Talking Real Estate SEO with Aaron Majors

I’m working out of Portland this week in prep for the BuzzRE PDX event tomorrow (which is gonna rock thanks to an awesome speaker lineup!)… and the talk of the M Office is Aaron Majors’ success (and enthusiasm) for the SEO work he’s been doing on his Portland Homes site.

Here’s the interview I just posted to Facebook where he talks about the strategies he’s been using to rank for all kinds of terms related to distress properties (foreclosures, auctions,etc.):

Was doing some searching to see how Lins…

Was doing some searching to see how Linsey might be able to turn on Google Apps Labs on her account, when I came across Google’s URL shortener service specific to hosted domains. It was super easy to install and lets me send links out using any subdomain of 4realz. I choose the subdomain “z” (i.e. http://z.4realz.net) for no particular reason.

The idea being I can create my own URL shortener for any site on my domain. Here’s the link to the app using my service: http://z.4realz.net/oyhwh. It’s pretty darn simple, track clicks and appears to have an API architecture. So far, so good…

Why bother with Facebook Pages?

Call me crazy (you won’t be the first), but I think Facebook nailed it with their updated news feeds and new functionality of their Facebook Pages. But before I can explain why, I need to give some background on the difference between a Facebook Page (also called a Public Profile) and the standard Facebook Profile.

A Facebook Page is geared toward giving businesses, brands, public figures, etc. a way to engage an audience on Facebook. With a Standard Facebook Profile, you make “friends” and engage with people on a very one-to-one level. With a Facebook Page, people become “fans” of your page, which doesn’t require you to connect with them at all… In many ways, it becomes a “broadcast” tool similar to twitter, but like twitter, you’ll need to engage with others, be interesting, etc. in order to get any real value out of the tool…

And here’s where it gets interesting…

Like a Standard Profile, Facebook Pages allow you to give status updates, share links, create videos, host discussion boards, and generally interact with other people (your “fans” in this case) in much the same way you might interact with them if you were friends. To get an idea of how you might use features like this, check out my Facebook Page:

fb-pageIf you check out my “wall”, you should notice that since I created the page a few days ago, I’ve left status updates, recorded videos, shared links and generally interacted with people in much the same way I might interact with people using my “personal” profile… (note: you’ll need to be logged into Facebook to see all of the updates)

However, this begs an obvious question… if these Facebook Pages are just like your personal profiles, why bother?

I can think of three reasons:

  • Unlike a standard profile, Facebook Pages are public and get indexed by the search engines
  • With a Page, you *can* send updates to an unlimited number of fans, whereas (I’m pretty sure) Facebook limits you to sending messages to 20 friends at a time
  • Because people become “fans” of a page, you won’t need to follow them back in order to have them follow you

This last point is extremely important to me because as I hit up near 1000 friends, my news feed is getting pretty polluted with updates from people I have no connection to other than we both travel in online real estate circles.

Interestingly, I reached the point on Twitter where there was too much noise a few months ago when I was following around 1000 people. At that point, I would see so many automated tweets (i.e. “just posted on ActiveRain…”, “view my latest blog post at …” and “view my latest listing at…”) that reading my twitter feed felt like a chore.

At one point, I unfollowed a ton of people (over 700), and now that I much more cautious about how I follow, my twitter experience has improved 10-fold as it’s now much easier for me to follow and engage in interesting and (sometimes) meaningful conversations…

Returning to Facebook

Going forward, I’m going to be using my Facebook Page to give online marketing and online real estate tips, links, videos, etc, and my Personal Facebook Profile to connect with family and close friends. While it might seem a bit mean, over the next few weeks, I’m going to “unfriend” a bunch of folks (probably hundreds) whom I simply do not have a personal connection to…

Obviously, I highly encourage anyone reading this post (that means YOU!) to become a fan of my page… and order to give you some encouragement, I can tell you that my plan is to keep the page interesting and worthy of your attention by posting a steady stream of social media links, commentary and videos in a similar (but cleaner!) way that that I was using the 4realz Hotlist.

In the big picture, I’m going to continue to reserve 4realz.net for my “big” ideas, and share my little insights over on my FB Page.

One more thing…

If you made it this far on this long post, I figure you must be a glutton for punishment, so I thought I’d indulge you with a video I posted yesterday on my Facebook page. This video highlights 6 ways Facebook Pages excite me in a similar way that business blogging did nearly 4 years ago when I started Rain City Guide:

n20186119572_5897jpgP.S. Did I mention that Scotty Brown and I both published our pages around the same time (over a cup of coffee the other day)? He thinks that just because he’s a Reality TV star he’s gonna end up with more fans than me. We can’t let that happen, can we? Go become a fan!

P.P.S. I also want to thank some of the folks who first signed up to be my “fans” like Alex Scoble, Scotty Brown, Cecilia Camps, Bob Maiocco, Susie Blackmon, Ines Hegedus-Garcia and Victor Lund. Each and every one of you rock! 😉

7 Tips to Getting SEO Value Out of Your Social Media Efforts

Recently, I was asked by the folks at MOTM to give a talk on Social Media.  I typically present to real estate audiences, so I decided to rethink my usual approach for this tech-audience.  More than anything, I wanted to present something that was worthy of the group.

After more than a few conversations, I decided to explore the “gray” areas of social media, and especially how you can use social media engagement to improve search engine rankings.  It feels like I’ve been living in this gray area for quite a while now, but I don’t often blog about it because most SEO works best when it is not widely shared. 😉

In terms of SEO strategies, the stuff I presented last night was relatively tame (i.e. on the black hat to white hat scale, the ideas trended toward the lighter side of gray). And at the request of more than a few of the people who attended, I’ve decided to publish (most of) the slides I used in the presentation.

As with most of my presentations, the slides don’t begin to tell the whole story.  That’s especially true with this presentation since the conversation that came out of the slides was by far the most informative part of the evening.

Nonetheless, the 7 tips listed below offer some insight into how you can start to improve your website rankings (SEO) by taking part in various social media sites.

SMM for SEO Assumptions
Assumptions Going Into the Presentation

The four assumptions I start out with are:

  • Off-site SEO is where you can get the most bang for your SMM buck
  • You should focus on anchor text of inbound links whenever possible
  • Social media sites can often pass along ridiculously great SEO value
  • You should focus on DoFollow sites whenever possible
White Hat SMM:  Corporate Blog
Tip #1: Create Value on Your Own Site (URL)

The typical corporate blog is about as white hat as they get in the SMM world. Here the company is trying to outreach to consumers and/or clients by providing useful, interesting or otherwise valuable content and thereby earn inbound links and other positive word-of-mouth from their blogging.

Black Hat SMM:  Automation
Background on Black Hat SMM
  • Automation is not all that effective in social media and often pretty easy to detect
  • While there are examples of useful automation (think: google news), most is spam and does not add value
  • [Note: this slide generated a fascinating conversation at the presentation with an active discussion on the role of automation within social networks.]
Gray Hat SMM:  How Hard You Promote
TIP #2: Promote your Posts... HARD!
  • Level of “gray” really depends on how hard you promote.
  • It’s trivial to join/create a group that attempts to “game” the social news/bookmarketing sites.  Is this “black hat” or just using your social network effectively?
  • [Note: I do have a group for online real estate professionals where we help each other promote posts. It’s in invite-only thing, so as long as I know who you are and you run a quality blog, then feel free to let me know if you’re interested in joining.]
Create Active Profiles
Tip #3: Create Active Profiles... lots of them
Get Creative With Your Profiles
Tip #4: Get Creative With Your Profiles
  • One example is that you can use delicious to push “topics” to mybloglog to get SEO value from a “nofollow” site
Play Hard on One Social Network
Tip #5: Play Especially Hard on One Social Network
Develop an Exclusive Database
Tip #6: Develop an Exclusive Database
  • If you can develop something that media outlets want to pick up, then it’s quite possible to drive a ton of traffic and great inbound links by feeding them exclusives
  • In the real estate space, this is celebrity listings, but most industries have their exclusive stuff you can mine from databases
HomeSyn:  Real Estate Listing Syndication
Tip #7: Think SEO When Syndicating
  • While this example is specific to real estate, most industry could benefit from thinking of SEO when they push their content around the web.
  • In this case, I work with agents all the time to create listing detail pages on their sites and then make sure that they link back to those listing detail pages in a savvy way to ensure SEO value is getting past to their site whenever possible.
  • It’s worth noting that I created a syndication tool for my real estate clients called HomeSyn that syndicates listings in a savvy way  (i.e. links back to the listing detail page of an agent’s choice whenever possible).   However, it’s an invite-only tool.   If you have some listings and are interested in testing out the tool, let me know and I consider throwing an invite your way.

If you think I’m wrong or have something to add, let’s continue the conversation in the comments… and if you found this information helpful, then help spread the luv by returning to the top of this post and giving it a digg, save, bookmark, stumble, or whatever it is that  you do!

Introducing the 4realz Hotlist

I’ve had this idea for a long time about how cool it would be to open up a blog to the general public with only minimal moderation to keep out spam, but I could never put all the pieces together until the wonderful folks at WordPress created a twitter-like theme called Prologue.

It was at that point that I knew I had to move 4realz.net to a self-hosted environment so I could realize this long-held dream and open up the site to the rest of you.  Well, after messing with the code for a while to get the site to operate just how I wanted, I’m ready to release what I’m calling the 4realz Hotlist.

4realz Hotlist Screenshot
4realz Hotlist Screenshot

So, here’s the idea…   Once you register with the Hotlist you’ll be able to submit articles to be published on the site.   And because I’m going to be very liberal in what I let get published on the Hotlist, it just became quite trivial to give yourself a link from the 4realz.net domain.

Here’s one way to think about the 4realz Hotlist.   After you write a blog post that you know is great, think to yourself: why did I write this post?   If you can sum it up in one sentence, then publish that one sentence as your 4realz mini-post along with a nice link back to your site.

With that said, don’t limit your activity to simply promoting your own stuff.   You can also use the Hotlist to promote just about anything interesting you find on the web.  And if you check out how I’ve been using the tool over the past few weeks, you’ll see that I’ve been embeding YouTube videos, photos, and generally linking out to anything that catches my eye.

But here’s the catch, I really want to encourage clever, interesting and/or insightful mini-posts.  So to put the incentives in the right places, I’m going to publish the highlights each week here on 4realz.net (Carnival of Real Estate style) AND include the highlights in my weekly emails that go out to many of the most influential people in online real estate.  This means that a clever one-liner is likely to get you some great traffic, some nice inbound links, and in front of some interesting people.

But enough about the tool… You really have to try it out to get a feel for how cool it is to publish a blog post from the homepage a blog, so get over to the Hotlist, register for an account and start posting!

Danilo apologizes for writing the 2nd post on AG that hammers REALTOR.com…

in two days and it reminded me that I’m about to hammer into REALTOR.com for the 2nd time in a short-while…  but I dont’ expect to appoligize at the end… 😉

Today’s beef?

The realtor.com team managing their blog platform is acting reckless.

Here’s the background: Last week, I let the realtor.com team know that Trace at BrokerScience had found some prett bad spam was filtering into a feed of their main blog: Let’s Talk.   I know they received my message because I received both notes and calls from the team thanking me. (Trace was not so lucky in terms of getting feedback).   Plus, at some point last week, they removed the spam from all their existing posts.  So far, so good.

Then today, I noticed that two recent posts on their feed are still spewing out spam (to sites selling Viagra, vicodin, tramadol, etc.).   Here’s a screenshot from my reader to give you an idea:

spam links from realtor.com\'s feed

This is a BIG deal because it means that even after the realtor.com blog platform learned that their platform was compremised (i.e. someone had hacked into their system), they kept the site up in a compremised mode that allowed those same hackers to return and insert more spam links into their posts.

Here’s some more background on this particular hack.   In the past 6 months, I’ve seen two other blogs have this SAME issue and each time I’ve written a personal note to the host.  Yet, I’ve purposefully never blogged about any of these sites getting hacked because I’m afraid that some people will mistakenly blame the WordPress platform.  The reality is that in every case the host had not upgrade to the latest stable version of the software and when they did upgrade, the problem went away.

I honestly don’t have a problem with a host that is running an old version of the software and gets hacked as a result (Been there and learned from that).  What frustrates me in this case is that the realtor.com team knew their site was hacked, but rather than upgrade to the latest version of the software, they left a compromised site live.   That’s just reckless… especially since there are more than a few ways to automate the process