I miss blogging.

Instagram: you gotta pay

While the terms of service changes (and reversals) over at Instagram didn’t bother me much (they probably should have bothered me more), the changes did inspire me to have a few conversations around where original content should live.

It seems the WordPress mobile posting and syndication tools have come a long way in the past few years I want to see what it would mean to have my blog be the primary source for my content.

With that in mind, over the next few weeks, my plan is to think “blog first” whenever I feel inspired to share a link or post a photo and see what that looks like when implemented…  For those of you who follow along, hope you enjoy the ride!

Can you safely jump off a moving freight train?

In college I had a friend who was very much into hopping freight trains. So much so that he wrote his thesis for his Cultural Anthropology major on the hobo lifestyle… (and if I remember it right, he was the editor of a popular ‘zine for hobos.)

I learned one really valuable lesson from this friend on my first “ride” down the California coast: He showed me how to get off a moving train. You have to wait until it slows down to about 20 mph or slower and then slowly navigate down one of the ladders on the side of a grainer (or any or freight car) until you can “run” along the ground flintstone-style. If you try to just jump off a moving freight train, bad things can happen! But if you first run along the train, then you can get some grip on the ground and run along the train until you can safely let go of the ladder.

I start my 2012 blogging off with this story because for much of 2011, I felt like I was on one hell of a fast moving freight train and there was no chance to safely jump off. Now that 2012 is here, I’m thinking it’s time to take a deep breath, climb down that ladder, get some grip on the ground and welcome in a new year.

With that said, some great things happened in 2011… I traveled more than any other time in my life, starting dating an amazing woman, moved into a new place only blocks from the beach in Santa Monica, started a full-time gig with the most interesting startup in Southern California, and created some crazy good memories with my kids.

Suffice to say 2011 will not be forgotten any time soon.

[Also, thanks to thecoug for the great creative commons photo. It brought back some great memories of catching the trains up to Davenport!]

Real Estate WordCamp is Coming to NARdiGras!

I’ve been working with the NAR team to put together a WordPress event at NARdiGras, and couldn’t be more excited that we’re ready to start announcing details!

In a nutshell, we’ve broken the half-day event into two tracks — one for beginners and one for more advanced WordPress users — and the folks we’ve agreed to present are some of the most knowledgeable WordPress people in real estate.  All the sessions will be be on the morning of Monday, November 8th.

Below is a summery of the schedule, although this page on the NARdiGras site will quickly become the definitive source of all session information soon!

Track 1: An Introduction to WordPress

Track 2: Maximizing WordPress

The idea is that if you’re relatively new to WordPress (and even if you don’t have a wordpress site yet!), you should be able to leave the first track with enough knowledge to feel comfortable setting up a site and have an idea for what a successful website marketing strategy would look like.

For those who are comfortable blogging, Todd Carpenter is going to be hosting the Maximizing WordPress track. With Kelley, Steve and Gahlord as presenters, you’re sure to get tons of tools and strategies to take your online marketing to the next level.

I couldn’t be more excited to be heading to New Orleans again and look forward to seeing you there!

How important is creativity in your SEO campaign?

A few months ago, the Council of Residential Specialists asked if I’d be interested in giving a webinar presentation on SEO.  Of course I was interested (It’s scheduled for tomorrow!) and in putting the presentation together, it forced me to reexamine the state of SEO… and how to really get value out of an SEO campaign.

If I could summarize my point of view it’s that creativity is key to a successful SEO campaign… at least if you want to have any impact whatsoever.

When looking at SEO factors, there are three main levers you can pull… They are to

  • Improve the on-site factors like titles, URLs, keywords, etc.
  • Improve user-interaction factors like bounce rate
  • Improve off-site factors like quality of inbound links and anchor text

If you’re creating interesting content on a decent blog platform like wordpress then you’ve got the first two areas because there’s only so much that can be done on your site to improve your SEO…  and you’re more likely to end up spinning your wheels than get real benefits if you spend too much time there.

The real SEO benefits come from improving off-site factors like inbound links to your site… (Honestly, I’ve been saying this for years, and it’s one thing that never has and likely never will change in terms of SEO value!).   One way to understand this better is that without quality inbound links, a site will never rank.  However, a site with a horrible on-site SEO (title, URL structure, bad use of keywords, etc.) can rank just fine if it’s got enough quality inbound links!

So anyway, the point I really want to make in the presentation is there are some proven strategies for generating lots of quality inbound links… and ALL of them involve a bit of creativity and some time.   If this is a topic you’re interested in, consider joining us tomorrow when I’ll dive deep into using social networks, social bookmarketing, social news and social group sites to generate great inbound links.

Other resources you might find interesting/helpful:

Also, if you know of any other great SEO resources, let me know so I  can share them with others!

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.):

BuzzRE OC Wrap-up!

The BuzzRE  OC event was so awesome…   I met so many great people and the speakers came through with awesome presentations. Thanks again to everyone who took the time to join us!

Some of the highlights were:

  • Jon Lansner: Compared to any time in recent memore, there’s actually some good news to talk about in the real estate market
  • Stacey Harmon: Understanding which social networks to focus on based on your business practice
  • Dale Chumbley: Ways to bridge your real-life community activity with your Facebook community
  • Robert Luna: Importance of focusing on your home search consumers
  • Gahlord Dewald:  Always be testing!
  • Loren Nason: Get on dropbox.  It’s time!
  • Garron Selliken: from @YvonneArnoldCRS:   “@garrons “what is the moment that u set new appt?” Then look at it backwards, how did u get there. Work 2 get in position more often #BuzzRE

And it all couldn’t have happened without Linsey Planeta putting a ridiculous amount of time and passion into the day.  She rocks!

One of the things I most enjoyed about helping to organize BuzzRE was organizing the presentations…  I had every speaker email me their presentation in advance so I could fit them into one solid presentation that didn’t feel like it was jumping around too much.   I’m pretty darn proud of the final product and super-happy to share it with you via slideshare.

What a great day!  It really is awesome to see so many folks get excited about implementing advanced strategies and websites.   If you’re looking for inspiration, check out this page of advanced real estate websites.

And after such an awesome event, it’s now time to turn to organizing another awesome BuzzRE in Portland in early June. Want to get involved? Let us know!

If you have feedback about yesterday’s event, I know all of us would sure would love to hear it!

WordPress at Real Estate Connect SF?

Are you breaking the rules with WordPress in real estate? I wanna know!

wordpress sticker on laptopThe good folks at Inman News have asked me to moderate the WordPress Summit at Real Estate Connect this summer and I couldn’t be more excited!

While we haven’t tried to confirm any speakers yet (that’s where I want your help), I’m positive the lineup is going to be awesome. We’re going to be covering themes, plugins, strategy, advanced installs, listings, and the future of WordPress!

The idea of a half-day at Real Estate Connect dedicated to WordPress is simply awesome.   I love WordPress and have been using it since the very birth of Rain City Guide (over 5 years ago!).  Over the years I’ve been a part of too many WordPress blogs than I could count… And unlike a lot of software I was using in 2005, WordPress has continued to improve with each iteration!    Especially now that website vendors are building in advanced IDX and CRM tools into the platform, it’s become a no-brainer option for real estate professionals!

By the way, did you know the new conference website for Real Estate Connect was built on WordPress?

I think it’s a pretty slick design and implementation, although I’m probably a bit biased since we designed and built the site!  🙂

Coming full circle… If you know someone in the real estate space doing interesting things with WordPress, send ’em my way!   I want to make this the best half-day on WordPress educational event around!

And finally, a huge hat-tip to Dan Woolley for the idea behind this post when he wrote about his ConnectTech Workshop!

Fitting Internet Marketing into an Agent’s Biz Flow

Over the past 6 months, I’ve had numerous (too many to count) conversations with Garron Selliken about tools we could build for HomeQuest clients and/or M Agents…  Rather than just building cool stuff because we *could*, Garron consistently brings almost every conversation about new tools back to an understanding of how the tool is going to fit into the Agent’s business flow.   So much so, that I’ve completely reoriented my thinking and developed a mental model of the agent’s biz cycle in order to track where various tools and ideas fit into the work flow of an agent.

After presenting this “mental” model to a few different audiences, I’ve realized that this model is not only providing the backbone for my presentations, but also for how we think of our product development cycle at HomeQuest…  And because I’m using this concept as the backbone of the BuzzRE OC event we’re currently organizing for later this month, I thought I’d share this slide and my reasoning behind it’s importance.

The idea behind the slide is that there’s a core cycle common to all agent biz cycles:

  • Using some type of lead generation technique/tool, agents identify prospects out of their sphere or by directly reaching out to consumers
  • Using client management techniques/tools, agents provide the information and tools so that they can turn help prospects become clients
  • Using sphere building techniques/tools, agents bring past clients and other people from their community into their sphere

For many highly successful agents, the core cycle (sphere to prospects to clients to sphere ) is the basis for their “referral” business… which, even among “internet-savvy” realtors, is the main source of business for most realtors.

The main reason I like this tool is that it helps shape how I think about various tools.   In other words, an agent’s “hub” (i.e. website/blog/home search tool) can be an awesome lead generation tool, but only part of the story if good client management tools are missing.   Other tools, like DocuSign, don’t add much to lead generation, but can be valuable in the client management stage of the cycle.   And finally, some tools, like Facebook, Twitter, and even largely blogs, are awesome at sphere building, but rarely make for effective lead generation or client management tools.

Tomorrow, I’m going to publish the outline for the BuzzRE OC Event and start to explore how the presentation from each of the speakers (we have 8 great speakers lined up!) can fit into the agent’s business flow.  However, for today, I thought I would end by asking a few questions that this chart raises for me:

  • Are there any agent work-flows that wouldn’t fit into this cycle?
  • Where does “your” product fit into this cycle?
  • What parts of the cycle are most in need of useful tools?