Here’s a little story on what helped launch RCG, while…

…previous real estate blogs weren’t getting much traffic.

About the same time I started blogging about real estate, Google came out with gmaps.   In order to build a little buzz around my new site, I built a little app on top of the their platform that put NWMLS data on top of a google map. Because Google didn’t even have an API for the service at the time, this app was just novel enough to earn a bunch of great inbound links from some very well-ranked “tech” bloggers who NEVER would have linked to a real estate site under normal circumstances.

The reason this is relevant is that these tech bloggers had much better google juice than anyone in the real estate community, and by earning a bunch of links from them, RCG was able to quickly do much better in generating relevant search engine traffic than any other real estate blog. Once I had search engine traffic, the rest fell into place. I was able to attract better writers because they could quickly see (based on the leads they were getting) that they were getting results… and in turn these great writers helped generate even better search engine rankings to RCG in a beautiful recursive process…

I mention this now because Greg seems to discount the value that new bloggers can get from reaching out to existing real estate bloggers (i.e. he says that it is not in their best interest to cloud their marketing message). However, I remember a time before Greg had hit the scene when no real estate bloggers had any google juice to give.   Those links from the tech community had a tremendous (and very quick) impact on the traffic that Google sent my way.

While the tech sites that linked to RCG were not a relevant audience, I heavily reached out to those people because I knew enough about Google’s search algorithms to know that a bunch of links from high ranking sites would only help RCG in the long run… and those links definitely had an impact.  They gave RCG a foundation to attract quality contributors because their content was getting read.

Note that last bit is extremely important… I think most local real estate blogs fail (and most do fail!) because they are not getting read quickly enough and it is frustrating to write for a community before your community has arrived.

I totally follow the logic of creating local content geared towards creating interesting content for your local community (and was dedicating serious time in my presentations to this idea before I remember hearing Greg talk about it), I simply do not think it makes sense to say that real estate professionals should not engage the RE.net on their local blogs.

As a matter of fact, if I was starting up a new local real estate blog, the first thing I’d do is reach out to the community of people who could give me links! (Never doubt the power of linkation!). You could try to get these links from your local community (i.e. the school system website, local little league site, local coffee shop websites, local chamber of commerce sites, etc.) or you could reach out to the existing infrastructure (i.e. the RE.net) that can quickly get your site ranked. Here’s a hint: getting links from well-ranked RE.net sites is MUCH easier than getting links from local community sites.
Once you’ve got some Google juice built up on your new blog, the rules change. At that point, you may want to ONLY focus on local issues… or you may find that you are getting most of your clients by taking on consumer-oriented issues as Ardell does on RCG… or you may find that you want to tackle a different approach…   The critical bit is that once you’ve stored some google juice on your URL, you’re options open up tremendously. Until you get some quality inbound links, your real estate blog is really only an idea.

So how do you get some inbound links to your new real estate blog? I can think of three ways: (1) Pay/beg other bloggers. (2) Do something incredibly interesting. Or (3) engage the RE.net community by giving lots of outbound links.

The first option is a miserable way to blog. The second takes a great stroke of inspiration. And the third option is time-consuming but something just about any real estate professional can definitely take on.  So if you do decide to start writing a new real estate blog, don’t go out on your own.   Enjoy the low-hanging fruit of the RE.net!

Besides just beating Zillow, I find it impressive…

…that Trulia was able to grow traffic throughout the fall and especially in December.

Trulia Traffic Growth

Joel wonders if the Zillow team is happy to be out of the spotlight, but I say no way.  Momentum is critical at this point to both companies. Momentum opens doors, gets better press coverage and keeps investors happy… so hats off to Trulia.

I read about the tracking of feed views…

…that WP.com is automatically doing of my posts the other day, but didn’t play with the new feature right away. My loss. This is great stuff.

For any posts, I can now see how many times the article is read in a feed reader in addition to how many times is is read on this site. Interestingly, it appears that any given blog post on 4realz gets between 100 and 200 views from feed readers.

What does this mean for 4realz traffic?

On a recent article about Altos Research, you can see that almost all the traffic came from “syndicated views” or feed readers.

Altos Research article stats

Whereas on my recent post about Zillow’s auction patent, most of the traffic came from links from other blogs, so this chart looks very different:

Zillow auction patent article stats

This is good stuff and I’ll be fascinated to see how the syndicated views change over time.

45 Things I Learned at RE Connect

(some names left anonymous to protect the innocent)

  1. There’s a hell of a lot of VC money floating around this industry. I was surprised at how many people there were with lots of VC funding. Joel seemed to notice the same thing: “a whole new crop of real estate search sites that are going to be hitting the market”
  2. Reporter from the REALTOR Magazine was in the audience of our presentation. (thanks to Ines for pointing out the story: NAR is opening their eyes to blogging.)
  3. Zillow dropped their beta tag.
  4. Zillow’s big press release (picked up by many others) was a case of “make-news”. I’d be worried for their business if they weren’t making the improvements they announced (adding more listings, improving the quality of Zestimates, dropping beta, etc.). Joel doesn’t write much about of the improvements, while Greg quotes it extensively and seems to gush about their RETS announcement, which even the Zillow team pulls back from in the comments.
  5. Trulia was profitable for at least one month last year expects to be profitable at some point this year.
  6. According to comScore, Trulia had more traffic than Zillow in December! (Congrats Mike on the awesome prediction)
  7. comScrore and Hitwise are measuring traffic on two different internets. (Hitwise shows Trulia with 1.45% of category traffic and Zillow with 2.28%).
  8. Also interesting from the Hitwise report is that Move.com moved from #2 to #5, while RE/Max moved from #2 to #5. That’s big enough news where I would have expected to see a Press Release. Realtor.com at #1 and Move.com at #2 is huge for Move, Inc., even if it is only for December. (Oddly, I’m getting all the Hitwise numbers for December from an Inman Blog article on my feedreader. The actually article was removed from their site for some reason, so maybe the numbers are butchered!)
  9. Vast.com acquired Adaptive Real Estate Services (ARES). (That answers one question, although it does not give me any confidence that Vast.com has thought out their listing content acquisition strategy)
  10. Lots of neighborhood projects coming out. Here’s my (unsolicited) advice to anyone looking to build a successful social network in this space. If you really want consumer adoption, you’ve got to have a clear answer to this question: “What’s the consumer benefit?” So, so, so many of the “social networks” I saw this week were focused around real estate professionals. ActiveRain was an anomaly. Be able to explain your consumer proposition clearly, or don’t expect success.
  11. With that said, VillageMaker from RealProSystems will likely be a success… in that agents will the product, not in the sense that consumers will use it. This is the ultimate social network with the real estate professional at the center of the transaction in that a real estate agents must invite consumers to this platform. Sounds great, except it won’t work for all but a few agents.
  12. I am now the owner of “all the marbles”.
  13. Google staff really don’t like it when you take pictures inside their offices. Don’t be evil (Jay noticed this too!)
  14. Saul Kline is still the same great guy even after becoming CEO of Point2. (Frances has photos). His stated approach for moving Point2 forward is sound, although I’ll let him explain that approach when he’s ready.
  15. Lots of start-ups are twisting and turning to think how they an make their products more REALTOR friendly in the hopes of catching some Second Century funding! Mark Lesswing is a popular man at these conferences.
  16. I was surprised how many tech start ups get funding with only the roughest plans to get listings. Teresa gets that this is a mistake!
  17. Trulia launched their Publisher Platform. Robbie loves this! I can’t tell what Joel thinks… and Greg pans the service. I don’t follow Greg’s logic that it weakens overall traffic to Trulia… Mainly because nobody in the online real estate space has enough market penetration to think there are a finite number of users for their services. Trulia needs more listings. If this helps convince more brokers that they need to send their feeds to Trulia, then it is a good move. (Joel has an example of what the branded service looks like on FOREM)
  18. I really liked one startup and can’t wait until they launch in a little bit because I want to see how they market themselves. The product is an (solid) incremental improvement on search, but I don’t think it is enough of an improvement to go viral on its own.
  19. The beer for bloggers event is a great way to start off a conference. (photos on the Zillowblog and Sellsius).
  20. Teresa has some great photos from the week, including this action shot of me. Dito for Jeff.
  21. The WellcomeMat boys are quite the fun crowd. I really want to see them succeed because the technology is top-notch. Next step for them is figuring out a way so that their users don’t have to do their own marketing. If uploaded listing videos were getting hundreds (or even dozens), I think they’d be well on-their-way to being a a must-have product for most agents.
  22. I’m more bullish after RE Connect on Altos Research.
  23. Drew found a way to work at RE Connect. I’m not sure how he pulled it off.
  24. Professor Nouriel Roubini didn’t show up to RE Connect with the idea of making a lot of friends. He was consistently vocal in his belief that the downside to this market is going to be HUGE. He made Noah look like a moderate! (Here’s the video!)
  25. While I didn’t plan to go to many of the sessions, I surprised myself by going to only one session (see previous comment).
  26. I LOVE NYC.
  27. While I enjoy writing the occasional update, I’m simply not a good twitterer. On the other hand, Daniel is the twitter man.
  28. Apparently, there is a $15B dollar opportunity in the online real estate space since I heard multiple people throw that number around.
  29. Rumor has it that Cyberhomes is going to spend a LOT of money on advertising this year in order to reach out to consumers. This is a change from my take on their original approach in that they were going to focus on reaching out to agents by offering them a “white-label Zillow”. I like Marty Frame a lot, but I don’t think ads will do the trick. I hope they have one-more thing up their sleeve.
  30. Kris Berg is always lovely. Offline or online, she is one of my favorite people in the RE.net.
  31. Jay Thompson is another one that I found to be just as great in person. Networking with people like him is the reason to travel to NYC.
  32. The business mind of Damen Pace doesn’t stop moving.
  33. Rudy has some mad video editing skills.
  34. Daniel is the video man! It’s obvious he loves this stuff.
  35. As one would expect, Lockhart is quickly growing his team at Curbed and it was a lot of fun to meet them at the NYT party. From what I saw, Lockhart tried to dampen expansion rumors. He would only talk about Chicago at this point.
  36. BofA bought Countrywide. Lots of commentary on Jillayne’s post on RCG and Brian Brady’s post on Bloodhound.
  37. Redfin’s PR about returning $10M to consumers didn’t do much for me. I’ll be more interested to find out when they start making business model changes in order to get profitable.
  38. People have begun calling Rain City Guide “Ardell’s Blog” behind my back! LOL!
  39. Inman will soon be launching a new website with new features and a new design.
  40. Up Yours! Video TV war! Intothebox.tv rips on BrokerIPtv.com (around second 40). Not to take sides, but I was interviewed by the BrokeIPtv team at RE connect, and will be interested to see what comes out of that. On the other side, Rachel of Intothebox is oddly interesting… In watching, I just keep waiting for something to fall or break.
  41. I could never repeat linkation too many times. I keep repeating myself and people continue to act like it is new information. Please tell me if and when I need to stop with the linkation bit. 🙂
  42. ActiveRain introduced a few new people from their team. Rumor was that they have some funding that they will announce soon.
  43. Brendan King and other ex-Point2 folks were passing out business cards with the company name VendAsta. My guess is that the name is only temporary.
  44. Greg Tracy has branched out the BlueRoof brand to start doing consulting and website building for other real estate professionals. He “gets it”, so I can only imagine further success ahead.
  45. I really do enjoy just about everyone in the RE.net and real estate tech communities. 2008 is going to be fun!

Phew! Now I think I’m caught up so that I can get back to regular updates!

If you think realtor.com dominates real estate search today, then…

…I would concur that realtor.com might dominate real estate search in 2008.    But dominate is WAY too strong of a word because no one dominates real estate search today.

To dominate a market, I’d think you’d have to have something approaching at least 50% market share…  Let’s use eBay as an example (the numbers are a bit dated, but make a valid point)…  Of the 68.4M unique users that visited auction sites in Feb ’06, 66.6M of those users visited eBay.  That means eBay capture over 97% of the market!  That’s dominance!

With under 10% of online real estate traffic, there is considerable upside for realtor.com in it’s quest to dominate the market.