Blogger Spotlight; Greg Swann

I’m a huge Rush Limbaugh fan. Not so much for his political views, I’m more of a libertarian. But Rush has two things going for him. He believes in American Exceptionalism, and he’s so exceptional at his own craft, that even people who hate him, tune in every day. I see a bit of the whole Rush phenomenon in Greg Swann, and his Bloodhound Blog.

Greg never seems to hesitate in expressing his opinion. God, bad, or whatever. Not everyone agrees with what he has to say, or how he says it, but that’s not relevant to Greg. His opinion is fact. I think if more of RE.net were to more freely pronounce their own opinions in such a manner, this scene would be far more interesting.

Hi Greg, as a real estate agent, you took a blogging path that probably doesn’t translate into very many real world customers. How did you come to the decision to build an industry focused blog with national ambitions?

It’s what I’m interested in. We have a lot of radical marketing ideas, and one of my goals in starting BloodhoundBlog was to talk about the things that we’re doing. In the beginning, I intended for it to be a lead-seeking weblog, but we ended up writing almost entirely about industry issues. We have two client-focused weblogs, but by far my greatest effort goes into BloodhoundBlog. This has paid off in its own way, in the sense that BloodhoundBlog’s contributors have become very well known among wired real estate professionals. But I have never in my life worried about money, preferring instead to concentrate on the work at hand and letting the money worry about itself. That may not make much sense financially, but it’s has paid handsome dividends in terms of human satisfaction.

One of my mottoes in life is that everyone has an ax to grind. I blog for money. Most RE agents blog for money in the form of clients. On the other hand, you don’t even have Amazon affiliate links attached to the books you recommend. What’s your ax to grind? Why are you doing this?

In order that it might be done, and done properly. I don’t think I fit your theory about having an axe to grind. I may be as close as one can come in the modern world to an actual Attic Greek, a doer for the sake of having done, a thinker for the sake of having thought, a poet for poetry’s own sake. People often accuse me of having ugly motives — which says a lot more about them than it does about me. But there is a sense in which you could say that I don’t have any motive for the things I do, none other than the doing itself. I like for things to be done. I like for them to be whole and complete and perfect and esthetically beautiful and mathematically elegant and philosophically sound. I work very hard on everything I do, and I can concentrate very intently on what I am doing, and don’t like to do anything except what I am doing right now — but I love to do that completely.

One of the standards that I have set for BloodhoundBlog — not by precept but by example — is that we expect our visitors to rise to our level. I detest the whole idea of dumbing things down — simplifying, stupefying, catering to human beings as if they were infants — or imbeciles. I’ve lived my entire life in the avid pursuit of the highest intellectual values my mind can absorb, and I reject the idea that I should spit on and spurn those values in my social concourse with my fellow men. To the contrary, if I respect who they are and love what they can become, I owe it to them to give them the best of my mind, not some dumbed-down moronic masquerade.

If there is any extent to which I have an overarching motive, it is at a very abstract, philosophical level. If you read my posts in BloodhoundBlog stored under the category “Egoism in Action,” you can catch a hint of it by acclimation. I believe in the good as an abstract moral goal, but on a more concrete, practical level, I believe in doing better — better work, better thinking, better behavior — a consistent resolution and a persistent effort to do better every day at everything I do. I want this for myself — this more than anything — but I want it as a meta-goal for all of humanity, now and forever. We are rational animals, and we are best capable of splendor — untainted, fully-conscious jubilation — when we act as rational human human beings. And we are most crippled by pain and doubt and guilt and fear and misery when we indulge our vestigial animality. At a certain level, everything I do is both an expression of and an argument for my idea of splendor.

You asked — and part of who I am is a conscious refusal to hide things like this just because many people don’t want to hear them. I don’t believe that I owe anything to other people, but the best gift I can offer my fellow men is to not hide who I am. I am very far from being perfect, but I know from introspective experience and extrospective observation that my way of living is a move in the right direction. We’ve spent the entire course of human history cursing rationality and enshrining animality. This has not had happy consequences. I am not a missionary, but the fundamental nature of integrity is that every seemingly disparate thing is in fact a facet of the same one thing. The one thing I am is an Egoist, and every thing I do ends up expressing a very strident Egoist ideal as an inescapable secondary consequence. And, being who I am, I do love the symmetry and elegance of that expression.

You are among a handful of bloggers that I trade “heads up” emails with regarding splogs, or web sites that steal content. I’ve found that many bloggers don’t seem to care about it at all. Why is the value of your content important enough to you to engage in the time consuming exercise of fighting copyright infringement?

I believe very strongly in the individual right to private property, and I believe that matters of principle demand the most steadfast defense. That alone would be reason enough for me, but there are also two practical considerations.

First, we live under very Lockean ideas about property. It is completely plausible to argue that the failure to defend intellectual property rights is constructively a waiver of those rights. This is not the sate of case law in America right now, but IP law is in a huge state of flux. Vigilance now may be the best future defense of ongoing intellectual property rights.

Second, as the publisher of a group weblog, I have a responsibility to defend the rights of our other contributors. The content they publish on BloodhoundBlog remains their intellectual property, but I have an obligation to be a good steward of that property. Moreover, they accord me the right to publish their likenesses, but they do not extend that right, through me, to other parties. Arguably, I am liable for abuses of their likenesses if I do not actively defend them.

But, all that aside: I will always fight for my stuff because it is mine. I live in a world of simple justice — but I never live anywhere else.

The first post I can remember reading on Bloodhound was about Zillow.com. There are times when it feels like rarely a week goes by without yet another article about Zillow. When you Google Zillow.com, Bloodhound Blog comes up on the first page. Besides the obvious result of expressing your opinion about Zillow, the secondary result is a considerable short and long tail of Zillow-curious traffic that is being driven to your blog. Was Zillow powered SEO a planned strategy from the beginning?

SEO is never an objective at BloodhoundBlog, but we are often aware of it as a secondary consequence. As an example, very early in the history of the blog, I was writing about Dual Agency, and Jim Duncan at Real Central VA picked up on it. In consequence, we both ended up on the first page of Google for dual agency keywords, even though neither of us were aiming for a result like that.

We were just starting to get serious attention when I wrote Debunking Zillow.com. That post has a lot of Google-virtues: The keyword “Zillow.com” is in the title and is very strongly represented throughout the post. Moreover, it tends to get linked a lot, not just when it was written but consistently. Meanwhile, BloodhoundBlog has racked up 80,000 Yahoo backlinks.

Many of us write a lot about Zillow.com, me in particular, but we do it because Zillow is the 900 pound gorilla in the hi-tech end of the real estate industry. We score well on the keyword because we’ve written a lot more than any other weblog or publication on Zillow.com. Even so, by scoring so high in Google, Debunking Zillow.com accounts for between 3% and 5% of our hard-clicks every day. On days when we cover breaking Zillow news, Zillow-related posts can account for 20% of our hard clicks.

If that sounds remarkable, Countrywide-related posts held the same sort of sway late last week. We have 2,800 pages indexed on Google, and many of them are very strong on long-tail keywords. Because so much of what we write about is — at least some of the time — so fascinating to people, we can draw a lot of traffic originating from search engines — which means Google more than 95% of the time.

For what it’s worth, we’re also on the first page of Google for Trulia.com and for Redfin.com — again because we write about them a lot, and because what we write about them gets linked a lot.

So the long answer is, we don’t do anything for or because of or in pursuit of SEO, but we tend to reap a lot of SEO benefits even so.

What are some of your favorite blogs?

Principle is the convergence of intelligence, integrity and courage. This is what I like, period. I read hundreds of weblogs every day, but the ones I like the best are devoted to serious principles. I’m not a conservative, but I really like The Corner on National Review. I’ve read Little Green Footballs nearly every day since the days after 9/11. The Conspiracy to Keep You Poor and Stupid and Cafe Hayek are daily favorites.

I get a lot out of Lenderama, and I think you all are the best of the group blogs that have appeared in the RE.net over the last year. For that reason, I thought it was cool that both Lenderama and BloodhoundBlog were left off of Jonathan Washburn’s list of “must read” real estate weblogs. It’s impossible to distinguish incompetence from malice, so it’s charitable to write these omissions off to the blind cheerleading the bland. But if there are any wired real estate professionals who are not reading Lenderama.com and BloodhoundBlog.com every day — you are suffering from a potentially-career-killing need to catch a clue.

You have a Blogging/RE.net/web2.0 conference coming up this spring. Make a case for why a mortgage originator or real estate agent should go.

I’d rather make the opposite case: Don’t come.

We’re not rock-solid set on the venue yet, but the mostly likely candidate will only seat 375 people. Moreover, we’re only going to have two days to work, and our intention is that we’re going to work full blast for those two days. We will be discussing material that we’ve been batting around for the past two years, but we’ll also be covering material that is brand new and utterly beyond price in its value.

There will be fun things to do in the off hours, but if you come to events like this as an expression of your social agenda — stay home. Or, if you want, come to Phoenix, but don’t buy a ticket to BloodhoundBlog Unchained. We want to make sure that the 375 people who attend the conference sessions are 100% committed to learning everything they can about Social Media Marketing.

I’m not being dramatic. We intend, with a mercenary glee, to wear people out — and then we’re going to send them home with a year’s worth of homework. If you’re thinking of coming for any reason other than to learn a lot about how to work better, faster, smarter, cheaper and more-profitably — don’t come. You’ll be wasting your time and you’ll be taking a seat from someone who can put it to better use.

In the way of a closing statement, I would simply add that I am very grateful to the readers of BloodhoundBlog for lending us their minds. It’s a responsibility we take very seriously, and our objective is that that, every day, we can enrich them intellectually, spiritually, and — one hopes — financially in exchange for the time and attention they bring to us.

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