What impresses me most about Ardell is that she has managed to carve out a reputation as a top blogger without investing her heart and soul into widgets, html, plugins, or MySQL. She is proof that the only atribute one needs to be a top blogger is a passion to write relevant content. Ardell leaves the techno-goober stuff to others while writing on Rain City Guide, Active Rain, and her Real Town blog.
Hi Ardell, the first recollection I have of your blogging efforts, was as a contributor to Rain City Guide. What inspired you to contribute?
Actually, I started my personal blog first, about ten days before Dustin Luther saw it and asked me to write for Rain City Guide. I was never “inspired” to blog. I was asked to blog by John Reilly of Real Town to help beta test the software for their blog platform. I remember being surprised when Dustin contacted me, as I didn’t realize that people outside of Real Town were able to see what I was writing on “my blog”. To this day I email John and a member of the Internet Crusade staff, Hector Virgen, working with them to improve the Real Town platform. In a lot of ways, it is why I took the Sellsius 101 Challenge, and did the Blogoff with Greg Swann of Bloodhoundblog where we each wrote 102 blog posts in a 24 hour period last year. During that marathon of blog posting, I was emailing the staff at Real Town noting glitches, which they were fixing throughout the day. Many improvements to the blog platform happened behind the scenes that day. I have never lost sight of the fact that I blog on Real Town to help test and improve that software. I didn’t start blogging for me, I started blogging for them. I didn’t know at the onset, that there would be a personal benefit to blogging. Often I think that the reason it did benefit me, was because my sole purpose of starting a blog, was to benefit someone else. Kind of like the concept of what you give coming back to you tenfold.
Now, you have a personal blog through RealTown, and are a frequent contributor to Active Rain. How do you decide what to blog, and where?
Each has its own built in purpose to some extent, .Dustin Luther’s Rain City Guide is my primary Blogplace. Being the #1 Seattle Real Estate Blog takes a lot of work to get there and stay there. So between my blog and Rain City Guide, I try to post on Rain City Guide more frequently. It’s gotten a lot easier since Rhonda Porter and Jillayne Schlicke came on Board. Not only because they write blog posts, as others do, but because they put in the time to man comments as well. Writing a blog article doesn’t take nearly as much time as answering comments in a timely manner, to keep the conversation portion of the blog stoked. Often bloggers want to write posts, but not man comments. For a successful blog, that is not realistic. You can’t write a post and then leave for three days leaving comments sit there unanswered. Comments need to be acknowledged and the conversation has to maintain a steady flow. It’s a lot of work.
My blog is the easiest, though my posting activity there has suffered dramatically due to my participation in the 14 week Project Blogger event. Being a Coach of Project Blogger stunted the growth of my blog dramatically. After Inman Connect and Blogger’s Connect in San Francisco, I can get back to my blog. Mostly I talk to my own clients on my blog. I try to answer real questions there, and have an index in the sub categories, so people can quickly find articles on Earnest Money and Escalation Clauses, see a sample closing statement, qualify themselves for a mortgage. I talk there at times, but my blog’s primary function is to be a resource for my clients. It makes everything simpler when a client comes to me after having read my blog, already knowing many of the things I had explain over and over again, before having a blog. Now they say “I know, I read about that”, which is a huge timesaver for me in my business.
Active Rain? It is both engaging and frustrating. In a lot of ways I do at Active Rain, what some wanted me to do at Real Town. My style of blogging is what the customer ordered, but what the other businesses hate. Other businesses being other agents. As much as everyone knows that you “differentiate or die”, there is a component of the real estate business that promotes sameness. Being a tall poppy in a consumer audience is great. Being a tall poppy in a crowd of other agents can get your head whacked off. I clearly benefit more by blogging on RCG and my blog, than I do by blogging at Active Rain. Once Project Blogger is over, I’ll try to turn that around, but for 14 weeks I became a blogger who blogs about blogging. I’ve lost a lot of income that way, but I agreed to do it, and I stuck it out. I’m very proud of Kevin Tomlinson and his blog, which is the end product of the competition. But giving to consumers is much more productive for me, and more appreciated by the Average Joe looking for some straight talk on what’s REALLY going on inside the minds of those who control their real estate fate. Not sugar coating things is much appreciated by consumers, but agents want everything with a hard candy shell…not my style.
For a new blogger, can you contrast RealTown and Active Rain?
Both are great starting points and stepping stones, as they are easy to use and provide a means to obtain advices from other participants and past conversations on various topics. Blogging at Real Town or Active Rain first, is like starting your real estate career in a big office with lots of agents and support. Once you get your feet wet and make your mistakes in the protected environment, you can start your own blog outside of The Borg. Borgs are great when you need the connection, but when you want to shine as an individual blogger, you need to step into the limelight where you are the only one on stage, and not just part of the chorus. You can maintain both to some extent. I stay at Real Town because of my original purpose there, which was not and is not all about me. Active Rain is better in the Search Engines, but you may be doing all the work to help your competitor get business. Real Town doesn’t have enough juice. Hopefully that will improve some day, and they are currently and constantly working on that. But they are both Borgs and an agent needs to have a separate and individual platform. It’s like the difference between being one of many on a company website, and having your own website. Both are needed.
How does blogging fit into your overall marketing plan?
Now it is my primary marketing plan. I didn’t start it for that reason, but it took over my business. Puts me in a very vulnerable position to have something take over like that. Scary to have all your eggs in one basket, especially when someone else owns the basket.
What are some of your favorite blogs?
I have more favorite bloggers than favorite blogs. Being part of Rain City Guide jades me in that regard. It takes a lot to grab my attention unless it’s the blog author grabbing my attention and not necessarily the blog itself. There’s a lesson in that. You don’t want to have a blog that is well read, where people read and leave. You want a blog that will promote people calling you and asking you to be their agent. To have that happen you have to reveal yourself…your skill set…your knowledge base. Not everyone wants to put themselves out there like that. They want to be “writers” and blogging is about speaking, not writing. Hard to find a blog where someone actually speaks TO me and not AT me. When I do find them, they are out of area, and so not of interest. I don’t learn from blogs. I learn from consumers. So in that regard I’d have to say my favorite blog to read is Seattle Bubble, where the people talk and not the agents. I learn a whole lot more from Blogclients than blogs. I don’t want to learn about blogs or the business. I want to learn what the consumer’s perception is, so I can address everything at that level. Seattle Bubble has some riff-raff, but there’s more info in the comments there, than anyplace else in the Blogosphere for me
What web sites, blogs, tools, or people do you find most helpful in building your blog?
I just write. Rain City Guide, Real Town and Active Rain build blogs. I just write.
That is easily my favorite response from you. It’s about writing, not widgits.
You are a coach for Active Rain’s Project Blogger. Please tell us more about the contest.
You have to laugh at this year’s contest. It’s been zany! I love Jonathan Washburn’s “geeky boy” approach to life and business. Not unlike Joe and Rudy of Sellsius. The Founders of Redfin. The participants of Zillow. Galen Ward’s Estately.com and Dustin Luther’s Rain City Guide, among many. When “Geeky Boys” step into the arena, life gets into the fast lane. They are all the sons I never had J (I have three daughters). Lee may have had a lot of success by “beginning with the end in mind”, but you’ve got to love the innovators who jump in the water and then try to learn how to swim before they drown. Much like a new agent who gets “in” and then flails about wanting the same “setup” as “a job”, the Apprentices thought there should be STRUCTURE. LOL. AS-IF! Anyone who expects structure from being the first doesn’t “get it”. We are creating a future structure…or not. No net guys. You have been flung from Jonathan’s catapult…fired out of a cannon, you are swimming in un-chartered waters. Lots of drama. Lots of whining. Some screaming. A little gaming. Anyone who thought it was “a contest” more than “a project” lost it. To answer your question…the “contest” sucked. The “project” was fabulous!!! There is now a complete newbie guide to the trials and tribulations, as well as coach advices, for all new bloggers, via the links to the 14 weeks of blog posts from Apprentices and Coaches and Judges. Hopefully the “Best of Project Blogger” post will be centralized somewhere for permanent reference. If no one else does it, I’ll do that in November or December between seasons. In fact, I’ll probably do it anyway, as what I extract as “best of” will be different than what someone like Paul Chaney or Zillow’s Drew Meyers might extract as “best of”. Of course I will do that on Active Rain. Maybe as a completely separate blog so I can get the blogging about blogging off my site, at least the public view side of my site there. Nothing more counterproductive to an agent then blogging about blogging. I really shot myself in the foot on that one. And I don’t shoot myself in the foot very often.
Do you have any tips or advice for a fellow real estate professional that’s looking to get into blogging?
Go to Active Rain first, and let someone invite you. Email me. I’ll invite you J Then just start writing where your passions takes you. Not your brain, but your passion. If you have no passion, or if you are uncomfortable revealing your true self to the public at large, then subscribe to a blog feeder and get back to work.
Celestine Prophecy. Connect the dots. Follow life where it wants to take you, not where you want to go. Be adventurous. REACT in the moment on your blog. Never forget the LOG of blog. Log your highs and your lows and take everyone on a roller coaster ride with you. You want to be Andy Rooney, not Barbara Walters.
One quick note!