Can a locally focused RE blog draw 2000 visitors a day? That’s been the topic of several heated debates throughout the blogoshere since the Inman Bloggers Connect Conference at the beginning of the month. During that conference, Mary McKnight, of RSS Pieces noted that one of her clients, Laurie Manny, was receiving ~2000 visits a days to her blog. Many people in the audience scoffed. Many still do. Laurie shared her back-end statistics with me. I then spoke with John McKnight of RSS Pieces to verify exactly what the statistic pages were telling me. Based on that review and some math on my part, I believe that Laurie is indeed receiving thousands of visits to her site on a daily basis. In speaking with Mr McKnight, he shared that as much as he would like to take credit for Laurie’s success, none of his other clients have matched the traffic that Laurie is generating, and that this volume is a testament to her hard work. The following interview is quintessential to the focus of this blog, to help bloggers share their experiences and successes with others.
Hi Laurie, let’s start from the beginning. Why did you decide to start your blog?
Hi Todd. Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts.
Marketing has always been the cornerstone of my real estate business. It was always an extremely effective tool and I seemed to have a special knack for it. My mailers were innovative, original, informative and brought value to the recipients. Large mailers would almost always net a listing or two; they went out roughly every 3 weeks. Local advertising also produced excellent results often securing the buyers for my listings. Normally I would get 5-25 calls a week just from the local newspaper ads. That all changed last year. The mailers stopped producing results, the phones stopped ringing. Something had to be done, my business was at stake.
While cruising around the web one evening in early December 2006, looking for ideas or solutions, I stumbled into Active Rain, started reading and was hooked immediately. I had been struggling with website placement for quite some time and it was costing a not so small fortune. While my website rankings were good, my faith in my website provider, Advanced Access, was shattered. AA clients were 2 years into a network wide ban by Yahoo for reciprocal linking, which I did not participate in, with no end in sight – just a lot of lip service. Prior to that ban my website was sitting at the very top of Yahoo for most real estate related search terms. Missing Yahoo search results was harming my business, which was unacceptable. Advanced Access clients are still banned by Yahoo today.
The AA sight was growing steadily, despite the ban, but the top of Google was jammed up by directories. Getting above page 5 required something close to a miracle. Few website’s were able to break through that barrier. I did manage to get to page one, but it was a rather difficult ride and I drove most of the traffic there through my marketing and advertising pieces. My hits were up, yet the leads from the site were far and few between. I realized that all leads from the site were coming direct, via a phone call or an email. No quantifiable leads were coming in through the system. I have a few ideas about that, but I don’t want to start slinging any mud here.
It didn’t take long to realize that websites were about to evolve; the future was destined to be a hybrid web-blog and I needed one immediately. The original plan was to get the blog site up and cranking, then to combine the web site into it. That plan has since changed. The website is in the process of being moved. It has great ranking, pulls in between 10k and 15k hits a month and will serve me well – elsewhere. When it is indexed by Yahoo, outside of the AA system the hits on it will grow also. It cant hurt to have a couple of lead generating sites at the top of the engines. If one loses ground there is always the other to fall back on. Contingency plans are good, especially in today’s market.
I called RSSpieces mid-January, they were very helpful and informative. I was such a novice they had to explain the basics to me. The site was up and running on January 29, 2007 without any muss or fuss. The ocean background is my branding, I emailed the artwork for the site, it was put together by the next day. I was impressed.
You’ve been seeing a very high level of traffic to your blog. Much of it is from search engine queries. What practices or strategies do you utilize in writing search engine friendly content for your blog?
Long Beach Real Estate Home is a local real estate blog and is run as just that. The focus is on the consumer, Long Beach, real estate, loans and finance. Not on social networking or the blogging community.
We concentrate on the long tail, which is where the business is. Specific neighborhoods were and still are target marketed on the site. While it is nice to be at the top of the engines for the obvious term “Long Beach Real Estate” few consumers use these type of keywords in their searches. Consumers are more direct in their searches. The back-end statistics of the site indicate what search terms consumers are using, we learn from them, and write to what they are looking for.
The search engines like keyword rich titles, we use them. They like keyword rich copy, we use it. They like focused tags, we use them. It is not unusual for us to use header tags either. Our keyword relevancy to page content is very good. Google and Yahoo like us a lot and we like them too.
I have tracked my web-site hits for several years, April through August are usually robust months for traffic. It has traditionally fallen off a bit through the Fall and Winter months.
What are some of the other ways you drive traffic?
I still advertise in a couple of the local newspapers on an annual contract. The blog site is in every ad, it is on every piece of paper or marketing piece that leaves my office. It is on every email and letter as well. I am not adverse to running an Internet ad to drive extra traffic to a listing post, I do so regularly. If an opportunity arises to promote the blog, I take it.
In general terms, including leads, referrals, listings, or outright sales, what kind of quantifiable business has all of this traffic produced?
Brian and I can directly attribute several listings, buyers and closed escrows this year to the blog, prior to installing the 1 Park Place system. A month ago I was still dependent on the lead generation tools of my website. RSSpieces and 1parkplace.com formed a partnership last month at which time new lead generation tools were placed on my blog site, they have been in place for about a month now. The results have been astounding. I cannot handle all of the business that is flowing in as a result of it – a good problem to have in today’s market. There are currently 33 buyers in my system. I delete any leads that do not provide a valid email address or phone number, there are surprisingly few of these. I put a buyer into escrow on Thursday, directly from my blog, and am currently working with many more. I am currently looking to add a buyers agent to my team. Brian Brady has handled a few of the loans for these clients. He is my lender of choice because he really is amazing at what he does. His level of customer care is unparalleled. Brian and I work very well together.
All but one of these leads was produced by my keyword rich web-blog. The 1 Park Place back end is very savvy. In addition to the many tools they provide, which I can not show you here without disclosing my leads, this chart is provided. It is self explanatory:
* The Activity Monitor keeps track of VIPs visiting your site – New, Returning, and Transferred – as well as lead requests that these VIPs submit (saved searches, showing requests, etc…).
Green are this months leads.
Blue are last months leads.
These tools are now placed in the footer of every post I generate. Since implementing this lead generation system my business has exploded. The hits on the blog site have gone crazy. While many bloggers think that is spamy I think it is just good business. Who ever heard of a marketing piece without contact information and a call to action? Local blogs are marketing at it’s finest. Do you talk to people on it? Absolutely. Let’s get clear on this though, that is still marketing. You are sharing your professional knowledge, your ideas, your self and your business. No you say? Why bother? Self promotion is shameless, there is nothing wrong with it. We are running business’s, advertising and marketing are a real part of that.
I am also receiving leads from Craigslist which seems to be the only other reliable source for generating business these days. Listings are placed on many of the usual sites, Zillow when the Zestimate makes sense, Point 2, etc… None of these have provided any leads worth discussing, nor do they attain any Internet placement worth discussing, they just seem like a waste of time to me, maybe they work better in other geographic areas, I don’t know. The newly implemented 1 Park Place system is just what the doctor ordered for my business. Long Beach Real Estate Home is ranking high in the search engines, is being read a lot, consumers are staying on the site, and are using the tools. I am reaching the targeted consumers, nothing else matters.
What are some of your favorite blogs?
Traveling around the blog-o-sphere is great. I enjoy reading sites that are not consumer oriented, they are a good place to interact with other bloggers. Consumer centric sites, like mine, are a good place to get ideas, but not a great place to interact. I read a lot of SEO sites these days-can’t get enough of that, but enjoy traveling to the sites of my friends in the blogging world.
- Inman Blog
- Trulia Blog
- Matt Cutts
- Search Engine Watch
- Brian Brady
- Celebration Florida Homes
- Miami Real Estate
- Mariana Wagner
- Manhattan Beach Real Estate
- South Beach Real Estate
- Sellsius Blog
- St Paul Real Estate
- Denver Real Estate
- Michigan Real Estate
- Sacramento Real Estate Voice
- Luxury Home Digest
- Rembex Blog Fiesta
* many others, I like to travel around…when I find the time.
Do you have any tips or advice for a fellow real estate professional that’s looking to get into blogging?
Do so immediately, the future of your business depends on it. Get lead generators and place them on your site immediately. Join a social network and learn as much as much as you can about blogging, SEO and lead generation. Never lose sight of your goals.’Blogging experts’ are mostly self-proclaimed, take their advice with a grain of salt. This is still a new frontier, many of ‘the rules’ were set by people who needed them. Go forth and break them, get out of the box, think for yourself, be creative. Get in touch with the ‘atmosphere’ in your local area and speak to it, nobody else. Do not let others distract you from your plan. It is YOUR blog, you get to run it the way YOU want to, never lose sight of that. Everything you need to know about blogging is available on-line for free, go out and find it.
Do you have anything else you would like to share with us?
Yes, as a matter of fact, I do.
Blogging, as we know it, is still in it’s infancy. In many of our market areas there are just a few Realtors that are even capable of the combination of writing and technology skills required to be successful at it. Blogging is beginning to receive a lot of attention as it becomes a successful venue to promote our business’s on-line. Given the failure of most of the template websites to achieve this, it is no surprise that more and more industry professionals will be trying their hand at it.
We all have our opinions on what we want to achieve, how we want to present ourselves and our business, and how we are going to go about doing that. We need to be not only tolerant and respectful of each other, we need to be professional on-line, at all times. Flaming, screaming and on-line gang bangs are not acceptable to any client that I want to do business with. Today’s consumer is tech savvy and is searching on-line. How you present yourself is how you will be treated.
Best of luck to all.