Hacked at Twenty Ten to Revamp 4realz. Check it out!

Feels like it’s been “WordPress-all-day, Every-day” lately! One of the things I’m most excited about is hosting the WordPress WorkShop at Real Estate Connect in a few weeks!

The Inman team did a fantastic job lining up speakers (Check ’em out: Chris Pearson, Peter Ricci, Reggie Nicolay, Justin LaJoie, Chad Parizman,Todd Carpenter, Niall Kennedy, and Jane Wells! Wow! )… and it made me realize how much I needed to play with WordPress again!

The result: I completely new 4realz.net!

Just some of the things I wanted to accomplish with this new theme include:

  • Really wanted a much cleaner look that didn’t feel overwhelming.   It’s not in my personality to get too simple, but I knew I could do a much better job!
  • I wanted to play with the concept of a WordPress child theme… so I started with Twenty Ten as my “base” so I’d have built in access to some of the more interesting new features!
  • I thought I would focus the homepage on a few key areas that drive the most of my business… i.e. my speaking and consulting.

The result is that after more than a few hours, everything is “working” well enough to write this post (although I’m far from done with what I plan to do!).

Some of the changes I made:

  • The homepage is now a “static” page that uses the Smooth Slider plugin to highlight “featured posts”.  I figure these are probably more relevant to someone who is new to my site.
  • I added a bit about myself to the homepage and filled out a bunch more on a page I call My Story.  This is the part of the page I’m least “sure” of, but I think I like it and I’ll just have to look at the stats to see if others who land on 4realz find it interesting to learn a bit more about me… and the story itself is far from “complete”. I’m hoping to add some more photos and details over the next few days, weeks, and years!  🙂
  • I changed with the operation of the default “header” graphic on the theme. By default, there is no header graphic!  However, it’s really easy for me to use the “set featured image” to add one, although the only place I’ve done that so far is on my speakers page.
  • I added a few things to the footer that I thought people might find interesting… like the Google Voice “call me” button, a twitter feed of @tyr mentions and my latest blog posts.

While I like I’m at a spot where the current theme is an improvement over the last, there are still a few things I’m hoping to do in the near future:

  • Revising the page on Agent Marketing Tools to better reflect my current approach… and in particular, my thoughts on the Agent Business Cycle.
  • Add more header graphics to specific pages
  • Improve how I track conversions on the page… I’ve worked with more than a few clients to use Google Analytics to track conversions, but I’ve never done much beyond adding the GA code to 4realz.  I’m going to change that and play a bit more going forward!
  • (not 100% sure about this one)… I’m thinking of using the new MU-style hosting that’s available with the standard WordPress to host some of the “other” wordpress sites that are currently on my server.  I’m not sure I want to take the time, but Boone Georges sure does make the multisite option look tempting.

In terms of what I learned by hacking away at a WordPress theme…   I was super-impressed with just how easy the entire process was… and, in particular, how easy it was to build a child theme off of twenty ten.  The WordPress team has done an awesome job with the child theme functionality!

If you made it this far in the post, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the new theme!  🙂

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!

Is it important to be proud of your real estate website?

One of the things that has stuck out for me in talking with agents and brokers all over the country is just how embarrassed many are by their website.   When an agent hands me their business card, it’s so much more common for them to start making an excuse about their website (“oh… but don’t go to my website, I’m fixing it up right now”), than to show any pride in their site (i.e. “check out integration I added with Facebook”)… and it got me thinking…

How important is it to be proud of your real estate website?

So I asked the question in a Facebook Poll and I’d love to hear your thoughts…

Just Launched: Facebook Like Plugin for Every Post on Your WP Blog!

Super-sweet!

The HomeQuest Team just launched a WordPress plugin that adds Facebook’s new Like button to every one of your blog posts! SWEET!

You can download it (free!) here: http://u.pdat.es/ejprq

It’s really easy to use. I added it to both 4realz.net and Rain City Guide in under 5 minutes…

Here’s what it looks like on RCG after a few folks have hit the like button on an article:

Here’s what I did to add it to both sites:

  • Download the plugin to a memorable place on your hard drive (desktop?)
  • Navigate to the “plugins” section within your WordPress backend
  • Click on “Add New”
  • Click on “Upload”
  • Click “choose file”  and select the zip file of the plugin
  • Click “Install now”
  • Click “Activate”

That’s all!  Now Facebook’s Like button will be displayed at the bottom of every blog post.

Test it out here:

REALTORS: You can use promoted posts to showcase your listings!

But don’t!

Greg Vincent asked the seemingly obvious questions as to whether agents should use Facebook Ads to send consumers to their post about a listing or a page on their website featuring the listing.

The answer is neither.

I’ve been buying Facebook Ads on-and-off for quite a while and have seen no evidence to suggest buying ads on Facebook makes any sense at all. Facebook is super-quick to take down non-performing ads (i.e. ads that people aren’t clicking on), and I just can’t image that the typical listing has any lasting value for consumers. If, and only if, Facebook someday figures out who is likely to move to a geographic area AND lets you target those people, I might change my mind.

Looking from a larger perspective, at just about every presentation I’ve been giving over the past few months, I’ve been harping about how Facebook makes so much more sense as a sphere building tool than as a tool to reach your next client.

If you’re curious why I make the distinction between reaching consumers directly and building your sphere, check out the Agent Business Cycle diagram. Based on countless interviews with agents (as well as my own surveys), I feel comfortable saying that the majority of agent business is generated from sphere building activities (whether they be reaching into an agent’s community or connecting with past clients)… and Facebook is the ultimate sphere building tool.

Used “right,” there has never been a social network that will help you to reach new and relevant people (i.e. friends of friends/fans/followers) so easily, but when used “wrong,” Facebook will quickly take just about all your influence within your network.

So what do “right” interactions look like on Facebook? If you’re brand new to the idea, I recommend checking out Networking Engine Optimization, but in summary, you want to be creating content (and promoting content) that will get people to interact with your business page. More than any other factor, it seems pretty clear that Facebook determines the relevance of something by looking at the interactions of their friends (whether it be comments, likes, new fans, wall posts, etc.).

Create a page with no interactions and expect to have a relative “black hole” in Facebook in the same way that a website without any inbound links is essentially a black hole to Google.

With Promoted Posts, Facebook is Targeting Google’s Adwords

After writing my last post on why I think the ability to promote posts on Facebook is going to be huge, I realized I didn’t capture the “why” very well…  We already know that Facebook recently passed google.com in terms of raw traffic, and yet the industry around turning that traffic into real business is still in the infant stages…   So, here’s my attempt to summarize where things currently stand between Facebook and Google:

Here’s how to think about this table:

  • Google is best used to target search traffic, while Facebook is best used to target friends of existing fans.
  • Google’s algorithms are optimized to figure out what you’re going to like (or click on) based on what other web searches are clicking on… and the industry around that is called SEO. Facebook’s algorithms are optimized to figure out what you’re going to like (or click on) based on what your friends are click on (I’m calling this NEO).
  • You can use Google’s Adwords to buy targeted search traffic, which is relevant because you can surmise someone’s interest (or intent) based on the keywords they entered into Google’s search box.   You can use Facebook’s Ads to buy targeted traffic, which you can make relevant by buying terms that are related to your business page.
  • With Google, the most effective strategy for increasing the relevance of your website is to generate backlinks from other relevant and quality sites. With Facebook, the most effective strategy for increasing the relevance of your business page is to generate quality engagement from your existing fan base
  • With Google, you can increase your relevance by sending paid traffic to more relevant pages on your site (i.e. not your homepage) that are likely to convert at higher rates.  With Facebook, you can now send relevant people (i.e. friends of fans) to posts that are likely to convert at higher rates and having higher levels of engagement.

In web traffic, it’s all about relevance and Promoted Posts are Facebook’s way of letting your pay to improve the relevance of any given status update by sending more (and hopefully relevant) traffic to the update!

Facebook Promotion: It’s all about the status updates!

Facebook is rolling out all kinds of changes to Fan pages today… but it wouldn’t surprise me if the MOST interesting change flies under the radar for just a bit.   What is the most interesting change?  The one I’m seeing is that you can now buy an ad for an individual status update!

Here’s the screenshot I get when I click on the “promote” button:

For those of us following changes to Fan Pages, this really shouldn’t be a surprise (I actually mentioned this change when talking about the future of Facebook at a recent Leading RE conference in Vegas)… But here’s why it’s interesting.

When thinking about how to approach Facebook marketing, it’s all about Status Updates!   I got some polite ribbing from the Roost guys at the same conference when I mentioned that agents should just roll their eyes at SEO and/or Tab “solutions” when on Facebook, but I’ll stick by my guns on this one.   Don’t bother with any Facebook unless you’re planning on doing the hard work of generating status updates that will get people to interact.   Anything else on Facebook is just work avoidance.

Why are status updates so important? This has to everything to do with Facebook’s recommendation engine, or as I like to call it, NEO.   Again, I’m gonna stick by my guns on this one as as well and say that going forward networking engine optimization, or optimizing content for the social networking algorithms, is going to become a huge industry similar to SEO today.  So, if you want to get an idea of why these “promoted posts” are such a big deal, it has everything to do with the ability to get more activity on your status updates… even if you have to pay for it!

UPDATE

I went ahead and bought an ad to point to a FB status update and was thrilled to see that by default, FB point ads at the “friends of fans.”

In my early exploration of NEO, I was calling the concept FOF Marketing because the social networks do such a great job helping people reach the “friend of friends, friends of fans and/or friends of followers”, so thought it was a bit catchy… However, I don’t think FOF tells the story behind the concept as well as NEO.

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!