AR and the RDC Featured Blog is probably not helping her SEO out, at least it is not plagiarized.

I think it is also worth noting that all of the search engines have really improved in getting the spam out of their results.   It used to be that if you took a popular article from RCG and did a similar search, the results would be filled with spammy sites… Not so anymore on Google, Yahoo or MSN.